Representatives of a broad spectrum of Semiahmoo Peninsula-based businesses gathered to celebrate excellence among their peers Wednesday night.
The South Surrey and White Rock Chamber Business Excellence Awards, at Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club, marked the 20th anniversary of the event, and there was a significant difference this year, executive director Ritu Khanna noted.
“It was the first time the chamber opened up the awards to the entire business community, rather than just chamber members,” she said, adding that two new categories – recognizing businesses that are supporters of the arts and businesses that are community builders – were also added.
“We have a wealth of experience and expertise here,” she said.
“We wanted to recognize the whole community and invite all businesses to become members and make our network stronger. This was also an acknowledgement that we are a growing community and an important part of the Greater Vancouver area for employment and economic growth.”
Mostafa Sabeti of Golden Glory Martial Arts Academy was named business person of the year in the self-owned category.
“I’m very happy to be here in this beautiful country, this beautiful province and city,” the Tehran, Iran-born entrepreneur and kickboxing champion told the crowd after accepting his award.
“I came here to Canada 12 years ago, and the first day I landed in Canada I really felt this was my home,” he added. “It has been very hard and challenging as a new immigrant, but I tried to do my best and from the first I had lots of great, great Canadian friends who helped me and made be proud to be a Canadian.”
Ryan Moreno, co-founder of the Joseph Richard Group, received business person of the year laurels in the corporate category, while the company itself – a fast-growing chain of public houses, restaurants and liquor stores – was honoured as business of the year in the 41-employee-plus category.
In accepting his personal award, Moreno said that “like everybody in the room, I’ve never done anything that we’ve ever done for awards or things like that – but to be recognized with all of you is very humbling and an honour.
“All the businesses here make our community what it is, and my wife and I are so proud to be a part of the community and to raise our kids here.”
Also receiving business of the year recognition were (in the one-to-10-employee category) White Rock Beach Beer Company; and (in the 11-to-40- employee category) Ocean Park Pizza and Village Pub.
Looby Doo, a European-style boutique for children’s clothing and accessories, was named new business of the year; theatre, film and television training studio The Drama Class took the new award for supporter of the arts, while the host venue, Hazelmere Golf and Tennis Club, was honoured as community builder of the year.
The Peace Arch Hospice Society was recognized as non-profit organization of the year, and executive director Beth Kish, in accepting the award, paid special tribute to 27-year volunteer Jean Walker, who has just turned 90. Earlier in the evening, attendees serenaded Walker with an impromptu chorus of ‘Happy Birthday To You’.
Chamber president Adam Smith offered opening remarks and introduced master of ceremonies Mark Madryga, well-known TV weather presenter, while Greg Timms, Surrey-based American Olympic Softball qualifier was guest speaker.
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by singer-songwriter-guitarist Richard Tichelman.