DeKALB – Jeff Dobie was watching the clock at the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting Thursday night.
But his concern over getting home quickly dissipated when he learned his business, Fatty’s Pub and Grille was named DeKalb’s business of the year.
“This is unbelievable, actually,” Dobie said as he stepped onto the podium at Faranda’s Banquet and Conference Center. “I’m pretty speechless.”
Dobie opened Fatty’s, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway, in 1998 and since has expanded his business. He now offers offsite catering.
“From its start as a college bar to a destination in the community, Fatty’s has grown to be the number one eatery in DeKalb and it employs over 50 people,” outgoing chamber board Chairman Mark Smirz said before the award was announced.
In addition to growing his business, Dobie was recognized for the charitable work he and his employees do in the community, including Huskies for Hope, a fundraiser that has raised more than $30,000 for special education in DeKalb and Sycamore schools.
Dobie was stunned when incoming DeKalb Chamber Board Chairman Steve Braser made the announcement, but was able to compose himself enough to thank his family and his restaurant staff.
“It’s cool to work with people who actually want to be at work,” Dobie said. “If you can walk out your door and not have to worry about what happens when you leave, that’s quite a find. That’s quite special.”
Fatty’s was one of seven business up for the Business of the Year, which annually honors a DeKalb business that has contributed to the community.
The dinner also honored DeKalb’s top business leaders, including five Business Leaders Hall of Fame inductees: Michael Embrey, Carme Gregory, Michael Larson, Tom Smith and Bob Brown Sr.
Brown, who died in 1999, also received the Chamber’s Pioneer Award for his work with WLBK radio.
Chamber Ambassador Tonda Bruch named Ambassador of the Year.
Throughout the night speakers focused on the growth and change that happened in 2013 and the potential for 2014.
Smirz handed the chairmanship to Braser, who encouraged attendees to expect great things to happen.
“It’s a time of change,” Executive Director Matt Duffy said. “It’s a change with an added excitement.”
He pointed out the change in DeKalb’s leadership with Mayor John Rey, City Manager Anne Marie Guara and Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker. He also highlighted the numerous developments in the community such as the new police station and additions at Kishwaukee College.
Aside from the community change, the DeKalb Chamber saw continued growth in 2013, reaching 550 members.
“There is an opportunity in front of us to make this a very positive time for us,” Duffy said. “I’m excited for what we can accomplish.”