It was the first time in the 19-year history of the Greater Summerside Chamber of Commerce’s awards that the membership voted online for the finalists in each of the eight categories.
Guests were also encouraged to use Twitter throughout the ceremony, and had their tweets shown on a projection screen on the stage.
The gala event also got a new venue in the Harbourfront Theatre, which even included paparazzi photographing the nominees as they entered on a blue carpet.
“Bad service is easy. Good service, great service, excellent service – that’s the hard stuff,” said chamber president Todd Clark.
“That’s what our nominees have focused on and delivered. It’s the hard work, the perseverance, the commitment, the vision and the passion that they show. That’s why they’re nominated here tonight (Wednesday).”
Stretch Fitness was the night’s first winner, receiving the newly created Rising Star award that recognizes a business owner under the age of 40. Buffie Boily Photographic Arts and Red Envelope Marketing and Communications were also finalists in the category.
“My parents… (have) 25 or 30 years in business in Summerside, and I learned everything from them,” said Stretch Fitness owner Corey Arsenault. “I want to thank mom and dad. This is an award for them.”
Tracey Ellis-Ballum, of the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club, was named the employee-of-the-year. After 21 years, she’s the longest-serving employee at the club.
“This truly is better than any paycheque I could ever receive,” she said. “They say if you love your job then it really isn’t a job, and I really feel that way.”
Janis Ancic from Advantage Communications and Frank Murphy from the City of Summerside were also up for the award.
This truly is better than any paycheque I could ever receive. - Tracey Ellis-Ballum, winner of the Business Excellence Award for employee-of-the-year
The Summerside Butcher Shop won the new-business-of-the-year award, which is presented to an enterprise in operation for less than five years. Samuel’s Coffee House and Buffie Boily were also finalists in the category.
The P.E.I. Business Women’s Association won the community impact award, over Community Connections and the East Prince Seniors Initiative. The PEIBWA offers a variety of networks and supports for women’s business endeavors.
Samuel’s Coffee House would go on to win honours as innovator-of-the-year. Silliker Glass and 5050 Central were also finalists.
“When you look at your spouse and you say, ‘I have this idea, and we’re going to risk a lot and I might not take home a paycheque for a couple years,’ and they say, ‘Go for it,’ I think (the award) belongs to them too,” said Samuel’s owner Moyna Matheson.
Linkletter Farms earned the excellence award for businesses with 11-plus employees. The City of Summerside and Arsenault’s Fish Mart were co-finalists in the category.
Moase Funeral Home was honoured with the excellence award for businesses with one to 10 employees. The independently owned funeral home has been in operation since 1957.
Kool Breeze Farms took home the People’s Choice award. They shared the nomination with the Summerside Storm and the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club.
“I’m really speechless because I didn’t come here tonight expecting to win an award,” said owner Ian Simmonds. “This goes to you guys – this goes to the people of Summerside.”