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Posted: April 8, 2015 DECI honors those who support and encourage a strong Downtown

Thirteen awards were handed out at Downtown Eau Claire, Inc.’s recent Annual Awards Dinner.  The dinner, held at Houligans Steak and Seafood Pub, is to celebrate the year’s accomplishments and to recognize many people, businesses, and organizations that contributed to the successes.

With more than 550 people from all over the community voting, the first award for Development of the Year went to JAMF Software.  The second award was for Renovation of the Year. Pizza Plus, with a new outdoor patio, and the newly remodeled upstairs, now called The Venue Apartments, received that award.  An owner, Benny Haas, says the dental office of the 1950s is still visible in the apartments, with the doors of the exam rooms still remaining.  He says those who stay there quip “it’s like New York City.” 

Downtown was home to 15 new businesses in 2014.  The coveted Best New Business honor went to Guppy’s Pizza on Water Street. Owners Joel and Tanya Gupton say they gave the former Jim’s Pizza a new name, but kept much of the same delectable menu.

DECI created a few new awards.  One is called the Downtown Experience Award.  It recognizes an event, entity or idea that involved people or exposed them to a positive Downtown experience, thus enhancing their enjoyment while living in or visiting the area.  Voters loved many things about the community, with the top vote getters being DECI’s Grand Evening on the Bridge, DECI’s Let it Glow! lights,  the Downtown Farmers Market, and the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series.  But it was The Local Store, with its products made locally or that evoke ‘local,’ that was number one.

“It’s important our community continues to build a stronger understanding and appreciation of its own talents and outputs-and highlighting the great stuff being made around us is a logical way to do that,” says owner Nick Meyer.

For a second year in a row, voters said Houligans Steak and Seafood Pub should receive the Best in Customer Service Award-Restaurant.  Best in Customer Service-Retail was awarded to The Local Store.   And people voted that the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library was Best in Customer Service-Service Industry.   Director of the Library, John Stoneberg says there are almost 1,300 daily visits to the library.  It employs 67 people with a total of 895 years of public sector experience.

DECI created another new award to recognize a person or group that puts Downtown first.  They make improvements that have had major impact in the downtown area, and contribute to the impact on how people feel about downtown.   Valleybrook Church received the first Downtown First Award for its work in partnering to organize the Our City Spring Clean Up.  Assistant Pastor Nate Abaun says, “ I love to see this community come together and serve our city.  There’s something so powerful about caring for the place you live.” 

Another new award is given to a person who has contributed to the growth, vitality, or overall appeal of Downtown, making it a better place to live, work, and visit.  For spending hours, donating his time to select, cut, donate, and decorate our Downtown Christmas tree, Sean Malone of Thomas Leigh Decorators, received the award for Outstanding Individual.  “The service we provide our clients is unique, so it seems fitting to give back to the community in a unique way.  It’s great to be able to provide something that is uplifting to a community,” says Malone.

DECI also created the Downtown Helping Hand Award, given to a business, organization, or individual that has helped others in a great way, in order to improve Downtown.  For its part in helping to create a successful A Grand Evening on the Bridge and Clearwater Winter Parade, and for helping neighbors, the entire West Grand Business Improvement was given this award by DECI.  Last year, the BID voted to help out the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild as its roof was leaking.  It voted to give the Guild a loan and businesses took a turn making a payment.  BID member Laura Girolamo of The Court ‘n House, says, “The more we can support our block, the better, because we don’t want to see our neighbors close their doors.”

DECI presented the Member of the Year Award to Citizens Community Federal, which has helped to create the magical Family Night in the Park, by helping to bring in the 25x14 foot inflatable movie screen.

The Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Randy Lee of Images by Lee Photography.  Lee has volunteered his time to photograph nearly all DECI events for the past two years.

DECI’s recipient of the Above and Beyond Award isn’t even in Downtown Eau Claire, but instead, has its main office in Chippewa Falls.  Northwestern Bank received the award for its support of the new A Grand Evening on the Bridge.  Northwestern Bank not only gave financial support, but helped in planning, setting up the event, and pledged support for 2015.

The bank’s vice president, Jerry Kuehl says, “We look to actively support all of our communities.  Downtown Eau Claire is (arguably) the heart of Western Wisconsin and it’s only natural that we need to do our part to support, promote, and grow it.” 

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