Dearborn Area Chamber announces 2017 Chamber Choice Award recipients

Chamber to host annual awards ceremony to celebrate regional businesses, leaders

DEARBORN — The Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Chamber Choice Awards & Expo from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 31 at The Henry, an Autograph Collection Hotel.

The cost to attend is $50 for chamber members; tickets for potential chamber members are $65. Space is limited. To register or to view sponsorship opportunities, go to or call 313-584-6100.

This awards event, presented by Ford Land, combines networking and business appreciation by honoring five individuals and businesses, recognizing over 100 organizations celebrating milestone anniversaries, and featuring an expo showcasing over 40 metropolitan Detroit businesses.

The chamber will honor Jim Thorpe of Ameriprise Financial as the Business Leader of the Year. He is a familiar face in Dearborn, having grown up here, started his business here, and he has been active in a number of charitable organizations.

“I’m quite humbled to receive this honor from the chamber,” said Thorpe, who joined the organization in 2001, the same year he opened the business that bears his name, after establishing his career as a financial advisor in 1998. “This community has grown so much over the years and I am glad to have played a small role in it. I’m quite touched by this award.”

When he’s not in his office, Thorpe can be found volunteering for the Dearborn Goodfellows, the Lindbergh Elementary School PTA, and the Dearborn Rotary Club, and he was recently elected to the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education to serve the Dearborn Public Schools and Henry Ford College.

Services To Enhance Potential is the recipient of the Business of the Year Award. STEP is a nonprofit organization that provides support and services to more than 1,300 Wayne County residents with disabilities and other mental health needs.

“STEP has been providing a bright future for Dearborn area residents for more than 40 years, and this recognition is truly gratifying,” said Brent Mikulski, the organization’s president and CEO. “We’ve partnered with the chamber, as well as places like Bangkok 96, Henry Ford Village, and Staybridge Suites, to provide them with great employees and create a win-win for everyone involved.”

STEP recently opened its third thrift store, in Dearborn Heights, which is offering job skills to its clientele and bargains for local shoppers.

This year’s recipient of the Small Business of the Year Award is Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit. Formerly known as the Dearborn Animal Shelter, this organization has ensured the love, care, and shelter of more than 49,000 dogs and cats since 1996.

“For the past 16 years, we’ve been able to save 100 percent of all adoptable animals that have come through our doors,” FAMD Executive Director Elaine Greene said. “We boast a volunteer base of hundreds of people who give of their time to care for the animals, as well as work on programs and events to extend our outreach into the area. This award is a testament to their dedication.”

Later this spring, the Friends of Animals of Metro Detroit will break ground on a new facility behind the Dearborn Police and 19th District Court building on Michigan Avenue.

From his time as a city councilman to his years as Dearborn’s state representative, it’s hard not to feel the impact George Darany has had on the community. Darany was nominated and voted by committee members to receive the DACC Impact Award this year.

Darany’s time in Lansing included bills to strengthen human trafficking laws, provide job opportunities to veterans, and improve maternal and mental health outcomes.

“I’m honored to receive such a prestigious award from the chamber,” Darany said. “It really is a special feeling to know those I’ve served believe I am deserving of this award. I am grateful to the chamber of commerce and the city I love.”

The onetime owner of a trolley company that bore his name, Darany has been a longtime real estate agent, Goodfellows volunteer, Special All-Stars Day, Rotarian and supporter of the Dearborn Public Schools.

While established businesses and leaders are key to the overall quality of life in the area, so too, are up-and-coming businesses that will drive the 21st century economy. To that end, the DACC introduced the Startup Award, which will be given to Common Grace Coffee Co.

Established in 2016, Common Grace Coffee Co., according to its corporate website, exists “for the city of Dearborn and the world through the craft that is coffee.”

Owners Dale Tremblay-Dulong and his wife, Stephanie, were familiar faces to patrons who visited the Dearborn Farmers and Artisans Market last year. Their new coffee shop opened last month in downtown west Dearborn.

“We started our company with one goal in mind: to bring people together, people who might not otherwise come together,” Dale Tremblay-Dulong said. “Coffee is one of the simplest things in the world to enjoy no matter your age, race, or religion. We’re extremely honored and grateful to know our little dream is being recognized like this.”

The event connects and showcases organizations in the Dearborn area. The luncheon, including a video component spotlighting each awardee, will also highlight businesses celebrating milestone anniversaries, from five years to more than 175 years.

The expo will enable companies to promote their products and services to 350 business owners, community leaders and corporate professionals.