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Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016 01:14 am

Best Places

Brahler Tire and Auto Center
PHOTO BY TIMOTHY B. SMITH

BEST AUTO LUBE SHOP

Brahler Tire and Auto Center
531 E. Laurel St., 523-5645
1950 N. Dirksen Parkway, 523-0027
1557 Wabash Ave., 546-0234

When we bring our vehicles in for routine maintenance, we want it done right and we want it done fast. Readers agree: Brahler brings it on both fronts, and that’s been our personal experience. In business since the 1970s, Brahler has earned a reputation for honest, quick service that’s the next best thing to doing it yourself. Even without an appointment, we’ve never waited longer than five minutes for our car to reach a service bay, and Dad taught us that the engine should be hot when oil is changed. There are five locations around Springfield, plus a full-service tire and repair center if you need more than an oil change.
Finalists: CheckPoint Tire and Service Center; Jiffy Lube; Lube Master; Car-X Tire and Auto

BEST BANK
United Community Bank
700 Stevenson Drive, 529-3000
1900 W. Iles Ave., 787-3000
617 Bruns Lane, 787-3001

For one thing, there are a ton of branches, including three in Springfield, where the bank expanded in 1999 after a group of investors led by Robert Narmont got things started in 1973 by investing in Farmer’s State Bank in Greenfield, population 1,179. The bank now has offices in nine central Illinois counties, plus a branch in Missouri. The bank boasts a hometown banking philosophy and is led by a Springfield-centric board that includes such civic leaders as Diane Rutledge, former superintendent of Springfield District 186, and Rick Grenzebach, a partner at the law firm of Brown, Hay and Stephens. While interest rates are pretty much the same wherever you go, these folks aren’t going to steer you wrong by selling you credit cards and other stuff you never asked for, unlike some New York banks we know.
Finalists: Bank of Springfield; Marine Bank; Illinois National Bank; PNC Bank

BEST FLOWER SHOP
Fifth Street Flower Shop
739 S. Fifth St.
522-3334

There is nothing quite like walking into a full-service florist shop. No matter the time of year, the nose rejoices with the scent of roses and lilies and a zillion other blooms, the eyes delight at explosions of color surrounded by baby’s breath. They have nice flowers at supermarkets, yes, but it’s just not the same as a store where flowers are the main thing. Readers agree, and we speak from experience: Fifth Street Flower Shop never lets you down, with arrangements for all occasions and budgets. They’re happy to work with you and make suggestions if you’re not sure just what would work best, and they have you covered, whether you’re in search of a mixed bouquet, a dozen roses or an honest-to-goodness live ficus tree that’s as tall as a fourth-grader.
Finalists: Flowers by Mary Lou; Trendsetters Design; True Colors Floral Artistry; Flowers By Kathy

BEST GYM OR FITNESS CENTER
FitClub
2701 E. Sangamon Ave., 788-8250
3631 S. Sixth St., 787-8348
2811 W. Lawrence Ave., 787-1111

Readers agree: Bigger is better when it comes to getting smaller, and so FitClub, which has three locations in Springfield, gets the nod as the city’s best gym. The facilities are humongous, with the main location on South Sixth Street featuring a lap pool, a baseball diamond, an indoor track for running or walking and enough exercise equipment to get darn near all of Springfield in shape if we would simply get off our duffs. With an emphasis on personal trainers, FitClub, despite its size, also pays attention to details, offering free child care and coffee. For those on a budget who don’t need all the bells and whistles, memberships for the north end facility, the smallest location at “only” 11,000 square feet, can be purchased separately. So get cracking. There’s no excuse.
Finalists: YMCA; Planet Fitness; Roesch’s Gym; Capital City CrossFit

