Thursday, March 26, 2009

River North Business Association Announces "River North's Best" Awards Winners

Mark Kelly, president of the River North Business Association RNBA), is proud to announce the winners of the associations 2009 “River North’s Best” awards. Each year, the River North Business Association recognizes businesses and services in the area that have had positive impacts on the River North community and participates as members in good standing of the Association. “With close to 400 members, the RNBA finds this a difficult task. We have so many great businesses here. A few years ago, we opened the voting to the public. We feel strongly that our winners represent the “best of” River North,” said Kelly at the groups annual meeting “Spring Fling” held yesterday at the Embassy Suites Hotel on State St.

Taking first place for “Best Business or Service Award” was Point B Communications (750 N Orleans St., 312-867-7750), a creative and strategic agency specializing in advertising, branding and marketing services for more than 30 years, in River North for the past six. Accepting the award being presented by RNBA board member Bob Gottfred was Rob Grusin, president of Point B Communications.

RNBA board treasurer David Kover presented the River North “Best Entertainment or Hospitality Venue Award” to The James Hotel (55 E. Ontario St., 312-337-1000). The James, which opened three years ago in River North, was recognized for its contribution to tourism and to bringing business, specifically to River North. “Offering a stylish and engaging alternative for contemporary business or leisure travel, The James exemplifies responsibility, community and partnership,” said Kover. Accepting the award on behalf of The James was its direct of sales Vicki Poplin.

River North’s “Best Green Business Award” went to Greenheart
(746 N. LaSalle Dr., 312-264-1625), Chicago’s only nonprofit eco friendly and fair trade retail store. In his presentation, RNBA vice president Mayo C. Walcott said “Greenheart is a unique business in an ever growing important market segment. The store is fair to producers and good to the earth through its support of local, social enterprises and global fair trade partnerships.” Accepting the award was Claudia Curran, special projects director for Greenheart. In her acceptance, Curran was quick to point out the Greenheart offers complimentary meeting space for up to 30 people, inviting everyone to stop by.

Theory (9 W. Hubbard St., 312-644-0004) received the 2009 River North’s “Best New Restaurant Award,” as the city’s best new hot spot, presented by RNBA board member Bob Zimmerman. Bob commented “as a certified foodie, I enjoy the many great culinary delights that can be found in River North. Each year, all of us get to enjoy new ways to celebrate life with a good meal. Theory strives to be your home away from home, serving upscale yet casual American comfort food with Mexican and Southern BBQ influences, all with exemplary great flavors and soul. Theory is a cozy, upscale sports lounge with an emphasis on good food, and great service. Executive Chef/partner Brian Merel accepted the award on behalf of Theory.

RNBA board secretary, Cindy Kurman, presented the “Best Restaurant for 2009 Award” to Ai Japanese (358 W. Ontario, 312-335-9888). “Food, service and ambiance are just three of the criteria we looked for in selecting the Best Restaurant this year. It’s tough in an area that has so many good restaurants but Ai Japanese was a clear standout. Their unique menu of both sushi and traditional Japanese dishes with modern interpretations and their willingness to support the neighborhood and the association, gave Ai the winning advantage,” said Kurman. Accepting the award was Ai president Agnes Yoshikawa Chua.

The final award category for “Best Retailer, Showroom or Gallery Award,” was presented by RNBA vice president Art Bryan. “While the nominees in this category are as different as day and night, they exemplify the diversity of our River North neighborhood,” said Bryan. “The winner, Argo Tea, (222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, 312-553-1550) , is a growing Chicago company that brings natural and tasty signature drinks to all of those looking for a healthy beverage alternative and lifestyle experience. The group recognized Argo Tea for its sustainable initiatives, working with the best local and global artisans and for their contribution to the River North community. Accepting the award for Argo Tea was Annie Gibson, general manager of the Merchandise Mart location.

Presenting sponsors of the awards and annual meeting were North Bank and the Merchandise Mart. Gold sponsor was Erie-LaSalle Body Shop & Car Care Center. Food was provided by Zocalo, Theory, and Kitsch’n River North restaurants. Square One Productions provided audio visual support and Embassy Suites Hotel provided the location. Auction prizes were provided by So-Well Dental, Aniko Salon and Spa, Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, Kitsch’n River North, Embassy Suites Chicago, and The Redhead Piano Bar.

Goody bags distributed to all attendees included hundreds of dollars worth of goods and services including: gift certificates from Erie-LaSalle Body Shop & Car Care Center, Scoozi, Theory, La Madia, Kitsch’n River North, Buca di Beppo, Ai Japanese, Embassy Suites Hotel, Artropolis, Fireplaces Plus, Cityscape Bar, and Kurman Communications. Other goodies included persimmon white tea from Argo Tea, VIA Starbucks coffee in an instant, and a variety of pens and premiums from North Bank, The Redhead Piano Bar, Erie-LaSalle, David M. Kover, CPF, and Park National Bank.

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