By Beverly Keller
The milestones of three businesses, one service club and one individual were shared last Thursday night as part of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau’s annual meeting.
“Things have really turned around,” noted Holmes County Commissioner Ray Eyler. “The continuous growth and fiscal responsibility we have shown have led to a financially stable economy. We have over $1.1 million in what used to be known as the Rainy Day Fund.”
He praised the businesses both large and small that continue to bring in employees to the tune of 2,300 per day to the area. “Employees that come here are spending money here and that is good,” he said.
Eyler also noted the importance of working with others and infrastructure improvement, noting the recent work done in Mt. Hope and new work on the horizon in Winesburg. He also lauded the local contractors who have been used on various projects including the beautification of the courthouse area that was made possible, in part, by Holmes County’s share of casino taxes that just went over the $3 million mark, cumulatively.
Executive Director Shasta Mast noted that picking the award winners for the annual gala is a tough task. “We are picking a rose among roses and a diamond among diamonds,” she explained.
Following a traditional Holmes County dinner, awards were presented to the Small Business of the Year – Kauffman Lawn Furniture; Medium Business of the Year – Mast Farm Service; Large Business of the Year – Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen; Community Service Award – Millersburg Rotary Club and Lifetime Achievement Award – Mark Lonsinger.
Kauffman Lawn Furniture has grown leaps and bounds since it started in 1994. “They are dedicated to locally-sourcing products as much as possible,” explained presenter Vic Weaver of the Killbuck Savings Bank.
This Berlin business is operated by David Kauffman and his family and providing the best quality at a fair price is paramount. David noted his appreciation in being named as the Small Business of the Year.
Named as the Medium Business of the Year was Mast Farm Service. Eli Mast has made this business his passion. In fact, he started welding at the age of 14 and hasn’t stopped. In 1985, the business started as a one-man operation. “Today, the company has over 40 employees,” explained Brian Kempf of Rea and Associates who presented the honor. “They service both local and national accounts with their custom needs.”
The company is focused on faith within the family-run schematic. “This truly is an honor,” Mast said of the award. “A business is never developed by one person. It is because of everyone.”
He noted that the early years were tough and sometimes his wife would give him a look because the costs were greater than the income.
Mast pointed to one employee – Merle Troyer – for his faithful service. “He has been a mechanic and a welder, in management and sales and I even saw him sweep the floors,” Mast said of the 28-year employee.
The tastes of Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope were weaved into the presentation of Rob Hovis from Edward Jones to the Large Business of the Year recipient. And with good reason as the speech was seasoned with a generous helping of Mrs. Yoder’s chicken and incredible mashed potatoes and cemented with pie.
The story of Mrs. Yoder’s can be traced back to a dream of Gloria’s when she was in high school. After years of operating Yoder’s Amish Home, the time came in 1993 to build a restaurant in Mt. Hope. While many thought Eli and Gloria were crazy, they worked hard and were ready to open on September 7, 1994. The business has grown from 30 employees to 80, including 15 cooks and a manager, Robert Burkholder. On their busiest day ever in October 2017, they served up 90 gallons of mashed potatoes.
“We have a lot to be thankful for,” Gloria noted. “We have been blessed as a business, as a family. The community has supported us. They have been critical when we needed it. They have kept us going.”
Mark Longsinger, a name synonymous with Holmes County, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Bob Boss. “This award is about the things he didn’t get paid for,” Boss said. “It is about the things he has given to the community.”
Lonsinger noted he was “totally blown away” when he got the call from Shasta concerning the award.
The community service honor was awarded to the Millersburg Rotary for their on-going support of Millersburg and Holmes County. He praised his partner of 30 years, Cheryl for making his dream a reality. “If it weren’t for Cheryl, I may have never taken the opportunity to come to Holmes County,” he said. “But she told me, ‘you’ll never know if you don’t try.’ So I did.”
Lonsinger praised the community for accepting him. “I appreciate all of you more than you’ll ever know. There is no way I can ever thank all of you for what you have done for me.”