By Nathan Ham
The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce held its 33rd Annual Awards Luncheon on Tuesday to celebrate the many wonderful businesses and community members in the High Country.
“Today is about celebration — the celebration of the accomplishments of Blowing Rock’s vibrant, engaged business community. Thanks to all of you who have come out to cheer on your fellow business owners in their pursuit of excellence,” said Charles Hardin, the President/CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce.
The Meadowbrook Inn was the host for the celebration, and they too had plenty to celebrate about their success in 2019 and looking ahead to 2020.
“2019 was a fantastic year for Blowing Rock and a fantastic year for us here at the Meadowbrook. We hosted over 35,000 guests from all over. We have been continuing to make updates to the property. We have the first apiary in Blowing Rock. We harvested our first batch of honey in the fall. We received a certified wildlife habitat status from the national wildlife federation for the duck pond area that we have out front so we’re really excited about that,” said Vishal Savani, the managing director of the Meadowbrook Inn ownership group. “We just opened our art gallery on our lobby level. We’ll be having rotation exhibitions throughout the year and hopefully years to come. 2020 is looking fantastic for Blowing Rock, it’s looking fantastic for us. We’re going to continue investing in the property, we’re going to continue doing some upgrades.”
Blowing Rock certainly had a lot to be happy about when reflecting back to 2019. According to information provided by the chamber, an estimated 47,000 visitors came to Blowing Rock last year. There were a total of 21 festival event days and 12 ribbon cuttings throughout the year. For the chamber, they have 543 total members with 47 new members signing up in 2019 and a member retention rate of 95 percent. The town’s website, BlowingRock.com, had 461,000 visitors last year and the social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have 15,111 followers. To reach even more visitors, the chamber mailed about 18,000 visitor information guides and 4,000 visitor information packages. The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce has continued to work hard to promote businesses in the area with 32 chamber partners, 14 networking events, 72 committee meetings and 20 other events to support businesses.
Numerous awards were presented following the meal. Zak Ammar, the 2020 chamber board chairman, presented an award or the best commercial renovation to Chetola Resort. Jim Pitts, the general manager of Blue Ridge Mountain Club, presented the Service to the Community Award to Zika Rea of Zap Fitness. Ronnie Barton of Tanger Outlets presented the Best Customer Service Award to The Best Cellar/Inn at Ragged Gardens. Amy Lee, one of the managers at Monkee’s of Blowing Rock, presented the Most Outstanding Business Award to Hess & Hess, LLP. Other awards included the Volunteer of the Year award, which was given to David Trahan. First Citizens Banks presented the Jerry Burns Ambassadorial Award to Jim McDowell and Skyline/Skybest presented the award for New Business of the Year to the Horton Hotel & Rooftop Lounge.
- Chetola Resort received the Award for Commercial Renovation.
- Zika Rea, Zap Fitness received the Award for Service to the Community.
- The Best Cellar/ Inn at Ragged Gardens received the Award for Best Customer Service.
- Jim McDowell of Mountainaire Inn & Log Cabins received the Jerry Burns Ambassadorial Award.
- Hess & Hess, LLP received the Award for Outstanding Business Service.
- David Trahan was honored as the 2019 Volunteer of the Year.
- John Aldridge received a Special Recognition – Lifetime Achievement.
- Blowing Rock Art & History Museum – Business of the Year
The final two awards were given by Charles Hardin, which included a special Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2019 Business of the Year.
John Aldridge has been a part of the chamber since 2006 and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for many different things he has helped within the community.
“He provided leadership to a group of business and community leaders to produce a strategic framework and roadmap for development for Blowing Rock known as Vision 2020. In 2007 he also put together a large group of major regional stakeholders to hire a consulting group to determine the feasibility of a project known as the NC Wine & Culinary Center visioned to be built here in Blowing Rock,” Hardin said. “In 2012 he founded the Village Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 entity for economic development and education. He served as Chair of the EDC and in 2013 he served as President of the Chamber where he helped develop the partner program and worked to develop the Chamber’s first strategic plan. He has been a keynote speaker for Blowing Rock Leadership graduation eloquently urging the graduates to take lessons in leadership from the geese. Since his founding of the Village Foundation, he has poured countless hours, talent and considerable personal financial resources into the many initiatives it has provided this community. The Foundation under his leadership has provided the winter lights in Memorial park and on all the light poles after Christmas, cleaned up and made beautiful the median in Laurel Lane and actually shepherded the ownership of the land to the Town; led the charge on constructing Mayview Plaza at the intersection of Laurel and Main which features the iconic attractions that have brought the tourism economy we currently enjoy to Blowing Rock; he has supported the design currently being considered for the Ceremonial entrance to Town at Sunset Drive and 321 which is in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and the Chamber’s Strategic Plan. He is currently working on the latest economic development project to be proposed to Town Council tonight; Legion Hill, a park connector between Broyhill Park and Cannon Park.”
The Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM) was tabbed as the 2019 Business of the Year. They were chosen over The Spice & Tea Exchange, Meadowbrook Inn and Town Tavern of Blowing Rock.
“The recipient of this award embodies all of what it means to be business of the year. It is not only what a business is able to take out of a community’s economy, but also what it puts back in. The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year excels in all areas of community involvement, business promotion, and teamwork. The Business of the Year will demonstrate high ethical standards and community spirit in accordance with the mission of the Chamber,” Hardin said.
Following the recognition of BRAHM as the business of the year, Hardin touched on the value of having a fine museum such as this in the Blowing Rock community.
“Among many milestones this year, the museum has set records for attendance; 30,279 visitors and featured the exhibition of work from the Cone Sisters’ collection including paintings from Matisse, Renoir, and Rembrandt. The many contributions of cultural programming offered to the community residents and visitors have certainly been a factor in their success. We are proud to have a museum of such stature. For a small town like Blowing Rock, we are very fortunate to have such a fine facility filled with dedicated staff to make this significant contribution,” he said.
Photos by Lonnie Webster