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The Mint was honored as Business of the Year.
Monday, November 18, 2019


One resembles the Energizer Bunny—with sass. Another is playing a key role in attracting and retaining younger visitors and workers to the Wood River Valley.

These are among the individuals and businesses that were honored this past week at The Chamber’s annual Dinner and Awards Banquet.

Nearly a hundred men and women gathered at Penny’s Barn at Mountain Humane over build-your-own tacos provided by KB’s Burritos Thursday night to honor individuals and businesses that have contributed to the community in various ways.

Jane Drussel gets a hug from Todd Hunter.

“It’s a celebration of the accomplishments of our members and our community,” said The Chamber’s Executive Director Mike McKenna.

Seventeen businesses were nominated in five categories. Chamber members voted on the honorees.


    MOUNTAIN HUMANE received for the nod for its new 30,000-square-foot animal welfare campus constructed on 20 acres. The new facility has doubled the number of dogs and cats the organization can take and is expected to triple the number of adoptions each year. That should only add to the already huge economic impact the organization has on the Wood River Valley, as people come from elsewhere  just to adopt pets and often stay to recreate while here.

    Kelli Young cut the ribbon on the new D.L. Evans Bank branch in Hailey in the summer of 2018.

    Other nominees included GRAVITY FITNESS, which opened a new state-of-the-art gym under the direction of its co-owners Mats Wilander and Oliver Whitcomb in a building that had sat vacant for many years.

    Also, the 4,595-square-foot DL EVANS BANK, which adds a modern look to Hailey’s South Main Street and a new community meeting room that has become home to such organizations as the Kiwanis Club.

    St. Thomas Playhouse staged “Fiddler on the Roof” to sell-out crowds this fall. The production starred R.L. Rowsey as Teva.

    And the three-story, 56-room SILVER CREEK HOTEL in Bellevue, which has added an affordable lodging option in the valley, along with heated pool, hot tub and complimentary breakfast.


    THE MINT was honored for revitalizing an iconic venue that had been developed by actor Bruce Willis in the mid-1990s and had been closed since October 2008. The 15,000-square-foot building houses a first-floor restaurant and bar and a much-needed second-floor concert and dance venue that will house 369, including the young people the valley seeks to attract. Owners Jenni and Paul Conrad added an outdoor patio this past summer.

    Canines have given a paw of approval to their digs at the new Mountain Human animal welfare campus.

    Also in the running was COPY AND PRINT, which provides printing, high-quality design, business supplies, architectural printing, notary services and passport photos.

    The other nominee was EYE ON SUN VALLEY, the largest online daily news media service in the Wood River Valley. “Eye on Sun Valley is a community leader, publishing seven days a week,” noted those who nominated it. It has current news articles, feature stories, local sports articles and video content, which are featured online and in kiosks around the valley. And the Eye on Sun Valley TV show airs six days a week on COX channel 13, providing video coverage of sports and community events.


    St. Thomas Playhouse was honored as a community theater organization founded on the belief that the performing arts can serve the higher purpose of educating people and transforming lives while providing entertainment. Backed by St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the playhouse enriches the community with several productions each year, including its Main Family Stage, Summer Youth Theater Project and Company B music camps.

    Other nominees included the CARITAS CHORALE, which is celebrating its 20th season. Founded in 1999 by Dick Brown, it brings the best in classical, traditional and contemporary music to the Wood River Valley. It’s open to all who love to sing, no audition necessary, as Director R.L. Rowsey will teach singers everything they need to know.

    Also nominated was the BELLEVUE ARTIST ALLIANCE, formed to celebrate the artistic talent of artists in the south valley through art, business partnerships, exhibits and events.


KELLI YOUNG “encompasses what our community strives to be: Happy, friendly, always looking out for you, always there to help you or your company, your organization or family,” said one of those nominating the DL Evans Bank leader. “She is like the Energizer Bunny, with some sass. And she volunteers for everything from Carey to Sun Valley, not to mention that she’s president of the Rotary Club this year.”

