Celebration of Excellence brings businesses together Thursday

Dinner and awards event is 5-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake

All that Glitters - 2021 Celebration of Excellence Awards

After a year off because of COVID-19, the Brainerd Lakes Chamber’s Celebration of Excellence is back.

The event presents the Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year Award, the Business Excellence Award and Business Legacy Award.

Mary Gottsch, executive director of the Bridges Academies, will also be recognized for 30 years of service. Lisa Paxton, past chamber president, will provide a presentation for Gottsch.

The dinner and awards event is 5-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake. The event is presented by Widseth.

The third Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year Award will be presented to Close Converse Commercial Real Estate | Business Brokerage. The Brainerd Lakes Chamber and Cub Foods will present the award.


Close Converse is “a small business that truly personifies the spirit of entrepreneurship, pride and success!”

The award honors a Brainerd Lakes Chamber business employing up to 20 team members with the following attributes: leadership, innovation, employee investment and community service.

Since 1995, Close Converse specialized in providing the highest quality commercial, land and business brokerage services, the chamber noted in a news release.

“Like most companies, Close Converse started small, with Kevin Close working as the sole broker for the company together with an assistant. In 2002, Kevin's son, Chris Close, joined Kevin and Rod Converse in the company. Today, Chris Close is the sole owner of Close Converse. They have four full-time salespeople and three full-time support staff.”

The company has three unique divisions: a commercial real estate division, a land sales division (Land Radar) and a business brokerage division.

“What makes Close Converse unique compared to other real estate organizations is that all their agents work together as a team, allowing them to focus on their number one priority, their clients.

From its conception, Close Converse has always been about serving people. Every week the team recites out loud their values statement, which is ‘Together we will serve every individual with passion, integrity and excellence, always delivering more than is expected.’ Their hope is that long after a transaction closes, their customers and clients will remember the relationships that were formed with the individuals on their team.”

The Business Excellence Award winner is Lexington Manufacturing and the business will be recognized for leadership, innovation, employee investment and community service. Hy-Tec Construction is sponsoring the Business Excellence Award and will present it to Lexington Manufacturing at the dinner.


“Lexington is a world class manufacturer serving the commercial window and door industry from coast to coast and also in international markets. Its core concepts are to build relationships, create solutions and deliver value,” the chamber noted. “This formula has worked well and has driven sales from $40 million five years ago to projected sales in 2020 in the $80 million range.”

The Brainerd operations got started a little more than 20 years ago in the Northern Pacific Center buildings headed up by Mike Dillon, who is now president of all Lexington's operations. Lexington started out in a garage on Lexington Avenue in the Twin Cities back in the early ‘80s and has developed into a premier component manufacturer to Fortune 500 companies throughout the United States. Lexington is a growth oriented multi-million dollar company but still is family-based in its roots and culture.

The Business Legacy Award is presented by the chamber and RiverWood Bank to Ron and Al Lindner.

“Ron and Al Lindner are true innovators within the fishing industry. In 1968, they, along with members of the Nisswa Guides League, created the Lindy Tackle Company and invented the Lindy Rig used by millions of walleye angers (over 70 million sold)! Their talents and outreach grew when they founded In-Fisherman magazine in 1975, a leading national publication in the freshwater industry,” the chamber stated. In-Fisherman Television and Radio began in 1979 and became hugely successful. Their sons, James and Daniel, joined Al and Ron in 2003 to establish Lindner Media Productions.

“Al and Ron have remained an important ingredient in the success of Lindner Media, which currently produces five outdoor television shows (Angling Edge, Fishing Edge, Ultimate Fishing Experience, The Ontario Experience, and AnglingBuzz),” the chamber reported. “Both Al and Ron have received numerous industry recognitions, including belonging to the Normark Hall of Fame, the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame. Al is also in the Professional Bass Fishing Hall of Fame and received the Samuel C. Johnson Fishing Journalist of the Year award for his contributions to the industry. They have written hundreds of published articles, published multiple books on fishing and created the famed 'F+L+P=Success' fishing formula.

“Ron LIndner unfortunately passed away in November 2020 before we could present this award to him. Ron's legacy will live on through his impact on recreational fishing and his personal contributions to the Brainerd Lakes Area.”

Those attending are invited to put some sparkle into their wardrobe choices for the “All that Glitters” theme for the 2021 Celebration of Excellence event.


Past recipient of the Lakes Proud Small Business of the Year Award:

  • Jack Pine Brewery (2018)

  • Brainerd General Rental (2019)

Past recipients of the Business Excellence Award include:

  • Widseth Smith Nolting (2012)

  • Crosswoods Golf (2013)

  • Grand View Lodge (2014)

  • Ultra Paws LLC (2015)

  • Just for Kix (2016)

  • CTC (2017)

  • Cuyuna Regional Medical Center (2018)

  • 3 Cheers Hospitality (2019)

Past recipient of the Business Legacy Award:

  • Stewart C. Mills Jr. (2016)

  • Arnie Johnson (2017)

  • Paul and Lynn Hunt (2018)

  • Dutch and Irma Cragun (2019)

Ron and Al Lindner; true innovators within the fishing industry.

I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with numerous job titles since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently as Digital Editor. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work these 30+ years. I was present and worked on the our web page when our original website first went live on April 26, 1994.
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