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The region's finest hotel, spa and bookstore. Plus, the best new business.

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BEST MALL

Northtown

There’s something about NorthTown. Maybe it’s the mall walkers in the morning and early afternoon. Or maybe it’s the hordes of teens, all dressed to impress, strutting and sticking their chins up in the air after school. It’s a fun place to shop, with lots of people to watch and lots of stores with toys and clothes for every age and size. Lounge with a latte and book in Barnes & Noble, or explore arcade games amid flashing lights at Bumpers. Search for deals at Nordstorm Rack or KOHL’s, or treat yourself at Macy’s. NorthTown is the mall for all. (CJ)

2nd PLACE: River Park Square; 3rd PLACE: Spokane Valley Mall; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Silver Lake Mall


BEST HOTEL

Davenport Hotel and Tower

Managing Director Lynnelle Caudill can’t stop saying “grand” as she describes the Davenport. It’s justified. Step inside, even just to wander through the lobby, and you’re transported into a world of stately marble floors and richly detailed woodwork accented with gold plating. Rich with details and history, the Davenport is a destination for locals and out-of-towners alike. Primp in Spa Paradiso and shop in the Signature Store. Get drinks with stuffed wild animals in the Peacock and Safari Rooms. Nosh on prime rib and crab in the Palm Court Grill. Gaze up at finely embossed ceilings and feel like royalty. (CJ)

2nd PLACE: Northern Quest Hotel and Spa; 3rd PLACE: The Montvale; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Coeur d’Alene Resort


BEST HAIR SALON

Jaazz Salon

Inlander readers seem to love Jaazz. And not only Spokanites think the salon is great; Salon Today named Jaazz one of the Top 200 salons in America in 2009. Hair technician Tiffany Thain says, “What sets us apart is our apprenticeship program. At some salons, they hire people out of high school. We have to get like a ‘masters in hair’ before we’re even allowed to touch it.” Heather Vandervert, at Jaazz for 13 years, agrees: “We maintain a level of education and training that’s above the industry standard.” You’ll never walk out of Jaazz with a bad ’do. (CJ)

2nd PLACE: 14th and Grand; 3rd PLACE: Dimensions; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: H.I.P. (Hair Inspired Professionals), Coeur d’Alene


BEST WAY TO MAKE SPOKANE VALLEY SEEM MORE LIKE A CITY ALL ITS OWN

Build a Moat/Fence/Wall Around It

Spokane Valley is the reluctant city. It took at least five different attempts to incorporate Spokane Valley — and as soon as that effort was successful, people begin organizing to disincorporate it. So with the new City Council looking ready to paper-shred the long-in-the-works city-center creation plan, we turned to our resident experts: you, the Inlander Best Of voters. We asked you to chart a way forward for Spokane Valley in order to transform the Spokane suburb into a thriving and unique municipality.

We learned a lot. Turns out, there’s a fair degree of animosity toward Spokane Valley. A surprising number thought the solution started with the whole damn place burning to the ground. Two thought a nuclear blast might do the trick, while one, of more modest ambition, believed only “a small bomb” was needed.

Some scoffed: “Can’t.” “Why?” “Who cares? They shoulda never become one.” Many, counterintuitively, thought disincorporation (or “unincorporation” ) would make Spokane Valley seem like a city of its own.

Many agreed that the city needed a create-a-city-center plan. One armchair urban planner even got specific: “Establish an urban core through mixed-use land development. Think Portland’s Pearl District. If they had condos and a Trader Joe’s, they would seem more like a city than Spokane.”

That voter wasn’t alone in thinking Trader Joe’s was the transformation secret. For others it was IKEA or Dave and Buster’s or Cold Stone Creamery or Olive Garden. Or a clock tower. (Hey, it worked for Hill Valley.)

Another suggested simply, “A mayor.” (Don’t tell Tom Towey. It’ll make him sad.)

“I live out here and just don’t know,” another wrote. “There is something missing that I can’t put a finger on. I’ll head downtown to the great walking district and ask around — Oh, wait, where would that be again?”

