Giving Tree Montessori School (1110 W. Moreno Ave., 630-3763, gtmschool.com)
Named for Shel Silverstein's beloved book, Giving Tree Montessori is the brainchild of Gisela Tilch. I ask her if she sees herself in the role of the tree — which, as you'll recall, would leave her nothing but a stump by the end of the story. She has a much more peaceful take.
"I'm there to help the children," she says, "and give them the foundation for later life."
Having owned and led the school in Colorado Springs for 16 years, Tilch has been able to see exactly how that foundation has borne fruit.
"Seeing the feedback we're getting from parents whose children are graduating from high school, it is absolutely amazing," she says. "We get letters [saying], 'You've given them a really awesome foundation for their learning, for their love and respect of others.'"
The key component of that foundation is Giving Tree's peace education curriculum. At the preschool level, it comes in the form of a silk decorator's flower called the Peace Rose, used as a tool to help children talk through problems in the classroom without adult involvement.
"When somebody comes to the teacher and says, 'So and so did this and this,' we say, 'Well, do you need the Peace Rose? Can you solve your own conflict?' So they really are very empowered, and it's a very peaceful classroom because they know the other person has to listen."
Tilch says the result goes beyond classroom spats — her students apply the Peace Rose concept when their parents argue, when the neighbor kids won't play nice, and even when disagreeing with the parents themselves. They're even willing to improvise when the rose isn't available. She tells the story of one 4-year-old whose father tried to drop him off at Giving Tree without finishing their conversation. The boy grabbed a shoe off the floor and, holding it up so his father could see, explained why Dad had hurt his feelings.
Bemused, the father asked his son why he was admonishing him with a shoe.
The way Tilch tells it, the boy replied, "Well, don't you see, it's not about what you hold, it's that you talk about your problem."
Looking forward: Naturally, Tilch sees a future where her students have taken their problem-solving skills to the global level. "Hopefully in the future generation there will be peace on earth," she says. "The younger generation will sow the seeds. They're our future." — Claire Swinford
West Side Tattoo (2031 W. Colorado Ave., 219-4800, myspace.com/westsidetattoollc)
"We don't push people in and out the door," says Brian Moore, co-owner of West Side Tattoo. If someone comes in wanting a quick butterfly done, they may be disappointed that they have to sit and look at all of the artists' portfolios before they can even get a sketch. Yet that's one of the most important elements of West Side, whose iconic painted brick graces the intersection of Colorado Avenue and 21st Street — they want to match the patron with the correct artist.
Most popular tattoos in 2011: "For a while it was just about getting a tattoo, but I think now and in the years coming, it is going to be less a specific thing and more about the meanings behind the tattoos." — SW
Shrap Metal (2928 Parker St., 520-3401; 750 Citadel Drive, Citadel Mall, shrapmetal.net/home)
I walked into Shrap nervous about my next piercing, then looked around and saw a fish tank behind me and a huge smile on a burly man in front of me. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. There's a reason Shrap Metal has won this category four of the last five years. Mike N, the manager and head piercer, stresses the importance of friendliness and respect toward customers: "I just like to treat people how I would like to be treated, make them feel comfortable. I get people driving down all the way from Wyoming, so we must be doing something right." Personally, I'd say the $10 price tag has something to do with it, too.
