Kazoo Toys was named the Buckhead Business of the Year for 2016 at the Buckhead Business Association’s annual luncheon Jan. 12 at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel & Conference Center.

Whitney Novak, co-owner of Kazoo along with her husband Joe, accepted the award, which recognizes newer businesses that are growing and known for charitable contributions to the neighborhood. Kazoo is located at 3718 Roswell Road in the Powers Ferry Square shopping center.

Whitney Novak of Kazoo Toys accepts the 2016 Buckhead Business of the Year Award from new Buckhead Business Association president Barry Hundley Jan. 12 at the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead Hotel and Conference Center. (Photo John Ruch)

Other Business of the Year nominees included the Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery; the Buckhead location of the Florida-based Japanese restaurant group Doraku; the Shops Around Lenox location of the Texas-based accessories store Kendra Scott; and Woo Skincare & Cosmetics, which has two Buckhead locations as well as outlets in Charlotte and Nashville. The awards and nominations were presented by Reporter Newspapers.

The Entrepreneurs of the Year Award went to Chris Hadermann and John Piemonte of Southern Proper Hospitality, the restaurant group that includes the Big Ketch and the Southern Gentleman, among others.

The Buckhead Beautification Award was given to the updated Charlie Loudermilk Park on the triangle at Roswell and Peachtree roads. Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, accepted the award.

Jim Durrett, left, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, accepts the Buckhead Beautification Award from Buckhead Business Association president Barry Hundley Jan. 12. (Photo John Ruch)

The Sam Massell Bullish on Buckhead Award went to Tony Conway of Legendary Events, who is known for his service in local organizations and his charitable contributions to various causes, as well as his business of staging events for top celebrities.

The keynote speaker was Jesse Itzler, an entrepreneur, musician and author who is a co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and the husband of Sara Blakely, founder of the Atlanta-based underwear firm Spanx.

Jesse Itzler delivers the keynote address to the Buckhead Business Association on Jan. 12. (Photo John Ruch)

Dressed casually and walking the stage with a microphone in hand, Itzler gave a high-energy motivational speech about getting over “our fear of being embarrassed” and achieving despite odds or discomfort. He often had the crowd laughing with anecdotes from his past as a rapper under the name Jesse Jaymes—“Don’t Google it,” he jokingly warned—and running a 100-mile charity race in Spanx to woo Blakely. He also spoke about his inspirational friendship with a former Navy SEAL, which he documented in his recent book “Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.”

New BBA president Barry Hundley took the gavel at the meeting. Hundley is development director at the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, based in the Old Fourth Ward.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.