District businesses bask in spotlight at awards gala

Duane Hicks

Lidkea Optometry was honoured as Business of the Year (1-15 employees) last week at the 15th-annual Bell Business Awards at La Place Rendez-Vous here.
“I’m kind of speechless right now. This is absolutely fantastic,” optometrist Dr. Bruce Lidkea said after receiving the award from presenter Deb Emes of B93•FM last Thursday night.
Dr. Lidkea recalled the first business awards 15 years ago when he was second vice-president of the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce, and is pleased to see it continue to this moment.
“I’ve got to thank a few different people for this,” he said. “Obviously, the first one I need to thank is my father. . . .
“He’s been practising at our clinic since 1952 and I’m very fortunate in that I didn’t have to start a clinic, I just had to step right into an absolutely fantastic job.
“I’d like to thank my staff because, obviously, if everything’s going well in my office, I am in the back in the dark all day,” Dr. Lidkea added.
“They truly do run the show around there.
“And certainly I’d like to thank who ever has been a patient at our office,” he stressed. “I realize that being a family business, the patients bought my first diapers, they paid for my education, and they help me feed my family, and I really do appreciate that.”
Other nominees for the award included Ron’s Auto Body, Greensides General Store, Northern Lights Credit Union, Citi Financial, A Little Off the Top, Nor-West Animal Clinic, Webb’s Power Shack, Causeway Insurance, Camp Narrows Lodge, Rainy River True Value, John Gavel Custom Manufacturing Co. Ltd., and Fort Duty-Free.
Shaw Communications was deemed Business of the Year (16+ employees).
The other nominees included MacDonald Motors, La Place Rendez-Vous, Tompkins Hardware, and Iron Range Bus Lines.
Jim Badiuk of Badiuk Equipment was chosen as Entrepreneur of the Year.
“We’ve been growing since 1978, and every year we keep working at it and we’re not going to stop to now,” Badiuk said after being presented with the award by George Emes, chair of the Rainy River Future Development Corp.
“I’m not going to announce anything but you can stay tuned,” he added.
Other nominees included Dale and Elizabeth Fortes (Boston Pizza), Cecile Lavigne (Squeek E Klean), Randy Hogan (Hogan Hockey), Todd Moxham (Cater 2 U), Lindsay Hamilton (Little Beaver Snow Cultural Centre), and Monique Dufresne (The Lawg Caybun Restaurant).
Fort Frances General Supply, meanwhile, captured the award for Customer Service (business).
“We’re proud to have a great staff . . . Giselle, Bob, Darcy, and Guy, and most recently, Steve, who will be taking things over,” said owner Bill Gushulak, who, along with son, Steve, accepted the award from Barb Cournoyer of TD Canada Trust here.
“I believe that customer service in one of those items that doesn’t really cost you a lot of money to do and put forth . . . but if you don’t provide good customer service, it’s probably the most costly thing in the world,” Gushulak reasoned.
Manitou Forest Products, North Auto, Lowes Furniture, Nor-West Animal Clinic, CIBC, Badiuk Equipment, Stan’s Carpet, Starbucks, and Darryl’s Custom Landscapes also were nominated for the honour.
BDO Canada LLP was named Small Business Trainer of the Year. Mark Caron (M.L. Caron Electric), the Valley Adult Learning Association (VALA), and Strachan Trucking also were up for that award.
Jon Evans of BDO Canada LLP accepted the award from Gerd O’Sullivan, who sits on the NCDS Career Works board of directors.
Evans said the business has been in town for more than 85 years and has a long tradition of being a training ground for accounting students, as well as those who enter the chartered accounting or certified parallel accountants programs for professionals.
“It’s a really important part of what we do,” he remarked. “I think if you look around the community at some of the businesses that are here tonight, a lot of those people have come through our program and we’re very proud of that.
“We’ve made really bonds with those people and they continue to be clients.
“We’ve got kind of a unique perspective because we get to work with a whole bunch of different businesses,” Evans added.
“On account of that, looking forward into the future here, I think we’ve got some really good times ahead of us in Northwestern Ontario.
“Tonight’s a good sign of what’s ahead of us,” he concluded.
Shelley Matias of the Royal Bank won for Customer Service (individual).
“Wow. I’d just like to say thank you for being nominated,” a tearful Matias said after receiving her award from Laureen Vandetti of Good Impressions Printing.
“And I’d like to say thank you to the wonderful group of women, the team, that I work with every day that make my job so much more better every day,” she lauded.
Also nominated were Debra Elias (Revco Carpet), Theresa Dobie (Northern Lights Credit Union), Matt Sweigard (Sight & Sound), Krista Kellar (Citi Financial), Russ Ling (Taggs Source for Sports), Neila Booth (Northwoods Gallery & Gifts), Chris Dittaro (Lakewood Tire), and Ryan Hood (Canada Safeway).
Angela Korzinski of Rusty Myers Flying Service was chosen as Business Woman of the Year.
“I’d like to thank those that nominated me,” said Korzinski after accepting the award from Heather Johnson, RBC branch manager and chair of the local Business Women’s Network.
“This is the second time I’ve been nominated and the second time I’ve won, so whoever nominated me, thank you very much.
“I have to thank my staff because without my staff, this wouldn’t be possible,” she added.
Also nominated for that award were Roberta Parker (Mr. Sub), Sherry Kaun (Share Bears), Erin Wood (Simplicity Professional Hair & Body Care), Tonia Dolph (Northland Kitchen & Design Consulting), and Dawn Gustafson (Lifetime Smiles).
“The level of success every woman nominated here tonight has achieved is due to her vision, hard work, and determination, and each are equally deserving to win,” stressed Johnson.
“I certainly don’t envy the job the judges had tonight and that they were faced with choosing one winner.”
Rochelle Mosbeck of CIBC was named Employee of the Year.
“Thank you very much. It’s a great honour,” Mosbeck said as she received the award from Marlene Deschamps of the Westend Weekly.
Other nominees for that category included Penny Flatt (Northwoods Gallery & Gifts), Don Larson (Ed Kaun & Sons), and Gord Watson (Ed Kaun & Sons).
Joan Allison, best known for her years with the Riverside Foundation for Health Care, was the recipient of the Tony Beyak Memorial Volunteer of the Year.
She was unable to attend Thursday’s gala so Mary Jane Pearson accepted the award on her behalf from Nick Beyak, the new owner of Sunset Country Ford here.
Other nominees in the category included Joelle Blanc, Doug Cain, Allan Bedard, and Bill Krukoski.
Canada Safeway won the Town of Fort Frances Accessibility Award.
“I’d like to thank you for being nominated,” said store manager Kevin Langford, who accepted the award from Tannis Drysdale along with assistant manager Ryan Hood.
“It’s our pleasure to make a shopping experience for each and everyone a pleasant experience.”
Other nominees included the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre and Community Living Fort Frances and District.
Lastly, Gingrich Wood Craft Inc. was honoured with the Safety Award over Union Gas and the Rainy River District School Board.
This year’s awards drew a total of 69 nominees, with about 170 people attending the gala.
Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce president Harold Wilson emceed the evening once again this year, providing plenty of humour, while local chantreuse Brittany Hayes sang a set, bringing some folks down memory lane with a selection of classic songs.
Given the event was sponsored by Bell Alliant, Doug Caul, regional manager of field services, also shared a few words of support for the event.
The gala also was an occasion for outgoing Chamber president Cathy Emes to welcome incoming president Mark Caron.