By Kelcey Caulder staff writer
The Madison Morgan Chamber of Commerce (MMCC) recently released its list of 2014-2015 award winners, recognizing two businesses and one entrepreneurial winner for their successes and accomplishments throughout the last year. The Brady Inn was named the hospitality award recipient, Mannington Mills was rewarded for its strides in manufacturing, and Ben Patel was recognized for his entrepreneurial talents. These businesses and individuals will be acknowledged for their accomplishments at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet on June 18 at the James Madison Inn Conference Center, 260 West Washington Street, at 6 p.m.
Bob Hughes, president of the MMCC, said that these award recipients were selected based on nominations from the chamber board and other involved businesses. “We try to look at what the winners have done over the last year and even beyond that to help improve the economy of Morgan County,” said Hughes. He continued, speaking directly about Mannington Mills and the Chamber’s decision to award them the Manufacturer of the Year award. “With Mannington’s expansions and the number of jobs and investments they are making they immediately came to the forefront of our minds.” Mannington Mills, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of residential and commercial flooring, was founded in Salem, New Jersey in 1915 and still works under the values of its original creators: “care, do the right thing, work hard/play hard, and control our own destiny.” According to Hughes, Mannington was considered a perfect choice for this year’s award because the company plans to increase the job market in Madison by 420 jobs within the next several years.
He also stated that Mannington’s fierce dedication to protecting and providing services for both its customers and the communities that it becomes a part of made the company stand apart from others considered for the award. “Mannington has always been a good corporate citizen through their involvement with the Chamber, the School System, United Way, and other community endeavors,” said Hughes. The Brady Inn, owned by Peter and Karen Wibell and this year’s hospitality award recipient, has been a part of the Madison community since 2006. Hughes said that it was a perfect choice for the hospitality award for many reasons including the Wibell’s constant dedication to providing guests with high quality service and their consistent attention to detail. Hughes cited a personal experience as being a perfect example of the type of business the Wibell’s run.
“As I was waiting to interview Karen and Peter, I overheard Peter talking to one of the guests over breakfast. The gentleman was in town because of a family funeral in Greensboro. He explained to Peter that, after the service, he would like to gather with the family over lunch and he asked if Peter could recommend a place to eat that could accommodate 10 people,” Hughes said. “Peter went to his stash of menus and brought over three who were open on Monday’s and proceeded to explain the options for lunch. He then volunteered to make reservations for the guests.” Hughes continued: “Peter’s willingness to put the customer first and to have solutions to the gentleman’s questions exemplifies Peter and Karen’s commitment to providing a lodging experience rather than just another room for their guests.” Karen Wibell, wife of Peter Wibell and part owner of the Brady Inn, said that the couple had been ecstatic when they were told about the award. “We were both very excited and honored to have received the award,” she said. “It means a lot to have the community acknowledge the work that we have put into the Inn and the services that we provide our guests.” Even with the new recognition the Wibell’s insist that they must always keep trying to improve their business.
“You can’t ever rest on your laurels,” said Karen Wibell. “We look at what we do as providing a service to the community every bit as much as we think of it as a business we are running. We can’t stop doing well. We have always liked to make sure that we provide everything our guests could possibly want, sometimes even before they could want it, and we want to provide guests with a home-feel so that they will want to get to know and love Madison.” She also said, “We don’t see guests as simply clients. We see them as people who could be our friends or as people who could move here, so we showcase what we offer and what the community offers. We provide the total experience. We certainly want to continue to improve what we do – to raise the bar and make that experience better for them. Our goal is to provide a consistent quality of service to every guest on every occasion whether they are only staying with us for one night, a wedding weekend, or for the 50th time.”
The Entrepreneur of the Year award was given to Ben Patel, a longtime resident of Morgan County, for his high energy, dedication to investing in restaurants, and consistency in creating jobs in the local area. Patel attended Morgan County High School in his youth and traveled to India following graduation. His experiences there led him to place high value on the entrepreneurial spirit and made him confident that he could achieve anything. He has since proved that to be true and is the proud owner of Pro-Care Cleaners, a Dairy Queen, Marco’s Pizza, and, soon, a Captain D’s.
According to Hughes, Patel made a great candidate for the Entrepreneur of the Year award because he understands both customer needs and the business involved in running a successful restaurant. “Ben worked during his school years at Pizza Hut, a Dairy Queen, and a dry cleaner, so he knew the workings of all three endeavors. Understanding the business is important,” Hughes said. “Understanding your customers’ needs is more important. One of the things that sets Ben apart is he recognized that to be successful in anything we do, business or otherwise, you have to have strong relationships. Ben works on building and maintaining those relationships every day. He tries to determine what his customers want and he delivers. If he can’t, he looks them in the eye and tells them why.”
Patel said that he never expected to be recognized by the community for doing his job. “I met with Bob and was really honored, and a little bit shocked, for even being nominated for the award at all. I wasn’t expecting it and never thought about it or saw it coming.” Patel also said that he hopes he will be able to continue to master different aspects of the business and that his goal is to improve with every new venture he takes on.