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Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010 02:01 pm

Biz Bests

Best of Springfield 2010

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BEST BANK OR CREDIT UNION
Heartland Credit Union
2213 W. White Oaks Drive, 726-8877
720 S. Grand Ave. West, 726-8877
2717 Sangamon Ave., 726-8877
701 N. First St., Room C18, 726-8877

Bank like you own the place? OK, will do, our Best of Springfield voters said in picking their favorite financial institution, Heartland Credit Union. Like the rest of the top five vote-getters, Heartland is local and can boast some pretty loyal customers – almost 25,000 of them. President and CEO Ed Gvazdinskas, who’s celebrating his 35th anniversary with the credit union, says the nearly 65-year-old institution takes its customers’ trust seriously. “The safest investment we can make for our depositing members is a loan to a borrowing member,” he says. “That philosophy worked back in 1946 when the credit union was founded and it continues to work today.” While that philosophy has stayed the same, the way people want to bank continues to change and Heartland is changing with them. In 2009, Heartland merged with Memorial Health System Employee Credit Union, adding a new, fourth location in Memorial Medical Center. The credit union also boasts new ATM locations and a system of shared branching, in which other credit unions co-op so customers can walk in another credit union and take care of business even when away from their hometown.

BEST CHIROPRACTOR
Stephen C. Unverzagt
1045 S. Second St., 544-3628

Last year, when Stephen Unverzagt was named Springfield’s best chiropractor, he had only been practicing for a few months, out of a small office where he and his wife, Nicole, took care of all aspects of the business, from back adjustments to billing. This year, Unverzagt says with a great sigh of relief as he looks around the office he shares with fellow chiropractor Tim Wenneborg, he has more support staff and more space, meaning he can make more people feel good. He’s also expanded his reach to golfers. With a Titleist Performance Institute golf fitness instructor certification, he’s partnered up with an area golf pro and a local fitness instructor to help golfers extend the time their bodies can take swinging clubs on the golf course.

Nicholas Slowiak is an ice cream pro behind the Cold Stone Creamery counter.


BEST PLACE TO GET A SUGAR HIGH
Cold Stone Creamery
124 S. Sixth St., 523-6666

Tip ’em and they’ll sing. “We’re cheerful and we’ll holler, because we got a dollar” to the tune of the Addams Family is one of the favorites, but the staff at Cold Stone Creamery will deliver one of any number of specialized tunes with enough enthusiasm to keep customers from crashing after their ice cream-induced sugar highs. And, ohhhhh, the ice cream. Besides the usual deliciousness, Cold Stone offers a gold cone flavor of the month (Cinnabun in December!). And the waffles and brownies are made on site. Oh, the aroma!
Runner up: Pease’s Candy

PHOTO BY JOSEPH COPLEY


BEST PLACE FOR FRESH FISH OR MEATS
Robert’s Seafood Market
1615 W. Jefferson St., 546-3089

Take a quick stroll through Robert’s Seafood Market and you’ll realize that its moniker offers insight to only one aspect of the nearly 100-year-old business. Of course, the mainstay of the shop is fresh fish and seafood – from salmon to swordfish and a list of special order items available the next day with no extra charge, but it also hosts a selection of filler-free, gluten-free and artificial flavor-free deli meats, not to mention the wine, crackers and condiments. “We try to get everything to build a meal around the fresh fish,” manager Brian Aiello says, adding that, if it makes sense, he’ll bring in whatever customers ask for. “They design the store based on what they want.”

BEST GAME STORE
GameStop
2501 Wabash Ave., 793-9449
2845 Veterans Parkway, Suite B04A, 698-5614
3421 Freedom Dr., 546-9890
2506 N. Dirksen Parkway, 493-1105

Bringing area gamers the latest and greatest since 1992, GameStop was Best of Springfield voters’ favorite stop for video games this year. With four locations, GameStop’s wide selection – from “Kirby’s Epic Yarn” to “Fallout: New Vegas” – is easy to access. Whether you’re working with a Wii, Xbox, PlayStation or PC, a friendly sales staff can guide gamers to what they’re looking for. Add in a pre-owned selection and the option of trade-ins, and GameStop is a gamer’s paradise.

Food Fantasies has a staff chock full of folks you'll want to get to know.
PHOTO BY DAVID HINE


BEST GREEN BUSINESS
Food Fantasies
1512 W. Wabash, 793-8009

Leave out the chemical additives but add a little family feel and you’ve got a damn good “green” grocery store. “Part of feeling healthy is knowing the people where you’re at,” says Jonathan Reynolds, an employee at Food Fantasies since 1998.  While the 21-year-old store’s staff is friendly, its shelves are lined with all things organic, local and oh so good. Food Fantasies stocks products from about a dozen local vendors and takes special pride in its competitively priced organic milk. Buyers for the store are also ready to turn on a dime whenever Oprah or Dr. Oz send Springfield folks into a frenzy over the latest diet fad.

