OXFORD — The City of Oxford’s Chamber of Commerce crowned its Businesses of the Year during the annual “Red Bricks to Progress” Awards Ceremony, held on Thursday, Jan. 18.
The Apple Tree and DuBois Bookstore were both recognized for their contributions to the community and longtime service.
The awards banquet began with hors d’oeuvres, sponsored by Left Field Tavern, and drinks, sponsored by Oxford Spirits. Sponsors also included: Jean Vance, McCullough-Hyde/TriHealth, Oxford Community Arts Center, Oxford Copy Shop, The Elms Hotel, The Hampton Inns, and Two Little Buds.
Next, the crowd was welcomed by Chamber President Kelli Riggs and Board of Directors Member Mike Rudolph.
“The work that we do at the Chamber is done by a group of people who are very hard-working and dedicate a lot of their time and energy in the thought process to come up with new ideas on how to promote ourselves and promote Oxford,” Rudolph said. “A large part of the success that we have as a Chamber is that we create relationships with create partners in our community.”
Riggs said, “The Chamber continues to grow. Last year we had 19 new members and we have almost double that for this year. We have 33 new members as of year to date for 2017, which brings us to a total of about 250 members. We have had a couple great events this year. A lot of people came out for the community picnic we had out at the football game. There was a lot of good turnout for tailgating. We also had ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas that we co-worked with EnjoyOxford and the City.
“We have a lot of other great things coming up. I know the Chamber is looking to work with the Hamilton SBDC (Small Business Development Center), which is my husband back there. We want to try to build more small businesses here in our community. We know the J-Term is a hard time for our businesses, so we were trying to brainstorm ways to bring our community together, but also bring people into Oxford.
“We partnered up with, again, EnjoyOxford, Miami University, and the City of Oxford and created a video that we’re getting ready to show you. We also did a blog that has any coupons or special deals the businesses wanted to offer.”
The video she was referring to is the Warm Up Oxford video, with the corresponding Oxford, Ohio’s Winter Warm Up blog on EnjoyOxford’s web-page. The video showcases the town of Oxford and various Chamber affiliated businesses, hoping to encourage visitors to shop local and support small businesses.
EnjoyOxford Executive Director Jessica Greene added, “This is year one, our first attempt. We’ve learned a lot and we have a lot of ideas for next year. Stay tuned for what we have in store next year.”
Kelly Spivey, Talawanda Superintendent, was supposed to give the keynote, but could not make the event due to a family emergency. Instead, Holli Morrish, Talawanda Director of Communications & Public Relations, was able to prepare a last minute presentation. She provided an update on Talawanda schools and their ongoing mission.
It was then time to recognized the Red Bricks to Progress Chamber Champions and recognize the retiring Board Members. It has been the Chamber’s tradition to present the Champions and retiring board members with bricks.
Jennifer Marston and Matt Dowd were named Chamber Champions.
Mary Bennett, Lillian Fesperman, Kim Logsdon, and Michelle Naegele were recognized for their service as Chamber Board of Directors members.
Guest speaker this year was Josh Bleill, who became a Marine following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2004, at 27 years old, Bleill went off to boot camp. In 2006, he was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. It was there that a bomb exploded under the vehicle he was riding in. He woke up days later to realize that two of his friends had died and he had lost both of his legs. He spent two years in rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. He currently has 32 pins in his hip and a six-inch screw holding his pelvis together.
During his speech, Bleill mixed humor with an utter joy for life to tell an inspiring story of how he relied on his community — his family, friends, wife, and brothers in arms — to get him through the toughest period of his life. He related that community to what the Chamber of Commerce provides the City of Oxford. He was met with two standing ovations.
To end the night, the Oxford Chamber of Commerce recognized its two Businesses of the Year: The Apple Tree and DuBois Bookstore.
“Josh [Bleill] mentioned about small town, getting support from the people you grew up with. It is a real treat for Neil Kamphaus and I to present these two awards to families who I have grown up with in this town. This is a very special night. It always is when we get to honor our Businesses of the Year, but these two in particular to me mean an awful lot. These are families that I have known all my life, I’ve watched their businesses change, and I have been with their families my whole life,” Rudolph said.
Vice-Chair Kamphaus said, “Barb Clawson opened The Apple Tree in 1979. Many of you know that Clawson was also a top realtor in Oxford. She had been on the Chamber Board and also felt that the Chamber would benefit from more business. When one enters The Apple Tree they wonder if they entered a Wonderland.
“The store is an Oxford delight and it beckons customers of all kinds. Approximately three years ago, Barb [Clawson’s] daughter Cheri Corcoran became business partners with her mom. Cheri [Corcoran] always liked to go to the different stores and shop with her mother, so in turn she wanted to make The Apple Tree a place for young members of our community to shop with their mothers.
“Despite their busy schedules, The Apple Tree owners have actively stayed involved in our community. The Apple Tree has graciously supported our Chamber throughout the years. The owners could not be more generous and giving to our community.”
As she accepted the award, Clawson said, “Back in 1978, that was when the Chamber was organized and I was nominated to be on the Chamber. We didn’t have many businesses in Oxford, so I thought that I should step up to the plate.”
Rudolph had the honor of presenting the award to DuBois Bookstore. “It is now a pleasure for me to be able to present the next Business of the Year award,” he said. “DuBois Bookstore has been an integral fixture in the Oxford Community since opening its doors in 1945. The Oxford store was actually the second location of the store, with the first one being opened on the campus of Kent State in 1936. A third store was opened in 1955 at the University of Cincinnati Campus.
“After over 75 years, DuBois is still a family-owned business in its fourth generation of family now involved in the daily operations, a real rarity in today’s business world. Both the Cincinnati store and the Oxford store still serve their communities today. We are proud to honor DuBois Bookstore as our second Business of the Year.”
As he accepted the award, John DuBois said, “It has been a very great run over 70 years and I am proud to be carrying on the family tradition and passing it on to my son. We are very near and dear to Oxford and we look forward to many years ahead.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH