By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Award-acceptance speeches are generally about gratitude – with words of thanks to the award-givers as well as those who helped the recipients get to where they are now.
What was said at today’s Westside Awards celebration went beyond that, with inspiration, reminiscences, and community history.
The West Seattle Chamber of Commerce presents the Westside Awards each year in four categories – Business of the Year, Emerging Business of the Year, Westsider of the Year, and Not-for-Profit of the Year. This year’s recipients were announced in April and honored during a breakfast event this morning in the Brockey Center at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor) on Puget Ridge.
If you weren’t there, you can see and hear the winners’ speeches in our videos:
BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Easy Street Records
Easy Street proprietor Matt Vaughan was introduced by fellow Junction entrepreneur Jack Miller of Husky Deli, who declared “the reason West Seattle is cool is because of Easy Street” and observed that the music shop/café “is like a sacred place for a lot of people.” That includes the musicians whose work ESR deals in – of the artists, Miller mused, Easy Street “is a place where they want their music to be sold at.” Here’s Vaughan’s full speech:
Vaughan talked about his staff, his customers, his community, and his family – wife Kisha, kids Archie and Daisy (pictured with him above). “When it comes down to it, this is a family business, and they’re the reason I do it.” He estimated that he’s employed “more than 2,000 people over the years.” And he shared an LP’s worth of personal history, starting with growing up as a “rec-center kid .. between rec centers and record stores, I found my safe place.” He told the tale of going from record-store employee to record-store owner as a college sophomore, first taking over a space a few doors up California SW, then moving to the corner after a few years. How did he nab such a prime spot? Back then, “every other storefront in The Junction was vacant,” he explained. And after 35 years and many trials and tribulations – he recalled back-to-back burglaries in 1990, for example, and a six-figure embezzlement – the shop is alive and thriving, as is he. Words he said he lives by include “A kick in the ass is still a step forward.”
EMERGING BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Papa Tony’s Hot Sauce
Tony Wilson rose from an even rougher childhood, which he said he chose to share with the audience so they could “see in human form what it is like to defy the odds.” Here’s his full speech:
Emerging from a difficult upbringing, and battling depression and anxiety resulting from childhood trauma, he started on a life of community service, starting with Hurricane Katrina relief. He also “worked in the music world and performed spoken word” – and then during an intensive home-cooking phase of the pandemic days in 2021, he invented “The Sauce.” After moving to Seattle, he turned “The Sauce” into a company – he’s selling it at farmers’ markets and stores, and has big plans to go regional and then nationwide. Wilson said he “had to learn about my power … the power you feel inside,” and strongly believes in ethics, morals, and community involvement. “We succeed by building together and not tearing each other down.”
WESTSIDER OF THE YEAR
Bell owns Seattle Sorbets and the commissary-kitchen business at which it’s based, Distinguished Foods Kitchen Rental, in The Triangle. It’s home to 13 food-and-beverage businesses now, and, said Chamber executive director Whitney Moore in introducing him, he’s “putting entrepreneurship on the radar for so many young people.” Here’s Bell’s full speech:
Bell declared the Westsider of the Year honor to be “a team award,” saying his team started with his grandparents’ expectations of hard work and achievement, followed by his parents’ expectations of excellence, and onward. “Even when things were extremely bad, I never questioned that I was on the right team.”
NOT-FOR-PROFIT OF THE YEAR
Providence Mount St. Vincent
Emcee Brian Callanan introduced The Mount’s administrator Charlene Boyd by noting the center’s century-long history, including child care at its much-lauded Intergenerational Preschool. Here’s his introduction and Boyd’s speech:
Boyd observed that “We’re fortunate to live in a place where neighbors are helping neighbors” and recalled how that has played out so often for The Mount – when calls for help were answered with everything from masks during the pandemic to air conditioners during a historic heat wave. Dating back to its founding by the Sisters of Providence, The Mount has built “relationships that span generations,” Boyd said.
The event concluded with a reminder of other upcoming Chamber-presented events – as listed on the organization’s website – starting with the Battle for West Seattle softball game Sunday, which is a fundraiser for the West Seattle and White Center Food Banks.
P.S. You can see the lists of past Westside Award-winners – chosen each year from community nominations – by going here.