Best Of 2016

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2016 Best Of Colorado Springs: Shopping & Services 

click to enlarge MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
Flower Shop

Springs in Bloom

• Owner Tanya Anderson literally wakes up and smells the roses, visiting wholesale flower shops every morning

• Unofficial policy: If your flower arrangement lasts less than a week, Anderson will do something about it

• Picking up flowers at Memorial Hospital? They come from these guys

• A large arrangement was made for Our Souls at Night, the movie currently being filmed here in the Springs

• Not every florist can say they've delivered flowers to Jane Fonda

Bookstore

Poor Richard's Book & Gifts

• Richard Skorman started the bookstore while still in college at CC

• Used to leave it unlocked when he went to class, setting out a Mason jar and a note reading, "Please pay"

• Coolest new title on the shelf right now: A Quiet Place, a Japanese crime drama by Seicho Matsumoto

• Focusing on beefing up its selection of new books, rotating the gifts and stationery available, and keeping up with customer demand for harder-to-find books

• Co-owner Patricia Seator designed the layout of the newly renovated bookstore area

Higher Ed for Nontraditional Students

Pikes Peak Community College

• The largest higher-ed provider in southern Colorado — with nearly 20,000 students — has traditional and satellite campuses, and online options

• Sixty percent of enrollees are first-generation college students

• Find award-winning food trucks and local food purveyors at PPCC's three main campuses

• A realistic, affordable gateway to higher education, including credit transfer opportunities for those seeking four-year degrees, and "concurrent enrollment" programs for high school students

• Mascot: Arnie the Aardvark

Higher Ed Institution

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

• A reasonably priced, high-quality education that leads to a job; loan default rate stands at a mere 2.9 percent, the lowest in the state and a fraction of the 13.7 percent national average

• 12,000-student population enjoys a real university lifestyle on a campus with a lot more room for continued growth

• Home to the forthcoming Sports Medicine and Performance Center, plus satellite art galleries and the future Ent Center for the Arts

• Sixteen Division II athletic programs, now including baseball and lacrosse, as well as expanded track and field and a top-flight golf program

• Mascot: Clyde the Mountain Lion

Garden Supply/Nursery (tie)

Rick's Garden Center

• Current co-owner Mike Estes started as a stock boy when he was 21

• 35 years later, he employs a staff of about 35 at peak season, but only hires those with a personal passion for plants, because the green thumb is infectious

• Specializes in unusual orders, mostly retail but plenty of commercial landscapers and urban homesteaders

• Used to have the MMJ supplies market cornered back in the day, before specialized hydroponic stores opened up

Garden Supply/Nursery (tie)

Good Earth Garden Center

• Been in business 43 years, in its current location for almost 20

• Big, old property with a "funky" Westside/Old North End feel, located in a residential area

• View demonstration beds so you can see what the plants will look like in the garden, rather than on a shelf

• Works with Pikes Peak Urban Gardens — selling garlic varieties, participating in spring classes

• Carries dry-air, rock-garden plants for all your Xeriscaping needs

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Day Spa, Barbershop, Nail Salon, Hair Stylist

Eden Salon and Barbershop

When stepping through the unassuming front doors of Eden, "vast" might be the first word that comes to mind. Spread across three floors, the salon's hip downtown location is airy and vibrant, with private studios offering everything from hair and nail services to skincare and permanent makeup. Claiming four different awards this year, Eden's home to the winner of Best Hair Stylist and salon owner, Lindsey Living-ston, who credits her success to her philosophy that building connections is the key to nurturing a lasting client relationship. "It's all about sharing," she says. I love the friendships I develop with my clients and the time I spend with them. I love making them feel beautiful." Eden also took Best Barbershop, eschewing the notion that hair care services must be divided into separate, gendered locations. Three barbers work in the salon to meet the needs of those seeking men's cuts. Livingston says the salon will continue to embrace its modern approach and unique offerings — including the services of a professional tattoo artist — in the coming year. "Our clients are so loyal and they really love supporting us in what we do," says Livingston.

click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz
Hair Salon

Veda Salon & Spa

• Uses entirely natural, plant-based products

• Locally owned — opened its doors 20 years ago and still has a few original employees

• Founded the Greenie Awards, celebrating local environmentally conscious organizations and businesses

• Charitable work focuses on women, children and the environment

• Correcting a common misconception: Veda has services for various price ranges, with haircuts starting as low as $18

Women's Boutique

Eve's Revolution

• Owner Eve Carlson used to teach special education before opening this store in 2000

• Used to be consignment, now all retail with a specialization in unique styles

• Favorite yearly event: "12 Days Before Christmas" — every day leading up to the holiday, Eve's serves hot cocoa and cider and has a different special sale

• Hosts frequent food drives (such as October's Autumn Harvest event) and raises money for various charities

• Carlson's husband, a former shop teacher, is responsible for the beautiful gardens, lawns, racks, fixtures and dressing rooms

Place for Eyewear

ABBA Eye Care

• Offers LipiFlow, a treatment for dry eye that few competitors have available

• Some neat new technology: Optos Eye Mapping, which does away with dilation (downside — you don't get those cool sunglasses)

• Just opened new locations in Fountain and Aurora, which makes 15 total (including two on military bases)

• Dr. Marcus Meyer named the business for a few reasons — phone book placement, the Hebrew word for "father" and the popular band

• Some employees have stuck with the business since it began in 1978

Store for Fashion Accessories

Pink Cadillac Boutique

• Gorgeous boutique atmosphere as cool as the accessories and clothes sold there

• Random find: a selection of vintage vinyl that changes out pretty often

• Be sure to cuddle Sasha the boutique kitty

• Shoppers are greeted with chilled champagne

• Unique accessories include leg-warmers, fascinators and arm-warmers

Jewelry Store

Revolution Jewelry Works

• On the job: three jewelers, a master appraiser and owner/stonecutter Jennifer Farnes — no sales staff

• No commercial lines of jewelry here, only artisan and handmade pieces

• All equipment is in-house, so you can actually watch them cast your custom engagement ring

• Once turned 5 karats of heirloom diamonds into one "low-profile" ring

• Named one of the top 16 jewelry stores in America by InStore Magazine

Tattoo Shop

Pens & Needles Custom Tattoo Company

• Owned by local Army veteran Kristina Wright

• Two locations serve central and southeastern Colorado Springs

• Hosts artists with a wide range of expertise, from old- and new-school to dotwork to realistic portraiture

• Specialty tattoo services include scar and stretch mark revision, as well as areola and nipple restoration

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Tattoo Artist

Jeff Oelklaus, Bearded Lady Custom Tattoo, Co.

• Has been tattooing in the Springs for his whole 16-year career

• Strangest tattoo he's ever done: Bob Ross painting a Mr. T cereal box

• Once spent 31/2 years creating a psychedelic version of "Don Quixote in his Study" on a man's back

• That Don Quixote tattoo received fewer "likes" than a simple flower he'd done

• "You just have to listen. I listen, I pay attention. I give people what they want. It's that simple."

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Antique Store

American Classics Marketplace

• Four hundred vendors spread over 65,000 square feet

• Owner Gary Brookshire says that if they don't have 1 million items, they're close

• Coolest thing in store at press time: an old vanilla still for making moonshine

• Coolest thing Brookshire's ever seen come through his doors: a taxidermied two-headed calf

• A large selection of recycled, upcycled and repainted products that are as much art as they are antiques

Used Furniture Store

Platte Furniture

• This ain't no thrift shop — furniture is selected carefully to ensure quality

• The clearance section features great buys for first apartments and college dorms

• Weirdest recent item: A giant light-up painting of the The Last Supper ... on velvet

• Fun fact: You can do a virtual walk-through of the entire store using Google Maps

• Ask about Platte's discount system — prices drop every week, down to 50 percent off

Thrift Shop

ARC Thrift Stores

• Colorado-owned and -operated nonprofit benefiting those with developmental disabilities

• 30-plus stores and donation centers statewide

• Half-price Saturdays make for a thrifty weekend

• A variety of volunteer opportunities available

Realtor

Pink Realty

• Owned by husband-and-wife team Monica and Russ Breckenridge

• Yes, their surname is in fact associated with the town of Breckenridge

• Monica is ranked No. 1 in Colorado for most real estate transactions

• Priciest listing in the Springs (at the moment) — a cool $2.75 million

• Pink Realty donates to a local chapter of Susan G. Komen each year

Pet Daycare (tie)

PetSmart

• Organize their play sessions by dog size, so no one gets trampled

• One-stop shop with a groomer, store and vet on-site

• Pet Hotel option has 24/7 supervision for dogs and cats

• Overnight staff does hourly walkthroughs to ensure all pups are sleeping soundly

• Recently started the Doggie Valet service, so you can drop off your pet when you're in a rush

Pet Groomer

Soggy Doggies Grooming

• Soggy Doggies owner Cari Goslin is a graduate of the no-less-colorfully named Critter Clips school of grooming

• As a groomer, she regularly donates time at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, making sheltered pets look too cute to pass by

• A $20 de-skunking means you don't have to soak your dog in gallons of tomato juice, which doesn't work anyway

• Colloidal oatmeal baths and blueberry facial scrubs also available

Veterinary Clinic

Yorkshire Veterinary Hospital p. 67

• Rule of thumb: If you can carry your pet in, a doctor will see it (including reptiles, amphibians, birds and goats, among other usual suspects)