Most popular piercing in 2011: "The nose gained a lot this year, and I don't see it diminishing." — SW
Tan Your Hide (Multiple locations, tanyourhide.com)
Tan Your Hide owner Liz Melahn has been involved with tanning salons for more than 28 years. She opened her first salon here in 1988, and now runs eight in town, with the help of 35 employees. She doesn't expect the growth to stop there. "We're reaching a lot of people who have never tanned before," she says. "The interest is really growing." Melahn believes tanning can help with vitamin D deficiency, and it's actually safer to be inside, in a controlled environment, than to be outside all day. "You don't have to go for a super tan," she says. "We have lots of people that just come in to get a healthy glow." — KK
Gina Bamberger, DO (1730 N. Corona St., 955-2495, sunflowerfm.com)
Dr. Gina Bamberger is a Colorado College grad who majored in philosophy before turning to medicine. For her, medicine is the "hands-on" occupation that combines her love of science with her interest in the humanities. In her practice, Bamberger values the sense of community with her patients and their families, saying, "It really contributes to a complete sense of well-being." Her favorite part? Getting to know them as people so she can honor the trust that they put in her. — LB
Broadmoor Dental (1930 S. Nevada Ave., 576-5566, broadmoordental.com)
Things are changing at Broadmoor Dental. The office moved into a new, larger space in August, added a third doctor, and now offers orthodontic care. Despite the adjustment period, though, Broadmoor Dental has scooped up another award, going three for three in this category. And that's because the important things have stayed the same. "We have a ton of employees to take care of every patient's needs," says Leslie Douglas, office manager. "I call us front-staff-heavy — we have one person that does scheduling, we have one person that does insurance, we have one person that does treatment coordination, so every patient's needs are met by people who are the best at what they do." — EA
Matthew Clawson (Clawson & Clawson, LLP, 115 E. Vermijo Ave., #101, 634-1848, clawsonlawfirm.com)
Sometimes going into business with your family can be ... well ... not such a good idea. But for Matthew Clawson, it's working out very well. Matthew and his father Millen formed Clawson & Clawson, LLP in 2004, and it wasn't long before Matthew's brother Michael joined the firm, too. Matthew and Michael are now the managing attorneys. "Mike and I get along great," says Matthew. "We're competitive, but it works." Matthew specializes in family law and domestic relations, as well as personal injury cases. "I enjoy helping people," he says, "and I have the flexibility to occasionally work pro bono." Primarily based in Colorado Springs with satellite locations in Parker and Pueblo, the firm is planning on continuing to expand, Matthew says. — KK
Medical Cannabis Caregivers (6020 Erin Park Drive, 264-6337, mccaregivers.com)
Discretion may be the better part of valor, but if you talk to MC Caregivers owner Ken (last name withheld), it's also the better part of health care. "Really, we have been trying to be very patient-focused, not necessarily profit-focused — just trying to maintain a very discreet business model," he says. "We're trying to go after folks that truly need marijuana as a medicine." This old-time business — it opened in October '09 — is so circumspect, it would reveal nothing but its name and address the first time we called for our ReLeaf insert. To visit this first-time-category winner, look for it next to a family dentistry office ... if you can spot it.
Marijuana in five years: "We'll see a lot more legalization if Proposition 19 passes in California. This will roll like a moving freight train." — BC
Candace Bachara, Phenix Salon Suites (1747 Briargate Blvd., 260-7508, phenixsalonsuites.com)
Candace Bachara says she's really surprised about her Best Of nomination, since she's only been back in Colorado Springs for a little over a year. Ever since she was in fourth grade, she wanted to go to makeup artist school in California, so after high school she moved there, went to the Toni & Guy Academy and found some success doing hair and makeup for TV shows and music videos. "But I wanted to be closer to my family, so I moved back to the Springs," she says. "I still work in L.A. sometimes, too, if I get a special request. That's what's so great about working at Phenix. I can make my own hours and schedule my own appointments." — KK
Locals Barbershop (5230 N. Nevada Ave., #120, 265-5547, localscut.com)
Gentlemen of Colorado Springs, where can you get a free beer with a haircut? Some of you know that Locals Barbershop is the answer to that essential question.
Not only is Locals hip on the inside and a bargain to boot (cuts range from $25 to $35, and $15 for kids), it also offers contemporary artwork by Colorado artists and free live music shows on Saturday nights. All that's missing from the equation are the ladies — and, actually, they're not missing. Locals serves them with women's cuts and colors and yes, their own free beer from Great Divide Brewing Co.
Opened this past February by a trio that includes husband and wife Nicholas and Holly Wall, Locals infuses culture into a practical business. "It's not just about cutting hair," says Holly, 30. "It's about culture and supporting art and music." Locals started in Denver, but relocated to the Walls' original home in the Springs. And despite it being a smaller city, 32-year-old Nicholas says, business has been good.
Though the Walls are waiting for the art and music arms of the business to catch up, they've already invested heavily in both. For the artwork, the Walls work with Boulder gallery Atmosphere, which coordinates new shows for Locals every six to eight weeks. Atmosphere pulls in works from artists throughout the Front Range and offers Locals contemporary pieces that fit the theme of the shop, which Nicholas describes as "urban rock 'n roll."
And every Saturday, they make room either inside or on an outdoor stage for live music, which has seen acts like Synthetic Elements, Aloft in the Sundry and Take It to 88. On certain Saturday afternoons, they host an acoustic set for patrons to enjoy while getting their hair taken care of.
This multi-faceted model came from the Walls approaching the business with fresh eyes. Neither has a background in hair, and, in fact, Nicholas still owns a construction company. They built what they wanted.
"Me personally, I was sick of going to a salon. I didn't like going to Cost Cutters at all, so I was kind of stuck," says Nicholas. "I always liked the old-school barbershops, but you only got one haircut — it was either short, short or shorter, and that was pretty much it.
"We wanted a place where a guy could literally come in and enjoy the atmosphere of a barbershop but actually get a really good haircut." — Edie Adelstein
Veda Salon and Spa
(5182 N. Nevada Ave., 265-5660; 2110 Southgate Road, #201, 578-8332; 7443 N. Academy Blvd., 314-1480; coloradoaveda.com)
First-place finishes are nothing new to Veda Salon and Spa, but this is the first year the locally owned business has taken the salon-and-spa trifecta. “Considering the number of really great salons in the area, we are honored even to be nominated,” says co-owner Carrie Perkins. She believes that people relate to Veda’s mission: Staff “strive to set an example for environmental leadership and responsibility” (Veda also finished second in our Earth-Lovin’ Business category) and aim to “care for the world we live in.” Just one of the ways Veda gives back to society is through events such as “A Moment of Peace,” which honors community members who struggle with serious illness or unfortunate life circumstances. — LB
Colorado Springs Independent
Yes, we're giving this award to ourselves for our complete lack of anything resembling MMJ advertising. Sure, we've seen other media outlets jump on the medicated bandwagon, but we're just not sure that's a route we'd like to take. You end up with pages and pages of ads colored green, purple, white, green, green, red and green, and honestly — who wants to read that? So it's with much respect for the patients of Colorado Springs who'd probably like to know where they could get the stuff that makes the seizures go away, that we just say "No" to the question, "Canna patient get some advertising?" — BC
The Lennox House (1339 N. Nevada Ave., 471-9265, lennoxhouse.com)
You feel as though you're taking a step back in time when you step toward this brightly painted and charmingly ornate 19th-century Victorian. Which is as it should be, as the Lennox House is rich with a history in which the owners take pride. "We are history buffs," says co-owner Linda Linder. "We are antique fanatics." She and her husband, Larry, were in the Springs from California visiting their son, a student at the Air Force Academy, when they came across the 120-year-old home. It was for sale, they fell in love, and though they weren't actively looking — especially for a house in another state — they couldn't let it go. They bought the house in 2005. And even as they've maintained and restored the historical appointments for the house, they've never forgotten the needs of their guests. "We have Wi-Fi throughout," she says, "and comfortable furniture. All the modern comforts of home." — CH
Bestway Disposal (650 Santa Fe St., 633-8709, bestwaydisposal.com)
The last time I wrote about Bestway, it had just inked a deal to be the near-exclusive provider of trash service to residential customers in Manitou Springs. The move — meant to help the environment and reduce the number of noisy trucks in town — irked some residents, who felt Manitou City Council's decision infringed on their right to choose what companies to patronize. But Bestway general manager Judd Staton says his company has received a lot of positive phone calls since the switch. People especially seem to like Bestway's recycling program. It's single-stream (no sorting necessary), with once-a-week pickup, and only costs $5 a month if you also buy trash service from Bestway. Recycling isn't the only thing to like, Staton says. Bestway, which has been owned by the local Kiemel family since 1950, also goes beyond the call of duty. Forget to put out your can on trash day? The guys will knock on your door to remind you, or yank your can out themselves if it's in plain view. — JAS
Aspen Auto Clinic (1619 N. Union Blvd., 634-4257; 4401 Mark Dabling Blvd., 227-1315; 4055 Tutt Blvd., 632-6144, aspenautoclinic.com)
Aspen Auto Clinic started out as a one-bay shop on Cimarron Street 10 years ago. Now it's a three-operation enterprise that's open on Saturdays, runs a fancy, handy website, and offers shuttle and towing service. "Most people have a lot on their plates on a daily basis," says general manager Michelle Croushore. "We try to make it as easy as we can for folks to get their car taken care of." And that dedication hasn't fallen on deaf ears. In the past five years, Aspen has netted silvers and golds as the public's favorite garage. Maybe it has to do with the variety of services it offers — "There isn't anything that we don't do," Croushore says. Or the fact that it services domestic and foreign models at all locations, or its three-year, 36,000-mile warranty on all repairs, parts and labor. Top that! — EA
Teresa Lee Photography (2480 Shiprock Way, 548-8300, teresaleephotography.com)
Winner for the second year in a row, the husband-and-wife team at Teresa Lee eschews the matching-denim-outfits kind of family portrait. "It's rare you're going to see a Teresa Lee image where people have been posed and told to smile and say cheese," says Robert Lee. "If she's able to make that connection with the client and get them to let their guard down a bit, the images we're going to get in the studio are just fantastic."
