cover story: best of jax 2017

SHOPPING & HEALTH & BEAUTY & EDUCATION

Folio Weekly's BEST of JAX 2017

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Best Bike Shop
OPEN ROAD BICYCLES
Finalists: ZenCog Bicycle Company, SuperCorsa
Open Road Bicycles understands every aspect of bicycles—from the recreational rider to the dedicated racer. The full-service bike shop has extensive experience selling, servicing, renting, riding, racing and loving bicycles. Each location is staffed with knowledgeable and enthusiastic cyclists who love to share their expertise. Need to learn how to shift, fix a flat, carry gear, pump your tires? Want to find the best places to ride? Just ask, and they’ll be more than happy to help. They carry a wide selection of bicycles and a full range of all the biking parts and accessories you will ever need or want. We’ve got our eye on a sweet beach cruiser…

Best Dive Shop
ATLANTIC PRO DIVERS
Finalists: Divers Supply Jacksonville, Jax Surf & Paddle
Whether you’re getting PADI-certified for the first time, filling tanks, checking o-rings, upping your deep dive game with Nitrox or decking yourself out for a dive trip to Grand Cayman or Cozumel, Atlantic Pro Divers in Jax Beach has everything you need—and probably some things you just really, really want. If you’re looking for a diving fix without the airfare and passport stamp, Northeast Florida’s Best Dive Shop also offers dive trips off our very own coast, including reefs and wreckages. Oooohhhh, pwetty fishies.

Best Surf Shop
AQUA EAST SURF SHOP
Finalists: Sunrise Surf Shop, Driftwood Surf Shop
Located mere blocks from the ocean, Aqua East is the go-to spot for surfers, swimmers and beach bunnies of all sorts to find everything from the longest longboards to the sweetest shades. Paddleboards, bodyboards, surfboards, skateboards and skimboards fill the shelves and walls. So even if you’ve got nowhere near the shredding skillz of the crew cuttin’ the pier, Aqua East has something to help you realize those dreams that first took shape when you wore water wings. They’ve also got cute beach casual clothing for those rare landlubber events the waterbabies let themselves get dragged to by the gremmies.

Best Skate Shop
KONA SKATE PARK
Finalists: The Block Skate Supply Shop, Young, Loud & Snotty
When Kona turned 40, we were equally elated and stunned—not because they’ve been leaders in the skate community for so long, but because we sometimes still think of skating as a kids’ sport—despite the multimillion-dollar industry attached to it. And that’s the thing—as storied as Kona is, it’s still a place all about community. The joy you get from knowing the Kona folks offer camps, equipment, lessons and competitions is like pulling off a nollie for the first time—it just feels right, like some good new you can’t wait to share.

Best Wine Shop
TOTAL WINE & MORE
Finalists: Riverside Liquors, Wine Warehouse of Atlantic Beach
Ever go shopping for a bottle of wine and bring home a case? If not, then you probably haven’t been to Total Wine & More in St. Johns Town Center. This chain grabs the concept of one-stop-booze shop and takes it to the utmost extreme. Their wine selection has as much range as Aretha Franklin—with prices as low as a couple bucks or as high as a couple of bones per glass or more.

Best Vintage
Best Clothing Store
GREASE RAGS CLOTHING
Vintage Finalists: Wolf & Cub, That Poor Girl
Clothing Store Finalists: Wolfgang, Francesca’s
We think it says something awfully playful and sophisticated about Folio Weekly readers’ choice of this retro clothing store with a ’50s-style sensibility for best clothing and best vintage, too. Grease Rags is also into body positivity, providing a range of sizes (4-4X) so everyone can feel cute, not just the extra-tiny and tiny some boutiques tend to showcase. And though the shop sustained some Irma-related damage, the online boutique is up and running, for your entire “un-happy camper” circle-skirt needs.

