By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
The hometown bank and a new business catering to the hometown -and the world - were honored Tuesday by the Chamber of Commerce at its annual awards ceremony.
Santa Clara Valley Bank was honored as the Large Business of the Year and John Freeland and Mitch Freeland’s Go-Getter Books as the Small Business of the Year at the February 4 awards, held at the Museum of Ventura County Agriculture Museum.
More than 150 people attended the event that honored Citrus Classic Balloon Festival Founder Carla Edwards as Citizen of the Year and Melgar Photography Studios with the Beautification Award for Jose Luis Melgar. Special Achievement recognition was given to Isbell Middle School teachers Mark Robertson and Todd McWherter, who each year oversee the student volunteer Cancer Crushers, which over the years has raised more than $200,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Mayor Rick Cook delivered the State of the City Address to the audience that included Vice Mayor Jim Tovias and Councilmen Ralph Fernandez, Martin Hernandez and City Clerk Judy Rice.
Chamber of Commerce Chair John Chamberlain told the crowd of the contributions to the community made by area business, as well as the impacts and reach of local enterprises.
Chamberlain noted the financial position of the chamber is strengthening good news for businesses located in easily accessible Santa Paula.
The area is being subjected to regional building to encourage out of town visitors, and with Santa Paula having “More museums per capita than Paris,” as well as numerous other attractions the city is, “A great place for people to come and visit and spend their money!”
And watch their money: Chamber Board Director Zahid Shah presented the Large Business of the Year Award to Santa Clara Valley Bank (SCV Bank) which was organized and opened in 1998, “With strong commitment to community... “
Board Chairman Scott Rushing and the late Don Olivier were the driving forces behind the creation of the bank after a larger institution in the 1990s purchased the Citizen State Bank, opened in 1929.
The bank now has three branches: in a historical bank building on the corner of East Main and Davis streets, Fillmore and Valencia.
The Santa Paula branch also leases space directly across the street for a loan production center and executive offices in the 4,000 square foot ground floor of the historic Odd Fellows Lodge and Clocktower.
Shah said the bank not only provides jobs to community members but fostered more staff hiring and local spending through the ambitious $200,000 remodeling project that helped “preserve a landmark,” the Odd Fellows Lodge and Clocktower.
“I trust them with my money,” said Shah who noted that the bank was represented formally by directors and staff and informally by the many customers present at the event.
President Cheryl Knight noted it was a “privilege and pleasure” to represent the bank at the awards ceremony and she thanked the board of directors for their “support, guidance” and hard work through the years.
And that included during the Great Recession: “The board of directors got us through some difficult years,” but the community has remained steadfast in their support of the bank and its model of traditional banking.
The bank’s “great service” and “dedicated” customer service includes “direct access to decision-makers” that Knight said defines true community banking.
And, she added, SCV Bank will continue to serve all, from individual customers and businesses to nonprofits and others that benefit from personalized hometown banking.
Supervisor Kathy Long presented a Ventura County Board of Supervisors proclamation to Knight, noting, “Nothing is better than a strong, small town bank!”
The term “go-getter” was coined in 1921 by author Peter Kyne, who created it to describe the main character in his novel, a disabled World War I veteran who must overcome the numerous obstacles facing the handicapped.
And go-getters John Freeland and Mitch Freeland were presented with the Small Business of the Year Award for their Go-Getter Books, which opened in July 2013 at 840 E. Main St.
Presenter Amy Fonzo of Vintage Productions said not only does the business carry thousands of better quality used books, CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes, but it is also headquarters for the Freeland brother’s online enterprises.
Since the store opened, twin brothers Mitch Freeland and John Freeland “Have been giving back to the community,” holding regular sales and promotions to benefit a variety of nonprofit organizations.
Said Fonzo, “I am very, very proud,” to present the Freeland brothers with the award marking the selection of their bookstore as the Chamber Small Business of the Year.
“This is quite an honor,” said Mitch Freeland who used the occasion to present a donation check to Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley Executive Director Jan Marholin.
John Freeland noted the brothers - residents of Santa Clarita - did not know what to expect when they opened their business in Santa Paula and now are “very proud” to be involved in the community.
Natives of California, the brothers were living in Florida when John Freeland had the horseback riding accident that left him a paraplegic.
“We are so proud,” to have been selected for the award as well as proud that so many at the event, “are truly dedicated to Santa Paula.
“It’s so nice to come back,” to California, open their business in Santa Paula, “and feel like a part of the community. And we hope over the years,” to continue to give back through special monthly book sales and online sales.
Freeland said the store’s walk-in business is estimated at 40 percent out-of-towners and 60 percent local residents.
“And take it from two people from out of town,” who have grown fond of Santa Paula: “Santa Paula has something really special here... we truly hope we won’t disappoint the city,” and, said John Freeland, “hope next year we’ll be here for the Large Business Award of the Year!”
“You will continue to fall in love with Santa Paula,” said Supervisor Long when she presented the Freeland brothers with the board’s proclamation.
Aside from Long, representatives of Rep. Julia Brownley, State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblyman Das Williams also presented proclamations and offered congratulations to award recipients.