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Staff Picks

  The Best of Knoxville

Best Record Store
Disc Exchange
On any given day at either of the Disc Exchange's two locations, you can walk in, sample dozens of new releases on the well-stocked listening stations, find albums both classic and obscure, and educate yourself on everything from early jazz to ultra-modern electronic music. The combination of new and used CDs, a helpful and knowledgeable staff, and an environment eminently conducive to browsing makes for a top-notch shopping experience, even if you don't buy anything. But you probably will. The stores also get good marks for strong support of the local scene (the V-roys' record release party being a particular highlight). Tell 'em Zippy sent ya.
Runners Up: Cat's, Lost & Found

Best Electronics Store
Best Buy
What would it take to knock multi-year winner Circuit City out of the number one slot? Why, another gigantic electronics chain store, of course. Best Buy, the store with the giant blue price tag (surely the strangest talking corporate logo of the decade), beat out its Peters Road neighbor by a nearly 2-to-1 margin with aisle after reasonably-priced aisle of everything that bleeps, beeps, or buzzes. From CDs to PCs to DVDs, VHS to RAM, this is the place to scratch that pre-millennial home infotainment itch.
Runners Up: Circuit City, Radio Shack

Best Shoe Store
Just For Feet
Hey, the 13th pair is free! You can never have too many shoes. You can scrimp on clothes, but be kind to your feet. The 13th pair is free! They've got it all: Converse hightops; Nike Air Jordans; Adidas running shoes; Timberland hiking boots; Teva sandals. And it seems there's always a sale. Plus the 13th pair is free! Bring your kids, bring your friends, bring your parents, bring your kids' friends' parents—buy them all sneakers. Sneakers for everyone! The 13th pair is free! Watch a Braves game while you shop. Or shoot a few hoops. The 13th pair is free! Free, I tell you!
Runners Up: Coffin's, Rack Room

Best Thrift/Secondhand Shop
It simply makes no sense. Why do people want to get rid of these things? That great faded blue plaid short sleeve shirt? It's hip, comfortable. It's yours for $3. A white blouse. Or those slightly faded jeans, already worn. A wool blazer. The wardrobe is yours for the picking at Goodwill. And while the clothes here may not be as hip (or as expensive) as some other secondhand shops around, at least you won't have to worry about them going out of style.
Runners Up: Planet Exchange, Am-Vets

Best Hair Salon
Salon Visage
Elmer never used to pay any attention to me. He'd come into the Krystals where I work, and order two boxes of burgers and chili cheese pups. I knew that I needed to stand out from the crowd to get his attention. So I headed to Salon Visage. Sure, you pay a little more than other salons. But the staff's talent and experience is a world above other Knoxville stylists, and on par with the best in New York City and Atlanta. They turned my frumpy curls and split ends into the most gorgeous 'do I've ever had. The first day—the very first day—after I got my hair cut Elmer came up to the counter all sweaty and shaky, and muttered, "Um, Hi. Um, I think, um, you're really...Um. Can I have two Krystalpups to go, please?" I know he's hooked on more than just the grease now.
Runners Up: Natural Alternatives, Ron Hall

Best Day Spa
Madison Day Spa
Moving to a new home in Franklin Square seems to have only heightened this spa's popularity. That's probably because when it comes to all-natural spas, there really is no better. Get a manicure, pedicure, facial, herbal wrap, or a multi-feature all-day package, and you will feel refreshed, more alive. Of course, spas aren't just for women. Men dig this stuff too, though they'd never admit it, not in a million years. Ohh, but don't let them fool you—they really love it.
Runners Up: Bella Spazio, Belleza

Best Florist
Crouch Florist & Gifts
Flowers are too important to trust to just any old supermarket. You need to go to the pros, and there's no one more professional than Crouch Florist. It's a family-owned business that has been around for 135 years—they know their flowers. They excel at the little touches and fast delivery (to all Knoxville zips, hospitals and funeral homes—even on Sundays). They have a complete line of gourmet and fruit baskets, Crabtree & Evelyn Bath Baskets, exotic flowers, green and blooming plants, and of course roses. With four stores, you can't go wrong.
Runners Up: Flower Market, All Knox Floral

Best Fitness Club
Court South
Knoxville's home-grown fitness chain continues its unbroken dominance of this category, and it's not hard to see why. Court South offers a mighty bang for your membership buck. Frequently updated Nautilus equipment, sizable weight rooms, plentiful racquetball courts, and classes in everything from spinning to smoking cessation make for a place that can meet just about any fitness need. And with three strategically sited locations, it's hard to make the excuse that you just don't have time to go. Plus, there's the pristine outdoor pool at the Alcoa Highway club, one of the coolest places in town on those hot summer days.
Runners Up: YMCA, Fort Sanders Health & Fitness Center

Best Dry Cleaners
The morning sunlight stirred me from a deep slumber. "Ohh, my head," I groaned. Where had I been the night before? It was a blur. I sat up and realized I had slept in my shoes and clothes...OH, NO! My lucky beige shirt with little teddy bear prints was covered in sticky, crusty unknown substances colored green, purple, and brown. Sweat stained the armpits. And it was wrinkled beyond belief. "I was going to wear this on my big first date with Heloise tomorrow night," I screamed. "What am I going to do?!?" I jumped in the car, and drove straight to Prestige cleaners. "Fix this please," I begged. Smiling reassuringly, the woman behind the counter said, "There, there sonny. Everything will be OK." The next morning, the shirt was as bright and stain free as it ever had been, with each little teddy bear standing out brilliantly against the beige fabric. Thanks to Prestige, Heloise and I have been together for three years. I love you, Prestige.
Runners Up: Crown & Executive (tie)

Best Smoke Shop
Knoxville Cigar Company
So you're strolling down Central, you've just had a good cup of coffee and maybe some cheesecake, and you're looking for a place to kick back, unwind, maybe enjoy the finer things in life. And what do you see through the storefront window? A cluster of folks doing just that at the Knoxville Cigar Company, a smoke shop-cum-hangout par excellence. With carefully selected stogies spanning the taste and price range, the store caters to both the connoisseur and the novice. And the comfy chairs and couches ensure that this is one place where you can have your cigar and smoke it too.
Runners Up: Smokin' Joe's, Smokys Pipe & Tobacco

Best Jewelry Store
It could be because the store offers one of the finest selections of diamonds, pearls, watches and other sparkling things around. It might also be that customers know they are getting the best price and that the customer service is outstanding. Whichever the reason, Markman's is once again our favorite jewelry store. As owner Harold Markman says, "It is very simple to do it right".
Runners Up: Little Sister's, Kimball's

Best New Books Store
Is it the comfortable chairs and bohemian staff that sets Borders apart from its corporate bookstore cousins? Is it the warm wood and fantastic selection of books, videos, coffee, and music that keeps Knoxvillians coming back for more? Or is it just its proximity to Old Navy? Whatever the readers' reasons, Borders is the place to go for all of your creature comfort needs.
Runners Up: Barnes & Noble, Davis-Kidd

Best Used Books Store
Okay, maybe it's not a fair competition. There are more charming used-book stores in town, and ones where you're more likely to find a rare first edition. But if you want to find a book quick that you can bend the pages backward and actually read, no one's more likely to have it—and cheap—than McKay's. Picture a warehouse where you can find nearly any book you've ever heard of, and thousands you haven't, all on permanent sale for a buck or two. Some are in such good shape we've given them as gifts to people who assume we spent five times as much as we did. But don't tell anybody.
Runner Up: The Book Eddy

