Chamber awards honor Teddy Bear Christmas Land, Wehrenberg Theatres

The Crestwood-Sunset Hills Area Chamber of Commerce will present local businesses and residents with awards at this weekend’s annual awards gala at LiUNA Event Center in Sunset Hills.

The awards will be given out at the annual chamber gala and auction starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at LiUNA, 4532 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

The chamber is honoring the Trevisano family for its annual “Teddy Bear Christmas Land” holiday lighting display in Crestwood. Through the decades that the Trevisanos have put on their display in Crestwood, they’ve raised more than $100,000 for St. Patrick Center.

The Trevisanos started the tradition in the late 1980s in the Clifton Heights neighborhood before they moved to Crestwood, and now they even use part of their neighbor’s lawn for the display of lights and teddy bears, which grows “bigger and better every year,” Susan said in a video for the chamber.

The Trevisano house is in the 9200 block of Laurel Hill Drive in Crestwood, off Pardee Lane. On cold nights around Christmas, the street is packed with cars inching by the Trevisanos’ display, but the couple said they have never had any problems with traffic or complaints from neighbors.

“It really is a pleasure to see,” Susan Trevisano said.

The display is also a tourist attraction for Crestwood, bringing people in from across the region.

“It brings people in Crestwood, and they get to see the Crestwood area, maybe go out to dinner and kind of enjoy this area as well,” Jasper Trevisano said.

The Business of the Year Award for 2017 goes to Ellis Dental, 10296 Big Bend, which is run by Dr. Holly Ellis.

“I’ve always liked the idea of community and being part of the community that I’m working in, and so it worked out awesome that when I moved to Crestwood that there was a chamber of commerce, I just immediately got involved,” Ellis said in a chamber video.

Although Ellis has been active in the chamber since taking over her dental office in 2009, she never expected to be named Business of the Year, she said.

The chamber is honoring the oldest family-owned movie theatre chain in the country, Wehrenberg Theatres, as its Heritage Award.

The company’s third-generation owner, Ronald Krueger, lived in Sunset Hills and died in 2015. In November, Milwaukee-based Marcus Theatres announced that it was buying Wehrenberg, the largest movie theater chain in St. Louis. The 14 Wehrenberg theatres in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota will keep the Wehrenberg name under the new ownership.

But still, the sale was the bittersweet end of an era for a company long run by a Sunset Hills businessman.

The company started after founder Fred Wehrenberg and his wife attended the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and saw their first motion picture, current Wehrenberg Chief Operating Officer Bill Menke said in a chamber video filmed at the company’s south county theatre, Ronnie’s 21, at 5320 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

The family named Ronnie’s Drive-In after their grandson, who later ran the company. In the 1980s, the drive-in was torn down and replaced by Ronnie’s 20, with a replica drive-in serving as a playground for children and a tribute to the theatre’s beginnings.

Now, Ronnie’s 20 is the “newest and greatest movie theater in St. Louis, that we built in his honor in 1999,” Menke said.

The family’s charitable contributions were less well-known than their movies, or the three “Wehrenberg” whispers that start out every Wehrenberg movie.

“A lot of people don’t know all the good work behind the scenes that Mr. Krueger and his family did,” Vice President of Marketing Kelly Hoskins said while standing in Ronnie’s 20.

In 2016, the company donated $1.8 million in cash or in-kind to the city of St. Louis and nonprofits, including the Salvation Army, the Will Rogers Institute, Shriners Hospitals and the Great Forest Park Balloon Race.

Former Sunset Hills Mayor Nancy Benson is this year’s Chamber Member of the Year, for her volunteer work on behalf of the Creswood-Sunset Hills Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Volunteer work is very much a part of my life, and it’s always been a part of my life,” Benson said in a chamber video. “I had a good role model in my mother.”

Former chamber Executive Director Steve Boggeman, now with Bopp Landscaping, said, “I don’t believe I know anyone who is more giving of their time and resources than Nancy Benson.”

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