© Guardian Photo
Downtown Charlottetown Inc. honoured three business leaders at its annual meeting on Thursday. From left, president Scott MacKenzie congratulates winners Ray Murphy, who received the Presidents Award, Jessie Inman and Mike Cochrane, representing Confederation Centre of the Arts Plaza and Mavors, winners of the business improvement of the year award, and Dawn Alan, executive director of Downtown Charlottetown Inc. Missing from the photo are Bill and Wanda Watters of Northern Watters Knitwear, retailer of the year award.
Ray Murphy was presented the President’s Award when Downtown Charlottetown Inc. held its annual meeting and awards presentation Thursday night at Confederation Centre.
The DCI President’s Award is a category which responds to those recipients who excel in many categories and who have performed in the best interests of the city or its goals
Murphy was cited for “tremendous contributions to our downtown community — especially through the operation of Murphy’s Community Centre.”
Over the past 30 years, Murphy’s Pharmacies has grown to include 10 pharmacy locations across P.E.I. and Murphy’s Community Centre in the heart of downtown Charlottetown.
Murphy and his family have contributed to many charitable organizations over the years, and in 2006 he made a major contribution to downtown Charlottetown by purchasing the former Basilica Recreation Centre, now known as Murphy’s Community Centre.
Murphy wanted to create a place that would increase the educational, recreational and social opportunities for people living and working in Prince Edward Island. Major renovations were completed over the past few years, including a new gymnasium, updated bathrooms and a new fully accessible entrance so people of all mobility levels can utilize the centre.
The DCI Business Improvement of the Year winner is Confederation Centre of the Arts for the capital improvements to the Upper Plaza and Mavors Restaurant.
In 2012, Confederation Centre undertook two extensive renovation projects for Mavor’s and the Upper Plaza, two bustling downtown locations in a complex which welcomes more than 250,000 people each year.
The outdoor Upper Plaza area is located on the corner of Queen and Grafton streets, stretching around the flagpoles and down towards the Mavor’s and Art Gallery entrances. The major goals for this space were to improve pedestrian traffic, to match the landscaping of the plaza by the library, to soften the outer facade of the theatre building and to generally make the area more enjoyable both day and night.
The DCI Retailer of the Year went to Wanda and Bill Watters, who operate a successful shop on Victoria Row.
Northern Watters Knitwear is the home of “world-famous” sweaters and accessories and the products of many Island artisans.
In 2007, Wanda Watters, a knitter with Great Northern Knitters and her husband Bill, purchased the inventory of now closed Great Northern Knitters. They borrowed from their bank to start their business “Northern Watters Knitwear” and opened a storefront on Richmond Street. In 12 months they were able to repay their loan.
They had five employees and Wanda to start. Fifteen months later Bill left his job to join the staff. Fast forward six years they now have 10 employees.
In the early days they employed four home knitters, which they supplied with their wool to knit mittens for the shop. Today they employee 45 home knitters. Thousands of pairs of these mittens are sold across North America and even China every year.
When they opened the shop they displayed and sold the crafts of four local artisans, they now sell product from over 100 local artisans 90 per cent from P.E.I. and a few others from across Canada.
DCI executive director Dawn Alan said this past year progressed with a flurry of initiatives, activities and campaigns designed to “increase our focus on strategic and social communications, sustainability, security and economic growth.”
She said DCI is working hard to seek out ways to support shareholder efforts, and market the downtown as a destination and build on and enhance the Buy Local campaign.
“The P.E.I. convention center, currently under construction and scheduled to open its doors for business this year will enable more visitors to make their way into our Downtown and its surrounding neighbourhoods.
She said momentum is building with news and excitement for the 2014 year long celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the historic Charlottetown Conference of 1864 tourism visitation in the City is going to continue to grow and grow.