Winners will be recognized and honored at the annual gala, April 20

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Chamber of Commerce award season is upon us once again. This year, the Chamber is honoring six individuals and organizations that have made Atascadero the beautiful, vibrant place that it is. 

From Citizen of the Year to the new Hispanic Business of the Year award, each of the recipients brings their own vibrancy to the city that we all love so much. Atascadero News is excited to partner with the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce to announce this year’s award winners. 

Citizen of the Year: Jerry Tanimoto


Tanimoto has been building relationships within the community through teaching and volunteering since he moved here in the ’70s, and it’s no surprise that he’s being honored for all his hard work in Atascadero.

“I feel honored. I mean, I really do,” Tanimoto said. “It’s a great community. I love this community. I had no idea.”

Though Tanimoto grew up in the Central Valley, he was not a stranger to the Central Coast or Atascadero, but growing up, he would have never guessed that his life would bring him here or that he would end up in Atascadero long term. It was a job teaching social science at Atascadero High School in 1976 that eventually brought him here. During his 31 years he taught close to 10 subjects and coached multiple sports teams.

Tanimoto also covered AHS football games on the radio for 35 years and he has made sure to be a part of every facet of the community around him. If there is a need in local organizations, he is always willing to fill it.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Doug Filipponi

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Atascadero Chamber announces this year's community award winners

Filipponi, who’s been an Atascadero resident since he was 7 has become a huge part of the city and has created multiple businesses in the community he calls home.

“Of course, it’s an honor to receive the award,” Filipponi said. “It’s an honor to be considered for it and as far as the community and my 62 years of being here in Atascadero and my whole life as a North County resident.”

He was raised on the family dairy farm and after graduating from the Atascadero Unified School District and Cal Poly, he decided he wanted to continue to have a job that kept him outside. That’s when Filipponi’s future business partner, Ned Thompson, approached him with the idea to start their own well-drilling company that would become Filipponi and Thompson Drilling Inc. 50 years ago. Filipponi also got into agriculture, grew wine grapes, became co-owner of Santa Margarita Ranch, and started Ancient Peaks Winery.

Women of Influence North County (WINC): Wendy Lewis

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Atascadero Chamber announces this year's community award winners

President and CEO of the El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO), Wendy Lewis has been at the helm of ECHO for the last six years. In that time, she has spearheaded multiple changes for the better in the organization through her strategic vision and dedicated efforts. Under her supervision ECHO has added a Paso Robles location in addition to their Atascadero one, and helped multiple families and individuals find their way back to housing.

“Receiving the award as an inspiring women leader is truly humbling, and I see it as an opportunity to amplify the incredible work of the amazing women at ECHO and other homeless services organizations. This recognition is not just about me but shines a spotlight on the dedicated individuals who are the driving force behind the positive impact we make,” said Lewis.

Business of the Year: The Pottery

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Atascadero Chamber announces this year's community award winners

The Pottery is a place for the creatives of Atascadero to create beautiful and useful items with their own hands while also building a place for community.

“It was really emotional, if I’m perfectly honest. I got the phone call, and I didn’t quite believe it,” said The Pottery owner Alecia Teague. “I felt like it’s such a community that’s here, and it’s because of this whole community that it happened.”

Teague created The Pottery after finding community in a pottery studio in England when she and her family moved there for work, and after moving back and going through the pandemic, she thought Atascadero would be the best place to bring that feeling back to.

Atascadero caught on to what The Pottery brings the area and so many people started taking classes that the art studio recently moved to a larger location downtown. The Pottery isn’t just a place for people who are used to working with ceramics either. Teague has built a place for people of all skill levels and ages to come through the door. 

Hispanic Business of the Year: La Parilla Mexican Grill

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Atascadero Chamber announces this year's community award winners

Six years ago, cousins Edgar Valencia, Pepe Fonseco, and Lisandro Arriaga opened La Parilla Mexican Grill in Atascadero. Since then they’ve opened locations in both Arroyo Grande and, most recently, Paso Robles.

In earning the recognition, Valencia says, “For me, anytime that I feel appreciated for what we do whether it be an award or a customer saying thank you, the food was great, that’s what it’s all about. I feel pride in what I do.”

On top of landing Hispanic Business of the Year, La Parilla also won Best Tacos for Best of North County this year.

Community Organization Of the Year: ALF Food Pantry

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Atascadero Chamber announces this year's community award winners

Formerly known as Atascadero Loaves and Fishes, the non-profit ALF Food Pantry has been giving out groceries, free of charge, to the community for over 30 years. The organization prides itself on being able to support people living on marginal incomes in the community who are in need of food for themselves and their families. In fact, in 2023 ALF distributed the equivalent of 306,000 meals to their clients, a third of whom were children.

“This recognition brings with it the satisfaction the Atascadero surrounding communities value our service. Every day our doors are open represents our reward,” said an ALF representative.

Be sure to catch the full articles in the April issue of Atascadero News Magazine. 

Featured Photos:

Photo 1: Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year Jerry Tanimoto. Photo by Rick Evans

Photo 2: Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award Doug Filipponi. Contributed Photo.

Photo 3: Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s Woman of Influence Wendy Lewis. Contributed Photo.

Photo 4: Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year The Pottery (owner Alecia Teague in center). Contributed photo.

Photo 5: Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s Hispanic Business of the Year La Parilla. Photo by Camille DeVaul.

Photo 6: Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s Community Organization of the Year ALF Food Pantry. Contributed photo.