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BEST JEWELRY

JEWELRY DESIGN CENTER

All that glitters is not gold, Shakespeare reminds us. The wise Bard was right: Let's not forget the diamonds, silver and precious stones. Those have some serious luster, too.

When asked to judge among Spokane's crafters and purveyors of all that glitters, Inlander readers handed the gilded Best Of crown this year — for the first time — to Jewelry Design Center.

"We're craftsmen — that's our business," says owner Doug Toone. "This is what I love to do."

Having built his reputation as a master designer and craftsman over the past 30 years, Toone — along with his son Brian — recently got the opportunity to build something else: Their new stand-alone store on North Division. Toone was more than happy to give The Inlander a tour, and it's impressive. Shunning marble and chandeliers as cliché, they opted for a distinctly Northwest look with lots of logs, stone and glass. The 12,800-square-foot facility has its own state-of-the-art manufacturing shop, rated second in the nation by Instore Magazine, a prominent trade publication. Visitors can watch the jewelers at work, both through a large window and close-up via flat-panel TV screens. From the CAD/CAM lathe to the laser welder to the casting, plating and polishing rooms, Jewelry Design Center can fabricate virtually anything. For engagement parties, they have a posh room upstairs.

"All this is really nice," Toone says as to why they won, "but it's our business philosophy: Taking care of the customer."

"When you go down on that sales floor and you see people designing things," Brian Toone says, "and women crying when they get a ring back and it looks amazing ... there's a buzz, and something magic happens. It's not your ordinary store, and not your ordinary experience."

— MICK LLOYD-OWEN

2ND PLACE: Finders Keepers; 3RD PLACE: Pounders; BEST NORTH IDAHO JEWELRY: Lucky Monkey


BEST FURNITURE

THE TIN ROOF

Newlyweds, picky designers, home decorators or someone who just wants a nice couch: Whatever you may be looking for, the Tin Roof has something to suit all tastes and budgets.

Here style is conveniently paired with practicality and affordability. "I love lamp," says Brick Tamland from the film Anchor Man, and so does the Tin Roof. From lamps to candles, couches to bookcases, vases to artwork — this versatile home furnishings store is a one-stop-shop for nearly any items which your home may be lacking.

"I do a lot of home visits, so I see how people live and use their furniture," says owner Heather Hanley. "I want to satisfy people's needs, so everything needs to be useful. It's got to be stylish and functional. That's why our motto is 'Fun, Functional and Affordable.'"

Located on East Sprague, the Tin Roof's showcases are classy in their styles and colors yet contemporary and chic — without the edgy discomfort of over-modernized furniture. The entire store is warm and inviting, boasting heavy French and mahogany accents. The dominant colors are reminiscent of autumn, earth and coffee.

"I'm a very picky buyer," says Hanley. "I search for the most look for the best buy from every company that I visit. I always try to imagine what it will look like in someone's house."

In addition to sleek oak tables and lush couches with silk pillows, the Tin Roof sells luxury bath items, scented oils for the home, gardening items, plasma screen TVs, decorative rugs, wall sconces, beautiful dishware and display bedrooms for children. Hanley even offers a two-hour, in-home consultation, consisting of furniture and accessory placement, a home furnishing and décor plan. And any day now, Hanley is opening Concept Home, a Tin Roof spin-off aimed at apartment/condo dwellers, on First and Washington.

"We really try to provide a unique setting," says Hanley, "so your house doesn't look cookie-cutter."

- Blair Tellers

2ND PLACE: Burgan's; 3RD PLACE: (Tie) Walker's and Mor


BEST BARBER SHOP

THE MAN SHOP

It's not hard to see why you all love THE MAN SHOP so much, particularly those of you who religiously watched Home Improvement with Tim Allen. [Insert your man-grunt here.] This is a place that celebrates beer guts and Harleys, ESPN and pinup posters. A sign at the front counter explains the raison d'etre: "The Man Shop was created with the premise that real men need a place where they can come in to relax & amp; to be themselves (i.e., curse, scratch & lie)."

Walk in and you quickly spot all the accoutrements of real men: barstools, an Xbox, pool table, leather couch, photos of blond bombshells on the walls and a TV at every barber's chair. Then, of course, there are the barbers, women all (at least when we visited).

Megan McRoberts, 26, stops a moment between customers to explain the appeal of the shop. "Because it's fun. You don't have to deal with screaming kids," says McRoberts, whose outfit includes a leather carpenter's belt. She used to work at a place that catered to women and much prefers the Man Shop. "Guys are so much easier. They're more laid-back." Amen, sister. Occasionally, women actually come into the shop, but they're charged extra. Before long, a new customer walks in — a man, of course — and McRoberts leads him to a chair. She hands him a TV remote before arranging the bib. "Here we go."

— JACOB H. FRIES

2nd PLACE: Weldon Barber; 3rd PLACE: Dan's; BEST NORTH IDAHO BARBER: Clean Cut, CdA


BEST NEW BUSINESS

CABELA'S

North Idaho's the perfect spot for an 800,000-square-foot monument to the outdoor sportsman: CABELA'S. Their marketing strategy goes way beyond a big box full of merchandise: They've created an area attraction that locals will want to check out at least once — even if they don't need a shotgun, dry-fly or camouflaged comforter for their bed (with matching pillow shams).

How considerate! Cabela's provides a corral for those who come by horse. (Seriously.) And kennels for those who bring their dog. Just check ol' Blue in at customer service, and pick him up on the way out.

Customers enter under a flock of stuffed wild geese suspended from a high, wood-slat ceiling. Prominent in the center of the store is a triumph of taxidermy: a large water feature like a rocky woodland knoll, populated with every creature that's ever stumbled into a hunter's crosshairs. Live trout swim in the water around the ankles of a moose. Bears, mountain lions, skunks, deer, wolves and sheep all share a moment frozen in time — there's even an entire community of prairie dogs.

In the sprawling fishing section, there's a self-contained fly shop and huge aquariums full of bass and trout. Live feedings are announced periodically. There's a forest of camo gear: an employee informs us that there are "at least 100" different patterns and colors of camouflage, depending on where you want to disappear and in what season. In addition to thousands of new rifles, the store boasts a "gun library" of rare weapons. Tusks from an African elephant flank the entrance.

And because the average visit at Cabela's is two-and-a-half hours, the White Pine Cafe serves a variety of wild game sandwiches. The wild boar is a lot like ham, but leaner and flakier. Mmmm, good...

- Mick Lloyd-Owen

2ND PLACE: The new Magic Lantern Theatre; 3RD PLACE (TIE): Artios Home, Labor of Love


EDITORS' CHOICE

BEST WAY TO SPARK A DOWNTOWN HOUSING BOOM - GET A GROCERY STORE

Downtown Spokane has seen quite a revival in the past decade, but the next step — getting more people to live there — has been slow in coming. There have been some great condo and apartment projects to come on line, but some think what's needed is a big shot in the arm, like a bunch of new units in one fell swoop. Part of the hold-up, however, is that downtown isn't quite there yet as a pedestrian environment. Specifically, the lack of a grocery store within walking distance is commonly identified as a major stumbling block. Now just hold that thought for a minute...

Another nagging problem has long been the location of the STA Plaza smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Local shop owners have argued it takes away from the kind of vibe they're after, with what some view as too much loitering and loud buses cycling by on an endless loop. (Commuters, it should be noted, love the location, as it is close to work for many of them.) And now the Spokane Transit Authority is even considering relocating their operation to the Intermodal Center a few blocks to the east. So...

What if some genius turns the STA Plaza into an urban grocery store? Two birds, one stone — beautiful urban karma. The Plaza even has a parking lot underneath, giving it more access than most Trader Joe's or Whole Foods have in other cities. And with its wide sidewalks, it could be converted for outdoor vendors during the warmer months.

The grocery store/housing thing is one of those annoying Catch 22s — maybe downtown Spokane doesn't quite have the housing yet to support a grocery store, but how will we get people to move in without a grocery store?

Perhaps, finally, opportunity is knocking.

— TED S. McGREGOR JR.


EDITORS' CHOICE

BEST PLACE TO BUY GREEN - ECO DEPOT

The little green store that could is steaming along at full — yet sustainable — throttle as Spokane hitches itself to the renewable energy train.

"We are getting a lot of interest in solar, wind, paint, flooring and insulation," says Nadine Sullivan, who runs the eco-friendly home- and building-supply shop at 1326 E. Sprague with partner Glenn Probert and her brother, Bruce Gage.

Eco Depot is still a niche business, but interest is growing as awareness of green building materials and techniques expands in Spokane. So far, the Saranac Building (home to the Magic Lantern and Isabella's), Mountain Gear and the new Convention Center have all earned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the U.S. Green Buildings Council.

In the past year, green-building initiatives were a topic of municipal election campaigns and even the Spokane Home Builders Association has adopted a green-building initiative.

Good news at Eco Depot, which sells the message as much as it sells the goods. Homeowners and builders alike are purchasing materials.

Eco Depot is working with a project manager in Kootenai County who's interested in green, multi-use development, Sullivan says. And there's big interest in grid-tie photovoltaic solar panels, she says. These are the ones where local utilities agree to credit excess electricity that a home pumps into the system. "Homeowners also earn state and federal incentives and tax credits," Sullivan says.

Wind generators get "quite a bit of interest but not so many purchases," Sullivan says. Existing designs are geared to rural or exurban lots. "There is no urban turbine," she says.

Homeowners, builders and remodelers also check out the store's lines of countertops, insulation and flooring made from green and recycled materials. "We even have a paint that is made from [recycled] paint," Sullivan says.

— KEVIN TAYLOR


BEST ORGANIC/NATURAL FOODS

Huckleberry's

This place just smells healthy. The organic herbs infused with the all-natural vegetables gives this fresh market the aroma of earthiness. With the supply relatively low compared to the fad-formatted demand for green food, this organic food store is sitting high. And any given morning, the bistro swells with customers yearning for an omelet loaded with pesticide- and hormone-free meats and vegetables. On Sundays, the food bar becomes a rock star with customers clustered and clambering for a seat to eat their free-range scramble eggs and high fructose corn syrup-free toast. (TLM)

2ND PLACE: Pilgrim's; 3RD PLACE: The Rocket Market


BEST GROCERY STORE

Rosauers

ROSAUERS' employees at the Five Mile Plaza know me as the bald guy who is in their store every single day, usually with his two small boys. My shopping habits are atrocious — I buy on an as-needed basis. I also happen to need a fair amount of beer.

I go there because they're well staffed (unlike some competitors), so I almost never wait in line. They also have everything I want at competitive prices, and the employees are friendly. Finally, they don't make me carry a little card to get the sale price.

My boys care about nothing but the cookies. (MLO)

2ND PLACE: Safeway; 3RD PLACE: Yoke's


BEST MEN'S CLOTHES, BEST WOMEN'S CLOTHES & BEST SHOES

Nordstrom

There's just one reason NORDSTROM won three top spots in this year's Best of — they have it all, including a huge selection of top brands. If you have the budget, you can clothe your family, including a fancy pair of shoes.

You have to agree that everything looks so pretty in there. Like little daisies popping up at the beginning of spring, colorful tops and expensive jeans peek out on displays.

Oh, and the shoes, shiny with little straps, they're foot candy. It's not a place to shop on a budget — but it's sure nice to look at and dream. (TLM)

BEST MEN'S CLOTHES 2ND PLACE: Macy's; 3rd PLACE: Anderson & Emami

BEST WOMEN'S CLOTHES 2nd PLACE: Macy's; 3rd PLACE: Cues

BEST SHOES 2ND PLACE: Payless; 3rd PLACE: Macy's


BEST FLORIST

Just Roses

JUST ROSES has flowers. They can flower your wedding, your grandfather's funeral and even your anniversary. What gives them the top honors is that they also give advice. They understand that essentially they're the go-between for a huge number of emotional events that occur in the lives of Spokanites.

So when is the best time to give roses? When it's not a planned event. According to the Just Roses Website, 71 percent of women would prefer to receive flowers for no special reason at all; only 15 percent would care if they received flowers on their anniversary. Just Roses understands that most people just don't get all that romance stuff and they're here to help. (TLM)

2ND PLACE: Liberty Park Florist; 3RD PLACE: Peter's & Sons; BEST NORTH IDAHO FLORIST: Duncan's in Hayden


BEST HAIR SALON

Jaazz Salon

"I consider hair to be a growing garment," says JAAZZ owner and stylist Sonna Brado of her art. "The fabric of the hair is something we work with — it's our medium for sculpting. [We] create a sculpture that fits onto the person — one that they wear, and that works for their image.

"Every hair is a different fabric — it might be silk, or it might be denim. It's going to drape differently and feel different. That's how I see hair — as art." (MLO)

2ND PLACE (TIE): 14th and Grand, Mosaic; 3RD PLACE: Moxie Salon; BEST NORTH IDAHO SALON: Shapes


BEST SPA

Spa Paradiso

It's 5 pm and you've just had a rough day at work. Do you say to yourself, "Man, I need to take a trip to the serenity room?"

Probably not, but you should. Take one whiff of the vanilla air at the bottom of the Davenport Hotel and you relax. Walk inside the French doors and be transported to where you're the one being pampered.

It makes sense that the most luxurious hotel in Spokane would host the best place to lounge around and offer people massages, pedicures, manicures and even facials. So next time you've had a bad day, consider a trip to SPA PARADISO. (TLM)

2ND PLACE: Brickhouse; 3RD PLACE: Mosaic; BEST NORTH IDAHO SPA: Zi Spa


BEST CAR DEALER

Wendle Motors

A family owned business since 1943, WENDLE MOTORS has been voted Best Car Dealer by Inlander readers for eight years in a row. "We try to make good choices every day and treat everybody like family. That creates a good selling environment," says general manager Shayne Goff.

With its lot on N. Division Street and Wellesley Avenue soon to be converted into "Northtown Square" — a 70,000 square foot shopping center — all of Wendle Motors' auto operations will be consolidated at its 13-acre lot at the Newport/Division "Y" by May of this year, Goff says. (MLO)

2ND PLACE: Downtown Toyota; 3RD PLACE: Downtown Honda; BEST NORTH IDAHO CAR DEALER: Dave Smith Motors


BEST HOTEL

The Davenport Hotel

For those who have toured THE DAVENPORT HOTEL or stayed as a guest, no explanation is necessary. For those who haven't, no explanation is possible. It's just one of those places you have to visit in order to take in the detail and feel the authenticity.

As it was when it opened in 1914, the Davenport is once again gaining notoriety as one of the best hotels in the nation. In January, it was nominated as one of six finalists in the U.S. and Canada for "Most Excellent Hotel" by Conde Nast Johansens, an international luxury travel guide. Conde Nast Traveler magazine put the Davenport on its prestigious "Gold List" for 2008. We're not surprised. (MLO)

2ND PLACE: Hotel Lusso; 3RD PLACE: Montvale Hotel; BEST NORTH IDAHO HOTEL: The Coeur d'Alene Resort


BEST BANK/CREDIT UNION

Spokane Teachers Credit Union

In the 1930s, SPOKANE TEACHERS CREDIT UNION began as a shoebox operation — quite literally. STCU now has $900 million in assets, more than 70,000 members, 11 branches and 325 employees, making it the largest credit union in Eastern Washington. Inlander readers have given it Best Of kudos for three years running. "WoooHoooo!" says STCU spokesperson Keely Barrett. "We're humbled and honored."

Why'd they win? "Because we're a credit union, our members are our owners," Barrett says, "so there's an extra level of service that they get." (MLO)

2ND PLACE: Washington Mutual; 3RD PLACE: Numerica


BEST MALL

NorthTown Mall

Going to the mall is a lot like cruising, except without the car. You don't really need a reason.

The largest mall between Seattle and Minneapolis along the I-90 corridor, NORTHTOWN MALL draws 12 million shoppers a year and offers one million square feet of space for your people-watching pleasure. They also have a lot of stores, in case you actually need something — almost 200. But you don't need a reason — you just want to go the mall. Inlander readers say Northtown is No. 1. (MLO)

2ND PLACE: River Park Square; 3RD PLACE: Spokane Valley Mall; BEST NORTH IDAHO MALL: Silver Lake


BEST GIFTS

Boo Radley's

The poster of Sid Vicious that sits in the store window says it all. No, BOO RADLEY'S isn't a girlfriend-murdering heroin addict. But like the Sex Pistols guitarist, random, eclectic and weirdly funny would definitely describe Spokane's best store for gifts.

There's the candy necklaces shaped like naughty parts, the Nightmare Before Christmas dolls and the fictional memoir of Bigfoot, Me Write Book, that will bring a look of surprise to any gift recipient.

What really defines Boo Radley's as Spokane's top gift location isn't that they necessarily have the largest selection, but that you can't find most of their stuff anywhere else. (TLM)

2ND PLACE: Mel's; 3RD PLACE: Simply Northwest; BEST NORTH IDAHO GIFTS: Sweetpea


BEST LOCALLY OWNED BUSINESS & BEST BOOKSTORE

Auntie's

A perennial favorite among Inlander readers and a Best of Hall of Famer, AUNTIE'S cultivates the culture of literacy by hosting author readings, book-group discussions and reader's theater performances.

"We try to focus on regional writers to give people a chance to hear them," says store owner Chris O'Harra. "Hearing unknowns talking about their books and reading them is exciting — it gets people to pick up books that they otherwise might not have."

Big box and Internet retailers are putting pressure on independent booksellers everywhere, so O'Hara says thanks to everyone who supports the little guy. (MLO)

BEST BOOKSTORE 2ND PLACE: Barnes & Noble; 3RD PLACE: Borders

BEST LOCALLY OWNED BUSINESS 2ND PLACE: Northern Quest Casino; 3RD PLACE (TIE): Finders Keepers, Jaazz Salon


BEST BED & BREAKFAST

Hannah's Garden Inn

Here's some irony: 2008 is the first year in quite a while that The Inlander has had a "Best Bed & Breakfast" category on the ballot, and Hannah's Garden Inn wins... as the building is up for sale.

"It has served us well as we put ourselves in the position of making people happy," says owner Shawn Nichols. Despite a "tremendous emotional attachment" to the establishment and its clients, Nichols and his wife Anne Marie want to invest more time in their family.

There is substantial interest in the property by "uniquely qualified buyers," according to Nichols. They'll probably continue to operate it as it has been, he says.

So long Hannah's — you went out on top. (MLO)

2ND PLACE: The Clark House; 3RD PLACE: Waverly Place


BEST OF HALL OF FAMER

JAAZZ SALON

From humble beginnings as a one-chair operation in a 400-square-foot space in Cheney in 1985, Jaazz Salon has achieved more than local admiration: It has been recognized by national and even international organizations as one of the best there is. It's been a fixture in The Inlander's Best of pages for years, and now Jaazz has taken the final step to immortality — induction into the Hall of Fame. Is that a "good hair day," or what?

Owners Mark and Sonna Brado credit their team. "That's from the front desk to the estheticians," Sonna says, sporting an impeccably teased masterpiece of blondeness.

"We probably have the most educated estheticians in the city," Mark adds. "I'd be willing to bet on that."

Mark — who handles more of the business and marketing side of things while his wife Sonna focuses more on the art of hair styling — says that they've been building that team over the years with some clear goals in mind.

"We wanted to be multi-ethnic in how we approached hair — the ability to do all hair types," he says, noting that Jaazz got "really good at Asian hair" from working with the large population of Asian students at EWU. Jaazz now has two Japanese stylists on board, one from Korea and one from Russia.

"Another goal was to give the best service available," Mark continues. "One of the things you always hear is: 'They didn't listen to what I wanted to do with my hair.'" Acknowledging that it's a challenge and that there's always room to improve, he adds, "We give the service that people want and expect, and we try to exceed that." Goal number three was to keep that service affordable.

Pursuing those goals, Jaazz has been recognized by Salon Magazine — the premiere publication of the industry — as one of the best 200 salons in North America. According to Mark, there are more than 440,000 salons in that pool. Do the math. Also, the salon was accepted late in 2007 into Intercoiffure, an exclusive international organization of hairdressers that promotes the interests of the industry. "Only one-tenth of 1 percent of salons in the country — or the world — get accepted into Intercoiffure," Mark says proudly.

So, what's next? Mark thinks that "regional dominance" is a good place to start. Jaazz is opening another salon back in Cheney this year, and hopes to have another three opened within the next three years.

— MICK LLOYD-OWEN


Good Answer!

Wisdom from the ballots of our Best Of Voters

Megan Cozza's Inlander Best of ballot came with a little * by her name. "I believe I have participated in every Best of since you began!" she wrote proudly. That's worth something — a few words of praise, if not a medal.

Megan, whose husband Sam is a Spokane County Superior Court judge, says her tastes have obviously changed since the first Best of survey all the way back in 1994. "We didn't have kids then, now we have three," she says. "Now it's kind of hard for me to answer the questions about the best clubs and nightlife."

Megan's ballot gives clues about her role as mom: Best Shoes — Big 5. "My kids are in sports!" she writes. Best Charity Event — G-Prep Auction. Best Italian Food — Luigi's — "or mine!"

"It's fun to participate" in the survey, says Megan. "They ask your opinion and let you promote local businesses you feel strongly about."

It also gives Megan a chance to choose people she admires. "I love Nadine Woodward," she says. "She does so much for the community. She's at all kinds of charity events. Two years ago she spoke at a fundraising luncheon that I attended."

Spokane's still small enough that you might know some of the people who win the survey, she says. It's a six-degrees (or fewer)-of-separation kind of place. "I'm always asked whether I'm related to the judge or to the builders. Or whether Cozza Drive (in north Spokane) was named after us." (Yes, no and no, by the way.)

Best of is "a great way to build community," she says. We'll look forward to getting her ballot next year as well to make it a sweet 16 in a row.

— DOUG NADVORNICK

Previous Winners

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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