The votes are in. This year's honors are bestowed. The latest Best of the Region signs are now being proudly displayed in storefronts across Northwest Indiana.
But this year The Times Media Co. is kicking the recognition of the best local businesses in the Calumet Region up a notch.
The Times plans to release a video feature celebrating the Best of 2020 at 7 p.m. July 9 on nwi.com and on Facebook. The roughly 40-minute video will feature eight business segments highlighting either first-time or longtime winners.
With the coronavirus pandemic postponing the Roaring '20s-themed Best of the Region banquet that had been planned at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City in May, it was an instance of constraint stoking creativity.
"We want to highlight some of our longtime and some of our first-time winners," The Times' Head of Marketing and Creative Services Jim Pellegrini said. "Initially we were going to host a Best of the Region event, but with COVID-19 we had to rethink a way to celebrate some of our winners that goes beyond our Best of the Region publication. We have had great response from the individuals and businesses that we are featuring, as well as sponsors that wanted to be a part of this new video presentation."
The video feature includes eight Best of the Region winners: Schillings, Strack & Van Til, Centier, Blacklisted Tattoo, White Rhino, Kids First Pediatrics, attorney Paul Rossi and Wise Guys Liquors. It also has brief sponsor ads.
In the video, business leaders give an overview of their companies, which are depicted with video footage in the background, including striking aerial shots.
"I'm very interested in the public perceiving us differently. Centier is a private, experiential-type service organization," Centier CEO and Chairman Michael Schrage said in the video. "I get very involved in promotion of the brand and the identity and want to protect the culture of the bank, inculcating a serving heart culture for generations to come."
The business owners tell their stories in their own words.
"I want the public to know that even though we're in Lowell, Indiana, our law firm can do the same quality of work and have the same legal success for our clients as any of the large or well-known and commonly referenced law firms in the area," Rossi said in the video. "Our motto is 'small town but big-time talent,' and we try to live by that."
The Times may expand the new video feature into a monthly feature after its most successful Best of the Region contest ever, which added 40 new categories for a total of 176. Voting on people's favorite restaurant, coffee shop, microbrewery and other local businesses jumped by 28% despite the pandemic.
"We had our best year ever. We had over 320,000 votes this year," Pellegrini said. "It truly shows the love for local businesses by the people in Northwest Indiana."
For more information, or to view the video after its release, visit nwi.com/bestof.
Gallery: 2020 The Times Best of the Region
2020 The Times Best of the Region
Welcome to The Times Media Company’s Best of the Region for 2020.
When voting began in early March, we couldn't have predicted the changes to business as usual that we have experienced.
Still, thanks to the pluck of local entrepreneurs and dedication of our readers, we are presenting our annual look at the best restaurants, services, places to live and more in the Region.
This year we added an ambitious 40 categories for a total of 176, and we are proud to profile these businesses and providers that you chose in the monthlong voting.
This contest is the culmination of another year of interacting with our readers, telling stories about people and places that make a difference in our communities and championing the local businesses that serve as the backbone of the Region. It's also a testament to the resilience of the Region.
This is a process you, our readers, take seriously, casting 320,282 total votes, up 28% from 2019. That includes an 11% increase in write-in votes.
All this from 36,068 registered users, an increase of 84% from 2019. That speaks to more than the fact that we have been spending a lot more time at home. It expresses the understanding that the Region is poised to rebound from the limitations imposed by the coronavirus.
What accounts for the staying power of Best of the Region? Perhaps it's how we recognize the value of hard work and the chance to applaud businesses that respect our time and resources and consistently exceed our expectations. A Best of the Region nod is not only a well-deserved “thank you” to those who truly care for their customers, but it also reinforces those efforts.
These pages contain a number of first-time winners including Anytime Fitness, Jay Marie Salon & Spa and the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce in addition to stalwarts such as Albert's Diamond Jewelers, Centier Bank and Strack & Van Til that annually dominate their categories. But whether the business is big or small, time-honored or cutting-edge, all have excellence in common.
So on behalf of the Times, I’d like thank the readers who took the time to thoughtfully complete the ballot and offer our congratulations to the winners. Here’s to another year of “the best” in the Region!