2017 Awards Recipients

2017 Business of the Year – Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House

Business of the Year Award Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House – Brothers Mike and Mark Vansteenkiste

There were three nominees in the category of Business of the Year Award – Sobeys, Static and Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House. The 2017 winner of this prestigious award was Twin Pines Orchards & Cider House.

Many might be surprised to learn Mark and Mike designed the timber frame rustic building that houses not only the gift store but the cider and wine tasting bar. The 50-acre fruit farm has been in the family for 40 years, with the last 10 years devoted to experimenting and developing domestically and internationally award-winning ciders and wines. In 2014, Twin Pines won the “Best in Show” for their “Hammerbent Red” cider at the Great Lakes International Cider & Perry Competition, an international competition of 327 entries. They are also recipients of the Premier’s Agri-Food Innovation Excellence award, which recognizes dedication, hard work and innovation of agri-food businesses adding value to existing products, helping to create jobs and contributing to economic growth.

Product research and development continues to be part of daily operations. Twin Pines is not only a cider maker, they are the growers as well and were selected by the Ontario Craft Cider Association to chair their research committee. Their success now means they not only press their own juice, but juice from and for other Ontario cideries. In 2016, they pressed almost a million litres of juice and marketed 40,000 litres of finished hard cider.

All 50 apple varieties are grown under an Integrated Pest Management System, believed to be the most environmentally responsible way to grow apples. And during apple picking season, offer educational orchard tours every Sunday to the general public and up to 40 school group tours annually. Tours are also provided to many community and business groups. All tours are provided FREE of charge and in addition to their educational work they donate to many local events and causes.

2017 Entrepreneur of the Year – Brad Oke, Smackwater Jack’s Taphouse / Tour the Shore

Chamber Director Tina Hayter presents Brad Oke with the Entrepreneur of the Year Award

The Entrepreneur of the Year Award category was a crowded category this year with five local entrepreneurs nominated, including Claire Hodder (Lakeshore Pet Care), Roxy Hodgins (Wellness Cabin Health Company), Brad Oke (Smackwater Jack’s Taphouse & Tour the Shore), Theresa-Lynn Robertson (That Girl Taxi) and Pete Roelands (Oasis Landscapes). Entrepreneurial spirit is the essence of economic growth for a community. People with vision and energy see an opportunity and create an enterprise by taking on all the risk, working many hours and hopefully ending up with a viable business!

This year’s winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year was Brad Oke for his ongoing creativity in extending his product and service offering, including the 2017 launch of Tour the Shore which tours groups to local breweries, wineries and cider houses as well as local attractions. Brad’s championing of local tourism assets includes volunteer work on Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation’s board of directors.

Brad Oke is owner/operator of Smackwater Jack’s Taphouse, which now serves about 48,000 patrons annually, employs up to 50 staff in peak summer months and 10 year-round staff. Originally developed to alleviate patron difficulty in parking near the restaurant, the shuttle service quickly expanded to three vehicles serving up to 120 patrons on a busy Saturday night. Offered for FREE,  shuttle users were encouraged to donate and in 3 years raised $7,000 for MADD Sarnia.

Realizing he could build on the shuttle concept, Brad developed a new tourism offering, launching “Tour the Shore” excursions in 2017. Tour the Shore chauffeurs groups to local breweries, wineries, cider houses and points-of-interest. This unique offering broadens Brad’s business mix and supports growth and visibility of other local businesses. This summer and fall, Tour the Shore took 50 groups, or about 500 people, to local craft breweries and cideries and has bookings until the end of January 2018.

2017 David Scatcherd Community Spirit Award – Joy McClymont

Chamber Director Doug Pedlar presents Joy McClymont with the David Scatcherd Community Spirit Award

The citizen award – the David Scatcherd Community Spirit Award – also had a good number of nominees, including Frank Beattie, Ed Fluter, the Grand Bend Horticultural Society and Joy McClymont. This award is special to the Oakwood Resort family as it’s named for Oakwood’s own David Scatcherd, who unfortunately passed away last year. The naming of the award after David Scatcherd was in recognition of his more than 32 years of community commitment and contribution that resulted in $2-million of funds raised for Community Living through the David Scatcherd Invitational Golf Tournament. This year’s award winner was Joy McClymont, who has been quietly and consistently volunteering her time and fitness skills for years.

For five years, Joy provided aerobics classes at the Grand Bend Fitness Centre on a volunteer basis. Her nominator said “Joy’s effort and energy she poured into each class and the fact this was on a volunteer basis surprised and delighted” her. “Joy’s love of fitness and sharing her enthusiasm for health living inspired class attendees.” When Grand Bend Fitness closed its doors, Joy and her faithful band of aerobics fans started a journey to find a place everyone could come together again. Joy created a contact list of class attendees and fellow instructors to generate ideas of where they could exercise. Many options were discussed and contacted, but ultimately the Grand Bend Community Health Centre provided a new fitness home. Since 2016, Joy has provided fitness classes 3 times a week and her classes are typically full with at least 20 attendees on weekdays and 30 or more on Saturday. Taking part in Joy’s classes is FREE with her only request being attendees bring a canned food item for the local food bank. This is a double-win situation, where attendees not only benefit from Joy’s contribution to their fitness, but in turn provides an opportunity for them to pass along the good deed to others. In addition to regular classes,  Joy holds special fundraising classes in support of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Joy’s personal philosophy of a “healthy aging lifestyle” dovetails with the Community Centre’s mission to empower health and well-being and has enabled fitness fans to reform their community of mutual support and commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

2017 Phyllis Statchuk Customer Service Excellence Award – Dale McCarthy

Chamber Director Veronica Brennan presents Dale McCarthy with the Phyllis Statchuk Customer Service Award

The Phyllis Statchuk Customer Service Excellence Award – recognizes excellence in customer service and is named after the Chamber’s long time volunteer Phyllis Statchuk. Phyllis had a knack of discovering the needs of visitors and residents alike and helped them discover the breadth of things to do in the area. Her customer service services as a performance benchmark the Chamber wishes to encourage in all front-line customer service roles. The year’s recipient is Dale McCarthy, who works with Hay Communications as a service technician.

Dale has worked in the community for 22 years – 17 years with Grand Bend Cable & TV and then the last 5 years with Hay Communications. He takes pride in providing top-notch technical assistance and customer service, making connecting with customers a priority. Dale says coming to work is easy and he’s happy to do it with a smile, which is a great attitude to have when you’re entering people’s homes to provide setup, reset or repair servicing. In such a trusted position, it’s nice to know the person we let into our homes values integrity and customer service so highly.

One of his nominators said this technician had been to her home on several occasions to install and upgrade equipment and that he goes above and beyond to ensure the customer understands what the technical problem was, what he did to fix the situation and what they can expect from the equipment in future use and when to give Hay Communications a call. She says, he is so personable that we feel comfortable having him in our home and he is truly one of the BEST. He puts the customer first and really defines what customer service is all about.