Goods & Services
Arts & Entertainment
Food & Drink
Music & Clubs
Best New Books Store
Barnes & Noble
In the battle of the bookstore titans, readers opted for the studied opulence of Barnes & Noble over the equally studied hipness of Borders. It could be the store's big comfy chairs and mile-long browser-friendly news stand. It could be inherited loyalty to Bookstar (last year's winner), which B&N absorbed. It could be the Starbucks coffee. Heck, it could even be the booksbestsellers, obscurities, and shelves of cool bargains. Anyway, the mammoth yet intimate store in Suburban Plaza is this year's champ, leading a trio of classy Kingston Pike literary treasurehouses.
Runners Up: Borders, Davis-Kidd
Best Used Books Store
McKay's Used Books and CDs
There's no better feeling than walking up to McKay's trade-in counter with a stack of books you've been itching to clear off your shelf and getting one of those blue credit slips in return (or cash, if you're into that). Then you can roam and roam the well-organized aisles, picking out anything from physics textbooks to classics to Hollywood tell-alls. McKay's is a store by and for people who love to read, and there's something pleasantly communal about the whole experience. It's like sharing your books with other patrons and getting to rifle their bookshelves in return.
Runner Up: Book Eddy
Best Video Store
This town is loaded with video stores of all stripesinsinuating, perhaps, that we Knoxvillians are a sedentary lot given to whiling away the hours plopped in front of the VCR. And, however we try to resist the siren call of blatant commercialism, we find ourselves returning again and again to that video-store über-chain, Blockbuster. Some say it's the movie selection, some say it's the sheer number of copies of recently released hits, some say it's the wholesome, family atmosphere (famously porno-free).
Runners Up: Gemstone, Hollywood
Best Thrift Store
It's hard not to like a store that sells the scraps of our history. There's that dress you grew out of in college, the dishes you gave away when you got married, those comfortably worn Docksiders you wore every day for three years, the shirt printed with large tropical fruits you never wore, the rowing machine that was going to get you in shape, the 84 Lumber ball cap your cousin who worked there gave you, the dusty yet oh-so-comfortable couch that seemed too heavy to move out of your last apartment, and that white T-shirt listing the top 10 reasons to be a nurse (#1 is "You can be a martyr without being assassinated"). Heaven knows why we got rid of this stuff.
Runners Up: Amvets, Planet Exchange
Best Furniture Store
Wouldn't it be cool to live in a Fowler's furniture shop? First thing I would do is send all those perky salespeople on their way. Then I would get lost inside the enormous warehouse of household dreamscapes, hypnotized by the whir of the ventilation system. Of course, the place is too big to live alone. You could invite everyone you know, and each could have a den or a living room where they could sprawl out on their very own sofa: a checkered recliner, a rolled-arm sofa covered with jewel-toned stripe jacquard, or a more elegant Italian white leather couch with big cushy back.
Runners Up: Storehouse, Rooms To Go
Best Liquor Store
Located way out in the suburban strip of North Peters Road, McScrooge's has lots of little touches aiming for an old world feel: the wooden trellises that create an above-ground wine cellar, or the black and white print of immigrant construction workers eating lunch on the skyscraper they're building, their feet dangling over the New York skyline. Despite these details, the place never manages to feel like more than an upscale supermarketbut that's OK, you're here for the booze. And they've got aisles of it: imported red wines, Oban and Balvenie single-malt Scotches aged 15 to 21 years, unpronounceable vodkas from Eastern Europe, and bourbons like Evan Williams. It ain't all pricy intoxicants; you can walk out with a flask of Southern Comfort or the friendly clerks can direct you to a cheap but fine tasting merlot or zinfandel.
Runners Up: Ashe's, Bob's
Best Bicycle Store
The Bike Zoo is a clear winner in this category. Located in Western Plaza, they've got a good location, a spacious showroom that's unusually comfortable for a bicycle store, and a wide range of bikes and bike accessories. But their biggest advantage over some bike stores is their friendly, knowledgeable staffbright kids that don't make you feel like an unwashed clod if you're not a competitive racer with an unlimited budget. Now, if they could only get their own back-door exit onto the Third Creek Bike Trail...
Runners Up: West Hills, Interwheel
Best Antiques Store
Jackson Avenue Antiques
Once again, our poll seems to suggest that an antique building enhances the antiques-shopping experience. But it's not just their huge two-floor, turn-of-the-century brick warehouse in the Old City that makes Jackson Avenue Antiques special; it's their encyclopedic selection of antiques from the very high to the very low. Jackson Avenue Antiques is a free museum, a nonlinear tour of 250 years of world history, from the sublime to the appalling. Even if you drop by once a week, you'll find something that surprises you. If you don't find exactly what you're looking for here, you'll probably find something you like better.
Runners Up: Kingston Pike Antique Mall, Bearden Antique Mall, Esau's
Best Shoe Store
Nothing wrong with scrimping on clothes, but when it comes to your dogs, you gotta go all out. The Rack Room will get you walking in some comfortable, stylish shoes and sneaks (and not all of them were made in Third World sweatshops). With three stores, the Rack Room must have a strong following, as it easily whomped on most of the competition.
Runners Up: Just For Feet, The Shoe Store
Best Hair Salon
After last year's ballot stuffing fiasco in this category (which was declared null and void), honor was restored to Knoxville's hair salons. The winner was no less than Salon Visage, which the owner Frank Gambuzza boasts has clients from seven different states. "It's the people in your Virginia towns, the people who can't get to Atlanta or New York," he says. "It's a lot easier to come here than fly to New York. We can compete globally." And the cut-and-color at Salon Visage is no trivial matter, with advanced training sessions every Tuesday morning. Prices start at $28, which Gambuzza says is competitive for its reputation and quality.
Runners Up: Ross the Boss, Natural Alternatives
Best Pet Store
The name says it allif you need it for your furry, feathered, finned, or fork-tongued friend, they've got it. Food, toys, brushes, beds, books, even goofy sweaters, they're all available under one roof. And it's a pet-friendly place, too. No need to tie up Fluffy outside; she can come right in and help you make your selections. (Just keep her away from the bird cages.) It's, ahem, the cat's meow, the dog's bone, the parakeet's perch, and the goldfish's castle.
Runners Up: Adopt-A-Pet, Pass Pets
Best Electronics Store
Do we really want a store this big with a selection this wide? Yeah, buddy! Need a computer? They got it. Car stereo? Uh-huh. DVD players? You betcha. Sales people on overdrive? Um, yeah. All of which enables them to take the category yet again, despite a strong showing from new-kid-on-the-Bluff Best Buy.
Runners Up: Best Buy, Radio Shack
Best Fitness Club
Court South is the runaway (or jog-away, or pedal-away, or...) winner yet again, and it's not hard to see why. The club combines au courant equipment (spinning, anyone?) with a good selection of the basicsfree weights, leg pressesand plenty of activities for both the casual and obsessive exerciser. Plus, during the summer, your membership gets you into The Beach at the Alcoa Highway club, maybe the best outdoor pool in town. And with three locations, it's hard to make excuses about not having the time to go there.
Runners Up: Fort Sanders, YMCA
Best Gift Store
Ever since he left Miller's Department Store 33 years ago to start his own gift shop, Andy Morton's goal has been to "keep one jump ahead of the department stores" with his exclusive lines of china, crystal, silver, and linens. He succeeded in doing that and also in keeping Knoxvillians from going to Atlanta, Chicago, or New York for such fineries. Indeed, in some cases he sells more of them than the biggest cities. Out of 1,000 heirloom footed rose bowls made by Herend, Andrew Morton sold 228 of them. And then there's the largest Waterford society in the United States, the Baccarat crystal, and just about everything else a bride could want for a wedding gift.
