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Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce honors the best of the best | UPDATE

Kelly Muldrow, a member of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce board, presents Jim Chapel with the chamber
Kelly Muldrow, a member of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce board, presents Jim Chapel with the chamber's award for 'Citizen of the Year.'
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

Jim Chapel is known around Bainbridge Island as the man who knows everyone else.

He brings people together, and he gets things done.

It is for this talent that the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon him the title of Citizen of the Year.

“It was a surprise to me,” Chapel said. “It’s a little hard for me to receive things like that, because it always takes a lot of people to make things happen.”

Chapel knows this all too well. He has brought people from all corners of the island to make Bainbridge a better place. He earned the chamber’s honor for his participation on various island boards, but largely for his instrumental work on The Waypoint park project.

The 2 1/2 year effort drew islanders out to replace an eyesore with an attractive park on the corner of Highway 305 and Winslow Way.

“The whole project would not have been if we didn’t have a tsunami of support from the community,” Chapel said. “There are a lot of other things to do on the island, and if you get the right project and the right people behind it, it’s amazing what could be done.”

As citizen of the year, Chapel will serve as the grand marshal of the 2013 Grand Old Fourth Parade.

“I’m not nervous, but I’ll have to have my Weimaraner dogs with me or Faith (Chapel’s wife) to ride with me,” he said. “It will be fun to do.”

Chapel was presented his award at the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and gala dinner Saturday, Jan. 19 at the Island School. A veritable who’s-who of Bainbridge businesses came out for the event.

It was the first time the chamber presented the chairman award, and its first honoree was Akio Suyematsu.

The Japanese-American farmer left this world last year, but not the memory of the islanders who love him.

“This year marks the first year that the chamber has made the awards in this way,” said chamber chairman Jeff Waite. “The chairman was entitled by the board to recognize someone of his choosing without any criteria needed.”

Waite notes Suyematsu’s place in the history of the island, its farming culture, and the Japanese community that helped found it.

“His passing could mark the end of the era of Japanese-American farmers on Bainbridge,” Waite said. “But, because of his foresight, it will not mark the end of farming on Bainbridge Island.”

Suyematsu was honored for his contribution to modern island farmers, training a new generation, and leaving a legacy before he passed away in 2012.

“Faithful to the land and dependent only on the forces of nature, he touched so many lives and intentionally left behind a community dedicated to the land and the food we draw from it,” Waite said.

But Suyematsu wasn’t the only islander given the spotlight. Four islanders were up for Citizen of the Year. They awaited the announcement along with 23 businesses and seven nonprofits that were up for honors in their respective fields.

Asani/Grow Community was honored as the sustainable business of the year. The Bainbridge Island Rotary was honored as nonprofit of the year.

Small business of the year was awarded to Shirvan Rug Gallery on Winslow Way.

Their neighbor, Paper Products, came out on top for the medium business of the year honor.

“We are glad to have the acknowledgment and that the community has been very supportive of our changes over the past couple years,” said Terry Arndt of Paper Products. “And we are going to continue to be here.”

Arndt said he is appreciative of the customers who have continued to frequent his store while the shop has made changes over the past couple of years.

“The biggest change has been our renovation,” he said. “And we updated management and staffing with a stronger focus on customer service.”

Town & Country Market nabbed the prize for best large business.

“To get an award for supporting the community is cool because it’s only because of the support of the community that allows us to do what we do,” said Town & Country manager Rick Petersen. “It’s a full circle.”

“We aren’t a company that looks to get these sort of things, we like to fly below the radar,” he said. “To be honored like this really speaks to the store and our people and what that store means to the community.”

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