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Chamber of Commerce hosts annual gala in person, honoring these local leaders
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Visitors to the Chattahoochee Country Club mingle indoors and outdoors Thursday, May 13, 2021, during The Greater Hall Chamber’s Annual Gala. The event marks the first in-person chamber gala since the COVID-19 pandemic. - photo by Scott Rogers

Business owners, volunteers and local leaders were able to don their formal attire and receive their due recognition during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s 113th Annual Meeting & Gala.

A crowd gathered on Thursday, May 13, at the Chattahoochee Country Club, a stark comparison to last year’s event, which took place through a pre-recorded video released on the chamber’s website. A joyful energy rippled through the building, as people greeted each other, some of whom hadn’t seen certain familiar faces in over a year. 

The Small Business of the Year was awarded to both Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen, owned by Bill Mays, and Willis Investment Counsel, an independent investment management firm.

Mays, who has lived in Hall County for 26 years, first opened his restaurant in 2005, naming it after his father. The South Hall eatery focuses on Southern home-style cuisine, embracing “cathead” biscuits, fresh eggs, fluffy pancakes and even fried bologna. 

“I’m humbled because I look in this room, and I see these giving hearts,” Hays said after receiving his award.

Cochran Brothers Electric and Three D Cleaners were named Family Business of the Year. 

Chamber award winners

Small Business of the Year: Papa Jack’s Country Kitchen, Willis Investment Counsel

Family Business of the Year: Cochran Brothers Electric, Three D Cleaners

Community Service Award: Vision 2030 Public Art

Distinguished Citizens Award: Doug and Kay Ivester

W.G. Mealor Award: Glennis Barnes with Georgia Power

James Cochran first opened the business, which was called Cochran Electric, in 1977. When the founder died, his son, Stanley, and three brothers carried on the family operation, dubbing it Cochran Brothers Electric. 

Danny and Mary Lee Dunagan started Three D Cleaners in 1978, and to this day haven’t stopped providing their dry cleaning, alteration and other services to the community. 

Vision 2030 Public Art earned the Community Service Award. Since its launch, the committee has created wall murals around town, developed walking tours of public art in the area and established new and ongoing programs like Brenau Urban Rural Discoveries and “Protective Angels” at local fire stations. 

Glennis Barnes, Georgia Power Company’s area manager, received the W.G. Mealor Award, which is bestowed to a chamber volunteer who has gone “beyond the call of duty.” Barnes has served on the chamber’s executive board as its volunteer treasurer for three years and is involved in many programs like Leadership Hall County, Vision 2030 and more.

Doug and Kay Ivester were presented with the Distinguished Citizens Award for their continuous philanthropic efforts in the Gainesville-Hall area. In 2017, the couple donated $3.5 million in gifts to support Brenau University’s health science programs, and in 2019, the two contributed $2.2 million to help what is now called the Howard E Ivester Early College. Doug Ivester is also an investor of Gainesville Renaissance, the $22.4 million mixed-use development now under construction on the Gainesville square.

“It’s an honor for us to be here to receive this recognition,” Doug Ivester said. “And, I will tell you, it’s an honor to play the game of life with all of you. Thank you very much.”

At the end of the gala, Brian Rochester, chairman of the chamber, handed off his gavel to name Phil Sutton, vice president of Kubota Manufacturing of America, the next chairman for 2021-2022.

“It’s really an incredible honor for me,” Sutton said. “ ... If you look at the list of folks who have served in this role over the past 113 years, it’s truly humbling that I have this opportunity to join the number of folks.”

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