DHI Media Editor

VAN WERT — Saluting small business in Van Wert is easy to do with all the quality candidates to consider, but choosing one per category proved once again to be much tougher. For the tenth year, the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, along with co-sponsors Citizens National Bank and Times Bulletin Media, and the community gathered for the Salute to Small Business Awards, the recognition of some of the best small businesses in Van Wert County.

Nominations in six different categories were assembled from nominations made by the public in the past few weeks. On Friday, representatives of the businesses and the community at large assembled at Willow Bend Country Club for the annual awards ceremony.

After being nominated, the business were required to turn in entry forms which were the sole basis for the judging of the nominees. The Salute to Small Business Committee then did the judging, determining the top entries in each category.

In the Spirit of Entrepreneurship category, the nominees were Tim Slusher, Lynn Whitaker, the BachWell, M & M R.V. Electronics, Northwest Ohio Welch Trophy, Dan Gordon enterprises, and Century Trading. The award went to Northwest Ohio Welch Trophy.

Co-owner Al Welch said, “All the other nominees, I go into your stores a lot. You deserve this just as much as we do. We’re just lucky enough, I guess, to win this.”

The store is celebrating 15 years in business, having grown from three workers at the beginning to 16 employees.

The Agriculture Business category featured nominations for Mercer Landmark, Stoller Farms, Scott Equity Exchange, Advanced Grain Systems, and Heritage Farm Equipment. This year’s first place recipient was Mercer Landmark of Ohio City.

Up next, the Charitable Non-Profit category featured nominations from Van Wert Elks Lodge 1197, the Pregnancy Life Center, Family Health Care of Northwest Ohio, the Marsh Foundation, and the Van Wert Area Performing Arts Foundation. The Marsh Foundation was chosen as the top entrant. The organization was established almost a century ago to inspire hope and to care for children and families, through the original generosity of George H. Marsh and his family.

The Service Industry Showcase featured the nominations of Moore Insurance Service, Leland Smith Insurance Services, Wallace Plumbing and Underground, State Farm Insurance’s Tisha Fast Insurance Agency, Stahl Stoller Meyer Insurance Center, and Trevor Webster of Edward Jones. Stahl Stoller Meyer Insurance Center was chosen as the top nominee.

“It’s a tough category,” acknowledged Stahl Stoller Meyer’s Eric Hurless. “Everyone in this category is very giving to the community.”

In the Retail Champion category, the nominations were for Laudick’s Jewelry, Guaranteed Auto, BHS Gun Shop, Humble Bumble, MOD Boutique, and Van Wert Lumber. The first place recipient chosen was Laudick’s Jewelry.

“We firmly believe in this town,” noted Deb Laudick in her acceptance speech.

The Palate Pleaser category included nominations for Wild Willy’s, Gibson’s Barnyard BBQ, Ohio City Express, Flour Loves Sugar, Collins Fine Foods, and Truly D’vine. The category winner was Collins Fine Food, which is celebrating 125 years as a family business this year.

The Manufacturing Excellence category included Kam Manufacturing, Teem Wholesale, Wannemacher Packaging, and Kennedy Manufacturing. The top winner was Teem Wholesale. “The biggest thing about this is being able to tell the people who work for us, ‘Hey, you’re noticed. You’re important.’ That’s what makes us tick over there,” the audience was told during the acceptance speech.