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Pagliai’s, Solera win top awards from Grinnell Chamber

Paglai’s, pictured here, won Buisness of the Year at the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards on March 13.

On March 13, the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of the 2019 Grinnell Chamber of Commerce Awards. The awards recognize outstanding businesses and individual entrepreneurs for their success and service within the community.

Pagliai’s Pizza, located on Fifth Avenue, went home with the Business of the Year Award, while Broad Street’s Solera Wine Bar won Restaurant of the Year. The award for Service Business of the year went to Smith Funeral Home. Kevin McAlexander of Hawkeye Lock & Security won Entrepreneur of the Year and the STEW Art Studios took home the Community Betterment Award.

Other award categories included Volunteers of the Year, One to Watch Awards — which honors workers and businesspeople who recently performed exemplary work or started businesses — and the 20 Under 40 Awards, which recognizes “20 emerging leaders age 40 or younger.”

The awards were presented at the annual Grinnell Chamber of Commerce Celebration, hosted by Hotel Grinnell and sponsored by Grinnell College, Hotel Grinnell and UnityPoint Health-Grinnell Regional Medical Center.

Each year, Grinnell residents submit award nominations to the Chamber of Commerce website, which are then reviewed by the Chamber Executive Committee. The committee decides the winners, and the awards are then distributed at that year’s Chamber of Commerce Celebration.

Chamber Director Rachael Kinnick said that this year saw a large number of qualified nominees. “I think we had really great nominations all the way around, which made it really tough for our team to decide the winners,” she said.

Kinnick said that all businesses are free to be nominated, although certain categories, like Business of the Year and Service Business of the Year, require that the businesses nominated be members of the Chamber of Commerce. She also mentioned that there was one category in particular that was especially hard to narrow down this year.

“I’m often asked, specifically with the 20 under 40 awards, ‘Well, isn’t that hard, to get 20 people, you know, under the age of 40, in a town the size of Grinnell?’ I’ll actually tell you, it was harder to quantify that down to 20. We had so many really great nominations and newcomers to the community that are doing great work that it was a really hard decision —  all the way, in every award category —  but that one specifically was really tough this year,” she said.

This year saw a range of winning businesses, varying not just in service and product but also in style and longevity. Pagliai’s, which is the first restaurant to win Business of the Year in at least three years (Grinnell State Bank won in 2018, and Re/Max Partners Realty took home the award in 2017), has been in Grinnell since 1957, and offers fresh-baked pizza made in the Pagliai family tradition.

On the other hand, Solera Wine Bar is a relatively new business, having resided in Grinnell for just five years, and offers hand-curated wine from around the world. Solera also hosts events including “wine and beer tastings, fancy dinners, wacky parties, politics, trivia, bingo, and drag,” according to the restaurant’s website.

The qualifications for each award are steep. For example, To win Business of the Year, the nominee must have “demonstrated to have growth in its employment, production, and/or operations and has a substantial history of success,” have “a positive social and/or economic impact on the Grinnell area” and “have shown outstanding growth, significant achievements in innovation and superior community involvement through the commitment of time and resources,” according to the Chamber of Commerce website.

Paglai’s, pictured here, won Buisness of the Year at the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards on March 13.
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