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October 19, 2013

Chamber dinner draws record crowd

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A record number of people came out Thursday as the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce bestowed honors on two small businesses.

About 240 people attended the annual fall event, held this year at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown. The 2013 Small Business of Year Award was presented to Five Star Subaru of Oneonta for its community outreach, customer service and involvement in the arts.

Brooks’ Bottling Co., a sister company of Brooks’ House of Bar-B-Q, was given the Breakthrough Award for the expansion of its sauce bottling business.

The small business awards go to operations with 50 or fewer employees.

“Both companies are highly regarded by the business community and people came out to show their support,” chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Barbara Ann Heegan said.

Five Star co-owners Ben Guenther spoke about accepting the award on Friday.

“I thought it was awesome.” Speaking of the audience, he said, “we have a similar focus to make this community a better place to live and a place we are proud of.”

The companies advertisements that highlight either car owners, or area events, always felt like the right thing to do, he said. “Everyone shares in the success when you have a strong community. If we can get more people to see what this community has to offer, everyone benefits.”

Ryan Brooks spoke about the Breakthrough Award.

“It was overwhelming to be recognized in front of all all those we work with everyday,” he said. “It is just an incredible thing.” The reception he got gave the family, now in its third generation in the business, more motivation to succeed, he said.

“It shows we’re headed in the right direction.” Being surrounded by the right people that have the same goals and vision, “there’s nothing we can’t do together.”

He said he hopes to break ground on an expansion of the bottling facility in November, which should be up and running in May.

With two children, Abigail,1, and Carter, 3, he said he was hopeful there will be a fourth generation in the business.

But “in this industry you really have to love what you do,” he said. “That’s me in a nutshell. I feel very fortunate very day.”

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, presented proclamations from their respective legislative bodies. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, presented a citation for the Otsego Chamber of Commerce being named the state Chamber of the Year. A copy will be kept in the Library of Congress, Heegan said.

“I always enjoy this event,” Seward said. “It’s a wonderful celebration of small business, which is the backbone of the economy. I applaud the chamber for its selections,” he said. “They outdid themselves.”