We had voters asking to enclose the entire area with a gigantic wall, possibly topped with razor wire — it worked for East Berlin, several voters figured. Another contingent wanted to airlift the entire city to a different location.

Perhaps, another group figured, the problem was that that having the word “Spokane” prefixed to “Valley” makes the place sound too much like Spokane Jr. Name-change suggestions abound: “SpoVal,” “Otis Orchards,” “Millwood” and “Sprawlsville.”

Signs reading “This is a city” might eliminate resident confusion, another offered.

The most insightful tactic for municipal distinction, however, took a cue from the wisest creature of all, the noble Sneetch: “Put stars on their bellies, like in Dr. Seuss.” (DW)


BEST ORGANIC/NATURAL FOODS

Huckleberry’s

Remember how you wanted to get stuck overnight in Toy ‘R Us when you were a kid? Huckleberry’s is that store for food- and drink-loving adults. Grocery shopping here after the mega marts is a luxurious, almost spiritual experience. Luscious produce, a wide selection of organic food products and an extensive array beer and wine entice shoppers. Friendly and knowledgeable staff members help with hard-to-find items, laughing with regulars. The 9th Avenue Bistro fills the air with mouth-watering aromas and serves up espresso to weary shoppers. The whole place is unusually vibrant, right down to the florist’s least exotic plant. (CJ)

2nd PLACE: Main Market Co-op; 3rd PLACE: Pilgrim’s Market


BEST VINTAGE CLOTHES

Finders Keepers

“I don’t shop anywhere else. And I wouldn’t, if I didn’t work here,” announces sales associate Becky Anderson. It’s easy to agree. After a few minutes of browsing through the store’s selection of vintage duds and accessories, you’ll be imagining a new wardrobe. The store specializes in women’s vintage, but Anderson says, “A lot people say we have the best men’s selection, because it’s all quality.” And the service? Shopping here isn’t really shopping; it’s more like playing dress-up with your friends. (CJ)

2nd PLACE: Value Village; 3rd PLACE: Drop Yer Drawers


BEST SPA

Spa Paradiso

Having nabbed a decade’s worth of tiaras, this sparkling oasis of pampered indulgence continues to reign as Spokane’s crown jewel in the lineup of spa spectacular. And with top-notch contenders raising the bar — like the edgy Urbanna downtown or the tranquil Grassroots on the South Hill — a 10th winning year for Spa Paradiso solidifies yet another notch of regal notoriety for the Davenport Hotel’s majestic belt.

The formula for success?

“It’s the service we provide,” says guest services employee Shannon Young.

“Our technicians,” asserts Kelly Garity, also in guest services. “They give the best customer service.”

Quite true. But a modest slice from the grandiose pie.

First off, perusing Spokane’s most lavish hotel is a treat in itself. On the lower level sits the historic Pompeiian Room, the original 1914 barbershop, with design accents reminiscent of an ancient Greek bathhouse: cool tile, columned pillars and arched ceilings.

Guests are escorted to cushy locker rooms, fitted in fluffy robes and then taken to the serenity room — a quiet, homey space for winding down prior to sessions. Visitors can bag-check emotional luggage, sink into a relaxed mindset and enjoy a cup of hot tea or a fabulous cocktail.

Pleasant protocol aside, it’s the cornucopia of luxurious packages and invigorating treatments that directly catapult Spa Paradiso’s visitors to Cloud 9.

The La Stone Healing Massage, for example, “melts away your cares as the warm stones swirl across your body.” Sound poetic? It feels even better.

Moms-to-be can enjoy a 50-minute maternity massage, specifically designed to target rising stresses for expecting women.

For something exceptional, Garity suggests the Lomi Lomi massage, the Ayurveda Shiro Dhara massage or a regenerating body scrub.

And did we mention the assortment of facials?

Choose from the Gentlemen’s, Teen’s, Skin-brightening, Mediterranean, Glycolic, the Naples Express or the Pompeii Deluxe.

Even cooler are the small indulgences — mini-upgrades you can add to core treatments, just like sprinkling extra M&Ms on an ice cream sundae. Tack on a warm paraffin hand or foot dip to any signature pedicure or manicure, or try the Purifying Deep Pore Cleansing Session (check out all the options at Spaparadiso.com).

