Chris Gibb

Just a few days left to participate in “12 Days of Christmas” Scavenger Hunt

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

As part of Amherstburg’s annual winter festival, the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce is always looking for ways to expand the festival and bring the local businesses more exposure.

“The 12 days of Christmas is a scavenger hunt style event that started with a handful of down town businesses three years ago,” explained Chris Gibb, board member of Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce. “Each year it has grown until we now have a situation where we it is ‘first come, first served.’ It’s really grown into an event all by itself. Our goal is to create a unique way for people to discover businesses they might not otherwise know about. It also helps the businesses reach new customers that may have never visited their location in the past.”
Gibb explained this year they had even more businesses apply than they had spaces for, and joked it may turn into 15 or 17 days of Christmas in the coming years, and it just goes to show the support the local businesses have the community.

The idea of the scavenger hunt, is the participating businesses each have a “prop” in their stores. This “prop” is a 3D sculpture created by Just Cork It owner and artist Lori Bezaire. From 11 pipers piping, to a partridge in the pear tree, Bezaire created 10 of the 12 props used by the local businesses.

“We put them in the stores in a corner somewhere, so it makes people go through the store to look for the prop,” explained Bezaire. “We’re asking the store owners to promote their business while people are going through and then once they find the prop they can get their stamp. We decided it would be better to do it over 12 days, so it gave these businesses a longer period of time for them to be able to promote their businesses more and not just have people running through to get a stamp. We are hoping this will bring people through stores that they may not have ever been through and shop local.”

Bezaire’s involvement with the sculptures started when she spent nine months creating Bumble from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which was followed by her creation of Frosty from Frosty the Snowman.

“I am totally honored, I love being creative and it’s nice to share and I love our community so be able to participate and even as a store owner to be able to promote our business as well, I love Amherstburg and to be able to share and be creative with the town of Amherstburg is an honor to me,” said Bezaire. “I love the idea of the 12 Days of Christmas, for me it’s an opportunity for all of the businesses to network together and promote one another. A strong business core makes for a strong town, I’m hoping this will inspire that.”

The participating businesses this year are 67 Richmond Street, Amherstburg Audiology, Duby’s Home Centre, Embrace Dental Hygiene, Just Cork It, Libro Credit Union, Mealtime Express, Precision Jewellers, River Canard Outpost General Store, Royal Canadian Legion Fort Malden Branch 157, Sotto and Wolfhead Distillery. No purchase is necessary to participate in the event, and those who get all 12 stamps are eligible for a prize valued at $600. The winner will be announced at the River Light “Ignite the Night” opening ceremony this Saturday at 6 p.m.

Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce honours local business community

 

By Jonathan Martin

Local business owners have suited up to recognize the achievements of their colleagues.

The 2017 Business Excellence Awards were held this past Friday night at Pointe West Golf Club.

The event was organized by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce, but businesses were nominated for awards by their patrons.

Mary Ann Wolff (left) hugs Josie Piruzza after beign given the lifetime achievement award.  A former pharmacist and franchise owner, Wolff retired from Shoppers Drug Mart in February.

Mary Ann Wolff (left) hugs Josie Piruzza after being given the lifetime achievement award. A former pharmacist and franchise owner, Wolff retired from Shoppers Drug Mart in February. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

In total, only 11 certificates were handed out, but past ACOC president Chris Gibb said every nominee should be proud.

“It’s amazing the number of nominations we receive,” he said. “Every business (present at the awards ceremony) has earned the love and respect of its customers.”

CJ Bondy Plumbing nabbed the small business award, which is defined as having fewer than 20 employees. The award was presented by town councilor Leo Meloche.

Precision Plastics earned the counterpoint, snagging the large business award, which is given to a local business that employs more than 20 people.

The Amherstburg License Bureau was given the excellence in customer service award. Gibb chuckled into the microphone and said, “Only in Amherstburg would the license bureau earn an award for its customer service.”

Janet Willoughby, left, listens to the acceptance speech given by the Amherstburg License Bureau after announcing that they had been awarded the excellence in customer service award in Amherstburg last Friday.  The dining room buzzed with laughter after it was mentioned that "only in Amherstburg would the license bureau be recognized for its  customer service skills."

