It was a packed house at the Elks Hall Saturday night as dozens of businesses and local dignitaries waited eagerly to find out who amongst them had snagged a coveted award from the 2019 Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.
Served a gourmet meal with a cruise ship theme, the conversation was easy and smiles were widely shared as the night wore on. With Williams Lake City Coun. Jason Ryll presiding as emcee, the banter was common and genuine, with Mayor Walt Cobb even wryly observing he has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce for 50 years now.
As attendees loaded up their plates with confectionery delights, the first half of the awards ceremony began. This year there were 66 different people and businesses nominated for eight different awards.
The award recipients are as follows and were warmly met with applause and cheers from the whole crowd.
First up was the award for Greatest Improvement, which went to Adventure Games Inc. Ryll explained that this was because the young company has made consistent and successful efforts to better engage with and meet the needs of their customers while finding new ways to improve the community of Williams Lake. Bryton Kaufman, the young founder and owner of Adventure Games who accepted the award, is also a big brother with Big Brothers and Sisters of Williams Lake and partners with them frequently to run community events.
The Tourism Excellence Award, meanwhile, went to the Stampede Street Party this year. Ryll explained that the organizers were able to, in just six weeks, revive an event on life support and enhance and improve it, even bringing back the popular Bull Toss event. Organizers Chrissie Gertzen and Sunny Dyck accepted the award and thanked the community for the recognition of their hard work.
Following them was the Williams Lake and District Seniors Activity Centre, who won the Not-For-Profit Award. Ryll said this was thanks to all the programming they offer the seniors of the lakecity and how, for many, the centre has become like a second living room where they can visit with their friends.
For the third year in a row, the Production and Manufacturing Excellence Award was awarded to Still North Design Co. Owner Courtney Vreeman was incredibly grateful to receive the award and said her company has been life-changing for both herself and family. A proud lakecity native, Vreeman said in the course of two years she’s grown her business from one storefront to her merchandise being in “55 businesses retailed in Canada.”
Following this, a brief break was called as the crowd was entertained by an Elvis impersonator, Steve Elliot, who delighted crowds with his crooning voice.
Ryll then began the awards once more by announcing the winner of the Retail Excellence Award which went to the new kid on the block, so to speak, JAK’s Beer Wine Spirits. Since their grand opening in March, Ryll said from their knowledgeable staff to unique products and desire to be a strong partner in the community, they have demonstrated that they are truly top tier. As far as warm welcomes to Williams Lake goes, a new family-based business like JAK’s couldn’t ask for better.
Following this was the Service Excellence Award which went to the Poppy Home for their service that goes “above and beyond,” Ryll said they were selected thanks to the personalized passionate service they provide customers and willingness to point customers towards the products they need, even if that means sending them to another store. Poppy Home has been a welcome addition to the downtown core and has helped rejuvenate the local shopping experience.
Not surprising to anyone who has been reading The Tribune over the last year, the Williams Lake Indian Band was proud and honoured to accept the Newsmaker of the Year Award.
Under the leadership of Willie Sellars, the WLIB has opened up a new band office in the downtown, opened the lakecity’s first legal cannabis store Indigenous Bloom, engaged in multiple new partnerships and organized several new inaugural events, to name but a few of their accomplishments. Sellars was visibly moved to win the award, especially over such stiff competition, and thanked the community for the recognition.
The Hugo Stahl Memorial Award, which is awarded to an individual, was awarded and accepted by Mayor Cobb on behalf of Sunny Dyck, who had to leave early to another community event. Dyck has spent the last year helping children most of all in engaging in personal positive growth and was involved with Freezin’ For a Reason, the Stampede Street Party, the Metis Jamboree, Seniors Living, Cariboo Roller Derby, the Boys and Girls Club of Williams Lake and District and Thunder Mountain Speedway. Cobb said that Dyck is the embodiment of everything the Hugo Stahl Award stands for.
Finally, all in attendance sat on the edge of their seats as a drum roll was held to announce the winners of the 2019 Business of the Year Award: Chuck’s Auto Supply. Serving customers since 1981, they started with a fraction of their building’s space and now occupy all 15,000 square feet thanks to their continuous growth. Ryll said that they are clearly well thought of within the community and that one can always find a smile on a friendly face within this homegrown business. While the owners were unable to attend the gala, the employee who accepted the award on their behalf encouraged everyone to come in and see what they are all about.