The A-list products are all there, too — from Bumble and Bumble (the stuff movie stars use) to Pureology, SpaRitual, SkinCeuticals and even a vegan nail polish line.

Go on. Choose your nirvana. (BT)

2nd PLACE: BrickHouse Massage & Coffee Bar; 3rd PLACE: Zi Spa


BEST JEWELRY

Jewelry Design Center

Forget those ridiculous Jared commercials. If your fiancé buys an engagement ring from the Jewelry Design Center, he’s not messing around. The showroom here is nothing short of exquisite. A rustic wood staircase contrasts smart, modern lighting, which in turn illuminates beckoning display cases below — sparkling with enough eye candy to stupefy Marilyn Monroe. A rotund semi-circle of glass paneling provides direct viewing to the actual workshop, while flat screen monitors overhead project real-time feed from cameras zoomed in on the careful hands of staff designers and goldsmiths. Who can compete with that? (BT)

2nd PLACE: Finders Keepers; 3rd PLACE; Pounders; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Lucky Monkey Trading Co.


BEST FLORIST

Liberty Park Florist and Greenhouse

Liberty Park in the South Perry District, the florist named after the park more than 80 years ago, has stood the test of time.

Liberty Park Florist and Greenhouse is a true family business, founded in 1929 by owner Jim Alice’s grandfather, an Italian immigrant. Alice says that from the time he was a child, he was drawn to the greenhouses there. “My other siblings weren’t interested,” he says. “But me, I was here every day. I just loved it.” By the time Alice left for college, he knew he would one day take charge of the business.

Today, the Alices are still a typical Italian family, and Liberty Park Florist has grown to be the largest flower-dispenser in Spokane. Liberty Park’s large staff allows it to stay one step ahead of the competition. Each of their 10 designers has different strengths, Alice says, meaning that every bouquet and basket is designed by skilled hands. “That gives us an edge,” he says.

And though it’s still winter in Spokane, Alice says Liberty Park always works a season ahead. Walk into one of their 75,000 square feet of greenhouses and the aroma is full of geraniums and begonias. “I’ve always been a season-head,” says Alice. “I come in here, and it’s like springtime.”

Florists with attached greenhouses are a rare breed today, Alice says. They were more common decades ago, when flowers weren’t so easily shipped. Though Alice is still using Liberty Park’s original greenhouses, he strives to utilize current technology in its operations.

Besides keeping detailed records of orders for when customers inevitably forget whether they preferred lilacs or lavender last spring, Liberty Park photographs all flower arrangements that go out their doors. And they’ll e-mail them to customers upon request. “When you order online, you never see what you’re actually getting,” Alice says.

Alice says Liberty Park’s commitment to quality and reputation in the community have allowed it to thrive in a time when customers are increasingly turning to the Internet or chain stores for their floral arrangements.

Whether picking up baskets from customers’ homes, helping new gardeners select plants or working personal mementos into floral arrangements for funerals, Alice aims to give Liberty Park customers the attention they won’t find anywhere else. (NJ)

2nd PLACE: Beau K Florist; 3rd PLACE: Just Roses


BEST CLOTHING BOUTIQUE

Lolo

Why do we love Lolo? Personality, products, place. Lolo has all the taste and artsy flair of ultra-trendy Anthropologie, minus the elitist attitude and exorbitant price tags. From the garden patio to the brick-walled interior and distressed hardwood floors, this happy little boutique is a refreshing place to visit — along with personable owner, Beth Hitch. “It makes me feel incredibly proud; so thankful and happy that people love it,” she says. Check out the treasure trove of intoxicating candles, bargain Miss Me designer jeans, fragrant diffusers, Hobo wallets, jewelry by Dahlia, Fringe vases, Lollia bath products and more. (BT)

2nd PLACE: Finders Keepers; 3rd PLACE: Swank; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Lucky Monkey Trading Co.


BEST PET SUPPLIES

Petco

It’s got a dog bar. Why wouldn’t the pets go here? With free monthly training seminars and a grooming center, PETCO is stocked with everything you, or your ferret, could wish for. The walk-in bird room is neat, as is the refillable cat litter station and cookie bar (sandwich creme treats not intended for human consumption). Marine aficionados will like the giant wall chart for creating the perfect aquarium, along with a grid on freshwater fish compatibility. Looking for a radical birthday gift for a roommate or sibling? Get some fluorescent colored GloFish (in neon pink! green! yellow! orange!). (BT)

2nd PLACE: Northwest Seed & Pet; 3rd PLACE: Petsmart


BEST SHOP THE INLAND NORTHWEST NEEDS

Trader Joe’s

Woe to the Oregonians, Californians and Seattle natives who moved to Spokane: You’ve been banned from those awesome specialty stores, found only in buzzing metropolises — far, far away.

Sigh. How to attract a Trader Joe’s?

“At this time, Spokane is not in Trader Joe’s two-year plan of opening a location,” says Trader Joe’s Director of National Publicity Alison Mochizuki. “Unfortunately, we don’t disclose what goes into the decision-making processes of selecting a location.”

Well, boo to that.

Not that Inlander readers don’t love you, Huckleberry’s. But they’d also love a Trader Joe’s. And maybe some of that delicious signature mochi ice cream, garlic-herb flatbread dough, Gorgonzola crisps, Thai curry and the $2.99 six packs of Simpler Times Lager.

Gourmet store, specialty store, natural food store; vegetarian-oriented, vegan friendly, organic-toting, internationally varied: Trader Joe’s appeals to a vast spectrum of shoppers’ tastes by carrying an exceptionally eclectic (and affordable!) assortment of products — many of which are difficult to locate elsewhere.

Second place goes to home-furnishings superstore IKEA (inarguably Sweden’s greatest invention, next to dynamite and Switerland).

There are lots of reasons to love IKEA, even though it’s large enough for its own zip code: Swedish meatballs; affordability; and every single product has its own pet name, like the “Kulla” (a lamp), “Javnaker” (mattress set), “Figgjo” (mirror) or “Andrea” (an area rug.) Cute, right?

Known for its emphasis on cost cutting, IKEA infuses fashion with product — specializing in smart-looking, easily stored appliances with simple yet stylish Scandinavian design elements. The goods found here, whether a ceramic spice-grinding mill or an attractive lantern wall globe, famously reflect a consciousness towards accessibility, functionality, innovativeness and space conservation. Bummer No. 2?

“The chances of an IKEA coming to Spokane probably aren’t that good,” says Director of Public Affairs Joseph Roth. “We typically require a population base of approximately two million people within a certain trade area to support a store, and Spokane doesn’t really have too many people there.”

Third place goes to Whole Foods, whose product quality and mindset reflect a hybrid version of Huckleberry’s and Trader Joe’s, but plus-sized — and with crazy-big inventory, like Costco.

So the answer is pretty simple, Spokane. If you want these stores, you need to (a) start making more babies, (b) lie on that national census sheet, and (c) convince all of your distant relatives to move here.

Ready, go! (BT)


BEST BANK/CREDIT UNION

Spokane Teachers Credit Union

Again, the power of “local” flexes its muscles. From its no-frills black-and-white commercials featuring students, moms and that guy from Neato Burrito, to the shared branching network with surcharge-free ATMs, STCU continues to win the business and trust of Inland Northwest denizens across the board. And then of course there’s other perks, like the fact that STCU is a not-for-profit cooperative, the convenient portable account access or the custom-fit financing and savings. STCU is also able to maintain low service fees and rates, since it’s not enslaved to a group of stockholders. Score. (BT)

2nd PLACE: Numerica; 3rd PLACE: Bank of America


BEST FURNITURE

The Tin Roof

As American journalist H.L Mencken once stated, a home’s essence lies “in its quality of representing the personalities of the people who live in it.” No one knows this better than Tin Roof owner Heather Hanley, who keeps her showroom stockpiled and rotating with an ocean of fabulous furnishings. From must-have’s like the low back sofa from Granada to exquisite bedroom sets by Cape Cod or Long Cove, the Tin Roof is “a place to wander and dream of the possibilities.” Mirrors? Area rugs? Artwork? Clocks? Scents? Curtains? Be it distressed, classy, eclectic, modern or cozy, Hanley has it all. (BT)

2nd PLACE: Mor Furniture; 3rd PLACE: Walker’s


BEST NEW BUSINESS (OPENED IN 2009-10)

Main Market Co-Op

Say you’re a new business. Your opening day is Jan. 21, 2010. The Inlander Best Of balloting begins January 27.

