Waves of laughter and smiles flooded the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino banquet room Monday night setting the already sparkly room aglow as the winners of the Best of Rim Country were announced.
Most held their composure long enough to collect their award from host Frank La Spisa, but offstage they let out squeals and hugged their coworkers, exclaiming, “We did it,” before grinning wildly for their official photo.
More than 450 people crowded into the Mazatzal Casino, which as it happens also won the people’s choice award for best Rim Country business. They filled every table in the ballroom and spilled over onto chairs set up along the back wall, enjoying the free food and drinks provided by the Roundup and happily cheering their favorites. The crowd grew by more than 100 over last year’s total.
The excited winners had taken the top spot among the Roundup’s poll of readers. The 1,200 people who filled out ballots cast more than 10,000 votes for their favorites in 70 categories that included best auto shop to barber, lunch spot and firefighter.
For repeat winners like stylist Juliedon Petersen, local country band Junction 87 and the casino’s Cedar Ridge Restaurant, the award confirmed they’ve still got it right.
And for first-time winners, like Realtor Deborah Rose-Ellis, Miss Fitz 260 Café and police officer Michael Hansen, the award represented a delightful surprise. Rose-Ellis couldn’t hide her excitement. She burst into the back room where photos were being taken, jaw dropped and eyes wide. She hadn’t even planned on showing up, but on a whim decided to drop by and clap for the winners.
When LaSpisa announced her name, she said her heart did a back flip since another Realtor had taken home the award for years.
And what makes her the best? Rose-Ellis, with Realty One Group, said she is a good listener and she treats clients like “rock stars.”
The Roundup asked all of the winners to fill out a short survey and let us in on their secret to success. The results of those surveys and the complete list of winners and finalists in all 70 categories will be featured in a special section on Feb. 28 in the Roundup. The newspaper will also report readers choices in many of the categories in other publications throughout the year, like the two annual visitors guides.
No surprise, most said customer service was king.
“We treat all of our customers like they are very important,” said Lisa Taylor with Taylor Accounting, winner of Best Accountant.
“We pride ourselves on building relationships and genuinely caring about our clients,” said Kevin Dick, winner of Best Financial Advisor.
Some had other ideas.
Best Chiropractor Dr. Chuck Williams said he keeps his fees low. Petersen said she keeps flexible hours and the staff at Miss Fitz credited their chefs for creating fresh, homemade food.
The staff at La Sierra, the Best Mexican Restaurant, said they use original recipes, fresh ingredients and create authentic Mexican dishes.
Best Waiter Jason Richardson said besides being attentive to diners’ needs, he just loves his job and takes a lot of pride of it.
“How am I different?” said Su Pearson-Richardson, named Best Massage Therapist with Head to Toe Salon. “Shall I count the ways!”
Brendalyn Rose, with Payson Candle Factory, gave all the credit to her mom, Carol.
“We hand-make most of our candles and Carol has carved (candles) for third- and even fourth-generation customers.”
Rose was filling in for her mom who was in the hospital after breaking her hip.
“She needs to hurry and heal from her broken hip so she can get busy carving candles,” she said.
While Carol is on the mend, so it appears is the Rim Country economy.
The Roundup polled the winners and most said the economy has shown some improvement.
“We are on the upswing,” Rose-Ellis said. “(Home) sales gain of 8.64 percent in 2013 — first sign of recovery.”
“It’s been better than last year and it looks like more people are in town,” La Sierra staff said.
Top Payson Councilor Su Connell said Rim Country is showing signs of growth.
“Expanding in new businesses and homes are all signs of a bright future for all generations now and future,” she said.
And for all businesses, this is good news after several years of spiraling sales.
“It’s been a struggle for the health care industry, but we are expecting big things in 2014,” said Payson Care Center staff.
Gerardo Moceri, named Best Business Person of the Year, closed out the night. “As long as we are positive and are healthy, we are fine,” he said.