And the winner is.... Those were the words anxiously clung to Tuesday evening, as "Small Business Revolution" live-streamed which of its Top 5 finalists would receive a $500,000 small business makeover. In the end, there was good news for the packed crowd inside and outside the Fredonia Opera House - and a special live appearance by the television show's co-host.
Each season, "Small Business Revolution" gives one winning municipality the business expertise to makeover a half-dozen of its economically key small businesses. This year, that number is being expanded to seven businesses.
"And now, after receiving thousands of small town nominations, traveling thousands of miles to Top 10 communities and after nearly 1 million votes for the Top 5, I am so excited to declare that the winner of the "Small Business Revolution" Season 5 is (dramatic pause) Fredonia, New York," said series co-host Amanda Brinkman, followed by a huge roar of cheers and shouts in Chautauqua County.
More than 6,000 communities across the country were nominated for this season's show. It all started with Grace Czechowski, the daughter of a former village trustee, who nominated Fredonia.
"It was absolutely incredible. I was really proud to be there," Czechowski told WBFO. "I've been following the show for a few years now and I had seen they opened up for nominations, so I filled out an application and was hoping for the best for Fredonia. I thought, 'Why not?' This would be a really great opportunity for the village."
Czechowski said it was the hard-working people of Fredonia that she thought would resonate with the series.
"I grew up there, so I know all that Fredonia has to offer," she said. "It definitely holds a nice place in my heart, so I really hoped that other people in the country would connect with it as well. I think we have a great story to tell."
Czechowski is currently living in Washington. Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Todd Tranum said they flew her in for the big announcement.
"She didn't tell us about nominating Fredonia until it took hold," Tranum said. "Small businesses who want to receive a makeover will now have to apply to the show."
Tranum said there will be a number of elimination rounds before the final seven businesses are chosen. He said the chamber will be in touch with eligible businesses with details about applying. The deadline for applications is Feb. 3.