Runners Up: Earth to Old City, Green Earth Emporium
Best Smoke Shop
In a decade where tobacco has become public enemy number one for everybody from President Clinton to Major League Baseball, it must be hard for smokers to know where to turn. In Knoxville, they turn to Smokin' Joe's on Papermill and N. Broadway (not to mention the new Harriman location) to scratch their itch. There's golden leaf in every form you can think of, Marlboro to Red Man to Don Diego, and an extensive collection of pipes, lighters, rolling papers, and every other related item short of smoking jackets. Plus, there's a drive thru for when your jones just can't wait.
Runners Up: Smokey's, Knoxville Cigar Co.
Best New Business
When any new mega-chain store opens in West Knoxville, many people's first reaction is apprehensionwhich stretch of pristine natural scenery will be paved over now? And the erection of Best Buyright next to the mega-Lowe's on North Peters Roadwas no exception, with many complaints arising about the removal of nearby trees that once lined the boulevard. But then the electronics store opened, and Knoxvillians have come out in drovesbecause, well, it's a really good store. Specializing in computers, stereos, video game systems, and televisions, the selection is huge, the prices are great, and the sales pitches aren't rabid. And the fact that the store also offers huge music, movie, and software sections doesn't hurt either. Consider Knoxville consumers sold.
Runners Up: Mango, Sequoyah Discount Wine
Best Computer Store
Toppling perennial winner Eastern Computers is the new store on the computer-selling block, mega-chain CompUSA. And the reasons are probably pretty simple: huge selection, reasonable prices, lots of customer support. Computer geeks can now rest assured: Whenever a much-awaited game or application is finally released, it'll be at CompUSA by the case-load; no more waiting for mail-orders or competing at the mall for the last remaining copy. And Macintosh acolytes can take at least a little solace in the fact that, yes, there is an entire Mac section (as opposed to a shelf) and it does carry more than just three dusty copies of Doom II.
Runners Up: Best Buy, Eastern Computer
Best Dry Cleaners
Another repeat winner. What makes Prestige so popular? Probably the exceptional customer service and attention to detail. In addition to the famous "no broken buttons" policy (Prestige will replace buttons they break, even replace missing buttons with matching buttons they keep on stock), there's drive-in service and an express bag regular customers can throw their gear into and toss on the counter on the fly. You can file special instructions in the store computerheavy starch, no creasesand it'll be taken care of. There is home and office pick-up and delivery, milk bones for customers' dogs, lollipops for the kids, and monthly credit card billing for those who don't want to be bothered with cash.
Runners Up: Executive Cleaners, Crown Cleaners
Best Day Spa
Madison Day Spa
If you're planning on giving Mom a visit to Madison Day Spa for Mother's Day, don't forget to tell her they've moved. Madison Day Spa, an all-natural day spa offering manicures, pedicures, facials, herbal wraps, and multi-feature all-day packages, will re-open in May in its new location in Franklin Square next to the Chop House. Madison, which has been open for six years, is doing a booming gift certificate business. And, by the bye, it's not just for women. Men enjoy all that good stuff, too.
Runners Up: Bella Spazio, European Bodyworks
Best Hip/Casual Clothing Store
Who can view the recent batch of Gap TV commercials and NOT want to run right down to the mall and buy a pair of khaki pants to jump, jive, and swing in? The Gap is a latecomer to our clothing scene, but one eagerly embraced. And why not? Who couldn't use more jeans, T-shirts, polos, and khakis? Who doesn't want to expand the wardrobe without spending their life savings? The Gap sells standard fareadmit it, it's hardly avant garde. But somehow, it's just not the same when you buy it at Goody'sit's the Gap élan that makes these old standards hip today. So why fight it? Turn on the tube, take in the message, and fall into The Gap.
Runners Up: Threds, Planet Exchange
Crouch Florist & Gifts
Often it's the little touches that make the difference, and at Crouch Florist they pay attention to the details. From especially nice French ribbon on your arrangement to unique gourmet gift basket goodies, it's the place to look when you want that little something extra. Crouch's has filled their three shops with gift finery special enough for the dearest friend or loved one, with a large selection of fine English toiletries, candles, and stationery, plus an extensive variety of curious greeting cards. You can always find a beautiful, unusual bouquet there, even special flowers hard to find elsewhere during the winter. Crouch provides all you could ask for in your florist, plus some treats you hadn't even thought of.
