The taste of victory was even sweeter than expected when Google representatives chose a candy store in downtown Winslow to present Bainbridge Island with the 2013 eCity Award.
The coveted honor — just one Google award is presented in each state — came with effusive praise, recognition and a really cool trophy.
Google’s eCity Awards recognize 50 winners nationwide for being leaders in local e-commerce and fueling their respective regional economies. Businesses represented online are expected to grow about 40 percent faster than those which are not, thus creating local jobs and additional commercial opportunities, according to Google.
The award was accepted by Mayor Steve Bonkowski at the festive presentation, hosted and catered by Bon Bon in downtown Winslow.
“We all know that Bainbridge is a great place to live,” Bonkowski said. “Now the world knows that Bainbridge is a great place to do business.”
“As a business, you need to be where your customers are,” said Google’s Darcy Nothnagle, who presented the award. “And your customers are online. Cities with vibrant online businesses grow economically and create new jobs.”
Congressman Derek Kilmer agreed.
“It’s a testament to the work that all of you do, and all the work being done to promote Bainbridge Island as a hub of talent” said Rep. Kilmer, a 6th District Democrat.
“We all know that companies benefit from a strong web presence. It helps businesses to find customers and customers to find them,” he said.
The award is a pleasing, if not altogether surprising, development for local business owners, who have long recognized the strength and importance of Bainbridge’s online community.
“It’s really more of an affirmation,” said Barbara Tolliver, co-owner of another landmark Winslow business, The Traveler. “Bainbridge is the home of creatives and entrepreneurs. I love that that a local independent business is hosting this today.”
Nothnagle, one of several Google representatives at Friday’s awards ceremony, said the choice of venue was an example of Bainbridge’s exceptional online presence.
“We found Bon Bon online,” Nothnagle said as she explained the reasons the boutique confectionary was chosen to host the presentation.
She also noted their particularly effective online ordering system and shipping methods.
“They ship fudge to almost every state in the country,” Nothnagle said.
“We do what we can to make it easier for our customers,” said Lisa Dunlap, owner of Bon Bon. “We built up and online presence over the last few years, and the other local business owners are all very supportive.”
Dunlap especially credits the online success of Bainbridge businesses to the work done by Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, a 13-year Winslow staple that also boasts a strong online presence.
“I often look to see what they’re doing,” Dunlap said.
“It’s a very supportive community here,” agreed Kit Hutchin, who owns Churchmouse along with husband John Koval. “We all help and understand each other.”
Dunlap went on to explain that her online success is partly seasonal and partly to do with return customers.
“A lot of them visit us here in person when they come to the island,” Dunlap said of her cross-country customers. “And then they order more online later from home, or send some to someone else as a gift.”
Kilmer gave praise not only to the contributions of island business owners, but also the Bainbridge Downtown Association.
“Thanks especially to Google for confirming what many of us already knew: that Bainbridge is a cutting edge community,” he added.
The selection of Bainbridge is especially noteworthy considering that, according to Northnagle, almost 55 percent of Washington state businesses don’t even have a website, making the island’s online success that much more noteworthy.
“We are using the technology better than anybody else,” Bonkowski said.
“This award is not the last award we’re going to achieve,” he promised.
However, until that next award comes along the real question remains: Where to keep the eCity trophy?
Numerous cases were jokingly made for the trophy’s placement in the downtown businesses that made the award possible. Others suggested it should be on display in Kilmer’s office, or the mayor’s.
Though the ultimate location of the trophy may be debatable, the award is currently on display at Bon Bon. For today, at least.