Jeff Olinghouse (right) of Total Comfort Systems accepts the award for Microenterprise of the Year from Robb Krecklow (left) of The Times Bulletin at the 2010 Small Business Awards on Friday. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
Jeff Olinghouse (right) of Total Comfort Systems accepts the award for Microenterprise of the Year from Robb Krecklow (left) of The Times Bulletin at the 2010 Small Business Awards on Friday. (Times Bulletin/Ed Gebert)
The spirit of small business is alive in Van Wert County. On Friday, the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce paid tribute to that spirit by honoring six finalists, including two winners of the Small Business of the Year Awards.

P & R Medical Connection was awarded the top prize in the Small Business division, while Total Comfort Systems, Inc. was chosen as the winner of the Microenterprise division.

"I started this 25 years ago. I thought it would be a great part-time job!" quipped P & R's Phil Farris. "Thank you all very much for the honor. It's particularly gratifying in our twenty-fifth year to receive an honor like this. I appreciate the efforts of the chamber and all of you for recognizing that. It's nice to have a pat on the back once in a while. Thanks."

"I want to thank all of our employees who came because we're nothing without them," added Robin Farris.

P & R was chosen over the other two finalists, P & L Fertilizer and Taylor Auto Sales in the larger of the two divisions. Acknowledging the other two finalists, Phil Farris stated, "We're very honored to be here, believe me."

 Entries in the Small Business Division have between 11 and 250 full-time employees and from $1 million to $10 million in gross receipts.

The winner of the Microenterprise of the Year Award was Total Comfort Systems. Jeff Olinghouse was grateful in accepting the honor. "I should start by thanking my wife for putting up with all the times I'm not around," he said. "When you start a business, your own business, your goals are to stay in business and do the right stuff. I'm impressed with how many people have supported us, and continue to."

Other finalists in the Microenterprise Division were Perks Cafe and Van Wert Vision Center LTD.

"It's nice to say that we're growing," Olinghouse revealed. "I just hired a person, and I'm just getting ready to hire some more. It's been a great opportunity. Thank you all. Thanks to my mother, and my sister, and everybody that has been a customer. I hope you stay with us!"

This year marks the fifth annual Salute to Small Business Luncheon. The event began in 2006, co-sponsored by Citizens National Bank and Times Bulletin Media.

P & R Medical Connection was also a finalist in that first year. The business, which began as a part-time operation in 1985, has grown to employ 43 people and to care for patients living in 44 counties. P & R also has three retail stores in Van Wert, Defiance, and Decatur, Indiana.

Robin Farris' three-year battle with cancer gave the family an opportunity to see the business from the patient's side as well. "One of the things we have prided ourselves on is being able to keep people in their homes, being able to have them where they want to be. There's no better place than home," she said.

Total Comfort Systems, Inc. is the name Olinghouse has given to the business he purchased, formerly known as Elmco Heating and Plumbing. With offices at 224 Bonnewitz Ave., Total Comfort Systems is a growing firm with a refined plan for taking care of its customers.

The six finalists in the two divisions were chosen from the 25 local businesses receiving nominations this year. Nominations were taken from customers and other business leaders. All nominated companies were asked to submit applications, which were used to determine the winners in each category.

Applicants were judged on financial performance and business history, employee practices, community involvement, customer service, and entrepreneurship.