Downtown business leaders get nod from SDDi

July 31, 2013

Longtime Sedalia business owners and investors were honored Tuesday during a Downtown Sedalia Awards Celebration, hosted by Sedalia Downtown Development, Inc.

SDDi Administrator Meg Liston said the SDDi board had been wanting to plan a special ceremony for the past few years to honor those owners and families who had been involved in the downtown community.

“It gives us a chance to get together and really thank them for what they’ve done,” she said. “And tonight being the first ceremony, we wanted to make sure we honored quite a few people who have invested their time and money into keeping downtown going.”

Lifetime Achievement in Historic Preservation awards went to two Sedalia families — the Furnells, owners of Hotel Bothwell, the Fox Theater and several apartment complexes and the Swords, who own multiple buildings downtown including Swords Family Pharmacy at Third Street and Ohio Avenue.

Michelle Swords, who opened Swords Pharmacy with her husband, John, in 1991, said it was an easy choice to locate in the downtown area.

“(John and I) are both from here, we grew up coming downtown all the time as kids,” she said. “Over the years we’ve seen downtown go through changes and transitions. We had some major stores move out of the area and go to the west side of town but downtown has by no means died, which everyone thought it was going to.”

Aside from the pharmacy, the Swords also own several downtown buildings, both commercial and residential space and have been involved in SDDi and various downtown associations for more than 20 years.

“It’s a neighborhood, a community,” she said. “I think it’s important to remember that. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”

Erica Eisenmenger, vice president of Furnell Companies,  said the passion for investing in downtown that started with her grandfather, Doyle Furnell, continues today.

“You start to form relationships with the other downtown business owners and really get to know them,” she said. “There’s an atmosphere in downtown that isn’t anywhere else in Sedalia. We definitely have no plans to leave the area.”

Local Sedalia historian Becky Imhauser was also honored with a Outstanding Achievement and Contributions in Historic Preservation award, something she called a honor.

“When I was a child in the 60’s we were downtown and about 10 years ago after my husband died I moved my children back here so they too could grow up in downtown,” Imhauser said. “I think I’ve stayed so long just because I love the history and the culture. The business owners here, we’re like a family and I think we’re all dedicated to keeping the downtown area going.”

Other award honorees included former Smith-Cotton Jr. High School Principal Wade Norton for Outstanding Community Outreach and Education in Historic Preservation and Matt Fulson for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation and Rehabilitative Restoration for his work on the Commerce Building, who said, “downtown Sedalia has certainly given me more than I’ve given it, it’s a great honor to be here tonight.”

“Downtown really is a community,” Liston said. “There are so many people, myself included, who had first jobs at a downtown store or who have memories of shopping downtown. Hosting an awards ceremony like this, it’s just a wonderful way to say thank you to every one for their continued support.”