For the first time in the history of the Greenwood SC Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Council has selected a couple as its Small Business Persons of the Year.

“It is a rarity that you have a husband and wife team that is engaged in the community,” interim Chamber CEO David Dougherty said. “They have a long history of commitment to the Greenwood community.”

Chip and Kristi Rush, who own Rush Heating and Cooling as well as Rush Hobby and Garden Center, were the first couple to receive this honor.

“It is not often that a company truly embraces the term – family business,” Dougherty said. “Not just in the aspect that a family owns and runs the business, but in the virtue that they treat everyone like family.”

Dougherty listed their accomplishments in addition to their charitable contributions to the community.

“Their giving spirit and honest hard work is why they have been chosen as the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce 2020 Small Business Persons of the Year,” Dougherty said.

The Rushes were invited on stage to receive the award and to speak to the attendees. With tears in his eyes, Chip Rush expressed his appreciation.

“Most of you are my customers,” Chip Rush said. “I couldn’t do it without you.”

In an interview prior to the luncheon, Kristi Rush described their emotions when they found out about the award.

“We were very surprised,” Kristi Rush said. “We are very humbled by the opportunity to be recognized.”

The Rushes grew up in Greenwood and have spent their entire lives working and living in the area.

“We are really grateful to our employees and our customers,” Rush said.

Rush said when Dougherty came to tell them about the award, they thought he was there to ask for a donation or a sponsorship. Instead, he let them know that they would be honored at the 31st annual Small Business Celebration, which took place Tuesday at Harris Baptist Church.

Dougherty said the Chamber normally celebrates Small Business Week with a much larger celebration. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to cutting back of some celebrations.

“Small businesses represent over 95% of the state’s employers, so it is only fitting that the Chamber takes time to salute our local small business owners,” Sara Sears, chairwoman of the Chamber’s board of directors, said.

At the small business celebration luncheon, guest speaker James Bennett, founder of Upstate Home Care Solutions LLC, gave encouragement to small business owners in attendance.

“Invest in yourself,” Bennett said.

Contact staff writer James Hicks at jhicks@indexjournal.com or on Twitter @jameshicks3.