By David Rogers. February 11, 2020. BLOWING ROCK, NC — It was more than a midday meal at the Meadowbrook Inn on Tuesday. A capacity crowd of area movers and shakers gathered in the grand ballroom to recognize and celebrate the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards recipients.
COVER IMAGE: BRAHM Executive Director Lee Carol Giduz accepts the award for Blowing Rock “Business of the Year” from Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Hardin. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
- The “Business of the Year” honors went to Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM). More than a decade of planning and fundraising went into the launch of BRAHM when it opened its doors in 2011. Now, almost a decade later, the museum has become a cultural centerpiece for the Town. Although the original inspiration for the museum was born of a desire by a Charlotte art collector to find a permanent home for his collection of Elliot Daingerfield works, the museum has grown beyond those auspicious beginnings. It now hosts major exhibits featuring regional as well as national artists and artisans, as well as host numerous workshops and educational sessions. Other nominees included The Spice & Tea Exchange, Meadowbrook Inn
- “Jerry Burns Ambassadorial Award” — There were three outstanding nominees this year, but none more deserving than winner Jim McDowell, who with his wife Debra own Mountainaire Inn and Log Cabins. McDowell is extremely active in the Chamber’s business and its activities, but his spearheading special projects at Blowing Rock School to promote student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (“STEM”), as well as entrepreneurship deserve special notice. The other deserving nominees were Don Hubble and David Harwood.
- Zika Rea (ZAP Endurance) won “Service to the Community” honors for her proactive and enthusiastic support of community projects, especially the Middle Fork Greenway and Blue Ridge Conservancy. SIDE NOTE: All nine of the ZAP Endurance elite running team have qualified to compete later this month (February 29th) in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials for the men’s and women’s marathon events, in Atlanta. Other nominees included Sharon Crisman of Sunset & Vine and Jim Clabough.
The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce only rarely gives a “Lifetime Achievement Award” but this year recognized Blowing Rock resident John Aldridge, who has served on the Chamber board of directors, in executive positions, and has chaired the Economic Development Committee. Aldridge is the founder of the Village Foundation, which actively seeks to identify and fund worthy projects for which the Town may not have sufficient resources. The projects are typically organized as public-private partnerships. Examples include Mayview Plaza and the Laurel Lane renovations. In accepting the honor, Aldridge earned the “best line” honors, too, when he quipped, “I hope receiving this doesn’t mean I have to die now!”
- Local accounting firm Hess & Hess, LLP, was recognized as “Outstanding Service Business.” While Robert “Bob” Hess has served many clients as their CPA for a few decades, he was joined a few years ago by his son, Sam Hess, and they now have formed the Hess & Hess, LLP partnership. The other deserving nominees were Longevity Electric and Canvas Beauty Bar.
OTHER AWARD HIGHLIGHTS:
- “Volunteer of the Year” went to David Trahan.
“New Business of the Year” was awarded to the Horton Hotel & Bar in Boone. The Horton resurrected an old King Street building and includes a rooftop bar. The other nominees included El Rincon restaurant and Chef & Somm restaurant.
- Chetola Resort & Spa won “Renovation of the Year” for their re-do of the lobby and entry to The Chetola Lodge and other areas of the property. Other nominees included 4 Forty Four and Tanger Outlets.
- The “Customer Service Award” recipient was The Best Cellar & The Inn at Ragged Gardens. Other deserving nominees Emily Anderson-4 Forty Four Interior Design and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
In the early parts of the event, Chamber CEO Charles Hardin thanked outgoing board chairman Billy Chick, as well as several outgoing members of the Chamber board of directors, including Andy Barth, Angus Lamond, Ben Powell, Carol Dickerson, David Barker, Jess Wehrmann, Jim Pitts and Pam Vines.
The presenting sponsor for this year’s Chamber annual meeting and awards luncheon was Skyline/SkyBest, whose senior executive Ed Hinson was on hand for opening remarks that included details about the company’s plans for a “1 Gig” broadband service in Blowing Rock. At a key juncture in the awards ceremonies, Hinson also acknowledged Charles Hardin’s being named the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (CACCE) “2019 North Carolina Chamber Executive of the Year.”