Quiznos named business of yearPublished 11:53am Friday, February 24, 2012
Norm Blaser likes to give a break to people down on their luck.
He remembers a few years ago, when a 28-year-old homeless man with Asperger syndrome walked into the Quiznos in Austin he owns with his wife, Marlene, and asked for a job. The man, who lived in a van at the time, said he was slow at some tasks, but he would work hard, do the job right, and if he was hired, would come to work every day.
He also recalls a 17-year-old high school dropout and mother of a young girl who couldn’t get an interview anywhere. She said her dad died when she was young, her mother ran off and the teen mom was living with her uncle.
Norm said neither were ideal candidates, but he hired both of them.
The Blasers and their Quiznos, located at 1702 17th St. NW, Suite H, were honored Thursday night by the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce as business of the year. The award is given on behalf of the Chamber based on a number of factors, including Chamber and community involvement, as well as customer service.
Norm, who was an administrator at Pacelli Catholic High School for nine years and worked in school administration for 41 years, said he learned as an educator that there’s good in everybody.
“You just have to find it,” he said. “That’s the carry over into our personal life and our business. We now have the opportunity to help people, so we take that opportunity.”
Norm and Marlene — who was a day care provider in Austin for 20 years — have owned the Quiznos in Austin since 2005, and in 2007 their restaurant was recognized as 10th best in the nation in customer service. Marlene likes to say that she and other employees are able to call many of their customers by name, and their Quiznos is also a training restaurant for new Quiznos owners in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Wisconsin. Still, with everything they’ve accomplished, Norm said the Chamber award came as a surprise.
“There are so many big businesses in this town, so many worthy businesses, we really didn’t think that we had a chance,” he said. “I think a lot of people say that, but for us, we didn’t think it was possible.”
While the big award went to a business that has stood out for several years, the Chamber also recognized a rising organization. The Chamber honored Ooh La La! Handbags & Accessories as its 2011 new business of the year.
For Ooh La La! co-owner Riley Brolsma, the award came as a total surprise.
“We were just thrilled to be nominated,” Brolsma said. “Just to be on the list of nominees was special enough, but to actually win an award was very exciting.”
Ooh La La, located at 309 North Main Street, opened in November 2010.
For projects, the Chamber recognized Clasen-Jordan Mortuary for its 4,500-foot expansion and 5,000-foot remodel project. Clasen-Jordan broke ground in May 2011 and is putting the finishing touches on the project now.
In the lead-up to the highly anticipated business awards, chamber ambassadors took time to recognize individuals who go above and beyond. The Chamber recognized Steve Gleason of U.S. Bank in Austin as its 2011 volunteer of the year. Gleason has been active with the Chamber, organized and hosted its 100 Club, helped with the Chamber agriculture appreciation cookout, is on the Chamber’s government affairs committee and is a vice president on the Chamber board of directors.
Ambassador 2011 president Jeanine Nelson handed over her crown to Sharan Kaplan for 2012, and Abby Wangen of Sterling State Bank was recognized as ambassador of the year. New Chamber board of directors president Barry Irish of Sterling State Bank recognized Dave Olson, owner of Apollo Liquors, the 2011 board president.