The local retailer and culinary education center earned the U.S. Independent Retailer of the Year and U.S. Global Innovator Award for 2013-2014. It was presented by the International Housewares Association, which created the program in 1999 to honor retailing innovation and merchandising distinction worldwide. A jury of four experts representing Asia, Europe and the Americas, plus a rotating group of co-sponsoring trade publication editors, selected winners for 23 countries. The 4,500-square-foot gourmet kitchen store, owned by Karen and Dave West, has served the Tampa Bay area since 1995 with its wide range of kitchen tools, samples of specialty foods and wines, demonstrations and cooking classes. "Karen and I are thrilled and honored to be recognized for the accomplishments of our business with this amazing award," Dave West said. "Our people, our vendors and our guests keep us focused on the ever-changing right things!"
HOMEXPRESS REALTY: The Apollo Beach business has honored another military family as part of its Home for Heroes Program. As part of the program, which recognizes military personnel and first responders, Steve and Nicole Martin received 25 percent of the commission when they closed on their home in the Lithia/Fishhawk community. Steve, an Air Force master sergeant, has served in England, Germany, Italy and Africa. He met Nicole when stationed at MacDill Air Force Base. The couple and their children will move into their house soon and will use their savings to defray some of their home startup expenses.