Venango Chamber Announces 2018 Business and Partner in Business of the Year

The Venango Area Chamber of Commerce has been recognizing excellence in the business community for more than 35 years.  Each year, the Chamber has chosen a Business of the Year, based on broad criteria.  Beginning in 2010, the category of Partner in Business was added to the recognition, identifying an organization that is non-profit, government or educational.

The Chamber’s Board of Directors submits nominations and ultimately chooses the winner from the Chamber’s membership. The nominees share the characteristics of being exceptional in their service and reputation, while consistently giving back to the community. The complete criteria and list of members (eligible for the awards) are available for viewing on the Chamber’s website at

The Chamber’s board has named three nominees for 2017 Business of the Year.  They are Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring (Emlenton), Clark’s Donuts Plus (Cranberry), and Yellow Dog Lantern Restaurant (Oil City).  The three nominees for Partner in Business are The Barrow Civic Theatre (Franklin), Community Services of Venango County (county wide), and Venango Catholic High School (Oil City). Please see the nominees’ bios below.

The winners will be announced at the Chamber’s Annual Awards Banquet, to be held Wednesday, February 21, 2018, at Cross Creek Resort.  The Chamber will also recognize the 2017 Citizen of the Year, Rainy Linn, on the same night.  Reservations for the banquet  and sponsorship opportunities are available by contacting the Chamber at (814) 676-8521 or online at

Business of the Year Nominees

Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring

473123_443698179057693_1295677505_oEstablished in 2000 under its parent company Hickman Lumber, Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring (AMHF) has established a reputation of high quality flooring within the industry across the entire country.

“We are fortunate to have some of the best timber growing in the world here in Western PA,” said Owner Dennis Hickman. “The quality white oak along with how we cut the trees as rift & quarter sawn, how we dry the lumber and mill our flooring has led us to be a leader in the flooring industry.”

The down housing market and crash in 2008 caused 40% of companies in the hardwood industry to go out of business, but AMHF survived and continues to expand. They built an entire new rough mill and are currently considering adding on another addition to their main production building.

AMHF’s hard work and quality product doesn’t go unnoticed. Numerous contractors have used AMHF floors for National Hardwood Flooring Association’s award winning installs and their flooring is in many LEED certified buildings, museums, universities, across the country. Upon a visit to the mill in 2003, Donald Trump Jr. ordered multiple truckloads of flooring for Trump Towers in New York City.

The business was recently featured in an episode of PBS’ This Old House, as well as HGTV’s new show Restored by the Fords. You can also find AMHF in Hardwood Floors Magazine, in which the business was featured on the cover last spring and Marketing Director Jessica Hickman Fresch and Operations Manager Jake Hickman were included in the magazine’s 40 under 40 edition last fall. In addition, AMHF received the 2016 Family Business Award from the Pittsburgh Business Times.

AMHF prides itself as employee and community focused. The majority of their team has been around for many years and they are shown appreciation each year at a company picnic at Waldameer and a Christmas Party. AMHF sponsors Emlenton’s Summer Festival, local softball teams, and the Oil Heritage Festival Bike ‘n Brew, and contributes to numerous high school fundraisers, charities, and benefits.

The business has begun hosting an annual tour of the woods and the sawmill to teach an understanding of what they do, and you can also learn more about AMHF at

Clark’s Donuts Plus

1073829_604016866312616_209680351_oClark’s Donuts Plus began as a small shop in Oil City in 1937, and has since grown to two retail stores and a production store, and delivers to almost 60 locations throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania, such as gas stations, coffee shops, and markets.

In 2014, Clark’s Donuts expanded to include the new production site in Seneca and remodeled the Cranberry retail store, with a facelift and some new bakery cases. The past few years have included an expansion of their delivery routes to include Sharon, Punxsutawney, and Titusville, resulting in an increased awareness outside Venango and Clarion Counties.

Last year, Clarks Donut’s celebrated 80 years of serving the community with a day of free food and prizes, including t-shirts, hats, tote bags, and travel mugs. “We wanted our customers to know how much we appreciate their support,” said Kelly Neidich, owner of the business.

Not only did they celebrate an anniversary in 2017, but their highest sales to date, too. The business was also named the Third Best Doughnut Shop in Pennsylvania on

With a thriving business, Clark’s Donuts has seen a growing workforce. Increased production led them to double their day and night crews in size and hire an additional delivery driver to cover the expanded areas.

