By Rob Kalesse
Special to Delaware Business Times
The first annual Family Owned Business Awards event, hosted by Today Media and Delaware Business Times, brought out a multitude of local sponsors, honorees, and business community members.
Nearly 200 guests packed the Double Tree Hotel in North Wilmington June 24th , including 13 honorees who demonstrate family involvement, succession planning, ethics, innovation, and community service.
Rob Martinelli, president and CEO of Today Media, and publisher of Delaware Business Times, opened the festivities by defining the family business as “an organization guided by the decision-making of multiple generations of family members, all of whom participate in the ownership and leadership of their business.”
Martinelli congratulated the honorees, who combined for more than 800 years of family-owned business, and included A.R. Morris Jewelers (founded 1962), Data Management International (1977), Delaware Brick (1949), DiFebo’s Restaurant (1989), EDiS Company (1908), Janssen’s Market (1952), Joseph Frederick & Sons (1947), M. Davis & Sons, Inc. (1870), Pettinaro Construction (1965), Pools & Spas Unlimited (2001), Insurance Market (1900), and Urban Furniture Outlet (1990) and Wayman Fire Protection (1974)
After a cocktail reception and dinner provided by the DoubleTree staff, Delaware Business Times Editor Michael J. Mika took the podium, and handed out well-deserved awards, beginning with the Small (25 employees or fewer), Medium-Size (26-100 employees) and Large-Size (100 or more employees) Business Awards.
Wilmington’s own EDiS Company, which has served Delaware’s construction and building needs since 1908, was awarded the Medium-Size Business Award. Brian DiSabaitino, whose great grandfather, Ernesto, opened the family business more than a century ago, spoke on behalf of his company.
Although he jokingly mentioned “nepotism” early on in his acceptance speech, the award humbled DiSabatino saying, “This is a huge honor, considering how many multi-generational companies there are in Delaware, and how many options folks have for their construction needs.”
After the Business Awards portion of the evening, a set of “Specialty Awards” were given out. The first to be honored, for the Community Service Award, was Janssen’s Market, of Greenville.
General Manager and second-generation family business owner Paula Janssen thanked the judges and voters for the award. Afterward, she spoke thoughtfully about the challenges that her company faces when it comes to big competition from inside and outside the state.
“Our industry features some very large competitors with much deeper pockets, so we are always striving to stay relevant and connected with our customers,” Janssen said. “On the other hand, one place a family business can really create a niche is how fast we can change and react to our customers’ needs. At the end of the day, I believe it’s that kind of personal touch that our customers appreciate, and keeps them coming back through our doors for a unique shopping experience.”
Mark Henderson, owner of Pools & Spas Unlimited of Milford, said he believes that “personal touch” is what keeps customers coming back to his business as well. Even 10 years after he has sold and installed pools, customers still have his personal cell number.
“I give [my number] to all my customers and tell them they can call me any time, day or night, weekday or weekend,” Henderson said. “If the big companies who sell what we do – offer the total backyard concept – can be available at all times, we have to be as well.”
The Family Owned Business Awards are one of several awards ceremonies the Delaware Business Times will be hosting this year. The 2nd annual DBT40 Awards, which honor 40 business innovators under the age of 40, opens the voting process in July, with the winners announced at the Delaware Art Museum on Sept. 30.
These eight businesses were honored with top awards
• Small Size Business of the year: A.R. Morris
• Medium Size Business of the Year: EDiS
• Large Size Business of the Year: MDavis & Sons
• The Community Service Award is given to that business which shows excellence in its level of community service: Janssens Market
• The Customer Service Award is given to that business which shows excellence in dealing with customer service. The 2015 award is presented to Joseph Frederick and Sons.
• The Innovation and Technology Award is given to that business that is doing something different or modernizing their operations to better serve their customers and clients. The 2015 award is presented to Data Management International.
• The Emerging Family Business Award is given to the business that is showing remarkable growth or market share. The 2015 award is presented to Delaware Brick.
• The Legacy Business Award is presented to a multi-generational company that is continuing to involve all family members actively in its daily operations, and has had an overall impact on Delaware and the business community. This category finished in a tie, and two companies were presented the award EDiS and The Insurance Market