Best of Columbia 2014: Goods & Services

By Free Times
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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  • Best New Car Dealership
    Jim Hudson Automotive Group
    Runner-up: Dick Dyer

    Let’s face it: Most people dread shopping for a car. So when buyers have enough of a positive feeling about a car dealership to actually cast votes for it, you should listen. Founded in 1980, the Jim Hudson Automotive Group is a family-owned business offering a huge selection of vehicles and emphasizing customer service. How does that ad go? “Experience it once, and you’ll never forget it.”

    Best Used Car Dealership
    Runner-up: Jim Hudson Automotive Group

    CarMax invented the no-haggle car-shopping experience. And for that, car buyers everywhere are grateful. Head to the company’s website to search by make and model, and you can even look into getting cars sent from dealerships far outside Columbia.

    Best Motorcycle Store
    Harley Haven
    Runner-up: Thunder Tower Harley-Davidson

    Look, when you want a hog, you don’t want some namby-pamby, crotch-rocket dirt bike. No, you want a hog — a real, fire-breathing, Sons of Anarchy chopper. So what do you do? You get yourself a freaking Harley. And where do you get it? Harley Haven, of course. Oh, and if you’re one of those mid-life crisis dudes who’s never flogged it down the big slab? They’ll teach you how to ride it, too.

    Best ATV Store
    Columbia Powersports
    Runner-up: Carolina Honda

    Need a four-wheeler? Columbia Powersports has a broad selection of new and pre-owned all-terrain vehicles — not to mention motorcycles, jet skis, scooters, golf carts and more — at two locations in the Midlands.

    Best Scooter Store
    Hawg Scooters
    Runner-up: Carolina Honda Powerhouse

    Mainly offering 50cc scooters, Hawg hangs its hat on its selection and service, priding itself on its ability to set up customers with a ride that is both stylish and comfortable. Or, as the slogan puts it, the shop is there to help you “Get Squeelin’.”

    Best Auto Repair
    Nuttall Tire and Battery
    Runner-up: Complete Car Care

    The name is Nuttall Tire, but make no mistake — this is a full-service auto shop. Open since 1984, Nuttall is staffed with certified technicians who put customer service first. And yes, the shop carries the most respected tire brands out there, too.

    Best Oil Change
    Jiffy Lube
    Runner-up: Firestone

    When old reliable starts to sputter, take her to a company that’s dealt with car repairs since the ’70s.

    Best Car Wash
    Frank’s Car Wash
    Runner-up: Constan Car Wash

    One of life’s greatest little pleasures is giving your car a good wax-on-wax-off. But when you don’t have the time to do it yourself, take it to Frank’s, which will clean your car from top to bottom for dirt-cheap.

    Best Automotive Customization Shop
    D&D Cycles
    Runner-up: Golden Motors

    You might think you know what a customized cycle looks like — but until you look at the badass work D&D Cycles is doing, you really don’t.

    Best Tire Dealer
    Frank’s Discount Tire
    Runner-up: Nuttall Tire and Battery

    Frank’s slogan is “If it’s round, rubber and rolls, Frank’s got it.” But Frank’s has even more than that — it offers a variety of automotive repair and maintenance services.

    Best Driving School
    ABC Driver Training
    Runner-up: Baldwin Driver Training

    We get it: You’re nervous about your teen getting behind the wheel. That’s why there are pros who do this sort of thing. ABC Driver Training has been at it for nearly 50 years, so they know what they’re doing.

    Best Window Tinting
    Mr. Tint
    Runner-up: Palmetto Pro Tint

    Mr. Tint is no fly-by-night window-tinting biz; it’s been attentive to all your glass-darkening needs since the Clinton administration and rates an A+ in the Better Business Bureau’s directory. Handles automotive, commercial and residential needs.

    Best Hair Salon
    Bombshell Beauty Studio
    Runner-up: Shear Xpectations

    In a city full of hair salons, this is not an easy category to win. But Bombshell — with its cool vintage aesthetic and talented, eclectic staff — makes it look like it is. Whether it’s a color, cut or curl, Bombshell will always give you something striking.

