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Chamber of Commerce President Kelli Riggs, Barb Clawson, Cheri Corcoran and Chamber board vice chair Neal Kamphaus pose at the presentation of the Business of the Year recognition of the Apple Tree. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN

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Chamber of Commerce President Kelli Riggs, Barb Clawson, Cheri Corcoran and Chamber board vice chair Neal Kamphaus pose at the presentation of the Business of the Year recognition of the Apple Tree. CONTRIBUTED/BOB RATTERMAN

Two long-time family-owned businesses were honored by the Chamber of Commerce as Businesses of the Year at the Red Bricks to Progress awards ceremony Jan. 18.

The Apple Tree, opened in 1979, and DuBois Bookstore, which opened its Oxford location in 1945, were recognized as the Chamber’s Businesses of the Year for 2018. Watercolor drawings of the businesses by artist Jean Vance were presented to representatives of both stores.

Also recognized were two “Chamber Champions” and four retiring members of the board of directors, all of whom were given red bricks with plaques recognizing their contributions.

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Guest speaker for the evening was Josh Bleill, who gave an inspirational talk about his experiences as a U.S. Marine and his recovery from a bomb explosion in Iraq in which he lost both of his legs.

Board Vice Chair Neil Kamphaus presented the Apple Tree award, saying that when one enters the store they wonder if they have crossed over to a “wonderland,” calling the store bright and cheery.

“The Apple Tree opened its doors in 1979 by Barb Clawson,” Kamphaus said. “Barb was also at the time a top realtor in Oxford with ReMax Alpha Real Estate. Barb had been on the Oxford Chamber board and felt Oxford needed a few more businesses, especially retail, so she opened the Apple Tree.”

He said Clawson’s daughter, Cheri Corcoran, became a business partner about three years ago.

“Cheri always likes being able to go into different stores to shop with her daughter, so in return she wanted to make the Apple Tree a place students and young community members could come with their moms to shop and have a great experience finding something for both daughter and mom,” Kamphaus said.

Despite busy schedules, they have been actively involved in commercial events with the Chamber including:

• Providing prizes for the Dog Days parade

• Hosting a Holiday Open House during the holiday walk and helping with the chamber’s organization of the event in addition to their own open house

• Participating in a wide range of community activities with Enjoy Oxford and Miami University in addition to the Chamber

“The owners of the Apple Tree could not be any more giving to our community and have made the Business of the Year and easy decision to make,” Kamphaus concluded. “They are all around team players when it comes to our community and we, the Chamber, and our community thank you and appreciate all you do.”

DuBois Bookstore is a fourth-generation business, operating even longer than the Apple Tree.

The bookstore was opened here in 1945 by J. Howard DuBois, a local resident and Miami University graduate. It was actually the second store operated by the family. His father, Harold DuBois, had opened the first at Kent State University in 1936. A third was opened in 1955 at the University of Cincinnati.

“After over 75 years, DuBois Bookstore is still a family-owned business with its fourth generation of family now involved in the daily operations, a rarity in today’s business world,” said Mike Rudolph in introducing John DuBois, who accepted the award. “John DuBois, who represents the third generation, started working in the store as a 10-year-old and has carried this pattern along with his kids. His son, JD, is the fourth generation of the business and an active participant in store operations.”

Calling John DuBois “a very familiar face in the Oxford community,” Rudolph said the recipient has served on the boards of the chamber and Enjoy Oxford. He is now an integral part of the chamber’s annual Miami University Summer Orientation program, in which 3,600 orientation bags are prepared for incoming freshmen and families with the store staff assembling and distributing them.

“John and his team also maintain copious records of the results their store sees from the many coupons redeemed from those bags, helping the chamber and the Miami Student Affairs office together gauge the effectiveness of these efforts,” Rudolph said.

Their old building was torn down and a new one built between 2010 and 2011.

“Over the past 15 years, John says, his job has been to maximize efficiency in a challenging industry at a challenging time, reinventing themselves with clothing and souvenir sales,” Rudolph said.

Chamber members were shown a video about the “Warm Up in Oxford” effort promoting the Uptown businesses and encouraging people to visit during January when fewer students are on the campus because of the J-term. The video was prepared by RDI Corp. local staff and Matt Dowd, of RDI, was named one of the “Chamber Champions” for that effort.

Jennifer Marston was the other recipient of a red brick as a “Chamber Champion” for her work promoting and organizing chamber activities through the year, including the Dog Days parade.

Retiring Board members Mary Bennett, Lillian Fesperman, Kim Logsdon and Michelle Naegele were also presented with those red bricks in appreciation for their board service.

Marine Cpl. Josh Bleill praised chamber members for their support of the community but also forming a community of businesses which support each other for common purpose. He told of the community support he received after his injuries from a bomb explosion in Fallujah, Iraq in 2006.

His hometown of Greenfield, Ind. rallied to his support.

“Being from a small town, it’s amazing to see the reaction. People surround you with love,” he said, speaking of his two years recovering and learning to walk on protheses which replaced his legs lost in the explosion. “I was two years in recovery and not a day went by I did not get a letter or package from the community.”

He said the Marine Corps even asked his parents to tell the community to stop sending so many things because it was overwhelming the space available at the hospital.

“My father said, ‘No way,’ ” he told the audience.

He is a fan of the Indianapolis Colts and got to meet the players when they visited the hospital following their Super Bowl win, which was special to him but it was even more special when he got back home after two years and was offered a job with the Colts doing public speaking engagements for the team.

He said he was asked by a third grader at one such event if he wore socks. He said he looked down and saw he was but admitted he did not need them, drawing a laugh. He got an even bigger one when he was asked by someone in the audience if he always wears shorts on cold days.

“I do,” he said. “My favorite joke is I tell people I can’t feel my feet.”

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