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Bracebridge business owners celebrate successes and remember old friends at the chamber gala

Fyonna Vanderwerf poses in 1920's garb to celebrate local businesses

Celebrating in 1920s fashion at Muskoka Foundry

There was more than just the glitz and glam of the roaring ’20 theme of the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce business awards gala, there were also sombre moments honouring dearly departed friends.

The 2022 awards were held at the Muskoka Foundry, on June 16.

“I feel great,” said Mike Rickard, of El Pueblito Mexican Restaurant, during the ceremony. “I think everybody on our team did a really good job and I feel proud of them.” The restaurant was presented with the service provider of the Year award. “There’s been a lot of local support as well so we’re grateful for that,” said Mike. “Very happy to live in Bracebridge.”

“It was a very rough couple of years, but we made it through,” said owner Marlene Rickard.

Justis Remouche makes custom cakes, cupcakes, piñatas and other things for parties with Blue’s Sweet Treats Muskoka. “I love what I do, and I like seeing the customers’ faces when I give them the cake and they’re just blown away by it,” she said.

That expression may be much the same one Remouche had when it was announced she was the winner of the young entrepreneur of the year award. “I was really really shocked. I wasn’t expecting it at all,” she said. “I was up against a lot of really good nominees. I just came for the fun and was just honoured to be nominated. The fact that I won was just icing on the cake.”

Fyonna Vanderwerf, of Hive Muskoka, was presented with the accessibility award after substantially renovating the fitness facility that exceeded provincial accessibility standards.

“We still have a long way to go in our community to be accessible so I’m glad we have somewhere where people can pursue their health and movement and we’re very excited,” she said. “It’s just one step more toward inclusivity within the health and movement sector.”

Cameron Therrien, general manager of Santa’s Village, readied to present the tourism award however, it was the Bracebridge theme park proclaimed as winner. “We’re always really excited to have the opportunity to present (the award) because we usually sponsor it so it’s really great actually to win it this year as well,” he said.

Other winners were: Climb Muskoka for new business of the Year; The Old Station Restaurant, established business of the Year; Paws of the North Rescue, best home-based Business of the Year; Cut Floral, excellent customer service award; Santa’s Village, tourism award; Warren Dix of Big River Baking Co., male businessperson of the year; Dr. Kersti Kents of Medical Aesthetics of Muskoka, female businessperson of the year; and Guy Gagnon of Gagnon’s Your Independent Grocer, outstanding contribution to Bracebridge.

Gagnon, co-owner of Gagnon’s Your Independent Grocer died of cancer in March and was posthumously honoured. “This is a special award for a special guy, really and truly,” said chamber past president and friend Richard Borland, stating Gagnon did many things for the community, but always quietly. “We lost a good friend in Guy; I can’t think of a more worthy recipient.”

“He gave his service to this country and gave his service to the town in so many ways,” said Paul Mascarin. “I can’t think of anybody who gave more of his time and his service to projects in this community so he will be sorely missed.”

Throughout the evening, the program, affectionately called the “Chamber Gazette,” not only highlighted the achievements of the night but also paid homage to the history of the venue. The Muskoka Foundry’s revitalization was the dream of Audrey van Petegem and her husband Scott Harkness, who shared a deep love for the Muskoka community. Audrey’s sudden passing in 2020 was a tremendous loss, leaving a void in the chamber and in the hearts of those who knew her. Her memory and contributions continue to be cherished and remembered fondly.

As the night drew to a close, the echoes of laughter and applause filled the Muskoka Foundry, reminding everyone of the strength and spirit of the Bracebridge community. The memories created, the friendships honoured, and the achievements celebrated will continue to inspire and motivate local businesses for years to come. With each passing year, the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce gala serves as a reminder of the unwavering determination and sense of togetherness that make Bracebridge a truly remarkable place to live, work, and thrive.


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