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Marketing firm, farm market earn chamber business awards
Denise Deal, from left, Tot Morton, Tina Carlson, John Vardeman and R.K. Whitehead pose for a picture at the Gainesville Civic Center Thursday. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce awarded Morton, Carlson and Vardeman with an award for small business of the year. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce awarded a farm market and a public relations firm with its top business awards Thursday.

The chamber honored Gainesville’s Morton, Vardeman and Carlson, a 35-year-old advertising and public relations firm, as Small Business of the Year for 2007-08.

Morton, Vardeman and Carlson is the oldest and largest advertising and public relations firm in Northeast Georgia with a client base that ranges from the poultry industry to health care providers, the chamber’s new board Chairman R.K. Whitehead said.

The chamber honored the public relations firm for its philanthropic contributions to the area and for providing services to Eagle Ranch, Challenged Child and Friends and other nonprofit organizations with free services.

John Vardeman thanked the chamber for supporting small businesses in Hall County and said the chamber’s support of small businesses has kept him in business in Hall County.

"I never dreamed that I could live and work here in a business that really could support me and my family and the employees that wanted to live here," Vardeman said. "And my parents are here today, and its just proof of ... what this chamber has done."

The chamber also named Jaemor Farm Market its Family Business of the Year for 2007-08.

Jaemor Farm Market has been family owned and operated since 1981. The working farm, located on more than 100 acres of property in East Hall, receives about 500,000 visitors ranging from students on field trips to customers who come to take a trip through the Corn Maze or to purchase any of the farm’s fresh vegetables and fruits, Whitehead said.

"Every fresh vegetable you can imagine is available at Jaemor," Whitehead said.

After the luncheon, Jimmy Echols, owner of Jaemor Farm Market, said he did not expect his business to be chosen for the award, because of its location in Lula.

"We’re a little bit out of the loop," he said. "It’s a little unusual."

Echols’ grandfather started the farm in 1910, and Echols said he started the farm market in 1981 with hopes that he and his family could subsist on a family business.

"I hoped that we could make a living by having a family operation, being together and working as a family," Echols said.

Today, Echols’ hopes have already passed through to the family’s younger generations.

"We couldn’t get all the whole family up here," Drew Echols said when he received the award on behalf of his family. "We’d be stretched from one side to the other."

The awards luncheon, which honored businesses and volunteers in the community, was the last Board of Directors meeting led by Denise Deal. Deal, who served as the board’s chairwoman through the chamber of commerce’s centennial celebrations, passed her gavel over to Whitehead before the meeting closed Thursday afternoon.

Whitehead accepted the gavel, and said he was looking forward to his year as chairman with excitement and trepidation following in Deal’s footsteps and accomplishments.

"I was thinking ‘Gosh, next year’s going to be a let-down now,’" Whitehead said.