Chamber of Commerce honours Ferryland's 'Man of Business'

     A man whose name has become an institution when it comes to doing business on the Southern Shore received an award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement from the Irish Loop Chamber of Commerce when it handed outs its annual Seagull Awards for Business Excellence last week.
     Bernard Kavanagh, 79, showed he was still capable of cracking up a room with his wit, as he accepted the award. Other winners included the Southern Avalon Development Association, which took the prize for Most Outstanding Non-Governmental Organization, Still Waters Massage in Trepassey for Most Promising New Business, and the Community Credit Union Witless Bay for Outstanding Community Service.
     "The seagull is one of the most enterprising creatures on earth," said Chamber president Derrick Thompson, explaining why the Business Excellence Awards are named for the animal. "When their environment changes, they don't give up, they find another way. If nobody is fishing, they'll go to the garbage dump, they'll find somewhere to eke out their existence. Being enterprising and creative is one of the things entrepreneurs need to be thinking about, and in order to be successful, of course, you have to be forward thinking."
     The owner of Stillwaters Massage & Spa wasn’t able to attend the awards breakfast meeting. But sent an e-mail to her friend Sharon Topping, who accepted the award on her behalf. "Genevieve would dearly love to be here this morning, but her husband is an ambulance driver and she has a little girl, and she couldn't get a sitter," Topping explained. "She writes, 'I am so touched and I am going to keep doing my best to grow my business and encourage more development of small business in our area - whoopee!'"
     To be eligible as a nominee for the Most Promising New Business award, the enterprise has to be less than three years old and demonstrate consistent growth and promise for long term sustainability, explained chamber director Mike Rose. The award is sponsored by the Celtic CBDC. The other nominees included Trepassey Motel & Restaurant, which is under new management, F&M Convenience of Trepassey, Celtic Knot Pub & Restaurant in St. Mary’s, and Torque Construction of Mobile.
     Rose noted McCorquodale started the company after moving to Trepassey from British Columbia. "In the year she's been here she's provided a healthy and affordable and much-needed service to the area," said Rose. "She jumped in with both feet and has applied her knowledge and skills, and compassion, to provide an array of needed community services. I don't know Genevieve, but apparently her enthusiasm is contagious."
     Loretta Ryan, the executive director of the Celtic CBDC, was asked to introduce the Award for Most Effective NGO, which goes to a non-profit group that has made a significant and lasting impact on the people in the area it serves. 
     "This is an award that is very close to my heart," said Ryan, introducing the Southern Avalon Development Association, which serves the communities from Portugal Cove South to St. Vincent’s. "I've always admired them because they have been so tenacious."
     Ryan pointed out SADA is one of the few economic development groups to have survived in the province and is still doing great work. "They have their fingers in a lot of pies and they really support and encourage community economic development," she said. The award was accepted by the chairperson of SADA's board of directors Charlene Power and its executive director Yvonne Fontaine.
     The Colony of Avalon Foundation was the other nominee in the category.
Outstanding Community Service Award goes to a company that contributes to growth and prosperity in the region through social and community-based programs. It was presented by chamber director Carol Ann Devereaux, who also manages the Trepassy Motel & Restaurant.
Devereaux said the winner, Community Credit Union Witless Bay, is a big supporter of community causes in the region it serves. 
     “They involve themselves in the community wherever they can," said Devereaux. "They help the schools, the fire department, the foodbank, Kinsmen Club, sports. And this year they fundraised $2,000 for the local fire department and also fundraised to help two local families for Christmas... Their motto is 'People helping people,' and they stand by this."
     Branch Manager Rosalind Piercey accepted the award on behalf of the Credit Union’s staff. "I grew up in a small town," said Piercey. "We realize the importance of being involved. People need us. People need education about the financial industry, they need assistance, they need social things, they need to know things. We educate from the little to the elderly and we give them all the information we possibly can."
     Piercey said the staff members at the Credit Union are often involved in fundraising activities. "We even went to jail for a couple of days," she added, referring to a Jail & Bail event held earlier this past fall to raise money to help two local families with Christmas. Patrons of the Credit Union donated money to have an RCMP officer arrest a staff member of the bank and place them in a jail set up outside the building. "We had members stopping by to pay as much as $100 for a hot dog,” said Piercey. “I nearly fell to my knees, because I couldn't believe the support."