Snapshot of the future: In 2050, the Lees will be photographing new generations of the same families they serve today. "We do their wedding now, and then when they have kids and their kids become [high school] seniors, and those seniors get married, and they have kids, and now we're doing grandkids. Those are the types of things we live for." — CAS
Wayne Jennings (RE/MAX Properties, Inc., 216 N. Tejon St., 635-7653, peakdream.com)
Considering that journalists run a close second-to-last to politicians in the realm of public opinion, it's stunning that so many of you entrust Wayne Jennings to help you make one of the biggest decisions of your life. Granted, he and his wife Sylvia have been out of the KKTV anchors' chairs for 13 years now, but at their predominantly residential RE/MAX business, he still flashes that easy TV smile. Guess he's just different because he cares more about what's coming out of your mouth than anything else. "A lot of what [customers are] sharing with us is extremely personal," Jennings says. "There's a lot of hardship out there." Hey, speaking of ...
When the market will turn around: "I'd venture to guess we are at the bottom, maybe this is the worst of the worst, and in the next 12 months, we will start to see some meaningful turnaround." — KW
The Picnic Basket (1701 S. Eighth St., 635-0200, pbcatering.com)
Almost every year, we call Michelle Talarico to ask about her latest Caterer win, and almost every year she sounds more humble than the one before ... or, at least, tries to: "I would love to tell you that [winning] doesn't matter, because it would maybe make me be a little bit more humble. But it does — it's huge." Talarico, who co-owns the business with Kathy Dreiling, says the past year has been rougher than others, but business and wedding orders do continue to roll in. "We're always just so grateful, because the city has grown, and there's new competition ... we just feel incredibly honored to even be in the game." — BC
The Broadmoor (1 Lake Ave., 577-5775, broadmoor.com)
Five straight times now, The Broadmoor has swept these two categories. It's easy to understand the "local hotel" outcome, given The Broadmoor's reputation and uniqueness. As for popping the question, though, one has to ask a follow-up: Exactly where inside the complex would one propose? Outside, sure, somewhere around the lake with the mountains as a backdrop. But inside? Perhaps in the Penrose Room, where five-star dinners happen? Well, it's a little pricey for even a special date. Other destinations, from the Summit to the Tavern, Charles Court or the Golden Bee, aren't exactly the most romantic settings. And the Hotel Bar (formerly known as the Terrace Lounge) is nicer outside, but more like a regular bar inside. In other words, what the readers appear to be saying is that if they could pick any indoor place to pop the question, they're sure The Broadmoor would have just the spot — even if they're not sure what it would be. Now that's a reputation. — RR
Colorado Stoneworks Landscaping (21 Commerce St., 538-6016, springslandscaping.com)
If Colorado Stoneworks were a spy network, they'd have the ideal front — their handiwork is everywhere, from housing complexes to storefronts to private homes. As it is, they do keep creepily exhaustive databases on the preferences and individual needs of every client, but that's just so they can remind you what kind of edging you wanted for your flagstone patio. ... Or so they say.
Influencing the landscape of the future: Colorado Stoneworks participates in myriad projects to help the region's ecological health. "The reason we do it," says co-owner Anne Campbell, "is because we want to be able to spend as much time [as possible] in the mountains, now and for our kids and grandkids. It's helpful if customers notice it, but it's really about what we believe in as a company." — CAS
Voelker Research (5026 N. Academy Blvd., 528-5596, voelker.com)
During the 21 years Voelker Research has been servicing the local Apple community, Rich Voelker says he's seen the industry "rise and fall and rise again." He attributes the company's success and longevity to listening to customers' needs and being more solutions-oriented: "It's actually those needs that sell the product, not our ability to sell stuff," he says. "Our shop dog, Lucy, seems to be pretty popular, too."
