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Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004 10:17 am

Best of Springfield Goods & Services

art1420
Best store for used CDs or vinyl: Recycled Records
Photo by Nick Steinkamp

BEST AUTO MECHANICS

Dave Floyd and Eric Floyd
Floyd Imports, 1026 Adlai Stevenson Dr., 217-585-1214
Dave Floyd went from high school straight to working on cars at Howard Hembrough Volkswagen in 1974. A year and a half later, brother Eric followed him into the trade. In 1994, Dave and Eric started Floyd Imports. Ten years later, Dave and Eric Floyd share the most votes from our readers in the Best Auto Mechanic category. "We have a passion for Volkswagens and Audis," says Dave Floyd. "We know how the German engineers think about these cars." Even though they specialize, the brothers work on any import -- a good thing, given that about 40 percent of the cars owned by Springfieldians are imports, by Dave Floyd's estimate. "On the other hand, Jacksonville, where we grew up, is probably 85 percent domestic-built cars. Springfield is a great city for import mechanics."
Runner-up: Brahler Tire & Auto Center

BEST BARTENDER

Mike Parkes
Brewhaus, 617 E. Washington St., 217-525-6399
What are the ingredients that go into the making of a good bartender? Whatever they are, it's apparent that Mike Parkes of the Brewhaus has them, and they're mixed to perfection. The proprietor of the downtown establishment wins this category year after year. He knows what you want, listens to your tales, and even entertains you, if need be. And he makes a good drink.
Runner-up: Marianne Groeteke, Sammy's Sports Bar

BEST STORE FOR NEW BOOKS

Barnes & Noble
3111 S. Veterans Parkway, 217-546-9440
Springfield's favorite place to buy new books is part of the nation's largest bookstore chain: Barnes & Noble, which has 800 warehouse-size locations in 49 states. The Springfield B&N attracts a variety of bookworms, many of whom don't slink home until the store's late closing hour of 10 p.m. Unlike the stuffy atmosphere of some public libraries -- with their backbreaking chairs and insistence that you keep your lip zipped -- B&N invites patrons to sip coffee and snack on pastries or just kick back while leafing through magazines and scanning an endless array of fascinating titles. A tidbit for Illinois-trivia buffs: The "Barnes" of Barnes & Noble is William Barnes, son of Charles M. Barnes, who in 1873 opened his first book business out of his home in Wheaton, Ill. Runner-up: Chapter One Bookstore

BEST STORE FOR USED BOOKS

Prairie Archives
522 E. Adams St., 217-522-9742
With its soaring pressed-tin ceilings and endless clutter of yellowing $3 paperbacks and musty old tomes, Prairie Archives has all the trappings of a great used-book shop. Now a Springfield tradition, Prairie Archives Ñ open since 1973 Ñ boasts a collection of some 250,000 used books, as well as vintage photographs, CDs, LPs, and 45s. With rooms that unfold one onto the next and tables and chairs piled high with unknown treasures, this mainstay on the east side of Old Capitol Plaza has long provided a wonderful way to while away an afternoon. There's even a pair of good-natured retrievers to keep you company. So pull up a seat, browse the stacks, stay as long as you like. But please Ñ as the signs on the door warn Ñ don't let the dogs out.
Runner-up: The Elf Shelf

BEST FITNESS INSTRUCTOR

Teresa Meyer-DeStasio
Springfield Racquet & Fitness Club, 3725 Chatham Rd., 217-787-2460
You know what makes a great fitness instructor? Somebody who kicks your butt in every class and makes you love every minute of it. That pretty much describes Teresa Meyer-DeStasio, who, as one of her spinning students says, gives you "a good-feeling kind of wipeout." For the past 16 years, Meyer-DeStasio has taught a variety of classes at Springfield Racquet & Fitness Center. Right now she teaches Spinning, bodysculpting, and cross-training.
Runner-up: Michelle Eades, YMCA

BEST FLORIST

Fifth Street Flower Shop
739 S. Fifth Street, 217-522-3334
If you think about it, the essence of a flower shop should be romance. Whether the flowers are for a lover, a mother, or a funeral, there's got to be heart in them, right? Maybe that explains why owner Pat O'Connor, who, for more than 15 years, has owned this "old-fashioned florist shop" specializing in real Ñ not silk Ñ flowers, has no living plants in his home. "I see them all day; I don't need to see them at home. And besides," he says, getting to the heart part, "my wife likes chocolate better."
Runner-up: Heartwarmers by Katie

BEST HAIR STYLIST

Velma Chiaro
Famous Salon, 2751 Chatham Rd., 217-787-4247
Velma Chiaro has won this category for the second year in a row. Co-owner of the little strip-mall salon called Famous (so named because it's the same crew that used to staff the salon at Famous-Barr), Chiaro has been styling hair for close to 40 years. Judging by her appearance, then, you'd guess that she graduated beauty school in diapers, but she swears she's about to turn 60. Looking fabulous is only a fraction of Chiaro's charm, though: In less than a half-hour, Val -- as she's known to her clients, who adopt Chiaro's Chicago-accented pronunciation of her own name -- will give you a great cut and an even better conversation for only $14. Runner-up: Cathy Grimmett, BJ Grand Salon & Spa

BEST MASSAGE THERAPIST

Mary C. Atkins
Mary Atkins NCTMB, 2160 S. Sixth St., 217-544-4450
Born in Springfield and raised in Rochester, Mary Atkins was the hands-down (pun intended) winner in this category. The term "massage therapy" carries an anachronistic cachet that is undeserved in this century. "There are seemingly infinite types of body work," she says. "Chiropractic works with vertebral bony structures. Massage works with soft tissues." Atkins says that "massage," as most people who have received massages know it, consumes only about 40 percent of her typical workday. Gaining in popularity is craniosacral therapy, which is focused on cerebrospinal fluid and is used to address problems of the central nervous system. The low-pressure, "clothes on" sessions last 15 minutes to an hour. "As a message therapist, I work with people seeking to address specific problems," Atkins says. "It's not a 'spa thing,' it's a therapy."
Runner-up: Donna Felton

BEST NAIL TECHNICIAN

The staff of TC Nail Salon
2451 S. MacArthur Blvd., 217-698-5051
So many nail techs at TC received votes, we just decided to take the advice of one voter who cast her ballot for "everyone at TC Nails." Large enough to handle walk-ins but still make loyal customers feel special, TC specializes in being well-organized, clean, and professional, according a friend who has gorgeous nails. "And if I crack or break a nail, they can usually get me right in," she says.
Runner-up: The staff of LA Nails Ltd.

BEST NURSERY OR GREENHOUSE

Green View Nursery
3000 W. Jefferson St., 217-787-4700
Springfield gardeners have given a green thumbs-up to Green View as Springfield's best nursery or greenhouse. A potter's paradise, Green View offers both landscape services and a vast retail garden center. Its grounds are sumptuously landscaped with flowering rose and juniper bushes and rows of spruce, pine, and magnolia saplings. Green View also sells a variety of garden-related wares -- everything from shovels to shears, clogs to chimes, pottery to patio furniture. Started 50 years ago in Peoria, the family-owned nursery also has locations in Bloomington, Champaign, Dunlap, and Oswego.
Runner-up: Pleasant Nursery

BEST PERSONAL TRAINER

Chip Wagner
Springfield Racquet & Fitness Center, 3725 Chatham Rd., 217-787-2460
Chip Wagner didn't become a trainer by accident. It was his goal from the start. "I majored in athletic training and minored in biology," he says. Wagner, who grew up in the Springfield area, graduated first from Pleasant Plains High School and then from Lincoln Land Community College with an associate's degree in physical education. In November, he will have spent seven years in the profession, including the past nine months at Springfield Racquet & Fitness Center. The variety of clients he works with has expanded greatly in that time, he says: "I've worked with deaf and mute people to junior-high to college athletes to a 67-year-old." Part of his day involves designing training programs for specific clients. "People are taking an interest in the value of their lives," Wagner says, "and personal trainers can help in ways you do not enjoy from random exercise." During the summer, Wagner coaches a travelling baseball team based in Springfield, and he teaches hitting all year. It's a popular misconception, Wagner says, that personal trainers are intimidating: "We have our moments, but it all depends on the person's goals when they come here. We develop some good relationships and often, from that, good friends as well."
Runner-up: Josh Frisch, Fit Club

BEST PLACE TO BUY A HAMMER AND A HOT DOG

Ace Hardware 214 N. Walnut St., 217-528-5673; 1600 W. Wabash Ave., 217-787-5100; 3050 S. Koke Mill Rd., 217-793-3985
For lunch on the cheap, Thursday through Sunday, the best place to buy a hot dog and a hammer is Ace Hardware. George W. Preckwinkle, whose father started the local Ace Hardware just after World War II, says the hot dog stand in a hardware store began in the mid-'70s and evolved over time. At first, just an all-beef hot dog was offered, but it was soon followed by a cheese plumper and a Polish-style dog. "We tried a turkey-meat hot dog around Thanksgiving one year, but it didn't go over very well," Preckwinkle says. The hot dogs are popular not only with hardware customers but also with workers at nearby offices and even seniors looking for great American food in a special atmosphere.
Runner-up: Wal-Mart

BEST PLACE TO BUY ANTIQUES

Springfield Antique Mall
3031 Reilly Dr., 217-522-3031
One of the newest businesses to be embraced by Illinois Times readers, Springfield Antique Mall has been open since May 1. Owners Larry and Judy Boger and Dave and June Tullis are among the more than 50 vendors with display booths and showcases. The merchandise includes antiques, collectibles, books, jewelry, china, glassware, and NASCAR-related items, says manager Kate Kochman. The new business, she says, is thriving: "The day we opened, all booths and showcases were filled. Today we have a list of 25 collectors waiting for a vacancy."
Runner-up: Patricia Doyle and Associates

BEST STORE FOR NEW VIDEO GAMES

Best Buy
3193 S. Veterans Parkway, 217-698-8551
If you're a good mom, you might think the best place to buy video games is oh, say, the farmers market, or the botanical garden, or the natural-food store. In other words, you might think you shouldn't buy video games at all. If, on the other hand, you're the kind of mom who occasionally needs to have a phone conversation with computer tech support or a private discussion with your spouse about his freeloading kid brother or even just enough peace and quiet to focus on that box of macaroni to see how long to cook the noodles before adding the cheese powder, then you will need to buy a video game -- or two. And more than half of our voters say Best Buy is the place to do it. So there.
Runner-up: EB Games

BEST STORE FOR USED VIDEO GAMES

Game XChange
3145 S. Veterans Parkway, 217-787-8977
Some places sell used games. Game XChange sells the classics, such as Nintendo and Super Nintendo, which really isn't that super by today's graphics standards but is ultrasuper in its own retro-cool way. Game XChange sells not just the cartridges (starting at $3) but also the game systems (about $50). Of course, the store also stocks up-to-date items for virtually every system, everything from "Elmo's ABCs" for GameBoy to the gratuitously violent "Manhunt" for XBox. And that, boys and girls, is why Mother Nature gave us thumbs.
Runner-up: EB Games

BEST STORE FOR USED CDs OR VINYL

Recycled Records
625 E. Adams St., 217-522-5122
From humble beginnings 23 years ago on the second-floor landing of their mom and dad's Springfield Furniture Store, Mark and Gary Kessler have nurtured Recycled Records into our favorite place to buy used CDs or those old shiny black vinyl things called records. Remember records? The brothers Kessler also sell items the world over on the Internet, will order about any new music you want, and stock around 30,000 new and used CDs, plus numerous videos, DVDs, games, posters, beer lights, and books. Recycled Records is more than a store, though. It's an old-fashioned one-of-a-kind browsing center, where folks visit, see what's new and other who-knows-what merchandise or stop by just to say hi to the reigning queen of downtown herself, Mrs. K.
Runner-up: The Elf Shelf

BEST THRIFT STORE

Goodwill Industries
1333 W. Wabash, 217-793-3113; 815 N. 11th St., 217-789-0400; 2531 N. Dirksen Parkway, 217-544-5729
Amaze your friends and stun your co-workers with your fashionable wardrobe purchased at Goodwill. We've found silk blouses, designer jeans, and hip brands such as Hollister, Banana Republic, and Abercrombie & Fitch -- all for bargain prices. Fans queue up outside before the doors open on half-price Saturdays. And all this without the pop Jesus music played by the other thrift stores in town.
Runner-up: Salvation Army

BEST WAITER OR WAITRESS

Carlos Patino
Cinco de Mayo, 3751 S. Sixth St., 217-529-3066
Since opening last summer, Cinco de Mayo has drawn crowds of patrons who come for the large portions of fajitas and enchiladas, ice-cold margaritas and Mexican beer, and the festive, colorful atmosphere punctuated with hanging piñatas and sombreros. But another reason for the restaurant's instant popularity is Carlos Patino, the city's best waiter, who keeps customers happy by entertaining them with jokes. So if you want a hearty laugh to go with that hefty burrito, run, don't walk, to Cinco de Mayo.
Runner-up: Cozetta Maldonado, Imo's Pizza

BEST WINE SELECTION

Corkscrew Wine Emporium
2613 Chatham Rd., 217-698-1112
It's not how much, it's how. Even though it looks that way, Corkscrew's Springfield store does not offer wines from every country in the world. Geoffrey Bland, one of the four partners who opened the business in 1994 and the only one still with the business, says the Corkscrew carries about 1,000 wines, yet "there are wine-producing countries we do not represent yet." The quality of wine produced in some regions -- Eastern Europe, for example -- isn't quite up to Corkscrew's standards yet. In the past decade, Bland says, he's witnessed a measurable improvement in the "collective palate" of Springfieldians. "Our suppliers often comment on the level of sophistication in the Springfield market," he says. Considering who received their votes, they must be sophisticated.
Runner-up: Friar Tuck Beverage

BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR LAWNMOWER FIXED

JD's Lawnmower and Small Engine Repair
5376 River Road, 217-629-7777
Early this spring, better-known shops were backed up by a month. But JD's Lawnmower and Small Engine Repair Shop in Riverton was turning jobs around in less than a week. Not only that, but they picked up and delivered as well. A standard blade-sharpening, oil change, and tune-up ran about $40. Owners Phil and Sue Aiellooften worked past midnight to keep up with demand. But in the process they managed to serve 900 customers -- double what they did in their first year. At their daughter's suggestion, they named their business after St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew. Even though Drew is now an Atlanta Brave, the Aiellos plan no name change. However, they are offering a winterizing special. Call for details.

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