Recognition of outstanding businesses on and near the Semiahmoo Peninsula was the principal agenda of South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Business Excellence Awards for 2014, sponsored by Peace Arch News, held Jan. 29 at Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club.
Hosted by chamber president Jim Purcell, and MC’d by Mark Madryga, the gala featured a keynote speech by motivational speaker Peter Legge.
PAN publisher Mary Kemmis presented awards to businesses of the year in three size categories, as well as plaques recognizing best new business and best non-profit organization.
In the 1-7 employees category, employee benefits brokerage ADISA Benefit Solutions Inc. (Cameron Biffart and Grayden Biffart, principals) received the award. The partners have a two-decade record of involvement with service organizations in the community (including Semiahmoo Rotary Club and Semiahmoo community policing), are active in their churches and have served on the board of White Rock Christian Academy.
Art framing and decor business GS & Company (Gary Patterson, owner) received top honours in the 8-14 employees category. The company has been a strong participant in events at Semiahmoo Shopping Centre and throughout the Semiahmoo Peninsula and is a contributor to Variety – The Children’s Charity.
The event also brought greater awareness of South Surrey-based wind-turbine manufacturer Endurance Wind Power Inc. (represented by David Rankin), which was named business of the year in the 15-plus employees category.
Since startup in 2007, the company has become a leading global manufacturer of turbines – marketing to the U.S., the U.K., Italy and beyond – which now employs 172 people worldwide, including 90 in the local office.
Proud recipients of the award for best new business of the year were Kimm Brickman Pineau and Glenn Pineau, owners of All of Oils – Wholesome Oils and Vinegars. The first business of its kind in Surrey, the retailer is focused not only on distributing high-quality extra virgin olive oils, flavoured oils and balsamic vinegars, but also on educating the community on the many health benefits of the products.
White Rock Museum & Archives, represented by executive director Sharon Oldaker, won laurels for best non-profit organization of the year.
The organization has shown leadership in promoting culture year-round on Marine Drive in White Rock’s recently restored, historic train station.
Restaurateurs ‘business persons of the year’
Restaurants play a very special role in business – not only providing a service to the community, but also providing a core focus for the community; a place where residents and visitors can meet, relax and bond over meals, special events and notable celebrations.
Given that focus, it might be considered appropriate that the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence awards, held last Thursday at Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club, recognized two restaurateurs as ‘business person of the year’ for 2014 – one in the self-owned category and the other in the corporate category.
George Zambus – who has been a partner in White Rock’s Cosmos Greek Restaurant since 1990 – received recognition in the first category; while comparative newcomer Guy Dorchester, general manager and operations partner for the Morgan Crossing White Spot franchise, took top honours in the corporate sector.
“Restaurants are a business that takes a lot of effort and a lot of hard work, but the end result is good,” Zambus said. “You get to meet so many nice people and make so many friends in the community.”
“A restaurant is a place where everybody can dine and meet,” Dorchester added. “You see people who know each other, and you get to know them all over the years.”
Both said they feel honoured to receive the recognition of their peers.
“We work very hard,” said Zambus, speaking not only for himself and his wife, Christina, but also for his business partner and chef, Demetre Theodosakis, and his wife, Georgia.
“It’s good when you’re recognized for your work in the community.”
“There were a lot of faces I recognized in the audience, people I’ve had the opportunity to serve and get to know,” Dorchester added.
Both were quick to say that they owe a great deal of credit to the teams they work with.
“Demetre was here before we were – we became partners in 1990,” Zambus said. “He has done an excellent job as a chef – he’s responsible for all the good food that comes out of the kitchen. I’m proud to be in partnership with him.”
Zambus noted that Georgia also works as a hostess in the restaurant, while his own daughters are also much involved – Vicky as a server and Bia as bartender.
“It’s very much family – and it’s the team that makes things work.”
“I’m most proud of the team I work with,” Dorchester said.
“They’ve led to a great reputation in the community with charities like the Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life fundraiser.
“It’s great to be able to give back. South Surrey and White Rock is a community with a lot of people who support one another – it’s a great environment to be in business in.”
Zambus said he’s also proud of Cosmos’ record in being involved in the community, through working with the City of White Rock and the Chamber of Commerce on various projects, and also as a past contributor to the Peace Arch Hospital galas, as well as providing scholarships for young people over the years.
“It’s great when you can give young people a chance to learn what life and work is all about, and how to deal with people – they’re going to be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.
It was the restaurant that brought him and Christina to White Rock in the first place, when Cosmos founders John Manos and his wife, Loula (Christina’s sister), decided to retire after some 20 years in the business.
That was when he went into business with Theodosakis, who was a partner with Mano after coming to the restaurant in 1978.
“We’d lived in Vancouver a long time, but White Rock seemed like a nice place to bring up our children in,” Zambus said.
“It’s a wonderful community that made us feel at home here.”
Dorchester, who was raised in Crescent Beach, came on board with White Spot to open the Morgan Crossing location 3½ years ago.
“Oddly enough, I had never worked in the restaurant business before, although I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart.”
As a teenager, he was involved with a painting franchise, he said, after which he worked with Enterprise Car Rental, before travelling the world for 2½ years.
After that, he was fleet manager for the B.C. Winter Olympics, “decking up” some 4,500 vehicles that GM provided for the event.
Dorchester said he feels his varied business background has given him “some different perspectives” on running a restaurant.
“I’m very employee-focused. I like to have an environment where staff can enjoy coming to work,” he said.
“That results in great customer service – and a place where people come back.”