From Cheriton on the Eastern Shore to Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley, Norfolk in Hampton Roads and Prince George and Sedley in southeastern Virginia, the five winners represent some of the most resilient businesses in Virginia – those which display growth, a dogged entrepreneurial spirit, and commitment to community in areas facing high unemployment, high poverty and low entrepreneurial activity.
All 11 finalists were honored at the ceremony, held in the Abbott Center Auditorium at the Darden School and attended by state and local officials, economic development and business leaders and Darden representatives.
“These winners represent resilience in the classic sense of the word,” said Greg Fairchild, E. Thayer Bigelow Research Chair at Darden. “In the face of some daunting challenges, they have bent but not broken, adapted, and become stronger for their efforts. With annual double-digit growth rates in profit and employment and a clear commitment to their communities, these Main Street businesses have accomplished something that anyone interested in business would do well to learn from. It is our pleasure to share their stories and highlight their success.”
The winners were chosen from 11 finalists, 21 semifinalists and a total of 59 Virginia businesses that submitted applications to the Resilience Awards website between April 30 and July 2:
• Retail Sector: A Bowl of Good Café Inc., Harrisonburg
When landlords raised the rent, owners Katrina Didot and Rachael Rose had to make a tough decision: pay more, or start over in a new location without much equipment and risk losing customers. They gave up their storefront, took out a favorable loan and moved into a new, eco-friendly space to continue providing quality “slow food, served fast.” The new location has served them well and a second location is in the works. As a way to give back to the community, A Bowl of Good Café supports many local charities, and for the past two years has raised money for Haiti relief efforts – more than $4,000 in 2011. Didot and Rose also look to promote understanding of different cultures around the world with events like “Haiti Market” night, weekly international story time and the World Cup, viewed live at the restaurant.
• Agriculture Sector: Ballard Fish & Oyster Co. Inc., Cheriton
For more than a century, the Ballard family has run its namesake seafood business on the Eastern Shore. Today Chad Ballard III, who represents the fifth generation to run the business, oversees a sustainable aquaculture operation that raises clams and six types of oysters. Since taking the helm in 2008, Ballard has ushered in a new era of growth, diversified the product mix and expanded into new markets. Ballard Fish & Oyster Co. Inc. is the country’s leading producer of farm-raised, hard-shell clams, growing more than 75 million annually. The company is also one of the largest employers in Northampton County, with more than 170 employees.
• Chairman’s Award: Hubbard Peanut Co. Inc., Sedley
During its nearly 60 years in business, the Hubbard Peanut Company has endured numerous setbacks, including a fire that destroyed a key part of their facility, the closure of the local paper mill and challenges beyond their control within the peanut industry. Despite these obstacles, the company – most recognized for its Hubs brand peanuts – has persevered. Dot and HJ Hubbard started the Sedley-based company in 1954 using a unique peanut cooking process, and their daughter, company president Lynne Rabil, continues to manage it with their founding values and the welfare of the community in mind. The company’s location in a disadvantaged area has inspired Hubbard to support local schools. Hubbard’s owners and managers lead many civic organizations and helped form a Junior ROTC program at Franklin High School. Despite continuing challenges, the company still gives back through “Helping through Hubs,” a program that returns a percentage of sales to nonprofits that buy its product.
• Service Sector: ODUrent.com, Norfolk
Where others saw only aging, run-down neighborhoods plagued by crime, dilapidated buildings and weed-choked properties, Thanos Polizos saw opportunity. In 1999, he began purchasing and renovating multi-family properties in Norfolk’s Lamberts Point and Highland Park neighborhoods adjacent to his alma mater, Old Dominion University. Thirteen years later, with more than 100 properties and 500 student tenants, Polizos’ company, ODUrent.com, has a 99 percent occupancy rate and is the University’s largest off-campus housing provider. Property values in the neighborhoods have increased with a commensurate decrease in crime. Today, the ODUrent.com portfolio of properties is valued at $25 million.
• Manufacturing/Wholesale Sector: Service Center Metals, Prince George
In the decade since its founding, aluminum extrusion manufacturer Service Center Metals has become a benchmark for American manufacturing, recognized as an industry leader in innovation and customer service. The company was formed by former Reynolds Metals Company executives R. Scott Kelley, R. Randolph “Randy” Weis and Lloyd S. “Chip” Dollins Jr., who worked a combined 39 years for the country’s second-largest aluminum manufacturer. Today, SCM has the second-largest market share in the industry and employs 120 individuals producing superior quality rod, bar, pipe, angles, channels, I-beams and custom shapes. From its Prince George facility, SCM supplies extruded aluminum shapes exclusively to aluminum service centers, which resell products to manufacturers. The company has sold more than a half-billion pounds of extrusions to the service center industry.
In addition to five announced winners, one business is selected for distinction by the chairman of the judging panel, W. Tayloe Murphy Jr. This year, Hubbard Peanut Co. Inc. received this recognition for displaying outstanding qualities of resilience and commitment to community.
In addition to the winning firms, other finalists were:
- EXCEL Management Services Inc., Richmond
- Griffith Lumber Company, Woolwine
- Office Plus Business Centre, Danville
- Silver Gallery, Waynesboro
- Stuart Land & Cattle Co., Rosedale
- Sunset Digital Communications Inc., Duffield
To help spur economic growth and entrepreneurial efforts in hard-hit areas of the commonwealth, Tayloe Murphy Resilience Award winners receive more than recognition from one of the best business schools in the country. Through ongoing media coverage, opportunities to engage key business and government leaders and enrollment in a week-long Executive Education course at Darden – valued at $8,000 to $12,000 – Resilience Award winners will gain visibility and resources to help their company and community continue to grow and succeed.