Madison Doyle, story and photos:
The Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual banquet and awards dinner Thursday, December 8th at the Hidden Homestead event venue in Chalybeate. This year's crowd was a little larger than in years past, which the Chamber said they were glad to see.
Chalybeate Food Mart was honored with Chamber Business of the Year and James "Hoppy" Decker was honored with Chamber Citizen of the Year.
The night started by Chamber President Darren Doyle addressing the crowd, thanking them for supporting and being receptive to the new Chamber of Commerce board, which went into effect in January of this year. During the dinner, catered by Walden's Barbecue, Doyle gave a recap of events that the Chamber facilitated throughout the year, which included the Big Brownsville Bash, the fall Chamber cookout, annual golf scramble, Veterans luncheon, and many more. Doyle said he and the rest of the Chamber board were very pleased with the growth of the Chamber this year, with a booming 22 new members, making 116 total members, which he said was an all-time high. He also added that the Chamber facilitated nine different ribbon cuttings in 2022.
James "Hoppy" Decker, a long time Edmonson County bus driver and custodian, was surprised and humbled when his name was announced. Doyle said once Decker was nominated to the Chamber board for the award, all nominations were ceased and it was unanimously voted upon that Decker would be the recipient, for the influence he has had on countless Edmonson County students and many more to come.
This year's Business of the Year winner was Chalybeate Food Mart, owned by Manish and Nisha Patel. The Patels could not be in attendance, as they recently traveled to back to their original community in India with family. Chalybeate Food Mart Store Manager Stephanie Newton accepted the award on their behalf. Doyle also said the food mart was chosen unanimously from the board with no further nominations.
The Patels have become community favorites after purchasing Chalybeate Food Mart a few years ago. They remodeled the store, made improvements to the fueling stations, and began serving hot, fresh food. However, Doyle said it was the customer service and friendliness of the Patels that begin to win customers over. In addition, Doyle said the Patels have served as an example to other businesses how to give back to their community, donating to many school, civic, and other community-related causes throughout the years.
"The award winners were chosen at the November Chamber board meeting," Doyle told the Edmonson Voice. "Manish was so humbled when I told him in-person that his business had been chosen, but he was also upset because they had planned a trip back to India through Christmas with his extended family and would be gone when the ceremony took place."
The Patels were able to meet the Edmonson Voice before they left for their trip for a photo with the award. Patel said they would have a 14-hour flight to Dubai, then another 6-hour flight to their family.
"Our Chamber is growing and our board is working to see that growth continues," Doyle said. "This year's award winners were very deserving and we look forward to a great year in 2023."
Visit edmonsonchamber.com to become a member.