The South Portland Food Cupboard received the Impact Award on Feb. 11 from the South Portland Economic Development Committee. The award is for a business or organization that had a significant impact on improving or stabilizing economic conditions in the city despite the pandemic. Courtesy photo Tess Parks

SOUTH PORTLAND — The 2020 Business & Economic Development Awards ceremony took place on Feb. 11, recognizing local businesses and organizations for their struggles and triumphs through the pandemic.

This year’s winners, nominated by community members through the South Portland Economic Development Committee, are Scratch Baking Co., 158 Picket Street Cafe, Sopo Catering, SoPo Seafood, ReVision Energy, Legion Square Market and South Portland Food Cupboard.

Members of the South Portland Economic Development Committee presented awards to each business over Zoom, each business and organization telling their own stories through pre-recorded videos and then representatives accepted the awards during the ceremony.

The change in times caused the awards to shift focus as well, said Ellen Clancy, chair of the Economic Development Committee. Each of the winners were honored for their work and creative ways they stayed open during the pandemic.

Scratch Baking Co., located on 416 Preble St., received the 2020 COVID Pivot Pioneer Award, which recognized a business that adapted to find new ways to safely operate, said Marty Riehle, committee member and award presenter.

“Scratch Baking excelled at making changes in their business while keeping their customers and employees safe,” Riehle said. “They really were building the airplane as they were flying.”

Co-owner Bob Johnson said that Scratch Baking Co. started up an online ordering system when the pandemic began and continued to adapt and perfect the system to prevent cars from lining up and creating traffic problems.

“This is great — it’s great to be acknowledged,” he said. “This was a very hard year for us as everyone. We certainly pivoted. I kind of discussed with the team on an ongoing basis that what we knew how to do for the last 16 years is no longer applicable. We need to basically go into startup mode and figure out how to do this all over again, and we probably did that half a dozen times through the summer.”

158 Pickett Street Cafe co-owners Josh Potocki and Kate Schier-Potocki. Their cafe won the  2020 Small Business COVID Pivot Pioneer Award. Courtesy photo South Portland Economic Development Department

James LaPlante, Economic Development Committee member, presented the 2020 Small Business COVID Pivot Pioneer Award to 158 Pickett Street Cafe.

The business started a website and incorporated an online ordering system into it, co-owners Josh Potocki and Kate Schier-Potocki said. The team also added infrastructure to create a pickup window.

“We feel really fortunate to be able to keep doing business and stay positive through all this,” Josh Potocki said.

Receiving more nominations than any other business this year was SoPo Catering, 171 Ocean St., which received the 2020 Heroes Helping Heroes Award, said presenter and committee member Mark Reuscher.

Co-owners Jay and Pamela Gerrish were personally affected by COVID-19 when Pamela Gerrish’s parents were hospitalized, they said. To thank the frontline healthcare workers at Maine Medical Center and Mercy Hospital, SoPo Catering started providing them with free meals.

SoPo Catering, owned by Jay and Pamela Gerrish, donated food to Mercy Hospital and Maine Medical Center’s frontline workers as a thank-you for their care. Courtesy photo South Portland Economic Development Department

Jay Gerrish began volunteering at the South Portland Food Cupboard, too, he said. The two said they were humbled to have been nominated by the community.

The 2020 Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Award was presented to SoPo Seafood by committee member Donna Larson Kane, who said the award is meant for a business that was just getting started as COVID-19 began in early 2020.

Joshua Edgcombe, Matt Brown and Lucas Myers, co-founders of SoPo Seafood, said that the business ships through its website.

SoPo Seafood meets a demand for people looking to buy local seafood from home, said Brown. This allowed the business to become a success at a time when many were and are choosing to stay a home.

Myers thanked the harvesters the company works with while accepting the award.

ReVision Energy, located at 758 Westbrook St., was awarded with 2020 Job Preserver Award, said Mark Duval, advisory member of the Economic Development Committee. The award recognizes a business that helped keep up workforce numbers through adapting.

In March, ReVision Energy had to shut down almost 50 percent of its business, the residential side of the company, said co-owner Phil Coupe. By July, more than 95 percent of employees were back on the job and ReVision Energy began hiring again in August.

Partnering with the Good Shepherd Food Bank, ReVision Energy helped in delivering 45,000 meals to Mainers, Coupe said.

“That to us really kind of crystalizes this idea that we’re all in this together,” he said.

Clancy presented the 2020 Keeping Us Safe Award to Legion Square Market, located at 101 Ocean St. The award is meant for a business that did a great job creating a safe way to stay open during the pandemic for employees and customers.

Legion Square Market set the standard for COVID-19 prevention, Clancy said.

Co-owner Alan Cardinal said the business wanted to make employees as well as customers comfortable. The market placed hand sanitizer and gloves at the store’s entrance and made masks a requirement.

Legion Square Market is able to diffuse potential discussions when a customer comes inside without a mask on by having an employee approach the customer and provide a mask, Cardinal said.

Employees also took steps to keeping themselves and others safe by practicing healthy behaviors outside of work, Cardinal said.

“… There’s no one person who can do everything, but all of us can do the right thing, so let’s just follow that through and embrace that,” Cardinal said.

The final award of the evening was presented to the South Portland Food Cupboard on 130 Thaddeus St., which received the 2020 Impact Award.

Presented by Sari Greene, Economic Development Committee member, the award recognizes a business or organization that had a significant impact on improving or stabilizing economic conditions in the city despite the pandemic, according to the committee.

Not only has the South Portland Food Cupboard manage to stay open, but also the organization has innovated ways to keep staff, volunteers and clients safe, said Greene. The food cupboard’s bounty has also been shared with the South Portland Boys and Girls Club, the South Portland School District, South Portland Housing Authority and other Cumberland County food pantries.

Director Dwayne Hopkins thanked the city and community for making the food cupboard’s work possible through the pandemic.

“It’s attribute to our donors, our volunteers and to the city of South Portland for being able to make this happen,” he said. “We could not do this, just one person or even a dozen people. It takes an entire community to be able to do this, so thank you for the award and thank you for participating and being able to make this happen.”

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