Originally created 10/31/06

Chamber will honor best in small business



An auto dealer, a uniform retailer and the owner of a doggie day care are the finalists for the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce's 2006 Small Businessperson of the Year Award.

The annual award will coincide with a series of educational seminars for small-business owners Nov. 10 at the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites.

The finalists are:

- Jan Hodges Burch, a co-owner of Stokes Hodges Auto Group.

- Fred A. Daitch, the owner of International Uniform Inc.

- Brian D. Getson, the owner of The Animal House Inc.

They were selected from a group of nominees by a selection committee made up of leaders from other Augusta Metro chamber committees, said Terra Carroll, the chamber's director of membership and economic development services.

The same committee will be responsible for choosing a winner.

The 2005 winner was Jeff Annis, the owner of Advanced Services Inc. pest control.

The seminars leading up to the awards luncheon will feature presentations on advertising, marketing, customer service and community involvement.

"It's a good learning opportunity," Ms. Carroll said.

Ms. Burch has spent the past three years running the Stokes Hodges network of auto dealerships on Gordon Highway that she inherited from her late husband, Greg Hodges.

Under her leadership, the dealership group, which included Acura, Mitsubishi and Kia brands, has expanded to include Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac and GMC franchises in Thomson.

She and her husband, Robert Burch, also recently acquired the Augusta Lynx hockey team.

Mr. Daitch created International Uniform, a niche uniform supplier, after his 70-year-old family business, Daitch & Co., closed in 1998 under competition from larger mass merchandisers. His newer venture focuses on providing high-quality coveralls used by golf course employees and caddies.

The downtown-based company's sales growth has averaged 60 percent the past three years.

Mr. Getson opened The Animal House in 2003 to provide dog and cat owners with an alternative to having their pets stay at home alone or being boarded in a typical kennel.

The climate-controlled facility off River Watch Parkway allows the animals to spend the day in supervised play groups in an unconfined environment.

The company started with two employees and now has 13 caring for up to 50 dogs on busy weekends.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.

If you go

What: August Metro Chamber of Commerce 2006 Small Business Celebration, featuring the Small Businessperson of the Year Award


Where: Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites, 2 10th St.


When: Nov. 10; registration begins at 9 a.m., educational presentations conclude when the award luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m.


Cost: $35 for chamber members; $50 for nonmembers


Contact: Terra Carroll at (706) 821-1300