The 2019 Business Excellence Awards will recognize Brainerd General Rental, 3 Cheers Hospitality and Dutch and Irma Cragun.

The Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Cub Foods are presenting the second Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year Award to Brainerd General Rental for personifying the spirit of “entrepreneurship, pride and success.”

Brainerd General Rental employs up to 25 team members. Steve Mau, owner of Brainerd General Rental, was encouraged by other business owners and customers to apply for the award.

“For the past 26 years Brainerd General Rental has been blessed to be a part of this amazing community,” Mau wrote to the chamber. “Through countless projects that our customers have undertaken and the support that our dedicated staff has provided, this recognition is for them. An opportunity to pause and rejoice in all that we have accomplished together.”

The Business Excellence Award goes to 3 Cheers Hospitality, which owns and operates restaurants Prairie Bay, Sherwood Forest, Iron Range Eatery, The Mad Hugger Café and the new Dock 77 at the Quarterdeck Resort. The award recognizes companies for leadership, innovation, employee investment and community service. The Brainerd Dispatch sponsors the award.

Company staff and management also participate in local events such as Operation Sandwich, Soup Kitchen, Chambers, Public Library, area schools, the local college and nonprofits with the chamber’s Happy Hour for A Cause program.

Headlining the event will be the presentation of the Business Legacy Award by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and RiverWood Bank to Dutch and Irma Cragun, owners of Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake.

“They are a monarch in the hospitality industry who have achieved exceptional business success in their lifetime,” the chamber reported in a news release. “The Brainerd Lakes Chamber seeks to recognize inspiring leadership that transcends business and leaves a legacy of community and economic vitality for generations to come.”

Merrill “Dutch” Cragun was born and raised in Minneapolis. He started his career in Brainerd at age 9 (1941) working during the summers at the family resort in charge of worms and minnows. After attending the University of Minnesota and serving in the Army, Cragun returned to Brainerd and took over as manager of Cragun’s Resort in 1957.

At that time, Cragun’s Resort consisted of 12 cabins, six hotel style units, and a dining room that could seat 20. Steady growth continued for the next 40 years which included purchasing both Cronoble’s and Island View Resorts that were adjacent to the original property. Today, Cragun’s Resort has 205 hotel style rooms, 54 cabins, 45 holes of award winning golf, and five restaurants.

An independent committee met earlier this summer and selected the winners among several nominees for each category. The winners were chosen based on specific criteria:

  • Leadership: Achieved exceptional business success and is widely recognized as a key influencer in his or her industry as well as within regional, state and national circles.

  • Innovation: Took considerable risk, navigated change and overcame adversity to bring innovative ideas to the marketplace.

  • Employee Investment: Invested in the power of people by creating quality jobs that have provided opportunities for employee advancement and community engagement.

  • Community Service: Earned an outstanding reputation for community, economic and philanthropic impact by generously supporting local businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The awards will be presented during a Night of Magic & Mystery -- Celebration of Excellence set to begin at 5 p.m. Nov. 21 at Cragun's Resort.