     Piercey said her heart swells with the thought that staff will be able to go shopping this week to buy things for the two families. "Every one of us are so excited," she said.
The other nominees for the Outstanding Community Service Award included SADA, singer and community volunteer Judy Brazil of Trepassey, Stillwaters Massage, and Bidgood's Supermarket in the Goulds.
     The chamber capped its awards ceremony with the presentation to Kavanagh. To qualify for the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award, a nominee has to have been active in the local economy for more than 20 years and consistently exemplified good corporate citizenship. The nominees this year included Pat's Plants & Gardens in Bay Bulls, Southern Construction of Trepassey, and Home Hardware Witless Bay and Trepassey.
     In 'Da Loop co-owner and chamber director Linda Cook introduced Kavanagh, who grew up in a section of Ferryland called The Quarry with his parents Alphonus and Elizabeth Kavanagh.
"When Bernard was 17, he went as a crewmember aboard a ship sailing to Holland where he almost lost his life, because that was the year of the Great Flood," said Cook.
     The flood occurred at the end of January and into February 1, 1953. Caused by a severe storm that started on a Saturday night with most people within its range unaware that it was coming, the storm caused massive waves that rolled over the coastlines of a number of countries on the North Sea. It did the most damage in Holland, where about 20 per cent of the country is located below sea level. Some 1,836 people died in the Netherlands as a result of the flood. Several hundred more were killed in Great Britain and in boats along the coast of Northern Europe and in the North Sea.
     When Kavanagh returned to Newfoundland after that trip he set off for the ice floes of the North Atlantic as part of the annual seal hunt. "He did one bout of seal hunting and from there he went to Greenland," Cook said.
Kavanagh had a job washing dishes and peeling potatoes on a military base. "That's where he got the love for potatoes," Cook joked.
     In Greenland, Kavanagh sent all the money he was making back to his father in Ferryland. When he returned home in 1958, his father handed the $5,000 over to him. "That's when he bought his first general delivery truck," Cook said. "That same year he married Clara Hanlon. They started a business selling potatoes out of the basement of their home. Clara did all of the book work, Bernard did all of the talking."
     Ten years and the births of seven daughters later, Cook said, the couple opened a wholesale business next door to their home. "By this time he had seven trucks delivering products between Trepassey and St. John’s. They were delivering vegetables, Vachon products, propane, Coke, beer, anything he could get in that truck, he put in it," Cook said.
In 1969,Kavanagh bought the Southern Shore Trading Company and started operating a general store as well as the wholesale distribution network out of a large two storey premises.      A year later he bought the building that still houses the Irish Loop Drive Restaurant and take-out.
     "At that time he was employing about 200 people," said Cook.
     Kavanagh sold the huge warehouse and general store premises, located across the street from what is now the Colony of Avalon centre, in 2007. It's now owned and operated by the Southern Shore Folk Arts Council as a theatre, cafe, and office.
The Irish Loop Drive restaurant still operates, during tourist season. "We're proud to have them as competition," said Cook, "because it makes us have to work harder."
     Now 79, Kavanagh is still active in his business, said Cook, and can be found preparing orders and even helping out on the truck with deliveries and pick-ups. “Who better to receive this Lifetime Achievement Award than Bernard Kavanagh?" said Cook.
After accepting the award, and a standing ovation from everyone in the room, Kavanagh declined the opportunity to make a speech, displaying his trademark wit by joking he was too full to speak because of the big breakfast he had just eaten. 
     "You didn't know I knew so much about you, did you?" said Cook.
     "You did pretty good," Kavanagh replied. "But you didn't know it all, thank God."
     Thompson wrapped up the morning's festivities by noting the chamber hopes to keep the Seagull Awards going on an annual basis. "Hopefully, it will gain momentum," he said. "And when you see someone like Bernard getting recognition and some of the new businesses that we talked about, and the NGOs that have been working hard year after year after year, and sometimes without any sort of acknowledgement, it's a great thing for us just to be able to present these awards and let people know that we are watching and people do care."

Posted on December 9, 2015 .