CONCORD -- Enterprising spirits of 14 small business entrepreneurs were honored at the 13th annual Contra Costa Small Business Award Luncheon where 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 Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, mingled with a shoe repairman, workers 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, the businesses supply Contra Costa County residents with tools for life: from a doctor's latest technology in Brentwood, to practicing Pilates in Concord, having shoes repaired in Martinez, and filling insurance needs in Danville.

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 of 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."


Advertisement

Her company created turning systems to relieve the pain and peril of pressure sores. She credited 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) 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.

"It's essentially a machine that grows a shape. The printer jets out ink and builds this," he said, showing off a 12-inch action figure.

Master of Ceremonies and ABC7 News co-anchor Dan Ashley closed the awards with the 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.

Small Business Awards honorees
Central County-based winners include:
  • Tonya Amos, owner and operator of Aspire Pilates Center in Concord, a dedicated community supporter and fundraiser who donates classes and training to low-income students and athletes.
  • Pablo Martinez, owner of Carlos Shoe Repair, a "green" shoe repair business in downtown Martinez
  • Dan, Paula and Justin Kinder, owners of Kinder's Meat/Deli/BBQ, a caterer, deli and retail business since 1946.
  • 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.
  • 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.