BIGGBY Lima Named Emerging Business of the Year

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For The Ayers Inc., the fifth time was the charm.


The Lima photo studio was named 2012 Small Business of the Year on Wednesday during the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce’s 10th annual awards gala at the UNOH Event Center.


“In the words of Winston Churchill, ‘Never, never give up,’” said Michael Ayers, accepting the award along with his wife and business partner, Pam Ayers. It was their fifth time as a finalist for the award, he said.


Like other award recipients, the Ayers gave thanks to their customers, their families, their community and creator.


The annual gala, sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and Sheakley, gives the business community an opportunity to recognize area businesses and leaders for their outstanding accomplishments. The Lima News/, Your Hometown Stations and WIMA-AM are media sponsors.


The Ayers, which has a second studio in San Francisco, was chosen from two other finalists, Aero Printing, of Delphos, and Sielschott, Walsh, Keifer and Regula CPAs Inc.


Also Wednesday, the Athena Award was presented to Sandra Monfort, West Central Ohio re-entry coordinator, Mental Health and Recovery Services Board member, former WORTH Center director, former Lima City Board of Education president, and organizer of Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered 12-step program.


“I work with individuals who have chosen to be leaders in a different way, in taking from many of you. And yet, there’s so many of you in here that have been willing to give a number of the individuals, who’ve made a poor choice, another opportunity to find goodness within themselves and to re-enter the community,” Monfort said.


The Lima Auto Mall sponsors the local Athena Award, which is given in recognition of professional excellence and community service and for helping women attain professional excellence and leadership skills. Other finalists were Rita Thelen and Jim Unverferth.


Keynote speaker Jeff Tracy, owner of Tracy’s Appliances, highlighted the most monumental days of his life, achievements and challenges, telling a story a little reminiscent of “Forrest Gump” with a wide swath of Lima history woven in.


“When I went to this school [Northwestern Business College, forerunner to University of Northwestern Ohio], Cable Road was a two-lane highway,” the lifelong Lima resident said.


His class — nine Vietnam War veterans, all on the GI Bill — was so small, the teachers changed rooms instead of the students, he said.


“What we really got was the opportunity to talk with one another,” he said. “And you know, that was the best thing that could have happened, to put nine guys together who had done what we’d done, it was a terrific opportunity.”


Tracy recounted the family business expansions and relocations to make a point about businesses taking risks and being willing to change.


“One thing I’ve learned is, if you’re not a sponge, if you don’t soak up knowledge from the people around you,” he said. “When I talk to my banker or anybody, I’m going to learn something to make my store better. I’m not ashamed to imitate someone who’s doing it better.”
Other awards presented Wednesday included:


  •  Emerging Business of the Year was presented to Biggby Coffee owner Peggy Rector. Other finalists were NOW Markting Group and Crankers Cycling. The award is sponsored by the State Bank and Trust Co.:
  • Woman-owned Business of the Year went to The Pizza Station owner Corie Lange. Other finalists were State Farm-Lori Kroeger and Xpressions Photos by Heather. The Union Bank sponsored the award.
  • Culturally Diverse Business of the Year was presented to Goin’ Postal owner Emad Shenouda. Aflac-Marc Wright was the other finalist. St. Rita’s Medical Center sponsors the award.
  • Non-Profit Agency of the Year was won by Habitat for Humanity and its director, Lavon Welty. Partnership for Violence Free Families and Allen County Agricultural Society were finalists. The award is sponsored by Rea and Associates.


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