    Bombshell Beauty wins Best Hair Salon, and Robin Gottlieb wins 
Best Hair Stylist. Photo by Thomas Hammond

    Best Hair Stylist
    Robin Gottlieb (Bombshell Beauty Studio) 
    Runner-up: Mark Ziegler (Five Points Salon)

    Want your hair cut? Go to Great Clips or Supercuts. Want your hair done? Go see Robin Gottlieb, who’ll help you find the perfect cut and color for your face and life.

    Best Day Spa
    Urban Nirvana
    Runner-up: Occo Skin Studio

    Sometimes you just want to be pampered with a massage or facial. Urban Nirvana emphasizes the whole experience, not just the particular service you’re getting that day. The result: You’ll leave with your body and your mind feeling renewed.

    Best Massage Therapist
    Vicky Harriman (Urban Nirvana)
    Runner-up: Shaun Phillips (Palmetto Sports Massage)

    Who says you can’t get a good massage outside of downtown Columbia? Vicky works at the popular salon and day spa Urban Nirvana in Lexington, and — if you trust your fellow readers’ opinion — she’s the best person in the Columbia area to see if you need a massage. [Online copy corrected.]

    Best Esthetician
    Mandy Applegate (Urban Nirvana)
    Runner-up: Lindy Helms (Occo Skin Studio)

    Mandy Applegate wants you to look purty, and it seems a bunch of you are satisfied with the results. This Lexington-based skin-care specialist also sings, dances and acts in local theater productions.

    Best Makeup Artist
    Mikel Rumsey (Bombshell Beauty Studio)
    Runner-up: Chelsea Winford (Occo Skin Studio)

    Purple Rain turned 30 in June. Hard to believe, right? Also hard to believe is that Prince is 56. With unremitting fabulousness intact, he doesn’t look a day over 30, right? It’s the makeup. The secret to forever remaining one of the beautiful ones is to have an artist do your makeup. Baby, baby, baby, let Mikel Rumsey paint a perfect picture for you.

    City Yoga wins Best Yoga Studio. Photo by Austin Price

    Best Yoga Studio
    City Yoga
    Runner-up: Bikram Yoga Columbia

    City Yoga is a serious place. Not that you won’t have fun there — you will — but you’ll also learn more about your brain, body and spirit from some of the best instructors around.

    Shannon Purvis Barron is Best Tattoo Artist, and her shop, Indigo Rose Tattoo, is runner-up for Best Tattoo Studio. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Tattoo Artist
    Shannon Purvis Barron (Indigo Rose Tattoo)
    Runner-up: Shane Anderson (Animated Canvas)

    Shannon Purvis Barron is, quite simply, a badass. If you’re looking to get a tattoo, you can’t go wrong with her.

    Best Tattoo Studio
    Devine Street Tattoo
    Runner-up: Indigo Rose Tattoo

    With a full stable of great artists and a clean, pleasant studio, Devine Street Tattoo is an excellent place to get inked.

    Immaculate Piercing wins Best Piercing Studio. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Piercing Studio
    Immaculate Piercing
    Runner-up: Knotty Headz

    When you think of body piercing, safe, beautiful and gentle might not be the first things that come to mind. Immaculate, however, is committed to these types of experiences. To back that up, they’re members of the Association of Professional Piercers.

    Best Furniture Store
    Whit-Ash Furnishings Inc.
    Runner-up: Ashley Furniture

    Founded in 1969, Whit-Ash occupies 40,000 square feet in the heart of the Vista. That’s a lot of space, and it’s filled with furniture, mattresses, rugs, lamps, jewelry and other accessories, all at discount prices.

    Best Outdoor Furniture Store
    Carolina Pottery
    Runner-up: Lowe’s

    Why yes, they do sell more than pottery. You can also find patio and accent furniture, outdoor cushions and general home décor all in one place. The Lifestyle Club gives users access to exclusive offers and coupons.

    Best Pet Supply Store
    Runner-up: Pet Supplies Plus

    If you have an outdoor cat, you likely go through a lot of collars. Whether by falling from a tree or fighting with a neighborhood friend, the breakaway feature of their neckwear gets used a lot. Dash, one Free Times staffer’s beloved orange tabby, recently got a store-brand collar from PetSmart. He has yet to lose it. Need we say more?

    Best Kennel or Pet Boarding Facility
    Pawmetto Lifeline
    Runner-up: Camp Bow Wow, Wescott Acres (TIE)

    Sometimes you have to leave Fifi and Fluffy behind when you go to work or on vacation. If you leave the pets at Pawmetto Lifeline, though, they might not even notice you’re gone, what with all the fun they’ll be having.

