Merced County business and community leaders were honored Thursday with the Excellence in Business awards presented by the Merced Sun-Star.
George Bianchi, the 82-year-old retired owner of Atwater Tire Service was presented with the Hall of Fame award. Bianchi thanked his family, particularly his wife, Joan, who he said has been the “glue” that held everything together during their more than 50 years in business.
Jeff Marchini, of J. Marchini Farms, paid honor to his parents, wife and children in accepting the 2016 Agribusiness award. His father, Joe Marchini, was last year’s recipient of the Judges’ Special Recognition award.
“We are honored and humbled that you have recognized our family farm,” Jeff Marchini said.
He noted that the state’s regulations on agriculture have proved challenging. “Sometimes, in the environment in California, it’s never easy,” he said. “But we keep pushing forward. And I know, at the end of the day, we’re going to persevere because of our passion.”
Marchini credited his daughter Francesca Fordice with coining the family’s pledge to “make salads great again,” which drew a laugh from the dozens of business and community leaders attending the luncheon at Hilmar Cheese Company.
Tony Pedro, owner of Tony’s Auto Repair in Atwater, was honored with the Small Business award. His wife, Sue, thanked their customers for being loyal to the business and paid honor to their employees “who know about cars and about pleasing customers.”
“Tony has been known to go out in the middle of the night to fix a tractor-trailer on the side of the highway or a garbage truck at 3 in the morning,” she said. “It’s 24-7 with him.”
Other honorees included:
▪ Big O Tires, Retail/Wholesale/General Business award
▪ Italo-American Lodge, Charitable/Non-Profit award
▪ Rascal Creek Physical Therapy, Healthcare award
▪ Day Break Adult Day Health Care, Professional Services award
▪ Fluetch & Busby, Finance/Banking/Insurance award
▪ Merced Yosemite Realty and Property Management, Real Estate/Development award
Terry Ruscoe, who accepted the real estate honor with his two sons, offered congratulations to all of the honorees.
“Everyone here today is building a better community, and a better community makes for a better business,” he said. “Whether it’s making better salads or (fixing) garbage trucks, we all make such a difference in the community and I just want to thank you all.”
Chancellor Dorothy Leland of UC Merced, which was a gold sponsor of the event, said the university is excited to be part of the business community and “partners in the growth of the county.” She urged local business leaders to offer internships to the campus’ students.
“Many of our students would like to stay here in the San Joaquin Valley,” Leland said. “Help us keep the great talent right here in this community.”
The Sun-Star’s second annual Excellence in Business awards were selected from nominations made by members of the community. The honorees were chosen by a team of judges that included Ken Riddick, publisher of the Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star; Joe Kieta, editor of the Modesto Bee and Merced Sun-Star; Dave Hill, former Merced Sun-Star and Modesto Bee city editor; Robert Dylina, director of the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce; David W. Ness, CFO of the MerCo Credit Union; Salvador Vazquez, president of the Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Janice Wilkerson, mission integration director at Mercy Medical Center; and Bruce Logue, pastor of Lifespring Church.