BEST ORGANIC/NATURAL FOODS
With Romanesco broccoli in one hand and a bag of locally roasted, organic coffee in the other, Huckleberry’s continues to slay its competitors. And it’s not easy. There’s new competition downtown (Main Market Coop) and an old foe across the border (Pilgrim’s). No worries. The old stalwart Huckleberry’s offers wholesome food at prices palatable to shoppers. So if you’re looking to fill a shopping cart with fresh produce to cook at home, or you just want to grab some quick, delicious grub from their 9th Street Bistro, head to Huckleberry’s. (ND)
2nd PLACE: Main Market Co-op; 3rd PLACE: Pilgrim’s Market in Coeur d’Alene
BEST HAIR SALON
Standing before the picture windows of Jaazz Salon on Washington and Riverside is like watching a colony of bees making honey in the hexagons of their hive. The mirrors, salon chairs and tasteful splashes of color display perfect symmetry. Inside, the place hums with style — eyelash extensions, airbrush makeup, hair straightening and smoothing — and, in the words of marketing director Mark Brado, “consistency reigns.” Stylists may change, but creativity and customer service continue to create a buzz. Asked about winning Inlander votes for the 14th year, Brado says, “It’s awesome. I’m constantly blown away by it.” (AV)
2nd PLACE: 14th and Grand; 3rd PLACE: Dimensions; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Bombshell
Jewelry Design Center
The institution of marriage is older than recorded history, but tying the knot with originality isn’t a total lost cause. The experts at Jewelry Design Center make it their business to craft custom-designed wedding bands and jewelry as creative as you dare. If you can’t find “forever” in the center’s 12,800 square feet of bling, goldsmiths and designers are on hand to cater to your whims — and your budget. In 1981, Exploring Spokane Magazine praised owner Doug Toone for the “personal interest that is given to every customer order.” Thirty years later, that still rings true.
2nd PLACE: Finders Keepers; 3rd PLACE: Pounders; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Clark’s
BEST CAR DEALERSHIP
Kristin Goff pauses when asked what has made her family’s business so successful. Wendle Motors has been open in Spokane since 1943, and in that time, they have sold over 200,000 cars. This is their 10th time being voted as Best Car Dealership, placing them into our Hall of Fame. After her pause, Goff simply determines it is the people at Wendle that make the difference.
Goff grew up in the car business. Her grandfather started Wendle and passed it down to his son, Kristin Goff’s father. While some kids may have complained about having to help with the family business, Goff reveled in it — she did everything from picking up trash in the lot to organizing paperwork in the office. This is where she felt she belonged.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is work in the car business,” she says.
It seems as though Goff and her family have managed to find staff who also have a strong dedication to Wendle Motors. The company employs 133 people — some of them have been with Wendle for over 30 years. That benefits the customer; Goff says that her sales team puts a lot of effort into continuing customer service.
“[The sales staff] do a good job of staying in touch with their customers,” says Goff. “The relationship doesn’t end after the sale.”
In addition to selling and maintaining cars, Wendle also participates in community outreach. This April, they are pairing with their original supplier, Ford, for Drive One For Your School, a program that will donate $20 to a school booster club for every test drive taken on campus. Goff says it’s especially fun for students, because they get to keep up on the new technology in cars. She says this year the program will be at Mead High School at the end of April.
Keeping with family tradition and expectations has kept Wendle Motors at the top spot all these years, and Goff plans to keep it going.
“I think a lot about my grandfather and how proud he would be,” says Goff. “Especially something like this for 10 years in a row …” (TH)
2nd PLACE: Dave Smith Motors; 3rd PLACE: Parker Toyota
Liberty Park Florist
A 78,000-square-foot greenhouse, 82 years of service, and three generations make Liberty Park Florist an official Spokane institution. The Alice family has seen us through weddings and funerals, bad work parties, awkward high school dances, and countless celebrations and apologies in between. They never stop growing: Soon, Jim Alice will overhaul 11,000 square feet of greenhouse in the name of energy efficiency. Another reason this pillar of South Perry stands as a reminder of what good business can be — and that no matter how old we are or what we’ve done, a perfect bouquet can go a long way. (AV)
2nd PLACE: Appleway Florist; 3rd PLACE: Beau-K; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Hansen’s
The Tin Roof
It says something when you beat out a massive national bargain spot and a regional chain with a deep history in the community. That’s what Tin Roof’s done, though. The heir apparent to the Burgan’s Furniture hegemony, the East Sprague furniture shop has won this category every year since 2008. And while owner Heather Hanley has opened up another shop (Concept::Home), focusing on cleaner lines and modernist décor, Spokies still seem to love the battered luxury of Tin Roof’s reclaimed-looking woods, antique-looking accents, sumptuous leathers and comfy, high-end sectionals. (LB)
2nd PLACE: Walker’s; 3rd PLACE: MOR Furniture
BEST PAWN SHOP
Sure, you’ll be a rock star soon. But it’s tough to practice while sitting in the dark. When you need to hock your ’73 Gibson Les Paul Custom to pay the power bill, Pawn 1 should be your first stop. With 13 locations throughout Washington and Idaho, they’ve become the go-to standard for people in a financial pinch or those looking for deals. But don’t think they’ve got only musical instruments and car stereos. With a Dottie’s Discount Jewelry at many Pawn 1 locations, they can handle all your bling needs when you finally do make it big. (AM)
2nd PLACE: Dutch’s; 3rd PLACE: Double Eagle
River Park Square
I get so scared when I’m headed up to AMC’s 20th theater in River Park Square. It’s got a great view, but it’s very high. And I get really full when I eat at Sushi Maru, because there’s a river of sushi eternally flowing by. And I lose track of time in Auntie’s Books at the Square because, really, there’s so many things to read in there. And I blow an impressive amount of money at the Apple Store because I can’t resist awesome things. And I like skywalks. (ND)
2nd PLACE: NorthTown Mall; 3rd PLACE: Spokane Valley Mall NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Riverstone Shops, CdA
BEST LOCAL ADVERTISING SLOGAN
Spokane Pump: "We Fix Things That Suck"
George Hughbanks, a salesman at Spokane Pump, says there’s one thing that sucks that neither he nor any of his co-workers can fix.
“Our road out front,” he says of the potholed section of Trent where the business resides. “It gets ravaged every year. But it got really destroyed when they were rebuilding the Freya Bridge. … There are giant holes. It’s like the moon.”
But that axle-destroying road isn’t the only thing that sucks, because a ton of Inlander readers voted Spokane Pump’s advertising slogan the best.
“We fix things that suck,” Spokane Pump proclaims.
Really? Can you fix Oprah Winfrey? What about clowns or marshmallows? Email spam? Charlie Sheen? Moody, misanthropic co-workers?
What about the vacuum of space? Can you fix that?
“We get customers who want us to fix the Mariners,” Hughbanks says. “Their ex-wives.”
Spokane Pump has not fixed the Mariners, for the record. On the contrary, the company fixes pumps, air compressors and pressure washers, stuff like that.
Well, don’t fix that slogan. We all agree: It definitely doesn’t suck.
Another slogan readers like that doesn’t need fixing is the City of Spokane’s “Near Nature, Near Perfect,” which was nearly No. 1.
In third place is the Spokane Boat Show’s “Only in a Boat,” which reminds me of “I’m in a Boat,” from Saturday Night Live, which has more than 54 million views on YouTube. So the boat show folks are on to something.But really, businesses in the Inland Northwest are on to something.
Northern Quest says “what happens in Vegas, happens in Airway Heights.”
“More taps than tables,” from Coeur d’Alene’s Capone’s.
“Buy the bagfull,” of Dick’s.
“Spay Yo’ Mama.” That’s SpokAnimal.
And the songs, which are kind of hard to relate in print, are equally stunning.
Banner Fuel’s delightful ditty won over many readers. And how genius is it to put your address in a song? I’ll never forget North 122 Helena. Never, ever.
And lest we forget Chewelah Casino. That song is so catchy you don’t even realize that the casino is actually in the middle of nowhere. Whatever. I’m going there. (ND)
2nd PLACE: City of Spokane: “Near Nature, Near Perfect”; 3rd PLACE: Spokane Boat Show: “Only in a Boat”; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Capone’s: “More Taps Than Tables”
BEST BARBER SHOP
At some point, men decided haircuts were not to be savored. Chain stores butchered your excess head-fur as cheaply and quickly as possible, while infomercials sold vacuum attachments for the DIYers. With executive-stye furnishings, sports on TV and traditional touches like scalp massages and straight-razor shaves, Weldon Barber’s four Spokane locations pamper dudes without offending their oh-so-precious masculinity. And we’re thankful for the change in course: The way things were heading, drive-throughs would’ve been next. (AM)
2nd PLACE: The Man Shop; 3rd PLACE: Dan’s Barber Shop
Davenport Hotel and Tower
No one is as responsible for the beauty of Spokane’s built environment than architect Kirtland Cutter. After years of designing many of the city’s most recognizable structures — the Glover Mansion, the Patsy Clark Mansion, the Campbell House and the Monroe Street Bridge, among others — Cutter devised the plans for the Davenport Hotel in 1914. Though the hotel is privately owned (Walt Worthy renovated the building for $30 million), its lobby is open to everyone, and it has become Spokane’s living room. Which is why it has again topped our list for Best Hotel — despite many of us never even having stayed there. (ND)
2nd PLACE: Northern Quest Casino Hotel; 3rd PLACE: Montvale Hotel; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Coeur d’Alene Resort
BEST VINTAGE BOUTIQUE
Finders Keepers vintage jewelry is so incredibly ornate — yet so tastefully retro and gorgeous — that clothing becomes almost unnecessary in its presence. The diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls seem to drip from the ceiling of this boutique, which maintains each piece’s stylish history and reinvents vintage fashion by making one-of-a-kind rings, bracelets, hair pieces and accessories. Quite simply, Finders Keepers will give you heart palpitations. (JB)
2nd PLACE: Fringe and Fray; 3rd PLACE: Carousel; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Hippie Kat, CdA
BEST NEW BUSINESS
Sun People Dry Goods
Things got a little David-and- Goliath around the Best New Business category this year. I mean, you know, an Apple Store opened in 2010, for God’s sake. People camped outside the place. And then they kept coming.
Morning to night, all day, every day, the Apple Store is a hive of hip-geek activity.
And yet, when the dust settled on Best Of 2011, the Best New Business title was not awarded to the Spokane arm of the second most valuable company in the world. (Apple ranks just behind a little startup called Exxon Mobil in valuation.)
No, the winner was a completely homegrown place that opened its doors a mere two months ago.
Sun People Dry Goods toppled the digital lifestyle giant handily — crushed them in the voting, actually — by offering things as decidedly analog as barrels for capturing rain water and non-toxic crib mattresses.
Primary owner Juliette Sinisterra says her idea was to offer the full gamut of sustainable items, from soy candles to chicken coops.
The variety stems partly from idealism. “I believe this is all the way we’re going to be living in 10 years, the way resources are,” Sinisterra says. “So it’s now or never.” Sun People, though, was also born of pragmatism. “People come at sustainability from different angles,” she says — everything from seasonal allergies to personal ethics. “We’re trying to create different entry points.”
Sinisterra says right now the business is 80 percent people who have already bought in to the notion of sustainability. The next step is to target everyone else.
“We were just at the baby fair at the Convention Center,” she says. “Eighty percent of people weren’t sure why they should have BPA-free plastics for their babies, or why a non-toxic crib mattress is important.”
That education extends to the store itself. “I have a great staff,” she says, “We try to be really earnest and honest and do our homework on the products we sell.”
It’s an extra step that Sinisterra hopes will make the business as sustainable as the lifestyle it sells. “We’re trying to build a culture around living this way,” she says, “not just selling green products.” (LB)
2nd PLACE: The Apple Store; 3rd PLACE: Sky High Sports
BEST CREDIT UNION
Whenever Tom Johnson, the new president of Spokane Teacher’s Credit Union, reveals to a stranger where he works, the response is always the same: “I love STCU!”
STCU loves you, too. A red alabaster heart sits on every STCU employee’s desk to remind them. STCU proves it with beaming teller smiles, free cookies on payday, and piggy banks — with sections for spending, savings, and charity — given away to kids.
STCU’s mission statement is “to be the most loved and valued financial relationship on earth.”
Consider that mission accomplished. (DW)
2nd PLACE: Numerica; 3rd PLACE: Global Credit Union
BEST CLOTHING BOUTIQUE
Shopping for clothes is usually either horrifying or pleasurable, but thanks to places like Lolo, women can shop comfortably and look stylish with ease. The boutique has everything you need for the office, home and a few nightlife get-ups in between, whether you’re looking for a pair of skinny jeans and a pinstriped sweater or a mockdenim dress with a cinched waist and zippers running down the sides. And much like the boutique itself, the owner is adorable. She’ll find you the perfect ensemble in no time. (JB)
2nd PLACE: Swank; 3rd PLACE: Finders Keepers; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Tiffany Blue, CdA
Washington Trust Bank
It’s hard to find a balance between the personal relationship of a small business and the service selection of a bigger one, but somehow Washington Trust Bank has managed to do so. While they are the oldest and largest privately owned commercial bank in the Pacific Northwest, they still maintain high standards of customer service and provide the same financial options as larger chain banks. Because they are based locally, they’re able to cater their services to local needs. And that goes a long way. (TH)
2nd PLACE: U.S. Bank; 3rd PLACE: Sterling Savings Bank
As if walking into the Davenport doesn’t make you feel special enough as it is, the hotel also is home to Spa Paradiso. The full-service salon and spa boasts a comprehensive array of services to pamper you headto- toe, including facials, manicure/pedicures, waxing and a salon. Their menu of massages, though, really sets them apart, as they use a variety of techniques to cater to your specific needs, both spiritually and physically. The spa even has special options for expecting mothers and couples. Anything you need to rejuvenate yourself can be found here. (TH)
2nd PLACE: Currents at Northern Quest; 3rd PLACE: Brickhouse; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Z Spa
BEST MOM AND POP BUSINESS
For a while there, the beloved Mom-and-Pop was looking like that other symbol of America — the bald eagle. Locally owned small businesses were threatened with extinction from every manner of out-of-town big-boxer. But guess what? People started to wise up and realize how important locally-owned small businesses are to our ecosystem. Mom-and-Pops are making a comeback, and Inlander readers are among their biggest fans. We had a ton of different local businesses receiving votes, with the beloved throwback Miller’s Hardware leading the way from its perch on 29th Avenue at Lincoln Heights. Think about it: Each vote for a local Mom and Pop represents a local dream, local jobs and a needed service delivered well. You can second these motions by shopping locally. (TSM)
2nd PLACE: Boo Radley’s; 3rd PLACE: (tie) Domini’s, Donut Parade
NORTH IDAHO’S BEST VINTAGE BOUTIQUE
Andra Uecke’s love affair with fashion began when she was just a kid. As her mom describes her daughter’s early obsession with vintage clothing, it’s hard not to picture Uecke as Molly Ringwald’s character in the iconic ’80s movie Pretty in Pink. Uecke was that creative and artistic kid. And she could sew like nobody’s business. She became a regular at the Second Hand Rose thrift store, scouring the racks for gems to take home and rehab or re-imagine.
“Vintage clothing has always been a love of hers,” says her mother, Dee Pierce, “and having a store is always what she has wanted to do.”
So in 2007, Uecke set up shop in downtown Coeur d’Alene. She painted Hippie Kat a vibrant turquoise inside and out and stocked the store with finds from high-end estate sales, along with clothes from her own wardrobe. She even raided her mom’s closet, looking for pieces with impeccable construction.
“I know she’s really disappointed in the quality of clothes now, so Andra gets really excited when she finds stuff that was made in the ’50s,” adds Pierce. “No matter where she travels, she always looks and shops for the store.”
As her business has flourished, Uecke says people now call her when they’re ready to part with vintage treasures. Dresses, blouses, coats and accessories at Hippie Kat span from 1940s pencil skirts to ’50s cocktail dresses and ’80s sweaters, complete with shoulder pads.
Uecke’s the first to admit that some trends aren’t worth a second round. She’s picky, and she has impeccable taste. Even though the merchandise is vintage, the store feels edgy and contemporary. Yet customers beyond disaffected hipsters flock to Hippie Kat. Uecke is a willing and talented stylist and can help vintage virgins put together entire outfits.
For both Uecke and Pierce, this year’s Best Of win is a little bittersweet, though. The store is temporarily closed because Uecke is sick and headed to the Mayo Clinic.
“She loves what she does. This has been a dream of Andra’s since high school. So closing the store was really difficult for her,” says Pierce.
Uecke recently worked out a deal with the Women’s Center Thrift Store just a few blocks from her previous location on Fourth Street. She plans to move her business inside the Women’s Center.
“It’s a cool deal for me,” explains Uecke. “After a while, I couldn’t stand in the store. At that time, I didn’t think I’d reopen.”
First on the agenda: painting the Hippie Kat section her signature turquoise. Customers can expect the same quality vintage wear but maybe some lower price points, since she hopes to also help style the women in transition that the center serves.
Uecke hopes to re-open by the end of May. And, health permitting, she’s ready to set appointments to style anyone who’s willing (for free!). (TLM)
All 17 times The Inlander Best Of contest has had a Best Bookstore category, readers have vaulted Auntie’s to No. 1. With independent bookstores allegedly so fragile in the onslaught of competition from national chains and Internet book sellers, Auntie’s is certainly a beloved behemoth in the opinion of local shoppers. The Book Seller Wars have left marks on Auntie’s, to be sure, but the store has adapted with a bigger online presence and has also played to its strengths of having a staff of passionate bibliophiles, a huge range of books tantalizingly displayed and a robust author reading series. (KT)
2nd PLACE: Barnes and Noble; 3rd PLACE: Borders
The eclectic store has “everything you never knew you needed,” says Jen Menzer, a 10-year Boo Radley’s employee and enthusiast. And you really do need this stuff. There’s a Bendable Mr. Bacon Action Figure who battles Monsieur Tofu to be at the top of the food chain. There’s the Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure, a Marie Antoinette Action Figure with a removable head, and a wall of the popular plush UglyDolls. The book selection rivals the toys with comics, art magazines and coffee table gems like The Snark Handbook and That Book of Perfectly Useless Information. Menzer says most people come in to buy a gift and undoubtedly find something they want for themselves. Whether you’re buying for a raunchy friend or a quirky kid, Boo Radley’s probably has it. (CF)
2nd PLACE: Atticus; 3rd PLACE: Mel’s Nursery; NORTH IDAHO’S BEST: Lucky Monkey
BEST STORE THE INLAND NW NEEDS
Sweden invented dynamite, lutefisk, ABBA and Stieg Larsson. All are things that should be taken in small quantities.
But you know what we need? Some sleek, simple, modern Scandinavian furniture at an affordable price. And we need a lot of it.
So, for herren gud’s sake, let’s get an IKEA already! I need some modular bookcases. (ND)
2nd PLACE: Whole Foods; 3rd PLACE: Crate and Barrel
BEST BED AND BREAKFAST
E.J. Roberts Mansion
When Mary Moltke bought the E.J. Roberts mansion in 1981 — nearly 100 years after it was built — it cost $60,000 and looked its age. The Browne’s Addition mansion had gone from a singlefamily home to a boarding house to a group home for alcoholics to apartments. The roof leaked. Windows panes were cracked. The plumbing and electrical were shot.
“I did a room a year for 23 years while my kids were growing up,” Moltke says. “By the time it was finished, my kids were in college.”
Today, the place is a fully restored B&B, and staying there is an immersion experience in 19th century luxury — plus WiFi and flat screens, of course. The home, built in the Victorian Queen Anne style of the times, features a sunlit parlor room, a heavily draped library, and a dining room complete with secret safes and hidden doorways. Sip wine in the billiard room for a taste of Prohibition-era rebellion, or take afternoon tea from polished silver kettles, served by a maid in turn-ofthe- century garb.
Four suites occupy the second floor, each featuring clawfoot tubs and private balconies. The Rose Suite lends a view of the rose garden and the “secret garden,” a walled enclave tucked behind the mansion. The Mary Tracy Suite (originally Mrs. Roberts’ bedroom), with fireplace and secluded sitting room, was featured on the cover of Victorian Homes magazine.
Guests are treated to fresh scones on arrival, wine and cheese in the evening, and a three-course breakfast in the morning. Sample fare might include fresh fruit, salmon-feta quiche or a gorgonzolaavocado omelet, and cheese blintzes.
You don’t have to book a room to take in the historical splendor of the place, though. Every second Saturday of the month, folks can reserve a spot for Victorian Tea, from 1-3 pm. The mansion serves wine during Spokane’s First Fridays. It’s a popular place for weddings and private events. And Moltke’s latest project, a “communityoriented” restaurant, which she’ll call E.J.’s, is slated to open early this summer in Browne’s Addition.
“We’re really thrilled to be number one with Inlander readers,” Moltke says. While she’s worked to create a space where guests are “treated like royalty,” it’s also been a 30-year labor of local love. As she tells a crowd gathered for afternoon tea, “You can’t come here and leave without a little Spokane history.” (AV)
2nd PLACE: Waverly Place; 3rd PLACE: Roosevelt Inn, CdA
Mary Kate Wheeler
Last October, Stephen Colbert accused Tammy Dunakin’s goats of stealing Americans’ jobs. One Inlander reader thinks they should start chewing lawns in Spokane.
Mary Kate Wheeler, a transplant from Vermont, voted that the Best Business Our Region Needs is a Rent-a-Sheep lawn care service. Tammy Dunakin owns Rent-A-Ruminant, based on Vashon Island, in the Puget Sound, and Wheeler saw her goats eating vegetation on the side of I-5 in Seattle one day. Wheeler is an advocate of the transition movement (she chose the Main Market Co-op deli as Best “Fast Food”) and recently organized a Spokane permaculture study group, so naturally she thought Dunakin’s business was a great idea.
“Sheep lawncare is a quiet, clean, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional landscaping,” Wheeler explains.
Hiring animals also has practical and economic benefits. One guest on Stephen Colbert’s segment estimated that the goats cost him $2,500 an acre, while a human crew costs about four times as much. Goats and sheep can also work in difficult locations that might be dangerous for machinery. Conventional lawn equipment would have a very hard time working on steep hillsides, but goats thrive in those conditions.
If Dunakin does bring her herd to Spokane, it won’t be for lack of business on Vashon. She works with private and government clients, like the City of Seattle and last year was even contracted by the Department of Defense to clear land on a nuclear sub-base.
Wheeler thinks her neighborhood, Vinegar Flats, would be very receptive to the business idea. She acknowledges there might be more agricultural acceptance there, but says urban areas could definitely use the service, too. “Anywhere with vacant lots and areas that aren’t being well tended to,” Wheeler says. “It’s low energy input for people, and it would add character to the neighborhood.”
Besides a sheep lawn care service, Wheeler had other ideas about improvements, specifically to our reader’s poll. Next year, she wants to see categories for Best Farmer, Best Farmers Market, Best Sustainable Business, Best Nonprofit and Best Pothole.
She explained that last suggestion: “There are some really good [potholes] in High Bridge Park, and apparently the parks department is considering closing the road because it doesn’t want to invest in getting rid of them.” (CF)