2016 Business of the Year – Hessenland Country Inn
Hessenland Country Inn has been owned and operated by the Ihrig Family since 1984 – founders Ernst and Christa, and now second-generation son Frank and daughter-in-law Liz. Initially a family restaurant, Hessenland expanded through renovations and additions to a 20-room inn, a dining room seating 80-people, and a turn-of-the-century barn converted to a premier wedding and event venue known as the Coach House surrounded by extensive gardens. Their famous Thursday-night Mongolian Grill dinners are so popular reservations are not just recommended they’re essential if you wish to eat
Second-generation owners Frank and Liz are both graduates of Hospitality at the University of Guelph. Following graduation, Frank moved to Europe to obtain his chef ’s papers at the Kempinski Hotel Gravenbruch in Frankfurt, Germany before returning home to become Head Chef. Liz focuses on the day-to-day running of operations as Innkeeper. Their combined background merge nicely to support Hessenland’s current and future emergence into the creation of new Estate Winery featuring a variety of grapes. They have also partnered with Niagara College Brew Master School to develop Hessenland’s own Helles Beer. Their first Vineyard Dinner was sold out within 2 weeks of its announcement and plans are already underway to create a long table vineyard dinner during the summer months of 2017.
Over the last 10-years, Hessenland has raised thousands of dollars for the Parkinson Society of Southwestern Ontario through their Novemberfest Parkinson fundraiser and each holiday season they prepare Christmas Turkey dinner meals with all the trimmings for about 50 families for the Huron County Food Bank.
They are ambassadors for the promotion of this area as destination location and have been recognized their tourism efforts by the Huron Tourism Association, Blyth Festival, University of Guelph and featured in Eat/Drink Magazine and Canadian Restaurant News.
2016 Entrepreneur of the Year – Marcia Swain, Pinery Antique Flea Market
Marcia Swain, along with her husband Matt, has owned and operated Pinery Antique Flea Market for the last 12 years of its 50-year existence. The Market celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016. As Marcia say’s – don’t let one day a week fool you – there’s tons of day-to-day work to do, and even more work improving, rethinking, innovating and coordinating that’s done behind the scenes in this multi-department business. Every Sunday, there’s coordination of 200 retail spaces, the operation of two food concessions and a licensed area with local live music, an antique retail space and the efficient flow of 11,000 people into the market. Clean-up and restocking happen during the week and on the following Sunday they do it all again.
Marcia’s innovation and creativity has changed what is traditionally thought of as a flea market. Event-based elements such as the “Annual Yard Sale Day” and “Super Hero Sunday” keep customers coming back. For 2016, the promotional goal was to establish the Market as a “foodie” destination adding a new stone-oven pizzeria, a donut diner offering fresh, made-to-order cinnamon donuts, and other vendors selling local artisanal foods. A family foodie event was added called “Steam Engine Corn Roast”, and the vintage steam engine was also be used to make ice-cream on-site. To top it all off, helicopter rides along Lake Huron’s shoreline added a unique experience to an already eclectic mix.
The Market gives back to the community through the support of many local charities including the Thedford Firemen’s Duck Derby, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Lucan Optimist Club, Golden Rescue and Finding Hope.
2016 David Scatcherd Community Spirit Award – Barry Richman
Many of you know Barry Richman as a talented local artist, who’s married to the beautiful Barb Richman – however still waters run deep. Barry moved to Grand Bend 27 years ago and started his long-term community service as a Winter Carnival Committee volunteer, Chair of the Parks & Recreation Committee, and Director of our very own Grand Bend & Area Chamber of Commerce (in fact, Barry’s done two separate stints on the Chamber’s Board). Many might be surprised to know Barry created this area’s FIRST visitors guide; an initiative that’s continued through the years and which is likely the most popular, cost effective and successful method of promoting the area as destination location. He co-founded the River Road Co-Op Gallery with six other talented artists in the early ’90s, just at the time urbanites were creeping out of the cities seeking to shop the unique, the hand-crafted and the original. And perhaps most significant, he founded Paint Ontario more than 20 years ago – Ontario’s largest art competition, exhibition and sale of representational art. When Paint Ontario first started there were no sponsors and out-of-pocket expenses, including the prizes, were paid by Barry.
The financial and creative contribution these initiatives have injected into the local community adds to our creative vibrancy, attractiveness as a place to live and prosperity for those working in the creative arts. River Road Gallery was the first of what are now 7 galleries in the area. Today’s visitor guide has a 30,000 copy distribution which includes tourism centres across the province. And today’s Paint Ontario accounts for 15% of the total annual visitors to Lambton Heritage Museum – despite the fact it’s held in March. That’s about $13K just in entrance dollars for the Museum and according to Ontario’s tourism industry economic impact calculator an estimated $75k in annual local spend for gas, meals, drinks and retail trade – over and above the art pieces sold at the event. Oh yes, Barry is also a Master Pastellist of Canada, a significant artist in his own right.
2016 Phyllis Statchuk Customer Service Excellence Award – Margrit Breuer
The year’s recipient has lived in the community for 33 years; has been a long-time and active volunteer with Girl Guides of Canada as a Guider, Pathfinder, Deputy District Commissioner and Treasurer; has been a director for their homeowners association; serves as Treasurer for the Catholic Women’s League and is recipient of the Maple Leaf Service pin; is a member of the Huron County Playhouse Guild and Grand Bend Legion.
Beloved by Bank of Montreal customers – some of whom waited in line until she was available to help them – our award recipient left the bank to work as a cashier for Mike & Terri’s No Frills in 2014. On two separate occasions, customers with special medical needs were not able to complete placing their items on the belt – so our award recipient found a spot for them to rest while she rang through their groceries, bagged them, placed them in their cart and organized grocery boys to help them to their cars. On another occasion, a family ring was found and certain she knew who the owner was, she called and re-connected the customer with her jewellery.