Near-future prediction for Colorado Springs: "More growth. My hope is that it can keep its big-town-with-a-little-town-feel mojo." — BF
Westside Animal Hospital (1603 W. Colorado Ave., 632-6111, westsideanimalhospital.com)
Hospital manager Leslie Ornelas says being in the veterinary practice is about more than caring for animals. It's also about caring for the people who love those animals. So when a client comes in with a dog that's been hit by a car, Westside makes sure the dog is getting the best life-saving medical care. But they also make sure the dog's owner has someone sitting with her, calming and comforting her. "When we get those letters from clients about what a difference we made," Ornelas says, "it makes it all worthwhile." Westside offers care for cats, dogs, reptiles, birds, rabbits and pocket pets. And it always moves toward the cutting edge of care, offering a full range of surgeries and advanced diagnostics like ultrasounds.
What's to come: Ornelas says they're looking to bring stem cell regenerative therapy, laser regenerative therapy and surgical laser technologies to the clinic. — JAS
Paul Mitchell, The School (118 W. Colorado Ave., 636-1426, school.paulmitchell.edu/colorado-springs-co)
Everyone's heard somebody's horror story about getting a terrible haircut at a salon school. But having gone to Paul Mitchell for well over a year now, with not one bad experience, that seems like a myth to me. Regardless, I'm willing to take the chance, because it's such a bargain: Cuts, which include shampoo and style, start at $10. Now, you've got to be prepared to spend at least two hours there for a simple cut, and even more for updos, color treatments and perms. But that gives you plenty of time to enjoy the ultra-stylish get-ups of the students, who must wear black and do their hair and makeup. No one sports a plain ponytail — instead, each puts forth an artful creation teased and sprayed to within an inch of its life. Punk, grunge, glam or streaked bright green, all of it looks fabulous. As with a portly chef, you gotta trust someone who's obviously mastered hair, even if you can't pull off your own fauxhawk. — EA
InteriLife (301 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 219-9855, interilife.com)
InteriLife only opened in January, and it's already garnered your vote in this new, green category. Co-owner and interior designer Allyson Buck got the idea for it when an American Clay distributor suggested that our town lacked a sustainability-minded building supply business. She recruited her friend Sarah Heinbaugh, a local artist, to be co-owner, and soon locals — who previously had to drive to Boulder for certain materials — rejoiced. Look for non-toxic, VOC-free Mythic Paint, eco-friendly cork and bamboo flooring options, sustainable countertop materials and much more.
Design down the road: "Beyond consumers' demand for a healthy environment, you'll actually be required to use better building materials as more state and local standards come through." — MS
Dr. Jamieson Kennedy (2020 W. Colorado Ave., 473-2368)
I'm still not entirely sure of how I feel about my doctor being able to ride his bike farther and ski faster than me. Especially when he graduated medical school in 1959. But I've learned to accept it, because I've decided that not seeing Dr. Jamieson Kennedy would be an affront to both my body and spirit. How can you not feel better about your sniffles, your splinters, about the world at large, when you have someone in his 70s telling you recent stories about heli-skiiing in Alaska? Of course, in my years as Kennedy's patient, I never heard a word about how in his 48 years as a doctor in town, he donated countless hours to treating injured high school football players, or to giving economically disadvantaged young athletes free physicals — no, it fell to the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame to pass that on. The Hall will give him its Thayer Tutt Sportsman Award on Oct. 27. Just don't confuse it with a lifetime achievement award, because Kennedy has plenty more to do. Hell, ski season's just around the corner, and here are doctor's orders: "Pray for powder."
Warning to the writer: "Don't you go gussying this up, or next time you come in, I'm gonna give you a shot." — KW
Chain championsCongratulations to these big businesses that locals love:
YMCA (Multiple locations, ppymca.org)
Great Clips (Multiple locations, greatclips.com)
Antlers Hilton (4 S. Cascade Ave., 473-5600, antlers.com)
RE/MAX Properties, Inc. (Multiple locations, homescolorado.com)
Camp Bow Wow
(4295 Northpark Drive, 260-9247; 1020 Ford St., 573-9247; 18985 Base Camp Road, Monument, 632-9247; campbowwow.com)