Community stakeholders attended the event, hosted by the Bronson-Norwalk Conservation Club, and cheered as their colleagues and peers were recognized for their outstanding services in the area.
The 2019 awards had several categories covering 21 & Over, Arts & Entertainment, Auto & Vehicles, Beauty, Health & Wellness, Inside the Home, Outside the Home, Professional & Life Services, Shopping and Food.
Smiley Automotive took home five awards, including Best Auto Repair & Maintenance; Best Car Sales Team; Best Car Wash; Best Oil Change; and Best Used Car Dealer.
“The community has been supportive of us, and while we keep renovating and growing, we want to stay local and give back to the community that’s really given to us,” Smiley Automotive owner Jim Neuberger said. “So we’re big supporters of the county fairs, the schools and the local community in general.”
Freight House earned six awards, including Best Bar; Best Bartender; Best Happy Hour; Best Family Dining; Best Sandwich or Sub; and Best Burger.
“We’re excited to keep improving and doing well each year,” Freight House owner Hans Hoffman said. “So being here at the Reader’s Choice Awards banquet is great, and we’re just excited to keep serving everyone who comes in.”
This year’s contest was the largest yet with almost 4,000 people voting among the categories. Readers voted 55,809 times — an increase of about 25,000 from last year — and every vote counted. A third-party counted the ballots to remain impartial.
This year was special for two local tattoo parlors, Stuck Tattoo and Drawn to the Surface, which tied for Best Tattoo Shop.
“With almost 1,000 votes being cast in that category alone, this was great for both businesses,” said Dave Baumgartner, vice president of advertising for Tandem Media Network.
Other highlights included Mitch Brewer winning Rookie of the Year and Abigail Pregnancy winning Best Non-Profit.
“The 2019 Norwalk Reflector's Readers' Choice Awards was a huge success,” Baumgertner said. “In 2018, we set a new record in votes being cast for the best of the best in the Huron County area. This year we had almost double the number of votes. Our readers were very engaged.”
Tandem Media Network gives a very special thanks to Blue Ribbon Catering, the Huron County Chamber of Commerce, Schild’s IGA and Ray Sizemore for helping make Thursday’s winners’ banquet possible.
Editor’s note: Reflector reporter Stacey Hartley contributed to this report. This report has been updated from its original version.