Runners Up: Petree's, The Flower Market
Finger-paint masterpieces, snapshots, degrees, oil paintings, wedding invitations, professional licenses, or dogs on velvet...Whether you have a delicate Picasso or a life-size photo-poster of your three cats, Virginia's Framery can frame it for you. They have a large selection of frames and mat styles to fit every taste and budget, and their staff is knowledgeable, quality-conscious, and courteous. The big winner in this new BOK category, Virginia's is located in Bearden on Kingston Pike. Stop by and let them turn your treasure into art.
Runners Up: Bennett Galleries, Earth to Old City
Best Child Care
Developing affordable daycare has become one of the Clinton administration's most pressing domestic policy objectives. Maybe the president should take a look at Kindercare, the popular and highly affordable national daycare chain with several Knoxville locations. Parents who choose Kindercare daycare for their children report that, in addition to the program's reasonable cost, they are pleased with Kindercare's convenient locations and extended care options. Coming in a strong second was CityKids. Originally developed to provide daycare for Whittle employees, CityKids has outlasted its original mandate to become one of Knoxville's most well-respected daycare centers. Downtown parents love the center because they can easily drop in to nurse or just play with their babies and suburban workers are willing to trek into the city for CityKids' remarkably high-quality care.
Runners Up: CityKids, La Petite Academy
Best Real Estate Agent
The voting was close in this category (as usual), but Page Pratt of Prudential Volunteer Realty won out. Having worked at Prudential for three and a half years, Pratt specializes in residential properties, including new construction. To what does she owe her success? "I hate to talk about myself," she confesses, "but I'd have to say it's the personalized care and attention to the clients." She also wants to say thank to everybody who voted forand hopes they'll call when they start house hunting.
Runners Up: Judi Starliper, Myra Weinstein
Best Men's Clothing
Matthew McClellan has stuck to the basics to retain the allegiance of our readers for the fifth consecutive year. His upscale haberdashery offers a combination of contemporary European and updated traditional fashions. But what sets McClellan apart from competitors even more than the quality of its merchandise may be the quality of its service. So if you want to be well-dressed and well treated, y'all come to McClellan.
Runners Up: Dillard's, Structure
Best Women's Clothing
If colorful plaids and traditional styles are your cup of tea, Talbot's is the place for Knoxville's well-dressed woman again this year. Their shop in Melrose Place on Kingston Pike is a tasteful showroom of classic fashions and accessories. They offer a personal shopping service, elegant giftwrap, and an always-courteous staff. Featuring rich colors you have never dreamt of and beautiful garden florals in fine fabrics, Talbot's has styles for everyone and every occasion, from the boardroom to the bedroom, from special events to lazy, uneventful Saturdays or anywhere a weekend excursion might take you.
Runners Up: Proffitt's, Ann Taylor
Best Jewelry Store
Watches and diamonds and pearls, oh, my! Markman's is our favorite jewelry store, probably because there is something there for all of us. Beautiful stuff at prices we can afford and outstanding customer service keep us going back to Markman's, where owner Harold Markman prides himself in having a knowledgeable staff who can help you select a beautiful piece at the right price. "For example, we have beautiful diamond engagement rings for as little as $200," he says.
Runners Up: Little Sister's, Kimball's
Best Martial Arts
Rich's Tae Kwon Do Plus
A fifth degree black belt, James Rich has been studying the fine art of self defense for some 15 years, and his expertise has paid off with a recognition as owner of the city's top school. Tae Kwon Do Plus is affialiated with the United Sates Tae Kwon Do Alliance, and all of Rich's instructors have earned teaching certifications. All of which might explain why Rich's is where Knoxvillians get their kicks.
Runners Up: T.T.J.C., East West Karate