Amhersburg Chamber of Commerce honour business community with annual award night

By Joel Charron

The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) handed out nine awards to the business community last Wednesday night.

The ACOC held its annual Business Excellence Awards at the United Community Credit Union Complex.

Canadian Tire was awarded the Large Business of the Year, which was sponsored by Dollars & Cents Investments. Canadian Tire was recognized for its customer service and it’s ties to the community.

Canadian Tire associate dealer Jeff Levy credited his staff for their hard work and dedication.


“This award has nothing to do with me,” said Levy. “It’s for the team of people who work for me.”


The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce held its annual Business Excellence Awards Wednesday, Nov. 2. Among the award winners were (top row, from left) Todd Meloche of Topnotch Plastics, Canadian Tire's Jeff Levy, Ryan Beaulieu from Encompass Insurance and Chief Tim Berthiaume. Bottom row (from left): Verdi Club president Sante D'Amore, Janet Mickle from Mealtime Express and Catz Meow owner Catherine Cristofaro. Absent are Brad Waters of Wigle Home Hardware and Lord Amherst co-owner Anthony Mancini.

The Catz Meow Dance Education Centre took home the Small Business of the Year. The Small Business Centre of the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Commission sponsored the award.

The Catz Meow started six years ago with only a dozen students based out of the Amherstburg Arena. It eventually grew to its very own studio on Sandwich St. S. where 14 employees help teach the students dance.

Owner Catherine Cristofaro reminced about the 12 students at the dance studio’s first dance recital at St. Bernard’s School. Cristofaro said the Catz Meow now holds three shows at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School. She also noted that she is proud of her staff, which have remained loyal to her over the years.

The Community Service /Community Involvement Award was given to Mealtime Express. Owner Janet and Norm Mickle host an annual Secret Santa Dinner, which is being held on Nov. 13. All proceeds from the dinner are given to local children and families to help brighten their holiday season. Sponsor Nancy Greenaway of BMO Nesbitt Burns said the Mickles “give new meaning to the phrase pay it forward.”

Janet thanked her staff, as well as, the community for always stepping up and helping with the fundraiser.

Wigles Home Hardware took home the Excellence in Customer Service Award, which was sponsored by Canada Trust.

Franchise owner Brad Waters was credited for several years of outstanding customer service dating back to when he ran the business as Wigle’s Pro Hardware and then after he bought the Home Hardware franchise and re-named his business the current Wigle’s Home Hardware.

The Most Attractive Improvements Award went to Lord Amherst. The Dalhousie St. location has a history, which dates back to over 200 year, something that co-owner Anthony Mancini has embraced. He said the pub under went  extensive renovations with the goal to serve food and drinks at a “family-friendly neighbourhood pub.”

Sovran & Greenaway Chartered  Accountants sponsored the award.

The Growth and Expansion Award was awarded to Encompass Insurance & Wealth Management. Sponsored by United Communities Credit Union, Encompass was recognized for its expansion since Tim Beaulieu opened an office in the former White Woods Mall in March 1996 as a Freedom 55 Insurance location. After doubling in size, Encompass moved to its current Victoria St. S. location. The business has continued to expand and now has locations in Barrie and St. Catherine’s.

Ryan Beaulieu, Tim’s son and office manager of the Barrie office noted, “it has been a pleasure to do business in Amherstburg and grow with the town.”

Topnotch Plastics was given the Invest in a World Class Business Awards, which was nominated by Workforce Windsor-Essex. Topnotch Plastics was recognized for realizing the importance of the workforce and investing and being innovative.

Co-owner Todd Meloche, who accepted the award on behalf of the company and partner Ernie Bondy said Topnotch Plastics was “very proud, honored and grateful” for the award.

The Business Legacy Award went to the Verdi Club with the nominator being Sobeys. Sobeys franchisee Rennie Rota pointed out the Verdi Club’s half-century of dedication to the community including various festivals, events and cultural happenings. He said the dream of Italian immigrants came to fruition over 50 years ago and the dream has been a benefit to the town.

Club president Sante D’Amore said the Verdi Club is  open to the entire community.

The Directors Choice Award went the Amherstburg Police Service. Sponsor Tom Manhetz of Timberwolf Forest Products called Amherstburg a “great place to live and work,” and noted that Amherstburg is a “safe community.” Manherz also pointed out the top ranking in the Statistics Canada crime severity index rankings achieved by Amherstburg.

In his first 14 months as Chief, Tim Berthiaume said he has instituted a chief’s advisory committee, a water watch program to guard against human smuggling, target hardening at retailer’s debit machines, partnered with other agencies in various joint forces operations, increased traffic and foot patrols, and brought in an RCMP officer to team with Amherstburg police on areas of common interest.

“This award is truly an honour,” said Berthiaume.



Attendees told to celebrate the past while moving into the future

By Joel Charron

Look towards the future while celebrating the past.

That’s what attendees at the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce’s (ACOC) general meeting were encouraged to do last Wednesday night at the United Communities Credit Union Complex.

The night featured a trifecta of speakers with Dr. John Strasser, president of St. Clair College being the keynote speaker.

Chris Uszynski and Anne Rota also joined Strasser as they not only provided advice to the local business community but gave them a peak into what the future holds.

Strasser spoke of the massive investments and expansions St. Clair College has endured at both its Windsor and Chatham campuses since joining the college in August 2000, as well as, 11 years of balanced operating budget and a 55 per cent increase in enrollment.

“We tried to decide what we needed to do to move St. Clair College forward,” said Strasser. “We had to become relevant.”

Strasser mentioned that the college had to decided what it wanted to be when it “grew up” stating his message held the same for the town and its business community.

“You have to decide what you want to do when you grow up. You have to decide how to put the pieces in place to realize those objectives. It doesn’t have to be complicated,” stated Strasser. “Everybody has to be on the same page and it has to be re-visited.“

Strasser said Amherstburg is a quaint town that offers plenty of waterways, cultural experiences and weather advantages, stating that the region “virtually does not have any winter.”

He also mentioned Amherstburg is a “pretty community” that offers a sense of security.

“You can’t sell ugly,” he stated.

Strasser viewed clearing up the General Chemical site a priority for Amherstburg, as well as, creating more activities on the water.

“Promoting quality of life experiences is key,” he said. “You can’t have progress without change.”

Uszynski, organizer of the World Alzheimer’s Day “Run for Heroes” marathon, noted his mother has cared for his father the bulk of his 20-year bout with Alzheimer’s Disease. The run has evolved from a 69 km run to an 88 km run then a 100 km run before being restructured into a marathon that is held entirely in Amherstburg.

Uszynski called the marathon an “economic driver” for the community, stating that runners come from all over North America not only because of its status of Boston Marathon qualifier but because of the course conditions.

“We are one of the flattest courses in the world,” he said.

Uszynski said the 2012 version would have such events as a two-day expo and a race for athletes with disabilities. Also, a 5K run will be held near Fort Malden National Historic Site.  He also mentioned he is working with Tourism Windsor/Essex and Pelee Island to accommodate runners.

“This is really the town’s event. I couldn’t have done it without the town’s support,” he said.

Rota, manager of tourism and culture for the town compared the upcoming War of 1812 Bicentennial to the Olympics and the 1967 Centennial. She called the celebration a “big event for the town and the nation.”

“We want to be top of mind internationally, nationally and regionally when people think of the War of 1812,” said Rota.

Rota noted that the town has received federal investments in upgrades for Fort Malden and next year’s Roots and Boots Festival.

“We are definitely on the radar because of the bicentennial of 1812,” she said.

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