Natchezian Man, Woman, Businesses of the Year honored during annual chamber gala

Published 10:52 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

NATCHEZ — During the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala on Tuesday night, the chamber honored who president Debbie Hudson called “champions of our community” with the 2021 Natchez Man and Woman of the Year awards and the Small and Large Business of the Year awards.

The celebration took place at the Natchez Convention Center.

Honorees include Helen Moss Smith, 2021 Natchezian Woman of the Year; John Grady Burns, 2021 Natchezian Man of the Year; Lisa and Pat Miller of Natchez Brewing Company, 2021 Small Business of the Year; and Loss Prevention Services, 2021 Large Business of the Year.

Email newsletter signup

Helen Moss Smith, Natchezian Woman of the Year

Devin Health, the director of Visit Natchez, presented Smith with the Natchezian Woman of the Year award, which is given annually to “recognize an outstanding member of the Chamber and our community,” Heath said.

“Our nominee has dedicated all aspects of her life to Natchez and to promoting it. It has been told that she is always the perfect hostess and that you never know when you are invited to her house who you will meet. In terms of her background, our Woman of the Year has always been fascinated with historic preservation.”

Heath said Smith’s parents, George and Margaret Moss, renovated Texada when she was growing up, which is believed to be one of the earliest brick buildings in Natchez.

Smith attended Rhodes College and returned to Natchez to purchase and live at the Texada with her husband Randy t after her mother died in 2009.

“Her interest in history did not stop there,” Heath said. “She has worked diligently over the years with the Natchez Garden Club in their many preservation projects, but most recently in 2017 to renovate and repair the brownstone look on Magnolia Hall’s exterior. It follows that she has always been an active member of the Natchez Historic Foundation and of the projects they have accomplished over the years.”

Smith serves on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Board of Directors and the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission board as chairman.

With her love of history and tourism, Smith also loves God and actively serves in leadership roles and outreach at First Presbyterian Church in Natchez, Heath said.

Smith said it was an honor and a surprise to be named the Natchezian Woman of the Year.

“It’s surprising,” she said. “I can name a few dozen people deserving of this award. It’s an honor.”

John Grady Burns, Natchezian Man of the Year

Burns echoed many of the same feelings as Smith for being named Natchezian Man of the Year.

“It feels fabulous,” he said. “It is quite an honor. I absolutely felt surprised.”

Tuwanna Williams, the newly appointed workforce development director for the City of Natchez, presented Burns with the award.

Burns is a Natchez native and Cathedral School and Mississippi State University graduate.

In 2016, he moved back to Natchez from Atlanta to open his retail store, Nest, and later purchased H Hal Garner Antiques and Interiors and renamed it H Hal Garner Nest.

With the businesses and his skill in making floral arrangements, he helps decorate many of the homes of the people and functions of Natchez, including providing the table settings that were seen at the chamber gala. Decorating has been a life-long skill of Burns’s that had taken him to high places, Williams said.

“Very early in his training, he was asked to decorate the White House and Blair House for Christmas. … He was also given the opportunity to decorate Vice President Bush’s house, several DC congressmen, Woodlawn and many private businesses at the nation’s capital,” Williams said. “He has made a life-long career in the field of horticulture and floral design. Weddings, specialty events, teaching design, leading seminars, and publishing three books has taken him across the Southeast.”

Burns has also been involved with the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebrate, speaking on a variety of topics, and has been the Grand Marshall of the Mardi Gras parade and Duke for the Krewe of Phoenix. He has served on both the Natchez-Adams Chamber Board and executive board.  Most recently, he has supported mental health and suicide prevention for the Miss-Lou LGBTQ community with the nonprofit “Y’all Means All Natchez.

Natchez Brewing Company, Small Business of the Year

Sarah Lindsey Laukhuff presented 2021 Small Business of the Year award winners, Pat and Lisa Miller with Natchez Brewing Company.

Pat Miller, a native of Vidalia, Louisiana, and Lisa Miller, a native of Plymouth, England, met in 1998 serving in the marines. The Millers started their brewing business on Franklin Street in 2012 after living in Asheville, North Carolina, a known haven for lovers of craft beer.

In 2016, they moved the business to their current location at 207 High Street due to them not having enough space to brew enough for the high demand.

The expanded business includes a brewhouse, a brewing system and a taproom.

“This brewery is the only one in this area,” Laukhuff said. “… Natchez Brewing offers tours every Wednesday and Saturday so visitors can learn about brewing, sample craft beers and enjoy Natchez. What a unique business to add as a Natchez tourism attraction.”

While it is a brewery, Laukhuff said the Brewing Company is also a family-friendly establishment that serves fresh brick oven pizza and offers children’s outdoor games and events.

Thursdays at the Brewing Company are Thirsty Thursday Trivia Nights and a staging area hosts talented singers and songwriters, she said. In addition to providing entertainment to the community, they also support a variety of good causes from the Humane Society to Leadership Natchez, Young Professionals and Christmas in Natchez.

“Last February during the ice storm, Pat helped to fill empty containers with water to waiting residents until the water ran out,” Laukhuff said. “He decided to help because he didn’t have any water at home. The brewery had a lot of water in order to brew beer and he wanted to share. He wanted to do his part to make someone else’s life a little easier and a little better.”

Loss Prevention Services, Large Business of the Year

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Wes Middleton presented Loss Prevention Services with the 2021 Large Business of the Year award, which is given each year to a chamber-member business of more than 25 employees that is also “involved in promoting Natchez internally and externally.”

Natchez natives Sterling and Shannon Gay co-founded Loss Prevention Services in 2009. The company was later headquartered in Michigan where its CEO David Cowlbeck resides.

However, in 2020 the corporate headquarters was relocated back to Natchez at 321 Franklin Street where it can accommodate up to 300 employees. The company continues to use its office in Grandville, Michigan, but now has two sites to offer redundancy operations for their clients, Middleton said.

“Loss Prevention is in the top five largest asset and portfolio management companies in the industry and is proud of their management team that has been designed and deployed innovative automation to assure consistency, effectiveness and efficiency,” he said. “When visiting the site on Franklin Street, you are well-aware of the measures taken to make this the state-of-the-art facility. The employees and the pride they take in their job is imminent. Champions are selected on a regular basis to encourage high performance as well as to be a way to show employer appreciation.”

Middleton said the company has “a robust employee activity committee” that works to support local non-profits including the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life initiative, the Natchez Children Home, Stewpot and several others.

Last year, Loss Prevention took home the “People’s Choice Award” at the annual chili cook-off using a strategy of hosting an in-house cook-off before the event to choose the best recipe from their employees.

“Amid the pandemic, LPS continues to grow and thrive in this uncertain economic climate with hard work, hard play, great business and respect for all,” Middleton said.