Awards cite best of valley

Friday, August 26, 2011


Staff Writer

May Balsama has an interesting take on why the Best of the Souhegan Region awards are so important to businesses in the nine towns involved in the voting: the uniqueness of those towns and that they are not part of Manchester, nor Nashua.

“The readers’ choice awards were created to identify and to give some branding to the Souhegan Valley area,” the executive director of the Souhegan Valley Chamber of Commerce said in a telephone interview on Monday. “So many times our towns are folded, in terms of perception, into part of Nashua, part of Manchester, and we are neither. We are unique communities with many wonderful businesses.”

Readers of the Cabinet Press papers – The Cabinet, the Bedford Journal, the Merrimack Journal, and the Hollis Brookline Journal – certainly had no problem finding businesses for which to vote in this year’s contest, and hundreds of them took the time, and the effort to cast ballots. This year, readers selected 120 businesses as The Best of the Souhegan Region.

As Amy Wheeler, president of the Chamber, pointed out, voting for one’s favorite restaurant or health club or auto repair shop takes thought.

Readers of the four papers, Wheeler said in a column that appears in The Best of the Souhegan Region supplement included with this week’s issues, “have taken the time to honor the people who provide the business services to our communities.”

That’s how Brian Woodbury, co-manager of the Toadstool Bookshop in Milford sees it, too. Toadstool was the only winner in the “Books” category.

“It’s great to have the recognition,” Woodbury said. “We work very hard, we’re obviously very people- and community-oriented and people seem to appreciate that.”

Dr. Joseph Raczek of Milford, one of two winners as Best Optometrist along with Nashua Eye Associates, called his award “a cool thing to have” and said he hears comments about winning from other business people. But while thanking his patients for voting for his practice, he declined to take all of the credit.

“I want to thank my staff for being such a good staff,” he said. “They deserve the credit, too.”

Rick Holder, owner of the Hampshire Hills Sports and Fitness Club in Milford, would agree. His club won in several categories.

“As Lee Iococca said, ‘You can lead, follow or get out of the way’,” Holder said in an e-mail. “At Hampshire Hills, we will lead. That is why winning is important to us. We hope we get the chance to win every year.”

Voting for the Best of the Souhegan Region, which takes place in July, began five years ago when the Chamber and The Cabinet Press developed the concept.

“We thought this was a great way to give some recognition to businesses in the area,” Balsama, the Chamber executive director said. “There are some great little businesses here, and some great big businesses, too.”

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