What does it take to be the biggest name in business in Jefferson City?
Fischer Body Shop, named Jefferson City's 2016 Small Business of the Year at the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, is in its 37th year of "fixing big problems, cars too," as its slogan claims.
Julie Smith, chief photographer at the News Tribune, earned the chamber's 2016 Exceptional Employee of the Year award after 27 years of capturing community moments big and small.
"This is either the third or the fourth time that we've done this," said Curt Fischer, whose auto body shop has been a Small Business of the Year finalist several times before. "I didn't believe that this was going to happen because we thought so many years we were going to and it didn't."
Fischer founded the business in 1979 and has since been joined there by sons Devin and Chase Fischer.
Over its more than three decades in existence, Fischer Body Shop has expanded its business, which offers full-service collision repair, painting and body work, to two locations — one at the corner of Missouri 179 and West Truman Boulevard in Jefferson City and another on Business 54 in Eldon. It's also invested in technology to stay on par with industry standards, including use of internal tracking systems to ensure timely service, as well as in-house repairs, like tire replacement and mounting, which were formerly outsourced.
The Small Business of the Year award criteria consider a business' overall success in terms of innovation and creativity, growth and involvement in community-oriented projects. To be nominated, a business must be a Chamber of Commerce member, have been in operation for at least two years and employ 50 or fewer full-time employees.
Other Small Business of the Year finalists were Hollon Family Chiropractic and All Clear Pumping and Sewer, chosen among 40 business nominated.
The Chamber of Commerce's top local business honor was worth waiting for, Fischer said.
"The Fischer family has always been big into sprint car racing. We've always had cars, and we've always raced the Knoxville Nationals. That is the biggest sprint car race in the world," he told attendees at Wednesday's Chamber of Commerce awards luncheon. "The idea of ever winning it — you're one in 400 every year.
"This year, one of our two teams won the world's largest sprint car race. I thought that completed my bucket list — until we won this today. Don't tell my driver and team, but this is more important to me than winning all the world's best races."
For Smith, the Exceptional Employee of the Year award was a gratifying reflection on her career in community journalism.
"What this award means to me is that people notice what you do and how you do it. By that, I mean it's not just the product they see in the paper, but it's how I go about getting that photograph while doing my job. It's not just about the photography part of the job, but all of the rest that goes in to it," Smith said.
"My parents raised me to work hard and always do your best and give it all you've got. I have tried my best to do that, and I guess now that other people see and recognize it. That is a tremendous feeling, to know that what you have poured your heart and soul into for all of these years doesn't go unnoticed."
"Meeting so many wonderful people and getting to help tell their stories is both scary and exciting because you want to make sure you get it right," Smith said. "That's a responsibility I take very seriously."
Other finalists for the Exceptional Employee award were Dana Davis, operations director for Custom Screen Printing & Embroidery, and Jenny Switzer, sales assistant at Central Investment Advisors.