Chamber, Rotary honor businesses

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce has named its Businesses of the Year and its nonprofit organization of 2021.

In conjunction, the Rotary Club of Anna Maria has named its Businessperson of the Year for 2020.

The Center of Anna Maria Island is the Chamber’s 2021 Nonprofit of the Year, AMI Beach Weddings is the Chamber’s 2021 Small Business of the Year, Ocean-Aire Conditioning is the Chamber’s 2021 Medium Business of the Year, and Barnes Walker is the Chamber’s 2021 Large Business of the Year.

Former Swordfish Grill General Manager Bob Slicker is the Anna Maria Island Rotary Club’s Businessperson of 2020.

The honors were bestowed upon the unknowing winners during a Thursday, Nov. 19 ceremony held on the patio of the Beach House restaurant in Bradenton Beach.

Rotarian Laurie Beppler presented Slicker with his award.

“Bob is a true humanitarian,” Beppler said, citing Slicker’s work with the Blessing Bags Project and Hurricane Laura victims in Lake Charles, La. among his many charitable endeavors.

When accepting the award, Slicker said, “Things like this happen by surrounding yourself with good people. I feel blessed and grateful. Thank you all so very much.”

Chamber President Terri Kinder then called up the members of this year’s Chamber awards committee.

Committee member Karen LaPensee, of LaPensee Plumbing Pools & Air, recognized this year’s finalists and asked them to gather at the front of the room before the committee members announced the winners.

“And to the winners we go,” LaPensee said when introducing the Nonprofit of the Year.

“Our winner in this category has been a backbone in our community for 50 years. Ever evolving, they’ve strived to advance the overall well-being of individuals for all ages, preserve a sense of community and offer creative programming and partnership,” LaPensee said.

Island Players’ board member Diane Phinney then announced The Center as this year’s winner.

Jim McDaniel and David Zaccagnino accepted the award on The Center’s behalf.

“Every business here knows we’ve had obstacles in 2020, especially being a nonprofit. Jim and Chris (Culhane) have done an outstanding job and we couldn’t do it without our community,” Zaccagnino said.

Moving on, LaPensee said, “The winner of the 2021 Small Business of the Year started their business from scratch. Continuously involved with the community and striving to improve the business through excellent customer service, she has provided the weddings of her client’s dreams.”

AAA Payroll Services co-founder Mike Southwick announced AMI Beach Weddings as the winner.

When accepting the award, owner Karen Riley-Love said, “I want to thank my son Jack. He helps me with my weddings. He is my organizer and keeps me calm and centered and makes sure everything is where it needs to be.”

Moving on, LaPensee said, “The winner of the Medium Business of the Year believes their key to success is communication with staff and customers. In an ever-changing world, the coronavirus has added significant issues to overcome. Challenging and adapting, they have exceeded their previous sales records. Their motto: ‘The virus will not stop them.’ ”

Suzanne Arbanas, of the Compass by Margaritaville, then announced Ocean-Aire Conditioning as the winner.

“I appreciate this very much. I’ve been in business here since 1979. It’s a long time – and seeing so many changes, I hope the new ones help. Bless you all,” owner Bill Long said.

When presenting the final award, LaPensee said, “The winners of the Large Business of the Year focus on providing timely, precise and practical solutions to their customers. Surviving the ‘great recession,’ their business dropped 83%, to rebound and grow to 45 employees. They continue to encourage shared values, open communication and a strong belief in excellence and community.”

Mixon Fruit Farms co-owner Janet Mixon then announced Barnes Walker, a five-office law firm and title company, as the winner.

When accepting the award, Branch Manager Faith Test said, “I like to say we make peoples’ dreams come true. Thank you all.”

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