Achievements in business, philanthropic and faith endeavors were recognized during the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce’s 76th annual Membership Celebration Thursday night at the Walker Center in Wilkesboro.
Winners of annual awards were ASJ Mathis Farms LLC of Roaring River, owned by Steve, John, Luke, Clint and Jordan Mathis, Excellence in Business Award; Craig Church of Wilkesboro-based Craig Church Ministries and FaithFest, Chairman’s Award; The Block in North Wilkesboro, owned by Mick and Anysley Zulpo, Small Business Award; and Larry and Diane Stone, Duke Energy Citizenship & Service Award.
Keith Deveraux, 2023 chamber board chairman, received the gavel from Randall Parsons, 2022 Chamber board chairman. Parsons reviewed major economic achievements in 2022, including private and public sector capital projects. Deveraux characterized Wilkes as making a big comeback and much more than a pass-through for people on their way to the higher mountains.
Both heralded the reopening of the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Terri Parsons and Rep. Jeffrey Elmore were recognized for their key roles in this. Parsons and Deveraux both also mentioned NC Tech Paths and The Masthead, a non-profit effort to help residents of Wilkes, Ashe and Alleghany counties take advantage of IT career opportunities.
Excellence in Business
Chamber Chairman Randall Parsons presented the Excellence in Business Award to ASJ Mathis Farms LLC of the Cranberry section of Roaring River. Receiving this were owners Steve Mathis and his sons Luke and Jordan Mathis; and John Mathis and his son, Clint Mathis.
Parsons said stability, willingness to take risks and progress with success are considered when this award recipient is chosen. He said ASJ Mathis Farms was founded in 1938 with six employees and became an incorporated business in 2005.
The operation started out producing row crops and broiler chickens and still does this, but on a much larger scale now with new technology.
ASJ Mathis Farms has 4,000 acres of productivity and raises more than 1.1 million broiler chickens annually. In 2016, it began powering all of its chicken houses with solar energy.
“Opportunities have been pursued vigorously over the past several years as the younger generation of this family business moves forward and takes on more responsibilities. The company has experienced greater entrepreneurialism and diversity,” said Parsons.
He said the corporation started new businesses and moved forward with acquisition of such companies as trucking, concrete production and farm equipment sales. Parsons said this diversification led to greater business success and prosperity.
Steve and John Mathis are sons of the late Archie and Bertha Holman Mathis. Archie Mathis was known as an innovative and progressive farmer and leader in the chicken industry.
Parsons presented the Chairman’s Award to Craig Church, founder and executive director of Wilkesboro-based Craig Church Ministries (CCM) and FaithFest.
He noted that Craig Church Ministries recently announced “a tremendous undertaking to create an exciting permanent home in Wilkesboro, not only for the annual festival (FaithFest), but a location for numerous events to be held throughout the year.” He referenced land purchased near Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge and said plans have been drawn and construction will soon begin.
“This is a place for all to visit, to see, and support the mission of the organization,” which is to spread the Christian gospel. He added that Church states, “Let’s see what God does next.” Parsons said Craig Church Ministries began as a non-profit in 2007 and its sole purpose is preaching the gospel and “taking truth to the world.”
He said CCM took a giant leap by starting FaithFest in 2017, attracting nearly 5,000 attendees the first year and growing to over 20,000 annually. He said FaithFest would not be possible without the strength of its board of directors and “a multitude of volunteers who give their time and energy to create a successful day of enjoyment and entertainment for all.”
Small Business of the Year
Chamber President Linda Cheek presented the Small Business of the Year Award to The Block and its owners, Mick and Anysley Zulpo.
The Block is a 39,000-square-foot indoor recreation center that opened in downtown North Wilkesboro in 2021. It features about 20 in-ground trampoline mats; a 7,000-square-foot skating rink with disco and black lights; arcade games; 2,000-square-foot Ninja Warrior course; toddler room; three party rooms with tables and chairs for birthday parties; parent lounge; and the recent addition of “Gellyball.”
Cheek said the Zulpos and their two young sons became fulltime residents of Wilkes after COVID 19 hit and they moved from near Raleigh to a vacation home they already owned in western Wilkes. She said they decided to open what now is The Block when they recognized a lack of family entertainment options here. Cheek said it’s an entertainment venue for toddlers to adult and is drawing people from across the region.
Members of the Chamber Small Business Committee members vote to decide the Small Business of the Year. The other nominees this year were A&J Rental, Almost on the Lake Café, Dooley’s Grill & Tavern, Rid-A-Bug, Spectrum Hospitality Management, The Meat Sweats, Times Treasured Studios, Two Boros Brewery and Pizzeria, Waggles Pet Supply & Dog Wash and Zera Accounting and Tax Preparations.
Citizenship & Service Award
Jimmy Flythe of Duke Energy presented the Duke Energy Citizenship & Service Award to Larry and Diane Stone of Wilkesboro.
Flythe said the Stones have “demonstrated an enduring commitment to education in Wilkes County and beyond through service and significant financial contributions over several decades” that would be difficult to all name because there are so many. He said they were instrumental in establishing Wilkes Community College’s Education Promise scholarship program. Also at WCC, they established the Diane and Larry Stone Student Services office, Stone Culinary Center and multiple scholarships. Larry Stone has served on the WCC Board of Trustees since 2003, serving as vice chairman 12 of the last 18 years.
He said their Stone Foundation supports the public schools and numerous other endeavors in Wilkes. The foundation’s Wilkes Wishing Well has awarded almost $750,000 in grants to all 22 Wilkes public schools.
Stone retired from a career with Lowe’s Companies Inc. that included serving as president and chief operating officer.
In addition to Parsons and Deveraux, chamber officers in 2022 included Rich Voisinet of The Interflex Group, past chairman; Jack Lynch of Truist, treasurer; Greg Edwards of Skyline Bank, assistant treasurer; Chad Treadway of Cube Creative, vice president of Ambassadors/membership; Mark Byrd, superintendent of Wilkes County Schools, vice president of education; Landon House, vice president of adult leadership; Adam Foster, Wilkes Communications/Riverstreet Productions, vice president of youth leadership; Laurie Brintle-Jarvis of Wilkes Community College, vice president of small business; Susan Bachmeier of Atrium Health Wilkes Medical Center, vice president of Wilkes Women in Leadership. Jimmy Flythe of Duke Energy and Alice Blankenship of Piedmont Federal Savings Bank ere officers at large.
Other board members include Jessica Hendren of Truist, Debbie Smith of FNB, David Tilley of Tilley’s Auto Sales, Daniel Vickers of Herbal Ingenuity, David Barricklow of Anytime Fitness and Dom Bakeries & Pizzeria, Tamika Parks of State Employees’ Credit Union, Shane Miller of The Interflex Group, Brenda Blake of Blake Farms, Doug Coffey of Coffey Construction, Fred Costello of Costello Realty & Development, Matt Holcombe of LP Building Solutions, Bradley Meade of MBI Builders and Tammie Shepherd of Samaritan’s Purse. In addition to Cheek, the chamber staff includes Terrian Carter, membership director, and Cindy Meredith, office manager.
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