• Once extracted a Barbie's head swallowed by a small dog — who came back two weeks later after swallowing Ken's head

• Has a designated "comfort room" with dim lighting for owners to spend some quality time with beloved pets before bidding final goodbyes

• Offers in-person demonstration, video tutorials and brochures for how to brush your pets' teeth (dental disease is one of the most common issues Yorkshire sees)

click to enlarge CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
Pet Day Care (tie)

Camp Bow Wow

• Dogs get divided play areas based on energy level and temperament

• Offers grooming services at both locations and training at one — trainer even makes house calls when needed

• Each pup gets his own profile, with food information, medication information, personality notes and a glamour shot

• Camper cams allow owners to check in on their dogs all day — and yes, there's an app for that

• Lullabies and classical music play through the speakers at night, so dogs feel calm and comforted

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
Service at a Dealership, New Foreign Car Dealer

Heuberger Motors

Heuberger Motors isn't quite like any other dealership in town. That much is obvious from its full-service (and free) latte bar and relaxing koi pond, but the differences aren't just cosmetic. "We try to make it really easy for everyone involved," says John Adams, director of operations, who has been with the company for 20 years. "We try to be upfront, helpful and convenient." Considering Heuberger's bevy of Best Of awards, it seems to be working. To get customers in and out even faster, they're almost ready to open a new service facility right up the hill, which will have more service and wash bays, plus room to store more parts. Their make-good-even-better philosophy also extends to our wider community. You'd be hard-pressed to find a business with its logo on as many banners as Heuberger, because it gives incredibly generous support to local nonprofits — especially those dealing with pets and the outdoors. "We like to support things that are important to our customers," Adams says. "The biggest joy I get is when we can give a nonprofit a $50,000 check. I understand the difference that contribution can make."

New Domestic Car Dealer (tie)

Phil Long Ford

• Two locations are part of 15 Phil Long-branded dealerships, offering a truly stress-free experience with online buying options — one client bought a car over Facebook Messenger (welcome to 2016)

• The largest family-owned car dealer in the state, home to domestic and foreign brands

• 2016 trend: SUVs, AWD or 4x4 — because, you know, Colorado

• Owner and veteran Jay Cimino founded the Mt. Carmel Center for Excellence, a nonprofit dedicated to the wellness of veterans and their families

Auto Repair Shop

Aspen Auto Clinic

• Specializing in Euro, import and domestic car repairs at six locations in the Springs and Denver

• Started in Owner Greg Bunch's garage in 2001

• Ask about the Legendary 336 warranty, a guarantee for three years or 36,000 miles on most repairs

• Known for offering customers easy-to-follow, expert advice on vehicle diagnostics and repairs — you know exactly what you're paying for and why you need it — along with free towing and shuttle services

Bank/Credit Union

Ent Credit Union

• The largest Colorado-based credit union, serving members nationwide

• Accounts for kiddos; home, car and credit card financing; retirement planning; investing solutions; and more

• A full range of products for businesses

• Online and mobile banking for the tech-savvy, and free financial seminars for the education-inclined

• Ten-plus area locations

New Domestic Car Dealer (tie), Used Car Dealer

AutoSearch USA

When it comes to car-buying, the word "broker" doesn't have the charm it used to. That's why Ronnie Haskins describes AutoSearch USA as an independent, alternative car dealer. The four-person team at AutoSearch's Springs branch, one of several franchises operating in Colorado under the same brand, doesn't want to sell you a car, it wants to help you buy a car. ("Alternative," remember? Stick with me.) Haskins, owner of the southern Colorado location, says his team has access to over 200,000 vehicles per day, and works to find "solutions" for their clients. "We have to distinguish ourselves from other dealers," Haskins says. "I can be straight with people because I'm not owned by any [brand]. I can say, 'I don't like this car, and here's why.'" It's a car-buying experience that's not necessarily a perfect fit for everyone. "Some people need to be impulsive," Haskins says. "We have more 'niche' clients who just like buying cars this way: It's a thought-out, educated decision, not just something you do over a weekend." Ever think you'd hear a car salesman say that?

Attorney

Hammond Law Group

• Thirteen staffers focused on helping clients navigate the intricacies of estate planning — hire one, you get the whole team

• Develops relationships with each client, with free workshops and newsletters to prepare them for various life-changing scenarios

• Servicing the Springs for over a decade, with even more prior experience in local practices

• A flat fee structure to ensure you know exactly how much you're paying, phone calls and checkups included

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
Store for Music, Movies & Videos

Independent Records & Video

• Locally owned and operated chain that's survived the vagaries of the retail record business since 1978

• The Platte Avenue store's Independent Annex is a vinyl collector's paradise

• Local musicians work there (That's good, right?)

