January 7, 2019
2019 Best of Business Awards

Best of Business: To add a touch of luxury

Worcester Country Club
The Beechwood Hotel
The Green Hill Municipal Golf Course
Knight's Airport Limousine Service
Wagner Kia
Worcester Fitness

Company name: Worcester Country Club

Location and website: Worcester, worcestercc.org

Top executive: General Manager & COO Bill Shaw

Year founded: 1900

Employees: 125

Worcester Country Club is aware fewer people are playing golf these days, and those who do might be looking for a different game experience than a generation ago.

But the country club hasn't survived for more than a century based on tradition alone.

The club has kept its membership levels consistent by creating a new resort-like pool area, implementing a discount rate for members under 30, and starting adding untraditional course events, such as wine or beer strolls to get club members on the course who otherwise have maybe never stepped onto a fairway.

"The club realized that golf alone can't do it," Bill Shaw, the club's general manager, said of how it has branched out into new ways for members to spend their time.

The country club has even worked with Wachusett Brewing Co. in Westminster to create its own line of only-at-Worcester Country Club beers, which has so far rotated through a lager and an ale. There's always the original two-lane bowling alley in the basement, too.

The pool has been an especially popular amenity, Shaw said.

"It has been the biggest hit that we could have imagined," he said.

The par-70 course, designed by legendary golf architect Donald Ross, remains the centerpiece of the club.

The same course hosted the 1925 Men's U.S. Open, the 1927 Ryder Cup and the 1960 Women's U.S. Open and now is working to get on the major circuit once more. The club is working to get the 2025 Solheim Cup, a competition between American and European female golfers.

The club pitches tournament organizers on fan support and nearby attractions, which carry as much significance as the venue itself, Shaw said.

"The Worcester area is such an easy sell," he said.

Worcester Country Club has brought in renown current-day names to bring back some of the course's glory. Ron Pritchard was hired to restore much of the course's open links-style play, while course members voted in May to hire another architect, Gil Hanse, to refine the course, perhaps through newly placed bunkers or forward tees for women or beginners.

Best Venue for an Employee Outing

Apex Entertainment

Marlborough, www.apexentertainmentcenter.com

Top executive: General Manager Marcus Kemblowski

Founded: 2017

Employees: Approximately 200

In more than 80,000 square feet inside the larger Apex Center hotel and retail development, Apex Entertainment offers go-karts, bowling, golf simulators and conference rooms. The entertainment venue has overhauled its food and beverage program, including with New England's largest pretzel.

Notable runner-up: Kimball Farm

Best Hotel for Business Clients

Beechwood Hotel*

Worcester, www.beechwoodhotel.com

Top executive: Sayed Saleh, asset manager and managing director

Founded: 1989

Employees: 51-200

The Beechwood is the only AAA Four Diamond-rated boutique property in Central Massachusetts and a member of the prestigious Preferred Hotel & Resorts. This year, it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Notable runner-up: AC Hotel Worcester

Best Public Golf Course

Green Hill Municipal Golf Course*

Worcester, www.greenhillgc.com

Top executive: Matthew Moison, PGA

Founded: 1929

Employees: 12

The city-owned course strives to be welcoming to all ages and abilities while providing top-tier golf conditions. The facility constantly looks for ways to fulfill its mission of service and accessibility, and this spring is opening a new driving range.

Notable runners-up: Wachusett Country Club, Cyprian Keyes Golf Club

Best Limousine Service

Knight's Airport Limousine Service Inc.*

Shrewsbury, www.knightslimo.com

Top executive: President & Co-owner Michael Hogan and General Manager & Co-owner Thomas Hogan

Founded: 1985

Employees: 140

Knight's has the largest limo fleet west of Route 128, including new propane-fueled vehicles with less environmental impact. The size of its fleet means it can accommodate most last-minute requests, and the service has an agent available 24/7.

Notable runner-up: WLimo

Best College for Business Education

Nichols College*

Dudley, www.nichols.edu

Top executive: President Susan West Engelkemeyer

Founded: 1815

Employees: 208

Nichols focuses on preparing students for leadership roles in their careers, by weaving leadership education and professional development into the college experience. One of the school's latest programs is the industry-focused online accounting degree catered to the profession's modern needs.

Notable runner-up: Worcester State University

Best Luxury Automobile Dealership

Wagner Motors*

Shrewsbury, www.wagnermotors.com

Top executives: CEO Ron Wagner and President Mark Wagner

Founded: 1963

Employees: 175

In the shifting world of car dealerships, Wagner remains a hands-on, family-run business. Its latest programs include the Wagner Promise to get the new car you are looking for, even if it doesn't have it on the lot, and the Wagner Shield, a lifetime warranty on new Kia vehicles.

Best Exercise Facility/Fitness Center

Worcester Fitness*

Worcester, www.worcesterfitness.com

Top executive: Owner & President Tim MacDonald

Founded: 1978

Employees: 74

Worcester Fitness has created individualized wellness experiences for its customers throughout its 41 year history.

In 2019, the club will undergo a $200,000 renovation for a new training room, equipment and fitness programs.

Notable runner-up: Planet Fitness

*Repeat winner

Read about the rest of the 2019 Best of Business Award winners:

Handling your money

Multimedia experts

People to know

Places to conduct business

Servicing your business

Where to unwind

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