Five small businesses awarded at GSCCC luncheon

PELHAMThe Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce hosted its Small Businesses of the Year community luncheon on Wednesday, May 23, where awards were given to multiple Shelby County business owners.

The event, which took place at the Pelham Civic Complex, celebrated the impact that small businesses have on communities. Dozens of businesses were nominated and one winner was chosen in five different categories.

The businesses were evaluated based on the following criteria: staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales or unit volume, response to adversity and evidence of contribution to aid community-oriented projects.

The five categories were: business with one to five employees and open one year or more; business with six to 10 employees and open one year or more; business with 11-20 employees and open one year or more; business with 21 or more employees and open one year or more; and new business with less than 25 employees and open less than one year.

Customs Café in Hoover was the winner in the one to five employee category; in the six to 10 employee category, Sawyer Solutions LLC, of Pelham, was named the winner; K and J’s Elegant Pastries of Alabaster was the winner in the 11-20 employees category, Pelham Eye Care won in the business with 21 or more employees category; and for the business with less than 25 employees and open less than one year, Vinehouse Nursery was named the winner.

Teresa White, who co-owns Customs Café with Craig Casiday, said the restaurant opened almost 10 years ago. It business started under a different name and was located in Hoover Public Library, but in November 2017 the business moved to its current location on Montgomery Highway.

“I was so very surprised to win,” White said. “I know a lot of the other business owners nominated and I respect them a lot, so winning was really an honor.”

White said she and Casiday spent several years developing their concept, which features home-stlye foods from around the world. The menu is made up of traditional and featured international foods. The international menu changes each month to give guests a taste of foods from around the world. The month of June will feature French foods.

Kristal and Jonathan Bryant, co-owners of K and J’s Elegant Pastries, said they were thrilled and felt blessed to receive such an honor.

“You invest so much time and effort into a business and to see it pay off, words can’t describe the feeling,” Kristal Bryant said.

Khiari McAlpin, owner of child development center Vinehouse Nursery, said she was shocked to win an award because her business has only been open for seven months.

“To be nominated was exciting itself, but to win the award took me over the top,” McAlpin said.

McAlpin said Vinehouse Nursery provides a nurturing learning environment for babies 6 weeks to 18 months, but the facility plans to begin accepting 2-4 year olds in August.   

Before the award winners were announced, Betsy McAtee, CEO of Dreamland Bar-B-Que, shared with the audience the story of how Dreamland has grown from a single small business into the regionally known brand it is today.

She shared some business tips with the small business owners that she said helped shape the core of the Dreamland Bar-B-Que brand, such as the importance of making sure that customer experience is always a focal point.