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Best of Colorado Springs 2013: Shopping 

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Garden Supply/Nursery

Good Earth Garden Center

1330 N. Walnut St., 473-3399, goodearthgardencenter.com

One of the Springs' major, privately owned garden supply stores, Good Earth Garden Center celebrates its first Best Of gold in 2013. "We get nominated every year, but it's normally the other ones that win it," says owner and manager Wayne Fisher, who is proudly going into his 39th year of supplying the Springs area with perennials, seasonal bulbs, soil, lawn ornaments ... virtually anything you can think of from his well-hidden, but sprawling and gorgeous, Walnut Street complex. "We supply something for every season," says Fisher. I, personally, want the chance to run through a field of roses and daisies like Dorothy ... er, the tin man in the Wizard of Oz next summer. But if you're into something a bit more subtle, Good Earth will most likely have what you need. — MB

Landscaper/Company

Colorado StoneWorks Landscaping

21 Commerce St., 538-6016, springslandscaping.com

Generally, I've paid attention to what's resting against my house only when it's been breathing heavily or smelling terribly. Since my mulch did neither, I never really thought twice about it. Which is why people like me should be happy there are companies like Colorado StoneWorks. Co-owner Anne Campbell explains that by laying mulch up to the side of your house, you'll ensure that your foundation stays wetter, and that your home burns faster in a fire. Brains like those are important around here, but StoneWorks' interest in beauty has surely contributed to its A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, too. The way its 18 full-time employees treat people doesn't hurt, either. "With the huge number of landscaping companies that exist in Colorado Springs and surrounding areas," Campbell says, "the only way you do stand out is providing excellent customer service." — KW

Flower Shop

Platte Floral

1417 E. Platte Ave., 632-2607, platteflorist.com

Platte Floral may win this category for its flowers, but there's a lot more to this Colorado Springs mainstay than that. On a random recent Wednesday visit, the shop was filled to the brim with outdoor décor, patio furniture, gifty items like crystal figurines and a heap of Halloween decorations. (If you hear a shrill scream or demonic laughter while perusing the petunias, don't freak.) But for those uninterested in the abiotic offerings, Platte's greenhouse has a huge selection of sculptural succulents, lush ferns and exotic-looking anthurium. Even when the season pushes us indoors for a little green, Platte's got it covered, as it has since it first won in 2005. — EA

Interior Design/Home Remodeling

Rich Designs Home

1731 Mount Washington Ave., 475-1200, richdesignshome.com

Rich Schell's designs are worldly even if Schell, himself, hasn't trekked the globe all his life. Two taxidermied animal heads hang in Schell's own dining room, and a life-sized 1866 Italian sculpture of John the Baptist, found at an estate sale, sits on a living-room pedestal. Meanwhile, African masks, zebra-hide chairs and Chinese porcelain, items the designer picked up in consignment shops and local stores, have made appearances in some of Schell's clients' homes. "I may have never traveled there, but it's the exotic side of stretching my mind to somewhere I've never been creatively," Schell says. The designer describes his style as "organized clutter" with a touch of travel. — WB

Holistic Practitioner

Valerie Blankenship at Sage Woman Herbs & Clinic

108 E. Cheyenne Road, 473-9702, sagewomanherbs.com

Valerie Blankenship has been relying on her extensive knowledge of herbs and plant-based remedies to help people for more than 22 years. She says many of her clients have been to doctors and been prescribed medication, and are "unhappy with the side effects, or they want to know what's available in the natural world." After taking a thorough assessment of their symptoms and physical condition, the clinical herbalist makes special formulations that may include tinctures, capsulated herb mixtures, herbal teas or even creams for skin ailments. (In conjunction with her clinic, Blankenship runs the Sage Woman Herbs apothecary, where you'll find hundreds of ready-made herbal products.) This personal attention has won Blankenship the distinction of Best Holistic Practitioner three years running. — DM

Realtor

Christopher Morrison at Action Team Realty

2790 N. Academy Blvd. #180, 559-8400, actionteamcolorado.com

At 29, Christopher Morrison talks wistfully about his start in the real estate business, all the way back in the Aughts. "I started off when there wasn't many young realtors at the time," he says. "There was maybe a handful of us ... of course now I'm getting old." But let's give him a break, since he's actually been building his portfolio since he was a 16-year-old "car cruiser" at Harrison District 2's Sierra High. "I kind of know all the streets, and all the neighborhoods," he says, "'cause we used to just cruise around everywhere." Today, Morrison says he sells anything from a $35,000 condo in his southeastern part of town to $700,000 houses in northeastern Colorado Springs' Flying Horse development. He's literally all over the place, though one spot where you're unlikely to find him is at the Action Team offices. "The guy that brought me into real estate told me that a good agent doesn't sit at the phone, waiting for somebody to call him," Morrison says. "He's out beating the streets." — KW

Thrift Store

Arc Thrift Stores

Multiple locations, arcthrift.com

I frequent the Uintah Gardens Arc Thrift Store mainly because it's the closest of the four local Arcs to my home. But it's the 45-year-old nonprofit's newest store, on North Academy Boulevard, that I try to hit whenever I'm up that way, because donors to that location often pass along excellent-quality pieces with labels from the fancy-schmancy stores at Shops at Briargate. (And that's your insider thrift tip for today.) It seems you all like the Arc as much as I do — it's been undefeated as a winner in this category since 2006. And when you add on that the money spent here supports advocacy and support services for those with developmental disabilities, everyone's a winner. — KA

Place to Buy Art

Commonwheel Artists Co-Op

102 Cañon Ave., Manitou Springs, 685-1008, commonwheel.com

With an emphasis on sculpture, mixed media and other 3D artwork, Commonwheel offers some of the finest and most unique art in the city, all handmade by locals. Consider the work of member Ace McCasland: "Ace is especially enamored with working with metal, experimenting with patinas and testing its limits ... Imperfections are embraced, even enhanced," says Wendy Daniels-Gillam, marketing representative for Commonwheel. The resulting jewelry is rough-hewn, raw and beautiful. Also worth noting: Buying art here supports a local business in an area hit hard by floods. As Daniels-Gillam reminds us, "Manitou has been through hell lately." — JK

Antique/Gently Used Furniture

Platte Furniture

2331 E. Platte Place, 633-7309, plattefurniture.com

A staple in the Springs since 1978, Platte Furniture has always been family-owned. Originally the fruit of Dick Kelly's labor, it's now continuing to expand and thrive under the supervision of Dick's son Kyle. "We first began with only about 8,000 square feet [of showroom space]" explains Kyle. "We have gradually expanded over the years, and are now at 36,000 square feet." From big-name brands such as La-Z-Boy and Ethan Allen to antique and vintage furniture, the Kelly family has remained consistently attentive to the quality of furniture they sell. But Platte also serves the college crowd or those on a budget by offering good, gently used furniture at super-low prices in the clearance section. — MB

Jewelry Store

Luisa Graff Jewelers

5901 N. Nevada Ave., 260-0100, luisagraffjewelers.com

What does luxury look like? Well, a 9.77-karat, $46,000 diamond ring is a good place to start. But customers at Luisa Graff Jewelers can try on the one-of-a-kind solitaire while also lounging in a surprisingly homey, 8,000-square-foot store, complete with a Tuscan garden-themed bridal showroom, a kids' playroom and a man cave. Couches and televisions give guests a place to lounge while their loved ones browse the bling, which ranges from simple stud earrings to elaborate gem-sprinkled pendants, all hand-picked by Graff herself. — WB

Place for Eyewear

ABBA Eye Care

Multiple locations, abbaeyecare.com

The marquee at ABBA Eyecare's Nevada & Garden of the Gods location boasts that it's the city's best place for eyecare according to "both newspapers," which is a great way of saying that godless, unwashed hippies and gun-toting conservatives alike can come together at ABBA to pick out some Warby Parkers. And we're all about togetherness, so we won't ask them to change that sign anytime soon. As for what's new this year, ABBA operations manager Alan Sindler describes to us their latest tech: new lenses that actually filter out the harmful blue light emitted by artificial sources, which can lead to eye fatigue. Get rid of the blue, and it'll be easier going green, he adds, since "ironically, some of the energy-efficient light bulbs put out this blue light." — JK

Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Inexpensive Gift
Place to Buy a Thoughtful, Over-the-Top Gift
Non-Chain Store for Women's Fashions
Store for Accessories

Terra Verde

208 N. Tejon St., 444-8621, terraverdestyle.com

Terra Verde's 1,200 scarves are just the beginning. While clothing and jewelry are the best-sellers, this perennial favorite stocks everything from leather boots to bamboo bowls and kids' toys. Inventory is always changing to appeal to the frequent shoppers who make Terra Verde their go-to for gifts both modest and marvelous. Gift-wrapping is free, and owner Chris Sondermann says, "I make sure that when someone receives a gift from Terra Verde, the presentation has a big 'wow' factor." Canine companions are welcome and may sniff out the dog bones under the counter while you're busy smelling the aromatic candles and scented soap, or admiring a pair of pink Boston terrier flannel pajamas. — DM

Non-Chain Bookstore

Poor Richard's Bookstore

320 N. Tejon St., 578-0012, poorrichardsdowntown.com

Poor Richard's has won this category every year since 2005. "I think the secret to our success is we keep our prices affordable for used books," says manager Marie Poole. "But what a lot of people don't know is we also carry new books, and we can special-order new books, too. Plus, we carry very unique and affordable cards, purses, scarves, jewelry and gift items. We've always been very concerned with issues related to the community, so the community supports us, too." But back to the books, since that's what we're talking about here: "The beauty of used bookstores is you'll see books about things you didn't even know existed," Poole says, "or you didn't even know might spark an interest in you. I like to think we sell ideas." — KK

Doctor

Gina Bamberger, D.O.

1730 N. Corona St., 955-2495, memorialsunflowerfm.org

A quick stop into this office tucked into a residential neighborhood makes it abundantly clear why Dr. Bamberger captures this category for the third time: She's busy. Her waiting room is full, and she doesn't have an extra minute to chat. But later the native and Colorado College grad calls with some introspective comments. Among them: "I believe that to be an excellent doctor, one has to really listen to what people have to say. But before that, the doctor needs to provide an environment in which people feel comfortable sharing. ... My mind is always looking for connections and patterns and I think that helps me piece together some of the medical puzzles that I encounter." And hey, anyone who specializes in women's health, notably managing menopause, should be roundly cheered. Rah! — PZ

Medical Marijuana Dispensary: West

TriChome Health Consultants

2117 W. Colorado Ave., 635-6337, thcmed.com

Military folks who have spent their entire careers being prescribed high doses of Motrin can truly appreciate how specific and thoughtful TriChome's employees are. Don't like the type of marijuana you picked up last? Bring it back, and folks here will switch it out for something else. They are, after all, professional consultants, not budtenders. TriChome says it's the second-oldest dispensary in El Paso County and one of the first 20 to open statewide, and it serves a clientele with an average age of 40-something. Many of those folks choose Cheese, which calms and relaxes anxiety without the grogginess. Others go with Carnival, especially if they suffer from AIDS, glaucoma or serious pain. — JMT

Bank/Credit Union

Ent Federal Credit Union

Multiple locations, 574-1100, ent.com

Most customers are used to handing over their money at their bank or credit union, but Ent's customers received money back last year. A $10 million dividend was dispersed to members based on their use, says Cathy Grossman, vice president of corporate communication. Add in free seminars, friendly workers and 27 Colorado locations, and it's no wonder why quarterly customer satisfaction surveys suggest the 56-year-old credit union is on the right track. "When we asked what we can do to earn more of their business," Grossman says, "a member of 23 years wrote, 'Keep doing what you're doing, the way you're doing it.' So we did." — WB

Higher Ed for Nontraditional Students

Pikes Peak Community College

Multiple locations, 502-2000, ppcc.edu

Course offerings at PPCC range from Pipe Welding to Zookeeping Technology to Phlebotomy to Theatre to Baking, and the student body matches that mix. "Our students are anything but typical," says president Lance Bolton. "For instance, it is completely normal to have a 16-year-old student sitting next to a 65-year-old student, and our students love it! This diversity of age, ethnic background and thought process heightens the quality of our education. " Plans are underway for a military and veterans center that will open early in 2014, with new office space, a veterans lounge, study space, more student computers for registration and benefits filing, and a space for reps from Veterans Affairs and VA Vocational Rehabilitation to meet with veterans. — MJM

IndyPick • Scatological Service

Rocky Mountain Worm Company

411-A Tia Juana St., 440-0711, rockymountainwormcompany.com

At the height of growing season, father-and-son team Ken and Jay Williams will have upward of 60,000 African nightcrawlers chomping on a pre-composed organic matter mix inside 3½-gallon buckets to produce around 1,750 pounds of worm castings — or microbial-rich fertilizer, or worm poop — every two weeks. "We like to call it the catalyst that makes everything go," says Jay. "The microbes have to be there for the plants to uptake the nutrients." A 4-by-8-foot raised bed needs a 15-pound casting infusion ($30; prices drop with bulk buying), he says, and this winter he's working on perfecting a 19-ingredient indoor soil mix ideal for marijuana growers. (He already serves large-scale grow operations that sell to MMJ dispensaries.) Only three years old as a business, RMWC opened this retail front in March to better serve those in need of everything from the castings to live worms, coconut coir, glacial rock dust and other garden-amping inputs. Overall, it's just really good shit. — MS

Medical Marijuana Dispensary: North

Medical Cannabis Caregivers

6020 Erin Park Drive, Suite A, 264-6337 mccaregivers.com

Medical Cannabis Caregivers is hailed for its discretion, and you really could drive around near the Academy Boulevard and Vickers Drive intersection for 10 minutes before you realize you're already there. When you make it inside, though, you'll receive a warm hello, which you'd do well to return before you sit down into the massage chairs to your left. But onto the medicine: MCC offers about 20 strains, with specialties of Strawberry Shark and Violator Kush. — JMT

Medical Marijuana Dispensary: South

Maggie's Farm

1424 S. Nevada Ave., 328-0420, maggiesfarmmarijuana.com

Owner Bill (last name withheld) says that when Maggie's Farm started in 2009, people were afraid that outdoor growing was inferior — many had never had outdoor cannabis properly grown. Once they got a taste of what Maggie's had to offer, their fears quickly dissipated. If you show up one day and your favorite isn't available, Bill ensures you'll be onto your next favorite momentarily. Additionally, Maggie's offers 100 percent organic flower and strain-specific flower byproduct. — GR

Dentist

Broadmoor Dental

1930 S. Nevada Ave., 576-5566, broadmoordental.com

Most people learn early that a trip to the dentist is about as fun as, well, pulling teeth. But that's not a factor for doctors Nicolas Pruett and Kjell Ragnar, who went to dental school together. Recently, their staff made pictures of some of Pruett's worst root-canal cases and pasted them on the wall of a treatment room. (Hey, it's dental humor.) But seriously, office manager Leslie Douglas says, "[Pruett]'s gentle. He's fast, and I don't know how he does it, but the injections, you can barely feel it." Broadmoor Dental's following comes from a personal approach, she adds, which fosters "a level of comfort and trust," not only for general dental work but also cosmetic procedures. It also helps that the clinic is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as every other Saturday. — PZ

Medical Marijuana Dispensary: East

Cannabicare

1466 Woolsey Heights, 573-2262, cannabicare.com

(tie) The Healing Canna

3692 E. Bijou St., 637-7645, thehealingcanna.com

There are just too many stellar marijuana shops in these parts, which is why this category comes down to a tie between Cannabicare and the Healing Canna. Cannabicare provides a sleek environment in which you can enjoy daily specials, including 15 percent off all bud on Wednesdays and a free fatty on Fridays with purchase of a gram or more. Meanwhile, the Healing Canna prides itself on its professional environment and discreet appearance, and will also help you set up your personal grow room with the proper equipment, materials and tips. — GR

IndyPick • Place to Buy a Sonic Screwdriver

Muse Comics

1350 N. Academy Blvd., 573-7096, musecomicscolorado.com

You know the hateful Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons? Think the opposite of that. This may be the cleanest, most welcoming comic book store in the entire state. Muse's staff wants to point you in the direction of your newest nerdy obsession, and also to perpetuate it. Their assortment of Whovian accessories is legendary, because we all know how hard it is to find Journal of Impossible Things here in the States. Sign up for weekly role playing card game tournaments, or bring kids to the play area to help get them some sneaky exposure to reading. — JMT

Hair Stylist

Timka Tremouille at Phenix Salon Suites

1747 Briargate Blvd., 260-7508

At the beginning of 2013, Timka Tremouille won the Ultimate Chromatics Competition (aka Best Colorist) for Young Talent at Redken's annual symposium. This summer, The Colorist magazine named her "One to Watch." And in September, Tremouille found herself working three shows at New York Fashion Week, including Betsey Johnson's highly anticipated Lincoln Center runway collection. For a stylist just three years out of beauty school, the experience was, "Oh my god ... amazing! It was one of my dreams come true." Amid all the excitement, Tremouille's focused on fall — and using her award-winning color (and cutting and styling) skills to take all those light blonde Colorado Springs summer ombres into warmer copper and auburn tones. — KA

Naturopath

Ruth Adele

1625 W. Uintah St., Suite I, 636-0098

The human body is generally viewed differently in the Eastern and Western medical traditions. It is either an ecosystem or a machine, respectively, and treatment suits these attitudes. Luckily, you can choose what care your meadow or Maserati needs, or perhaps integrate the best of both worlds. That's where naturopath Dr. Ruth Adele, a three-time winner in this category, comes in. Adele is known for her holistic, prevention-first regimens, but will also send her patients in for conventional medical testing — such as blood panels — should the need arise. Diversification, as most anyone will tell you, never hurt. — EA

Higher Ed for the Money

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 255-8227, uccs.edu

Students' core expenses at UCCS are 14 percent lower than at peer universities, and tuition and fees are 8 percent cheaper. Of course, the parking tickets around here can get a bit expensive, but UCCS is building a 1,227-space parking garage on the western edge of campus that includes a playing field (due to open in March), and there are already free shuttles from North Nevada Avenue. The parking developments speak to the school's popularity — enrollment has grown by 821, to 10,598, from last year. UCCS offers 36 bachelor's degrees, 19 master's and five doctoral degrees and has been named to US News & World Report's Best Colleges list for undergraduate engineering programs and graduate programs in nursing, business and public affairs. — PZ

Ethnic Market

Asian Pacific Market

615 Wooten Road, #160 573-7500, asianpacificmarketco.com

The last time I wandered San Francisco's Chinatown, I felt like I'd walked into a different country. Visiting the Asian Pacific Market can have a similar effect, only instead of very crowded streets, you'll find roomy aisles and, thankfully, many English translations. Marvel over ingredients common to Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Japanese and other international cuisines, or just pick up some fish sauce, tamarind paste and rice noodles to get quickly on your way to pad Thai. There are also plenty of sweets and snacks, such as fish-flavored and kimchi crackers, green tea ice cream and durian candy. — DM

Store for Music, Movies and Video Games

Independent Records & Video

Multiple locations, beindependent.com

Independent Records & Video closed its lone Denver location this summer, but here in Southern Colorado, the business' five shops (three in the Springs, one in Fountain and one in Pueblo) continue the 35-year legacy. Though earlier media reports indicated a possible new space in the works for the Springs, and co-owner Judy Negley says that's always on their minds, right now they're just "shoring up on what we have down here," and having fun reinventing what they already do best. Which, as you pointed out, is a lot. — KA

Place to Have a Dead Battery

Colorado Springs Airport

7770 Milton E. Proby Pkwy, 550-1900, springsgov.com/airportindex.aspx

By the time the jet's tires smacked the tarmac in the Springs it was late, and waiting for me in the snow drifts in long-term parking was a dead battery. But when summoned via phone at a shuttle-stop shelter, two friendly workers with a jump box buzzed out, resuscitated the battery and sent me on my way. The airport's parking contractor, ABM, is equipped to provide free jump-starts, air, and a gallon of gas to anyone in need. "ABM Parking has been with us for the past nine years," said assistant aviation director John McGinley. "We are very pleased with their performance and attention to our customers." MJM

IndyPick • Place to Geek Out

Vidja Games

4537 Austin Bluffs Pkwy., 358-8838

Even the doorstop — a discarded Atari joystick propped under the front door — speaks to the relentless dedication to gaming you'll find at Vidja Games. Or is it a Nintendo peripheral? Hell if I know, but they sure will, and they'll also be able to tell you what makes it special. Vidja Games has got everything from old NES and SNES cartridges to used Xbox 360 titles, and everything in between. It also traffics in rare games and vintage accessories if you're into that, and they'll be happy to talk shop with you about it all if you are. They've also got cheap parts that can make that dusty old Atari hook up to your fancy flat-screen, too. — JK

New Foreign Car Dealer
Service at a Dealership

Heuberger Motors

1080 Motor City Drive, 475-1920, heubergermotors.com

For Subarus, "we have the best prices in the state and in the nation," says director of business development John Adams, who cites high-volume sales as the reason. And by high, we mean that Heuberger, open since 1970, sells more new Subarus than any other dealer in the United States. As of this writing, the 2013 number was 3,140, with an unprecedented but supposedly realistic goal of 4,200 by year's end. Regarding the award-earning service department, Adams credits a dedicated staff of 22 techs and seven consultants who handle everything from $19.95 oil changes (called "Subielubes") to full engine replacements. While you wait: Enjoy the free espresso bar, part of the "overall experience" that's earned your nod here for a ninth consecutive year. — MS

New Domestic Car Dealer

Phil Long Ford

1565 Auto Mall Loop, 266-3301, morefords.com; 1212 Motor City Drive, 575-7555, fordmotorcity.com

You know when you're getting to know someone new, and the whole vibe changes when you stumble upon something for which that person feels unbridled passion? I'd been pleasantly trading one-sentence questions and answers with Mike Gonzales, sales manager for Phil Long Ford, to cover some basics — that the dealership sells maybe 125 new Fords a month, that it's a great company to work for, etc. — when he mentioned the Mustang Shelby GT500 Cobra. What, I asked, makes that such a great car? The guy practically melted. "Oh, the body lines. The engine, the suspension, the 0-to-60 in the vehicle, the handling of it, the looks of it, are unbelievable. It's just an all-around awesome sports car. And we haven't gotten away from that American muscle." Gonzales went on to explain that most of those $50,000 vehicles are spoken for before they ever make it to the lot. But there are plenty of other cars and trucks to case here, and hey, maybe your salesperson will really dig the Ford Fiesta. — KW

Used Car Dealer

Mile High Car Company

1480 Ainsworth St., 570-7800, milehighcarco.com

Ray Martinez, Mile High's general sales manager, has worked for other car dealers and is more than happy to explain how this year's winner is different from all the rest. "It's the way people are treated here," he says. "We really just try to help everybody who comes through the door." Those with not-so-great credit will find assistance here, and Martinez says he's seen customers start to get their credit back on track through buying a car from his firm. He also says that at Mile High, owned by the Gunter family, they rely heavily on referrals and repeat customers. "If we get a bad review, we respond to it. We want to find out what the problem is and get it fixed." — MJM

Veterinarian

Westside Animal Hospital

1603 W. Colorado Ave., 632-6111,westsideanimalhospital.com

For the fourth year running, this animal clinic's quality care has earned it the top award. Staff turnover here is extremely low, and the vets are dedicated not only to your pooch or kitty but to you, says hospital manager Leslie Ornelas. "For example, with euthanasia, we have a specific room set up in a homey way," Ornelas says. "We take care of the client in the room, instead of making them sit in the reception area. We call them afterward to be sure how they're doing. We'll also go to their home." The latest offering is Pet Health Network Pro, where clients can track their pets' treatment, such as vaccines and medications, online. (This is especially handy if pet owners need to board their animals.) Services include small-animal surgery; diagnostics such as ultrasound; dental and wellness programs; therapeutic laser; and a network for referrals. — PZ

Hair Salon
Day Spa

Veda Salon & Spa

7443 N. Academy Blvd., 314-1480; 2110 Southgate Road, #201, 578-8332; 5182 N. Nevada Ave., 265-5660; coloradoveda.com

You know you're onto something when someone recommends a salon that can "hook Whoopie [sic] Goldberg up!" That's a five-star Yelp review from Saba J., a self-described "Afro-American with natural kinky curly hair." According to Saba, her stylist can flat-iron her locks like she's had a fresh relaxer treatment. Where else would she be but Veda, which for the last five out of six years has taken home both Hair Salon and Day Spa gold? Whether you're facial-ing, waxing, or bringing in your whole wedding party for big day-of beauty, Veda's still your best bet. — EA

Pet Groomer

Northwest Animal Hospital & Pet Care Center

4575 N. Chestnut St., 593-8582, nwanimalhospital.com

Dawn Brockman and Carrie Hooyboer, the damp duo behind this year's Indy win, offer stylish furcuts, flea treatments and other personal services for dogs of all breeds and cats of all temperaments. "It's not always easy to do cats, because they have minds of their own," says Dawn. And she should know — Carrie is allergic to felines, so all the cat work comes her way. Dawn's advice for home cat washers: "Be sure to brush them thoroughly, because once they get wet they'll mat." — MJM

Pet Day Care

Lucky Dog

2801 Janitell Road, 527-9663; 4401 Mark Dabling Blvd., 599-9663; bealuckydog.com

If happiness is a warm puppy, then the play areas at Lucky Dog are nirvana. There's indoor and outdoor fun, and even "luxury condos" for cats at the Janitell location. But here's the thing that will win over the most hard-core obsessive pet parents: You can tune in to the website and watch your dog play. And that's cool. Lucky Dog has won this category before, but that doesn't stop the humans there from looking for new ways to cater to canines. In mid-September, it added staff in anticipation of the holidays, its busiest time, and to provide better supervision. (For one thing, staff assures that dogs have much-needed breaks from play.) Manager Becky Evans reports that both locations have expanded retail areas, with the south site making way for more premium dog food, treats, toys, collars and leashes. — PZ

Nail Salon

Helen's Nails

2832 N. Powers Blvd., 574-8640

Shimmering crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling at Helen's Nails, an unexpected treat in this salon at the corner of a North Powers Boulevard strip mall. But bling is what Helen's does best — check out the shop's Facebook page for pictures of snazzy nails rocking pink roses, leopard prints and my personal favorite, mini Boston terriers. (No joke.) And even if you're more of a one-color girl, no worries. The nail professionals couldn't do all the fancy stuff if they didn't take pride first in fully understanding the basics. — KA

Barber

Sara Mascarenas at Eden Salon and Barbershop

12 E. Kiowa St., 520-3336, edensalonandbarbershop.com

While women have the reputation of using their hairdressers as therapists, men, Sara Mascarenas says, are just as bad. "They can be crybabies," she says with a laugh. Not that she minds. She says she actually loves the closeness with clients. "I build really strong relationships with my customers," she says. " ... I even know their dogs' names after a while." Other than a relatable personality, Mascarenas — who won Best Hair Stylist last year — brings skill to her craft. She's been licensed since 2005, and has been a self-employed stylist at Eden since 2008. She says that over the years she's perfected the difficult hairstyle most asked for by her military clients — the flattop — while also learning to create everything from "business styles" to faux-hawks. Getting it right really just requires listening carefully to what the customer wants. She says: "Everybody has their own style." — JAS

Tattoo Parlor
Piercing Parlor

Pens & Needles Custom Tattoo Co.

716 N. Weber St.,#200, 473-8067, pens-needles.com; 3737 Drennan Road, 391-7367, store.pens-needles2.com

The stats: Pens & Needles has two shops, one downtown, one down south. Two piercing artists. Thirteen tattoo artists. And it's the business' second win in both of these categories in as many years. Business manager David Skidmore says he hasn't seen any major trends in piercings at their shops over the past 12 months, but when it comes to tattoos, bird silhouettes have been flying out the door. (OK, that was my bad pun. More on the way.) Whatever your flight of fancy, Pens & Needles focuses on employing custom artists, so at least you can be confident that your birds will be of a slightly different feather than the ones on the woman next to you. — KA

Musical Instruments Store

Meeker Music

113 E. Bijou St. (624 N. Tejon St. in early November), 471-8940; 3604 Hartsel Drive, 534-9919; 6330 S. Hwy. 85/87, Fountain, 391-8922; meekermusic.com

Close the door as soon as you enter, because you don't want the inexplicably delicious smell of thousands of pages of sheet music to get out. Meeker Music has been around since 1975, and has navigated the changing times with an emphasis on unbeatable customer service. Not only will employees here special-order any musical piece you need, they will also rent you the instrument. This is the haven for the parent whose kid just "decides" she wants to be a band geek. — JMT

Tattoo Artist

Jeff Oelklaus, Pens & Needles Custom Tattoo Co.

716 N. Weber St., #200 473-8067, pens-needles.com

(tie) Troy Sedlacek, Premier Tattoo

519 S. Tejon St., #100, 633-4045, premiertattoo.com

You could go with a fine-line black-and-gray, staid and sophisticated; or harness aggressive tribal motifs; or show some color with Asian designs; or even get biomechanical with it. But no matter what, from classic to contemporary, tattoo artist Troy Sedlacek can handle it. The first-time winner is a favorite for those seeking more ink because he enjoys the challenge of being able to work in any tattoo style. Bring him a kernel of an idea or a full-blown design, and he'll deliver. "Artists over the years have fused and blended styles to reach fun and interesting outcomes," he says. "Harmonizing different forms of art into classic tattoo designs — baroque, nouveau, graphic — is very rewarding as well." As for Jeff Oelklaus, the 40-year-old artist mostly tried to avoid the industry "quite a few times" while using his degree in ceramics to work pottery for Van Briggle, "but when the third apprenticeship came up here in the Springs, I took it." Working out of Pins and Needles' Weber Street location, the self-described Renaissance man says there's no style he can't pull off. — NK

Photographer

Kaylene Rood at Photography by Kaylene

351-0582, kaylenerood.wix.com/photographybykaylene

Occasionally, Kaylene Rood, 21, can be found shooting zombies downtown — but she's not using a crossbow, Daryl-Dixon-in-Walking-Dead fashion. For her favorite photo shoot so far, more than a dozen local models with zombie makeup and ripped clothing posed in a grungy alleyway, dripping with fake blood. That one was just for fun, Rood says, but the young entrepreneur is building a business on more conventional fare, photographing weddings, families, newborns and bands. Rood also specializes in modern, vibrant portraits of high school seniors at Helen Hunt Falls, Fox Run Regional Park and downtown. "I think what gives me an edge, she says, "is that I'm young, so I can make them comfortable." — WB

Mechanic

Aspen Auto Clinic

Multiple locations, aspenautoclinic.com

Greg Bunch, owner of Aspen Auto Clinic, has heard it all: Mechanics can't be trusted; they're all crooks; they just want your money. But he doesn't pay attention, and neither do his loyal customers. Robbie Kirkland, head of marketing and media management, says Aspen's business philosophy is "to bring honesty and integrity back into the automotive maintenance and repair industry, and to provide top-notch customer service to every customer." This includes their shops' open-door policy and willingness to help educate customers about both their vehicles and what the clinic diagnoses. "We aren't perfect, but we strive for excellence," Kirkland says. "We also have developed a culture to make things right if we miss the mark." — NK

Child Day Care

Giving Tree Montessori School

1110 W. Moreno Ave., 630-3763, gtmschool.com

The teachers at this high-performance preschool will tell you that anyone can teach kids reading and math, but Giving Tree teaches kids to be independent through social awareness. Not just eco-awareness, which is also in the curriculum, but literal awareness of those around them. "We've created a very nice family atmosphere," says owner and director Gisela Tilch. Kids learn to think about others, to use kind words, and to help others. "We are nurturing the spirit of the child," says Tilch. At the end of the day, instead of feeling worn out from school, as many children do, the kids from Giving Tree tend to be ready to help. They even go home singing and energized. Happy kids, happy teachers, happy parents. Win! — BW

Chain champions

Congrats to some bigger businesses that locals love:

Barbershop

Floyd’s 99 Barbershop

7252 N. Academy Blvd., #110, 593-0011; 3377 Cinema Point, 573-8510; floydsbarbershop.com

Gourmet/Spice Market

Savory Spice Shop,

110 N. Tejon St., 633-8803, savoryspiceshop.com

Grocery Store

King Soopers

Multiple locations, kingsoopers.com

National Chain Hotel/Motel

Marriott Colorado Springs

5580 Tech Center Drive, 260-1800, marriott.com

Natural Foods Store

Whole Foods Market

7635 N. Academy Blvd., 531-9999; 3180 New Center Point, 622-1099, wholefoodsmarket.com

Shoe Store

DSW

7639 N. Academy Blvd., 264-8007, dsw.com

  • The businesses that you hit up for gifts, glasses, grooming and more.

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