Tina McGrady | [email protected]
A newcomer to downtown and a deep-rooted business took top honors Thursday at the Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards program at the Crawfordsville Country Club.
Minerva Baez and Joaquin Vega of Jarocho Mini Market won Small Business of the Year honors; while Lakeside Book Company was named Large Business of the Year.
“They quickly established the Jarocho Mini Market as one of downtown Crawfordsville’s favorite hotspots,” said Michael Lowe of Brother’s Pizza. “Their ethnic and cozy grocery store story is full of a nice range of grocery items, including cheese and fresh produce, as well as gifts and homewares, shoes and jewelry. This local small business couple used the anchor of the small walk-in grocery store to launch a take-out breakfast menu, then built on that to add a fresh and healthy juice bar the whole community is talking about .
Lowe added that nearby downtown merchants, as well as the community, are especially grateful for this new addition.
“They’ve arranged tours…they’re happy to help you understand the products they sell and share recipes, and following the pandemic’s hits on small businesses, this cheerful, warm and creative team earned all the superlatives to qualify for the Chamber’s 2022 Small Business of the Year.
Chuck Dixon, President and CEO of Tri-County Bank & Trust, praised Lakeside Book Company for its efforts and longevity in the community.
“Since changing ownership to Lakeside Book Company two years ago, the company has made great strides in improving employee compensation and benefits and investing capital for a stronger future,” Dixon said. “Lakeside has strong ties to the community, embracing change and impacting millions of people daily with the creation of books distributed around the world.
“Lakeside is 101 years in this community, educating, entertaining and empowering the world. Thank you for the many years you have dedicated to making Montgomery County a great place to work and live,” said Dixon.
Jessica Harris of Linden’s Shop Small Shop Handmade was named Lew Wallace Entrepreneur of the Year.
Harris was praised for her efforts to engage other local businesses and vendors to build a business in Linden with regular retail facilities and festival-style events. She is an active member of the Chamber and has created articles for Chamber projects.
The Montgomery County Health Department won Community Organization of the Year for its efforts during the pandemic. The department was praised for establishing community testing and vaccination sites, providing daily monitoring, providing community counseling, and working with the three school systems on their response to COVID-19.
Michelle Smith of Abilities Services Inc. was named a Change Champion for her dedication to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
“Michelle continually seeks to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities,” said Jill Knowling of Walmart Optical Lab. “She is looking for ways to improve programming to include consumers in community events. Her love and dedication to people with intellectual disabilities is unparalleled.
Juniper Spoon’s Lali Hess was named Woman of the Year.
“Since arriving in Montgomery County 18 years ago, Lali has been a constant inspiration to a businesswoman empowered by the mission of serving the well-being of the community,” said Sue Lucas, Program Director Crawfordsville Main Street. “Time and time again, she provides us with a common table to gather and feast, celebrating each other and our country’s rich local food offering.
“Lali applied her business to inspire a return to the real meaning of the word value – not value as cheapness – but one that cultivates a deep economy in our country, support for local businesses, environmental stewardship, service to citizens and a long-term vision. These valuable ingredients are evident in her hearty, wholesome meals because the chef herself is rooted in them.
Kyle Brown was named Rising Star/Young Professional of the Year. Brown works at Tri-County Bank & Trust and is involved in numerous community organizations, including the local Kiwanis club. As the club’s elected president, he helped recruit many new members. He is also Treasurer of the Montgomery County Boys & Girls Club, a committee member of United Way, currently attends Montgomery County Leadership Academy, coaches youth baseball, and assists Crawfordsville Main Street with its special events.
“His growth as a leader continues to serve the community,” said Indiana State Senate Legislative Assistant Jim Johnson. “He is a Crawfordsville native who has chosen to work in his hometown and demonstrates his willingness to dedicate his time to improving our community.”
Gary Linn of Crawfordsville High School for his continued commitment to students after 45 years of teaching have been recognized as Emerald Educators; Josh Thompson of North Montgomery, who was a math teacher for 22 years, varsity football and track coach and assistant athletic director; and Reasley Thompson, Southmont High School, which teaches social studies, economics and US history.
All awards were based on peer nominations and reviewed by the Chamber’s Board of Directors.
“These organizations, businesses and individuals all contribute to the vibrant business community of Crawfordsville and Montgomery County in their own way, making our community a better place to live and work,” said Stacy Sommer, Executive Director of the Chamber. .
Laura Kirtley Smith, a Crawfordsville native and host of WRTV Channel 6 Spotlight, was the guest speaker. She offered advice on local media relations and marketing.
Smith also praised her hometown for the things she says make a great community, including the regular use of common spaces, like Pike Place; green spaces and playgrounds; promote the arts; provide quality dining and shopping options; celebrating diversity and welcoming change; and organize festivals and street parties.
The next major Chamber event will be the Christmas Parade Auction at 6 p.m. on November 10 at Fusion 54.