The contingent from Aura Hair Boutique were some of the best dressed at last week’s Nanaimo Business Awards. Pictured are Grace Yacoboski, Niki Netzer, Bryn Vanrooyen, Shauna King, Amber Lussier, and Hannah Harper. GREATER NANAIMO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE photo

Nanaimo Business Awards celebrate an ‘outstanding’ year

Winners were revealed last week at a gala event at the Port Theatre

The Nanaimo Business Awards have become a red-carpet affair every year as it’s become a big deal to be the best in business in the city.

The awards, presented by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce, happened April 11 at the Port Theatre.

“It was a real hint of optimism that so many people did attend this year and so many were up [for] the gala feel,” said Kim Smythe, chamber of commerce CEO. “I have to point out the degree to which everybody did get dressed up. There was a lot of tuxedos in the crowd and a lot of the women did the full nine yards; they were really decked out.”

Winner of the large business category this year was Harmac, which celebrated its 10th year of employee ownership during 2018. Smythe said Harmac CEO Paul Sadler was in disbelief about the honour for the entire night.

“They were over the moon about it. Paul was genuinely speechless,” Smythe said.

Alair Homes was the winner in the mid-size business category and Driven Performance Fitness was honoured in the small business category.

The new business category featured the first-ever tie, unexpected considering 7,900 online votes were cast for finalists, all from unique IP addresses. Cold Front Gelato and Famous Franks share the honour.

“Interestingly, both businesses were from Commercial Street. I couldn’t make that stuff up. It’s really great, considering our involvement in the Commercial Street Night Market last year, and two Commercial Street new businesses get awarded new business of the year,” Smythe said. “That’s a pretty cool story.”

Other award winners included: Harbour Air Seaplanes, tourism operator; Bethlehem Centre, hospitality operator; Mahle House, restaurant; Charlie’s Closet, retailer; Laird Wheaton GM, automotive; Island West Coast Developments, development and design; West Coast Helicopters, builders and trades; Coast Capital Savings, financial services; ThrivingLocally, technology; Nanaimo Child Development Centre, health care services; HA Photography, creative service; Port Theatre, arts and entertainment; Habitat for Humanity Mid Vancouver Island, corporate social responsibility; Nanaimo Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store, social enterprise; Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank, not-for-profit organization; and Coco Café, inclusive employer.

As well, Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien received the Above and Beyond award for excellence in social services.

Smythe suggested it’s especially satisfying to honour Nanaimo’s “outstanding” businesses at a time when business is good.

“Business is thriving in Nanaimo right now,” he said. “Our unemployment rate is remarkably low; our new business startups are extremely high. People are reporting business success.”

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