Janet Willoughby, left, listens to the acceptance speech given by the Amherstburg License Bureau after announcing that they had been awarded the excellence in customer service award in Amherstburg last Friday. The dining room buzzed with laughter after it was mentioned that “only in Amherstburg would the license bureau be recognized for its customer service skills.” (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

Speck’s Restaurant owner Sarah Beaudoin delivered a teary-eyed acceptance speech after receiving the most attractive improvement award.

Norm Mickle, the local real estate agent who started the “Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here!” promotional campaign, was presented with the community service/involvement award and premium liquor manufacturer Wolfhead Distillery caught the growth and expansion award.

Funeral directing student Kelsey Sutton accepted the business legacy award on behalf of Sutton Funeral Home. Sutton is the latest in the family’s funerary dynasty.

Justin Falconer prepares to present the investing in a world class workforce award to Anna Fiorito and the team at Amherstburg Physical Therapy.

Justin Falconer prepares to present the investing in a world class workforce award to Anna Fiorito and the team at Amherstburg Physical Therapy. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

Amherstburg Physical Therapy snagged the investing in a world-class work force award for its exemplary staff and Bill Deslippe earned himself an excellence in food service award for his company, Smashed Apple, which started as a food truck and then expanded into a brick-and-mortar takeout restaurant.

Community Living Essex County board of directors president Ron Giofu, along with CLEC director of operations Karen Bolger, presented Jones Group with the welcoming accessibility award for its support of the Essex County Heroes Athletic Club.

Jim Heyens of Southpoint Publishing Inc. (of which RTT is a member) poses for a photo beside Smashed Apple founder Bill Deslippe.  Smashed Apple snagged the Excellence in Food Services award. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

Jim Heyens of Southpoint Publishing Inc. (of which RTT is a member) poses for a photo beside Smashed Apple founder Bill Deslippe. Smashed Apple snagged the Excellence in Food Services award. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

Finally, former Shoppers Drug Mart franchise owner and pharmacist Mary Ann Wolff delivered an impassioned acceptance speech upon receiving her lifetime achievement award. She said the last time she had the opportunity to make an address she passed it up, so she wanted to make the most of it this time round. She used her time at the podium to speak in favour of hiring students and youths and to thank the colleagues she has worked beside over the past decades.

The event was sold out, despite this year’s addition of 50 seats. The 2017 business excellence awards ended up hosting nearly 200 patrons.

Nominees for ACOC’s Business Excellence Awards revealed

 

Special to the RTT

The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce is excited to announce the nominees for its 12th annual Business Excellence Awards.

Over the last four weeks, the Chamber has been accepting nominations for the awards and was thrilled with the number of nominations they received.

“We had so many nominations come in and it was really hard to choose winners in the categories,” said ACOC board member and awards co-organizer Ray Bezaire. “Amherstburg is lucky with the choices of local businesses that we have. There is really no reason not to shop local. It was great to see our community have no trouble coming up with names of nominees.”

The nominees are:

SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR

I Dare Your Hair

CJ Bondy Plumbing

Amherstburg Optometric Centre

LARGE BUSINESS OF THE YEAR

Precision Plastics

Walker Aggregates

Diageo

EXCELLENCE IN CUSTOMER SERVICE

PaintCO

Amherstburg License Bureau

Amherstburg Supply

ACOC logo

COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD

Norm Mickle – Amherstburg, You’ll Love it Here

Joe Meloche Ford

Libro Credit Union

GROWTH & EXPANSION

Wolfhead Distillery

Amherstburg Pharmacy

Dan Gemus Real Estate Team

EXCELLENCE IN FOOD SERVICE

Smashed Apple

Beacon Ale House

Gabriel’s Deli

BUSINESS LEGACY

Sutton Funeral Home

Precision Jewellers

Waterbee Pools

WELCOMING ACCESSIBILITY

Amherstburg Home Health Supplies

Jones Group

Fort Malden Dental

MOST ATTRACTIVE IMPROVEMENT

Amherstburg Laundry

Bondy House B&B

Speck’s Restaurant

The Chamber will also be honouring retired Shoppers Drug Mart associate Mary Ann Wolff with a lifetime achievement award.

“With Mary Ann retiring from Shoppers this year, the Chamber felt it was a great time to honour her with this award,” said Bezaire. “She has been a great supporter of the Chamber and our community.”

The gala event where the winners will be announced will be held at Pointe West Golf Course March 31. Nominees are encouraged to bring family, friends and their staff for a great dinner and an evening of networking and socializing with other members of the business community.

