MOUNT VERNON – Heritage Ohio, parent organization to Main Street Mount Vernon, has announced its 2020 state-wide award winners.

Half-Baked Café and Catering received the Main Street Business of the Year award, and the Woodward Opera House was honored with the distinction of Historic Theater of the Year (tied with Holland Theater in Bellefontaine).

Half-Baked Café and Catering, owned and operated by Chef Nav and Rebecca Ajodhya, features scratch made baked goods and healthy, locally sourced options.

Half Baked Cafe and Catering

After a series of small successes with private catering and a food truck, they saw the opportunity to expand into a brick-and-mortar location in April 2019. Chef Nav’s infectious optimism and high energy immediately made an impact in downtown Mount Vernon, and the community took notice.

“The recognition, support and energy we receive from the community, we try to put right back out to Mount Vernon,” he commented.

Half-Baked continues to bring new flavors and ideas to downtown and Chef Nav knows that the next steps will be huge for the café.

“What does it really mean? We are going to have to step it up a notch,” he said.

The Woodward Opera House, billed as the oldest authentic 19th-century theater in America, underwent a 20-year restoration process and reopened to the public in 2019.

Knox Partnership for Arts and Culture

Operated by Executive Director Danny Gum and a board of directors, the building was brought up to modern standards but adhered to strict historic restoration codes through every stage of renovation. It now serves as home to a variety of cultural and private events, businesses and restaurants, similar to its original design in the 1850s.

“What makes the Woodward special is that it’s a place where people can forget for a while. They can come and get away for a while. When we see people coming out of the theater smiling, singing; couples with their arms around each other, we know we’ve done our job,” Gum said.

“Winning the 2020 Historic Theater of the Year award means the world to The Woodward Opera House and to Mount Vernon as a community.”

Main Street Mount Vernon Downtown Manager Anthony McNeal said “competition for the awards this year was tough. COVID-19 has hit the small business community very hard, but at the same time these same businesses have been stepping up and adapting to changes.

“Main Street businesses across Ohio have provided new and exciting ways to keep communities involved. I am sure Joyce and the team at Heritage Ohio had to make difficult decisions. We nominated a multitude of different businesses and projects this year, but are very fortunate to have brought two Heritage Ohio awards home to downtown Mount Vernon.”

Rather than an in-person ceremony, this year’s winners will be honored via Facebook during the month of October. Governor Mike DeWine will be on tap to present awards for the virtual ceremony.

Heritage Ohio award winners include the people, businesses, places and organizations making the biggest impact on revitalization and preservation in Ohio.

“So many excellent nominations were received from around the state, these selected honorees are the tip of the iceberg in recognizing the excellent revitalization and historic preservation work happening in Ohio” said Joyce Barrett, executive director for Heritage Ohio.

As Ohio’s official historic preservation and Main Street coordinating organization, Heritage Ohio fosters economic development and sustainability through preservation of historic buildings, revitalization of downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts, and promotion of local tourism. Learn more by visiting

The Knox Pages Business section is brought to you by Griffin Insurance, your local independent agency.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *