The Station Square business and professional complex downtown is the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year.
Kat Wilson, who is Station Square’s facility operations manager, accepted the award from Chamber President and CEO David Farris during a gathering held Tuesday evening at Nash Community College to celebrate local small businesses.
Asked immediately afterward by the Telegram about how Station Square has been so successful as a small business, Wilson said, “Oh, that’s all Ben.”
Wilson was referring to her boss, Ben Braddock, who also is a real estate broker.
“He’s very intuitive,” Wilson said of Braddock.
Specifically, Wilson said Braddock sees opportunities nobody else sees.
Asked what the Chamber award means to Station Square, Wilson said, “It means that we can show our tenants that we appreciate them for being there.
“We’re almost at complete full occupancy,” she added.
The Chamber event on Tuesday evening was the first one since February 2020 that the local pro-business organization had with an in-person audience because of the coronavirus pandemic.
That event in February 2020 was the Chamber annual meeting, which also was held at Nash Community College. In February, the Chamber 2021 meeting was conducted via the internet.
The 2021 Small Business of the Year Award was hardly the only award presented Tuesday during the Chamber gathering.
The Downtown Small Business of the Year Award was presented to the Bin & Barrel wine bar, which also is in the Station Square complex.
The Legacy Small Business of the Year Award went to Bulluck Furniture, which also is downtown.
The Rising Star Award went to The Classy Couturier, which is a specialty bra-sizing and bra-fitting boutique off the Winstead Avenue corridor in the northwestern part of the city.
The Business Advocate Award went to broadcast journalist and Twin County Hall of Fame member Jean Almand Kitchin.
The People’s Choice Award went to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region.
Bin & Barrel is owned by Ryan Hicks and his wife, Sarah Hicks.
Sarah Hicks told the Telegram, “If it wasn’t for our amazing community, we wouldn’t be here.”
She noted the community enabled the business to survive amid the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Telegram asked Hicks what advice she would give a person opening or considering opening a small business.
“I would say be as involved as you can,” she said. “So although owning a small business is super time consuming, sometimes just taking the extra day or evening or opportunity to get out there and get in front of somebody you wouldn’t normally be able to get out in front of is key.”
Hicks also advised that the more one knows about that person’s business, the better opportunity there is to compete.
The Telegram asked Courtney Vitale, who manages The Classy Couturier, what she has learned that she would offer a person who wants to open a small business.
“I mean, it definitely is a give and take,” Vitale said.
Vitale made clear that a person has to make sure he or she is giving to the community and that there absolutely has to be a mutual relationship with clients.
Kitchin was president and CEO of Almand’s drugstores from 1998-2014.
Kitchin told the Telegram she has been interviewing people in the community for probably a quarter of a century.
Kitchin presently interviews the small businessperson of each month for the Chamber and co-hosts a new show on television station WHIG enabling one to phone in and ask questions of a variety of doctors.
Kitchin also serves in many capacities in the community, including as a member of the Nash UNC Health Care Board of Commissioners and as a member of the Central City Revitalization Panel.
Asked by the Telegram why she interviews people, she said, “Because I want people to have the chance to tell their story and I want people to really be able to see ’em.
“And I think we so need to support our local businesses,” she said. “And the more we can expose people to what businesses and services are local, the more likely they are to patronize ’em.”
Ron Green, president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tar River Region, told the Telegram of his organization receiving the Chamber honor on the heels of COVID-19.
Green also told the Telegram of his organization having to pivot and do some things outside of the proverbial box amid the pandemic.
“And this means a lot because we saw our young people really progress during some troubling times,” he said.