Tickets are $50 and are available at Gibb Insurance, located at 535 Sandwich St. S. (next to Tim Hortons). The phone number is 519-736-8228.

“Tickets will go fast now. Get yours before they are gone,” said Bezaire. “The venue is great but seating is limited.”

CAO John Miceli will also be making a presentation and giving updates on the exciting projects the town is working on.

“We are looking forward to hearing from John and getting more information on the Belle Vue project, the Duffy’s project among others.”

Town says no to taking over WE Harvest Festival

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

If the Windsor-Essex (WE) Harvest Festival returns in 2017, it won’t be run by the town of Amherstburg.

And if there is a festival in early September at Fort Malden National Historic Site, there is still a chance it could be the return of the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival.

Councillor Rick Fryer made the motion not to proceed with the Harvest Festival as a town event, though said he would support the town assisting another organizer now that the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) has decided not to organize it again.

“Right now, I’m saying we are not involved with it. We weren’t before,” said Fryer.

Fryer also referenced a letter council received from members of the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee wondering why they were not contacted before council received a report suggesting the town take over organizing the Harvest Festival. Fryer said he didn’t want to “push the wine festival away” and also didn’t want to burden town staff with the job of organizing another Harvest Festival.

According to Fryer, many municipalities lose money when they try to organize such events.

Councillor Jason Lavigne said he was in favour of supporting organizations putting on events, but that the town shouldn’t be putting events on themselves.

“The town should not be in the event-running business,” said Lavigne.

Lavigne asked “why are the (ACOC) getting out of running the festival?” and believed the town should turn to the wine festival organizers to give them the opportunity to bring back their event for that weekend.

“The Shores of Erie Wine Festival is way better than us. I guarantee you that,” he said, regarding the ability to run festivals.

“To me the biggest red flag is when the Chamber of Commerce decided not to do (the Harvest Festival) again after one year,” added Councillor Joan Courtney. “I worry about that.”

Courtney said she agreed with the beliefs of both Fryer and Lavigne.

harvest-festival-logo

Councillor Leo Meloche believed the decision to not have the town take over the Harvest Festival came too quickly.

“I’m concerned about making a quick decision,” he said. “This all came quickly to all of us. I think we should look at it.”

Meloche questioned whether there were benefits to the town that were not being taken into consideration and that, while he has concerns over cost and liability, he wanted to keep an open mind.

“I think this proposal should be looked at in more depth than writing it off so quickly,” said Meloche, adding discussions with Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee members should be part of the process.

Paul Mersch, a board member with the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival committee, said they want a festival in town the second weekend in September and indicated it could be the wine festival.

“There is some intent of us coming back if all goes well in the court case,” he said.

Mersch said wine festival committee members were shocked when the town didn’t approach them with their report about the Harvest Festival, adding wine festival volunteers were told the Harvest Festival was a one-year event. The ACOC issued a letter in late October stating they would not run a 2017 Harvest Festival.

While there is interest in making a comeback, Mersch acknowledged “can we do it is a different question.” There were talks about a combined Harvest Festival and wine festival committee, he noted.

The letter the wine festival committee sent to council questioned why no one approached them in the one month since the ACOC said they wouldn’t present another Harvest Festival. The committee also stated it provided logistical support to the Harvest Festival and rented equipment to them “at a dramatically reduced rate.”

The wine festival committee also stated it has pumped thousands into the local economy and has donated thousands to various charities and causes.

“In reading the agenda, we saw on Oct. 28 the Chamber decided running a festival was not their mandate,” the wine festival’s letter states. “On Nov. 7, the report was filed from John Miceli CEO and Anne Rota, manager of tourism and culture. Could someone not have found the time in one month to contact us out of respect for everything the Shores of Erie Wine Festival has done for our town?”

Karen Gyorgy, chair of the Shores of Erie Wine Festival committee, did state they want an event of some sort that weekend and praised the organizers of the Harvest Festival.

“Kudos to the town, Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce and TWEPI (Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island),” said Gyorgy. “Volunteers put together a festival in very little time. For this they should be congratulated.”

Gyorgy said their only question was why the wine festival were not asked or approached about their intention before the report went before town council.

“We fully support festivals and tourism,” she said. “Unfortunately at this time, we were unable to make commitments.”

Lynnette Bain, vice president of tourism programs and development with TWEPI, appeared before council and said food and drink events are job creators and a growing industry. Bain spoke highly of the Harvest Festival and its “Feast On!” designation which meant they had at least 50 per cent of locally sourced product.

