Pandemic perseverance, growth honored by Superior-Douglas County Chamber
The 2020 award winners included long-time businesses and some fresh faces.
What do a Solon Springs restaurant, a family-owned landscaping company, an 89-year-old financial institution and the sales and marketing manager at Nemadji Golf Course have in common? Each was recognized with a 2020 business award Thursday, Oct. 21, during the Superior-Douglas County Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.
The event traditionally takes place earlier in the year. Chamber CEO Taylor Pedersen said they made the choice to wait in order to host the event in person. It was important to hold the award ceremony to focus on local businesses that persevered through a challenging time, he said.
“It’s really encouraging to see how many people did start a business or expanded or decided to double down and reinvest in some equipment during the middle of a pandemic, and we saw that time and time again, I think that tells you where Superior and Douglas County are at,” Pedersen said.
Even in the face of adversity, he said, development has continued, the creative community thrived and the Chamber supported that.
“We did exactly what we were supposed to do in a chaotic time,” Pedersen said.
The New Business of the Year Award went to Hog Wild BBQ and Smokehouse, which opened July 15, 2020, in Solon Springs.
“Hog Wild has added a new dimension of flavor and hospitality to the Solon Springs community, and the community has embraced them with open arms,” Pedersen said. “They’ve taken a foreclosed property in a rural community and built a thriving business.”
Owners Kim and Steve Kastern credited hard work and an amazing staff that stepped up for hours, days, weeks in order to launch the business.
“To be recognized, especially during this pandemic, in this industry, is unbelievable and a complete honor, because we’re a small-town community,” Kim Kastern said.
Core Landscaping was honored as the year’s Outstanding Young Business, a category that encompasses businesses that have been in operation more than two years and less than 20.
Launched in 2012, Pedersen said Core Landscaping has become a pillar of the community with a true family atmosphere. The business also provides free lawn and snow removal services for families who have a spouse deployed with the military.
Owner Jim DeMeyer said he is in the process of passing the company reins on to family members and their spouses, who he acknowledged from the award podium.
“We’re in a very brutal industry. When you guys are sleeping, these guys are out until all hours plowing, and sometimes their families don’t see them for a long time. Think of that the next time you pull into your parking lot and there’s a little bit of snow,” DeMeyer said with a chuckle.
A Superior business with a rich history and a long reach, Superior Choice Credit Union, earned the Community Cornerstone Award. The financial institution has been a cornerstone of the community for nearly 90 years.
“What started with 26 community members and $100 in 1932 has blossomed into over 30,000 members and over half a billion dollars in assets as of 2021,” Pedersen said. “As a nonprofit organization, SCCU reinvested profits back into members, employees and the community” through scholarships, donations and event sponsorships.
Headquartered in Superior, SCCU has 125 employees at eight different locations — two in Superior and one each in Gilman, Bruce, Ashland and Mellen, as well as Duluth and Hermantown.
“Next year we celebrate our 90th anniversary. That’s huge,” said CEO Tim Foster, one of the organization’s new group of executives. “But we’re not gonna just sit on our laurels and rest on that. We’re going to keep changing ... One of their core values is ‘hit heavy, stay humble,’ and that means make an impact, but don’t forget our roots.”
Nemadji Golf Course Sales and Marketing Manager Kirsten Lilya was recognized as the Outstanding Young Professional of the Year. The 23-year-old has been working at the course for two years, but with the Kemper Sports group for eight.
“Her positive attitude, professionalism and work ethic has helped Nemadji achieve a record-setting season in 2020 and yet another record-setting season in 2021,” Pedersen said.
Lilya puts in extra hours to help other departments and has grown the golf course’s social media audience with her marketing strategies. Her work also touches the community.
“She’s a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe, and can often be found volunteering to help better the youth of her tribe,” Pedersen said.
Lilya said she was honored to receive the award, and gave a shout out to the entire management team at Nemadji.
The number of businesses nominated for awards in 2020 dropped from previous years, from five per category to no more than three. Pedersen encouraged people to nominate businesses for the 2021 awards season.
“We have hundreds of businesses in this community, hundreds that do really good things every day, take care of people and their customers,” he said.
The Chamber would like to recognize the work they do.
“People are stressed; people are stretched. People are taking care of running their businesses during a pandemic.” Pedersen said. “And I think now more than ever is when we need to honor these people, to call attention to the good things happening in our communities.”