It was an historic night for the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.
The NDCC was not only handing out a record eight business excellence awards at its annual banquet, but it was also celebrating its 125th anniversary.
And as executive-director Tom Thomson pointed out, the event was appropriately held at the Hume Hotel and Spa, currently marking its 120th anniversary.
“The NDCC was formed in 1893 as the South Kootenay Board of Trade, five years before the Hume opened,” Thomson told the full house in the Hume Room, adding, “(Owner) Fred Hume was on the board and he helped us resist a hostile takeover by the Kaslo board of trade. We’ve never looked back.”
Leading the way with the Business of the Year Award was Spearhead Timberworks, a unique company that uses digital manufacturing in the design and fabrication of architectural steel and timber.
“These folks rock,” said selection judge Garry Kalinski, stating that the 25-year-old company has created structures for a wide array of clients from the new Temple of Light at the Ashram yoga centre and retreat on Kootenay Lake to an art museum in Aspen, Colorado.
A multi-faceted, 38-employee firm based at 12 Mile, Spearhead has created designs across North America and in Dubai.
“Five of their employees moved here from Europe to work here,” said Kalinski, adding that 15 staffers have been employed at Spearhead for 15 or more years.
Two 17-year Spearhead employees, Tara Primeau and Simon Lintz, accepted the award on behalf of the company as both owners – Ted Hall and Randy Richmond – were unable to attend.
Kokanee Mountain Zipline, which provides customers a thrill on six different ziplines high above Kokanee Creek, took top honours in one of the new categories, the Rising Star (Start up/New Business. Entrepreneur Excellence) category.
‘It’s the only outdoor adventure that leaves you breathless without breaking a sweat,” said judge Barry Auliffe.
The Non-Profit/Community Service Excellence award – another new award – went to Nelson Cares Society, an agency operating since 1974 which now helps about 1,200 people every year.
“Thank you for honouring us. We live in an amazing place. Let’s keep it a healthy place for everyone,’ said Jenny Robinson, executive-director of Nelson Cares.
The award for Manufacturing/Technology/Innovation Excellence went to the Nelson Brewing Company.
“This company has put Nelson on the map,” said Kalinski, adding, “They were the pioneers of the craft brewing industry.”
Company marketing and sale manager Al McLeod accepted the award and thanked “all the local hotels for buying our beer.”
Kootenay Country Store Co-op, which grew from a small food-buying club in the Slocan Valley to a 21,000 sq-ft retail outlet on Baker Street, won for Retail Excellence.
“They do their homework,” said Kalinski, “Before it goes on the shelves, it needs to be certified organic and truly local.”
‘It’s fun running a company that is owned by the community,” said Co-op representative Allan Bloom.
Finley’s Bar and Grill, a Vernon Street favourite, won the award for Hospitality – Food and Beverage Excellence.
“This is truly a dream come true for us,’ said co-owner Tanya Finley, referring to a financially stressful start for her and co-owner/partner Brent Holowaychuk when they started Finley’s in 2003.
She thanked “all of our great staff” before she was overcome with emotion.
The Tourism Excellence Award went to the Baldface Lodge, a backcountry resort north of Nelson that draws guests from around the world.
“In GQ magazine, Baldface is described as having the best powder north of Bolivia,” said Kalinski, a remark that drew laughter from the crowd.
The Professional Service Excellence Award went to Timberland Consultant, a company that provides forest-related services in the field of planning, technical engineering, silvaculture, research and adminstration.
There were 266 unique business nominated for the Business Excellence Awards from more than 800 total nominatons.
Thomson paid tribute to the countless hours spent by Kalinski and Auliffe, both retired businessmen, saying, “hats off to these guys.”
In previous years, the chamber presented four business awards.