Best Computer Store
Used to be, the purchase of a personal computer was a quiet, buttoned-down affair—there'd be a handful of humming beige machines and a nerdy-looking salesman in a tie calmly lecturing you about spreadsheet programs. Now, of course, computers are candy-colored, rip-snortin', multi-media fun machines that'll vault you into the next millennium (according to the ads). So maybe that's why CompUSA is our favorite computer store for the second year running—it sells these once rarefied devices just like any other electronic appliance, with a BIG selection, LOUD displays, LOTS of customer support, and (of course) LOW, LOW prices. But just a few votes behind it was the newcomer on the block, Gateway, with its trademark cow-pattern boxes and reputation for pleasing its customers.
Runners Up: Gateway, Best Buy

Best Bicycle Shop
The Bike Zoo
We don't mind the name, but we do have to wonder where it came from. Many bike shops remind us of zoos. The Bike Zoo doesn't. Without the snooty blather of lycra-clad Eurosnobs, or the high-pressure pitch of overconfident salesmen you suspect haven't pedaled a bike since 6th grade, The Bike Zoo may be the quietest, most un-zoo-like bike store in town. This Western Plaza institution is our favorite place to shop for a new mountain bike or just fix a flat. The laid-back Bike Zoologists on staff take care of it all for you, and you never leave embarrassed or pressured. Heck, it's a nice place to just hang out.
Runners Up: Greenlee, West Hills Bicycle Center

Best Furniture Store
Storehouse Furniture
When I was younger man, I never believed in furniture. I slept on a foam matt in the corner of the room, ate my meals cross-legged on a rectangular rug, the hardwood floor was my desk. Life was simple. One day, I walked into Storehouse Furniture on Kingston Pike out of curiosity. I left with a leather couch, a recliner chair, and an oak frame deluxe king-size bed. The next week, I came back for a dining room set, a dresser and bureau, a night stand. I outfitted a spare room as an office, complete with a hardwood desk, filing cabinets, computer stand, leather straight back chairs. I bought little end tables to set next to my couch, a sleeper sofa for guests, patio furniture, a coffee table. I kept buying, until I could no longer move around my home. I started buying furniture for my garage, outfitted my yard as spare bedrooms, second offices, an extra living room. Neighbors complained.
Runners Up: Braden's, Fowler's & Nouveau Classics (tie)

Best Antique Store
Jackson Avenue Antiques
No better place to shop for antiques than in an antique building, we say. It'll take you several trips to get a handle on everything they've got here, and, of course, it changes every week or two. So you'd better get started.
Runners Up: Westwood Antiques, Kingston Pike Antique Mall

Best Garden Supply/Nursery
Mayo's helps us understand the basics of life and gives us a reason to look forward to the weekend even after we're married. Their two locations on Kingston Pike are big but not too big, with all the tools, seeds, and manure you really need to get a good garden growing, along with a friendly staff who can tell what's in your heart just by looking at you. We like to just hang out there at about 11 on a Saturday morning, seeing nearly everybody we know.

They'll even fix your mower for you.
Runners Up: Suzy's Groovy Garden, Stanley's Greenhouse

Best Gift Shop
Andrew Morton
What more is there to say, without gilding the lily, about the store that's been voted best gift shop six years in a row? If you actually want a gilded lily, though, Andrew Morton is the place to go. He prides himself on being able to find things you can't get anywhere else. After 34 years at his Old Kingston Pike address, he anticipates nearly every need with the largest selection of bridal patterns—china, crystal, silver—anywhere in the Southeast. And if you're a klutz who's not sure exactly what to pick, he will make the perfect choice for you. In Andrew Morton we trust.
Runners Up: Green Earth Emporium & Carol Ann's (tie)

Best Health Food Store
Nature's Pantry
From the outside, you'd never know it was a health food store. Bright pink and purple do seem like decidedly unnatural hues. Where's the granola green or sunflower yellow? Then again, one word that can always be relied on to describe Mother Nature is whimsical. Who are we to criticize the color scheme? Once past the garish exterior, Knoxvillians agree there's no better place to enjoy nature's bounty than Nature's Pantry. All the supplements, cruelty-free products, and organic produce selections make self-prescription almost as fun as playing doctor.
Runners Up: Food Co-op, GNC

