By Sue Botos
When Deneen Koehler was working in the emergency room at MetroHealth Medical Center three years ago, she knew photography was in the picture for her – and with the help and encouragement of the Rocky River Chamber of Commerce, it is now her career.
“Life does take you in different directions,” Koehler said as she accepted one of two Outstanding New Member Awards at the Rocky River Chamber of Commerce annual recognition luncheon on Jan. 23. Koehler, who is also the chamber’s official photographer, along with EmbroidMe owner Cristina Bertero, were recognized for their active support of the chamber while being members for less than three years.
Chamber Executive Director Liz Manning commented that Bertero voluntarily moved her planned open house date because it conflicted with the annual Business Expo. The new date ended up right after Hurricane Sandy hit. “She hosted her open house with no electricity, but still with enthusiasm and a smile on her face,” Manning stated.
Winning the Bright Star Award from the Northern Ohio Area Chambers of Commerce was “professional volunteer” Kathy Berkshire. A former chamber executive director, Berkshire now represents the Lakewood/Rocky River Sunrise Rotary and Our Savior’s Rocky River Lutheran Church. Last year’s Most Active Member winner, Berkshire noted that she was part of the committee that originated the Bright Star Award. “And now I won it,” she remarked.
Panera Bread received the Quality Business Award, and Manning remarked that the bakery and cafe also serves as a community meeting place. “During Hurricane Sandy, Panera became a critical hub for people whose home or office was without power for days,” she recalled.
The Beautification Award went to Mellino Robenalt for converting an outdated, unattractive office building on Center Ridge Road into a beautiful, energy-efficient law office. “We weren’t looking to win a beautification award. We just wanted to get rid of that ugly green roof and create a main entrance,” quipped Chris Mellino of the project that took 14 months.
Jason Lukz of 212 Capital Group received the Most Active Member honor for attending 24 chamber events in 2013, and served as the Business Expo committee co-chairman. He has also been newly elected to the chamber board of directors.
The Best Food and Best Dessert for the 2013 Taste of River were also recognized as George Hwang, of Pearl of the Orient, and Pete Mitchell of Mitchell’s Ice Cream accepted their respective awards. Hwang noted that his restaurant has been at the Beachcliff Market Square for 30 years, throughout the shopping center’s many changes. He added that new items have been added to the Asian restaurant’s menu, including sushi and Thai food, and Japanese selections are in the works.
Jim Riedl, the Taste of River/Buy River co-chairman, said that Mitchell’s has won the dessert prize every year since attendees started voting for their favorite goodies. “Mitchell’s always sells more than anyone at Taste. We’re glad we can always count on them to be there,” he stated.