    Best Pet Groomer
    Mill Creek Pet Food Center
    Runner-up: Groomingdale’s

    What does your dog need: A cut? A bath? Nails trimmed? Flea removal? Mill Creek’s friendly, professional staff will take care of everything — and at reasonable prices.

    Best Veterinarian Clinic
    Shandon-Wood Animal Clinic
    Runner-up: Four Paws Animal Clinic

    Established in 1978, Shandon-Wood is open seven days a week — because you never know when your beloved pet is going to need some loving, experienced attention. Also offers boarding services.

    The Barking Lot wins Best Dog Park. file photo

    Best Dog Park
    Barking Lot Dog Park at Saluda Shoals
    Runner-up: City of Columbia Dog Park

    Let your dog meet some new friends in the park’s off-leash area or along the hiking trails. It’s like a day vacation for you and your best friend.

    Best Hospital
    Lexington Medical Center
    Runner-up: Palmetto Health Richland

    We hope you don’t need a hospital, but if you do, you need a good one. Lexington Medical Center’s medical complex has 414 beds; its comprehensive network boasts more than 600 affiliated physicians; and its extended care facility is the largest in the Carolinas. From women’s wellness and heart health to an Alzheimer’s center and urgent care facilities, Lexington Medical Center offers comprehensive and highly acclaimed care.

    Best Urgent Care
    Lexington Medical Center Urgent Care
    Runner-up: Doctor’s Care

    Sometimes you need to see a doctor quickly, without the hassle of waiting days for an open appointment. Broken bone? Massive bleeding? Go to the emergency room. But for those non-life-threatening but serious medical issues that can come out of nowhere, LMC Urgent Care will get you what you need.

    Best Pediatric Care
    Palmetto Pediatrics
    Runner-up: Sandhills Pediatrics

    With five offices in the Midlands, Palmetto Pediatrics is always handy when you need it. And with specialized services like lactation consulting a regular part of this practice, you know you and your child are in good hands.

    Best Dentist
    Palmetto Smiles
    Runner-up: Dr. Adam Brantley (Devine Dentistry)

    Specializing in pediatric dentistry, Palmetto Smiles makes going to the dentist as fun and enjoyable as going to the dentist can be — and encourages good dental habits that will last a lifetime.

    Best Eye Doctor or Group
    Columbia Eye Clinic
    Runner-up: Sansbury Eye Center

    Your eyes are useful for a ton of things, mainly seeing. Keep them prim and proper with regular visits to the Midlands’ largest ophthalmology practice.

    Best Place to Work
    University of South Carolina
    Runner-up: Palmetto Health

    With a lovely urban campus, great health benefits for full-timers and thousands of young minds to mold, USC is no surprise winner in this category. Students can earn an extra buck or two through the work-study program.

    Best After School Program
    The Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands
    Runner-up: YMCA

    School ends at 2:30 p.m. You get off work at 5 p.m. Clearly you need something to fill the gap — and the Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands will keep your kid safe, happy and learning all kinds of stuff during that time.

    Best Place for Music Lessons
    Columbia Arts Academy
    Runner-up: Freeway Music

    Music lessons have come a long way in the past few years — and that’s a good thing. At the Columbia Arts Academy, kids — and parents — can learn voice, piano, guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, mandolin or drums. Plus, they can learn styles from jazz to classical to rock. Hell, they even have rock band classes.

    Best Martial Arts School
    Columbia Martial Arts and Fitness
    Runner-up: Capital Karate

    Strength, balance and flexibility are a few of the tenets behind Columbia Martial Arts and Fitness’s fighting philosophy. To that end, the school teaches jiu-jitsu, combat submission wrestling, Jeet Kune Do, mixed martial arts, kickboxing and general fitness training to prepare you for any situation.

    Best Contemporary House of Worship
    NewSpring Church
    Runner-up: Shandon Baptist Church

    NewSpring’s local campus (there are nine total in the state) on Bush River Road converted a 84,000-square-foot building that formerly housed a Kmart into a new church. If you build it, they will come — and they have.

    Best Continuing Education Institution
    University of South Carolina
    Runner-up: Midlands Technical College

    You might still think of the University of South Carolina as mainly for undergrads, or maybe as a research institution and a home for innovation and technology. Increasingly, though, USC is also dedicated to helping working professionals and other nontraditional students meet their goals — including through the online Palmetto College.

    Best Local Insurance Agent
    Aaron Shealy (Allstate)
    Runner-up: Larry Lucas (State Farm)

    Does Aaron Shealy speak in that rich, low rumble like Dennis Haysbert in the Allstate ads? Call him and find out — he’ll help you get some good insurance while you’re at it.

    Best Auto Insurance Company
    State Farm
    Runner-up: USAA

    Must be all the savings reaped from that famed Discount Double Check — or just all those silly commercials copping Aaron Rodgers’ oft-imitated touchdown dance — but State Farm reigns as the preferred auto insurance agency of Free Times’ readers.

    Best Law Firm
    Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough
    Runner-up: McNair Law Firm

    Whether you’re the little guy standing up to injustice or a multinational corporation trying to protect its assets, Nelson Mullins probably has the right lawyer for you. Plus, its Columbia headquarters is pretty sweet, what with the rooftop garden and the cool library.

    Best Bank
    Wells Fargo
    Runner-up: Bank of America

    People like to complain about big banks in the abstract, but when it comes down to actually opening an account or taking out a loan? Well, then they want a bank with branches and ATMs all over the place. Wells Fargo fits the bill, and its employees are knowledgeable, professional and courteous, too.

    Best Credit Union
    Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union
    Runner-up: SC State Credit Union

    OK, some of you actually have said goodbye to big banks. At Palmetto Citizens, every account holder is a stakeholder — and anyone who lives or works in Richland, Lexington, Fairfield or Newberry counties can join. Offers competitive rates, too.

    Best Gun Shop
    Palmetto State Armory
    Runner-up: Shooter’s Choice

    Need a handgun? A shotgun? An AR-15? Ammo? A rifle scope? The list goes on — and Palmetto State Armory has it all.

    Best Shooting Range
    Palmetto State Armory
    Runner-up: Shooter’s Choice

    Need to hone your skills? The Fernandina location of Palmetto State Armory features a shooting range open daily for target practice and personalized lessons.

    Best Appliance Store
    Runner-up: Jeffers-McGill

    By selling everything including the kitchen sink, Lowe’s has become a go-to starting point for DIY household projects.

    Best Heating and Air
    2nd Wind Heating and Air
    Runner-up: Kaminer Heating and Cooling

    It’s just about mid-July every year when you start to see lots of AC company vans out on the roads in Columbia. Because when the mercury starts rising, HVAC systems start sputtering. That’s why you want to call a company that knows how to get your system back up and running — and make it stay that way.

    Best Plumbing Repair
    Meetze Plumbing
    Runner-up: Gene Love Plumbing

    In The Simpsons episode “Homer the Great,” Homer calls Stern Lecture Plumbing to fix a leak in the basement. The plumber comes and says he has to order a new part and it could take weeks. He comes back and says that he hasn’t ordered the part yet, until Homer does the secret Stonecutters handshake with him and reveals that he, too, is a Stonecutter. The plumber then fixes the leak with one turn of a wrench. You don’t have to belong to a secret society to get great service from Meetze. It’s their calling card.

    Best Landscaping Company
    Blue Moon Landscaping
    Runner-Up: Palmetto Pride Landscaping

    You might think that landscaping is little more than mowing lawns. Well, for one thing, mowing grass is kind of hard. For another, a company on the A-game, like Blue Moon, can help you with proper lighting, picking out the right plants, and figuring out how to irrigate so those plants will stay alive. So yeah, it’s a lot more than just cutting grass.

    Best Roll-Off Disposal
    Waste Management Services
    Runner-up: Big Red Box

    Maybe the category of Best Roll-Off Disposal seems totally esoteric to you. But if you’re tearing apart your kitchen or doing other major work on your house, you’ll need to know who to call to haul that stuff away. Now you do.

    Best Mobile Storage
    Runner-up: Big Red Box

    It came down to this: “Put some RED in your life” vs. “Pack it. Keep it. Store it. Move it.” Columbia, you voted to keep your sloganeering simple. Besides, PODS look like actual storage units.

    Best Real Estate Agency
    Russell and Jeffcoat
    Runner-up: Coldwell Banker

    Founded in 1965, Russell & Jeffcoat has become one of the largest residential real estate firms in the Southeast. Sometimes, bigger really is better.

