CRESTVIEW — Two downtown businesses are making Florida Retail Federation history. Mike Carroll, of Hub City Smokehouse on Main Street, has been named the 2017 Florida Retailer of the Year, and April Meier of Pawsitively Scrumptious Bark Bakery & Boutique won the title of Florida Outstanding Retail Leader. 

This purportedly is the second time, ever, that two companies from the same town were awarded these honors during their 19-year run. 

The awards will be presented June 8 in St. Petersburg. Both business owners were nominated in February by the Community Redevelopment Agency of Crestview. 

“Back in February, I was given the opportunity to nominate businesses for the Florida Retail Federation’s annual awards,” Brenda Smith, director of the CRA, said. “I chose three businesses based on their awesome contributions to an 18-hour business day and/or commitment to projects and community impacts that benefit the CRA.” 

Bill and Tracy Toannon of Casbah Coffee Company were also nominated. The package that nominees had to compile included questions about things they do for the community, how they entice customers and what sets them apart from other businesses. 

The judging panel comprised University of Florida professors who teach retail management, along with veteran industry experts. 

'WE'VE TURNED THE CORNER'

“I’m honored,” Carroll said. “When I was notified (about the award) a week and a half ago — I mean, wow. I was the retailer of the year for the whole state. As far as I know, they’ve never had a restaurant.” 

So what sets his restaurant apart?

Hub City Smokehouse has a line of aprons hanging by the door with the names of regular customers on them. Carroll said that this makes people feel like they’re part of the place. 

“We do a lot of thinking outside of the box here,” Carroll said. 

There is also a large collection of shot glasses on the wall of the restaurant; people bring in shot glasses from trips they have taken and Carroll trades them for a barbecue sandwich. 

Carroll retired from the military and worked as an engineer for a land developing company; that’s what brought him to Crestview. About six years ago, he and his wife quit their jobs and decided to open a restaurant. 

Hub City Smokehouse was located on PJ Adams Parkway for about three years and has been on Main Street for another three years. They have another location in Baker that is a deli inside of a convenience store. 

“We’ve turned the corner, there’s no doubt,” Carroll said. “There was a lot of hard work."

“We are proud to honor Michael as a tremendous representative of Florida’s retailers and the impact our industry can have both on our customers and community,” said R. Scott Shalley, FRF president & CEO, in a media release. “Michael’s contributions locally, via his service on multiple non-profit boards and significant time spent volunteering, highlight the many ways that retailers are making a difference throughout Florida.”

'I AM TRULY GRATEFUL' 

"We are more than honored to be selected for this prestigious award and follow so many previous recipients that have been inspired to achieve the results that are possible in a retail business today,” Meier said. 

Meier has owned Pawsitively Scrumptious, a pet supplies store and pet bakery, for four years. Her business has always been located on Main Street. 

Before owning this business, Meier said that she owned a floral company for a short time. She is also a retired Air Force veteran. 

“Our sincere appreciation goes to our CRA and Brenda Smith for nominating us for this award,” Meier said.

Meier's support for the Crestview area contributed to her recognition, according to the federation's media release. 

"April is active in numerous business organizations and also mentors other business members," it stated. "Her singular efforts raised over $65,000 toward the completion of the Crestview Bark Park, which is scheduled to open this summer. She also helped raise funds for the Crestview Police Department to purchase two working canines and provided north Okaloosa County Area Fire Departments with 'Waggin O2 Fur Life,' Aubu-Bag kits to assist with life-saving oxygen masks for pets that might be involved in a home fire, among other efforts."

Meier said she appreciated the community's support for her, too. 

“To chase our dream, without the support from our community, employees, family and friends, this business would not have been possible," she said, "and for that, I am truly grateful."