Best Video Rental Store
Knoxvillians just love to sit by the fire (or the air conditioning vents, depending on the season), cuddle up, and pop a movie in the VCR. And Blockbuster, with its clean atmosphere, lack of porn, oodles of new releases, and section just for the kneebiters, is where we want to get our flicks.
Runners Up: Gemstone, Hollywood

Best Liquor Store
Walk in Ashe's door and you just know you're in the right place for quality hooch. Each wine is elegantly displayed; each bottle of the hard stuff is exquisitely dusted. But be honest. It's not the comforting digs that keep bringing us back—it's the sales folk who know everything one could about distilled and fermented spirits. Need an accompaniment to Thanksgiving fare? A hunk of steak and haricots vert? A block of tofu? The Ashe's team can direct you right to it, with a smile.
Runners Up: McScrooge's, Bob's

Best Pet Store
If Fido, Fluffy, Slimy, or Chirpy need it, Petsmart's got it. From leashes and litter to gravel and glitter (toys, sweaters, and dishes all come with the sparkly stuff), you and your pet can browse the wide, linoleum-lined aisles of this West Knox pet mecca. Even though Petsmart has only been around locally for just under a year, it dominated past winners like SuperPetz and the Humane Society's Adopt-A-Pet in our reader's hearts.
Runners Up: SuperPetz, Pet Supplies Plus

Best Gourmet/Grocery Store
Fresh Market
The Fresh Market kicked serious grocery butt in this new category, handily beating—nay, trouncing—Gourmet Market, Kroger, and BiLo. And why not? The Fresh Market has everything the serious and the not-so-serious chef could want, from fresh veggies and meats to the more exotic ingredients like cornichon and capers. Their bakery is the best in-store boulangerie in town and their pastries are to die for. Yum.
Runners Up: Gourmet Market, Kroger

Best Casual/Hip Clothing Store
The Gap
Last year our readers fell into The Gap. This year, they fell again. Some would say that the catchy, stunning, and quirky ads are responsible for pulling the population into this casual clothing emporium. Some would say that it's the quality construction of their garments. Whatever the case may be, The Gap is de rigeur for the collegiate/professional set—almost like a uniform of sorts. And if The Gap's moderate prices are still out of your league, their sister store and runner-up Old Navy can meet your needs at a discount, while locally-owned Planet Exchange, which is chock-full of pre-owned togs, can funk up your duds and stretch your budget.
Runners Up: Old Navy, Planet Exchange

Best Women's Dress Clothing Store
Tie: Proffitt's & Talbot's
In a rare bout of indecisiveness, Knoxville's sharp-dressed ladies have deemed not one, but two of their loyal outfitters to be our city's best, and rightfully so. To choose between Proffitt's and Talbot's is like choosing between two precious gems, both equally stunning from every vantage point, both offering flawless beauty that exceeds all possible scrutiny. Yes, these two fine stores help make Knoxville the beautiful city that it is, and for this reason the entire city is indebted to these grand establishments. To separate them from one another is a task that seems daunting at first, but one must try. Talbot's, residing within Kingston Pike's Melrose Place, offers the fashion-conscious and mature woman everything that would comprise a wardrobe, from undergarments to business-wear, all done tastefully and luxuriously. Proffitt's offers two Knoxville locations in both West Town Mall and the Knoxville Center. For years mall-goers have trusted Proffitt's dedication to quality and appreciated their keen eye for the latest styles. If you don't believe us, just ask any of Knoxville's best-dressed women.
Runners Up: Dillard's, Ann Taylor

Best Men's Dress Clothing Store
M.S. McClellan's
For six years in a row, loyal customers of M.S. McClellan's have voted it Knoxville's favorite men's store. The store's goal is to bring only the best quality hand-picked clothes to Knoxville. It is apparently a goal the customers appreciate. McClellan's shops the entire world to bring in the clothes that people want to buy and makes sure that the customer has the best service around.
Runners Up: Dillard's, Common Market