An engineer-turned-wine-seller has been named the Small Business Person of the Year for 2013 by the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce.
Donnie Austin, owner of House Wine in downtown Worthington, will be honored May 23 during the chamber's Small Business Person of the Year award luncheon.
The award program is one of the ways the chamber demonstrates its support for small businesses and recognizes members who are succeeding, have shown growth and are involved in the betterment of the Worthington community. The luncheon, held in the ballroom of the Worthington Inn, will begin at 11:30 a.m. and conclude at 1:15 p.m. The event is sponsored by Anthem Insurance Cos. and AT&T.
Honorees are selected by a committee of past award recipients.
Austin founded House Wine six years ago, conceptualizing plans and dreams for the shop while working as an engineer at Honda of America.
He was motivated by his own desire to have a better shopping experience while shopping for wine, he said.
"I wanted to create a retail experience in Worthington that delivered quality wines for the money, with an inviting atmosphere and friendly, helpful staff," he said.
Despite an economic climate that limits spending on entertainment purchases, House Wine has sustained a growth pattern of 5 percent each year since opening and foresees continued growth. The nine-employee shop is a customer-focused environment -- a casual, friendly atmosphere that makes wine approachable for the wine novice but suitable for the experienced palate.
"We're successful because we've worked to create a dynamic experience at House Wine with everything we offer -- with wine, beer, our events and more -- with value in mind," he said.
Austin earned the credential of certified sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers. He holds an M.B.A. from the Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.
Austin has been a voice for downtown businesses and small-business owners since opening the shop and is serving a three-year term as president of the Olde Worthington Business Association.
"We're only as successful as the community and neighborhood around us, which is why we've been involved in every effort in the downtown area to make it even more vibrant and strong," Austin said.
A supporter of numerous charitable causes, he hosts about 60 fundraisers per year, donating a portion of sales to the cause that hosts an event at House Wine.
In 2013, House Wine was essential in creating the Columbus Wine Collective, a group of local, independent wine shops that are partnering to market each other as the ultimate source for wine locally through education and unusual offerings.
He also is a regular participant in the chamber's Reds, Whites & Desserts fundraiser. He has hosted events for the Young Professionals of Worthington subgroup and the Get Smart! business book discussion group.
He and his wife, Megan, are Worthington residents.
Austin said he was elated to receive the award from his peers in the community. He also is thankful for the community itself, he said.
"It helps that Worthington has always been one of the best communities to start a business, work, live and frequent, and it's only going to get better," he said.
Reservations for the luncheon must be received by May 21. To reserve a place, call 614-888-3040 or register for the event online at http://tiny.cc/SBPY2013.