2022 Excellence in Downtown Albany Awards

2022 Excellence in Downtown Albany Awards
September 1, 2022 Lise Grato

On August 29, Albany Downtown Association members, volunteers and community partners gathered at Albany Civic Theater for a night of fun and recognition.


The Excellence in Downtown Albany Awards honor the people and businesses that are putting their time, money, and/or influence into making our Downtown a more vibrant place to live, work and do business.


Nominations were submitted by ADA members, and the winners were selected by our award committee. Some of our awards are a part of a statewide award program, the Oregon Main Street Excellence in Revitalization Awards. Those awardees are invited to attend the award ceremony on October 5 at the OMS Conference in Klamath Falls.


Here are the awards with comments from the nomination submissions:


Business of the Year

This award is designed to recognize the innovation, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by our entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Winner: Emma Downtown

– “An intricate part of Downtown for over 22 years, they support the ADA through membership, keeping a positive image and being a positive draw for other businesses.”

– “They are constantly encouraging other businesses to open and come to Albany, and they started and are carrying on the tradition of the annual ‘Downtown Unwrapped’ event.”

– “Owner Peggy Udolf served on the ADA board when they passed the city’s first EID. She was instrumental in a lot of what you see on our streetscape from the flower baskets and snowflakes to the park benches and trash receptacles.”

– “They have pride in their shop and are always putting in maximum effort in all displays, customer service, community support and keeping things fresh and appealing.”


Additional Nominees:

  • Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant – “They purchased and restored a building downtown which later burned and they restored it again! The Novaks have been great at giving back to the community, including, but not limited to giving food and clothing to the less fortunate, serving on the ADA board, serving on the Albany City Council, and much more.”
  • Sweet Red Bistro – “The most welcoming and kind restaurant around with the highest quality. They make all their customers feel like they are special and are a part of their family.”
  • Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food – “They embraced a welcoming outdoor dining experience even before Covid. They maintain attractive outdoor seating with greenery, making the old brick building come alive. Their interior space was designed for casual dining but with a focus on the roots of one of the owners and her family. It’s attractive and calming, the perfect space to enjoy the company of companions for a great meal. In addition, their price points are excellent—and that is another part of its successful support to draw in both residents and visitors.”


New Business of the Year

This award is designed to recognize the innovation, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by our entrepreneurs and new small businesses.

Winner: The Squeaky Cork

– “The space is beautiful, the food and drink are delicious, the staff is attentive and friendly and they are already working on expanding.”

– “Offers something new to Downtown and they’ve done a great job with the exterior and improving the whole block.”

– “Creates another opportunity for visitors to experience the genuine hospitality and authenticity of historic Albany. They are warm and inviting, quality food, great beverages and amazing service.”

– “Fulfilling a lifetime dream of having this business, the owners and family have created a very charming establishment.”

– “The atmosphere is warm and cozy. This restaurant is like nothing else in downtown Albany or probably anywhere else in the Willamette Valley.”

– “The staff is welcoming and knowledgeable, and the food is really delicious. Customers truly enjoy themselves. Trying new and unique offerings  is fun, and returning to have your favorite entree is comforting.”

– “It is wonderful to see more businesses opening on the other side of Ellsworth, expanding the vibrant Downtown core.”


Additional Nominees:

  • The Brim Coffee Co. – “They embrace the community, are kind and deliver exceptional customer service.”
  • Jinda Thai – “Best Thai food in Downtown Albany. The food is always consistent with a high level of focus on perfection on each plate.”
  • Stoked 2 Sk8 – “is the best of everything-great art, great service, focus on athleticism. perfect place for young people to shop!”


Growth Business of the Year

The winner demonstrates clear business growth in terms of customer base and profitability over recent years. This business is ambitious and future-facing. They have clear objectives and a plan to achieve them. This is for rising stars, whatever the company size or activity.

Winner: Margin Coffee Roasters

– “This business recently expanded their production with a second location in Albany, providing six more jobs, and offering more products for the community. The process kept jobs and profits local and they strive to provide quality products to the community directly through dine-in or carry-out options as well as wholesale accounts, serving local businesses with high-quality coffee and related training.”