What possible chance does your shop have of winning Best New Business? Your competitors in the category would have had months and months to develop. But when you’re a food co-op in a co-op starved town, and people so desperately want your particular kind of magic that more than 700 of them become members before you even open your doors, well, that’s a special case.

That’s what happened with Main Market, and their coronation as Best New Business caps a two-year capitalization, planning and renovation process that turned a Goodyear Tire on West Main into a hip natural market and, you know, the only damn grocery downtown. Two years is a long time to want something, but really, for people who had seen co-ops flourish in other cities — not just Seattle or Portland, but Boise, Moscow, Sandpoint — and founder here, the wait for Main Market has been much longer than that.

And if you doubt the grassroots desire for healthier food in this town, let’s return for a moment to that original number: Before it ever opened, more than 700 people paid in to become members of Main Market. That’s less a business model than a social movement.

Atticus and Anemone and a couple of other businesses put up good fights, but this was Main Market’s category by a long shot.

We spoke with Main Market’s Jennifer Hall at the Community Table — the long, reclaimed-wood communal dining area in the Market’s deli — about the various secrets to their early success. She said the table itself was a big one. Symbolically. People get food, and they sit down and they talk. “There aren’t a lot of other quorums besides bars where that happens.”

So, community building. Hall also says the local and national emphasis on buying local helps since the co-op is, after all, “literally owned by locals.”

All of this is prologue to the matter at hand, though: “Fundamentally, it’s about great food.”

Winning an award after two months is no mean feat, but their next trick might be the harder of the two. Hall says winning this award is proof that Main Market is a destination for people, and she’s happy about that, but “it’s one thing to be a destination and it’s another to be a habit.” Grocery stores survive by being people’s habit.

And for that, she says, “We’ve got to continue to over deliver.” (LB)

2nd PLACE: Atticus; 3rd PLACE: aNeMonE

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BEST NEW CAR DEALER

Larry H. Miller Group

Formerly the Downtown Auto Group, Larry Miller took over the Toyota, Lexus and Honda dealerships in Spokane in January, adding them to its 39 showrooms around the nation. Larry Miller touts fairly posted prices, non-commissioned sales people and they’ll give you a written offer to purchase your vehicle that’s good for 72 hours whether you buy one of their cars or not. General Manager Brent Christensen says that it’s the quality of service that made them No. 1. “Car buyers don’t have to fight or grind for the price they want. It saves time, saves energy and it saves money,” Christensen says. (TLM)

2nd PLACE: Appleway Group; 3rd PLACE: Wendle Motors; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Dave Smith Motors, Kellogg


BEST GIFTS

Boo Radley’s

The best gift when given will elicit a look of either delight or disgust on the recipient’s face after they’ve opened their present. A reaction — whether from glee or repugnance — is the ultimate signal to the giver that they have done their job. At Boo Radley’s each item has been hand-selected by owner Andy Dinnison with that in mind. Whether you’re looking for candy that both looks and tastes weird, rare novelty items or something just plain funny, you’ll find it here. (TLM)

2nd PLACE: Simply Northwest; 3rd PLACE: Mel’s Nursery; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Lucky Monkey Trading Co.


