South Portland honors 5 businesses with annual awards

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A brewery, a coffee shop and a hydroponics supplier were among five businesses recognized as South Portland’s best at the city’s second annual Business Awards Banquet Wednesday night.

About 100 residents and business owners attended the Nov. 30 event at the Marriott Hotel at Sable Oaks, hosted by the South Portland Economic Development Committee.

Bill and Jeannie Dunnigan, co-owners of Cia Cafe in Knightville, were named Business Leaders of the Year; Grow Tech was named Business of the Year; MAC Air Group was selected as New Business of the Year; Snap Fitness won the newly created Santo “Sam” DiPietro Community Impact Award, and Fore River Brewing was named Small Business of the Year.

Ross Little, economic development committee chairman, said the winners are evidence that South Portland can successfully continue “to find ways to improve this city, (and) we need to find ways to increase economic development.”

The Dunnigans, who opened Cia at 72 Ocean St. in 2013, were praised by presenter and EDC member April Cohen for improving the Knightville neighborhood through their personal, community-centric business ethics.

Cohen listed the “Top 10 Reasons Why Everyone Loves Cia,” which included the coffee shop’s “family atmosphere,” “Bill’s egg sandwiches,” “Jeannie’s roller skates,” the brownies the cafe serves, the local art on display, and the fact “it’s like ‘Cheers’,” in that everyone knows your name, she said.

“They’ve brought an  energy to Knightville I think we’ve been lacking since the new (Casco Bay) bridge was rebuilt,” Cohen said. “Jeannie and Bill are the backbone of the community.”

Grow-Tech, at 165 Pleasant Ave., specializes in providing advanced rooting products and services to customer around the world.

“These guys are the future,” Little said.

The company manufactures soil-alternative materials and mechanisms, such as hydroponics, aquaponics and floriculture.

John LeGassey, one of the three co-owners of Fore River Brewing, which opened almost a year ago at 455 Huntress Ave., said “we have nothing but good things to say about the city of South Portland.”

Fore River distributes its beer to more than 50 establishments in greater Portland, recently started bottling, and will soon begin canning its beer for retail sale.

MAC Air Group, which recently moved to new quarters at the Portland International Jetport, provides aviation services and products and has been doing business in the state for almost 60 years. It employs nearly 100 people, Jane Eberle, president of the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, said during her presentation of the company’s award.

Owners Jan and Mark Jellison have operated Snap Fitness, at 747 Broadway, for 10 years. They were praised for their community involvement, which includes partnerships with Camp Kieve, Opportunity Alliance, the South Portland Food Cupboard, and for their involvement in the Maine Locker Room Project – a backpack program that sends donated food home with food-insecure children to tide them over the weekends during the school year.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

John LeGassey, left, and T.J. Hansen, two of the three co-owners of Fore Street Brewing, hold up a banner announcing their designation as Small Business of the Year by the South Portland Economic Development Committee on Nov. 30.

Cia Cafe owner Jeannie Dunnigan shares a laugh in October 2014 with customer David MacVane. Dunnigan and husband Bill received South Portland’s 2016 Business Leaders of the Year Award Nov. 30.

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.