Last week, Ruby’s Arcade set the stage for one of downtown’s best parties of the year – Celebration & Reception. It’s our favorite event that we produce because we get to show our appreciation for the people, businesses, and partners who keep downtown thriving, as well as for our supporters who believe in HDR’s mission. It’s a great night of optimism, excitement, and gratitude; you’d expect nothing less from a room full of people who are passionate about our city. Plus, thanks to our sponsors, we had plenty of beer, wine, and tasty pizza and BBQ to elevate spirits.
At this Celebration, we presented a year in review and gave a look ahead at what’s to come, in addition to creating a new way to bring attention to the cool things that people are doing in the community. (Be in the know! We are posting another blog recapping this part of the evening later this week.) This year we also gave more awards than ever before, which we are pleased to highlight here. First up, our three Design Excellence Awards that were selected by the volunteers on our Design Committee and presented to the Chesapeake Western Railway Depot, Ruby’s Lofts, and withSimplicity.
Design Excellence Awards
Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot - Jim & John Monger and The Gaines Group
The Chesapeake Western Railroad Depot building, located at 141 West Bruce Street, was built in 1913. There were several fires over its life span, and after the one in 1982, it sat vacant for years. In 2016, it was restored by JM Apartments, and now houses a Marvin Window and Door showroom, and offices for Estland Design, Herr & Company and The Gaines Group, who was the project’s architect. This project reinforces the activity downtown at the Ice House and W Bruce Street and points toward a future revival of other adjacent structures.
Ruby’s Lofts - Clay Clark and Sustainable Solutions
When it comes to downtown living, Ruby’s Lofts embody a true urban point of view. Located in the Wine Brothers Building at 163-165 S Main Street, the Lofts consist of four, 700 sq. ft luxury apartments that maintain the original oversized windows and exposed brick. This building, built in 1920, was originally a car dealership, so this was not an easy rehabilitation project. It took true vision, creativity, and expertise to make Ruby’s Loft a reality.
withSimplicity - Irina Dovganetskiy
withSimplicity is a boutique in a vintage 1975 Airstream that sells handmade, natural beauty and skincare products. It was opened last year by Irina Dovganetskiy, an incredibly innovative and visionary business owner. When Irina couldn't find a small enough space in downtown to open her shop, she created it. withSimplicity can be found at 44 S. Main Street in the parking lot between Taj of India and Jacktown. With good taste and attractive merchandising, Irina turned a underutilized area of downtown into an attractive and activated space.
Partner of the Year
The Harrisonburg Radio Group (HRG) took home the Partner of the Year award. You may know them better for their stations: More 96.1, Q101, Country Legends 96.9, V100.1, Rewind 105.1, WSVA Talk radio, and ESPN. Over the past year, HRG has partnered with HDR to spread the word about what’s happening downtown. They have generously sponsored HDR programs; broadcasted live from events; and extended an invitation for us to promote our events, downtown, and the important issues we care about to their radio audience.They keep true to their mission to be ambassadors of goodwill and supportive of our entire community.
Volunteer of the Year
Caitlin Boyer was a unanimous choice for this year’s volunteer of the year award. She has volunteered with HDR for 6 years. If you’ve volunteered at Valley Fourth, she’s most likely been your first point of contact or she’s made sure that you’ve stayed hydrated and filled with pizza on the day of the event. She has been with HDR longer than most volunteers and all of our current staff, which allows her to bring continuity to HDR. Volunteers with her energy, enthusiasm, and commitment are what make events in downtown possible.
In addition to these awards, we presented three new categories this year: Best in Business Marketing, Best Customer Service, and Best New Business.
Best in Business Marketing
Congrats goes to Breathe, a pilates and fitness studio located in the Ice House. From the very beginning, when owner Rebekah Girvan Budnikas opened in 2012, branding and marketing played a key role in her business’ success. She artfully crafted a strategy that included a visually pleasing logo and identity, and uses a variety of marketing strategies to reach her audience. From email marketing and social media to creative partnerships and events, Breathe has built a community around its brand.
People’s Choice Awards
HDR invited the community to help us select the winners for the Best New Business and Best Customer Service categories through an online voting process.
The Best New Business award was presented to Ruby’s Arcade. We asked voters to tell us why they chose this business and overwhelmingly people said they love having a place where everyone can hang out together. Their recurring praises included the delicious food, the lunch buffet, affordability, and fun. One person summed it up by saying that, “I love that it strikes the perfect balance between kid-friendly and adult spaces.”
The Best Customer Service award went to Capital Ale House. When you have 100 beers on tap with 70 more in bottles, it is no surprise that people in this beer town love you. People who voted for Capital Ale often said that the staff goes above and beyond.
These awards were especially important for us to present because small businesses are the backbone of downtown. By holding up downtown businesses as models for success and best practices, we can share what works with the entire business community so all ships rise.
Don't miss part two of this blog to get the scoop on what's coming up downtown.