Grass parking may have been frowned upon, but there wasn’t much choice as the Cross Creek Country Club was packed Thursday night for the House of Business Excellence Awards dinner. Greater Mount Airy business.
A crowd of over 170 people came together to network and give credit to deserving local businesses. After the hungry crowd of people got plates and a slice of cake, it was time to distribute the materials.
In a room full of Surry County doers and agitators, there was something right that the top prize went to administrative professional of the year. Melanie Clark was recognized for her 20+ years of service with Rogers Realty & Auction Company by Wendy Guy of RidgeCrest.
“Take a minute, take a day, come and you’ll be treated to one of the most loyal, genuine people you’ll ever meet,” Denise Rogers said. Clark called his time at Rogers “the most rewarding experience of my life. I am so grateful and God has truly blessed me to be part of such a great team.
Todd Ennis of Wayne Farms presented the Agribusiness of the Year award to Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse Inc. Judy and Jim Mitchell, both NCSU alumni, started in 1979 on additional land before moving to their current location in 1993. Collins suggested, “If you’re frustrated with a tree or shrub, go ask them, they’re the experts.
Their willingness to share information, as well as their efforts to modernize the operation with environmental improvements to save energy and water, are admirable attributes for sure. Jim Mitchell, however, added that growing the operation to nine full-time employees while remaining married for 46 years and in business with Judy for 43 years was one of his proudest accomplishments.
Mount Airy News editor Sandy Hurley presented the Ambassador of the Year award to Joe Zalescik, owner of a company people are just going crazy about: Station 1978 Firehouse Peanuts. The At-Large Commissioner of Mount Airy City feasted on a tight two minutes of stand-up comedy disguised as an acceptance speech. Being a Mount Airy transplant who started his business at the start of the pandemic, he didn’t know what to expect.
“I’m really grateful to have gotten to know people through the bedroom,” he said. “I also know that I can browse the chamber guide to find the services I need from another chamber member.” In a room full of members, the Ambassador of the Year still peddled the perks of the chamber: The US State Department should take notice of such competence.
Wendy Wood of Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation explained that Plant Manager Rocky Killon of Shenandoah Furniture opened its doors for field trips, mentoring and internships for local students by presenting Shenandoah with the business and educational partner.
“Everything the school systems asked for; Rocky answered yes without hesitation. she says. “The impact Rocky and Shenandoah have had on the children of this area is enormous.”
Killon praised student internship programs: “If you’re not in the internship system, or if you’re not working with the school system: get involved, you’ll appreciate it. You can hear it, about this generation, but I promise you; we have excellent students today, they are very intelligent, brilliant and ready to get involved.
In an unintended double dip, Rogers Realty & Auction was back to accept the Business Longevity Award. Founded in 1964, Bracky Rogers and his wife Rhonda founded the company on the golden rule. What exists today is a company that their employees call family.
Treating clients ethically has allowed them to oversee “hundreds of millions of dollars” in transactions while building trust along the way. That Bracky can “come in a little later and leave a little early” can be forgiven by his staff as he always makes mean strawberry pie.
Rogers said he has great staff and the best agents around. This is important because real estate agents can be ambassadors themselves. Collins remarked, “Often they are a new community’s first impression on a buyer, and that can make all the difference.”
The Reeves Community Center is one of the crown jewels of Mount Airy’s recreation options. However, the Reeves Community Center Foundation, established in 2005, has a program that may be flying under the radar.
For children who cannot afford activities, the foundation subsidizes partial or full payment of membership fees or activity fees for recreational opportunities so they can share the experiences. Lance Mueller presented the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award to the Reeves Community Center Foundation for his continued support that enables more children to participate.
A new award for 2021 was Entrepreneur of the Year. Betsy Tarn from Xtreme! Marketing featured LazerEdge’s Will Pfitzner with Entrepreneur of the Year. Pfitzner, a Mount Airy High and NCSU graduate who studied biomedical engineering, made a name for himself locally in a short time.
His design business was initially for making gifts for friends while in school, and it turned into a side hustle – just a way to earn some extra money. The pull of his passion and an entrepreneurial spirit called his name, and he threw himself into LazerEdge.
“The support of my family and this community means the world to me,” he said. “This is just the beginning for me, and it’s just the beginning for the young people in this community.”
The winner of the Excellence in Tourism Award, presented by Jenny Smith of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority, went to another joint powerhouse. Chris and Pam Bastin of Heart & Soul Bed and Breakfast have created a B&B experience here in Mount Airy that could only be called legendary.
In the modern world of online shopping and more reviews to sort through than ever before, positive reviews certainly bring traffic back to Heart & Soul time and time again. “With over 500 reviews in Trip Advisor, they have a 97% 5-star rating,” Smith read from a stack of reviews. “These reviews, I could read any of them: “Best experience in a B&B”, “We felt like family when we visited”, “We can’t wait to come back”, are just some.”
Recently, Darren Lewis has been busy switching roles within the city. A longtime employee of Parks and Recreation, Lewis served as assistant manager from 2005-21, when he took over as acting city manager. New city manager Stan Farmer called Lewis, now deputy city manager, a “dedicated public servant.”
“I love my job, not many people can say that,” Lewis said, also taking the time to thank her family for being so supportive of her work. For his flexibility and continued service to the community, Lewis received the Outstanding Public Servant Award from Jennifer Laurel of Carport Central/Cibirix.
The chamber’s highest distinction was awarded to an institution that has been running at full speed for the past two years. The Surry County Economic Development Board presented the Northern Regional Hospital with the 2021 Business of the Year, which CEO Chris Lumsden agreed to call “quite an honour”.
Lumsden thanked NRH’s 1,000 employees for their tireless work during the pandemic. “I admire the people who serve the patients of this community and region every day. We have a group of dedicated, compassionate and committed caregivers.
“Thinking of some of our successes over the past two years: we served 1,500 inpatient COVID patients and saw the highest level of care in NRH history. It is an indication of how sick the patients are.
“We performed 70,000 COVID tests, served over 500,000 patients in two years, had 60,000 emergency department visits and saw 20,000 patients in our emergency care which opened in November 2020.”
People-powered care means helping patients, but also helping employees. NRH has invested $1.5 million in helping employees get back to school, “because people are our lifeline,” Lumsden said.
Staff ‘didn’t miss a thing’, while NRH modernized patient records, achieved high marks in patient safety assessments and pursued a dual goal of developing its staff and expanding its services.
“Like many, if not all of you, NRH has been tested. We have been tested to the core again and again,” Lumsden said in summary. “We are honored to accept this award on behalf of all those who work for or are affected by the work we do at the Northern Regional Hospital.”