Business, community leaders honored during awards ceremony


AUBURN — The Auburn Chamber of Commerce held its 75th Annual Meeting on Feb. 1 at the Jay and Susie Gouge Performing Arts Center at Auburn University.
The annual meeting “is the largest gathering of the Auburn business community and an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the past year, applaud outstanding area businesses and look forward to the year ahead,” according to a press release.
This year’s meeting featured remarks by Julie Melton of Northwestern Mutual and 2023 chair of the Auburn Chamber; Pastor Patrick Keim of Church of the Highlands; Taylor Britton of Berkshire Hathoway HomeServices Preferred Real Estate; Anna Hovey of the Auburn Chamber; Auburn Mayor Ron Anders; and Richmond Gunter of Muncie and Mattson P.C. and 2024 chair of the Auburn Chamber. The meeting was presented by Berkshire Hathoway HomeServices Preferred Real Estate and sponsored by Alabama Power, AuburnBank, Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home, Prewett Pest Control and SouthState Bank.
Dr. Susan Hubbard, dean of Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences, received the Chairman’s Award, the Auburn Chamber’s highest honor, which is presented to an individual based on his/her outstanding achievement, leadership, loyalty and dedication to the community.
David Housel, director emeritus of AU Athletics, received the Ham Lifetime Impact Award, created in 2019 in honor of former Auburn Mayor Bill Ham to honor an individual who has had 20 or more years of “exceptional and impactful personal and professional contributions to the Auburn community.”
The Auburn Chamber presented the Best of Small Business awards in five categories. Wrapsody of Auburn was named Retailer of the Year. Lily Jane Boutique won the Emerging Business category. The Flower Store was named best among businesses with 1-10 employees, The Potting Shed was named best among businesses with 11-50 employees and River Bank and Trust was named best among businesses with 51-100 employee.
The Auburn Chamber’s inaugural Nonprofit of the Year award was presented to BigHouse Foundation, which provides support and resources to sustain foster and adoptive families. BigHouse was founded in 2009 by Micah Melnick and has served more than 12,000 children in foster care through its events and programs.
Throughout the year, the Auburn Chamber honors individuals who exhibit exceptional customer service with Customer Service Crown awards. This year’s honorees included Aaron Richardson of ACOM, Brett McDaniel of Spicer’s Music, Joy Easley of Affirmation Interiors, Stan Hagan of Auburn Kroger and Laura Gaston of Busy Gal Nutrition.
Auburn Young Professionals (AYP) honored three standouts among its 250 members: Nathan Mitchell of Smith Kasner Wealth Management received the Serve Award. Hunter Smith of Troy Bank and Trust received the Develop Award. Rachel Jordan of Auburn University’s College of Engineering received the Connect Award. The AYP Awards were presented this year by River Bank & Trust.
Bret Peterson of Yabrough Tennis Center received the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Partnership Award, which recognizes a business, person or project that has been an excellent partner in tourism or instrumental in developing or driving tourism.
Brett Thompson and Mary Evelyn Jordan of 9 Lemons Hospitality received the Young Businessperson of the Year Award.
Carmen Jordan of RAPA received the Norm Caldwell Excellence in Industry Award, which honors an invaluable leader in industry.
Joanna Reaves of SouthState Bank received the Teague Award, named for Sam Teague, past chair, a chamber diplomat, member of the board of directors and the ultimate volunteer. This award is the Chamber’s “Volunteer of the Year” award.
Paige Faulkner of the Jay and Susie Gouge Performing Arts Center at Auburn University was named Diplomat of the Year. The Diplomats are a core group of volunteers who host, help and represent the Chamber at events.
Greg Williams, head equestrian coach emeritus at Auburn University, received the Spirit of Auburn Award, which was established in 2002 to honor an individual or group for his or her special contribution to the community.
Eagle Awards were presented to business or individual Auburn Chamber members who have made an impact in the community in one of several categories. Exceptional Foundation of East Alabama win in the Educational Growth for Employees and Community category. Amsterdam Cafe won in the Job Opportunity category, Village Friends won in the Civic Contribution category, AuburnBank won in the Aesthetic Contribution category and Mercy Medical and Next Step Foundation by Jonathan Jones both won in the Charitable Contribution category.