The five finalists for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s 2008 Small Business of the Year award, announced during the Business Conference & Showcase, are Key Largo Fitness & Tanning, Midway Electric, Tiger Turf of Missouri, Witt Print Shop and Frame It Right.
Three of the five companies are co-owned by husband-and-wife teams—as was last year’s winner, Image Technologies, which is owned and managed by Lynda and Steve Baumgartner. Lynda Baumgartner pointed out during the BC&S event Tuesday that MasterTech Plumbing, the 2006 Small Business of the Year, also involves a married couple.
“In our case, it works well because Steve and I have opposite strengths that balance,” Baumgartner said. “I’m more of an organizer and marketing person, and Steve is on the tech side and knows how everything works.”
The lawn care company Tiger Turf is co-owned by Frank and Michelle Baumstark and managed by Eric Meiress, who joined the company in November. Tiger Turf has 11 employees—although the workforce thins during the winter—and has doubled in size during the last two years, Frank Baumstark said. He started the company in 1996, his junior year at the University of Missouri.
Midway Electric co-owners Brandon and Michelle Spry
Midway Electric is owned by Brandon and Michele Spry, Hickman High School sweethearts who have been married 11 years. Brandon Spry was working for SKC Electric when the Columbia branch closed in 2001, compelling him to start his own electrical contracting company. Midway has grown from two to 12 employees, and two years ago the company moved into a new building that the Sprys own.
Key Largo co-owner Melanie Karrick
Key Largo Fitness & Tanning is owned by Melanie and Ron Karrick. They started a five-bed tanning salon in east Columbia nearly two years ago and then expanded the operation; last year they took over and renamed the former Gold’s Gym locations downtown and in Nifong Square. The company now has 40 employees.
Tiger Turf co-pwner Frank Baumstark and manager Eric Meirass
Witt Print Shop, started in 1941, has been in the same family since Harold Nichols purchased the business in 1967. The offset commercial printer is now coowned by his son-in-law, Ray Ash, and a nephew by marriage, Brian Kirmse, who calls it “one of the very few mom-and-pop shops left in the printing industry.” Ash and Kirmse took over the company in 1999.
Frame It Right is owned and managed by Susan Kuckelman Leonard. She had been managing the frame shop at Westlakes Hardware on Worley Street for 20 years when the company decided to close the instore operation. She bought all of the stock and equipment and moved into a vacant space a few blocks away in the Crossroads Shopping Center in December 2000. The custom framing company has grown every year and now has nine employees, about twice as many as when she started.