The Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce is holding its 19th annual awards gala on Wednesday, June 9 at the UNOH Event Center.
Each year the chamber recognizes member businesses for the work they’ve done.
In the Small Business category, there are three finalists, Alter Ego Comics, Hoffman Analytic and The Meeting Place on Market.
To be considered for the Small Business of the Year Award, the nominated businesses must be independently owned and operated with a substantial history as an established business; the business must be financially strong and profitable and be able to show a history of growth in sales dollars and/or volume; the business principal or organization must have demonstrated community involvement and/or made some civic contribution; the business must employ no more than 150 employees and the business must have been in business for at least five years.
Alter Ego Comics, 230 N. Main St., Lima, was founded in 2003 by Marc and Angie Bowker. It started out small, at their home, specializing in comic books and collectibles.
According to their nominating letter, in 2005 they opened a retail shop at 115 N. Elizabeth Street in Lima.
In 2009 they formed Alter Ego Enterprises, LLC and purchased the building at 226-230 N. Main St.
In 2019 they co-founded Legacy Arts with The Meeting Place on Market, Legacy Sounds/Rustgaze Records and Shop for Good to “foster local artists and entrepreneurs.”
In 2021 they renovated the first floor of the building and added The Purple Feet Wine Boutique and NOW Marketing Group as tenants and partners in Legacy Arts.
They also built a recording studio for Legacy Sounds and a live event space called The Lab that will spotlight local musicians and other artists.
The business has been active in the community promoting Free Comic Book Day, Heroes for Home and have donated comics to several organizations as well as held presentations at local schools and libraries. They’ve also raised thousands of dollars for The Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation, The West Ohio Food Bank, The Children’s Development Center, Toys for Tots and St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
They indicate that both sales and profits were up in 2020, despite the pandemic and foot traffic being down 26%.
Hoffman Analytic is owned by John Hoffman and Marcy Bolek and is located at 1101 N. Cole St. in Lima.
According to their nominating letter, “Hoffman Analytic Services Inc., doing business as Alloway, is a full-service environmental laboratory specializing in analyses on drinking water, wastewater and solid and hazardous waste. Alloway is certified as a Veteran-Owned Small Business with corporate headquarters located in Lima, Ohio and additional laboratories in Marion and Mansfield, Ohio,” the letter stated.
The company got its start in 1982 when John Hoffman started his career at Alloway in 1979 as the sole laboratory analyst for the company. Two years later, John purchased the company and expanded the operation to include a total of three employees. In 1986, Alloway purchased Lexington Scientific Lab in Mansfield, Ohio. A year later Alloway started offering bioassay analysis. In 1991, Alloway’s Lima laboratory was moved to its current location on North Cole Street and with the move, the analytical capabilities continued to grow to include Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy, High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography and Ion Chromatography.
The Meeting Place
The Meeting Place on Market, 220 W. Market St., in Lima, is owned by Jennifer Brogee, Ruth Ann Stover and Greg Stover.
The popular café was established in 2003 and now has nine employees plus the owners.
In their nominating letter, the owners found a niche for their business.
“At the time, we were the only coffee house in town. We started with a small menu that focused on coffee, but quickly expanded our offerings, adding boxed lunches and building an in-house bakery,” the letter stated.
But things weren’t always rosy.
“In 2008 we faced The Great Recession and saw a 30% drop in our sales. We struggled quite a bit to recover from that and over time have changed our business model due to increased competition and the changing needs of the market. Today, we have gift basket clients from across the country, providing gift baskets for corporate events and family celebrations. We have also invested more in the development of our in-house bakery and our gluten-free line of baked goods,” the letter stated.
Sales have been relatively stable over the past few years, except “for the drop due to COVID and our 2020 remodel, our real growth has come from our gift basket and e-commerce sales…Our gift basket and e-commerce lines were up 648% from 2019 to 2020. Today, our e-commerce business is larger than our cafe business.”
So far in 2021 they report e-commerce sales are up more than 400% from 2020.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.