Alec’s owner wins big at Eminence Awards

NASHUA – Almost a year after moving Alec’s Shoes from downtown to a new location, owner John Koutsos got a chance to celebrate as he received the Business Person of the Year award Wednesday at the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce’s Eminence Awards ceremony.

Koutsos, the second-generation owner of the iconic shoe store, took a risk a couple years ago when he decided to move the company from its longtime Main Street location to a bigger, off-the-beaten path location near Exit 8 on the F.E. Everett Turnpike.

“They really took a building that had been vacant for a long time and transformed it into a gorgeous retail location,” said Tracy Hatch, president of the Nashua chamber, of the renovated 38,000 square foot former office building.

The Eminence Awards, six in total, recognize individuals and companies who exemplify volunteerism and dedication to the success of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and the community.

Koutsos said he contributes Alec’s success to “consistency, longevity and the human touch.”

“We’ve tried to stick to the same principles that my father (Alec Koutsos) established the business by,” he said. “He wanted long-term principles, not short-term – you know, he wanted the people to come back … but at the same time we’ve kept up with the latest trends, and kept an inventory much greater than the average shoe store’s.”

Volunteer of the Year is Steve Saxe, a veteran member of the community who is involved in fifteen charities, including the Nashua Police Athletic League (PAL) and the Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire, in addition to being director of business development for Alphagraphics

“You’ve got to give back,” Saxe said. “You can’t always write checks, but you can find a way to give some time … You go home at night and you get a good night’s sleep because you’ve helped somebody out.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua, which has served the community’s youth since 1971, won Nonprofit of the Year less than a year after being recognized as the best overall program in the country.

The Young Professional of the Year award went to Mike Turcotte, owner of Turn Cycle Solutions, a construction firm that focuses on energy efficiency. Small Business of the Year was awarded to the Nashua Silver Knights, a summer baseball team whose home field is Holman Stadium.

This year’s keynote presentation, “What’s Brewing?” featured three big-hitters in the New Hampshire craft beer industry – Carl Soderberg, co-founder of Able Ebenezer Brewing Company in Merrimack; Scott Schaier a member of BREW NH’s Board of Directors; and Michael Hauptly-Pierce, one of the hosts of The Tap Handle Show beer podcast and an owner of Litherman’s Limited Brewing Co. in Concord.

All three speakers highlighted the impact that staying local and working together with those in the industry and community can have on the local economy.

Winner of the business of the year award was R.J. Finlay & Co., a national real estate construction and building materials firm with roots in Nashua.

“In 2016, it was hard to find something going on in Greater Nashua that R.J. Finlay & Co. did not have a hand in,” Hatch said. “From donating and helping with downtown events, to nonprofit involvement, to taking on city improvements, the real estate development company has taken their role in Greater Nashua seriously, and been a leader in giving back to the community and their fellow businesses.”

Kim Reagan, director of leasing and marketing at R.J. Finlay & Co. and member of the chamber’s Board of Directors, said Nashua is changing quickly, and that as those changes occur, community organizations need to work together to succeed.

“People are starting to trend towards helping Nashua become the urban environment it should be, and it’s going to take everybody working together to make it happen,” Reagan said.

Derek Edry can be reached at 594-1243, or @Telegraph_Derek.