Ace Bicycle Shop
PHOTO BY BRIAN BOWLES

BEST BICYCLE SHOP
Ace Bicycle Shop
2500 South MacArthur Blvd.
523-0188

We love bicycle shops. Along with the best coffee shops and hair salons, bicycle shops are unique to their surroundings, whether along busy boulevards or in the shade of oaks towering over quiet neighborhood streets. “Hey, the Simplex derailleur on my 1972 Peugeot PX10 just went south – whom should I call?” Good luck with Walmart or Amazon. It’s the guy at the local bike shop who putters with this stuff because he’s genuinely interested, not because he figured he’d ever get rich, who’s going to solve your problem. Even after all these years, bicycle shops remain the quintessential local business. You can’t fix what’s not in front of you, nor can you sell the right bicycle to someone who can’t get aboard and take it for a spin. Springfield is fortunate. We have more quality bicycle shops per capita than darn near any other place that one can imagine, and we’ve been to a lot of places. As in past years, the voting was tight, with Ace Bike Shop coming out on top. Ace is a fine establishment that isn’t shy about boasting BMX roots, and that says something when there’s more money to be made catering to the road bike crowd. Notwithstanding heritage, Ace handles the spectrum with aplomb – they can figure out what’s ailing the brakes on your Bottechia as easily as they can figure out how to repair the Sturmey-Archer three-speed hub on your Raleigh upright. They’re absolutely committed to the cycling community, and so are others. If you’ve been in this business for a few years, you’re doing something right, and so celebrate your local bike shop.
Finalists: R and M Cyclery; The Bicycle Doctor; Biketek; Wheel Fast Bicycle Co.

BEST GARDEN CENTER
Farmer’s Market Garden Center
2001 Wabash Ave.
787-1061

We love this place. Nothing pretentious, just a whole bunch of plants and trees and everything you need to plant them near the back of a giant parking lot between Goodwill and a Hobby Lobby turned furniture store. You can’t beat the prices and selection. We scored sufficient mint, basil and cilantro plants to last us through several summers last spring for less than $10, and we are just now ready to harvest pumpkins from vines that nearly took over our garden from lesser plants. We’re not the type for flowers or shrubs, but they have plenty of those, too. Maybe next spring….
Finalists: The Apple Barn; Lowe’s; Buckley Prairie Landscaping; Pleasant Nursery; Ace Hardware

BEST GROCERY STORE
Hy-Vee
2115 S. MacArthur Blvd., 726-1001

From health food to moonshine, you can find it at Hy-Vee, the supermarket that’s been a Springfield sensation since opening in 2014. They sell expensive cheese and Scotch, sure, but we like the bargains, and we’ve found plenty in the past year, including turkeys and hams that went on sale for $5 apiece after the holidays. A couple weeks ago, they had Progresso soup for 88 cents a can, and not just tomato, lentil and other vegetable-only varieties. If you’re in a rush, they offer plenty of ready-to-eat food, and you can drop off dry cleaning thanks to a partnership with Starcrest Cleaners.
Finalists: County Market; Aldi’s; Schnucks; Meijer

BEST CATERING COMPANY
Nelson’s Catering
3005 Great Northern Ave., 787-9443

It began as a husband-and-wife team in Wakarusa, Indiana, 300 miles northeast of Springfield, back in 1967. Eva and Nelson Gongwer had been married nearly 30 years when he perfected a portable barbecue pit that could cook mass quantities of meat; she came up with the sauce. They started out at church picnics and today, nearly 50 years later, there are Nelson catering operations in towns throughout the Midwest, including Springfield. While the emphasis remains on barbecue – you gotta love those huge platters heaping with perfectly grilled chicken, ribs and brisket – the local version of Nelson’s is upscale enough to offer filet mignon and smoked salmon, plus late breakfast service for when the party runs late. The company also offers full bar service, and they can handle everything from outdoor picnics to fancy weddings to casual box lunches for the office to breakfast meetings, and they offer vegetarian pasta and portabella mushroom steaks for the meat challenged.
Finalists: Hy-Vee; Poe’s Catering; Hamilton’s Catering; 5Flavors Catering; Cooper’s StrEATside Bistro

BEST CONSIGNMENT/RESALE SHOP
Second Time Around
2440 Denver Drive, 744-7873

Springfield is a great town for used clothing. What with three major medical facilities filled with doctors, a ton of lawyers, plus politicians and their hangers-on, there’s a steady source of high-quality stuff, but it would take you forever to sort through it all if you made the rounds at thrift stores, where a lot of it ends up among no shortage of chafe. That’s where consignment stores shine, and it goes both ways. For those with overflowing closets, Second Time Around pays 40 percent of whatever it receives for quality used clothing – it’s a lot easier than putting it on eBay or Craigslist yourself. For those in search of bargains on women’s clothing and jewelry, the store offers such high-end brands as Coach and Burberry. You never know what you’ll find on any given day. The location puts Second Time Around over the top – it’s adjacent to Just Kids, which sells used clothing, books and furniture for children, and Consign and Design, which offers secondhand home furnishings. Dubbed The Shops On Denver Drive, this enclave of consignment stores is worth visiting on a regular basis. You never know what you might find.
Finalists: Plato’s Closet; Clothes Mentor; Just Kids; Flip Flops Consignment Shop; Consign and Design

