Watauga County Business of the Year

Presented by Watauga County Economic Development Commission

The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce announced its winners of the 2017 Watauga County Business of the Year Awards during the High Country Economic Kickoff Breakfast Tuesday, January 9, 2018 at Appalachian Ski Mountain.

The awards were sponsored by the Watauga County Economic Development Commission. Nominations were submitted by chamber members seeking to reward businesses who exhibited staying power, growth in sales and/or workforce, innovative products and services, strong response to adversity, contributions to community-oriented projects, and use of local resources.

2017 Watauga County Business of the Year Award Winners

Small Business: Vidalia Restaurant and Wine Bar

A fixture on King Street for over a decade, Alyce and Sam Ratchford offer a unique blend of culinary art and High Country atmosphere at Vidalia Restaurant & Wine Bar. Just over three years ago the restaurant shut its doors to embark on a major renovation project.  Upon completion, they more than doubled seating capacity and constructed a screened outdoor patio. Now an audience of over 120 customers can enjoy an array of seating options from intimate tables and seating at their copper bar to group dining. Many of Vidalia’s menu items are locally sourced throughout the year. The Ratchford’s have been strong supporters of community farm-to-table efforts like Dig Into Local and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. In the summer of 2017, Vidalia hosted a fundraising dinner to benefit F.A.R.M. Café, serving a five-course meal along with wine pairings, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to F.A.R.M. Café’s operating budget. (Photo Credit: High Country Press)

Large Business: Charles Eyler Agency – Nationwide Insurance and Investment

Five years after taking over a legacy insurance agency in the Boone community, Chuck Eyler merged three additional agencies into his business and grew his staff from six to 32 in less than a year. The mergers grew the company’s annual sales premiums from $3.6 million to $21 million while annual company revenue grew from $450,000 to $2.5 million. Eyler created a “One Nationwide,” business model to ensure a team approach to the rapidly-expanded business. He worked with other regional agents to create a brokerage group to help to bring more locally purchasable options to commercial and private insurance customers. The Charles Eyler Agency took on this growth amid a challenging national insurance landscape due to natural disasters and associated rising premium costs to all customers. Eyler encourages all employees to attend Certified Insurance Service Representative accreditation through the State of North Carolina. The company provides both volunteer and financial support to various community non-profit businesses and sports programs.

Startup Business: Hatchet Coffee

An idea started by two Stick Boy bread bakers has risen into a multi-faceted coffee empire. Hatchet Coffee started 2017 as a small coffee bar operated by Jeremy Bollman and Jeremy Parnell inside Center 45 Climbing Gym. By year’s end, a total of seven staffers were needed after a café renovation and series of new product launches propelled Hatchet Coffee into a rapidly growing market. Their basic coffee bar was transformed into a full production bar, complete with espresso drinks and a draft system for nitro coffees. The business saw equal growth in its wholesale operation, jumping from a handful of accounts to 40 clients by year’s end. The business earned nearly $400,000 in revenue in 2017, or about 22% higher than projections. Citing pay-it-forward help from Center 45 and Stick Boy as key ingredients to their own success, Hatchet staff oversaw equipment installation, training, provided some entrepreneurial expertise, and now wholesales coffee to Ransom in Downtown Boone.

Past Business of the Year Winners

The award was split into a Large Business & Small Business award permanently in 2014. The Startup Business of the Year award was added in 2017.


Business of Year

Small Business of Year

Startup Business of the Year


Mast General Store


Charleston Forge


Carroll Leather Goods


Ribbon Textiles


Mystery Hill


Tree Diminsions


Appalachian Brian Estates


Watauga Ready Mix


Hastings Company/Hardee's


WATA Radio


Appalachian Ski Mountain


The Mountain Times


Quality Inn & Conference Center


Bare Essentials Natural Market


Cheap Joe's Art Stuff


WJ Office City




Pepper's Restaurant


Boone Drug


Makotos Japanese Steakhouse


Carefree Companies


Boone Mall


Chetola Resort


Appalachian Regional Healthcare 

Stick Boy Bread Company


Peddler Steak House


Tar Heel Basement Systems


ECR Software Corporation


US Buildings

Boone Bike & Touring


Watauga Opportunities, Inc.



Tweetsie Railroad

Creekside Electronics


Charles Eyler Agency

Vidalia Restaurant & Wine Bar

Hatchet Coffee


Blue Ridge Realty & Investments

Peabody's Beer & Wine Merchants

High Country Food Hub