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2022 Business Well Crafted Award winners

Hickory recognizes 2022 Business. Well Crafted. Award winners

The City of Hickory's 2022 Business. Well Crafted. Award winners were announced during the Hickory City Council meeting on Tuesday, December 6.

Presented by the City’s Business Development Committee (BDC), the Business. Well Crafted. Awards annually honor businesses, organizations, and entrepreneurs that support and affirm the City of Hickory's vision for economic vitality.  

Congratulations to the following 2022 Business. Well Crafted. Awards winners:

Individual (Entrepreneur of the Year)

Jay Brown - Jay Brown, Realtors: Jay Brown, Realtors is an independent, locally owned boutique real estate firm specializing in guiding clients through the home buying and selling process. Located in downtown Hickory, the firm focuses on creating lasting relationships with clients using thorough communication, consistent processes, and an emphasis on an abundance mindset. The firm has expanded tremendously over the past two to three years, in both production and employee growth. Over the past three years, the firm has helped over 325 individuals and families buy and sell homes in the Catawba County area.

Owner and realtor Jay Brown is a strong champion of the Hickory community and is active in several community groups. He is a board member of the Hickory Downtown Development Association, board member of the Hickory Home Builders Association, a graduate of Leadership Catawba, member of The Chamber of Catawba County Leads group, member of the Leaders Are Readers Book Club, and recipient of the Hickory Young Professionals Top 10 Under 40 Award. His real estate firm regularly sponsors downtown Hickory events, youth sporting teams, and other community-oriented programs.

Youth (25 years of age and younger)

Chase Collins - Hickory’s Helper, LLC: Hickory's Helper, LLC is an exterior cleaning and maintenance business committed to providing affordable, value-adding services to the community. The company strives to ease the burdens of home and business owners by improving both the aesthetics and functionality of their properties. As part of its charitable efforts, the company offers discounted services to non-profits and religious organizations that are also dedicated to meeting the needs of citizens. Through its services, Hickory's Helper, LLC prioritizes adding value to the community, creating lasting relationships, and providing quality work that promotes the integrity of Hickory properties.

Chase Collins had the dream for this business several years ago and worked closely with the Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) Small Business Center and other community supporters to develop this dream into a reality. The company has grown 100 percent over the last two years and became “official” in 2022. Having serviced over 60 residential customers and several commercial customers, the company has experienced significant growth in customer base and revenue as well as impact in the community. Hickory’s Helper, LLC received a grant this spring that has directly enabled the company to multiply its earnings elevenfold through strategic implementation of the funds. Hickory’s Helper is a part of The Chamber of Catawba County, Catawba Valley Leadership Foundation, and Appalachian State University’s Entrepreneurship Club.

Business and/or Organization (10 or fewer employees)

Premier Screen Printing, Inc.: As a family owned and operated screen printing, embroidery and promotional products distributor, Premier Screen Printing works to maintain client loyalty by offering the least expensive and on-time production of items for clients. With a dedication to meeting client needs for timely production, Premier Screen Printing provides imprints to support local corporations, companies, churches, schools, families, charities, and more. The company has served owner Steve Shuford’s hometown of Hickory for over 30 years with quality products, efficient production, and excellent customer service. During that time, the business has maintained growth in sales and employees through the pandemic, having experienced 8-10 percent growth annually. Premier plans to invest in new equipment that will enhance its operations to allow for quicker production and affordable small batch orders.

Premier Screen Printing and its owner Steve Shuford support local charities, public service professionals, health and wellness organizations, and veterans by offering discounted products and service. For many years, Shuford has used his birthday on October 20 to host a Halloween event to benefit Open Door Christian Ministries for the homeless. In the past eight years, he has raised over $30,000 to help the less fortunate. He has previously coordinated toy drives for Catawba County and Sipe’s Orchard Home. Today, Shuford and Premier support Hickory Police Department’s annual Cops for Tots program, having raised and donated over $28,000 for the cause over an 8-year period.

Sabrina P. Cook, CPA PLLC: Sabrina P. Cook, CPA PLLC is a professional services firm serving primarily small businesses in tax, bookkeeping, and fractional CFO/Controller services. The firm’s mission is to anticipate client needs, understand the client's business, and help the business owner achieve financial goals through mutual trust and understanding. The firm has experienced significant growth in size and revenue in recent years, with a 93 percent increase in revenues last year and a 58 percent increase in revenues the year prior to that. 

Sabrina Cook and her team are a well-founded resource for small businesses, helping them to decide when to hire, manage cash flow, and how to comply with all the various tax laws. During the pandemic, Cook taught free classes through the Small Business Center at CVCC. She assisted small business owners with accessing the various incentive funds offered through the Small Business Association (SBA). When PPP loans were announced, she assisted new and existing clients with the paperwork at no charge depending on her existing business volume. All of Cook’s non-profit clients from 2019 survived the COVID shutdowns and are still operational and thriving in 2022. Cook is the current treasurer for the Hickory Downtown Development Association and the NCACPA Hickory Women’s Initiative Founder and Chair since 2016. Her business offers financial literacy to local elementary schools and continues to work with local non-profits to coordinate fundraisers.

