El Jimador Mexican Grill named DeKalb chamber’s 2023 Business of the Year

Building Leaders Advocating for Change recognized with Nonprofit Organization Award

Rudy Jernadez, (left) Christopher Cardenas and Olivia Pacheco from El Jimador Mexican Grill accept congratulations from DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas after being named as the 2023 Business of the Year Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, during the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Celebration Dinner in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center at Northern Illinois University.

DeKALB – One of downtown DeKalb’s own, El Jimador Mexican Grill, has been named the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Business of the Year.

During the Chamber’s annual Celebration Dinner Thursday, owners of the locally-owned authentic Mexican restaurant accepted the honor and recognition.

“We didn’t really expect all this three years ago, but we’re not stopping,” said Olivia Pacheco, one of El Jimador’s owners.

El Jimador Mexican Grill first opened in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pacheco said business is faring well four years into it.

Other finalists for 2023 Business of the Year were Illinois Community Credit Union, Michaels, School Tool Box and Willrett Flower Company.

The event was made all the more special for honorees throughout the evening as the DeKalb Chamber sought to mark a milestone. In 2024, the Chamber is celebrating 100 years.

Matt Duffy, Chamber executive director, said it’s an exciting time for the DeKalb business organization to celebrate its centennial. He said it’s his hope to better position Chamber members for the next 100 years moving forward.

Also at the event, Building Leaders Advocating for Change was recognized as a nonprofit for its local efforts to engage and empower area youth.

Tiffany Tucker, founder and executive director for Building Leaders Advocating for Change, said she is honored to have been recognized.

“We have been working very hard tirelessly to make a big impact in our community for our youth,” Tucker said. “Sometimes we wonder if we’re making an impact, if we’re doing all that we can do. From where we started to now being able to give out scholarships, take the kids to Broadway shows, horseback riding, summer camps, overnight retreats and so much more. I am honored and thankful for the opportunities that we’ve been blessed with.”

Tiffany Tucker and LaBrian Carrington from Building Leaders Advocating for Change accept the award for 2023 Nonprofit Organization of the year Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, during the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Celebration Dinner in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center at Northern Illinois University.

Other finalists for the 2024 Nonprofit Organization Award were Fox Valley Community Services, Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County, Open Door Health Center and RAMP.

The Chamber also named Shauna Stevens its Ambassador of the Year, and inducted two honorees into its 2024 Hall of Fame: Cortney Strohacker, executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Joseph Ebbesen, a founder of DeKalb Optometric, who received the Pioneer Award posthumously.

Strohacker said she was grateful for the recognition.

Strohacker is credited with leading the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau to make a local economic impact of $123 million in 2022, leading to increased visitor spending in Illinois. That makes for a boost generating $2.8 million in local tax revenue and supporting 722 jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Strohacker credited the spirit of collaboration for putting DeKalb on the map.

“It’s through unity and partnership that we can truly make a difference and overcome challenges and create a better future,” Strohacker said. “Sometimes it seems like things just align at the right time and all of the pieces come together, and you are set up for success. That’s exactly what is happening right now in DeKalb. I am so proud to be a part of that.”

Jay Ebbesen accepted the Pioneer Award on behalf of his father, Joseph Ebbesen. Jay Ebbesen said he and his family were grateful to the city for allowing them this honor.

Joseph Ebbesen’s dedication to community extended from DeKalb Optometric into the community, as the late Ebbesen also served on the DeKalb District 428 school board, DeKalb City Council and DeKalb mayor.

“It is a distinction we will forever treasure,” Jay Ebbesen said.

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