Nomination Form is now available for the 2014 Small Business of the Year Award! Nomination forms must be turned in to the Chamber by 5:00 PM on August 1st, 2014.
In keeping with the important role that small business plays in the American free enterprise system, each year the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce proudly recognizes the finest of our area’s small businesses.
The public is encouraged to submit nominations. Any business you respect and admire would be a good candidate. Think of your friends, neighbors, clients, suppliers or competitors... in your opinion, do any of them exhibit exemplary entrepreneurial spirit, skill productivity, customer service, or have they made important contributions to the community?
2013 Small Businesses of the Year
Through their contributions to the community and volunteerism, East Texas Monument Co., Ray‘s Drive In and G.V.C.S. Inc. have earned the 2013 Small Business of the Year Award.
East Texas Monument Co. was presented the award for companies with 1-10 employees.
According to owner Doug Russell, the company‘s mission is to provide quality, full-service cemetery needs in a way that fulfills the customer‘s expectation of dealing with a local company. Russell knows it is imperative to run a business this way to ensure growth for his business and also to remain a viable employer in the community.
Russell got his start in the business while earning his college degree. With the support from his grandfather and other family members, he formed East Texas Monument Company in 1989 after buying out his previous employer. The company now has three locations, but services people across East Texas.
According to Russell, his family-owned business feels the responsibility to continually give back to the community that supports it. Both Russell and his employees have coached youth teams, played various roles in the education system, been involved in church organizations, members in civic organizations, and volunteered for local government needs.
“It‘s exciting! Any time you are held out by your peers it means everything. What more could you ask for?” says Russell.
Ray‘s Drive In earned the Small Business of the Year Award for companies with 11-50 employees.
Ray‘s Drive In opened in 1959 by J.C. and Opal Ray and in 1995 Jerry and Lawana Ray became the sole owners of Ray‘s Drive In. In 1996 a second location, Ray‘s West, opened. Ray‘s Drive In has grown throughout the years, starting with 5 employees per shift, to averaging 42 employees.
Ray‘s still follows some of the same procedures today as they did in 1959. They buy their hamburger meat fresh ground every morning and roll it out and pat it out by hand. They chop lettuce and onions by hand every morning and during the day as needed.
Rays Drive In began with a simple menu, mostly hamburgers, hotdogs, steak finger baskets and fish baskets. Today their menu still boasts the same great items but has added a few more and now includes a kids menu.
Ray‘s Drive In tributes some of their success to their employees. They have employees that have been with them for 32 years, 24 years, 15 years and right on down. Their policy is “when you get a good employee... Pay them!” Lawana Ray is a supporter of the Lufkin State Supported Living Center, Ellen Trout Zoo, Angelina Alliance for Children, St. Cyprians School, the Junior League of Lufkin and many more.
“It has really made me feel humbled for the restaurant to be recognized. I feel Ray‘s is very deserving. We all feel blessed to have maintained this business for so long and blessed to have a community that has supported us,” says Lawana Ray.
G.V.C.S. Inc. earned the Small Business of the Year Award for companies with 51-100 employees.
Glenn Johnson bought his first Whataburger franchise in Lufkin in 1985. There were 18 employees there at that time. Another location was purchased and in 2005 Chris Johnson came to Lufkin to help his dad. Since then they have opened a third location. G.V.C.S. Inc. now employs 85 people total.
Chris Johnson strives to create a close knit family style atmosphere for employees and provides employee training and team building programs. G.V.C.S. Inc strives to ensure their employees are satisfied. This core value has led to a low turnover throughout the organization. Employees are also encouraged to give back to their community and general managers are encouraged to be civically involved in various organizations. G.V.C.S. Inc. sponsors little league baseball teams, local school teams, Junior Achievement, Pregnancy Help Center, American Cancer Society and many more.
“As a company, we take pride in our community and look for ways to serve both our team members and our customers. It is a privilege to be recognized as Angelina County‘s Small Business of the Year and we look forward to serving you for years to come,” says Chris Johnson.
In 2011, G.V.C.S. Inc. won franchisee of the year award from Whataburger Corporate.
The Small Business of the Year Award is Presented By:
• Abeldt's Gaslight Pharmacy • Best Buy • Davis Insurance • Region's Bank •
• Alexander & Spencer P.C. • Commercial Bank of Texas • Edward Jones Investments - Vince Treadwell
• Lee TranServices, Inc. • Walmart • Zimmerman Communications •