• In addition to CDs and vinyl LPs, stores offer a wide range of videos, magazines and paraphernalia

Eclectic Shop

The Leechpit

• Huge collection of offbeat, hard-to-find music

• Awesome vintage clothes to perfect your look

• After being kicked around town, recently renewed the lease on its Westside location for five years

• Propagators of iconic "Keep Colorado Springs Lame" stickers

Doctor

Dr. Gina Bamberger

• Majored in philosophy before making the switch to medicine, a more hands-on outlet for her love of science and humanities

• Moved to the Springs in kindergarten, graduated from Palmer High School and Colorado College

• She knows what it means to be a family practitioner: "It's a life-long relationship"

• Favorite medical instrument: Her ears, "listening to what my patients say is the most important thing I do"

• Best advice for a long healthy life: Get out and enjoying our natural surroundings

click to enlarge BRIAN TRYON
  • Brian Tryon
Comic Shop

Escape Velocity Comics & Graphic Novels p. 49

• Has been selling comics since before they were cool again (1992)

• Reports a huge up-tick in comic book interest since Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man movie, believe it or not

• There's a reason its second location is right next to a movie theater

• Local artists featured on the shelves at both locations

• It's Batman versus X-Men for the title of biggest-selling franchise

Dentist

Kids Rock Pediatric Dentistry

• Entire office has a wicked cool pirate theme: sharks, treasure chest, wall murals, the works

• Inclusive of kids with special needs or sensory issues

• Dr. Corban Stettler, owner and dentist, is a local boy and a graduate of UCCS

• Stettler has also explored the world and volunteered his time in Belize and Nicaragua

• The small staff helps create a personal feel, welcoming everyone

Natural Foods Store
click to enlarge BRIENNE BOORTZ
  • Brienne Boortz

Natural Grocers

• Its north store recently moved to a new location along North Academy Boulevard; locations also on South Nevada Avenue and on Baptist Road in Monument

• Nearly 20 new locations recently announced nationwide, from Texas to Oregon

• Unlike some other health food chains, Natural Grocers only sells organic produce

• An estimated 100 million bags kept out of landfills since the company implemented bag-free checkout counters in 2009

• Just one thing we love: the notably friendly, knowledgeable and helpful staff

Nontraditional Health Practitioner

J.C. Body Care and Therapy p. 63

• Since opening in 2013, J.C. has built four additions to accommodate the influx of customers

• Started by owner Janey Sprouse; now counts eight employees

• Opening a second location downtown by early next year

• Goes with natural and local products whenever possible, including Salus essential oils made in Manitou Springs

• Offers treatments, like Thai yoga massage, that are a little different from what you normally find

Store for Colorado-Made Spirits, Store for Craft Beer, Store for Wine

Coaltrain Wine & Spirits p. 65

If you ever need to prove just how cutting-edge the Springs can be when it comes to locally crafted hooch, make your way to Coaltrain Wine & Spirits. Once a humble liquor outpost on the eastern-most edge of the Westside, Coaltrain now spans nearly 8,000 square feet. Its aesthetic- and purpose-driven remodel brought a wine cellar, a picturesque tasting room, more beer doors and expanded retail floor space. You'll find upwards of 1,300 varieties of beer to peruse, and what's always been known as one of the best wine selections in town is now almost four times what it was in 1981, according to co-owner Jim Little. Then there are the spirits, from local to mainstream and everything in between. If you get a little lost, hey, that's part of any adventure — just talk with Coaltrain's knowledgeable staff, who will point you in the right direction.

Grocery Store

King Soopers p. 53

• Established by Barney Kroger in 1883 with $327 and one location in downtown Cincinnati

• The first retail grocer to test electronic scanners and conduct customer research in the '70s

• Locally sourced products available regularly, from produce to meat to dairy

• No pants, no problem! Give the HomeShop online delivery service a shot

Child Day Care

Giving Tree Montessori p. 49

• World Citizen Inc. sponsored Giving Tree as an International Peace Site after the school spent a year doing community projects with students

• Kids own their education, choosing what they want to learn first

• Schoolyard squabbles get resolved fast thanks to a focus on conflict resolution

• Founder Gisela Tilch says she's looking forward to second-generation students

Ethnic Food Market

Asian Pacific Market p. 53

• Proving "You can't get that here" wrong since 2008

• International food mecca selling ingredients from Asian, European, African and Latin cuisines

• Nearly 20,000 square feet housing fresh, year-round and seasonal foods from around the world

• Full-service meat and deli departments serving traditional roasted duck, BBQ pork, dim sum and more

• Some of the freshest seafood at altitude, including live lobster, crab, Louisiana crawfish, and more seasonal options

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