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Published Sat, Nov 17, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Sat, Nov 17, 2012 06:52 PM

Downtown businesses distinguished at 2012 Awards Dinner

- ajames@newsobserver.com
Sherry Mitchell of Sherry's Signature Cheesecake at 120 East Main Street has won the title "Best Downtown Business of 2012."
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- ajames@newsobserver.com

CLAYTON -- The Downtown Development Association has named the business of the year, and its recipient didn’t even need to take home the cake. There’s a freezer full of them at her shop.

Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes, located at 120 East Main St., was named Downtown Business of the Year for 2012.

"I was so surprised," said owner Sherry Mitchell. She almost didn’t attend the awards dinner, held Monday night at the Clayton Steakhouse. Since Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year for her, Mitchell said she had planned to spend Monday night preparing cheesecakes. But Bruce Naegelan, Downtown Development Director, offered her a free ticket and suggested she attend. She was glad she did.

Business owners and board members of the Downtown Development Association gathered Monday to celebrate the strides made in the past year to improve downtown. Eyeglasses sat atop each placemat at the awards dinner to symbolize the theme of the night: vision.

Mayor Jody McLeod spoke to the group with enthusiasm about the vision he has for downtown.

“We created Internet hotspots in downtown Clayton to use and now we want to create ‘cool’ spots: places to sit and have coffee, hang out, and meet up with friends,” said McLeod.

“We’re going to have to work on creating a strong visual magnet that brings people to our front door.”

The week before, Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes was awarded ’Best Dessert’ at the Clayton’s Woman’s Club Taste of Carolina Cuisine.

Peacefully nestled in a restored historic home, Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes provides an at-home experience, except the home is immaculately clean and perfectly decorated. Sherry, herself, will greet guests and engage in conversation with them in an unhurried manner, as aromas of freshly baked dessert fill the elegant space.

Open since April 2011, the business moved from its original location on First Street in July. The reputation of the cheesecakes quickly spread, and the new location has also helped bring in new customers. The space has several rooms and patios which can be rented out for wedding receptions and used for business meetings. There are usually four flavors of homemade cheesecake to choose from, and the flavors change each week. The newest flavor launched is Maple Brown Sugar Bacon.

The Downtown Development Association announced several other awards, as well.

The Mosaic Community Garden, located at 493 East Main St. won Best Curb Appeal. Founded in March, the garden is operated by the Mosaic Church of Clayton. It has both an environmental aim, to adopt sustainable growing practices, as well as an altruistic aim, to grow food for those who can’t afford it. According to its website, the Community Garden is also a space for meditation, prayer, and spiritual growth.

Primo Pizza, located at 226 East Main St. won Outstanding New Business. Offering hard-to-beat lunch deals and New York Style Pizza, the restaurant is never empty.

The late Michael Smith of Zaxby’s was honored with the Thank You Award. Downtown director Bruce Naegelan said Smith was devoted to making the community better and he was an innovator. One way he did this was by hosting a movie night at Zaxby’s restaurant which still takes place.

The Women’s Club of Clayton was awarded Volunteer of the Year. The Downtown Development Association board member of the year is Betsy Grannis.

According to Naegelan, 10 new businesses opened in Clayton this year. Nine businesses closed. There was over $6 million publicly invested in downtown from 2011-2012, up from around $400,000 in 2010-2011. There was $355,097 privately invested, down from $1 million the year prior.

“We are still looking at how we can get private investors to give more,” said Naegelen.

The Downtown Development Association also brought in 1,200 hours of volunteerism.

James: 919-553-7234

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  • After moving locations of her business from First Street to Main Street in July, Sherry Mitchell, of Sherry's Signature Cheesecakes was awarded "Best Downtown Business of 2012."
    AMANDA JAMES - ajames@newsobserver.com
  • The Women's Club of Clayton was awarded "Volunteer of the Year" by the Downtown Development Association.
    AMANDA JAMES - ajames@newsobserver.com

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