Each year, the Washington Restaurant Association recognizes four businesses in the state for the charitable contributions they make in their communities.
This year, two out of the four recognized are based on Whidbey Island.
Dan Ollis, owner of Whidbey Coffee Co., and Scott Fraser, chef and owner of Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway in Oak Harbor, each received Restaurant Neighbor Awards from the Washington Restaurant Association at its State of the Industry Forum in Seattle earlier this month.
The Restaurant Neighbor Award honors charitable contributions in four categories — small business, mid-sized business, large business/national chain and Cornerstone Humanitarian.
Ollis’ Whidbey Coffee Co. won in small business category while Fraser received the Humanitarian Award.
“That’s amazing,” said Stephanie Davenport, a spokesperson with the Washington Restaurant Association who admits she was unaware that both businesses were connected to the same island.
“That makes me want to go live there.”
Ollis, a 1988 graduate of South Whidbey High School who grew up in Bayview, said his company also is truly honored and humbled to be recognized.
Whidbey Coffee, established in 1989, has 13 retail outlets in four counties, including four on Whidbey.
The company opened a new cafe and drive-through in Burlington earlier this month.
Whidbey Coffee is a major sponsor of two fireworks shows on Whidbey that celebrate the Fourth of July — a July 3 show in Freeland and one on Independence Day in Oak Harbor.
The company also awards a $5,000 scholarship to a South Whidbey High School student bound for a community college. The money is distributed over two years.
“I’ve always believed if the community supports you, you should support them back,” Ollis said. “It’s a win-win. It’s just the right thing to do.”
The humanitarian award specifically honors an individual restaurant operator for his or her personal commitment to community service.
Fraser is an organizer of two major community events — the Oak Harbor PigFest and North Whidbey Community Harvest — that feed thousands of people for free each year. He also is a longtime mentor of Oak Harbor High School’s perennially successful culinary arts program.
Last August, the PigFest drew about 10,000 people and raised $12,000 for charities for the second year in a row.
“He was really sweet when he got the award,” Davenport said. “He was really humbled by it.”