BEST FARMERS MARKET

Spokane Farmers Market

You won’t find fresher food than at the Spokane Farmers Market. Vendors from as far south as Wapato, Wash., and as far north as Alaska make the special trip to Spokane hours before the market opens on Wednesdays and Saturdays just to bring us fresh food. Captain Zach’s Seafood Co. fly in fresh wild salmon twice a week to ensure the best tasting fish. That way the next time friends fly in from Seattle and poke fun at us for eating ocean fish inland tell them Captain Zach makes sure our fish is just about as fresh as the fins at Pike Place. (TLM)

2nd PLACE: Liberty Lake Farmers Market; 3rd PLACE: Kootenai County Farmers Market


BEST BOOKSTORE

Auntie’s Bookstore

Spokane’s famous independent bookseller has it all. New and used versions of thousands of titles can be found on their bookshelves and the friendly staff will order it for you if for some reason they don’t have it. They beat out all the big box stores in town when it comes to the authors who stop in to talk about their latest. For example, the daring helicopter-logging pilot from History Channel’s Ax Men will be at the store on Saturday to discuss his book Helilogging in a Sucker Hole. (TLM)

2nd PLACE: Barnes & Noble; 3rd PLACE: Borders


BEST BARBERSHOP

The Man Shop

Put your mullet in their hands. At the Man Shop you can put your brain to sleep and when you wake up you’ll have a new haircut and a pleasant experience. This isn’t one of those grueling hair places where you have to think up small talk when all you really want is to loose an inch or two of hair and go home. With TVs at every station, pool tables and an automated putting green, there’s plenty of ways to relax. They also have free popcorn. (TLM)

2nd PLACE: Weldon Barber; 3rd PLACE: Dan’s Barber Shop; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Clean Cut, Coeur d’Alene


BEST TOY STORE

Toys “R” Us

Of course Toys “R” Us won. They’re enormous and lately this area has been dumping off its toy stores. Longtime favorite Whiz Kids has had its doors locked for months and all the toy stores in the malls have been gone for years. Even Toys “R” Us had to change its marketing a bit by converting its Spokane location into a Babies “R” Us a few years ago. Thankfully there’s still one in the Spokane Valley. (TLM)

2nd PLACE: Boo Radley’s (Hall of Famer); 3rd PLACE: Figpickels Toy Emporium, CdA


NORTH IDAHO’S BEST GIFTS, BOUTIQUE AND JEWELRY

Lucky Monkey Trading Company

With its host of seated Buddha figures and faint smell of patchouli, Coeur d’Alene’s Lucky Monkey Trading Company had a lot of good karma helping to garner top votes. Or kismet. Or just plain good vibes, which is something owners Christina and Derek Lucky have labored over lovingly.

“I enjoy creating a space where people can be inspired to see what the world has to offer,” says Christina. Both she and her husband — the child of flight attendants — grew up traveling the world, admiring the diverse cultures they experienced. They developed the business over several years, initially selling jewelry and clothing in Arizona, their former home.

In 2004, they opened Lucky Monkey along Coeur d’Alene’s tourist and foot traffic-oriented Sherman Avenue, with part of the name coming from the auspicious timing of daughter Isabella’s birth — in the Year of the Monkey.

Since then, they’ve been expanding their branding, including the Website (www.luckymonkeytrading.com), which features photos of Christina’s lovely face, as well as local artist and educator Rachel Dolezal wearing some of the shop’s jewelry and clothing. Geared toward what Christina describes as the “urban bohemian,” the Website also includes a searchable database of gift items: hand-carved wooden earrings from Asia, chunky and funky resin bracelets from Japan, wraparound skirts made from Indian silk saris.

“I think that the atmosphere of the shop reflects the diversity of products, the patterns, textures and attention to display,” says Christina, whose background in fine arts has helped her hone an eye for such things as the Baltic amber, Peruvian earrings and Chinese paper crafts.

When asked about the voter response, Christina deflected the good karma: “We have wonderful loyal customers who know we will help them find something special.”

Indeed, on the day we visit, Christina diligently assists a customer to choose and install a delicate, silver toe ring, while daughter Isabella looks on. Around her, customers linger over cases of rings or gently finger soft textiles, smiling thoughtfully. People easily flow in and out of the small but well-organized space. Although she acknowledges that they put a lot into artful displays and creating what she hopes is a good vibe at Lucky Monkey, Christina shares the credit with their employees.

“Our employees share our excitement for our products,” she says, “and I think customers can see that.” (CS)

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