BEST NAIL SALON
Soak Nails Massage and Spa, 2963 Lindbergh Blvd., 546-3821

The nail biz is a competitive one, with lots of options and salons constantly engaged, it seems, in a death battle to see who can get it done for the least money. Readers say that Soak is the best, and we’re in no position to argue. They can do the standard stuff – French set and so forth – but they are particularly skilled when it comes to making nails sing with depictions of flowers or even your favorite team’s logo. Beyond manicures, Soak also offers pedicures and massage services. A great place to treat yourself without breaking the bank.
Finalists: Luxe Nail Bar; BJ Grand Salon and Spa; Pink and White Nails and Spa; Sasa Nails and Spa

BEST AUTO REPAIR/SERVICE CENTER
Wilkerson’s Service Center
2840 Stevenson Drive, 529-0292

We are busy. We do not have time to waste talking on the phone or standing in line or sitting in a waiting area while someone else gets helped. This is the 21st century, after all, and they understand that at Wilkerson Auto Center, where you can arrange for repairs online, right down to describing what’s wrong and getting a quote for repairs. There’s free shuttle service if we’re talking a blown head gasket or a comfortable waiting room with free WiFi (of course) if you just need an oil change. Tire replacement and service is a strong suit, with an even dozen brands from which to choose. And this is a company you can trust. Springfield is a fairly small town. You don’t survive at the same location for 34 years if you’re not doing something right.
Finalists: Brahler Tire and Auto Center; Vern’s Auto Repair; Floyd Imports; CheckPoint Tire and Service Center; Robert’s Automotive; Car-X Tire and Auto

BEST CREDIT UNION
Heartland Credit Union
2213 W. White Oaks Drive
720 South Grand Ave. W.
701 N. First St., 726-8877

All banking institutions are not created equal. Proof positive is at Heartland Credit Union, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Since its founding in 1946, this has always been a Springfield financial institution. With four branches in the city, there are plenty of locations. With no stockholders or investors, the nonprofit guided by a volunteer board of directors is a far cry from out-of-town megabanks that couldn’t tell a horseshoe from those things they nail to horse hooves. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when traveling. The credit union’s debit cards work with no surcharges at more than 55,000 ATMs throughout the nation, so free (sort of) cash is always close at hand. Not anyone can join – you have to live in central Illinois or work for certain employers to open an account. More than 25,000 people have done just that, which speaks volumes.
Finalists: CEFCU; Illinois Educators Credit Union; Credit Union 1; Illinois State Police Federal Credit Union

Ahh Yoga
PHOTO BY BRIAN BOWLES

BEST YOGA STUDIO
Ahh Yoga
1051 W. Wabash Ave., 725-2373

At Ahh, they make the prospect of twisting oneself into a pretzel sound like fun. Consider Yoga and Brew, an event held this month at Engrained that featured suds after a one-hour yoga class, with the first two beers included in the $18 price. That’s the kind of exercise bargain that anyone can get behind. They’ve also had a Yoga and Wine event – same concept, different beverage – at Arlington’s on the western edge of downtown Springfield. They welcome beginners and promise that you don’t have to be in shape – just bring a mat and an open mind, and please make sure your feet are clean. They’ll also teach you how to meditate and offer you tea before sending you on your way after class.
Finalists: Half Moon Yoga Fit; Trailhead Healing Arts Center; Fit-Yoga

BEST PLACE TO BUY EYEWEAR
Vision Care Associates
121 North Grand Avenue West
2741 Prairie Crossing Drive
1-800-272-7393

