Before proceeding with the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce’s Business of Excellence Awards Wednesday evening, executive director Tom Thomson took a moment to recognize Norm and Joyce Mackie, the owners of Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, who recently ended their multi-decade stint by selling the Kootenay Lake holiday spot to the Lower Kootenay Band.
And while many businesses present during the ceremony have similarly long histories in the area, he also acknowledged fledgling ones like the zipline company planning to launch in the area of Kokanee Creek Provincial Park.
Then handing over the mic to president Justin Pelant and the two judges for the awards, Barry Auliffe and Garry Kalinski, the five winners were announced. The Star caught up with the judges beforehand to hear about 2015’s winners.
Auliffe selected Main Jet Motorsports for the large retailer of the year.
“Main Jet Motorsports is just over the bridge and their slogan is: big city selection, small town service. When you drive into their lot you immediately realize it’s true, they do have big city selection, but what you’re seeing is only what’s seasonal. Around back there’s even more.”
He was impressed by their commitment to honesty, respect and integrity.
“I believe they’re very serious about that. And they’re the biggest motorsports retailer between the Okanagan and Calgary,” he said.
Judge Garry Kalinski selected Vince DeVito Footwear and Orthotics as the small retailer of the year.
“This company has been doing shoe-making in the Kootenays for 89 years, through four generations. And they still do shoe repair, which is almost unheard of.”
Kalinski said he was impressed by their prioritizing of comfort and quality.
“They only deal with quality footwear, so comfort and quality are their number one focus. Until your feet are happy, Vince isn’t happy.”
Auliffe chose Mandala Homes as the winner of the Professional Service Excellence Award.
“Mandala Homes is a business established in 2000. They had to rebuild after the 2008 crash, and they’ve repositioned themselves as an up-market green technology homes company,” he said.
“The word ‘mandala’, and I didn’t know this, means the interdependence of all things. And the owners Lars and Rachel, when I interviewed them, said they follow a triple bottom line: environmental, social and financial.”
He was also impressed by their work environment, where customers routinely do yoga and meditation as part of their day.
One of the most surprising choices of the evening was the winner of the Hospitality Tourism Excellence Award, which went to Dianna Ducs of Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism.
Auliffe said he understands the surprise, especially because the competition included local landmarks such as the Hume Hotel, the Prestige and Ainsworth Hot Springs. But they had more nominations for Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism than for any other award.
“Like any business, it has a product, which is tourism in the Nelson, Balfour and Kaslo area. It has customers, it has 100 partners it serves, and it’s dependent on sales for success.”
Auliffe said Ducs was too modest to take credit for the local increase in tourism, but many others praised her during the nomination process.
The Business of the Year award went to Save-on-Foods, which recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of forerunner Overwaitea, and the 90th anniversary of its original store opening in Nelson.
“They’ve been a front contender for the award four years running and they could’ve won any of those four years. They’re a great community citizen, they employ somewhere around 130 people at any given time, and they are constantly putting back into the community,” said Auliffe.
“They fundraise on an ongoing basis. Anyone who walks through the door at Save-On gets held from the community, not to mention they’ve been in their current location 35 years. They’re an absolutely fabulous organization and it shows in the loyalty of the staff.”
He noted the Children’s Hospital golf tournament every year is a huge success, and he admires how much money they’ve been able to raise in the community.