Gardiner’s “Best” Businesses
By L.A. McMahon
From Issue 41: Winter 2019
Most everyone has seen the Best of Hudson Valley® (BOHV) logo proudly displayed by local businesses, for everything from “Best Jam Selection” at Wright’s Farm, to the billboard-sized “Best Contractor” logo displayed on McMahon’s Contracting trailers.
Does it not give Gardiner residents a sense of pride to see its local businesses recognized for excellence? Yes indeed, and every Spring, Hudson Valley Magazine’s annual “Best of Hudson Valley®” (BOHV) starts up again with a new season of excitement. Nominations are taken on their website, and generally, each category has two winners. Readers’ Choice winners are picked democratically; whichever takes the most votes on their online ballot wins. The Editors’ Pick winners are selected after months of research.
During this research process, Hudson Valley Magazine pays for all meals and services, and the editors do their research anonymously. Some might ask, “Don’t the magazines advertisers automatically win?” Hudson Valley Magazine strongly asserts on their website that “there is no connection between advertisers and winners. Period.”
The 2018 Best of Hudson Valley® season ended with a huge party, on October 11th, 2018, at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel. Hundreds of BOHV winners from around the region displayed their wares and received their awards, and over 1,500 party-goers celebrated along with them.
According to HV Magazine, the 2018 Gardiner winners were: Café Mio (Best Café); Fighting Spirit Karate (both Best Health & Fitness Classes and Best Mixed Martial Arts); McMahon’s Contracting (Best Contractor”); Mountain Brauhaus Restaurant (Best German Cuisine); Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery (Best Distillery); and Wright’s Farm (Best Jam Selection.)
There were also a couple of repeat winners: Fighting Spirit has won four times in a row (2015-2018) and McMahon’s Contracting has won twice (2017 & 2018).
I caught up with a few of these winners to get some insight into what they think differentiates them from other businesses: Tammy Boylan, of Wright’s Farm, said, “I guess what sets us apart from other businesses that make jams and canned goods is that we plant, grow, pick, clean, make, and label all jams ourselves. We started making jams over 25 years ago because we were throwing out so much fruit. So we started by making 10 jars of simple strawberry jam with berries we were going to toss out. Now we grow what we need to make jam.
We now make over 1,000 jars of each flavor every year and have over 20 flavors, made using raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, currants, blackberries, peaches, nectarines, cherries, apples, and apricots. We combine different fruits, or add wine or bourbon to some jams. We also add hot peppers we grow to spice it up a bit, and we’re always trying to come up with new flavors to keep up with the ever-changing customer taste buds.”
Tom McMahon, of McMahon’s Contracting, said , “Making customers happy is our business,” and he pointed to the key factors he feels helps them to achieve that goal: A high level of customer service, expert design services and craftsmanship, and interactive project communication to a level usually only seen on TV. They also have their own home improvement forum page on facebook, McMahon’s Home Improvement Forum, which provides local, home-related, news, tips and access to interesting home remodeling projects.
Sean Schenker, of Fighting Spirit, said, “Many teachers approach martial arts using fear to grow discipline & respect. I believe in teaching with a gentle heart—-being a teacher that knows how to ask for the best of what is inside every student, where safety, communication, guidance and tolerance are all paramount.
Here at Fighting Spirit, it’s really an ego-free, safe zone and a welcoming spiritual training space.” He also mentioned that Fighting Spirit has fitness classes as well as adult and children’s martial arts classes.
We can show our support for Gardiner’s hard working business owners by hiring and buying from local businesses whenever possible, and by keeping in mind that supporting local businesses keeps our hard-earned dollars local; when our local businesses win, we all win.
Editor’s Note: Every year the Gazette manages to leave someone out. We only do it to make sure you’re paying attention, but please get in touch if we did it again. We’ll fix it in the next issue.