IV Press Readers’ Choice Awards highlights community’s favorites
By JULIO MORALES, Staff Writer | Posted 5 hours ago
Not everyone went home a winner during the Imperial Valley Press’ Readers’ Choice Awards Gala on Wednesday, but it hardly seemed to dampen the festive mood of the sizable and well-dressed crowd gathered at The Loft in El Centro.
All told, dozens of awards were handed out Wednesday to the top vote-getters in several popular categories during the annual event.
Although Cold Stone Creamery was named the readers’ top choice for ice cream in 2016, the distinction or the possibility of a repeat win wasn’t at the forefront of crew leader Vanessa Ramirez’s mind.
“I feel that we don’t need an award to show great customer service and have a great product,” Ramirez said, prior to the announcement of Wednesday’s winners.
Her employer also deserves its employees’ credit for the friendly and flexible atmosphere it affords its workers, said Ramirez, who has been able to obtain her undergraduate degree and work toward her Master’s Degree all while employed with the nearly 10-year-old El Centro-based business.
As in years past, Ramirez said that her and her co-workers made sure to kindly remind customers of their ability to vote for the creamery, but that they didn’t mount an aggressive campaign.
Now in its fourth year, the formal affair brought out a wide representation of the Valley’s business community. Awardees were chosen by community members who had the opportunity to cast ballots on a daily basis for their favorite local businesses. More than 8,000 votes were cast from April 23 through May 8.
Some of the business categories included best pet grooming, tire shop, beauty salon, auto mechanic, tacos, coffee and donuts, to name just a few.
Styles & Smiles beauty salon owners Lulu and Mike Castro were also on hand Wednesday to see how their longtime business fared in the several categories it was nominated for.
With a crew of 15 stylists at its disposal, as well as a considerable number of regular customers, the beauty salon did its best to remind its clients to vote and vote repeatedly.
Yet, in many instances, such prodding was hardly needed, said Mike Castro.
“Many of our clients would come in and tell us that they already voted,” he said, prior to the announcement of Wednesday’s winners.
Castro said he credits a dedicated focus on customer service for the popularity of the El Centro-based beauty salon.
“Everything is geared to them,” Castro said. “They like the way that we do business.”
Aside from the various awards acknowledging the Valley’s best hot wings and bakery, the IV Press’ Readers’ Choice Awards Gala also granted one local business its Legacy Award, which this year went to Jack Vessey, of Holtville-based Vessey & Co., Inc.
The Legacy Award was designed to highlight a local business that embodies a balance of passion, quality, creativity and involvement with the community.
As surprised and humbled as Vessey said that he was about receiving the recognition, he made sure to honor the previous generations of Vesseys that have contributed to the agricultural company’s success and philosophy.
“We couldn’t have done what we have done for almost the last 100 years without the people that are on the ranch that are family to us and mean so much to us and the Imperial Valley,” Vessey said.
The longtime grower said he was always sure he would follow in his late father Jon’s footsteps, despite his father’s initial advice to pursue a different type of career.
Vessey also credited the guidance his father imparted to him as a young child sitting quietly in his father’s office learning the nuances and challenges of the family business and the agricultural industry.
“That to me was something that taught me more than anything else in this world,” Vessey said. “My dad was ahead of his time.”
A list of the Readers’ Choice winners will be published in its entirety in a special section on June 11.
Staff Writer Julio Morales can be reached at email@example.com or 760-337-3415.
Jack Vessey gives an acceptance speech after Vessey & Co. was awarded the Legacy Award during the third annual Readers’ Choice Awards on Wednesday night at The Loft in El Centro. VINCENT OSUNA PHOTO