Ellsworth Chamber bestows 'Best of 2019' awards
As Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce Board President Paul Bauer listed the attributes of the 2019 Community Leader Award winner Monday, Feb. 18 at the chamber's annual dinner, heads started slowly turning toward the recipient as they recognized his contributions.
When Ellsworth Village Board President Jerry DeWolfe stood to accept his surprise award, he became momentarily choked up as the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Bauer lauded DeWolfe's "ability to solve problems with a cup of coffee," his long career as a lineman with Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services, his service as a volunteer firefighter (holding the roles of chief and assistant fire chief over his tenure), 32 years of service on the village board, many of those as president, and his presence at nearly every community event.
Many chuckled when Bauer said he was proud when he witnessed DeWolfe "personally chastise the DOT."
As DeWolfe held his crystal award, he reiterated his dedication to furthering Ellsworth's economic development and quality of life for all residents.
Small Business of the Year
Kayleen Jakes took home the honor for Small Business of the Year with Brush Strokes Paint Party & Art Supply.
"We credit Brush Strokes Paint Party & Art Supply with bringing art back to Ellsworth," the Chamber program said. "Since 2014 Brush Strokes Paint Party has been engaging community residents in a fun learning experience and helping them to get in touch with their creative sides."
Jakes' business model began as a virtual-based business, but she opened a physical location in Ellsworth's East End in 2018.
"At a time when many communities are finding retailers closing their doors, Brush Strokes is proving that retail isn't dead," the program read.
Jakes encouraged attendees to "shop local, shop small" as she accepted her award.
Large Business of the Year
Kaufhold's Kurds, the Ellsworth Chamber's Large Business of the Year, is described as "a true hometown success story."
John Kauhold and Scott Kaufhold began the business in 1995 with the creation of their famous breaded white cheddar cheese curds. In 2018 the company completed its second expansion in 23 years, building a new production facility in East End Industrial Park.
When relocating, they played an "instrumental role in assisting the Hunger Prevention Council—the local food pantry—find a new home in their vacant west Ellsworth building," the Chamber program said.
Director of Plant Operation Randy Pfab accepted the award on the company's behalf.
"We are looking forward to hiring locally and supporting the local community," Pfab said.
'Best of' Awards
The fourth annual "Best of" Awards garnered thousands of community votes in two rounds of voting. The winners for 2019 are:
Best New Business: East End Gifts (Kayleen Jakes and CJ Young)
Best Restaurant/Bar/Tavern: Common Man Tap & Table (Russ Korpela)
Best Tourism/Destination: Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery
Best Health & Wellness: Country Fit Nutrition (CJ Young)
Best Professional Home Service: Reuvers' Nursery
Best Professional Service: Buena Farrell Photography
Best Non-Profit Organization: Ellsworth School District Foundation
Best Customer Service: Ellsworth Area Ambulance Service
Ellsworth Chamber Executive Team Member Becky Beissel said one of the main focuses for 2019 is "working on shifting the perception of Ellsworth." The consensus is the village does not want to be known as "just Ellsworth," which Beissel called a "misperception or really a misunderstanding."
Droves of people are visiting Ellsworth for day-trip experiences from the Twin Cities, including stops at Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, Vino in the Valley and other local businesses on their itinerary, Beissel said. The Chamber also plans to build on last year's momentous Cheese Curd Festival turnout, which provided a $2.55 million economic impact to the region.
Bauer promised a bigger and better Cheese Curd Festival, with more frying stations, more people setting up and taking down, and more food and beverages.
Other "Chamber wins" he highlighted were the community collaboration that brought the Ellsworth Farmers Market in 2018, the Christmas celebration in East End Park and Design Ellsworth.
"It's growing ... it's only here if you show up," he said.