ROYAL OAK — It’s a glittering evening full of Who’s Whos in Talbot's business community, a chance for hard-working folks to sit back, get a good meal and be congratulated for all that they do, day in and day out to make it in the business world.
More than 130 people in Talbot's business network and their supporters packed The Oaks Waterfront Inn for the annual Talbot Chamber of Commerce Awards Thursday evening, August 22.
The crowd mingled for an hour with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, then sat down to a sumptuous feast that got raves, served by Executive Chef Paul Milne and his staff at The Oaks. As a strawberry shortcake dessert was served, the program began.
Each honoree was announced, then supporters were treated to a short film about the business leader, created by videographer Chris Dorr of Nerve Center Media.
There was lots of applause and a few standing ovations as presentations were made.
Hopkins Sales Co. Inc. was named the 2019 Outstanding Small Business of the Year. The business is located at 800 Lomax Street Easton. It started out as a grocery wholesaler in 1958 then quickly evolved into a supplier of paper products, janitorial supplies, coffee, foodservice, commercial kitchen equipment and supplies.
Owner Jake Schmidt and his family recently celebrated 60 years of business.
In the film, Schmidt told the story about Philip Hopkins offering Schmidt the business in 1974 and how family members started offering money to help buy it over the Thanksgiving dinner table.
“I’m delighted, overwhelmed quite frankly,” Schmidt said after he was handed the award.”Sixty years in the business, 45 of it was with my family.” He praised the Hopkins family and their 15 years in business.
“We appreciate all who participate and buy from us,” he said, expressing gratitude.
Easton Dermatology Associates was named the 2019 Outstanding Large Business of the Year.
The business specializes in treating all conditions of the hair, skin and nails, with constantly improving and keeping ahead of the latest techniques in dermatology. They are located at 403 Marvel Court in Easton.
“When we started this business in 2003 we had three employees and zero patients,” Dr. Michael Del Torto said. “We just saw our 54,000th patient and we currently have 42 full-time employees.
He praised his “wonderful employees” and had them all stand up.
“There’s one person that I want to give special recognition to, and that’s our office manager, Melissa Paugh,” Del Torto said. “She’s been with us for 14 of the 16 years we’ve been in business.”
Del Torto was noted as being the first physician on the Chamber’s Board of Directors, a “real milestone” for the Chamber, according to Al Silverstein. Del Torto’s partner, Dr. Donald Stranahan, thanked the chamber for the award.
“We really love what we do and it’s our honor to serve our patients in the community,” Stranahan said. “And support our local charities and businesses.”
The practice gives back to the community by offering free skin cancer screenings each year and sponsoring high school students wishing to pursue a career in medicine. They also support other organizations such as Talbot Special Riders, Talbot Hospice’s Festival of Trees, the annual Polar Bear Plunge and Little League.
The 2019 Businesswoman of the Year award was given to Easton attorney Jennifer Williams and her business, Settlement Matters.
Williams is a former Talbot County Council member and a “true advocate for small business.”
“I can’t think of a more deserving person for the Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year than Jennifer Williams,” Joe Petro said on video.
Petro’s business, Snifters Craft Beer and Wine Bistro, was made possible through the efforts of Williams, according to Petro. He said Williams, her fellow Talbot County Council members Chuck Callahan and Corey Pack worked long and hard at legislation that introduced bistro licenses in Talbot County.
“If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here,” Petro said.
“She’s so well-respected that Jennifer was elected president and served on the Mid-Shore Board of Realtors,” Debbie Leber said. “The only non-realtor to hold this position.”
“As a Talbot County Council member, Jennifer championed for small business owners, companies and citizens of Talbot county and was never afraid to stand on her principles,” Leber said, adding that the Chamber had made a great choice.
“I don’t know how to top that,” Williams said after receiving her award and a standing ovation. She thanked the chamber and Talbot County for all the opportunities to be part of the community.
“I wouldn’t trade this community for anywhere in the world,” Williams said. “I think we are all very fortunate to live in a community where volunteerism is such a part of the fabric of our lives.”
The 2019 Outstanding Businessman of the Year award was given to Jeff Frederick, vice president of Fred Frederick Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Easton.
Frederick’s corporation is based upon a “hard-working, customer-responsive approach to business” according to the chamber’s video, and that is the personification of Jeff Frederick.
Under Frederick’s leadership, the dealership has received multiple recognitions, including Chrysler’s Five Star status. He is a dedicated supporter of many causes.
Andrew Tawney said that Frederick has been particularly generous with the Toys For Tots campaign during the holidays.
“We collect the toys, we drop them off there, we count them there, we use his vans to load them up, move them to the Tidewater and he’s always there to, you know, offer us help in any way that we need it,” Tawney said. “So it’s a humongous part of the Toys For Tots mission that Jeff is able to really help us.”
“Thank you,” Frederick said. “I’m not sure I deserve such an honor but I am grateful for receiving it.”
He said he moved to Easton 24 years ago not knowing how long he would last but it didn’t take many years before he started telling people the longer he lives here, the less he likes the western shore.
Frederick said that in the last four years, the Fred Frederick organization has contributed about $500,000 to local charitable organizations and about half of that to Mid-Shore recipients.
“I want to thank my family as well for tolerating my long hours and my occasional grumpiness,” he said emotionally. “I’m humbled and thank you for this honor.” Frederick received a standing ovation.
Andrew Tawney was named the 2019 Outstanding Young Professional of the Year.
Tawney has served on the Chamber’s Young Professionals board for more than 8 years, including a stint as president.
“I can’t think of a more deserving person for the Outstanding Young Professional than Andrew Tawney,” Adam Jones said. “A great volunteer in the community and he loves giving back.”
Jones said Tawney helps build the float for the Toys For Tots in Easton’s holiday parade, wears a giant Leprechaun hat in the Potato Race during St. Patricks Day, participates in Paddlejam and has been the emcee at the Young Professionals annual luncheon.
Causes he supports include the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Talbot Hospice and Easton Lions Club.
“I am so honored to receive this award,” Tawney said. He said he could hardly believe that he was included in the all-star line-up of honorees. “It really is humbling."
Tawney said that as an Easton native, he wanted to give back to the community that “gave me so much.”
Talbot Hospice was named the 2019 Outstanding Not-For-Profit Business of the Year.
Founded in 1981, Talbot Hospice is the county resource for hospice, palliative care, and grief support services, serving patients at home, in nursing homes or in their 12-bed Hospice House on Cynwood Drive. They provide patient and family care, community education and advocate for patients.
Executive Director Vivian Dodge accepted the award.
“This award represents the creativity, the vision, the dedication, the commitment, the hard work of my team,” she said.
She said there are two kinds of people who work at Talbot Hospice. Those that care for those who need their care, and those who are supporting those who care for patients.
Dodge said that both groups were present, along with board members and those who lead volunteers.
“I would like to thank the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce for recognizing and realizing the importance of end-of-life care,” Dodge said. “And for valuing all the other services we provide in the community.”
The 2019 Community Service Award was awarded to Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble.
Gamble brought “Talbot Goes Purple” to the county, a substance abuse awareness program that has engaged young people to stand up against substance abuse, particularly opioid addiction.
Towns and businesses are decorated in purple, people wear purple, at night time purple lights glow all over the county to show support, and more.
Talbot Goes Purple is modeled on Project Purple, an initiative of the Herren Project, a non-profit established by NBA basketball player Chris Herren that assists those struggling with addiction.
Gamble’s initiative is presented through the Sheriff’s Office and Tidewater Rotary in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.
Gamble was moved to start the Talbot Goes Purple initiative after hearing that former students that he had coached had become addicted.
During the video, Talbot Chamber praised Gamble, Lucie Hughes of Tidewater Rotary and the Talbot Goes Purple movement for shifting the conversation on opioid abuse to one that is more supportive, more informative and more productive.
“Seventy to eighty percent of all the crime in this county, all the burglaries, robberies, it’s all substance abuse related,” Gamble said during the video. “And ninety percent of that crime is all opiate related, where they are just trying to find money to get high. Deep down inside, these are very broken people.”
Gamble said he believed that education was key to overcoming the struggle. His Talbot Goes Purple campaign was greeted enthusiastically by hundreds of people, students, parents, families, organizations, businesses, government and beyond.
The purple movement happens every September and is about to begin again. These days, other surrounding counties, including Kent, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Sussex in Delaware have taken up the purple cause.
Gamble was unable to attend, being home recovering from surgery on his spleen, as explained by his wife Mary Gamble as she accepted the award for him.
“He really has a heart for young people,” his wife said. She said he has coached kids for 27 years and learned firsthand about the opioid problem.
She read a statement from her husband thanking the chamber for his award.
“It is truly an honor to accept this award,” Mary Gamble read from her husband’s statement. “Without the great people of Talbot County, this award, and most importantly, our message would not be possible.”
He wrote that it was a team effort and recognized Lucie Hughes of Tidewater Rotary; Kelley Callaghan from Soul Candy Media; Valerie Albee; Bruce Strazza and the “whole recovery community;” Kelley Griffith of Talbot County Public Schools; Easton Utilities; The Star Democrat; Talbot Chamber, many of the churches, town governments, county council, Easton, Oxford, Trappe and St. Michaels; Jennifer Williams; The Watermen’s Association and over 100 volunteers from all over the county. From the sheriff’s office he thanked Steve Elliott, Scott Merganthaler, Steve Hall, Joey Timms, J.R. Dobson and many others, including many deputies on his staff.
“Thank you for all your selflessness and your love for the people of Talbot County,” the sheriff wrote.
Along with Chamber awards, honorees received citations from the offices of U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), U. S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, state Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37B-Talbot, and Del. Chris Adams, R-37B-Wicomico.
The 2019 Talbot Chamber Awards Banquet was organized under the leadership of Amy Kreiner, who is vice president of marketing, communications and special events for the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce.