BY DAVE GORGON
The year 2020 will be remembered as the months everyone’s lives were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But that didn’t stop the City of Southgate, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Rotary Club of Southgate from honoring local businesses with annual awards.
Seven businesses were honored during the ceremony, which was held both live and virtually for the first time. City representatives visited the winners ahead of time and recorded individual presentations, which were spliced into the festivities.
Mayor Joseph Kuspa announced the winners and thanked the Southgate business community for its “continued commitment to the city, especially during the last year.”
“The challenges that they faced were real and unbearable at times,” Mayor Kuspa said, “but these entrepreneurs and management teams survived and, in many cases, flourished amid these challenges.”
DDA Director Cassidy Tear said nominations for most of the awards came from members of the DDA and city employees and the winners were selected by the DDA board. In one category, the People’s Choice Award, voters cast ballots on the City of Southgate Facebook page to determine the winner.
Anyone who missed the ceremony can view it on the official City of Southgate Facebook page,
Business Longevity Award: Caprara Bakery
The award honors a business that has operated in Southgate for at least 25 years. The winner has demonstrated a strong commitment to the community and has successfully and continues to operate successfully.
Caprara Bakery, located at 13498 Northline Road, has operated in the same place for 61 years. Founded by Frank Caprara, the bakery/Italian market is now operated and managed by Fran and Tony Antonelli and features a third generation from the same family working the counter and behind the scenes.
Tear said Caprara’s has been a long-time destination for local residents and people from other communities for pizza rolls, cannolis and groceries.
New Business of the Year Award: World of Games
The award recognizes a Southgate business that has made a significant impact on the community from a variety of perspectives. The winning business has demonstrated “profitability and sustainable growth, use of technology, effective networking and future employment opportunities.”
World of Games, located at 13751 Eureka Road, combines unique entertainment in a bar and restaurant setting in an expansive 20,000-square-foot facility in the Southgate Shopping Center. Jeff Taylor and his family own and operate the place, which has become a destination for people looking for a good time. Games include ax throwing, smash bowling, feather bowling and an advanced corn hole game known as war hole.
Community Engagement Award: Sam’s Club
The award recognizes a business or businessperson located in Southgate that has demonstrated a commitment to improving the community. The winner has demonstrated a strong commitment to the community through charitable engagement and collaborative projects and has made meaningful contributions to Southgate, making a significant impact toward the quality of life in the city.
Sam’s Club, located at 15700 Northline Road, is a warehouse club managed by Rusty Collins that sells a variety of larger-volume goods and services to members. DDA Director Tear said Sam’s demonstrated community engagement by serving as one of the region’s first drive-through COVID-19 testing sites in the warehouse parking lot. She said testing was provided quickly and smoothly, which had an impact on the city and Wayne County.
Most Improved Business Façade: (Tie) Harbor Freight/Family Dollar and Southgate Lincoln
The award recognizes a Southgate business that has significantly worked to enhance, improve and beautify the location, helping to create an even more beautiful community. The winner has made significant aesthetic exterior improvements. The vote ended in a tie.
Harbor Freight and Family Dollar, located in a shopping complex in the 14400 block of Eureka, are owned and managed by Michael Yono of Candace Properties LLC, which did extensive exterior and interior work that started in 2018. Tear said the work included brick work, some nice lamps and sconces on the side of the building, new signage and an improved frontage that made the facility look larger.
Southgate Lincoln, located at 16800 Fort Street, created a new “luxurious” building to display vehicles inside and out “to match the cars they sell there,” Tear said. Vice President Christopher Oben oversaw the project. The DDA also was impressed that the Southgate auto dealer earned the “Lincoln Presidents Award” in 2019 for top-performing Lincoln dealerships.
Adaptability Award: Applebee’s Bar and Grill
The first-time award recognizes a Southgate business that has demonstrated adaptability during 2020. The winner made it a priority to convert to carryout, online ordering and/or curbside service due to the pandemic. The business’s demonstration to serving customers have made a significant impact toward the quality of service in the city.
Applebee’s, located at 13855 Eureka, is in the heart of the “restaurant capital of Downriver.” Tear noted that General Manager Ashley Moore and staff also created a patio so customers could dine outdoors. The DDA director noted that the Southgate restaurant was the first Applebee’s to open in Michigan. It is owned by the Team Schostak Family Restaurants, which have been voted a “top workplace” in Detroit Free Press competition three years in a row.
People’s Choice Award: Zodiac/Foggia’s Pizzeria
The award honors a business that has been chosen directly by Southgate residents who nominated places and cast ballots on the City of Southgate Facebook page. The winner made a strong and significant impression on its customers as well as a commitment to the community.
Zodiac and Foggia’s Pizzeria, located at 14795 Dix-Toledo Road, combines a sports facility known for racquetball with a pizzeria that attracts many carryout customers. Tear said 21 businesses were nominated and about 500 people voted – 165 votes went to Zodiac and Foggia’s. The facility was opened in 1957 by Fred and Roseanna Foggia. Today their sons and daughters are the operators with Dino Foggia serving as manager.
Christine Steves, president of the Southgate Rotary Club, thanked the many sponsors of the annual event. Proceeds support Rotary scholarships for Southgate students. Steves said more than $20,000 in scholarships have been presented so far. To donate, visit the website southgaterotary.com and click on the donate button or contact club Treasurer Steve Ahles at email@example.com.