They are “Prince Edward County’s Golden Globes,” as the Chair of the County’s Chamber of Commerce, Jason Clarke, put it in his opening remarks. “Millions are watching!”
Well, maybe a couple hundred. But that’s exactly what gives this intimate, and in-person, awards ceremony, held against the resplendent backdrop of the Cape, its warmth, charm — and glamour.
The coveted awards come in the shape of gigantic translucent raindrops, handmade by Mark Armstrong Glassworks in Wellington. The substantial orbs recall at once the place, surrounded by water, and the cause for celebration, “the ripple effect” good businesses, and good people have throughout their communities.
Every detail of the 2023 Business Excellence Awards, in person for the first time in their four-year history, was this thoughtful. The masses of gorgeous flowers were provided by Carson’s Garden + Market – fitting, as Carson Arthur won the Environmental Practices Award.
Altogether, 42 nominees competed in 7 award categories — 12 for the Business of the Year award alone. That field included heavyweights like OneLook Productions, also hard at work on site recording the event, Base31, The Royal Hotel, and Kingfisher Financial.
Award applications were adjudicated by a twelve-member panel that operated independently of the Chamber, with judges drawn from near and far.
In a sleeper surprise, Rosehaven Yarn Shop won Business of the Year, in recognition of owner Lesley Snyder’s ten years on Picton Main Street and creation of a flourishing community hub — and global knitting adventure business.
“There are so many things you don’t know when you open a small business,” said Ms. Snyder, who was wearing a hand knit wool sweater. “You don’t know you are going to have to run a website and attract followers on social media. That, it turns out, is really difficult!”
Categories and nominees spanned every aspect of life in the County – the arts, agriculture, non-profits, retail, and hospitality. Employer of the Year went to Bloomfield Beauty Co.’s Emma and Annie Woodman, who faced stiff competition in MLP Residence, Gillingham Brewing Company, and Willowlee Sod Farms.
Women generally stole this show, winning six of the seven categories.
The night’s big winner was Oeno Gallery’s Carlyn Moulton, who won both Contribution to the Arts and the Beyond Business Award. Oeno Gallery, founded in 2007, draws 30,000 visitors to the County every year, and exports art all around the world. Aside from contributing to a myriad of causes, including the Cultural Round Table, ThrivePEC, and Back the Build, Ms. Moulton and her team have successfully sponsored over 100 refugees.
“It used to really bother me when I first came that people would brag about how long they’ve lived here. Or how long their families have lived here. Only now I find myself telling you that I’ve been here 20 years,” she laughed. “And I’m proud of it.”
The Entrepeneurial Spirit award went to thriving boutique Laluxe Femme’s Lindsay McAllister, who opens a new, larger shop on Wellington Main Street in December.
“We recognize and celebrate that the majority of women are plus-sized,” she said to a round of loud applause.
The winning not-for-profit was Reaching for Rainbows, which also faced stiff competition: County Arts, the County Foundation, the RoC, the Rotary Club of Picton and the Hub. Chair Jane Wollenberg accepted the award for the charity that offers a safe after-school space for girls six to nine years old “to foster a greater sense of self.” Rainbows won a Trillium Foundation grant earlier this year. It has operated at St. Andrews for 13 years, and been fully independent for three.
The lineup of luminaries who made remarks included Master of Ceremonies Kevin Lockwood, Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith, and Ingrid Moore, MP Ryan Williams’ Director of Riding Affairs. All noted the vitality small businesses bring to their communities.
“It has been a really difficult four years for business,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson. “Incredibly challenging. A global pandemic followed by extremely high interest rates.” Nonetheless, he noted, small businesses have endured. “You create employment, innovate solutions, make our main streets vibrant, provide expertise and care, sponsor events and volunteer organizations, donate to causes, and keep our community thriving.”
The celebration was the making of Chamber CEO Lesley Lavender and her team, which has led awards presentations over Zoom since the first year of their inception, in 2020. “We are here today because of a huge team of volunteers and sponsors,” she said. “It took many months to bring this evening together, it’s a huge production, and please, if you’d like to help out next year, give me your name!”