“WE Harvest Festival has the potential to be a tourist driver,” she said, “not a tourist enhancer.”

Bain added her belief that “town administration has the ability and skill to run the event” and that the Harvest Festival has the potential to get to the level of the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival.

According to a report from CAO John Miceli, the 2016 WE Harvest Festival drew 4,834 people. Original estimates of attendance by organizers was 8,000 people.

There were 24 vendors with eight being from Amherstburg, Miceli’s report stated, with 350 volunteers being used. He stated total vendor sales were over $146,000.

The event was highly endorsed by South West Ontario Tourism Corporation, stated Miceli, under the Ministry of Tourism, Recreation and Sport, the Ontario Culinary Alliance and Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island with it also being recognized as “an important regional economic driver.”

“Through statistical data provided from the event, it was reported that businesses and vendors within the festival grounds realized substantial financial growth and brand recognition,” said Miceli.

Miceli added that other downtown establishments as well as other “contracted services” gained sales before and after the event.

“It is highly unlikely that an event such as the WE Harvest will occur in 2017 without Town involvement,” the CAO wrote. “This is understandable with the outstanding litigation of the Wine Festival and the Chamber’s recent decision not to move forward with the event in 2017. In light of this information, council’s decision is critical. This decision will play an important role in reaffirming to residents, stakeholders and investors the Town is committed to developing an alternative economy for improving quality of life for current and future residents of the Town through the promotion of tourism.”

Miceli added: “The Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model (TREIM) is a measure used by the Ministry of Tourism, Recreation and Sport for economic impact. On a recorded 4,834 visitors, the economic impact in Ontario from the event realized $436,490 for total spending. This would include revenue and taxes on goods, gas, food & drink, accommodations, contracted fees etc. Locally, the TREIM measured the Direct GDP for our region as $193,783 and the Direct Labour benefit realized was $129,298. Should Council proceed with WE Harvest these dollars will continue to be realized in the locally economy at little or no cost to the ratepayer. This is a significant contribution to the local economy for a three-day event and will have a multiplier effect should the Town increase attendance the number of visitors to the event.”

ACOC president Carolyn Davies told the RTT Friday night she was hoping the town would take the event on.

“We want to keep the spot open for Amherstburg,” said Davies. “There were a lot of people competing for that time slot.”

The festival is good for economic development and tourism, she believed.

Davies said the ACOC’s mandate is to support businesses and “give them a strong foothold.” She indicated the ACOC is looking at supporting businesses in other ways, including finding ways for businesses to combat rising hydro costs.

Chris Gibb, a co-chair of the 2016 WE Harvest Festival, said it was “a great success” and wanted council to agree to take on the event.

“Harvest Fest gave local restaurants a chance to reach an audience they might not be able to reach. Our local wineries, distilleries, and craft breweries raved about the great exposure they received,” said Gibb. “Most importantly, by bringing people to Amherstburg to visit an event like Harvest Fest, it gives us a chance to show what a wonderful town we have and who knows, maybe a house is built or sold because of a visit to an event like this? Maybe people come back to visit a restaurant or shop they saw while at Harvest Fest, maybe Wolfhead Distillery increases employment because of increased sales.”

Gibb believed issues of liability could be addressed through a variety of steps.

“I was in charge of security last year and some of the procedures we implemented helped minimize the risk we took on,” said Gibb. “Not allowing anyone under 19 at the event, checking ID of both patrons and vendors, and working closely with the Amherstburg police were all ways to try and keep risks to a minimum.”

Gibb called the Harvest Festival “a true gem for Amherstburg” and said thousands of residents saw the value in it. He co-chaired the event with Aldo DiCarlo, the town’s mayor. DiCarlo was not in attendance at Monday night’s meeting.

Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival a hit

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival appears to have been a hit.

The festival, which ran last Friday through Sunday at Fort Malden National Historic Site, surpassed 8,000 people. The target had been at least 6,000 people. The event was run by the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) with Chris Gibb and Aldo DiCarlo acting as co-chairs.

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was held at Fort Malden National Historic Site over the weekend with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce being the main presenters. Ashley Lynn and the Spurs performed Friday night.

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was held at Fort Malden National Historic Site over the weekend with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce being the main presenters. Ashley Lynn and the Spurs performed Friday night.

Saturday night drew positive reviews, with Gibb stating that although it wasn’t sold out, they were “very happy with our numbers.

“For a first time event, we were elated to hit our numbers,” he added. “It shows people want an event at this time of year at this place.”

The addition of craft breweries and craft distilleries, the latter including Amherstburg’s Wolfhead Distillery, proved to be popular, Gibb continued.

“We got a lot of positive compliments about that,” he said. “Wolfhead was a hit.”

There were different attributes to this year’s Harvest Festival that people may not have seen at the previous Shores of Erie International Wine Festival but that turned out to be a positive attribute as well.

Dino Trevisol, Todd Brush, Larry Cote, Cathy Brush and Kim Sloan sit by the Detroit River Friday night.

Dino Trevisol, Todd Brush, Larry Cote, Cathy Brush and Kim Sloan sit by the Detroit River Friday night.

The venue and the weather again was deemed to be an attraction, as there was a bit of rain and wind Saturday but that cleared out of the area relatively quickly.

“For a first time event, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves,” said Gibb. “The overwhelming thing is we have one of the most valuable, publicly accessible waterfronts in the province. It is open to the public and is part of the public trust. (The public) wanted to use it. They wanted to come here and enjoy themselves.”

The plan for the Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was to plan for this year only.

“We’re going to see what happens next year,” said Gibb. “We’re not thinking of next year.”

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival saw Crystal Gage perform Friday.

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival saw Crystal Gage perform Friday.

DiCarlo, also the town’s mayor, said he walked the grounds at Fort Malden all three days talking to people and said he received glowing feedback.

“Everybody is happy,” he said. “People are loving it. They are amazed.”

DiCarlo said he heard good things about the organization, the variety of food and drinks as well as the entertainment. The electronic wristbands went over surprisingly well and said it was the first time that technology had been used at a smaller festival in southwestern Ontario.

Food and drink vendors were running out of food and drinks Saturday night and lines were long but moved swiftly.

“A lot of people told me it exceeded their expectations,” said DiCarlo. “The most common word was variety. People were ready for something different. We were going for something different – a little bit upscale. The feedback people are telling me is we nailed it.”

Feast On and Bev On tours were popular both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Feast On and Bev On tours were popular both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Layout was similar to the wine festival, DiCarlo acknowledged, but they tried to do something different and also paid attention to the finer details, including putting bales of straw near the portable washrooms to dress the location up and block the views of them.

Both DiCarlo and Gibb thanked the many sponsors and volunteers for their support not only during the weekend but in the weeks leading up to the festival.

“We could never do it without the volunteers,” said Gibb.

DiCarlo also thanked the ACOC, as that was the organization he approached about staging an event during the second weekend of September.

“We had to have an event and we had to have it this year,” said DiCarlo.

Karen Wettlaufer from Wolfhead Distillery said they were thrilled to be part of the weekend. They had two booths set up on the grounds.

“This is very exciting. We are all about local and the festival is all about local,” she said. “We are are here with our neighbours who are also about local.”

Debbie Scott and Karen Wettlaufer show some of the products Wolfhead Distillery had to offer.

Debbie Scott and Karen Wettlaufer show some of the products Wolfhead Distillery had to offer.

Wettlaufer said it was great to be out at a public event and having people try their products. They were exposed to more people, some for the first time, and Wettlaufer pointed out “it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Carolyn Parent brought the “Wheely Scrumptious” food truck to the festival, stating it is only the second festival their new venture has been at – the first being last month’s Woofa-Roo Pet Festival.

“I am ‘wheely’ excited to be here,” she said. “It’s great to see so many local people.”

The Windsor-Essex Harvest Festival was good for the town, Parent believed.

“It’s brought a lot of visitors to Amherstburg,” she said.

The festival having “Feast On” and “Bev On” designations was important to Parent and she noted her business also tries to support local growers and vendors where possible.

Stacy Ouellette and Cheryl Purdie (along with friend "Dick") attend the Harvest Festival Sunday afternoon.

Stacy Ouellette and Cheryl Purdie (along with friend “Dick”) attend the Harvest Festival Sunday afternoon.

“I think it’s important for the community,” she said.
Parent added: “It’s a nice community event. We couldn’t ask for a better spot.”

Gordon Orr, president and CEO of Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island (TWEPI), acknowledged the Feast On and Bev On designations and believed it was one of the first in the region to boast such a designation. ACOC president Carolyn Davies said their mandate is to promote local business and community engagement and she believed the festival did that.