The Saline Area Chamber of Commerce honored the area's top businesses at the 16th Annual Business Enterprise Awards gala at .
The chamber presented the awards to Kyocera Unimerco, a global tooling specialist, and a home decor boutique. A lifetime achievement award was presented to Jim and Marcia Duncan, owner of Calico Cat, which closed its doors in August.
“The Business Enterprise Wards are the most meaningful and prestigious awards we present. This is our Academy Awards,” said Larry Osterling, director of the Saline Area Chamber of Commerce. “We present these awards to the best of the best in the Saline area business community. These are the people that are setting the example and showing us the way through difficult times.”
Two years of Record Growth For Kyocera Unimerco
This year the award in the 21-or-more employees category was presented to Kyocera Unimerco, which has its North American headquarters at 6620 State Rd. in Pittsfield Township. The company was honored by Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell, State Rep. Mark Ouimet, and representatives from the offices of State Sen. Randy Richardville and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg.
“It’s companies like yours that have faith in us that make us what we are,” said Ouimet.
Driskell spoke glowingly about the company and its president, David Yu, who is also on the chamber’s board of directors.
“Even though (Kyocera Unimerco) is in Pittsfield, I am delighted to be able to stand up and speak because David is invested in the Saline community, which doesn't have any boundaries. He's committed to our community as a whole,” said Driskell. “And I heard he has recruited someone else into the City of Saline, which I really like. We look forward to a really healthy future together.”
Representatives from Liebherr Saline, last year’s winner, presented the award to Yu.
"We've always strived to be part of the community. It's just something our company believes in,” Yu said. “We believe it makes the company healthier when everyone is happy. When the employees are happy, we have better products and happier customers, and we get more business."
Yu said the company has come out of the recession with two straight record years. They employ 47 workers, a third more than two years ago, and also have 25 percent more equipment than it did two years ago.
“That's a true testament to the great team. I have the smartest team, the hardest working team out there. In my whole career, I've never had people like this to work with,” Yu said. “(Our success) is a great story in these economic times, but it would be a great story in any time.”
Cobblestone Rose Remains a Downtown Saline Landmark
The award recipient in the smaller category of 20-or-fewer employees was The Cobblestone Rose, located at 101 S. Ann Arbor St., Suite 111, in Saline. Owned by Karen Hodgson, the two-story home décor boutique is a downtown landmark. Jill Durnen, owner of last year’s winner, Hartman Insurance, presented the award to Hodgson.
She, too, was honored by Ouimet, Driskell and other government representatives in attendance.
“I am delighted to be here to recognize The Cobblestone Rose, which has a long, great history in Saline. They’ve stuck through it all and grown in size,” Driskell said. “One of the great things about The Cobblestone Rose is the service the provide downtown. It’s always special to shop and visit. When you go in The Cobblestone Rose, it’s like you are family.”
Hodgson recalled the early days of working in the winter, next to a kerosene heater in an old mill in Manchester.
“All of this has been a journey with a lot of people. I remember my grandchildren, who slept on the floors during Christmas set up. I’ve had staff who’ve been with me for a long time,” said Hodgson.
She said one of the things she’s most proud of is that her business has become a place where people go when they want to feel good.
“We've had so many customers come in with losses in their lives, coming from funerals, because they just wanted to be somewhere where they felt good,” Hodgson said. “On 9/11, at least a half dozen regular customers came in and said, ‘can we just be here for awhile.’ We hope to be here for a lot more years doing this.”
Duncans Earn Award For Their Work at The Calico Cat
The lifetime achievement award went to Jim and Marcia Duncan, who in August closed The Calico Cat, a store that was once the signature of downtown Saline.
Durnen fondly recalled shopping at the collectibles and book store there as a young girl.
“We always hoped to catch a glimpse of The Calico Cat,” Durnen said.
Osterling note that The Calico Cat, The Pineapple House, and The Cobblestone Rose were the retail businesses that helped build Downtown Saline, as it currently exists.
Marcia Duncan accepted the honor with humility.
“It means the world to us. In a way I feel we should be giving you the award for having the privilege of serving you all these years,” Duncan said.
Duncan said it was her dream, since being a young girl, to own a gift shop.
“If you want something in your heart, you can find a way to make it happen,” said Duncan.
As much as it was a gift shop, The Calico Cat was also a place where people came to talk. She recalled a troubled girl caught shoplifting. She began talking to her and gave her a copy of The Bible. Years later, the girl came back and told her she’d lost her Bible. Duncan gave her another.
“Time and time again, people came in and we would forget about selling and just listen,” Duncan said.
Past Business Enterprise Award recipients include Hartman Insurance Agency, Liebherr Saline, Spotted Dog Winery, LaFontaine Chrysler Dodge Jeep, Pineapple House, Phoenix Contractors Inc., Bemis Farms Preschool, JAC Products Inc., American Aqua Inc., Evangelical Home-Saline & Brecon Village, Carol’s Hallmark, Briarwood Ford, Pack & Mail Plus, Bridgewater Lumber Company, Quickprint Inc., Bank of Washtenaw, Rhoades Doehrer & Associates PLLC, Mac’s Acadian Seafood Shack, Aero Corporation, Visteon Corporation, Garry Deo O.D., The Saline Reporter, K & F Electric Company, Tom Mac's Photography, Saline Community Hospital, Saline Picture Frame Company, McNaughton & Gunn, Benny's Bakery, Busch's ValuLand, Saline Flowerland, and R&B Machine Tool Company.
The Chamber’s mission with the Business Enterprise Awards is to recognize established, successful firms that have exhibited exemplary business practices and have an excellent reputation for service to the community. Community participation and peer recognition are also important components of the Business Enterprise Awards.