CANTON — Members of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce virtually poured some bubbly on Nov. 19 to celebrate success and encourage continued perseverance in the midst of 2020’s onslaught of challenges.
The annual awards ceremony usually garners a prodigious share of the county’s business leaders both in larger firms and smaller upstarts for a night of mingling, congratulations and celebration as they close the books on another year. In an unsurprising reflection of the times, this year’s event took place virtually, and the strained atmosphere for businesses amid the pandemic wasn’t hidden.
“We thank our business community for reaching deep into every ounce of creativity and energy to keep going, to navigate, pivot and make the best of the situation. This is not over, but we’re here to hustle with you as always and for as long as it takes,” outgoing Chamber Executive Director Brooke Rouse said in her opening remarks.
Still, the chamber did give out three annual awards, the chief of which is its business of the year award. The 2020 recipient of the award was the St. Lawrence Arts Council, a nonprofit that the chamber’s board felt deserved the distinction particularly for the way it continued boosting programming and encouraging supporting the arts even as the sector was dealt major blows by pandemic-related closures.
“I want to thank our whole north country community for supporting each other, and I want to thank the inherently creative group of people I get to work with for helping SLC Arts stay busy and relevant,” arts council Executive Director Maggie McKenna said while accepting the award.
The chamber also honored a business centered around handcrafted goods each year. This year’s producer of the year was Apothecary Chocolates by Five Elements Living, a small business based in Colton.
“We designed a line of chocolate that tastes uniquely incredible, indulgently luxurious and strengthens our commitment to our local curators who share our philosophy,” Executive Director Shelby Connelly said.
The chamber also presented its award for customer service excellence to Gouverneur-based pharmacy and convenience store chain Kinney Drugs. Judy Cowden, Kinney Drugs’ Senior Director of Marketing and Advertising, accepted the award and emphasized how much it meant to the employees who continued working on the front lines during the onset of the pandemic.
“It’s especially meaningful this year to receive this award and we’re all extremely grateful for the recognition,” Ms. Cowden said. “I also think it occurred to me that Kinney Drugs, we were around in the last pandemic, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. We lived through that and we were there through that and we’re going to get through this one, too.”