Representatives from the businesses recognized by the Van Wert Chamber of Commerce pose with their awards after Friday’s ceremony. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
Representatives from the businesses recognized by the Van Wert Chamber of Commerce pose with their awards after Friday’s ceremony. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)

Times Bulletin Editor

VAN WERT - In a twist from previous years, multiple area small business were given recognition this time. The Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce honored 15 finalists of 31 nominees at Friday's 2012 Salute to Small Business Awards held at Willow Bend Country Club.

"We knew having a new focus was the right thing to do -to recognize more small businesses instead of fewer. The logistics of that we figured out along the way to make sure there were certain metrics to keep in place to recognize the top two businesses in each category," said Chamber President/CEO Susan Munroe. "Ultimately what we did today was to recognize more small businesses instead of fewer. And small businesses are the soul of the Van Wert economy."
The event was again co-sponsored by Times Bulletin Media and Citizens National Bank.

CNB Vice President Pat Ryan VP remarked, "We are a big believer in small business lending in the community and in this general area. This is a great opportunity for us to support the chamber in their efforts to recognize some of the great small businesses that operate around Van Wert."

The event was very well attended this year. "We were astounded with the support and the turnout for today's luncheon. Last year we had 85 attendees, which was terrific. This year we had 155 people come out. And all of them play a part in supporting small business in Van Wert County," Munroe noted.

The first category, the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, was reserved for "an innovative, established business which began as a concept and was developed through initiative and perseverance into a profitable, competitive business." Of six nominees in this category, the top nominees were Rehab Fab and Northwest Ohio Welch Trophy.

Rehab Fab, 113 W. Main St., Van Wert, opened in 2011 as a retail store with more than 30 artisans. The store provides unique locally-made home decor and re-purposed furniture. Dawn and Jeff Cooper are the owners.

Northwest Ohio Welch Trophy began as an at-home business run from Rob Welch's basement. The retail store opened in 2000, providing screen printing, trophies and plaques, sporting goods and uniforms, and embroidery. The local store is at 1112 S. Washington St. with another location in Defiance.

The second category was the Agricultural Enterprise Award. Winners were Kernal Cooper's Corn Maze and Kenn-Feld Group.

Kernal Cooper's Corn Maze has been in existence for the past 11 years, providing maintaining and promoting family fun. The maze also gives people a day on the farm and the chance to see the impact agriculture has in this region.

Kenn-Feld Group sells farm equipment to agricultural producers in this area. Located at the intersection of Liberty Union Rd. and U.S. 224, the retail store also has a substantial presence in commercial mowing equipment, lawn and garden equipment and utility vehicles. The focus of the organization is to deliver customers an experience they want to repeat by meeting expectations and fulfilling commitments accurately and consistently.

The third category recognized Charitable Non-Profit organizations with a volunteer board of trustees or governing body demonstrating sound business practices, innovation, and leadership in offering human services locally. Honored were the YWCA of Van Wert County and the Pregnancy Life Center.

The YWCA is no stranger to Van Wert, having begun locally in 1916. The organization at 408 E. Main St. is focused on being a community leader in offering social service programs like the Summer Food Program and the Transitional Living Program. A further list of services offered to the community includes breast cancer awareness events, free self-defense classes, arthritis exercise therapy classes, and a womens mentoring program.

The Pregnancy Life Center has been offering services to women in the area since 1999.Located at 215 N. Market St., the center provides free pregnancy tests, material support and education in a number of different areas. All services to PLC clients are free and attending classes earns "baby bucks" which can be spent on baby needs.

The Generations Award is to recognize established businesses that have been passed from one generation to another with local ownership and at least a 15-year track record. Earning top honors in this category were Braun Industries and Purmort Brothers Insurance Agency.

