Owners of small businesses are living their dreams — or, at least, doing what they enjoy — even if that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.
That was the message from Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke during Tuesday night’s Ramara Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards at Casino Rama.
“As an entrepreneur myself, it’s nice to look around and see so many like-minded people — grouchy, overworked and underpaid,” Clarke quipped. “Eventually, the hard work does pay off.”
It has paid off for the four companies recognized Tuesday.
The Site Enhancement Award went to the Orillia Rama Regional Airport. Since purchasing the airport two years ago, Clayton Smith has added four hangars, 50,000 square feet of interior space, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, and invested $2 million to upgrade facilities.
He thanked Rama First Nation for helping out with signage to better promote the airport, and he praised his staff.
“I wouldn’t even call them staff. They’re family,” Smith said.
Kevin Kea also deflected praise to his staff when he accepted the Greatest Impact on the Community Award for his business, Keggers on the Water — “the Cheers of the north,” as one nominator described the sports bar in Lagoon City.
Staff are “the heartbeat of the business,” Kea said.
Keggers on the Water opened in 2016. Since then, Kea has created dart and pool leagues, brought in live entertainment and donated to local causes. He doesn’t mind giving back while doing business in this part of the province.
“People come to vacation where we live. That is a unique thing,” he said.
The Customer Service Award was given to Marabrek Renovations. The decision to award Marabrek was almost unanimous. There was one dissenting vote, and it came from Marabrek owner Walt Meyers. Chamber secretary Dann Oliver noted Meyers didn’t feel a board member should win.
Meyers gave a brief speech, thanking the chamber for the award.
Marabrek is celebrating 30 years in business.
The final accolade of the evening, the Marketing the Region Award, went to Fern Resort. A representative from Fern Resort was unable to attend, but Oliver explained some of the ways the business has contributed to the betterment of Ramara and beyond.
While Fern Resort offers plenty of activities for its guests, including a five-hole golf course and youth programming, it doesn’t expect them to stay on site. The owners encourage visitors to check out local businesses and attractions while they’re in the area, Oliver noted.
Tuesday’s event also served as the chamber’s annual general meeting and featured a keynote address from Ontario Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rocco Rossi.