In a year that has taken so much from people and families in Geauga County, Melanie Scanlon, executive director of local nonprofit Leadership Geauga, said her organization thought it was important to celebrate winning the Chardon Area Chamber of Commerce’s Organization of the Year award.
“I was joking to our organization, we had to fix what wasn’t broken,” she explained following the awards ceremony, which was held at the Huntsburg Community Center in Middlefield on July 16. “Even though there are things in the world not to celebrate, this is something we can celebrate as an organization and be proud of.”
Other award winners included D&S Automotive, who took home the premiere Business of the Year award after opening their Chardon location in 2015, and David and Freia Ramsey, who were selected as the Business Persons of the Year for converting an old building into Taproot Yoga, their studio on Wilson Mills Road.
Leadership Geauga is one of two Organization of the Year recipients, the other being Ravenwood Health. G-TV Founder Dave Jevnikar took home the Legacy Award for lifetime achievement.
“It’s always important, that people are acknowledged for what they do,” said state Sen. John Eklund, R-Munson, who was at Chardon’s awards ceremony to present a signed certificate to each of the winners.
“I think showing people that they’re appreciated and being genuine about it at any level is one of the most important aspects of human beings. We all need and should be made to feel appreciated.” Sen. Eklund said he likes awards programs like this that also encourage good business practices.
“I was really excited and surprised,” Mr. Ramsey said into his phone after the event. “Somebody nominated us and I don’t know who, and then the chamber basically voted on us and we were surprised.”
Mr. Ramsey said he and his wife have been in the field for the past 25 years, starting with a practice in Arizona called Integral Life Healing that he then moved to Northeast Ohio. In 2018, he and Mrs. Ramsey purchased and began rehabilitating their current studio space, eventually opening it in October of that year.
“It’s definitely a challenge” he said of the pandemic. “Our clientele has dropped to about half of what it was but we immediately, we pivoted as quick as we possibly could and we got our classes online and we were able to retain some of our clientele that way.”
Stacia Clawson, executive director of the Chardon chamber, said that the Ramseys are very deserving of their award. “It’s very warm and tranquil and peaceful and they’ve worked hard to keep it open during this time. They’ve been great members of the community.” She said similar about D&S automotive.
“We started the Chardon one in 2015. It’s the only new building we built from the ground up, so we’re excited because our owners are from Chardon,” explained Erica Phillips, the marketing manager for the shops, which have locations in Mentor and Chardon. She added that it’s a very special win for the Paterniti Family, who has been putting a lot of work into that location to grow their business.
Mrs. Phillips also said that D&S is no stranger to awards, having been recipients of the Fast Track 50 award every year between 2014 and 2019, earning Entrepreneur of the Year at the Fast Track 50 in 2014 and making the Cleveland Hot List for best body shop in 2019, among others.
“Besides record sales last year, they are very big in the community,” Mrs. Clawson said, explaining her chamber’s reasoning for selecting D&S. “Owner has roots in Chardon, they grew up here and always raise money to give back to the community.”
Mrs. Clawson said Leadership Geauga was selected because of their contributions to the local business community, with programming focused on preparing individuals for jobs and management roles. Mrs. Scanlon said her business has also needed to change its practices as a result of COVID-19.
“Our program has been an in-person, all day, growing point for the community,” Mrs. Scanlon continued. “We’ve done that for 25 years, and we’ve been able to because of our business and partner community. We had to change and adapt and open doors to our customers and businesses through a virtual platform.”
Mrs. Clawson said that Mr. Jevnikar was a shoe-in for the legacy award because he’s helpful, protecting local residents in his duties as a lawyer but also filming local events like council meetings and sports games with G-TV.
Though the event looked quite different than it normally would, Mrs. Clawson said she was happy with how it turned out, and the Mardi Gras theme that the chamber selected created some fun opportunities for attendees to add a festive eye mask to their face mask ensemble.
“We were able to social distance,” she extrapolated. “People wore masks and were very respectful to each other. Tables were spread far apart, statistically during COVID-19 [the Huntsburg center] is a good place to have it. We were really supposed to have had it in March to recognize the previous year, but because of [COVID-19] we had to put it off.”
Sen. Eklund agreed, saying that recognizing achievement can have positive impacts across the board.
“And we all get a lot of that,” he said, “from various places in our lives from kids and grandkids and coworkers and any number of different cases, but to add on to that the appreciation of the state of Ohio and the Ohio Senate is a high honor and a privilege and I enjoy doing it.”