Additional Nominees:

  • Pure Beauty Aesthetics – Michelle has done a great job growing her business, she has taken over the entire office, and has recently rented the space next-door for expansion. They’ve done a remarkable job setting up their business and are even expanding into a much larger space now!
  • Merrime Bridal – Merrime Bridal was purchased Sept 2021 and has more than doubled in growth and customer base. In their first year, they’ve completely rebranded, embraced social media, and was voted the number one bridal shop in the Willamette Valley. Completely revamping inventory for bridal selections and listening to the community by adding special occasions (Mother of bride/groom) and serving our high schools in Albany and surrounding communities for winter formals and prom. The Merrime Bridal vision is inclusive for all and they give every bride and their families an unforgettable experience. Merrime Bridal continues to expand and listen to the community and their needs and strives to be the bridal destination boutique for Oregon and beyond.
  • Natural Sprinkles Co. – Natural Sprinkles went from an online wholesale sprinkle shop offering baked goods at farmers market to a full-blown bakery in a beautiful corner building. They complement neighboring businesses and continue to support the economy by sourcing local ingredients.


Best Business Organized Event

This business went above and beyond in organizing their own event that attracted customers to not only their business but other businesses in Downtown Albany.

Winner: Gallery Calapooia

-“First Friday started with this business and has grown to include several downtown businesses.”

-“The month of February is when this business hosts an annual event, the ‘Big Show of Little Art.’ The first show brought over 200 entries; in recent years, gallery space limited the number of entries to 150. Participating artists range in age from 3 years to 90 years old. For many, this is the first time they have had their artwork displayed in a real gallery. The younger artists gain confidence and self-esteem when they see their work hung among that of adults and “real” artists. The gallery has a mission to promote arts education.”


Additional Nominees:

  • Albany Historic Carousel & Museum – “The Carousel has amazing events to serve the community and beyond!”
  • Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food – “The Ba’s Luna New Year at the end of January 2022 was the best way to represent some diversity in the downtown community, along with an incredible and unique menu.”
  • The Natty Dresser – “Their monthly 1st Friday even always draws a crowd! The Albany tweed ride, organized by The Natty Dresser has maintained its draw even through the pandemic. The event draws people from Port Townsend, Portland and Corvallis.”


Standout Volunteer

This award honors an ADA volunteer who has made a noteworthy contribution that is above and beyond what is reasonably expected of a volunteer.

Awardee: Hannah Darling

– “She is the definition of a remarkable volunteer. She began volunteering regularly over five years ago helping the Design Committee with hanging baskets and joining the Promotion Committee.”

– “Her dedication to Downtown Albany led her to join ADA’s Executive Board of Directors serving as Secretary and now leads the organization as our 2022-23 President.”

– “Hannah serves as chair of the 1st Friday in Historic Downtown Albany sub-committee, bringing together new and established businesses to elevate this Downtown partnership event. She has been key in the Albany Alley project and personally sourced and hung the beautiful hanging baskets with her family. She has coordinated the Downtown Twice Around parade for the last two years.”

– “We wouldn’t be the organization we are today without the dedication and guidance of Hannah Darling!”


Most Innovative Business

This award recognizes creativity in terms of introduction of new products and services to Downtown Albany.

Winner: Stoked 2 Sk8

– “Stoked 2 Sk8 has done a great job of bringing younger people to the Downtown.”

– “They are “a breath of fresh air in Downtown Albany, a business with a product that appeals to both young and old. This business has attracted a young clientele while bridging the gap between adults and teens.

– “The customers have seen the owner demonstrate the merchandise, proving that age is a state of mind, not just a number. By broadening the perception of who is a skateboarder, Josh provides a common ground for all ages to share their passion. This business has spanned generations of buyers.”


Additional Nominees:

  • Enigma Escape Experience – “They provide an activity/service that one else downtown does!”
  • Merrime Bridal – “Dressing brides with fun and funky style…. come on a black wedding dress they pulled it off.”
  • Sybaris Bistro – “Sybaris consistently uses new and local products to curate an innovative menu, which changed monthly. They use local and seasonal produce and meats with excellent skill as they play with new methods and a brave approach.”
  • Urban Ag Supply – “They continue to bring in new products from local makers. Their store is open 7 days per week and is a draw for customers to come Downtown.”


Legends of Lockdown

This award is for organizations or individuals who have gone above and beyond during the Covid-19 pandemic to support Downtown Albany businesses/community in lockdown.  It might be an organization or someone who delivered amazing support despite the inherent difficulties of the time and the barriers that were in place.

Winner: Lise Grato

– “Lise worked tirelessly to help businesses get through the lockdown and kept our downtown going!”

– “She never stops!  She tirelessly worked to offer assistance and support for Downtown businesses from creating Drive Up Downtown and helping to coordinate the SEAT program for businesses to provide outdoor seating to drawing chalk lines on the pavement and temporary signage to allow for curbside pick up. She took time to highlight businesses on the ADA and her social platforms and encouraged them to share their offerings through her followers.”