Emilie Yeager welcomes a hair challenge – ask and ye shall receive.
PHOTO BY ERICKA HINE


BEST HAIRSTYLIST
Emilie Yeager, Bangger’s Hair Studio
1042 W. Jefferson St., 793-6511

She can do the sedate, the crazy and everything in between. No wonder Best of Springfield voters chose Emilie Yeager as the area’s best hairstylist. At Bangger’s for about two years now, Yeager says the key to a happy customer is getting to know them. It also helps make work not feel like work. “It’s kind of like getting to hang out with a friend for 45 minutes. And getting paid for it,” she says. When she’s not in the salon, Yeager’s working backstage for theater productions, including this weekend’s Rocky Horror Show, developing her creativity and versatility. “If you get too comfortable with what you can do, you get stale.”

BEST HEALTH CLUB
FitClub
2811 W. Lawrence Ave., 787-1111
3631 S. Sixth St., 787-8348
2701 E. Sangamon Ave., 788-8250

A gym membership doesn’t do you any good, if you quit going after the first workout. That’s why FitClub is bringing more and more group fitness opportunities to its members, says Jim Copelin, manager of FitClub West. “When you do it yourself, that’s a high fail rate,” Copelin says. “You’re not engaging with anything except equipment.” The strategy must be working, at least according to the overwhelming number of voters who called FitClub the best health club in town. Emphasizing the misery-loves-company idea, FitClub West is especially proud of its new Art of Strength training room. The club won a $10,000 installation at a recent convention for equipment including bandit loops, which hang from the ceiling, and ship ropes, which trainees lift up and down while one end is firmly attached to the ground. Call it a three-in-one, as Art of Strength routines combine cardio, weight and resistance training all in one 45-minute workout. Two personal trainers together lead classes of about 12 trainees, who are energized by the camaraderie the open Art of Strength rooms facilitate, Copelin says. He adds that FitClub still caters to those looking for a little less “rowdy” of a workout – an armory of workout machines is complemented by group fitness classes ranging from Zumba and yoga to step and cycling.

Jim Milner and Carl Giganti help Giganti and Giganti customers choose and design rings, and other luxurious items, from the Wabash Ave. shop.
PHOTO BY JOSEPH COPLEY


BEST JEWELRY STORE
Giganti & Giganti
1601 Wabash Ave., 793-3300

Springfield is only so big, so Jim Milner knows he’s going to see his work parading about town on a fairly regular basis. It’s no wonder, then, that he says, “I don’t do ugly.” By “ugly” he means undesired features such as imperfect stones. He and Carl Giganti, the son of the store’s founder, Paul Joseph Giganti, also make sure the special occasion gift is truly special, Milner says, estimating that 40 percent of the business is made up of one-of-a-kind creations. And with Giganti’s roots in the wholesale jewelry biz, those one-of-a-kind creations come with a little more bang for the buck. It’s all about the connections, Carl Giganti says.

BEST JEWELRY STORE (RUNNER-UP)
Denney Jewelers
2901 W. Wabash Ave., 787-0500

Five years ago members of the Denney family made one big leap – a move from Jacksonville to Springfield when competition in the capital city bling biz was already steep. This year, their jewelry store is just one tiny vote away from holding Best Of bragging rights. Opened 56 years ago by Ray Denney, the business started out as a watchmaker’s shop but now offers everything across the gem gamut and more. “We do everything,” says Cathy Denney, one of the shop’s co-owners and Ray Denney’s daughter-in-law. “From $10 to you-name-it.” Add the occasional party held by Denney for the customers, and the pearl purchaser is bound to be pleased as punch.

Steve Koch, a long-time Ameriprise investment counselor, is helping Springfield residents weather the recession.
PHOTO BY PATRICK YEAGLE


MOST SAVVY INVESTMENT COUNSELOR
Steve Koch, Ameriprise
2621 Montega Dr., Suite A, 787-2435

The recession hasn’t been easy on anyone, including Best of Springfield voters who let out their frustrations on their ballots. Readers named 12 different investment counselors they considered savvy, but we’d have to combine all of those votes to edge out the overwhelming choice for this year’s most savvy investment counselor: Nobody! Steve Koch, who topped the list of living, breathing investment counselors, says he understands the mood. “It’s been a very emotionally difficult period of time,” he says. “It’s hard to not have been affected by all that’s going on in the economy.” Koch does have one thing going for him that helps clients feel a little more stable – tenure. He’s been with the same company, Ameriprise, for 25 years.

Pat Hudspeth, seated, with champion dog Rani, husband Glen, daughter Alyson Woods and granddaughter Raiyn Hudspeth.
PHOTO BY JOSEPH COPLEY


BEST PET BOARDING
Dal Acres Kennel, 793-3647
2508 W. Jefferson St.

