Chamber praises the efforts of small businesses at annual award ceremony

·3 min read

Jun. 11—OXFORD — The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau hosted a packed house Thursday evening at the Oxford Civic Center as the area's most creative and enduring local small businesses received recognition for achievements and perseverance.

The event was emceed by Chamber President and Jacksonville State University President Dr. Don Killingsworth Jr.

"This is an opportunity to highlight our area small businesses and recognize the role they have in our local economy," Killingsworth said. "Tonight's event will emphasize the creativity and passion that small businesses and entrepreneurs must demonstrate in order to be successful."

Keynote speaker for the evening was Jason Wilson, co-owner of Coldwater Mountain Brewpub.

Wilson shared with the crowd how much being not afraid to fail helped with his success when he founded the Back Forty Beer Company in 2009, which has grown to be one of the largest alcohol producers in the state.

But the focus of the night remained on the honorees in six different categories.

Killingsworth described a "young professional" as "someone who uses fresh, cutting-edge skills or technologies in their occupational field."

The two individuals the Chamber decided had met that definition were Jackson Hodges of the city of Anniston and Ashley Stedham Mitchell of ERA King Real Estate, who were awarded the Matthew Michael Clonts Young Professional of the Year Award.

Noting Calhoun County's reputation as "an extremely generous place in supporting our neighbors," Killingsworth presented the Non-Profit of the Year Award to 2nd Chance Inc.

2nd Chance Inc. provides supportive advocacy services to victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence in Calhoun, Cleburne, Cherokee, Etowah, Talladega and Randolph counties.

The Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama was presented the Larry K. Sylvester Small Business Advocate of the Year Award.

"Their mission is to achieve positive change through the generosity of donors now and for generations to come," Killingsworth said, adding the Foundation was also a partner in the Chambers Small Business Relief Fund aiding those businesses who suffered as a result of the pandemic.

The Chamber Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Miller Funeral Home, Crematory and Aquamation Center, a family business founded in 1970 and expanded to now include a florist shop and event center.

CEI Services, formerly known as Cleaning Experts, Inc., received the Chamber's Sustaining Small Business of the Year, which is awarded to a business that's been in operation five years or longer.

Killingsworth said the business had expanded its services since its founding in 2007 to "further expand the foundational janitorial servicing" with which the company had started.

"Soon after Heirloom Taco opened, the pandemic hit and they had to constantly learn and to adapt," Killingsworth said in introducing the Emerging Small Business of the Year honoree.

"It is no secret that they have been under a brief shutdown due to a tragic fire," Killingsworth added. "Their survival is a true testament to their dedication and the perseverance of a small business owner."

Other area small businesses who were nominated were I Need A Sign, Romarin et Corbeaux, Sol Massage, Succ It Up, The Train Station Café, and The Whitmore Mortgage Group.

"These businessmen and women are both creative and courageous and tonight we have seen various businesses which should give us confidence in our future," Killingsworth said in summation. "So long as there are entrepreneurs like we have seen tonight, we will continue to be successful at making Calhoun County a great place to work, live and visit and to connect to our greater communities."