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Chamber honors hard work

November 23, 2018

The Columbus business community came together on Tuesday to celebrate three individuals who have left their mark on the area.

Emiel Christensen, Jackson Echols and Christ Wunderlich comprised this year’s class of inductees for the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Hall of Fame. About 250 people came out for the award banquet held at the Ramada Hotel and River’s Edge Convention Center to celebrate the 13th class of inductees.

Chamber President K.C. Belitz said the goal of the event was to inspire local business and community leaders by telling the stories of impactful members of the Columbus community.

“What we’re doing here through inducting these folks into the hall of fame, and then also honoring our annual award winners, is that we are holding up role models for the rest of us to follow in terms of business excellence and community engagement and all those other things, that, in a literal sense, make Columbus what it is,” Belitz said.

On display at the dinner were various photos and newspaper clippings retelling the stories of the three inductees, such as Christ Wunderlich (1878- 1950). He was the founder of what would become Wunderlich’s Catering & Barley Shoppe.

In 1933, the German immigrant opened Wunderlich’s Friendly Bar in Columbus, where they served drinks, homemade soups and sandwiches. The business would go on to become a full-service restaurant five years after Wunderlich’s death in 1955. The business moved from its downtown Columbus location to a larger venue north of town in 1981. It has resided at 304 23rd St. ever since.

Many of Wunderlich’s grandchildren were at Tuesday’s banquet, one of which was Joan Micek, of Columbus. She recalled her father, Albert Wunderlich, tending the bar at the family restaurant.

“It was kind of like ‘Cheers,’” where everybody knows your name,” Micek said, comparing the hit television show to her family’s business at its original downtown location. “And I miss it, and I loved it, and it has a lot of history. “

Micek said she’s proud of her grandfather’s accomplishments.

“Grandpa was just a great example of how to run a business in Columbus,” Micek said.

The other two inductees this year were Emiel Christensen (1895-1988) and Jackson Caleb Echols (1862-1938).

Christensen was an architect involved in the design and construction of many buildings in Columbus. He operated an architectural practice in Columbus and worked on projects like the Oak Ballroom in Schuyler, the old Columbus City Hall building, many of the city’s water and sewer extensions along with a multitude of residential homes.

Echols was a Columbus businessman and played a significant role in developing the areas north and south of Frankfort Square. At the age of 18, he bought Columbus’ leading paint shop and ran it for 25 years. He was one of the founders of the Equitable Building and Loan Association in 1905 and served as its Executive Secretary from 1908 until his death.

“It’s an honor to be able to tell their stories, that’s what this is simply about, telling great stories,” Belitz said about this year’s inductees. “Those are the stories that we’ve got to tell because somewhere out there today there is someone else who is starting down that road or thinking about starting down that road and they’ve got to know that Columbus is a place where those kinds of success stories can happen.”

During the banquet, the Chamber also gave out three additional annual awards. The Archway Award for Outstanding Business or Professional Man went to Mike Fleming of Mikes Auto Sales and Towing; the Ovation Award for Outstanding Business or Professional Woman was awarded to Sharee Jedlicha of Dynamic Life Therapy and The Charles Farnham Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Debbie Potter of the Platte Valley Humane Society.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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