Seven local businesses were honoured Oct. 23 during the Airdrie Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd annual Airdrie Business Awards ceremony at the Bert Church LIVE Theatre.
The gala was different from previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic – the ceremony was split into two portions, and attendance was limited to nominees, sponsors and Chamber officials. Still, the evening remained a celebration of Airdrie’s top businesses.
Pauls Pizza Steakhouse and Lounge ended the night by taking home the Business of the Year Award. After the gala, co-owner Hamdi Elsaghir, who operates the restaurant alongside her two sons, said she was humbled that her restaurant received the distinction.
“We are honoured because I believe we’re the first restaurant to win this award in the history of the Chamber awards,” she said. “It’s truly an honour and I couldn’t have done it without my team, who are a very big part of Pauls, and also without the community’s support.”
Elsaghir credited Pauls’ consistent food, service and charitable identity with winning the award.
"We’re a household name, I believe, in Airdrie, and we’ve become a household name in Alberta as well," she said. "We get people coming from all over for our pizzas – we get people from as far as Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge and B.C. We’ve even had customers buy our pizzas and send them in the mail to relatives, even as far as the East Coast.”
She also highlighted the restaurant’s charitable work – most notably, its weekly Pauls Pizza with a Purpose initiative, which her son Farouk started last year.
“Every Monday night, for every pizza we sell we donate $2 to the charity of the week, which is always a local charity,” she said. “Over the last year, with that program alone, we’ve donated over $18,000.”
Another Airdrie restaurateur who was all smiles Oct. 23 was Carolyn Clarke, co-owner of Flavours of Montreal. The Quebec-inspired restaurant, which opened on Main Street in May 2019, won the Emerging Business Award.
Tires on the Run, a mobile business that offers tire-related services, received the Business Innovation Award.
“I’ve got a guy who works for me, who is kind of a redneck genius – Lyle Stearns – and he came up with the idea of using a bus and turning it into a tire shop,” owner Roger Foster said. “My first reaction to him was a very un-churchlike word, followed by 'crazy.' But he won me over on it and it’s been good and really fantastic.”
Two performing arts companies were recognized with awards. Luxstone-based Ambition Performing Arts ended the night with the Employer Excellence Award, while Starbound Dance Company (SDC) received the Legacy Business Award, which is given to a business that is independently owned and operated and has been in Airdrie for at least 15 years.
“It just means the world to me to be included…with all the people in this room,” said SDC owner and director Kendra Masters-Phillips. “I really looked into these businesses and what’s crazy is I go to so many of your stores and I use so many of your services. I just look up to everyone so much and it’s such a big deal to me. Leaving a legacy through our students, staff, teachers and the incredible families I work with is just my greatest goal, so thank you so much.”
Another long-standing Airdrie business that received an award was Fulton’s Home Hardware Building Centre, which was recognized with the Franchise Business Award.
Jacqui Jepson, owner of the Pink Wand Cleaning Services Ltd., was emotional as she received the Airdrie Business Leader Award, stating it was the one-year anniversary of her grandfather's passing.
“It makes it extra special that today, I’m recognized for leadership, so thank you for that,” she said. “Every person who was nominated tonight, I can call a dear friend. I’m grateful for the amazing community we live in. Airdrie has provided me with the opportunity to run a phenomenal business and it has been a huge part of my business success.”
This year marked the first time the awards were opened to community votes. According to Airdrie Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marilyne Aalhus, more than 5,000 votes were cast for the Airdrie Business Awards and 36 finalists were named for the seven categories.