They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Bob Hillier doubled that. When Hillier took the podium at the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Leadership Awards Gala on Wednesday, November 30, at Jasna Polana, he announced that it would be his last public appearance as board chair of the Chamber (the incoming chair is Patrick Ryan of Hopewell Valley Community Bank), and acknowledged “the two great women behind me.” He then introduced his wife and business partner, Barbara, who just earned her master’s last year at Princeton, and his executive assistant Christine Antonelli.

But really the night was about accolades. All four honorees received standing ovations (see photo upper left). Each had remarkable stories to tell about their business, but Schaeffer definitely stopped forks in mid-air with her “pink refrigerator” contest, an example of how she has blended traditional and innovative marketing techniques to keep Mrs. G’s flourishing despite the five big box stores within a mile of her store. She invited young artists to show their talent and support of Breast Cancer Awareness in a refrigerator-decorating contest. Using social media to promote the contest, Mrs. G’s invited customers and Facebook and Twitter followers to vote on the best entries. A whopping 89,000 people voted.

The top three artists were invited to the Mrs. G’s showroom to paint their designs on retired refrigerators in an event with graffiti artist Leon Rainbow, all to benefit Susan G. Komen of Central/South Jersey.

And speaking of social media, as I scanned the room, what I mostly saw were a lot of people glancing furtively down at their lap. No they weren’t checking that their napkin was still there; they were checking their E-mail on smartphones or in one case, thumbing through an iPhone photo album to show a tablemate photos of their baby girl.

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