Clark’s Donuts remains involved in the community and spreads support out each month to schools, community fundraisers, and other groups and causes such as the Rotary Club, Relay for Life, Salvation Army, and the Cranberry Food Pantry.

Through their website at and their Facebook page, Clark’s Donuts reaches out to share information, and looks forward to continuing to grow and serve our community.

Yellow Dog Lantern Restaurant

YellowDogColorThe Yellow Dog Lantern Restaurant has a long history in Venango County and Shaun and Marie Alcorn had the opportunity to purchase the restaurant and continue its legacy. After Shaun spent many years working as a chef at the restaurant and growing close with the owner, Janet, it was not a difficult decision for the Alcorns to purchase the Yellow Dog in November of 2015.

The Alcorns are committed to keeping the history and charm of the Yellow Dog, while giving it even more of presence in the community and acknowledging the ever changing industry.

Since taking ownership two years ago, they have upgraded the business’ technology, with a greater web presence and a new Point of Sale (POS) system. Improvements have also been made with the quality of Yellow Dog’s offerings, in which they have partnered with local farmers to bring fresh food, while supporting the local economy.

Part of the charm of the Yellow Dog is the personal experience, so the decision was made to increase staff to better serve customers one-on-one, and Shaun and Marie credit their success to their staff.  “Without them we wouldn’t nearly be able to do the things we do,” they said. “Our staff is truly our family.”

They both continue to work closely and are very hands on with their team. They aim to provide the highest quality customer service and continue to make improvements each day.

Through the dedication to the restaurant, the Alcorns have seen some major accomplishments. Shaun holds the titleof Best Chef in Northwestern Pennsylvania, and sales have significantly increased and continue to grow.

The Alcorns didn’t stop with the purchase and enhancements of the Yellow Dog Lantern Restaurant, the decision was then made to expand through two additional downtown Oil City businesses—Northside Eatery and Karma Coffee Company—with a fourth project underway.

Not only do they focus on the success of their multiple businesses, but the Alcorns also play a huge role within the community through serving on the Oil City Main Street Steering Committee, making donations to various organizations, hosting fundraiser nights, holding the Karma Concert Series to benefit the Lyric Theatre, partnering with other businesses, and volunteering in any way needed.

The Alcorns look forward to the continued growth of their businesses and the opportunity to keep serving the community. Learn more by checking the Yellow Dog out on Facebook.

Partner in Business of the Year Nominees

Barrow Civic Theatre

Barrow Civic TheatreFranklin Civic Operetta Association (FCOA) purchased the former Kayton Theatre in 1989. Through financial support of community members, and a substantial contribution from former Joy Vice President Charles A. Barrow, the renovation on the Barrow-Civic Theatre (BCT) was completed in 1993 and will celebrate its 25th Anniversary in 2018.

Each year, the number of performance and educational experiences offered to the community increases. The mission of FCOA and BCT is: “to be committed to providing leadership and education in cultural development and performing arts to the region, striving to create a legacy of quality entertainment by tapping the resources of all age groups and encouraging the pursuit of artistic talents.”

As they continue to provide opportunities for children, youth and adults each year, in the last three years they have expanded to include several Off-Barrow Little Theatre productions, college internships, additional volunteer recognition efforts, and the recently launched The Barrow Theatre Institute (BTI).

BCT hosted the Young Americans East Coast Music Outreach Tour in 2017. Students from several school districts participated in this three-day workshop, which included mass rehearsal and breakout sessions, learning vocals, choreography, creative writing and self-exploration, but most of all, self-confidence.

The Barrow partnered with Erie Arts and Culture and The Pennsylvania Partner in the Arts to provide an Artist In Residence during the summers of 2016 and 2017, and will again host it in 2018. Youth from the region have participated with activities including interviewing local business owners and publishing a book, designing a visual art installation, and will install the art at the Little Theatre in 2018.

The BCT completely revamped their membership program with benefits such as discounts at local participating restaurants and businesses.

The BCT is most proud of the fact that they have continued to expand their footprint throughout Western PA, with the growth of volunteers, participants and audience members.  Known for providing high-quality performances across a vast array of genres, one of their goals is to develop the belief that, “If it’s happening at the Barrow, it’s going to be great!”