Business and/or Organization (11 to 50 employees)

Broome Associated Insurance: Broome Associated Insurance has a dedicated team of insurance professionals and advisors. Known for offering complete transparency and a range of insurance options to fit client needs, Broome operates under the slogan “Better Together” and adds value to the insurance experience by creating a trusting partnership with clients to solve risk management, human resources, and insurance negotiation issues. Broome combines the strength of Broome Insurance and Faw Insurance to bring experienced agents, a vast network of coverage options, and foundational community ties. Built on four generations of integral family work ethic, Broome Associated Insurance continues to grow organically, with a focus on hiring local young professionals and local mergers of other agencies. Since January 2020, the company has doubled in employees and revenue.

Giving back to the company is also a priority for Broome Associated Insurance. The Broome team has assembled a “Good Vibes Committee,” in which members of the committee select local events to volunteer their time and work alongside local organizations to donate needed items. The group is currently volunteering at 31 Thrift and More, and in the past, the committee has supported the Humane Society, The Soup Kitchen, Safe Harbor, The Salvation Army, and the Special Olympics of Catawba County.

Hickory Furniture Mart: A staple of Hickory craftsmanship, the Hickory Furniture Mart has been a well-known furniture and home furnishings destination for over 60 years. What started out as a destination for wholesale manufacturers in 1960, quickly transitioned into a destination for retail customers in 1985. Today, Hickory Furniture Mart continues to thrive as a furniture and design destination for retail consumers and industry trade partners such as builders, developers, architects, and designers. 

Hickory Furniture Mart actively reaches out to and works with customers in every U.S. state, as well as several international companies. The Mart strives to give consumers a high-quality shopping experience while elevating the area’s local furniture manufacturers and vendors. The Mart continues to grow as it increases its tenant base and brings in new furniture showrooms, retailers, and manufacturers into the building. The Mart and its customers generate consistent economic impact for the City of Hickory, Catawba County, and the state of North Carolina. The parent company of Hickory Furniture Mart also owns seven hotel properties within the City of Hickory, which were originally built and used for overnight guests visiting the Mart as well as furniture manufacturers and vendors doing business with furniture partners. The executive team at Hickory Furniture Mart also continues to be valuable parts of the Hickory community by participating in the Western Piedmont Sister Cities Association, Greater Hickory International Council, and collaborating with Hickory Landmarks Society.

The Peanut House: The Peanut House is a family-owned Thai and Hmong restaurant that strives to cultivate diversity and friendship through the modality of traditional Hmong hospitality and delicious eats. New owners assumed operations of the former J-Thai Sushi and Cuisine restaurant in 2019 and quickly made changes to implement a more strategic and standardized approach that helped to double sales in the first month. Four full-time staff members were hired to keep up with demand. Persevering through a tough year in 2020 with the pandemic, the restaurant was able maintain positive net profit and retain employees. The Peanut House now employs over 19 people and anticipates continued growth in sales and size in the coming years.

The owners of The Peanut House focus their business on inclusivity and bringing people together through food. The Peanut House is dedicated to giving back to the Hickory community and frequently thanks local first responders with catered trays of restaurant favorites such as pad thai and eggrolls. During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Peanut House collected and donated canned goods to communities in need. 

Business and/or Organization (51 or more employees)

U.S. Conec, Ltd.: U.S. Conec is a leader in providing passive components for high density optical interconnects. The company was founded to expand the use of MT style multifiber technology through the design, manufacturing, and sales of high precision fiber optic components. U.S. Conec brands span the globe, delivering cost effective technology solutions for data center and enterprise structured cabling, public networks, circuit board interconnect, and industrial and military markets worldwide. U.S. Conec provides leading components that enable high bandwidth systems such as cloud computing, core routing, and distribution networks like fiber-to-the-home. A long-time member of the community, after 30 years of being in the City of Hickory, U.S. Conec continues to grow, tripling its manufacturing footprint to help spur growth in the area. 

U.S. Conec has been involved in community through The Chamber of Catawba County Chamber Board and Catawba Science Center Board. The company sponsors at least one exhibit each year for the science center and is also the founding and sustaining sponsor for Hickory Bot Battles, an annual Catawba Science Center event that brings combat robot teams and spectators from across the country. This event is considered the largest small-weight combat robot competition in the United States.

David E. Looper and Company: Formed in 1993, David E. Looper and Company (Delco) is a full service general contractor with offices in Hickory and Charleston, S.C. Licensed in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, Delco is a regional leader in commercial, design build projects and has built a reputation for delivering outstanding client value and completing projects on time and within budget. Delco prides itself on providing quality construction-related services to a diversified client base. Delco has seen substantial growth over the last several years, with 2022 revenues up over 45 percent in comparison to 2020. Entering different markets, broadening areas of delivery, and capitalizing on mutually beneficial partnerships have all aided this growth. Today, the company continues to push toward additional sustainable and responsible growth.

David E. Looper and Company has been heavily involved in projects within the City of Hickory, including Trivium Corporate Center, One North Center, and the Riverwalk. As part of its ideology and development vision, Delco is focused on constructing buildings that make the City of Hickory more livable, workable, and enjoyable. Many Delco employees also serve or have served on a myriad of local board and committees within the City of Hickory.

“The Business Development Committee is proud to honor these nine award winners for their commitment and support of the City’s vision for economic vitality,” said Brandon Hedrick, chair of the BDC. 

The 2022 Business. Well Crafted. Award winners will be featured in a series of videos and articles shared over the next few months. 

For more information about the Business Development Committee and its Business. Well Crafted. Awards, please contact City of Hickory Business Services Manager David Leonetti at 828-261-2227 or via email at