Nominations open for ACOC’s Business Excellence Awards

By Ron Giofu


The best of the best in Amherstburg’s business community will be on display April 27 but now is the time to let the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) know who the public thinks is the best.

Nominations are now open for the ACOC’s Business Excellence Awards with the public invited to let the Chamber know who they think the winners should be. ACOC president Carolyn Davies pointed out they have modified the categories slightly, with the major change being elimination of Large Business of the Year and Small Business of the Year and going with Business of the Year and New Business of the Year instead.

There are 11 categories in all with the Welcoming Accessibility Award being a new addition for this year. Davies said that award is geared towards businesses who have taken steps to allow those with disabilities greater access to their establishments.

Other categories include Excellence in Customer Service, Most Attractive Improvement, Community Service/Community Involvement, Growth & Expansion, Investing in a World Class Workforce, Excellence in Food Services, Business Legacy and the ACOC Director’s Choice Awards.

Davies said it is a chance to recognize hard working local businesspeople for the efforts they do and the commitment they make.

“Business owners work hard trying to provide a good service,” she said, adding for many it’s a 24/7 commitment.

The ACOC Business Excellence Awards are a way for the community to show their appreciation to the business community, Davies noted.

Nomination forms can be dropped off at Gibb Insurance, the River Town Times, the Dan Gemus Real Estate, Duby’s Home Centre or people can visit The awards will be handed out April 27 at Pointe West Golf Club. Tickets are $50 per person and available at the same locations.

ACOC reflects on the past year during recent AGM



By Ron Giofu


Board members with the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce (ACOC) gathered at the Lord Amherst Public House restaurant for their annual general meeting and reflected back on their most recent year.

Among the board executive in attendance were president Carolyn Davies, treasurer Chris Gibb and directors Ray Bezaire, Janet Willoughby and Dan Gemus and they looked back on some of the ACOC’s more recent accomplishments.

“We got a lot of successful networking projects done,” said Davies.

The ACOC also supported local events, such as the town’s Canuck It Up! Festival.

“It’s been a very busy year,” she said.

Gibb pointed out the chamber had “successful lawsuit” regarding the 2015 Mardi Gras with organizer Ian France ordered to pay back overpayments amounting to $8,607.64, plus interest, as well as legal fees. The total amount of the reimbursement, according to ACOC officials, was $10,812.30.

“We got a settlement we worked a long time for,” said Gibb. “We’re glad to have that behind us.”

Dan Gemus, Carolyn Davies, Janet Willoughby, Ray Bezaire and Chris Gibb discuss the business of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce as part of the organization’s AGM Feb. 15.

Bezaire noted they are going to reinvest that money back into the membership, stating they are guardians of other people’s money.

Davies said plans for the future include focusing on direct support for businesses, whether that be through networking support, social media or other means at the ACOC’s disposal.

Bezaire noted the chamber wants to work with the Town of Amherstburg on business attraction and retention. Davies added they meet quarterly with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo to discuss “issues of importance” to the business community.

“We are going to be having the Business Excellence Awards,” Davies stated. “That will be happening at the end of April.”

With the municipal election being Oct. 22, the ACOC also plans on hosting all-candidates nights.

The Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce currently has 154 paid members, a number that they are pleased with.

“It’s huge for a town like Amherstburg,” added Gibb.

For more information on the ACOC or to join, visit, e-mail or call 519-736-2001.

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 encouraging residents to shop local this Black Friday



By Jolene Perron


Rather than joining the crowds bombarding the border chasing after deals in the U.S., Amherstburg merchants are aiming to keep resident’s money local with their incredible deals this holiday season.

Black Friday has been an iconic U.S. event for years. The deals have recently spread into the Canadian market, and Amherstburg merchants are looking to keep shoppers in their stores.

“The Black Friday event in Amherstburg is all about strengthening our local economy,” explained Carolyn Davies, president of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce. “With the growing participation by Amherstburg businesses in the Black Friday event there has been an expanding success of keeping local shoppers looking for great deals in Amherstburg. More shoppers are realizing they can get great bargains here at home, save the cost of crossing the border, the higher rate of exchange and taxes. The more businesses who participate, the more shoppers who become committed to spending their dollars at home and invest in their own town’s success.”

Davies explained, the Black Friday event in Amherstburg is all about strengthening our local economy. When residents shop local and put their hard earned money back into their own local economy during what she refers to as the “off season” for merchants, it gives local businesses the support they need and they will in turn continue to invest in our town.

