22018 Business of the Year – The Growling Gator / Willie’s Beach Bar
This year’s nominees were Midori Sushi, owned and operated by Tina Hayter, and The Growling Gator & Willie’s Beach Bar & Grill, owned and operated by the Karamoutzos Family of Sam, Anna, Valante and Frankie.
This year’s award recipient for Business of the Year is The Growling Gator / Willie’s Beach Bar. For many residents and visitors the summer is not complete without a meal at the Gator – the largest seating capacity restaurant in the area. Over the years, the Gator has seen a number of renovations and improvements, perhaps the most memorable being the upper level bar expansion that offers the best spot to watch a sunset. But Sam had a big idea, a very big idea. In 2016, he asked the Municipality of Lambton Shores for approval for a mixed commercial/residential building site at the foot of Main Street West. Undaunted by more than $30k in various fees just to get started, Sam forged ahead with the business expansion, first with demolition and removal of the old Lakeview Cafe and Jalapenos, followed by the construction of a brand new, three-story commercial and residential building containing a new restaurant on the ground level – Willie’s Beach Bar & Grill – and seven residential units on the second and third floors, topped off with a private roof-top patio for residents. Willie’s Beach Bar opened for the 2018 summer season. The condo units go on sale November 2018. The family’s significant investment brings a modern, beach patio eatery to the area, offers additional venue space for life music, and an innovative plan for beach-front, residential units, that recognizes the need to go skywards to leverage the small and finite amount of down town real estate available in Grand Bend.
2018 Entrepreneur of the Year – Laura Rideout and Shannon Shurgold
This year’s nominations were Laura Rideout and Shannon Shurgold of Culture Shock Kombucha, Claire Hodder of Lakeshore Pet Care and Jessica Smeekens of Auxsable Forestry.
This year’s award recipients are Laura Rideout and Shannon Shurgold, who have taken Lambton and Huron counties by storm. In 2017, they were the first kombucha brewery in either county, as a result helping to set county manufacturing regulations and standards. They’re also Canadian Federal Food Inspection Agency compliant. Already an innovative product, Laura and Shannon created original kombucha products and flavours, such as coffee kombucha, kombucha with collagen and kombucha salad dressings and vinaigrettes. Passion is evident in any conversation you have with them, and this extends to supporting local growers and fellow entrepreneurs. As Registered Holistic Nutritionists, Laura and Shannon run workshops at health centres and other organizations to educate customers on improving their health. This commitment to extraordinary customer service includes being open beyond regular business hours and making special deliveries. Culture Shock Kombucha has grown from producing 200 bottles per month to 2,000 bottles; from employing themselves to employing 10 local people, with a projected staff of 15 to 20 by end of 2019. You can now find Culture Shock Kombucha in 70 retail outlets.
2018 David Scatcherd Community Spirit Award – Jane & John Musser, Judy & Larry Mason and Bonnie & Mike McCann
This year’s nominees are Breanna Thompson, Jane & John Musser, Judy & Larry Mason and Bonnie & Mike McCann, Katelyn Cody, Mary Alderson and the West Coast Lions.
Affectionately known as The Klopp Family – Jane & John Musser, Judy & Larry Mason, Bonnie & Mike McCann and Linda & Cam, four girls inherited the family business and met four guys willing to keep the tradition alive. That tradition included decades of community contribution. They have given not just financially, but of their time, energy, creativity and even storage space to the community – known as “Larry’s Garage”. For years they have sat on committees – like Sand Castle Days, the Harbour Committee, Winter Carnival and many others, provided a meeting spot for various committees, and participated in every event going, being instrumental to the success of several, like Burgerfest and the Bed Races. Who can forget Winterfest’s Casino and the Annual Waiters’ Race – adopted by the Colonial Crew after Finnegan’s could no longer do it? They have been key drivers of the Optimist Club of Grand Bend and played host and helped organize many fundraisers, not just for the school or art centre, local events and not-for-profit groups, but also for individuals in need within the community. They organized the “Shady Ladies Golf Tournament”, raising dollars for Big Brothers Big Sisters. They’ve contributed financially to the Grand Bend Beach and Main Street Enhancements, supported the Grand Bend Horticultural Society and Grand Bend Community Foundation. When asked why they enjoy contributing to the community, the response was simply “what’s more gratifying than knowing we have made a beneficial contribution to the community we have grown up in and raised our family”. They have been recognized in past years with the Grand Bend Community Foundation’s Community Leader of the Decade and as the Chamber’s Business of the Year in 2009. Local reporter extraordinaire Lynda Hillman-Rapley said Dave Scatcherd himself often remarked he was proud of this family and for all they did to keep the Grand Bend spirit alive.
2018 Phyllis Statchuk Customer Service Excellence Award – Leo Durcharme
This year’s nominees were George Chacko and Leo Ducharme, both of Oakwood Resort and Leslie Deighton of MacDermid & Associates Co-operators Insurance.
This year’s award recipient is Leo Ducharme, who has worked at Oakwood Resort for 53 years. Initially, starting out carrying suitcases too heavy for guests, Leo is known as the guy to get anything done and cheerfully contributes assistance where needed, all in the name service. His kind and helpful temperament means guests always come first. Described as dedicated, genuine and personal, Leo’s employers note there have been many, many times he has gone above and beyond his regular role to ensure a guest enjoys the resort and Grand Bend. He’s an ambassador, not just an employee. In Leo’s own words, you “treat everybody like a somebody, because somebody could be anybody. Our business is people”.