“Coming to the Barrow-Civic Theatre should provide one with the spirit of art, music and family,” said Executive Director Zachary Covington. “We celebrate our successes, strive for excellence, and continue to polish our ‘Gem of the Community.’”

To learn more, visit their website at

Community Services of Venango County

Community Services LogoCommunity Services of Venango County, Inc. (CSVC) began in 1967 and celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Known for its caring staff and resources for families, CSVC delivers services to the entire age span from prenatal through older adult, and accumulated over 6,000 hours of volunteer service last year.

CSVC maintains a positive and broad presence in Venango County and offers high quality services and programming, in which four new programs were established in 2017. These include:

Lizzy’s Bikes—offers free new bikes and helmets for children. Last year, 27 items were distributed by the agency.

Co-Pilot at Cranberry Place—a software system with a user-friendly touch screen technology allowing older adults to sign up for meals, activities, trips, etc.

BAMO—an outdoor educational space suitable for children with grass instead of asphalt, reconfigurable benches and tables, and space for developmentally appropriate, big body play, messy play and science focused learning. The space was dedicated to a former colleague, Beth-Anne Marie Owens.

Baby Boxes—an effort tied to Baby Box University with committed medical professionals, maternal health advocates and child development specialists. Each box doubles as a safe sleep space for infants and includes a custom mattress, fitted sheet, diapers, breast pads and brain boosting activity cards.

Other CSVC past accomplishments include a partnership with the Oil City Ministerium and Rural Catholic Ministries to create funding and budgeting opportunities for families in need; the completion of over 60,000 home visits; the development of Sycamore Commons, a housing program for homeless individuals with a mental health diagnosis; and the continuation of programs focused on ending hunger, such as the Empty Bowls event and Parker Place and Cooking Counts programs.

In the past year, CSVC has received funding from Human Services for Second Doula in Venango County, from the PA Department of Aging for creative programming and to increase attendance at Cranberry Place, and from the PA Department of Human Services for PA WORKWEAR, to provide interview and work clothing to individuals in need.

Some of CSVC’s recent recognition includes receiving a Golden Shovel award from the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce for Cranberry Place, Honor Roll recognition from United Way for three years increased donations, and Rocky Grove Borough commendation for 50 years of successful service.

CSVC is a positive force in the lives of Venango County families and promotes family economic growth. To learn more, visit

Venango Catholic High School

Venango Catholic Logo - black letters

Venango Catholic High School (VCHS) opened its doors on September 4, 1962, and has reached a milestone of educating young men and women for the past 55 years. Prior to VCHS, St. Joseph High School had served the area since its dedication in 1930, but eventually outgrew its building. St. Joseph High School graduated its last class in 1962 and VCHS opened its doors that same year. Located on 55 beautiful wooded acres in Oil City, VCHS began with 442 students and was dedicated by Archbishop Gannon who said: “This school will be open to all faiths, free to worship God, privately in any way they wish.” Throughout its history, VCHS has been served by six headmasters, with the current being Mr. Brian Slider.

VC has attained and retained the highest rating possible for accreditation offered by the Middle States Accreditation Association.  Additionally, VC students earned the highest composite SAT scores in the Tri-county area, have 96% graduation rate, and 94% of graduates participate in higher education or military opportunities.

With a threat of closing in early 2016, the school created an initiative called “Save VCHS,” and gathered the community to stop the closure. The community outcry was a testament to the school’s involvement to the community and a very moving act on the part of the local community. VCHS remains open with full support of Bishop Persico.

As the school continues to move forward, several new courses have been added to the 9th grade schedule and current courses are being offered and integrated in a meaningful way to highlight the connections among topics, skills and content. In addition to Systems Science, another new course, ACT(ion) – Active Critical Thinking In Our Neighborhoods- is an opportunity to bring community stake holders and local businesses together with students to address real issues and challenges in our communities. This new program of study will continue to grow with the Class of 2021 and beyond.  Currently, seniors are out on shadowing experiences and VC seeks to grow the program as they move forward.

The school has also been committed to a service program for many years, with their students completing 25 hours a year over four years. Students engage in community, school and church areas in need of help. They have completed drives to help places like the St. Elizabeth Center and Hope 21 and have volunteered at the Community Services Food for Friends program bagging Thanksgiving day items for many years.

VCHS is very proud of the young men and women who have been a part of the school and praise all they have done in their communities as graduates of Venango Catholic High School.

Learn more at