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How has winning changed 'Best Of' businesses?

Vicki Ikeogu, vikeogu@stcloudtimes.com

The Best of Central Minnesota Readers' Survey may happen just once a year. But the effect of winning the coveted Best Of crown can be seen and felt for years.

Many winning businesses use the title in signage and marketing. Some display their winning title on storefronts or in an office.

But one thing is true for all winners: Receiving a vote of confidence and recognition from customers is valuable, both for the business’s reputation in the community and for the employees and partners who make the magic happen.

M & H Appliance

Reputation and referrals are everything for M & H Appliance owners Bob Regan and Peter Matter.

“We always say that you may own the appliance, but we are the ones who live with it,” Regan said.

Specializing in building a relationship with their customers, Regan and Matter have made a commitment to be one of the area’s leading appliance stores.

That commitment won them the Best Appliance Store title in the 2015 Best of Central Minnesota contest.

“(Being named a winner) is a validation of how we operate,” said Matter. “It’s nice to know that we are doing things right.”

Regan said the company has used the title in its advertising as a way to boost the store’s recognition.

But ultimately, the third-generation-operated company said continued business comes from the support and referrals customers have made over the nearly 90 years the company has been in business.

“It does put us in a positive light,” Regan said. “And it does help customers become much more comfortable doing business with us.”

Adam Hammer and Dave Cofell

“In a small way, the ‘Best Of’ contest did big things for local artists,” said Adam Hammer.

As one-half of the duo Adam Hammer and Dave Cofell, the local musician said winning the Best of Central Minnesota contest provided a marketing boost, especially when playing in a new market.

“We would mention that we were winners of the Best of Central Minnesota and it would get people thinking, ‘Well, they must know what they are doing,’ and they were willing to give us a chance,” Hammer said.

The two won Best Original Music from 2011 through 2014.

“Even just being selected as a nominee was guaranteed press,” Hammer said. “Something not a lot of local artists can afford to do.”

Hammer said the recognition he and Cofell have received as part of the contest is a true testament to the dedication and support the duo receives from their fans.

“It was an acknowledgement that they care enough and are engaged enough in our music to vote,” he said.

The Water’s Edge on Pleasant Lake

In an area dominated by restaurants of all tastes and sizes, standing out is incredibly difficult. Especially if you are the new kid on the block.

But rising above the rest is just what The Water’s Edge on Pleasant Lake did as winners of the 2015 Best New Restaurant.

“I thought it was a wonderful thing,” said Shari Graves, general manager. “And the more I thought about it, I don’t think it was just the food, but the atmosphere.”

After revitalizing the former 400 Supper Club, Graves said the restaurant has focused on gaining regular customers and has downplayed some larger events, like weddings.

“We really want to be more accommodating of our regular customers,” she said.

Winning the title last year was a successful culmination of the previous year’s work. But Graves said there is still more to come from The Water’s Edge.

“Right now we are working on getting the right staff in place to continue our success,” she said.

Follow Vicki Ikeogu on Twitter @VickiSCTimes or on Facebook at facebook.com/sctimesvicki. Call her at 259-3662.

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