Seaside’s business community came together at the Times Theatre, Thursday, Jan. 14, to celebrate accomplishments of businesses large and small alike.
Brew 22 Coffee walked off with “Business of the Year,” winning an internet campaign judged by the public.
The secret to their success?
Brian Owen, executive director of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, which presented the business awards event, said Brew 22 owner Jeff Dunn has taken a one-off business and turned it into an experience prized by locals and visitors alike.
In delivering the award, emcee Ken Heman of the Seaside Visitors Bureau, celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit and best customer service, marketing and social media strategy, “leads the way and sets an example for the community.”
Westport Winery and Angelina’s Pizzeria took runner-up honors.
Chamber board members offered a special recognition award to Traci Williams, who opened the Sweet Shop in Gearhart two years ago. The 100-year-old retail space is “more than just a store, it has become a gathering place for all locals and traveling public,” Owen said.
Westport Winery won the rising star new business award, demonstrating a culture of risk-taking and trailblazing to achieve success.
Seaside’s chamber of commerce recognizes businesses throughout the region — from Cannon Beach to Astoria — but no honor more vaunted than the Byron Meek Award, given to the area’s top volunteer.
This award is presented to people who have dedicated their time and energy to the city, named after the achievements of Meek, who epitomized the city’s community’s volunteer spirit. The honor was voted upon by former award winners. The award was first delivered in 2001 to Meek; Nancy McCune won the award in 2017.
McCune remembered Meek as dedicating himself to the well-being of the community and its children, developing a program for fifth-graders to commit to healthy living. “It’s great to see those kids who throughout the years, remember the values Byron taught them.”
This year’s recipient was Ruth Swenson, owner of the Hillcrest Inn & Hillcrest House, also named runner-up as volunteer of the year. “I’ve run into her at the wine walk, at beach cleanup — almost every activity we have. Halloween Happenings, Parade of Lights,” McCune said in presenting the Byron award. “She is a top-notch manager, always there, always helpful, making sure that every guest is welcome to Seaside.”
Times Theatre owners Mark and Marci Utti, newly reopened after 30 years of darkness, were also among winners honored for their positive impact on the community.
Randy Anderson, owner of Anderson Painting, won recognition for his “excellence of service for our community,” an honor for his efforts in bringing beach wheelchairs to Seaside. Anderson donated two chairs to the city and helped spark a program to bring access to the beach to those who might otherwise be denied. The program’s success inspired Gearhart to adopt a similar program.
Anderson has also been a strong supporter of the Bob Chisholm Community Center, donating his time and talents to paint the center for its refresh.
Other big winners included Westport Winery, the rising star/new business award winner, and Misty Mills winning the chamber’s volunteer of the year award.
Doug and Cheryle Barker won the chamber’s legacy award for their longtime service to the community.
Owen said the chamber’s mission is to act as a catalyst in the community. “We’re looking to what we can do to move business forward, solve problems, and that future leadership,” he said.
He said the chamber’s role is to act as a problem solver. “That’s what we’re here for. We may not be able to help you solve that problem, but we can help you connect with whoever we can.”
Issues ahead include employee retention, and addressing workforce housing, wages and transportation access. “We’re working closely with the college to bringing more skilled workforce there.”
The wide range of chamber members was apparent, the Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director James Paino and Clatsop County’s Small Business Development Center’s Kevin Leahy among the notables in attendance.
The chamber’s members are based throughout the county, Owen said. “We should really be called the ‘Seaside area’ chamber of commerce,” he said.