Best Consignment Shop
FIFI’S FINE RESALE APPAREL
Finalists: POSH Upscale Consignment Boutique, Retail Therapy Consignment
Got a taste for the finer things and a thrifty eye? Fear not, fair shopper, ’cause the four Northeast Florida locations of Fifi’s Fine Resale Apparel will let you indulge your taste for designer threads without breaking the bank. Take a page from our readers and the Folio Weekly editor who treasures a faux white fur coat procured at the Ponte Vedra location and get your fancy fix or de-clutter your wardrobe (to make room for more, of course) at the region’s Best Consignment Shop.

Best Liquor Store
ABC FINE WINE & SPIRITS
Finalists: Total Wine & More, Riverside Liquors
Not many institutions that have won Best of Jax this year can honestly say that they have been around longer than most of our readers have been alive. If you can last through most of the major wars, the Great Recession and the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, you must be doing something right. So, here’s a drink to you, good ol’ Alphabet Store. You keep ’em coming, and we’ll keep knocking ’em back.

Best Health Club/Gym
BAILEY’S GYM HEALTH CLUBS
Finalists: Temple Builders Fitness Centers
For many, gym membership cards serve as $25-per-month wallet “buffers,” separating unused “10th Prayer Gets You Salvation” punch cards with various hotel key cards kept as souvenirs from your dual life as The Mini-Bar Burglar & Liberator. However, for our health-minded readers, when it comes to actually that gym membership, they choose to pump it up at Bailey’s Gyms. With more than a dozen locations in Northeast Florida–each equipped with state-of-the-art fitness equipment and a friendly, knowledgeable staff–in no time you’ll go from having sand kicked in your face to becoming the one who kicks sand in wimpy people’s faces! That’s the American dream right there.

Best Tattoo Studio
INKSMITH & ROGERS
Finalists: Black Hive Tattoo, 8th Day Tattoo
Tattooing is nothing short of becoming a work of art, of making your outwardly physical self match up with your inner being. With five locations serving Northeast Florida and a litany of legends who hold or have held the tattoo gun at each Inksmith & Rogers, it’s no wonder that Folio Weekly readers have named them Best Tattoo Studio in all of the 904 land again this year.

Best Yoga Studio
MINDFUL MOTION YOGA
Finalists: Bikram Yoga, MBody Yoga
A FW staffer once accidentally attended one of those 90-minute hot power yoga classes and felt something like a stuffed sausage in a field of smug kale. That will not happen at Mindful Motion on the Southside of Jax, where the philosophy is focused on acceptance, mindfulness and each person living their own truth. If loving yourself and delighting in the moment sounds like something you might like (read: you’re a person), take a class at the Best Yoga Studio in Northeast Florida. Your bliss will follow.

Best Bookstore 
CHAMBLIN’S UPTOWN, CHAMBLIN BOOKMINE
Finalists: San Marco Bookstore, The BookMark
Vincent van Gogh said, “A visit to a bookshop has cheered me and reminded me there are good things in the world.” Does the same for us, Vince. And for FW readers, who’ve again voted Chamblin Bookmine and Chamblin’s Uptown as the best bookstores around. Ever been there? Goodgawdamighty, the number of books on shelves, in stacks, in boxes, behind shelves, beneath the cases—takes the breath away. Plus music CDs, DVDs, VHS tapes, books-on-tape. We could live and die there. The wizard who wrought this magic is Ron Chamblin, aided by many bookish minions who live to serve those of us who cannot live without books. As John Waters put it, “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t f*ck them.” We agree.

Best Teacher
TONY WOOD at Stanton College Preparatory School
Finalists: John L. Meeks Jr., David P. Roberts
You can’t teach art. What you’re really doing is encouraging, inspiring and guiding a child who has either an artistic bent or no interest in art whatsoever. Any child in Tony Wood’s art classes is already ahead; Wood has taught at Stanton for 14 years and it’s his job to fan a small flame into a fire of self-expression to carry that child forward with a sense of where he fits in the world, wrapped in the knowledge that art—painting, drawing, sculpting, building, welding, whatever—will always be there. Wood says, “I’m really passionate about the subject, and I really like to see the light come on when the kids start to understand how these creative juices make you feel.”

