Apollo Liquor and Superette named Business of the Year

Published 7:31 am Friday, February 26, 2010

Apollo Liquor and Superette was named the 2009 Business of the Year at the annual Austin Area Chamber of Commerce Banquet and Awards Ceremony last night.

“The competition looked fierce,” said David Olson, who owns the business with his wife, Peggy. “There were so many good projects, so many good businesses going up for the award, we felt small in comparison to everybody else.”

While Peggy was surprised to win the award, she said she was excited to be recognized. “It’s been a tough economic year,” she said. “It’s just been great that the community has helped support us and made us feel very welcome.”

Peggy said she and David hope to build on a successful 2009. In 2010, they plan to expand the hot food area in the superette, and she said they’re always working to build on their wine selection. Peggy said the two plan to continue to be around the community.

The Olsons have been involved in the community outside of the business, as Peggy said she’s very passionate about the humane society. They’re also involved with chamber events.

David and Peggy have owned the business for eight years and have 14 employees. David is slated to be the chamber president in 2011.

The theme of Thursday’s banquet was teamwork, and many people wore the uniforms of their favorite sports team. Chamber ambassadors wore matching baseball T-shirts.

Near the beginning of the awards ceremony, chamber ambassadors jogged into the banquet hall with the Olympic theme song playing. The ambassadors greeted the attendees through a sports chant.

“Teamwork is a fitting theme for this year and our banquet,” said 2010 Chamber President Tom Sherman. “It’s what our organization is all about.”

In his opening address, Sherman, owner of Usem Inc., said all Austin businesses are interdependent and are working jointly toward a more positive business climate, even though many area businesses are competitors.

Even during a difficult economic time, Sherman said the chamber had notable successes during 2009 through programs like Buy Mower/Grow Mower, which supports local spending.

“This past year, to say the least, was challenging for most of our members and for the organization, frankly,” Sherman said. “But, we remain fiscally and financially strong.”

Austin’s taxable retail sales increased by 12 percent in Austin in 2009 — an increase of $30 million in taxable sales, Sherman said.

One key factor in that increase has been the Buy Mower/Grow Mower campaign, Sherman said.

Sherman said the message of the Buy Mower/Grow Mower campaign is reminding citizens to spend money locally; however, he cautioned the program isn’t entirely responsible for all the growth. More work is needed to expand the program, as Sherman said.

“Sales in Austin are up, but we have a long way to go to eliminate the retail sales leakage that we’ve experienced in Austin for years,” he said.

Austin Medical Center has been a big contributor to that message this year, as the medical center converted its employee reward program entirely to chamber bucks.

“This was huge,” Sherman said. “It helped boost our sale to over $400,000 in chamber bucks in 2009. That’s money that we know stays in town — period. That money stays in town, and it provides a direct benefit to each and every one of our members in this room.”

For their work in supporting Buy Mower/Grow Mower, AMC’s Keri Slegh, human resources director, and Brittney Erickson, human resources representative, were honored as the Human Resources Professionals of the Year.

Sherman highlighted four goals for the chamber in 2010: continue to increase chamber membership, continue to support and enhance the Buy Mower/Grow Mower, provide voice in governmental issues, and continue to organize events like Christmas in the City.

Jan O’Connor, of MJ O’Connor Inc., was named Volunteer of the Year. O’Connor was also acknowledged for finishing a six-year term on the chamber board of directors.

O’Connor was recognized for her service to the board and involvement with a number of projects, like Christmas in the City. Along with serving on the board of directors, she’s also been an ambassador for many years and has been named ambassador of the year twice.

Jeanine Nelson, commercial loan officer at U.S. Bank, was named Ambassador of the Year, and her team also received the Ambassador Team of the Year Award.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resort was awarded New Business of the Year, given to a business that either opened or changed owners within the last two years.

The Hormel Historic Home was recognized for Project of the Year, for the home’s restoration and expansion projects.

Todd Hepler, who is on the chamber’s board of directors, said the banquet is a chance to salute nominated businesses, and all local businesses. Stressing the motto of teamwork was a good way to do that, Hepler said.

“Austin is all on the same team,” said Hepler, before the banquet. “We’re here to work together to make sure that all of the businesses strive.”

Even those who didn’t win an award were proud to be nominated.

“It’s a great honor and a pleasure to be nominated,” said Dave Thompson, a residential account representative with Austin Utilities.

He said the business’s nomination for business of the year possibly stems from Austin Utilities’ work following last summer’s tornado.

Charisse Sellers, who owns Sellers Lock & Key with her husband, Jeff, said it was an honor to be nominated and recognized for their hard work. Sellers Lock & Key is open 24-7, and Sellers said that can become a challenge as the couple has children.

The night was an evening to celebrate all area businesses, as more than 300 people attended the banquet.

Hepler, joked he should have left his car at HyVee, as the Holiday Inn lot was nearly full because of the banquet’s large turnout.

“Look at the turnout tonight, it means businesses are strong,” Hepler said. “They’re here. They’re proud to be here.”