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Presenting the 2020–21

Each year, the Awards and Personalization Association recognizes the contributions, hard work, and creativity of our industry’s professionals by bestowing Gold Obelisk awards upon outstanding individuals and companies.

Presenting the 2020–21

GOLD OBELISK AWARD RECIPIENTS

(Originally published in the November/December 2021 issue of Insights.)

Each year, the Awards and Personalization Association recognizes the contributions, hard work, and creativity of our industry’s professionals by bestowing Gold Obelisk awards upon outstanding individuals and companies.

Through this important program, we shine a spotlight on the people who better their companies and communities as well as our industry and association. For descriptions of each award and for more information, go to awardspersonalization.org/TradeShow/Awards/Nominations.aspx.

We invite you to join us in congratulating the following people and companies for their success and thanking them for their contributions.

LARGE BUSINESS RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Spike’s Trophies, Philadelphia, PA; Keith Baldwin Spike’s Trophies truly lived by the word “pivot” during this past COVID year and through the challenges experienced by many businesses, and it served as a beacon of inspiration and model for transformation. Spike’s took steps to ensure that staff was taken care of throughout the pandemic, and forged partnerships with the state of New York and then the state of California. The thoughtful approach to leadership was evident through the initiated “stimulus” program for employees, which provided bonuses to match and exceed the one provided by the federal government. In addition, Spike’s showed care by providing each employee with S.O.S (Spike’s Office Safety) kits to provide for a safe work environment. Each kit consisted of a personalized face mask and hand sanitizer, a face shield, disinfectant, medical gloves, and a new company policy to communicate the new work safety rules.

 

 

SMALL BUSINESS RETAILER OF THE YEAR

Awards & Engraving, Baytown, TX; Michelle Bitterly, CRM

The nominator shared the following: “Throughout this entire year, Michelle has been unyielding in her support for the customers, the local community, and her employees. She is such an inspiration to so many small business owners and never wants to take recognition for herself, but she will consistently give it to others. Our community is so blessed to have her, as she has been able to support many local organizations who are on the front lines dealing with the pandemic. I wish there were more business owners like her, and I want her to know how special she is to the business, to the community, and most importantly, her employees!”

 

SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR, MULTIPLE LOCATIONS

Marco Awards Group

Marco Awards Group is a wholesale trophy component distributor with more than 31 companyowned domestic distribution centers, including locations in both Canada and Puerto Rico. Retailers ranked Marco Awards Group as having “excellent” on-time delivery as well as high ranking on quality of products. President and CEO Marcel Bizier is a 2008–09 recipient of the Awards and Personalization Association’s prestigious Hall of Fame Award, and Marco Awards Group has been an important industry supporter and contributor to the association and the International Expo for decades. National Sales Manager Greg Kolenut is a current Tradeshow Committee member, and Marketing Manager Cathy Garcia is a former Board President and Founders Award recipient. Sales Manager Marty Burke (retired) is also a former Board President and Hall of Fame Award recipient.

 

SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR, SINGLE LOCATION

Catania Medallic Specialty, Avon Lake, OH; Vince Frank

The leader of Catania Medallic, Vince Frank, has been committed to volunteering for the association for many years, previously serving on the association Board of Directors and currently serves on the Tradeshow Committee. Retailer members ranked Catania Medallic highest on quality of products and on-time delivery, and they are known for providing excellent customer service.

 

OUTSIDE SALES REPRESENTATIVE OF THE YEAR

Randy Allen, CRS, Engraving Concepts; Arlington, TX

One nominator shared this about Randy: “He is a great communicator and makes you feel like there is someone on the other side who will help you and make you feel confident. He knows his equipment, is very knowledgeable, not pushy, and very transparent. His institutional knowledge and his product familiarity showcases sales excellence!”

 

SPEAKER OF THE YEAR

 

David Stevens, Trotec; Plymouth, MI

Nominators had this to say about David: “Laser Dave is very passionate about laser engraving, and you can tell he loves his job of sharing knowledge to his customers and vendors. ‘King David’ is knowledgeable, professional, and passionate about laser engraving! He truly cares about his customers and their laser needs! David’s knowledge of lasers is unmatched. He has an immense passion for laser engraving, and his creativity is amazing. His webinars are very well done, and he has even incorporated multiple engraving technologies in his webinars. Not only are David’s classes entertaining, but they are highly informational with real-world knowledge and applications. People rave about his classes!”

