Merchant Center

Downtown First Awards

We look forward to celebrating with you at next year's 24th Annual Downtown First Awards. Be sure to check back and follow our social media for updates!

Recognizing Difference-Makers

Each year, Downtown Inc recognizes businesses, organizations and individuals who have made a difference in Downtown York through their commitments of time, advocacy and resources at the Downtown First Awards. Downtown Inc is pleased to announce the winners of the 23rd Annual Downtown First Awards, held at Keystone Kidspace on the evening of Thursday, August 10, 2023. The winners from each category represent exceptional businesses, organizations, and individuals who have put Downtown York first, through their commitments of time, advocacy, and resources.

Thank you to our Silver Sponsors: Fulton Bank, Pennsylvania American Water, Penn-Mar Human Services, and Royal Square Development & Construction

Congratulations to the 2023 Winners!

The Louis J. & Jody D. Appell Lifetime Achievement Award
Jane Conover and Jack Kay

Jane Conover and Jack Kay were presented with the Louis J. & Jody D. Appell Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring their embodiment of Mr. and Mrs. Appell’s legacy and lifetime commitment to the York community. Click here to read more about Jane and Jack.

Outstanding Large Business

Presented by Susquehanna Real Estate LP

White Rose Restaurant Group

With restaurants and venues such as the White Rose Bar & Grill, Rockfish Public House, Bridgewater Public House, and Valencia Ballroom, the White Rose Restaurant Group has provided culinary and event experience for all ages and interests for 90 years in Downtown York.

Outstanding WeCo District Business/Organization

Presented by Stock & Leader, Attorneys at Law

Caraballo Sisters

Owner, Justine Caraballo has a passion for cooking and bringing quality Puerto Rican foods to her loyal customers at Penn Market. Open every market day, Justine caters her menu to the cravings of her customers, a practice that pays off as she often sells out and has grown her online presence.

Outstanding Market District Business/Organization

Presented by CGA Law Firm


As a relatively new addition to the Downtown York business community, Refillism provides both service and a retail experience that is unmatched in Central PA. In addition to providing educational and retail opportunities for zero-waste lifestyles, Refillism also proudly supports and collaborates with many local businesses.

Outstanding Royal Square District Business/Organization

Presented by Traditions Bank

The Dark Parlour

Owner, Lauren Rae operates the only obscurities parlour in York County, bringing a refreshing outlook and insight to alternative lifestyles, histories, and collectibles that explore the human condition. As the organizer of Fang Around, a Royal Square district-wide event, they continue to promote inclusion, and acceptance, and showcase local merchants, musicians, and artists of varying nature.

Outstanding Nonprofit Organization

Presented by Shipley Energy

Keystone Kidspace

Serving as an invaluable asset to thousands of York children and their families, Keystone Kidspace embodies the best of the Historically Edgy spirit through the renovation of an underutilized historic building into a modern center of creativity, exploration, and fun, while making it affordable to all regardless of income.

Better York Appell Beautification Award

Presented by Better York

Richard R. Reilly

Attorney at Law: Sitting on Philadelphia Street, Rich Reilly’s building serves as a beautiful, welcoming corner into the city. From his planters to his new outdoor seating to his bird feeders, Attorney Riley is always cleaning up, watering plants, and taking pride in his corner to ensure its cheerful welcome to the city.

Outstanding Individual

Presented by PeoplesBank, A Codorus Valley Company

Jason Phillips

As a committed downtown dweller, Jason is always eager to share about his love of Downtown York. He frequently volunteers his time to provide insights as a local real estate professional or serving as a tour guide for Downtown Inc’s Sweetest Pint Tasting Tours or as a Downtown Ambassador.

The Change Maker Award

Presented by C.S. Davidson

Vlonda Kearse

She has been a lifelong educator with York City School District at both Hannah Penn Middle School and Willian Penn Senior High School, and began volunteering with the York College Community Opportunity Scholarship Program (YCCOSP) in 2015 with their Summer Jumpstart initiative. She’s an active member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and Cornerstone Baptist Church where her husband Rev. Dr. Mark Kearse is pastor. Both organizations are dedicated to serving the needs of the York community.

​Past Winners

​Check out our previous year winners from 2001-2022.