    Best Home Builder
    Mungo Homes
    Runner-up: Essex Homes

    For generations of Columbia residents, “new home” is synonymous with Mungo Homes. Founded in 1954, the Columbia-based company builds in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia for a variety of tastes and lifestyles. In addition to being one of the largest builders in the country, Mungo supports numerous local nonprofits.

    The Hilton Columbia Center wins Best Hotel. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Hotel
    Hilton Columbia Center (The Vista)
    Runner-up: Embassy Suites

    Let’s be honest — if you’re looking to stay in Columbia closest to where the action is, you want to be in the Vista. And the Hilton Columbia Center sits at a most convenient corner of the neighborhood, across the street from where the city’s new Music Farm promises to transform the local club scene.

    Sid and Nancy wins Best Local Clothing Store and runner-up for Best Alternative Clothing. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Local Clothing Store
    Sid and Nancy
    Runner-up: Granger Owings

    That [insert branded clothing item here] is so last season. Sid and Nancy lets you trade your once-envied ensemble for cash or store credit. And it’s the place where we stock up on our Columbi-Yeah! T-shirts.

    Loose Lucy’s wins Best Alternative Clothing. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Alternative Clothing
    Loose Lucy’s
    Runner-up: Sid and Nancy
    Need a flowing skirt to accentuate those flower-girl hips? A tie-dye T-shirt to send just the right vibe? Loose Lucy’s has you covered — literally.

    Best Children’s Clothing
    Once Upon a Child
    Runner-up: Little Lambs and Ivy

    The basic equation is this: Clothes are expensive, and kids grow out of them very quickly. No wonder, then, that the best place to buy children’s clothing is the one that sells an impressive selection of gently used items at low prices.

    Best Women’s Clothing
    Runner-up: Bohemian

    Claims to have somehow mastered the art of being both modern and Southern, and releases several catalogues for fashion ideas throughout the year.

    Granger Owings wins Best Men’s Clothing. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Men’s Clothing
    Granger Owings
    Runner-up: Jos. A. Bank

    Men no longer have to keep their clothing fetish in the closet, and it’s refreshing to even see some straying from the frat and Carolina Cup-approved wardrobe. (Though not too far, right?) If you want to comfortably walk the line between a gentleman’s outfit and an “alphet” (look it up on Urban Dictionary if you’re confused), Granger Owings will have you looking cooler than Jay-Z in a Standard Hotel elevator. Just start with the shoes, broski.

    Best Jewelry Store
    Runner-up: Jewelry Warehouse

    Beautiful, affordable, one-of-a-kind jewelry, from monogrammed pendants to hip beaded earrings. Friendly staff and great repair service seal the deal.

    Best Culinary Store
    The Gourmet Shop
    Runner-up: Williams-Sonoma

    Even if you’re not in the mood to purchase something, it’s good fun to drop in at The Gourmet Shop at Five Points, tasting free samples of various fine oils, dips and breads. But if you are in need of hard-to-find kitchen accessories, the selection overflows. Also a nice spot to grab a good cigar, a bottle of wine or a quick bite at the attached café.

    Best Smoke Shop
    Natural Vibrations
    Runner-up: High Life Smoke Shop

    This is the place to be for all things Rasta. Carries hand-blown glass pipes, vapes, fair-trade clothing, incense, djembee drums, organic skin-care products and more.

    Best Cigar Shop
    The Cigar Box
    Runner-up: Tobacco Merchant
    You can get your smoke on at home, picking up a thick stogie or two from the wide selection at one of The Cigar Box’s two Columbia locations. Or you can get your smoke on at The Cigar Box, sipping on a newly installed selection of craft beer. Either way, you win.

    High Life Smoke Shop wins Best Vaping Store. File photo

    Best Vaping Store
    High Life Smoke Shop
    Runner-up: Planet Vapor

    With an assortment of pipes, vaporizers, hookah equipment and lots of e-cigs, this tobacco shop gives you plenty of ways to enjoy the high life.

    Handpicked is Best Jewelry Store and Best Gift Shop. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Gift Shop
    Runner-up: Just the Thing

    Jewelry makes a great gift, of course — but at Handpicked, you can also find South Carolina-specific items from cheese knives to bottle openers.

    Best Hand-Crafted Gift Shop
    One-Eared Cow Glass
    Runner-up: Artizan

    One-Eared Cow has been providing Columbia with high-quality, affordably priced hand-blown glass art for more than 20 years — and Columbia appreciates it.

    Best Wine and Paint Studio
    Grapes and Gallery
    Runner-up: Studio Cellar

    Sit back, relax and enjoy a glass of wine as you explore your inner Van Gogh. Other artists usually lead painting sessions, but there are also days where you can just do your own thing.

    Old Mill Antique Mall wins Best Antique Store. Photo by Austin Price

    Best Antique Store
    Old Mill Antique Mall
    Runner-up: City Market Antiques

    When you browse through an antique mall of this size and variety, you never know what you’ll find — and that’s what makes it so fun. From furniture, lamps and glassware to jewelry, books and vintage clothing, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to check this place out.

    Best Thrift Store
    Runner-up: His House

    The granddaddy of thrift stores is still the best place to find everything from gently used furniture to super-hip clothing — just be prepared to dig.

    Best Consignment Store
    Once Upon a Child
    Runner-up: Revente
    If you have kids, you know the deal: They grow quickly, so quickly that you’re constantly shelling out cash for clothes that won’t fit in six months. That’s what makes Once Upon a Child’s idea of selling gently used clothing, toys, furniture and equipment such a popular one. [Copy missing in print edition.]

    Best Hardware Store
    Runner-up: Ace Hardware

    Walk in, press one of those “help” buttons and allow a staff member to help you navigate the expansive aisles, which contain pretty much everything you could conceivably need to improve your home. Need something for your door, cabinet or mailbox? How about some hooks, locks or screws? Dishwashers? Lumber? We could keep going, but you get the point.

    The Mad Platter is Best Pottery Studio. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Pottery Studio
    Mad Platter
    Runner-up: Southern Pottery

    Parties! Camps! Classes! Founded in 1997, Mad Platter offers a full range of options for getting both kids and adults engaged with pottery, and it doesn’t stop there — there are also glass-fusing projects, where you can make jewelry, bowls and more.

    Best Florist
    The Blossom Shop
    Runner-up: Rosewood Florist

    A lovely local florist nestled in the heart of Five Points, the Blossom Shop can help you find the right flowers for every occasion.

    Best Bakery
    Runner-up: Tiffany’s Bakery

    The bread? Soft. The cakes? Moist. The cookies? Chewy. The point? Everything in the Publix bakery is delicious.

    Ole Timey Meat Market is Best Place for Fresh Meat and Seafood. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Place for Fresh Meat and Seafood
    Ole Timey Meat Market
    Runner-up: The Fresh Market

    Offering beef, chicken, pork, veal, lamb and other more exotic meats, Old Timey has a fine cut from pretty much any animal you’d care to eat — and possibly a few you’d never dream of devouring.

    Best Natural Food Store
    Trader Joe’s
    Runner-up: Whole Foods

    Not only does Trader Joe’s offer a range of natural foods, imported foods, produce, supplements and more, but it offers them at prices you can actually afford. Thanks, Joe, whoever you are.

    Best Nutritional Supplement Store
    Rosewood Market
    Runner-up: GNC

    You want to talk to some people who know their herbs, vitamins and other supplements? Talk to the people at Rosewood Market. They’ve seen fads come and go, and have a depth of knowledge that will suit you well in your quest to be happy and healthy.

    Green’s wins Best Beer and Liquor Store. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Beer and Liquor Store
    Green’s Beverages
    Runner-up: Morganelli’s

    Green’s knows beer, providing an expansive selection of craft bottles and cans, hard-to-find bombers as well as an ample and affordable array of cheaper options. Green’s knows liquor, stocking an impressive variety of pretty much every spirit you could want, scratching your itch no matter how much (or how little) scratch you have to throw down for a drink.

    Best Place to Buy New Comic Books
    Heroes & Dragons
    Runner-up: Silver City Comics
    The biggest comic store in the Midlands is also a great place to buy toys, graphic novels and more.

    Best Place to Buy Used Comic Books
    Heroes and Dragons
    Runner-up: 2nd & Charles
    Yes, it’s got a great collection of used comics. It also periodically opens its vault to get you a chance at some rare and interesting finds.

