Snap Fitness and Hopkins Health & Wellness have been anchor businesses on the north end of Government Drive in Pequot Lakes for roughly a dozen years.

Located in the former Pequot Lakes Fire Hall building, those businesses - along with owner Michelle Lelwica and her team of employees - were named the 2019 Pequot Lakes Business of the Year.

This is the second year of the award. Merritt Jewelers won the inaugural award last year.

"It's been an honor to be here and build such a great team," Lelwica said Monday morning, June 17, when Pequot Lakes Chamber Director Katie Wassermann and chamber advisory board members surprised her with the honor.

The two businesses are partners, yet separate corporations.

"For 12 years we have provided the Pequot Lakes community with a state-of-the-art, 24-hour gym and multiple classes throughout the day and evening," Lelwica wrote about the businesses. "For 11 years we have provided health and wellness treatment, including chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage therapy and nutritional and diet care."

Lelwica, a doctor of chiropractic, explained how the companies came to be in Pequot Lakes. She moved to the lakes area with her husband, Jim, to raise their children in a small town, close to where Jim grew up in Staples.

"I was ready to retire from practice and keep myself busy volunteering at the school," she wrote. "It didn't take long for me to realize two things."

Those two things were that the school didn't use volunteers as much as she had time to dedicate, and the city needed a large, well-equipped gym with studio classes.

Lelwica brought Kristen Gangl on board and they built Snap Fitness.

When people realized Lelwica was a chiropractor, they asked her for help. She used an unfinished part of the fire hall building, then built a small room inside the gym in a second expansion. Two years later, they were outgrowing that space and a third expansion of the gym included an area for a clinic and physical therapy services.

In 2013, they bought the building and used the rest of it for the clinic, adding massage and expanding the gym a fourth time.

Lelwica gives credit to her team for the businesses' success.

"I believe each current employee at Snap Fitness and Hopkins has basically come to us through divine intervention," Lelwica wrote. "Either they have walked in our door looking to join our team at just the right time we needed help, or they have responded to us spreading the word that we were looking for new help. Sometimes we have made room for more team members before we knew we needed them, simply because they were the right person for the team.

"It is a little unconventional, but we have built a team of people who serve from the heart, are dedicated to helping people, and I believe our team is made up of the nicest people in Crow Wing County. Period."

Together they have consistently brought cutting-edge healthcare and fitness to Pequot Lakes, she said.

As a community partner, Lelwica's businesses and employees support the Pequot Lakes School District and local Christian organizations and causes. The team members regularly volunteer at the school, with STRIVE, at Bean Hole Days, with Rotary and as church volunteers.

Lelwica served on the Pequot Lakes Chamber Advisory Board for a handful of years, as Blue Line Club president for boys hockey, with People for Pequot and as a member of the Pequot Lakes Economic Development Commission.

Award criteria/recognition

Criteria to be nominated for the award include that the business has to be a Pequot Lakes Chamber member and has to be in the Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point or Jenkins area. The business must be a leader in the marketplace and in the community.

The Pequot Lakes Business of the Year, Citizen of the Year (to be named) and Volunteers of the Year (to be named) will be recognized at the Bean Hole Days community picnic Tuesday evening, July 16, near the Bean Hole pit and the chamber information center on the south side of Trailside Park.