By Sam Holbrooks
March 24, 2017
Under the auspices of the Seminole Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), the Seminole small business community celebrated itself with the first Seminole Business Appreciation Banquet at a gleaming new Seminole Community Center Thursday evening. More than 200 business and community leaders and guests attended a night of awards, food, music, and fundraising.
The affair served dual purposes, to raise money for the Seminole ISD Education Foundation, and to recognize those who achieved “Best of Seminole” status in a variety of ways, using the results of recent polling within the community. SEDC Executive Director Chris Jones served as Master of Ceremonies.
Those entering the cavernous main ballroom were greeted by an array of gambling tables, where imaginary money provided at the door could be traded in for chips. Attendees were also able to enter sealed bids on a variety of donated items.
A night of lodging and a round of golf at San Antonio’s Texas Hill Country Resort was auctioned off to the highest bidder for $750 in a live auction, as well as a full year of weekly Big Mac sandwiches, courtesy of the Seminole McDonald’s franchise. Those went for $750 and $700 toward the Education Foundation. Auctioneer and School Board President Ben Royston served as auctioneer.
In keeping with the evening’s theme of moving Seminole “from Good to Great”, John Fehr, CEO of Fehr’s Manufacturing, delivered the keynote address with a theme of building a “we” oriented community that serves one another, and one that applies Biblical principles to business relationships. Fehr attributed his success to applying the same concept to his workforce, and surrounding himself with dedicated, optimistic people.
Fehr and wife Susie have owned a number of businesses in the Seminole area since 2000. Fehr’s Manufacturing currently employs more than 200 area residents.
“It’s amazing to see all these people here and to see what it takes to run this town,” Fehr said. “Everyone here has a purpose. Each one of you has something to bring to the table as we climb that ladder from good to great. I want each one of us to take that first step tonight toward making this a great town.”
Emphasizing a recurring theme of compassion, “there are a lot of people hurting in this town,” Fehr said. “We need to mourn with them when they’re in mourning, and rejoice with them when they are rejoicing.”
Earlier, Gary Dugger, President of the Seminole ISD Education Foundation, explained the mission of the recently formed non-profit and made an appeal for the support of the local business community. It’s mission is to “provide resources to enrich teaching, inspire learning, and enhance opportunities for all students enrolled in the SISD.”
The Foundation hopes to further those goals through the funding of teaching grants, technology, economic/special needs, school and community partnership programs, student/teacher recognition programs, scholarships, and the establishment of a permanent endowment fund. Dugger explained a host of funding vehicles, from both private and business sources.
“Our students today are tomorrow’s leaders,” Dugger told the crowd. “So we want to give them the best education we can. We’ve always done that in Seminole, and that’s what we want to continue doing.”
Other Board members include co-Vice Presidents Nadine Kantar and Mike Carter, and Treasurer Dave Davis.
The awards that were placed in the hands of area business owners ranged from whimsical odes to great hamburgers, to the more serious issues of health care, legal representation, and customer service. The “big one”, as Jones called it, was Seminole’s “Best Business”, an all-encompassing award that went to Brown’s Ace Hardware. First runner-up was Anna’s Day Spa, and the Just-a-Bite Restaurant took second runner-up.
There were a number of other award winners in a variety of subcategories, including “Best Customer Service”, also taken by Brown’s Ace Hardware. First runner-up was United Supermarkets and second runner-up was Just-a-Bite Restaurant. The “Best Lunch Special Award” went to Slim’s Barbecue, followed by the Jalisco Taqueria Restaurant and Just-a-Bite.
The “Tribe Pride Award” went to the biggest supporters of area High School sports and academics. Sam Kantar of Seminole McDonald’s accepted, followed by first runner-up, Design Shop and second runner-up, First United Bank. Kantar returned to accept the “Community Service Award” on behalf of his franchise, followed in the polling by Powers Diesel Service and Ship n’ More.
Recognizing the prominence of a Texas culinary staple, the Southern Rose Restaurant earned the “Best Chicken Fried Steak Award”, followed by Charlie’s Restaurant and Cheryl’s Diner. Mireya’s Restaurant was deemed the purveyor of the “Best Breakfast Burrito”, followed by Mr. Taco and Grandma’s and Grandpa’s. Also according to the poll, the Grub Shack provides the best burgers, trailed by the Southern Rose Restaurant and Cheryl’s Diner.
The “Pampering Service Award” went to Anna’s Day Spa, with Na’ Tue Spa and D&J Nail Salon taking runner-up and second runner-up honors. Let’s Celebrate by Allie won in the “Best Baked Goods” category, followed in the runner-up positions by Grandma’s Bakery and Five Star Doughnuts and Deli. “Best Food” is a more general category that was won by Southern Rose, followed by Cheryl’s Diner and Just-a-Bite.
Achieving top honors in the business of health care was Dr. Lance Martin, followed by Dr. Jean Pierre Letellier and Dr. Wendell Parkey. Joe Nagy was voted “Best Attorney”, with Monty Pearson and Jeanie Morrow the runners-up.
The “Best Sandwich Award” opened up an opportunity for Jones to express the support of an entire community to two area businesses. While Slim’s Barbecue took runner up honors, special presentations had been prepared for two others in that category, second runner-up Perika’s Terrace and owner Mike Diaz, who is recovering from a tragic shooting incident outside his Main Street business, and winner Cheryl Hicks of Cheryl’s Diner, who lost a friend in the same incident that killed two and wounded two others, including Diaz.
Diaz received a vase of pennies, each coin representing an expression of goodwill from other area businesses. Diaz and Hicks also received bouquets of yellow roses, representing friendship.
“I wanted these people to throw their hearts at this business,” Jones explained. “Like Mr. Fehr said, we are in this together. I want Perika’s to know that the Seminole community is behind you, and wants you to be successful. We’re here for you.”
A brief musical interlude was provided by Seminole-based band, Boomtown.