Lynn Sinasac, owner of The Village Shoppe, a small independently run family business is giving it their best shot to compete with the U.S. Black Friday sales.

“Black Friday benefits our business by bringing together the local businesses and having one big event, bringing in old and new customers and giving them some much appreciated savings,” explained Sinasac. “We have a great time with our customers with our annual Balloon Pull which gives them an extra 5-50 per cent off their total purchase at check out. Being a small family run business, we truly appreciate our customers and their support. Online shopping has made it easy for people to never leave their homes. This affects our small local shops.  Please support your local vendors and your neighbours that they may employ.”

The Amherstburg Black Friday event runs Nov. 24-26. Be sure to check out the special section in The River Town Times, which will include 16 pages of deals and will come out Nov. 22.


CAO outlines town’s economic development goals at ACOC awards


By Jonathan Martin

Amherstburg’s CAO has outlined the town’s conceptual plan for the site of the former Duffy’s Tavern and Motor Inn and also talked about the Belle Vue property.

Addressing a dining room full of local business owners at Friday’s 2017 business excellence awards, CAO John Miceli also went over how council plans to improve the town’s infrastructure.

The Town of Amherstburg closed on the acquisition of Duffy’s Feb. 14. According to Miceli, the town issued a tender for the site’s demolition March 28. He said the town hopes to have the land cleared of buildings by mid or late June.

This spring, Miceli said town hall plans to hold public consultation meetings to “confirm the community’s wishes as it relates to the Duffy’s site.”

Miceli said the estimated budget for the development of the project is $6 million.

“This, friends, is exciting,” he said. “It will be the premiere community gathering place in the region.”


Belle Vue is considered a “crown jewel” of Amherstburg, says CAO John Miceli

As it stands, the plan includes a central plaza to accommodate events, a wharf to dock ships, fishing spots, a boat ramp, a service building with washrooms and concessions, an event area with supporting infrastructure and a waterfront amphitheatre.

Miceli added, “I believe that, should we develop the conceptual plan as tabled, council and this community will have a waterfront unmatched to anyone in this region and our waterfront will serve as an economic engine for our community.”

Belle Vue will also be an “economic engine,” he said. The restoration of the 200-year-old town-owned mansion on Dalhousie St. will cost in the neighbourhood of $3 million with it being about $9 million to develop the entire property as proposed by the municipality.

“Belle Vue, in my opinion, is a crown jewel of this community,” the chief administrative officer told the crowd of nearly 200 people at Pointe West Golf Club.

Miceli pointed out the Belle Vue Conservancy is in the process of fundraising with a goal of $1 million.

He said that town hall is in talks with consultants about the creation of a community improvement plan (CIP) and the establishment of urban design dialogues.

A CIP is a municipal planning and development tool put out by the provincial government. Ultimately, its implementation would allow the town to offer tax incentives to assist in the development of properties within the area designated by the plan.

“Our goal will be to provide initiatives that will assist in creating a climate that will result in a new hotel,” said Miceli. “A new hotel in the town of Amherstburg. That is what your community wants; that is what your council wants to deliver.”

Miceli also spoke about phase 8b of Kingsbridge, referring to a zoning by-law that was passed March 20 allowing 55 single-family dwellings to be developed east of Knobb Hill Dr. and north of McLellan Ave.

He said Meadow View Estates, set to be built on the corner of Simcoe St. and Meloche Rd., will be developed in phases and result in an additional 142 residential units.

“The town has taken steps to improve our relationships with developers,” Miceli said. “We are now working together to make Amherstburg a community of choice for development. As you know, without development we can have no growth and without growth we cannot sustain our current service levels.”

PowerPoint Presentation

The town’s concept plan for the Duffy’s property was discussed by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) John  Miceli as part of the Amherstburg Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards. The banquet took place Friday night at Pointe West Golf Club.

The town has capacity at the new wastewater plant for approximately 50,000 people, he said.

Miceli reminded listeners that the town is in the process of collecting data related to internet services through a survey that can be accessed on the town’s website. The information will be used “to apply for grants and hopefully build a business plan for council to consider” regarding the improvement of rural internet infrastructure.

As he stepped down from the podium, he challenged the local business community, asking them what they thought they could do to “to seize their opportunity to create economic development in this community.”