Hoboken University Medical Center was named the mile-square city’s Business of the Year at the second Annual Chamber of Commerce Business Awards on Thursday night, placing the finishing touches on a year of success that included the hospital’s 150th anniversary in October.
Paul Walker, the hospital’s chief executive officer, accepted the award on behalf of the staff. He said they were proud to continue serving Hoboken after overcoming several years of struggling to stay financially afloat. Walker also had high praise for his audience.
“In my career, I’ve been a part of Chambers in Philadelphia, Charlotte, Miami, West Palm Beach and Birmingham, Alabama, but I’ve never been part of anything as enthusiastic and vibrant as Hoboken,” he said.
The hospital beat out Stevens Institute of Technology and the Monroe Arts Center for the evening’s top award. Dino & Harry’s won Restaurant of the Year after being nominated in 2012, and Bijou Properties, which cut the ribbon on the environmentally friendly Edge Lofts development earlier this year, won the new Green Business of the Year award.
“I’ve never been part of anything as enthusiastic and vibrant as Hoboken.” – Paul Walker
‘It’s very Hoboken’
The awards celebrated businesses new and old. While Pilsener Haus Biergarten won New Business of the Year, 108-year-old Muller Insurance took home the Uniquely Hoboken business of the year.
Roger Muller, who co-owns the business that his grandfather started in 1906 with his sister Erika, said he greatly admired the other nominees in the category but surmised that history was on his side.
“I was totally caught off guard by this and I think so highly of [longlasting businesses] Biggie’s and Maxwell’s, but I guess there’s not a lot that’s more uniquely Hoboken then being here for over 100 years,” he said afterwards.
Michele Litzky of the waterfront Litzky Public Relations firm won the Woman in Business award. She said later that the awards spoke highly the business community's inclusive nature.
“I think the people in this city embrace business, whether they’re being started by females or young people and anyone else who wants to work hard and succeed, and that’s where rewards like this come from,” she said.
Scott Delea accepted the Community Service of the Year award for his organization Party With Purpose, which produces events that raise money for charity, and echoed Litzky’s location-specific business sentiment.
“I love that we have an award that combines service and business. It’s very Hoboken,” he said. “A true community is one that grows together out of all aspects, like business, government, and service, and the result is a place where everybody wins.”
Haven Savings Bank and Liberty Realty, which rounded out the evening by taking home the Financial Institution of the Year and Real Estate Office of the Year, respectively, were recognized especially for their different but important efforts in helping Hoboken recover from Sandy.
No one from Haven was able to attend the ceremony, but emcee Eugene Flinn (who owns Amanda’s and the Elysian Cafe) praised the bank for donating $250,000 to the city’s relief fund in Sandy’s aftermath. And Michael Klein, accepting Liberty’s award, issued a rallying cry for post-hurricane Hoboken.
“After Sandy, everyone really thought we were done for, but we’ve seen a 12 to 15 percent increase in sales this year and that’s great for our town,” he said. “People still want to come here.”
In many ways, the entire evening stood in stark contrast to last year’s awards, which were held only a month after the storm, when some businesses had yet to reopen. On Thursday, the atmosphere in the Elks Hall was more festive.
Greg Dell’Aquila, the Chamber’s president, said he thought the performance of many businesses this year demonstrated a devotion not only “to the value of a dollar, but inspiration, courage, growth and mostly contribution – everything it means to be an outstanding member of a community.”
Mayor Dawn Zimmer, won reelection two weeks ago, was on hand for much of the evening, handing out several awards and thanking business owners for their efforts to fuel Sandy recovery. She also laid out an ambitious plan to redesign Washington Street, and invited the audience to a to-be-scheduled public meeting to weigh in on the project.
“I’m looking forward to working together on this and really thinking about what we can do to make this a great street,” she said.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org