With a team of seven optometrists to perform eye exams and two locations in Springfield, Vision Care Associates is the place to go for glasses, readers agree. While you can shop for glasses online, it can be a hit or miss – you don’t know for sure how they’re really going to look until you try them on, and Vision Care Associates has 2,000 or so frames to choose from, so you’re sure to find something you like. Vision Care offers the best of both worlds. You can browse offerings online, then stop by to see how they really look. Plus, they have an onsite lens lab for fast service.
Finalists: Prairie Eye and Lasik Center; Lenscrafters; America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses; Eyemart Express; All About Eyes; Berg-White Opticians

BEST LIQUOR STORE
Friar Tuck
3080 Mercantile Dr.
698-1116

Year after year, Friar Tuck always wins with readers, and with good reason. The local store is part of a chain that includes nine locations in Illinois and Missouri, but they take care to keep a local touch, offering both beers and wines made in central Illinois. There is no other store in the city that stocks this much alcohol and, if they don’t have it in stock, they’re happy to hunt it down for you. We like the on-premises wine chiller that lets you pick out any bottle of white you fancy on short notice and serve it just right.
Finalists: Hy-Vee; Famous Liquors; The Northender; Party House Liquors; 709 Cut Rate Package Liquor Store

BEST HEALTH FOOD STORE
Food Fantasies
1512 Wabash Ave., 793-8009

The next time you’re in Jerome, threading your way past video gaming parlors that have transformed a stretch of Wabash Avenue into a cheapskate’s version of Las Vegas, stop by Food Fantasies for a breath of fresh, healthy air. The place is filled with all sorts of things that will make you look and feel better than you do right now, and it doesn’t stop at organic produce, brown rice and gluten-free cake mix. Food Fantasies also stocks good-for-you toiletries and wine – after all, the occasional glass of red is supposed to be good for you – and baked goods are created on the premises. The best part is the emphasis on local. Produce, meat, eggs and dairy products all come from central Illinois farms, so you can stay healthy while helping out local economies even when farmers markets are closed.
Finalists: Hy-Vee; Naturals Health Foods

BEST RETAIL WINE STORE
The Corkscrew
2613 Chatham Road, 698-1112

Geoff Bland, longtime owner of The Corkscrew that opened in 1994, sold out this year, but don’t worry. The new owners, Dave and Danielle Anderson, have been working there for years, minding the books and managing sales, so they know what they’re talking about. While there are wine experts, enthusiasts and drinkers at The Corkscrew, we’ve never met a wine snob. The staff is happy to educate the less sophisticated and turn shoppers on to selections they might never otherwise have thought to sample, and they can also handle queries from folks with the pickiest of palates. But we cannot survive on wine alone, and so The Corkscrew also offers an interesting selection of beers and top shelf liquors. Beyond alcohol, The Corkscrew contributes to the community by opening their doors to charities that need places to hold fundraisers. A fine local business that makes Springfield a better place.
Finalists: Friar Tuck, Hy-Vee, It’s All About Wine, Famous Liquors

BEST PLACE TO GET A HIGHER EDUCATION
University of Illinois Springfield

Hooray for University of Illinois Springfield, arguably the scrappiest institution of higher learning to hit the land of Lincoln since Red Grange galloped past the outstretched arms of lesser men. From the very beginning, UIS, which began life as Sangamon State University in 1969, has demonstrated that it’s a serious academic institution where independent thought is cherished – in 1971, the campus, including the university president, wore floppy hats in protest after a state legislator criticized Professor Gus Stevens for wearing a hat in the presence of women. “It’s not what we wear, it’s what’s under our hats that counts,” Stevens said back then, and it’s still true today. Enrollment has shot past 5,400, up by around 1,000 from a decade ago. More than 1,000 students live on campus, and there are plenty of online courses for those who can’t be full-time students. The school has been rated highly by U.S. News and World Report, and readers agree: You can’t beat UIS when it comes to getting a leg up.
Finalists: Lincoln Land Community College; Robert Morris University; Illinois College

Concordia Village Senior Living
PHOTO BY MALLORIE LOHMAN

BEST RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
Concordia Village Senior Living
4101 West Iles Ave.,793-9429

Whether you or a loved one needs 24/7 attention or simply an apartment that’s centrally located with quick access to medical care as well as housekeeping and meal service provided, Concordia Village fits the bill. There’s a beauty shop and barber on premises, and always something to do, with recreational activities that include walking and group exercise programs. And there are apartments for all needs and budgets, including three-bedroom units with two bathrooms, full kitchens and patios as well as one-bedroom options that also have full kitchens and, naturally, washers and dryers. The home is run by Lutheran Senior Services, a St. Louis faith-based organization that runs 21 homes for seniors in Illinois and Missouri and is the nation’s ninth largest nonprofit provider of housing for seniors.
Finalists: The Villas Senior Care Community; Springfield Supportive Living; Timberlake Supportive Living; Villas of Hollybrook; Villas of South Park; Eastland Retirement Community

BEST MEDICAL FACILITY
Springfield Clinic

Let’s be frank: A colonoscopy is a colonoscopy, and if you’re gonna get probed, let it be by someone who is duty bound to give back. That’s why we, along with readers, say that Springfield Clinic is the best medical facility in the city. Most health care providers on the scale of Springfield Clinic are tax-exempt charities, and so they pay no property taxes or sales taxes even as they expand like the dickens while collecting millions more in revenue than they suffer in expenses. Springfield Clinic, however, is a for-profit enterprise that paid more than $370,000 in property taxes this year for its main location on South Sixth Street. This is money that went mostly to Springfield School District 186, which needs all the help it can get. And, for this reason alone, we agree with readers: Springfield Clinic is the best in the city. And it’s also not a bad place to get probed.
Finalists: Memorial Medical Center; Koke Mill Medical Associates; St. John’s Hospital; SIU Healthcare; Central Counties Health Centers

BEST NEW CAR DEALERSHIP
BEST USED CAR LOT

Green Family Stores
3901 Wabash Ave., 698-3100
3760 South Sixth St., 391-2400
2501 Wabash Ave.

If you need wheels in Springfield, readers agree that Green is the place to go, regardless of budget. With nine locations in the city (three addresses are listed above), Green is a dealership for more than a dozen brands ranging from Audi to Volkswagen to Subaru  to Toyota, and if that’s not enough for you, check out the used inventory. They have everything from 1995 Buick Centuries with a quarter-million miles to late-model BMW sedans. We’re particularly partial to a 1974 Olds Delta 88 convertible with 80,000 miles on it that was offered recently for a bit more than 10 grand. Beyond cars, Todd Green, the company’s owner, is dedicated to Springfield and has demonstrated his generosity with such gifts as paying construction costs for the Sacred Heart-Griffin football stadium. Thanks, Todd.
Finalists New Car Dealership: Isringhausen Imports; Landmark Automotive Group; Freedom Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram; S & K Buick GMC
Finalists Used Car Lot: Robert’s Automotive; Isringhausen Imports; Landmark Automotive Group; Freedom Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram


BEST DIVE BAR
Curve Inn
3219 S. Sixth Street Rd.
529-5806

Springfield has no shortage of dive bars, where your cocktail, whether in a true glass or a plastic go cup because it’s just easier that way, is always strong and cheap. Strictly speaking, we don’t consider The Curve a dive bar, at least in the sense of a place with sticky floors and questionable plumbing where smoking is permitted on the sly during slow hours, but the place certainly tries, what with “Dive Bar” and “Cheap Drinks” plastered on a sign outside. There are dollar drafts on Sundays and honest-to-goodness vinyl flooring (the stuff that’s textured to make it look like wood) covering the bar in lieu of Formica or, heaven forbid, real wood. Open until 3 a.m., The Curve has bona fides that rival any joint’s in the city. It’s been around for more than 70 years, with ownership boasting a heritage that includes hookers and illegal gambling. These days, the gambling via video terminals is legal, hookers nowhere to be seen and the music sometimes a bit loud, which is as things should be at the modern dive. And with a kitchen, beer garden and live music a few times each week, The Curve offers more than most dives, for which we’re grateful.
Finalists: Bob’s Butternut Hut; The Blue Grouch Pub; George Ranks; Sunset Inn

BEST PLACE TO BUY SEAFOOD
Robert’s Seafood Market
1615 Jefferson St., 546-3089

Celebrating its 100th birthday this year, Robert’s is, by far, the oldest seafood store in Springfield. When it comes to fish, old isn’t good, but you want to buy from sellers you can trust, and Robert’s wouldn’t have lasted for a century if they didn’t deliver. Robert’s is a stickler when it comes to offering the freshest and best – they’re not going to put out a sea bass just so they can have a wider selection than anyone else, which they usually do, anyway. If it’s in the display case at Robert’s, you can be sure it was swimming not very long ago. If you’re looking for something in particular, they’ll happily do their best to track down whatever species of fish you crave. And they don’t stop at fish. Check out the locally grown pork and lamb as well as such exotic fare as turtle and alligator.
Finalists: Hy-Vee; Carter’s Fish Market; Schnucks

BEST JEWELRY STORE
Denney Jewelers
2901 Wabash Ave., 787-0500

The personal touch can’t be beat. When you buy something special – and something from a jewelry store should always be remembered – the folks at Denney’s take time to help, regardless of whether you’re spending $100 or a whole lot more (we’ve done both). When we’ve gone there, the sales staff has acted as if they have all the time in the world – we’ve ventured onto such tangents as caring for unruly dogs while chatting about the best budget gift for Valentine’s Day, and there’s never been any pressure. Also a great place for repairs. We can’t remember what they charged for polishing up an old Girard-Perregaux watch a few years back, but it wasn’t very much, and we smiled big when we got it back. Springfield is blessed with great jewelers, but readers agree that Denney, a family-owned place that’s been in the game since the 1950s, is a cut above.
Finalists: Giganti and Giganti; AB Lauer Jewelers; Luttrell Jewelers; Jamies The Diamond Mine

BEST THRIFT/VINTAGE STORE
Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries
2001 Wabash Ave., 787-7236
2531 N. Dirksen Parkway, 789-0400

We’ve lost count of the treasures we’ve found at Springfield’s two Goodwill locations. Every trip is an adventure. Forget about going to find something specific – asking a clerk if they have any cowboy hats or carving knives or microscopes (all of which pass through periodically) never works. Instead, feel the thrift-store force as you walk inside and surrender to whatever awaits you on the shelves. We’ve seen folks pay a buck or two for sterling silver coins worth more than $20, and we’ve outfitted our kitchen with Calphalon commercial grade cookware, paying less than $100 for pots and pans that would have cost us more than $1,000 if we’d bought them new. And when you get tired of whatever it was you bought, you can take it back and get a tax deduction. For our money, that’s better than brand new.
Finalists: Salvation Army, Recycled Records, Sojourn’s Westside Fashions, Springfield Vintage

Discount Tire
PHOTO BY TIMOTHY B. SMITH

BEST TIRE SHOP
Discount Tire
2871 S. Veteran’s Parkway, 546-3130

When it comes to tires, we like ’em cheap and we like ’em fixed if something goes wrong. Discount Tire has you covered on both fronts. The company boasts that is the nation’s largest tire seller, and with dozens of stores in Illinois, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states, you have a good chance of finding one if you’re on the road when something, heaven forbids, happens. And Discount offers a warrantee program that allows you to take your car to any store in the chain if you get a blowout or something else isn’t up to snuff.
Finalists: Brahler Tire and Auto Center; CheckPoint Tire and Service Center; Pomp’s Tire Service; A Cheap Tire

BEST PLACE TO BUY HOME FURNISHINGS
Barney’s Furniture
1987 Wabash Ave., 789-1926

We were both sad and thrilled when Barney’s, a Springfield institution, made the move this year from its east side location to Wabash Avenue. The new location is huge, so they can provide a bigger selection than ever, and they’ve always had plenty to choose from when you need to furnish your living room, dining room, bedroom or any other room. On the other hand, the move from South Grand Avenue East cost the store’s old neighborhood a stalwart business that’s been around since 1939, when the third-generation family business first opened in downtown Springfield. Change can be good, though, and if moving to a location with more traffic zipping past helps ensure that Barney’s is around for another 77 years, we’re all for it.
Finalists: Magnolia Lane; Hendrick’s Home Furnishings; Furniture Row; La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery; Merchant House; Jensen Home Furnishings