    Best Place for Fresh Produce
    Soda City Market
    Runner-up: Publix

    Remember when Columbians had to gaze enviously at every other city’s downtown farmers market? Soda City has filled a big void, and it’s still growing.

    Best Wine Store
    Total Wine and More
    Runner-up: Green’s Beverages

    Must try all the wine. Total wine. Each location carries around 8,000 different wines, which might seem overwhelming, but the staff will be happy to help you out.

    Best Store for Used Books
    The Book Dispensary
    Runner-up: 2nd & Charles

    Looking for a late summer read? The Book Dispensary has literally thousands of good-condition paperbacks and hardbacks at bargain prices. Also offers book repair, binding and rebinding services.

    Best Dry Cleaner
    Tripp’s Fine Cleaners
    Runner-up: Lexington Dry Cleaning

    You want to look your best? Tripp’s wants you to, too. Established in 1967, Tripp’s has 13 locations throughout the Midlands.

    Best Pest Control
    Runner-up: Home Pest Control

    No muss, no fuss. You call Terminix. An exterminator comes out in one of those white suits. Your pest problem is over.

    Best Alarm/Security Company
    Runner-up: Tripp’s Lock and Key

    Knowing that your home is nice and secure is something we probably take for granted every now and then. ADT provides home security and automation services to make sure whatever’s in your safe stays safe.

    Garnet and Black Traditions is Best Gamecock Store. Photo by Sean Rayford

    Best Gamecock Store
    Garnet and Black Traditions
    Runner-up: Addams Bookstore

    Seems like half the stores in the Midlands sell a couple of Gamecock koozies and T-shirts. But if you’re looking for real depth of inventory — the latest and best-looking Gamecock gear from Under Armour, Columbia and more — you’ll want to hit Garnet and Black Traditions. 

    Best Cycle Shop
    Runner-up: Cycle Center

    The best thing about Outspokin’ isn’t the great bicycles, or the wide selection of accessories and gear, or the repair shop. It’s the people, who are always cordial and helpful to cyclists of all types and skill levels.

    Best Cab Service
    Checker Yellow Cab
    Runner-up: Capital City Cab Company

    When you’re the largest taxicab company in the Midlands, you can dispatch cabs with efficiency and ease — and that makes customers happy. Checker Yellow also teams up with lots of local event sponsors to provide free and reduced-price rides home from drinking events.

    Best Limousine Service
    5 Star Limo
    Runner-up: First Class Limo, VIP Limo Service (TIE)

    Sometimes you just want to get where you’re going; other times, you want to get there in style. Whatever the occasion might be, 5 Star Limo offers luxury rides at fair prices.

    Half-Moon Outfitters is Best River Outfitter and Best Camping/
Outdoors Store. Photo by Austin Price

    Best Outdoors/Camping Gear Store
    Half-Moon Outfitters
    Runner-up: The Backpacker

    When’s the last time you roasted marshmallows over an open fire? Trust us, it’s been too long. Prepare for a return to nature with gear ranging from paddleboards to trekking poles.

    Best River Outfitter
    Half-Moon Outfitters
    Runner-up: Adventure Carolina

    Get your personal flotation devices, dry sacks, paddles, kayaks and more right here at Half-Moon. Its YouTube channel features a “how-to” paddleboard guide for beginners, so no excuses.

    Best Marina
    Lake Murray Marina
    Runner-up: Lighthouse Marina

    With 24-hour security, a ship store, gas dock and a bustling dockside community, Lake Murray Marina is certainly a hub of activity. Slips range from side ties, half-slips, covered slips and 26-foot floating dock slips to 90-foot outside tie slips on the marina’s multiple floating docks.

    Best Sporting Goods Store
    Academy Sports
    Runner-up: Dick’s Sporting Goods

    Yes, Academy’s interior is a little spartan compared to some of its more colorfully decorated competitors, but it would seem that the chain uses that advantage to provide some considerable savings and to stock its locations with all the athletic shoes, clothes and equipment you could want.

    Best Fitness Club
    Gold’s Gym
    Runner-up: Planet Fitness

    Don’t skip leg day. Sure it can be tough, but a it’s task made easier when you’re around like-minded people. Hosts cardio cinema sessions where you can burn calories while watching full-length films. 

    Which categories did the readers get right? Which ones did they blow? Which categories should go away — and which ones are missing? Let us know what you think: Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Let us know what you think: Email

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