YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — Downtown York is refusing to let coronavirus beat it.

While the pandemic has seemingly zapped the luster from communities and left businesses flustered nationally, the city looked to celebrate its gritty and outstanding local businesses with its 20th Annual Downtown First Awards.

The awards were delivered Thursday in an “Academy Awards” style show. Nominees, finalists, and winners were featured along with performances by local artists Shane Speal’s Snake Oil Band and the Beaver Street Brethren.

The Downtown First Awards winners were recognized in the following eight categories:

  • Barley Snyder: Outstanding Large Business, sponsored by Susquehanna Real Estate LP
  • Victrola Dance Hall: Outstanding Small Business, sponsored by Stock and Leader, Attorneys at Law
  • Wise Sauce: Outstanding New Business/Merchant, sponsored by York City Independent Restaurant Association
  • Pippi’s Pen Shoppe: Outstanding Merchant, sponsored by CGA Law Firm
  • The York County Food Bank: Outstanding Nonprofit Organization, sponsored by Met-Ed, a FirstEnergy Company
  • Penn Street Art Bridge on behalf of the York City Bomb Squad: Better York Appell Beautification Award, sponsored by Better York
  • Dr. Felicia Dennis: Outstanding Individual, sponsored by PeoplesBank, a Codorus Valley Company
  • Arlette Morales and Tzipporah Goins: The Change Maker Award, sponsored by C.S. Davidson, Inc.

Now in its second decade, Downtown Inc. says it received a record number of nominations.

“This speaks to the spirit of York’s forward-thinking optimism and grit determination. Yorkers rise up, despite the circumstances. We acknowledge and celebrate those who contribute tirelessly, yet, we know there’s more to be done,” director Elaine Bonneau said in a release. “The unprecedented number of nominations is acknowledgement of the wealth of talent and extraordinary contributions of many people who make our city great today, and who are also working for a better future.”

A point of emphasis for Downtown Inc. was highlighting the creativity of local businesses and their resiliency throughout the pandemic.

The volume of nominations not only speaks to the growth of the city, but the outpour of support from its community members, says Jonathan Desmarais, marketing communication manager at Downtown Inc.

He said local businesses were not only finding creative ways to keep their respective businesses aloft during such times but were also looking creatively to help the community.

One such example was i-ron-ic Coffee Shop and Art Boutique, who Desmarais said started a pay-it-forward program that gave community members another platform to help one another, including those who are homeless.

“We really wanted to continue on with the celebration,” Desmarais said. “We wanted to recognize businesses that were finding creative ways to drive business downtown.”

Those at Barley Snyder were honored to receive such recognition — appreciative of the glowing reception of what they have done, and how they have looked to help Downtown York.

“I think it is a wonderful thing to garner such recognition. Whether it is in such crazy, uncertain times or whether things are fairly ‘normal,'” said Jeff Lobach, managing partner at Barley Snyder.

Lobach says that the company has been able to adjust fairly well and has staved off layoffs during the pandemic, able to take care of its clients while equipping employees to handle remote work.

“It’s important to keep our team together,” he said.

Lobach noted that as a larger company in York, and a law firm at that, they have been able to assist the community in answering concerns and the confusion that arises in tandem with reopening. The firm had even hosted webinars on how to navigate the accompanying red tape restrictions involved.

“These downtowns have to be healthy for our communities to thrive,” Lobach said.

While some businesses have transitioned to working remote, others have had to navigate the pandemic without that luxury.

Pippi’s Pen Shoppe has been a beaming example of this, currently operating with appointments and without an online store.

Spokesperson Jeff Snyder says the pen shop has just been trying to stick to the current health mandates and deliver products in the safest way possible. “We had elected to take the governor’s orders very seriously.”

When asked about how Downtown Inc. spotlighted local businesses during a pandemic, Snyder said that the recognition is helpful to the community.

“It does promote the downtown [area] and helps the businesses,” he said. “It shows that there are interesting places to shop, and interesting places to go in the downtown area.”

Snyder added that while coronavirus persists, people need to be steadfast in maintaining health protocols. “It’s a health issue, we just need to follow the guidelines.”

The full list of award nominees and finalists can be found here.