The best of Blackfalds business was celebrated during the 2019 Business of the Year Awards put on by the Blackfalds Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee.
There were 44 business finalists and 14 employee finalists, but only five winners given out at the Blackfalds Community Centre Thursday evening in five categories, including Service Excellence, Retail Excellence, Community Spirit, Home-based Business and Employee of the Year.
Employee of the Year was one of two new awards added this year, which went to Joline Gurski of PetValu.
Comments from the nominators said she always goes above and beyond to serve customers, “has great knowledge of the product in the store and is always helpful, polite, happy, kind and smiling.”
Gurksi was definitely smiling when she was announced the first-ever winner of the award.
“It’s absolutely shocking – our of all the nominations, I didn’t think I was going to win, but I’m super happy that I did, obviously,” she said. “I take a lot of pride in the work that I do, and I like animals, so it’s something I’m pretty proud about.”
Finalists included Donna Bailey of Blackfalds Eye Care, Amber Bolan of Dancer’s Edge Studio, Dr. Jeff Cook of Alpen Dental, Luisa Dumont and Ruth Newton of Ing and McKee Insurance, Maggie Huber of MainStreet Hardware, Julia Klassen and Janelle Stevenett of Aspen Discovery Centre, Grace Lleno of Subway, Christina Ross of Gas and Wash, and Trena Williams of Blackfalds Vet.
Ing and McKee Insurance was named Service Business of the Year, while Meghan Dirk of The Brow Lounge took home the inaugural award for Home-based Business of the Year.
For a third straight year, Happy Camper Boutique was named Retail Business of the Year.
Lionheart Martial Arts, meanwhile, was the winner of the Community Spirit Award.
Head instructor and owner Raymond Leonhardt said he was surprised his business was even nominated, but was glad to take home the award all the same.
“It shows that what I’m doing is being recognized and the people I teach martial arts to are happy with it,” he said.
That pride and sense of community spirit may be fostered by his own volunteer work, which he says he does a lot in the community for various groups just because of his love for Tae Kwon Do and teaching it.
In turn, Lionheart Martial Arts, which uses the Iron Ridge Intermediate Campus gymnasium to hold classes, has grown within the community.
“The last two years of growth is phenomenal – I was at about 20-30 students when I first started. The last two years we essentially doubled,” he said. “I guess it is business, but we’re much more than that. Yeah, we’re teaching a sport, martial arts, but we’re more of a family than anything.”