ASTORIA — Nine Clatsop County businesses were honored for their service, innovation, entrepreneurship and community impact at the 6th annual Clatsop Economic Development Resources (CEDR) Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, March 21, in Patriot Hall at the Clatsop Community College.
Entrepreneurship, small business
Denele Sweet, owner of Encore Dance Studio, won an entrepreneurship award for small businesses.
Sweet described how, as a new mother and former competitive dancer, she had received a phone call about teaching a dance class and built a business with at least 15 teachers in Gearhart. She had to overcome some setbacks along the way, including once being denied a bank loan.
“I went home and cried to my husband and said ‘maybe I shouldn’t do this.’ And here I am now,” Sweet said. “Teamwork makes the dream work and I couldn’t do this without my husband — and thank you for letting me dance with your kids!”
Outstanding Customer Service, small business
Pete Gimre, owner of Gimre’s Shoe Store, won the small-business award for outstanding customer service.
His grandfather, Sven, emigrated from Norway to the U.S. in 1892 and started the company.
“In that time, the retail environment has changed vastly — and then changed again but Gimre’s has remained a viable and even vibrant player for 125 years because they focus on what matters: the interaction with the customers,” said Kevin Leahy. “Gimre’s Shoes is one of the top five anchors of downtown Astoria.”
Upon accepting the award, Pete Gimre recognized longtime co-worker Chris Stevens.
“Customer service isn’t about me — it’s all about our employees,” Gimre said. “I’m lucky to have Chris with me, who’s been with me forever.”
Anthony Smith, owner of Greensmith Landscapes, won an innovation award for small businesses. A 2006 graduate of Warrenton High School, Smith moved back after attending college in Florida to take over his family’s landscaping business. Smith’s business is now the largest commercial landscape company in Clatsop County. In the peak operating months, he has around 20 employees.
“Anthony is an innovative, forward thinker who takes full advantage of new technology both in field work and in the office,” said presenter Chris Breitmeyer, president of Clatsop Community College.
Smith said the company success starts with his team of employees.
“If you take good care of your employees, they’ll take good care of the clients,” Smith said.
Business Service to the Community, small business
Jeremy Mills, a State Farm insurance agent based in Seaside, won a small-business award for service to the community for his support of youth programs.
“Jeremy has sponsored events totaling in the thousands of dollars,” Leahy said. “He just loves seeing our community offering positive opportunities to our youth.”
Mills said he felt fortunate to be in a position to help.
“To have the opportunity to give back has meant more to me anything else I’ve ever accomplished,” he said. “It has touched me more than the kids it involves.”
Brittany Israel, co-owner of the Astoria Dairy Queen, won the legacy award. Her parents purchased the Dairy Queen on Marine Drive in 1973. She and her husband, Kent, took ownership in 2016.
“Since taking over full ownership, Brittany has remodeled the property, adapted the menu, and greatly expanded her knowledge of the management responsibilities of an owner, and has embraced all the changes with a smile,” Breitmeyer said.
Since starting at age 12, Israel’s passion has remained.
“I love walking out into the DQ lobby and seeing all the familiar faces,” she said. “Astoria is home to me. I look forward to carrying on the legacy for years to come.”
Business Service to the Community, large business
Teevin Brothers Land and Timber won an award for service to the community among large businesses. The company is heavily involved in local philanthropy. Owner Shawn Teevin helped found the Knappa Schools Foundation to support his alma mater.
“This year, the Knappa School Dinner/Auction raised $113,000 and currently has net assets of just over $1,495,000,” Breitmeyer said. “They have contributed vastly to our economy in their 40 years of operation, and now have over 100 employees.”
Outstanding Customer Service, large business
Roxanne Williams-Morinville, co-owner and general manager of Warrenton Kia, won the outstanding customer service award for large businesses.
“Roxanne is a second generation owner of the dealership and has made the business her own in spirit, employees, and most importantly — in customer service,” Leahy said.
Williams-Morinville said she was “shocked” to win the award.
“It’s a great honor that wouldn’t be possible without all of my team at Warrenton Kia,” she said.
Entrepreneurship, large business
Wayne Poole, co-owner of Pig ’N Pancake, won the entrepreneurship award for large businesses. His parents, Bob and Marianne Poole, opened the restaurant’s first location in downtown Seaside in 1961. The restaurant now has six locations on the Oregon Coast and in Portland.
Leahy quoted letters raving about the restaurant — from the friendly atmosphere and accommodating menu — before presenting the award to Poole.
“They (Bon and Marianne) set that standard for customer service,” Poole said. “Everyone that comes through the door needs to be welcome and that’s what we strive to carry on to this day.”
Astoria Forest Products, a log exporter at the Port of Astoria, received the economic impact award. The exporter, which took over from Westerlund Log Handlers in 2014, employs 15 people at the port. The company has been credited with indirectly supporting about 50 jobs for every loaded log vessel leaving Pier 1, including longshoremen, loggers and truck drivers.
“These are high-wage jobs that pay on average $22 to $32 per hour and can support local families and the local forestry economy,” Breitmeyer said. “Astoria Forest Products exceeds $35 million in accounts each year with businesses in Clatsop County that support the work of delivering high quality logs to overseas clients.”