BUTCHER SHOP
Humphrey’s Market
1821 S. 15th St., 544-7445

Few things give us greater pleasure than a visit to Humphrey’s Market on the east side. This place is a throwback to the days before big supermarket chains. Humphrey’s opened in 1932, the same year that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first elected. The place blends into the neighborhood – no huge sea of asphalt parking lot to negotiate – and they’ve kept up with the times by offering hot lunches and a deli counter. The quarters are tight but welcoming. Gotta problem? That’s hard to imagine, but if you did, the owners are right there, ready to hear you out and make things right. The meat counter has long been a standout, with flavorful cuts that stand out from what’s sold by some bigger outfits at prices that are as low as anywhere. A ham or turkey from Humphrey’s is standard fare for Thanksgiving and Christmas tables across Springfield, and with good reason. You go with what works, and Humphrey’s never disappoints.
Finalists: Magro’s Meat and Produce; Country Market; Turasky Meat; Hy-Vee

BEST VETERINARY CLINIC
Laketown Animal Hospital, 1115 Stevenson Drive, 529-4211

Springfieldians love pets, and our love goes way back. After all, there wouldn’t even be a Fido if there hadn’t been Abraham Lincoln, who bestowed his beloved mutt with America’s best-known canine name. The regard that we have for our cats, dogs and other pets is reflected in the local veterinarian scene, which boasts clinics that have been around for years that have rightly earned readers’ trust and loyalty. This year, readers chose Laketown, and it is hard to argue. With a half-dozen veterinarians on staff, they have the expertise to figure out what’s wrong with your pet and how to make things right. They have an online pharmacy, just like Walgreens, and they can handle everything from grooming to surgeries to doggie hospice care when the time comes to say goodbye. If you’re going out of town, they offer boarding, and there’s no greater comfort than knowing your pet is in the best possible hands while you’re away.
Finalists: Coble Animal Hospital; Capitol Illini Veterinary Services; White Oaks West Animal Hospital; Brewer Animal Hospital; Myers Mobile Animal Clinic

BEST MASSAGE
BEST HAIR SALON

BJ Grand Salon and Spa

Hair is more than just a Broadway musical or something that covers your head. Hair is a way of life, at least to the folks at BJ Grand Salon, where they understand that there’s a lot more to hair than simply cutting it. The properly coiffed lady (or gent – they do both kinds at BJ) requires stuff like algae and fancy tea and an array of antioxidants rubbed into just the right spots by experts so as to tame the mane and keep the scalp happy. Hair, after all, is like anything else. It needs to be fed to be happy, and BJ is the equivalent of a top-shelf Vegas buffet for your follicles. It’s not the cheapest place in town, but when you absolutely, positively need to look your best, the place never disappoints. And BJ also offers great rubdowns, according to readers who judged this the best place to get a massage. Bottom line, you spend a hundred bucks, maybe, and walk out feeling like a million. What a deal.
Finalists Best Massage: Massage Luxe; Moxie Massage; Chatham Chiropractic Clinic; Inner Health Spa; The Massage Club
Finalists Best Hair Salon: Willow and Birch Salon; The Gallery; Studio 6 Hair Salon; Envy Hair Salon


BEST CAR WASH
Rainstorm Car Wash
3101 Hedley Road
321 Cranmer Drive, 670-1642

We’ve always thought the best car wash is the one you do yourself in your own driveway. The do-it-yourself car wash provides lots of exercise, particularly if you go the extra mile and break out the wax and buffing cloth. Nothing looks as good, but who has the time, or energy? Readers agree that Rainstorm Car Wash is the next best thing to doing it yourself, and it is an extraordinary bargain for the motorist who wants to shine every day. For as little as $20 per month (fancier packages that include wax and such things as “Thunder Foam” and “Rainbow Sealant” go as high as $40), you can get your car washed as often as once per day, and you can do it at any of the company’s locations in Springfield, Decatur, Bloomington and Champaign. It only takes three minutes, and vacuuming is free.
Finalists: Sparkling Clean Car Wash and Detail; Drive-In Car Wash;, 6th Street; Car Wash City; Gas N Wash

BEST CROSSFIT GYM
Capital City CrossFit
1615 W. Jefferson St., 726-3817

As fitness crazes go, CrossFit has lasted longer than most. That’s because its practitioners say that it works, and that flipping heavy equipment tires, climbing ropes, doing pull-ups and otherwise exercising until you’re ready to throw up can actually be fun, especially if you’re doing it with a bunch of folks who are suffering as much as you. In business for six years now, Capital City CrossFit, located in a building that was once a warehouse, was Springfield’s first CrossFit gym, and readers say it’s still the best.
Finalists: Rail Splitter CrossFit; CrossFit Instinct; CrossFit XLT