 

CUSTOMER SERVICE REP OF THE YEAR

Debbie Susdorf, Netsoft Studio; Las Vegas, NV

One nominator shared this about Debbie: “She serves her customers by phone with training, support, and taking orders. If you need an answer, Debbie will get it. If you have an emergency, Debbie will track down the right person for you. She coordinates the booths at trade shows, rounds up volunteers, and then takes care to make sure her volunteers are fed. It is funny, if you need anything—a band aid, an aspirin, a drink, you name it—like Mary Poppins, out comes Debbie’s carpet bag with OPTIONS! She is a true gem and top shelf. Debbie has immersed herself in our industry. To do so, she spent time at several different shops, learning the ropes and learning the needs of her customers. She soaked up whatever knowledge she could and is able to serve her customers even better because of the knowledge she acquired. She is thoroughly knowledgeable, and her thoughtfulness is amazing!”

 

FOUNDERS AWARD

Jeanette Brewer-Richardson, CRS, Engraving Concepts; Arlington, TX

Jeanette has been in the industry her whole life and has a passion and determination that is clear; she is 100% committed to the industry and the Awards and Personalization Association as a whole. She willingly steps up when called upon to volunteer her time and her staff’s time to support and strengthen the industry as committee members, speakers, ARIEF volunteers, and writing for Insights magazine. President of the APA Board of Directors in 2014–15, she led the association through its rebranding and renaming from the Awards and Recognition Association to the Awards and Personalization Association that we know today. She has served on every association committee, giving tirelessly while also helping to run the Engraving Concepts business in Arlington, TX, and as such, received the Volunteer of the Year Award 7 years ago

 

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD

Dan Bencsik, Bux-Mont Awards; Sellersville, PA

During the difficult year of the COVID pandemic, Dan moderated the Conversation Circle Zoom
meetings, which were a lifeline for members unable to meet in person. Dan was always a leader
who exhibited a desire to encourage and support members through a very difficult year. He was
nominated by three members, who all commended his commitment to the Awards and Personalization
Association through volunteer leadership—as a past Board member, Communications Committee
Chair, and current ARIEF President. He is always willing to support and champion the initiatives of the association. Additionally, one nominator shared: “Dan is committed to not only his customers, but also to his industry. His volunteer efforts on the communications committee and through the Conversation Circles have helped bring insight and focus to the APA’s digital strategy.”

 

2020 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE

Fred Schwartz, Quality One Engravers; Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Nominators shared this about Fred: “After a stint as an Army Ranger in Vietnam, Fred returned home and earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering. After working with several jet engine companies, Fred settled in with General Electric in their component design and testing equipment section. It was there that Fred was introduced to engraving. Needing tags for the equipment he designed, he learned to engrave on a New Hermes manual engraver and then an NHI810. After making tags for friends and family, he realized this might be a good parttime (tax write off) job. He started an engraving company in the back room of a friend’s shop with a New Hermes Concept 2000. After the friend’s business went out, he took over the whole building. Though the New Hermes Concept 2000 engraver was the state-of-the-art Cadillac of the time, there was room for improvement. Relying on his engineering background, Fred came up with solutions and many enhancements. He created a newsletter for C2000 users and traveled the country with parts, enhancements, repairs, and training. Through his ingenuity, C2000 users were able to expand their capabilities by utilizing the enhancements he designed and manufactured. Over time, Fred became an expert in all types of engraving. He does engraver repairs, enhancements that he has designed and manufactured for several brands of engravers, retrofits, software, and technical support. He has redesigned and improved several products in the industry, such as the Heavy Duty Beveler, Trophy Nutter, and several engraver retrofits. He designed and manufactured his own line of engravers, the “Quest.” His fully automatic Braille insertion system was the first in the industry. Today, Fred continues to create and sell products that make an engraver’s life much easier. Fred was an ARA board member for 4 years, and he has sat on the trade show, education, and membership committees. He is a certified speaker on engraving products, enhancements, tooling, and software. Fred has contributed a number of articles on engraving processes, software, and tooling to several engraving magazines. Fred has received the Speaker of the Year Award and the Volunteer of the Year Award twice (1995 and 2007). One of his outstanding achievements was being the only small business to win the Supplier of the Year Award in 1995. He has not missed a single trade show since becoming a Supplier Member. He was also a dealer member previously. Fred has worked tirelessly in the industry for 35 years doing what he can to make engravers’ lives easier. He often takes over a dozen calls and dozens of emails a day for help, often late into the night and weekends.”

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