FLOSSMOOR | Homewood's Carl Buddig and Hammond's Paul Henry Art Gallery won honors at the South Suburban Small Business Association 12th annual Summit Awards.
The group of south suburban Chicago businesses hosted its annual awards ceremony Wednesday at the Idlewild Country Club in Flossmoor to recognize business leaders who have contributed to the economic growth of the region. Honorees also included Homewood marketing and public relations manager Rachael Jones, Professional Business Systems Inc. owner William Burton and high school-aged entrepreneur Jesus Fernandez Ortiz.
Ortiz, a South Holland resident who has the highest GPA of the 423 students in his class at Thornwood High School, won the 2013 Young Entrepreneur Award for a business enterprise he launched with a University of Illinois freshman. The avid soccer player said he realized stability was a problem with every pair of shin guards he ever put on, so he developed special soccer socks with a pocket and straps to keep them in place. The socks keep the shin guards from sliding side to side, and shifting up and down.
"I've played soccer since I was 4. I love soccer and figured out how to make a business of it," he said. "If you do something you love, you never have to work a day in your life."
Riverdale-based information technology firm Professional Business Systems won the 2013 Small Business Award for its growth, job creation, innovation and contribution to the community. Carl Buddig received the 2013 Training Excellence Award for offering English as a Second Language classes to its employees, who include many native Spanish speakers.
Jones earned the 2013 Economic Development Leader Award for innovative programs, including the upcoming Chocolate Fest and the pop-up stores she brought downtown during the holiday shopping season.
Paul Henry Art Gallery picked up the 2013 Creative Arts Award partly for all the people its Thursday night acoustic jam sessions bring to downtown Hammond.
"It's a gem of a place," said SSSBA board member Greg Boyan. "It's a credit to Northwest Indiana."
The gallery/vintage hardware store has been a family-owned staple in downtown Hammond since 1887, only it used to be a sheet metal shop and then a paint store.
"The art business is completely different from what we did for 120 years," owner Paul Mueller said. "It was one-on-one. Give a good product, give a good service, make a sale. The customers didn't know any other customers. But I figured out an art gallery wasn't just a product or service. You have to build a community, and then it's more successful."