Chamber of Commerce honors the 'Best of Wheaton'

WHEATON – Each year, residents recognize their favorite restaurants, businesses and nonprofits with the “Best of Wheaton” awards.

Sponsored by the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, the awards have become a bit of a tradition, honoring local organizations for the last six years.

Chamber Executive Director Kerry O’Brien said she believes the awards, which were distributed March 6 at the Hilton of Lisle/Naperville, help stores spread the word about and improve their services.

“It certainly gives them some feedback from their customers and other chamber members that they appreciate that they’re here doing business in Wheaton,” she said. “Hopefully people learn from each other.”

More than 8,500 online votes were tallied in the nearly three-week-long process, which included eight categories and nearly 50 nominees.

O’Brien said the chamber added a new component this year – a blind evaluation by a panel of chamber members. Nominees filled out an anonymous questionnaire talking about their niche in the business community and how their chamber membership has effected their business. Winners in each category were given an added 20 percent of the votes they received online.

Bricks Wood Fired Pizza co-owner Bill Wilson, whose restaurant won “Best Casual Dining,” said he was “thrilled,” especially because of the stiff competition in the category.

“We are so new, we just had our one year anniversary, so we didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “We were very, very pleasantly surprised.”

Wilson said he thought the award was a sign of good things to come.

“It can do nothing but help us in an extreme fashion,” he said. “The whole idea is to get your name out, so we’re not only getting our name out, but we’re getting our name out with a badge of honor.”

People’s Resource Center Executive Director Kim Perez said winning an award both this year and in 2013 means a lot to the organization and those who support it, despite its being a well-established name in the area.

“Having the community give us their stamp of approval by voting for the People’s Resource Center in this kind of situation is an honor for us,” she said. “It allows us to raise awareness of what we’re trying to do from a community perspective to make a difference in DuPage County and how important our home in Wheaton is to making that possible.”

In a way, she said, members of the community were voting for themselves by voting for the nonprofit to win in the “Best Social Services” category.

“It’s incredibly humbling to be recognized in this way, knowing that it’s not the organization, it’s the people that contribute to the organization,” she said. “We are just a conduit of people helping people ... and the neighbors who voted for us in this Wheaton Chamber celebration are often the people helping us do what we do.”

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And the winner is ...

Large business: Wheaton Park District
Small retail business: Graham's Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream
Small service business: Namaste Lifestyle Salon & Spa
Small health and wellness: Bauer Orthodontics
Casual dining: Bricks Wood Fired Pizza & Cafe
Fine dining: Ivy
Social services: People's Resource Center
Arts and community enrichment: Wheaton Drama