BEST BARBER
BEST BARBER SHOP

Jeremy Bredemeyer
Precision Barbers
230 South Grand Ave. E., 416-0857

If the Facebook reviews for Precision Barbers are any indication, it’s no wonder that Illinois Times readers voted barber Jeremy Bredemeyer as the king of the fast, cool haircut. Located at 230 S. Grand Ave. E., Precision Barbers and Detailing, a former Texaco station turned 1950s-style garage, exudes retro-coolness, and Bredemeyer has the charisma to match. Equally personable with children and adults, Bredemeyer always has a story to tell and a great haircut to deliver. Precision Barbers is a veritable one-stop shop for guys. There’s a barber shop up front in what used to be a gas station and then a transmission shop – there’s still an auto body and detailing shop in back, plus window tinting services, so you can make your car look as good as your head. If you’re hungry, there’s also a food stand outside that serves up fried chicken and fish. A chopper and a Model A hot rod decorate the waiting area, and there is, of course, a TV in case there’s a game on. We’re pretty fussy about sticking with what works when it comes to our hair, but readers raved about this place, so we thought we’d give it a try without putting our own stylist out of work. We weren’t disappointed with the hot-towel shave we received – took about a half-hour, and when we got out our pores were singing with joy.
Finalists Best Barber: Dave Beggs, Beggs Barber Shop; Deon Dukett, Dukett’s Barber Shop; Craig Jones, Jones’ Chop Shop; Sammy on 19th Street
Finalists Best Barber Shop: Beggs Barber Shop; Dukett’s Barber Shop; Jones’ Chop Shop; The Men’s Room




MORE PLACES WINNERS NOT MENTIONED IN OUR PRINT EDITION

BEST CAR DETAILING
Precision Detailing

Finalists: Sparkling Clean Car Wash&  Detail; Isringhausen Imports Inc.; The Car Janitor; Robert’s Automotive Inc.

BEST DAYCARE
Building Blocks Preschool

Finalists: Lakeshore Learning Center; Child Development Center at Lincoln Land Community College; My Friends Discovery Center; All His Children Development Center

BEST HOME REMODELING COMPANY
Buraski Builders

Finalists: Michael von Behren Builder; Sutton Siding&  Remodeling; Gabe’s Home Improvement; Seth Molen Construction

BEST HVAC COMPANY
Rich Gatschenberger’s

Finalists: Allied Plumbing, Heating, Cooling; FJ Murphy & Son; Wood Heating and Plumbing; Aire Serv

BEST LANDSCAPE COMPANY
Green View

Finalist: Buckley’s Prairie Landscaping; Tripp Landscaping; Scooter’s Lawn Care; Artisan Stone Products

BEST NEW HOME CONSTRUCTION COMPANY
Buraski Builders

Finalists: Michael von Behren Builder; Moughan Builders; Ryan Builders

BEST PAWN SHOP
Monster Pawn

Finalists: Piggy Bank Pawn; Stevenson Drive Pawn; Johnny’s Buy Sell Trade

BEST PET BOARDING
Sangamon Avenue Veterinary Clinic and Howliday Inn&  Suites
Finalists: Kinner Kennels; Laketown Animal Hospital; Dal Acres West Kennel; Pampered Pet Center

BEST PET GROOMING
Suds N’ Pups Pet Grooming&  Doggie Daycare

Finalists: Bubbles of Fun Pet Grooming; Paws ‘n’ Claws; Bow Wow Barbershop; Dal Acres West Kennel

BEST PLACE TO BUY A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT
The Rock Shop

Finalists: House of Music; Capital City Music; The Music Shoppe (formerly Daddy O’s Music)

BEST RETIREMENT COMMUNITY
Concordia Village

Finalists: The Villas of Sherman; Springfield Supportive Living; Timber Lake Supportive Living; Villas of Hollybrook

BEST VIDEO GAMING
Westwoods Lodge Pub and Grill

Finalists: Lucy’s Place; Weebles Bar&  Grill; Godfather’s Pizza; Win Lose Draught

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