In 1961, Braun Industries was founded as a pattern-making company, but a little over a decade later the firm began building ambulances. The company was founded by Charles Braun and his sons Jack, Chuck and Phil. Two generations later, the firm is going strong selling units to locations all across the country and even overseas. Braun has been located in Van Wert's Vision Industrial Park since 2000.

Purmort Brothers Insurance Agency, 101 W. Crawford St. has been under the same ownership since 1876. The agency offers property and casualty products for both business and personal, as well as life and health products for both individuals and groups.

The Start-Up category honors innovative businesses who have demonstrated a commitment to take necessary risks and initiative to build a profitable business and who make contributions to aid community-oriented projects. Top nominees in this category were A&A Mechanical and Ink Again.

A&A Mechanical has been in business since 2009. Over the first 15 months, Tyler Holdgreve was the sole worker. After being joined by Travis Stemen, Holdgreve decided to take the business to the next level. Now located at 717 E. Crawford St., A&A Mechanical provides plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration repair service.

Ink Again, 115 N. Washington St., is a retail dealer in printer ink and toner. In business since April 2008, Dennis Cummings began filling printer cartridges by hand, saving customers money over buying new. Now Ink Again uses an exchange system and offers 100 percent customer satisfaction.

The sixth category is the Downtown Champion. These nominees are downtown Van Wert businesses who aid community-oriented projects, especially in the downtown area. Honored this year were Shutterbugg and Main Street Ice Cream Parlor.

Shutterbugg was opened in 1986 as a one-hour photo lab and a small portrait studio. With changes in technology, it is now a portrait studio that has adapted to today's customers. Denise Davis has run the business for 20 years, emphasizing quality portraits and processing.

The Main Street Ice Cream Parlor opened its doors in 2006 at 107 E. Main St. The vision came when Marvin Vetter decided that Van Wert needed a year-round ice cream parlor. After a renovation of the building, Main Street Ice Cream began offering its menu of sandwiches, salads, soups, and, of course, ice cream.

The seventh awards category was the Woman-Owned Business, recognizing firms that are at least 50.1 percent female-owned. Top nominees in this category were Century Trading Company and Kim Hohman's DanceWorks.

Century Trading Company, 1224 W. Main St., is both a recycling center and a retail store. Since its founding in 1968, Century has grown into a large operation with doubled real estate, outside sales, multiple vendors, and roll off containers. This Van Wert business, owned by Marcia Germann since 2002, is a vital part of the Van Wert community.

After starting on the third floor of a downtown building in 1996, Kim Hohman's DanceWorks has grown in both number of students and size of facilities. Now in a 6,000 square foot building on Van Wert-Decatur Rd., KHDW strives to inspire students to learn and retain knowledge, self-confidence, and poise, as well as develop grace, strength, and flexibility through dance. Today, 425 students come to KHDW for dance, cheer and tumbling instruction.

The final category in the 2012 Salute to Small Business Awards was for Exporting Excellence. This award, which went to Advanced Biological Marketing, is to honor a business with increased profits, sales and work force due to exporting, effective solutions to export-related issues and creative overseas marketing strategies.

Advanced Biological Marketing, established in 2000, was originally a sales and marketing company. However along the way, ABM has developed its own proprietary intellectual property, manufacturing, formulating, packaging, marketing, and selling products worldwide. The firm sells and exports all-natural seed coatings and inoculants for all crops.

Those attending the luncheon were treated to a slide show of the winning nominees put together by Jill DeWert and the Interactive Media students at Vantage Career Center: Tressa Ringwald, Courtney Marquart, Hannah Lewis, and Eric Durre.

Other businesses nominated one of the eight categories included Pond Seed, P&L Fertilizer, Hickory Sticks Golf Club/Mulligans Pub & Bistro, Young's Waste, Universal lettering, Van Wert County Council on Aging, Salvation Army, Wallace Plumbing, Nicko's Pizza, Fettig's Flowers, Touches of Time, Collins Fine Food, Van Wert Propane, The Good Earth, and DeShia.