The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce gave out awards in eight categories to local businesses on Thursday night before a crowd of 140 people.
The chamber received over 200 nominations, which judges Garry Kalinski and Barry Auliffe then ran through a multi-faceted scoring matrix to come up with the winners.
Business of the Year
Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort
Kalinski explained that four years ago Ainsworth Hot Springs was purchased by the Lower Kootenay Band, a member of the Ktunaxa Nation.
“They use hot springs water in heat exchangers to assist with water heating,” Kalinski said. “They have replaced all commercial equipment, HVAC, and other fixtures throughout the resort with modern energy efficient units. The construction of new suites has been built to a standard exceeding code requirements. They have also voluntarily designated all the foreshore and all the hillside behind the resort to parkland use.”
Kalinski said Ainsworth spends an average of $5 million annually in combined operations and capital investment in the local economy and brings approximately $3 million a year in direct revenue from outside the local area. Since the Lower Kootenay Band purchased the resort, he said, annual revenues have increased by 52 per cent and profits increased by 140 per cent.
“Most of the revenue increases are from increased volume, as price increases since 2015 [have been] less than 10 per cent. So they are bring a lot of new business into the area. They employ 70 employees full time with a seasonal bump of 10. They provide housing for 28 employees because of the purchase of the Mermaid Lodge. They sponsor continuing education for their employees.”
Non-Profit/ Community Service
Civic Theatre Society
In presenting this award, Kalinski described the Nelson Civic Theatre Society as “a dedicated group of people turning a derelict movie house into a state-of-the-art facility that serves a multitude of purposes with the goal of making their commercial operations profitable enough to fund all of their charitable programs.
“Since its reopening in 2013, it presents a widely diverse range of film, dialogue events, and family events, and is available as a community gathering space. It supports the creators of film and digital media and offers supports to its creators.”
Rising Star/Startup/New Entrepreneur
This award is presented to a business that has been in operation for less than three years.
“If you have walked down Baker in the last couple of years,” said Auliffe, “you have probably noticed a few happy imbibers perched in the window of what used to be Darwin’s grocery looking for all the world like they have the best seats behind home plate for Game 7 of the World Series.
“Those are the best seats in Nelson. Backroads is a brew pub but it has its own feel and the word I came up with is uber-sociable. According to owner Brent Malysh, the feeling they are trying to capture is a cabin in the woods, a coffee shop with no coffee, and there is no TV so you can’t watch sports. There is no free Wi-Fi. So you go in there and all there is to do is talk to people. There is a cacophony in there, the seating is picnic tables, it is not a quiet place to be because people have to interact. And they make some very fine beers.”
Hospitality/ Food and Beverage
“Any person can open a restaurant and put pizza and pasta on the menu and call it Italian,” Auliffe said. “But if you know Nelson’s Martin family at all, you will know that is not how they do things, and that is not how Lea and Ryan did it. They packed up the crew of the restaurant, flew to Naples, stayed there and learned how to make genuine Naples pizzas. They purchased a high-end pizza oven and a designer to create an environment to match the [authenticity of the product].”
Whitewater Ski Resort
Kalinski said in the past few years Whitewater has invested millions of dollars into the hill, renovated the main building, added two new buildings, and upgraded the chairs.
“Last year through their Powder Alliance programs they gave away 2,735 free lift tickets at a cost of close to a quarter million dollars,” he said, “which brings new revenue and new tourist groups to Nelson in the winter months, especially during the week and on holidays, which helps our business community dramatically.”
“Cartolina is slowly becoming a bit of a Baker Street landmark,” said Auliffe. “We are always interested in how much of the business is local and how much is away, and Fiona [Richards, co-owner] told us the ratio is 60 away, 40 local.
“It is impossible to go into that store without touching something, there are so many interesting things,” he said. “They have a very robust wholesale business and a large number of their paper products are made on site. The day I interviewed Fiona, she said she was shipping a product to New York — they have a thriving continent-wide wholesale business.
“Now they have added boutique vacation accommodation called the Tremont Loft. I had the pleasure of going up there and looking at it. Very impressive.”
Most Inclusive Business
Chamber executive director Tom Thomson presented this award to Wait’s News which will be shutting down later this year.
“Mari and Jim Plamondon are different kind of folks,” he said. “I can tell you that, and Jim won’t say that’s a bad thing. They try to hire people that need a break, those that are a little harder to employ, either because of a disability or a situation where they can only work shorter hours. They are always being supported by the Plamondons.
“Some people may say, why would you do that kind of stuff? But you know what? This community is that kind of community and Mari and Jim are outstanding individuals in their business and their church life and their community.”
Kalinski, presenting this award, said Edge Roofing is “owned and operated by a couple of young entrepreneurs who are also a married couple, and they have built a solid company in a tough industry that is traditionally not seen as glamorous. They hired a business coach to work with their staff to help create a safe, respectful, fun, and driven environment for their loyal employees to work in.
“They promote products made from recycled materials and sustainable options for today’s market. They think about future generations by providing options for the highest quality and longevity of products, thereby reducing waste in our local landfills. They donate much free installation time to help the less fortunate.”
Manufacturing/ Technology Innovation
Kalinski said Voytech has been in business in Nelson for 18 years.
“They do a great deal of badly needed discount work in the non-profit sector and are instrumental in helping some non-profits to streamline their operations through technology. They also offer special rates to seniors and low income families. They help their customers overcome their fear of technology.
“They are a very small company with an owner and two contractors and that is by design — the owner wished to focus on client satisfaction as opposed to volume.”
He said the company helps professionals and consumer problems, and they also “educate users on the current pitfalls on the web, which changes daily, things like virus avoidance and managing the cloud. There are a lot of vulnerable users who need that kind of assistance.”