Other nominees included THE KIWANIS CLUB OF HAILEY AND THE WOOD RIVER VALLEY, which has the motto, “It’s all about the kids!” The club has engineered several projects benefitting Wood River Valley youth, including Key Club, a winter coat collection, providing scholarships for Company of Fools matinees and constructing new playground equipment and shelters for Deerfield, Foxmoor, Heagle and Balmoral parks.

CRAIG ABERBACH recently resigned as Hailey fire chief to move closer to aging parents but he had quite the impact in the six years he was in Hailey. He worked to consolidate the Hailey and Wood River Fire Departments. He founded the “Do the Right Thing” award to recognize student achievement. And he served on the board of The Senior Connection. In fact, Aberbach was serving wine to the ladies at The Connection’s annual Fashion + Wine show at the same time The Chamber awards banquet was going on.

RICHARD FIFE organized the Fiddlers of Idaho State Championship held in Hailey for the past several years and has been the event’s persistent promoter. “Fiddling is an Idaho culture without question,” he said. “It comes in all sizes, shapes and forms from all different parts of the state. We’re trying to keep that culture alive by hosting this event.”


JANE’S ARTIFACTS received this award for the personal service she and her “knowledgeable staff” provide customers. She seems to carry everything, including art supplies, papers, office supplies, party supplies, creative gifts and holiday decorations.

Jane Drussel, touted as the sparkplug behind the business, noted that good customer starts with good employees—she has a few that have been with her almost since she opened her store 34 years ago. And it involves enjoying your customers, she added: “If you don’t enjoy it, why do it?”

Also nominated was KETCHUM KITCHENS, a go-to staple in Ketchum for those looking for fondue sets and barbecues. “Never before has the store felt so fresh and vibrant,” said one of those nominating the store. “With a cleaner and brighter look and an energized staff of knowledgeable employees, it can make even the novice look and feel like a master chef.”

Also nominated: ICONOCLAST BOOKS, which was founded by Gary and Sarah Hedrick in the Seattle area in 1993 before moving to Ketchum in 1994. After making several moves in Ketchum, the 3,000-square-foot bookstore moved to the Meriwether Building in Hailey in 2017. Sarah Hedrick still provides personal service, ordering books on request.


BART LASSMAN, who retired as chief of Wood River Fire & Rescue in October, was recognized for 34 years of service responding to fires, floods, car accidents and medical emergencies. Originally from Minneapolis, he moved to the Wood River Valley in 1974, beginning his career here as volunteer firefighter.


Outgoing Mayor FRITZ HAEMMERLE served for four years on the City Council before being elected mayor in 2011. While in office he supported Main Street beautification, local option tax funding for The Chamber and a new town square.

Haemmerle told the audience that public service is not a desk job as you spend a lot of time looking for things that need to be done or that need to be better.

Being mayor is like being Mom and Dad of the town, he added.

“It’s the truest form of democracy there is. People stop and say, ‘Why haven’t you fixed that drain in front of our home?’ and I pick up the phone and call Heather Dawson and other city employees and we deal with it.”

Haemmerle recounted how to he led the charge to make sure all city employees’ wages were livable after he learned the City Hall janitor made just $11 an hour. He championed the building of a new sewage treatment plant when he learned the former waste treatment plant was dangerous. And he saw a good chunk of the Quigley Canyon land put in conservation easement during the approval of the Quigley Farm project.

“We still want the town square done,” he said. “It’s not what we can’t do but what we can do.”

Chamber President Todd Hunter, who owns the hardware store, noted how his colleagues in Texas were dubious when he decided to buy a hardware store in Idaho.

But running a retail store in a small town is worthwhile because of the accountability small town community members have for one another, he said.

“People come and buy from me because they know me. Ican’t thank you enough because every single one of you has been in my store,” he said.

Similarly, Hunter noted, he supports community causes because he has seen them in action.

“I’ve been to Camp Rainbow Gold. I’ve met their kids. I’ve met their counselors. I’ve been to Swiftsure Ranch. ’ve met their horses. I’ve seen what they’re doing. And, when young people get married and have kids, they want to come to a place like this where people interact with one another.”











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