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When I was 7 years old, my dad opened a restaurant. He had bartending experience, but also a young family, no college degree and limited start-up funds. He and my mom were fully aware of the risk he was taking.

The first year, triumphs were modest, and few. One that stuck out was when readers of a local weekly magazine, a free publication tucked into our small daily paper, voted his restaurant second in the area for French food.

I don't think it had ever occurred to my dad that he'd be considered; it may not have occurred to him that he was serving French food. Regardless, when he received that certificate, he framed and hung it immediately. I'm pretty sure it stayed on the wall until he sold the place six years later.

I think of this every year when we conduct our Best Of Colorado Springs competition. Some longtime winners probably see receiving that certificate as a rite of fall. We know, though, that for other local independent businesspeople, winning (or coming in second or third) is more than that — it's an affirmation, a reward for faith and hard work that can't be taken away.

With that in mind, we congratulate this year's winners, especially those first-timers. And we thank all the readers who, with their votes, have recognized their je ne sais quoi.

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