CONCORD -- The 13th annual Contra Costa Small Business Award Luncheon honored 14 serial entrepreneurs as event host Contra Costa Council marked 2013 as a year when retro trades and high-tech industries came together.
At the Concord Hilton, government officials like guest speaker Congressman George Miller mingled with a shoe repairman, wonders of a longtime family meat and deli business, community paper publishers and the event's keynote speaker, 3-D printing guru and FATHOM principal Rich Stump.
Combined, their enterprising spirits supply Contra Costa County residents with tools for life. Your doctor has the latest tools (Brentwood), your kids take Karate (Pittsburg) while you practice Pilates (Concord). While having your shoes repaired (Martinez), you can read a community paper (Pleasant Hill) or a book (Lafayette) and eat a terrific sandwich (Martinez). Full-service gas (Orinda) will fill the car you insure (Danville) and if it breaks down, you can find tools to repair it (Moraga). Of course, planning for retirement might mean you need a good lawyer (San Ramon) and if you become bedridden, there's relief from pressure sores (Walnut Creek). We all must pass eventually, but you can smell the garden roses (Richmond) until you need burial (Antioch).
Each honored recipient was a tidy package and nestled in their "thank yous" was a shared story of resilience.
"It's funny, here is technology, and here is my second-oldest-in-the world trade," said Carlos Shoe Repair owner Pablo Martinez, representing the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He now teaches the trade he learned from his father to foster children.
"It started out as a passion," said East Bay Karato-Do's John Felipe, Pittsburg. "Since 1994, being a location where kids can hang out; it has been an honor."
For Walnut Creek's Ingrid B. James, of James Consolidated, Inc., "I came to America because everything was better and bigger here."
Her company created turning systems to relieve the pain and peril of pressure sores and crediting her husband of 55 years with being "the guiding light," she caused the afternoon's biggest laugh by adding, "but I'm the one with experience in what we're doing."
From Orinda resident Allen Pennebaker's Flying A Gasoline to The Storyteller Bookstore's Linda Higham's 27-year Lafayette presence to Concord businesswoman Tonya Amos of Aspire Pilates Center's "If I'd listened to demographics, I wouldn't be standing here," customer care and hands-on presence were primary practices for success.
"I don't care about my inventory: it can get burned, stolen, dropped and broken," Moraga Hardware & Lumber owner Bill Snider said. "But I can't replace my employees or my customers."
Paula Kinder's get-back-to-basics explanation for the success of Kinder's Meat Deli BBQ's nine franchises and eight family-operated stores was this: "We're not used to receiving recognition -- we just work."
Miller referred to "two big events" (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's expansion into Richmond and completion of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Open Campus) and saying, "We've tried austerity ... Hopefully, we will grow the economy and that will benefit small businesses."
Stump's speech was all about the "how" of growing from small idea to market leader. His 25-person company, located in a converted foundry in Oakland's Jack London Square, is an outlet for the enthusiasm that nearly knocked him off his chair when he first discovered 3-D printing.
Master of Ceremonies and ABC7 News co-anchor Dan Ashley closed the awards with the same message he'd offered in opening remarks. To paraphrase, a small business is all about the main thing staying the main thing, benefiting the community and in the process, forming the backbone of America's made-of-many-parts economy.
Central County-based winners include:
Ingrid B. James, president and CEO of Walnut Creek-based James Consolidated, Inc., manufacturer of the Volkner Turning System and JamesAir Medical Products, specialized support surfaces for the prevention and treatment of pressure sores.
Linda Higham, owner of The Storyteller Bookstore, an independent Lafayette bookstore specializing in literature for children and young adults.
Dan, Paula and Justin Kinder, owners of Kinder's Meat/Deli/BBQ, a caterer, deli and retail business since 1946.
William F. Snider, owner of Moraga Hardware & Lumber, a traditional hardware store, and Across the Way, a home and garden store.
Allen Pennebaker, owner of Flying A Gasoline of Orinda, also owner of Orinda Motors, who converted a vacant gas station into a first-class service station.
Elena Hutslar, Becky Coburn and Jennifer Neyes, publishers of The Community Focus, an independent newspaper founded in 2009 and published to inform, entertain and connect the communities of Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Pacheco, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.