Walk into Dal Acres West Kennel and you’ll smell nothing. It’s a point of pride and a sign of the kennel crew’s diligent work in keeping 110 pet pens clean every day. Dal Acres East, which Glen Hudspeth bought in 1983, closed early this year as the Hudspeth family decided to focus its attention on the newer facility, opened in 1995. There, Hudspeth’s Akita show-dogs stay alongside boarding dogs, which get the royal treatment. “Everyone working with the dogs knows each one, it’s likes and dislikes,” Pat Hudspeth says, adding that Dal Acres is home for her and her family. “It’s just a way of life for us.”

BEST PET GROOMER
Bob Hofstetter and Lindsey Vance Ellis, Dal Acres Kennel
2508 W. Jefferson St.

It’s a tie. Bob Hofstetter and Lindsey Vance Ellis are Springfield’s best pet groomers. Either they occasionally pick up a tip from each other, or a room filled with a double dose of their calm demeanors is just bound to put all creatures furry and fluffy at ease. The two work side by side at Dal Acres West Kennel, together sending about 80 cats and dogs out into the world each week looking and, therefore, feeling good. While Ellis just came to Dal Acres this year, the sight of her and Hofstetter cutting and brushing away right next to each other is nothing new. Before Hofstetter came to Dal Acres in 2009, both he and Ellis tamed fur at a local pet store.

BEST PLACE FOR A WEDDING RECEPTION
Inn at 835
825 S. Second Street, 523-4466

Ahhhhh. A calm before, during and after the wedding planning storm? Yes, it does exist, and at a reasonable price – at least it can at the Inn at 835. There, caterers equipped with legacy recipes stand ready to serve in either the intimate setting of the Inn itself or a seamlessly attached banquet facility with seating for 300 people. “You’re not one of many parties in one of many rooms,” says CEO Court Conn of wedding events held at the Inn. Book the Inn’s 12 unique and luxurious rooms on top of its full-service events center, and you’ll feel like you own the place. Oh, yeah. Did we mention the day spa?

BEST THRIFT STORE
Goodwill Industries
815 N. 11th St., 280-1871
2531 N. Dirksen Pkwy., 753-3620
2001 Wabash Ave., 787-7496
420 N. Main St., Chatham, 483-5821

Best of Springfield voters love Goodwill, but they might love it even more after a few more improvements are completed sometime early next year. The Wabash Goodwill just keeps getting better: The in-store coffee shop, Edgar’s Coffee House, will soon add a drive-through option. On the inside, Edgar’s Book Nook, with an expanded collection of donated books, will complement the coffee shop, which already sells fresh-baked pastries and specialty drinks. “As with any nonprofit, we all have our goal to bring about value to our customers, especially when you have a thrift store that you utilize as your revenue stream to support your mission,” CEO Sharon Durbin says. That’s right, Goodwill’s main mission is to help people in need find jobs and give them on-site job coaching.

BEST VETERINARY CLINIC
Coble Animal Hospital
2828 S. MacArthur Blvd., 789-4200

Technically, Dr. Frank Coble has been a veterinarian for 40 years, since he graduated from vet school in 1970. More accurately, though, he’s been a vet for his entire life. Since he was in junior high school watching his dad, J. Porter Coble, and his assistant prep pets for surgery, he’s known he’d follow in his father’s footsteps. He took over the practice in 1980. Now, he’s perfected his craft, including his bedside manner, full of layman’s terms, which surely Best of Springfield voters appreciate. “We spend a lot of time totally explaining the problem,” Coble says. He’ll sometimes be running behind because of it, but the extra time is worth it, he says. The building Coble still works in is the same one his father built in 1947; only then, before other businesses started to build on MacArthur Blvd., it was practically out in the country. Coble has since redesigned the interior to make it more modern and able to host four other veterinarians, whom he credits for the practice’s open flow of ideas and occasional collective problem solving.
Runners-up: Chatham Veterinary Clinic, Laketown Animal Hospital

BEST YOGA INSTRUCTOR
Aasne Vigesaa Daniels, Ahh Yoga
1051 Wabash Ave., 725-2373

Aasne Vigesaa Daniels in 2001 first stepped into yoga because she didn’t want to sweat. “I was so wrong,” she says, explaining that, while yoga leaves her “blissed out,” it’s a lot of physical work. Since 2006 Daniels has been teaching Ashtanga, a type of yoga that emphasizes a type of nasal breathing, called ujayii, or victorious breath. It’s a little noisy – Daniels says it sounds a little like “a sensitive and gentle Darth Vader” – but coupled with the intense engagement of the body’s muscles, Ashtanga does the trick. In each of her four 90-minute weekly classes at Ahh Yoga, Daniels tries to evoke the temperaments of her favorite yoga teachers, a trick that likely helped her earn the top spot among yoginis this year. Showing humility, having a sense of humor and checking the ego at the door are key, she says. In that same vein, Daniels sends praise to Ahh Yoga’s founder, Ami Flammini, which is no surprise considering Flammini’s very close second in this year’s Best of Springfield.
Runner Up: Ami Flammini, Ahh Yoga

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