By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 23 announced its awards for 2020, including Business of the Year honorees drawn from a field of nine finalists in three categories, whittled down from a field of more than 90 nominations.
In addition to the business awards, Joe Eletto was named Ambassador of the Year; Michelle Mosher was named Volunteer of the Year; Tammy See was named Shining Star of the Year; and Larry Brooks was named Citizen of the Year, who upon receiving the award said, “Nothing means more than having the respect of the people you respect.”
According to chamber officials, the business awards competition drew 92 nominations, with a panel of judges determining both the winners and the finalists, based on a set of criteria that focused on accomplishments, community involvement, innovation and leadership in the Greater Riverview community.
“The purpose of the Business of the Year Award is to recognize a locally operated business that best represents entrepreneurship in the Greater Riverview area,” said Mike Jones, past chamber president who served on the judging panel. “This year’s judging was very, very difficult and razor-thin margins sometimes determined our winners.”
The 2020 Business of the Year Award recipients are Image 360 Tampa-Ybor City, in the category for five or fewer employees; Canine Cabana, for businesses with six to 25 employees; and St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, for businesses with more than 25 employees.
St. Joseph’s, a BayCare hospital, competed as a finalist with Boyette Animal Hospital and the Bridges Retirement Community; Canine Cabana, with TeleVoIPs and the Osprey Observer; And Image 360, with An ABC Event Inc. and Parwani Law, P.A.
Rounding out the panel of judges were Carol Minor, with Hillsborough County and the Florida SBDC; Jennifer Hart of Impact Taekwondo Center, a 2019 business award winner; Isabella Rosal of Tea, Bowls and Desserts, the chamber’s 2018 Shining Star of the Year; and chamber member Bill Andrew of Tessera of Brandon. Jones works with the Florida Department of Education/Vocational Rehabilitation as a business services representative.
Announcing the award winners at the Feb. 23 Zoom meeting were the 2019 award recipients in their respective categories, including Lisa Jordan of Accent American, in the category for up to five employees. Her cleaning and disaster restoration company specializes in crime scenes, mold remediation, water damage, sewage drainage and COVID-19 cleanings.
Jordan presented the 2020 award to Bob Burmaster, CEO of Image 360 Tampa-Ybor City, a company specializing in “graphics that enhance, signage that works and displays that inform.”
“It’s been a rough year for a lot of companies out there, and we’re just glad that we were able to help out, even if it’s just in a small way, to help the businesses in our communities get back to work,” Burmaster said.
In presenting the 2020 award for businesses with six to 25 employees, Hart noted the impact of winning the award in 2019. “It validated my belief that hard work does pay off,” said Hart, whose Impact Taekwondo Center “helps kids ages 4 and up become better versions of themselves.”
Winning the 2019 award “also made us more visible in the community,” Hart said, “so that we were able to keep our doors open during the most difficult year.”
Accepting the 2020 award were Kendall Duncan and Angie Pickern, owners of Canine Cabana, who first met in 1997 as zookeepers at Busch Gardens.
“We feel really honored, especially going up against such good businesses,” Duncan said, noting, as well, the effects of the pandemic on keeping a business afloat. “Last year, especially, it has been rough for everybody,” Duncan said. “We’ve really done some pivoting and maneuvering and we’re just grateful [for this honor].”
Next up was Ian Lieberman of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, which won the 2019 award for businesses with more than 25 employees. Even though it was last year, “it seems very recent that we won this award because in the restaurant business, and in all businesses, these past 12 months have seemingly flown by,” Lieberman said. “They’ve been, at times, some of the most rewarding months that we’ve had in business, and, also at times, nothing short of excruciating.”
Through partnerships with organizations like the Riverview chamber, “we’ve been able to not just survive through COVID but really, at times, thrive,” Lieberman said. “I don’t think you’re getting rid of us any time soon, COVID.”
This year’s award recipient, St. Joseph’s Hospital-South, opened its doors in February 2015 as south Hillsborough County’s first not-for-profit hospital, and this year completed a multi-million dollar expansion with the February opening of an 11-bed neonatal intensive care unit.
As for winning the 2020 business award, “Our team members will be thrilled,” said a spokesperson for St. Joseph’s Hospital-South. “They sure as heck earned it in 2020.”
To view the Feb. 23 monthly investor Zoom meeting and awards ceremony, visit the Riverview chamber on Facebook or at www.riververviewchhamber.com. or call: 813-234-5944.