From left: Stephanie James-Robinson, Vicky Gamble, and Christina Hoffman of Forte School of Music took home Business of the Year. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Forte School of Music named Business of the Year by Duncan BIA

"We all work together, people are always going above and beyond"

An upbeat president Chris Manley told members of the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area collaboration has been the key to another successful year.

“We all work together, people are always going above and beyond,” Manley, owner of Resthouse Sleep Solutions, noted at the organization’s annual meeting held on April 4.

“By collaborating, downtown becomes even more groovy and everybody’s really digging what they’re doing. It’s inspiring to be a part of it.”

Manley, who has completed his term and will be succeeded by Ian Fairwell of The Red Balloon Toyshop, called 2017 “the most successful year yet” for the DDBIA.

“Whether person to person, through social media, or recommendations from local shop owners, we are leaving a lasting impression on our customers, keep us current and a valued destination for locals and visitors alike.”

Manley says the five-year renewal that was approved by the City of Duncan in the fall was a highlight of a year that saw social media become a prominent part of the BIA’s marketing strategy. Board and committee members contributed more than 300 volunteer hours and nine new businesses were welcomed to the downtown core in 2017.

Keynote speaker Karen Elgersma, executive director of Tourism Cowichan, outlined her organization’s recent progress and invited DDBIA members to use the resources of Tourism Cowichan.

“Lean on Tourism Cowichan to tell your story,” Elgersma suggested. “We have the budget to tell those stories,” she said, adding Tourism Cowichan’s website numbers “are through the roof.”

The AGM was also the time to acknowledge the success and contributions of outstanding downtown Duncan businesses.

The Business of the Year Award went to Forte School of Music owned by Vicky Gamble, Christina Hoffman, and Stephanie James-Robinson. Their studio is located at 122 Station St.

The New Business Award was presented to Ian Smith of Victory Barber & Brand North. Open less than a year, this modern take on the classic barber shop is located at 191 Kenneth St.

Accepting the The Spirit of Excellence Award on behalf of the Duncan-Cowichan Festival Society, was Longevity John Falkner, who brought the 39 Days of July to life seven years ago. This popular summer event has over 250 artists performing to an estimated audience of 40,000.

Hudson’s on First was chosen by the BIA Board of Directors as this year’s recipient of the Shirley McGuinness Memorial Award, which recognizes outstanding commitment to the beautification of Downtown Duncan. Andrea Hudson accepted the award.

Elections were also held at the AGM and the new board is comprised of the following people: Ian Fairwell, president (Red Balloon ToyShop); Kathleen Erickson, vice president (Literacy Now); Chris Manley, past president (Resthouse Sleep Solutions); Miles Anderson (Outlooks for Men); Olivia Boudreau (Adage Dance Studio); Jacquie Braun (Wishes); Jean Cardno (Cardino’s); Kevin Gamble (Enso Accounting); Warren Goulding (The Citizen); Andrea Hudson (Hudson’s on First); Ryan LaFortune (CIBC); Ian Smith (Victory Barber + Brand North); Judy Stafford (Cowichan Green Community) and Duncan Wagner (Monk Office).

The Downtown Duncan BIA is a non-profit society formed in 1997 and operates on an annual budget of approximately $234,000, most of it raised through a business improvement area tax levy collected by the City of Duncan and turned over to the society. Various grants and sponsorships also contribute to the goal of improving and promoting the downtown business area through marketing, promotion and revitalization initiatives.

Cowichan Valley Citizen

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