June 8, 2012


Patrons pick business bests

FoodBob Ellis/staff photographer
Mike Spollen, left, and Dave Basile, owners of Central City Bar and Grill, with what was voted Best Burger in Cortland.

Staff Reporter

VIRGIL — The Cortland County Chamber of Commerce showcased some of the county’s best and most popular businesses during its first “Best of the Best” awards luncheon Thursday at Gatherings Restaurant.
The chamber’s contest asked residents to vote online over the past few months for the area’s best burger, best small business to work for and best retail establishment.
Bob Haight, chamber executive director, revealed the results during the luncheon to a crowd of just over two dozen people.
“The voting was very competitive,” he said. “Over 500 votes were cast.”
The awards will become an annual event, Haight said.
“We’re going to change the categories every year,” he said. “But we will keep a food category because everybody eats.”
Thoma Development won the award for best small business to work for. The firm works to secure grants and funding for local governments as well as private companies.
Rich Cunningham, a program manager, accepted the award on behalf the company’s owner, Bernie Thoma.
“It’s a great place to work,” Cunningham said afterward. “The average tenure of our 11 employees is 17 years.”
Cunningham will be buying the business when Thoma retires in the next few years.
Linda Armstrong, a program manager at Thoma, has been with the company since it started 32 years ago.
“The reason I’ve stayed, the biggest part is working for someone like Bernie,” she said. “He’s always willing to give you time for personal issues and he takes an interest in his employees.”
Honorable mentions went to the Cortland Eye Center and the Elizabeth Brewster House.
Cortland’s best burger award went to Central City Bar and Grill.
Co-owners Mike Spollen and Dave Basile said they were happy to win the award.
“This is great, having come from the community,” Spollen said. “Someone asked me the other day which burger is our best. I told them, ‘they’re all good.’”
The Palm Garden and the Hollywood Restaurant both received honorable mentions.
The third award for best retail establishment went to the Bling Store on Main Street.
Owner Jodie Wainwright said she was very happy to win the award but gave most of the credit to her two employees Tricia Ruggeri, and Fayann Searfoss.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be here,” Wainwright said. “That’s why so many people love the store.”
The two honorable mentions were Empire 41 in Cortland, and Anderson’s Farm Market in Little York.

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