May 27, 2018

East Providence Businesses Win Reader's Choice Awards

Locals win 1st Place in Annual Providence Journal Reader's Choice Awards. Full Award Announcement Later This Month by the Providence Journal.

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There was a lot of celebrating by East Providence small business owners and their fans with the recent Providence Journal Reader's Choice Award announcements. More than 40,000 nominations were submitted to the newspaper in its annual contest for the most popular businesses according to ProJo readers. The nominations covered many diverse business types from art galleries to hair salons to bars and restaurants.

While all of the awards will be announced by the Providence Journal later this month, some winners have excitedly thanked voters for their support. So far we are aware of the following winners from East Providence, R.I.:

The HeARTspot Art Center and Gallery, Hollywoof’s K9 Supercenter, Sass and Sparkle Boutique, Eric Johnson of AOK Photography, Big Bill Entertainment, We Share Hope, Dave Marchetti's Animal Experiences, Uncle Tony's Restaurant & Pizza and Stevie D's Sports Bar & Grille. There may be other local winners which haven't become known yet.

More than 800 people attended the recent gala awards night at the Twin River Casino Event Center in Lincoln, RI. The setting resembled an academy awards night from Hollywood. Business owners were decked out in formal attire and presentations were made by Miss Rhode Island, Nicolette Peloquin.

Justine Bonalewicz owns the Sass and Sparkle Mobile Boutique based in Riverside. "We are a 23 foot hot pink boutique on wheels so we travel all over New England. I live in Riverside so that is where the truck is parked when we’re not traveling and doing events," Bonalewicz told the Reporter. "It was a beautiful event and a great way to meet fellow business owners. I was thrilled just to be in the top 3 and get to attend the gala," she said. Bonalewicz found herself in competition with giants Kohl's and Macy's. "As a small business owner being up against two big box retailers was pretty nerve wracking. I was so proud to represent for small businesses. When they announced that Sass and Sparkle Mobile Boutique had won 1st place I was in shock!" said Bonalewicz.

Another winner was former East Providence High School art department chair, Jennifer Cahoon. Cahoon now operates the HeARTspot Art Center and Gallery on Pawtucket Avenue. "After only 11 months in business, receiving the Best Gallery in RI award for HeARTspot Art Center and Gallery was both a delightful shock and humbling. Words can’t express how grateful I am for the outpouring of support by members of the community who voted for my business every single day," said Cahoon. "I’m a lucky woman to live in a place that values what I’m doing here, and to be in the middle of building an amazing community of souls brought together by the love of art and creativity," she added.

Dave Marchetti's Animal Experiences also faced big ticket competition when his business was pitted against the Providence Zoo and other large venues. "Thank you, everyone for voting. I literally almost started crying," he would write. Marchetti has been nominated before.

The East Providence Arts Council - Looff Arts Festival also won first place for best local event and best festival. "I need to thank Courtney Rook-Repoza, William J. Hurley, Kristen Lund, Jade Sisti, Jennifer Gillooly Cahoon, Christine Lilly, Michelle Borek, Cheryl Shaw and so many others for all your tireless work and dedication," said the council's Rick Lawson. "We first held the festival in 2015 and in 3 years we now have an award-winning festival."

The volunteers of We Share Hope, a Riverside based non-profit providing food for needy families also won. "Thank you to everyone who voted! We are honored to have won and even more honored to serve our fellow Rhode Islanders," said a group statement.

Of the 40,000 nominations received by the Providence Journal, businesses were narrowed down to the top 5 in over 165 different categories.

"I’d like to think that these honors are a clear sign that EP is on its way to becoming a center for the arts here in our state, and I couldn’t be more proud to be one small part of that movement," said Jennifer Cahoon. "It was a big night for small business in EP!" Cahoon added.

"Anytime that a fellow EP businesses name was called to go on the stage you could look around the room and see the other business owners from our community clapping, cheering and using their noise makers," said Justine Bonalewicz. "I’m still in shock, what a night!"

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