– “Lise is a shining star in downtown Albany and it wouldn’t be the same without her!”


Additional Nominees:

  • The Pix Theater – “The Albany Pix Theater took the unprecedented action of making drastic physical changes to their space. They removed every other row of seats in the theater. Customers were required to book online and select seats so the theater owners could maintain proper distance between moviegoers. Signage and rope barriers were placed in the lobby so customers could wait in line for popcorn without being too close to other customers. All staff wore (and continue to wear) masks and wore gloves when handling food products. Hand sanitizer was made available for customers at the entrance of the theater and by the concession stand counter. It is clear that the Albany Pix Theater owners and staff care greatly about their customers. They are not the only downtown business that took drastic efforts to ensure the safety of their customers but, in my opinion, the Albany Pix Theater stands out as a superhero business.”
  • Albany Civic Theater – “they reworked their mask requirements to keep people safe but kept shows on stage!”
  • Sybaris Bistro – “they pivoted their business model quickly to be able to provide curbside boxed meals. They also helped their fellow downtown restaurant tours to do the same.”
  • Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food – “Ba’s adapted to the situation and modified their business model to keep up with their demand without compromising their high quality!”


Good Neighbor Award

This award recognizes a business that collaborates, cross promotes and supports other Downtown Albany businesses through marketing or event collaboration.

Winner: Albany Pix Theatre

– “Always coordinates with other businesses and events and regularly coordinates lunches and dinners with Sybaris Bistro. They use social media and signage to cross-promote other businesses and the services they provide. When playing the movie Clue, they encouraged patrons to see the play at the Albany Civic Theater and to go play the game at a local game shop.”


Additional Nominees:

  • Albany Historic Carousel & Museum – “The Historic Carousel & Museum invites people from near and far to enjoy the carousel and the volunteers are eager to share information about other businesses with their visitors – restaurants, shops etc. They have a digital screen promoting other businesses right in their lobby where people wait for their tours, and they provide a space for AVA to display brochures for other fun things to see and do in and around Albany.”
  • Albany Visitors Association – “They have the passport program and they calibrated with Naturals Sprinkles Co. for cookies for the World Meet.”
  • No Dinx – “Throughout the pandemic No Dinx has provided support and creative solutions for marketing and signage.”


Bricks & Mortar Rehabilitation

This award is designed to recognize building owners or programs that positively impact preservation efforts. This may include façade improvements, restoration projects, adaptive reuse, or more. Important factors to highlight include quality, historic preservation, creativity and impact within budget or constraints.

Winner: The Natty Dresser

This project was undertaken at a time when most others were being put on hold due to uncertain conditions. The work included restoring and refurbishing the front facade, the outside and inside of the building. Fourteen 40-yard dumpsters were used in the clean-up of the inside of this now beautiful building. The scope of work, the quality of the work and the level of finishes in the building were not compromised; you only have to walk into the building now to see the love and appreciation that went into this project!


Outstanding Building Owners of the Year

These building owners showed good tenant relations, site management, improvements to their building and continued beautification of the interior and exterior of their building.


Seth Fortier has upheld a high standard for the quality and attraction of the historic Downtown buildings. At great cost, he has beautified and modernized his buildings while keeping their original charm. He is fair with his tenants and stays aware of site needs.


Thad and Shannon Olivetti keep their building immaculate. Whether it’s touchup painting blowing leaves off the sidewalk or upgrading tenant apartments, they are exemplary owners in Downtown Albany.


Kathy May continues to update and upgrade with the highest of standards in her historic buildings. Merrime Bridal has received new flooring upstairs, is receiving a new front door and a completely renovated front patio with new tile.


John Boock owns several buildings downtown and has served as a fair and supportive landlord. He has allowed the use of his unique upstairs apartment for a variety of events including the Historic Interior Home Tours. He has even ventured outside his own buildings to create art and beauty in the community – an example is the park on the corner of First and Lyon. He was instrumental in getting the carousel their building and continues to support our historic Downtown community – often behind the scenes.

Mike & Karen McLain are very attentive building owners making sure that everything is in good working order and check with us regularly to check we have what we need. They work closely with the other building tenants as well. They also open their apartment to host events and for upstairs tours.

Thank you to Stephanie Gutierrez for being our delightful presenter. Thank you to Albany Civic Theater for sharing their wonderful venue, Gamberetti’s for amazing food and Calapooia Brewing, Deluxe Brewing and Springhill Cellars Winery for the refreshing beverages.

Congratulations to all of our amazing Downtown nominees and winners.

Here are some more wonderful photos from the event by Katharine Gutierrez Photography: