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Chamber honours County businesses with COVID-safe awards night

By Sharon Harrison
In a first and online celebration, the Chamber of Commerce presented six awards honouring leadership and business excellence in Prince Edward County.

Despite broadcasting from an empty and echoey Armoury in downtown Picton, there was plenty of excitement and banter among the online community watching. Ticket holders enjoyed awards night swag bags and anticipation grew as each of more than 40 business names nominated were announced.

The virtual event couldn’t compare to an in-person awards celebration, yet the best was made while observing COVID-19 restrictions as Steve Anthony (Much Music / CP24) oversaw the celebration as master of ceremonies.

“When so many businesses are facing such unprecedented challenges, if ever there was a time to celebrate entrepreneurship, contributing to the economic health and social fabric of Prince Edward County, resilience and service to the community, this is the time,” said Penny Rolinski, Chair of the PEC Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber first conceived the idea of holding awards specifically to recognize the special nature of business in the County, a few years ago. Rolinski hopes there will be many more business excellence awards to come.

The virtual event included six award categories: Beyond Business, Business of the Year, Employer of the Year, Entrepreneurial Spirit, Not-For-Profit, and Environmental Practices.

The event, designed to officially recognize and honour local businesses who have demonstrated a passion for excellence, was open to any business, entrepreneur and not-for-profit organization based in the County. The awards celebrate the contributions of business people and feature organizations that exemplify leadership and business excellence in a community within a diverse range of small, medium and large business sectors.

More than 40 businesses and individuals were profiled in the six nominated categories.

Fourteen judges, who remained anonymous, looked at criteria that included outstanding business leadership, innovation and growth, entrepreneurship, employee welfare, community involvement, and environment.

Steve Ferguson, Prince Edward County Mayor, noted how 2020 was a year of great creativity, determination and resilience.

“Every small business, whether you are a main street shop, insurance broker, realtor, mechanic, food producer or non-profit, every small business was asked to adapt,” said Ferguson. “In this difficult year, it is especially important to celebrate your achievements.”

Ferguson said it’s never been more important than now for County folk to support local.

“Business people and the enterprises they lead have contributed so much to the life in the County. You create employment, you innovate solutions, you bring vibrancy to our main streets, you welcome visitors to the County, you donate to local causes, you sponsor events, activities and sports teams, you mentor our next generation of leaders, you make sustainable and ethical choices,” he said. “You provide expertise to help us navigate life’s big moments, you build and repair our homes, you feed us and you provide care.”

Nominees in each category were: Employer of the Year (in recognition of a business or organization that exemplifies excellence in its employee focus): Bloomfield Beauty, C3 Solutions, Closson Chase, Merland Park, Veenstsra Plumbing and Waring House.

Closson Chase crew with their award presented this week.

Closson Chase Vineyards was the recipient in this category.

Fieldbird Cider

Environmental Practices (in recognition of a business or organization that displays environmental responsibility and who has adopted new practices and encourage the sustainable use of renewable resources, or protection of environmentally sensitive areas): Compass Rose, Field Bird Cider, Littlejohn Farm and Tri Canadian Energy.

FieldBird Cider was the recipient in this category.


Not-for-Profit (in recognition of a not for profit organization that exemplifies excellence or growth in programs and services): Community Care For Seniors, County Foundation, Invisible Publishing, PEC Memorial Hospital Foundation and ROC/ PEC Youth Centre.

Debbie MacDonald Moynes, Community Care for Seniors Executive Director, receives the Chamber of Commerce Not-for-Profit award from Lesley Lavender, its executive director.

Winner in this category, Debbie MacDonald Moynes with The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Association, was thrilled.

“This is a great community to live and work in and it’s such an honour to be a part of this and to be chosen in this category.”

Entrepreneurial Spirit (in recognition of a business or organization showing excellence in any of the following: new or innovative product or service, quality of merchandise/ customer


service, job creation, growth potential, market served and community involvement): Bark Woodshop, Blue Heron, Campbells Orchards, Curious Goat, Empty Nest B&B, Fronterra Farm, Humble Bread, Lakeside Motel, Lemons, Littlejohn Farm, Millefleurs, Old Salt Cocktails, One Look, The County Guys, The Lunch Box, The Marans and Vic Drive In.


“We have been working really, really hard here, my wife and life partner and business partner, Wilma Vreeswijk, is with me and we are just stunned and humbled by the choice,” said Sylvain Segard, with Millefleurs, recipient in the Entrepreneurial Spirit category.

“So many people have been helping us in the County making our dreams of having a beautiful

Nash Home Hardware

place to have people visit the farm and experience the lavender field and discover and help bees, and learn to appreciate mead.”


Beyond Business (a individual in the business community who has contributed to the fabric of Prince Edward County through a lifetime of community involvement, community support and volunteerism): Department Of Illumination, Hitchons Hearing Centre, Mcdougall Insurance Picton, Midtown Brewing, Nash Home Hardware, and Walts Sugar Shack.

The winner in the Beyond Business category was Nash Home Hardware.

Business of the Year (recognizing a lifetime of achievement in business as well as significant contributions to the business community): County Cider, Littlejohn Farm and Oeno Gallery.

County Cider

“It was back in the early ‘90s when my late husband Grant Howes sought to resurrect the whole cider industry in Ontario. Not only did he manage to do that, and bring tourism in a big way to Prince Edward County, we’ve just excelled here at what we have been doing in Prince Edward County as far as tourism,” said Jenifer Dean, of The County Cider Company, and Business of the Year recipient. “This is a great honour. I have a great team of people who work with me.”

Key note speakers Rolinski and Ferguson were joined by Neil Ellis, Bay of Quinte MP and Todd Smith, Bay of Quinte MPP.

Ellis reflected on how it had been an incredibly difficult year for many community members.

“Despite the hardships, tonight is a celebration of our business community, and a dedication of the resilience, innovation and commitment that you have shown in the face of such a difficult time.”

He said it local businesses who make the economy more vibrant.

“We have such a diverse array of them in our community and to be here to celebrate with them as they bring new jobs, opportunity and people to the Bay of Quinte is wonderful,” Ellis said. “They represent a collection of services, goods, vendors and industries. This evening we get to share their successes and the lessons learned over this year.”

Smith added “It’s a pleasure to learn about businesses that go beyond those that are exceptional to their employees and those who show great leadership and innovation.”

“It’s now more than ever that we need to recognize our business leaders for their ingenuity and leadership within our beautiful community.”

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