Best Local College
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA
Finalists: Jacksonville University, Florida State College at Jacksonville
Well-known for its splendid architecture, welcoming student community and sprawling campus—minus the goose poop—the University of North Florida is host to some 15,000 students. Whether it be engineering, journalism or Jack Kerouac, UNF boasts a broad range of subjects. And when it’s time to hit the books, the Thomas G. Carpenter library is always open. If you like the outdoors, try the Bamboo Garden or The Green—just watch out for errant frisbees.

Best Comic Book Store
SUPERHERO HIVE
Finalists: Mythical Mountain, Gotham City Limits
BANG! ZOOM! POW! WHAP! What’s that, a bird? A plane? NO! It’s only the Best Comic Book Store in town! With funsters from Bat-Mite to Howard the Duck and everything in between, the Hive—along with its sister store in Jax Beach—has just about anything you could look for. Come for the limited edition copy of Watchmen, stay for the in-depth discussion on why Thor could kick Superman’s ass. Could too.

Best Health Food Store
GRASSROOTS NATURAL MARKET
Finalists: Native Sun Natural Foods Market, Whole Foods Market
People seek out health foods for many reasons. Whether it’s for wellness and longevity, supporting a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, or just having a moment of clarity while horking back another Doritos-on-white-bread-squeeze-knuckle, eating better quality foods can only improve your overall quality of life. Whatever your motivation, Grassroots Natural Market has you covered. Organic produce and meats are readily available, as are scads of supplements, more soy items than you can shake a compassionately sourced stick at, and a boss fresh juice and smoothie bar that will put a little zip in your Dorito-clogged step.

Best Place To Buy A Car
GARBER AUTOMALL
Finalists: AutoNation Ford Jacksonville, Keith Pierson Toyota
Car-buying is the absolute best at all-American Garber Automall in Green Cove Springs. There you’ll find new domestic and pre-owned vehicles of all origins. Not only do they have an amazing array of choices for every budget, they also provide parts, service and assistance obtaining financing. The Best Place to Buy a Car is literally a one-stop shop for all your car-buying needs.

Best Jewelry Store
UNDERWOOD’S JEWELERS
Finalists: Beard’s Jewelry, Hemming Plaza Jewelers
There are few things as certain as the sunrise. One of those things is Underwood’s Jewelers crushing it in Best of Jax. This year marks the 26th consecutive time the more-than-80-year-old company has won Best Jeweler; that’s every single year since we started this thing. So when they say their name is synonymous with fine jewelry, they back it up bigly. Think of it—Underwood’s has been in business since before Jacksonville was consolidated (though they were founded in Palatka—long story), since before the president was born, since before there was an Interstate 95 or 10. That’s serious staying power!

Best Florist
KUHN FLOWERS
Finalists: Dottie “B” Florist, Glenn Certain Floral Design, Liz Stewart Floral Design
Lady Bird Johnson famously said, "Where flowers bloom, so does hope." No matter the occasion, there is something so soothingly joy-inducing about a beautiful bouquet. Here in Northeast Florida, folks agree that Kuhn Flowers is the place where hope springs eternal. Celebrating 70 years serving us on weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day (you didn't forget again, did you?), and more, this family-owned favorite captures our readers' hopes and hearts with kaleidoscopic, fresh-cut flowers, gift baskets, plants and an undeniable dash of love. And if you ever get a Folio Weekly bouquet, it will be delivered by a smiling member of the Kuhn team.

Best Hospital
BAPTIST HOSPITAL DOWNTOWN
Finalists: St. Vincent’s Medical Center Riverside, Mayo Clinic
A recent cardiac arrest patient who was healed at Baptist Heart Hospital on the medical center’s impressive campus in Downtown Jax, which serves as the central hub for the system in the area, was treated to stunning riverfront views and the highest level of care—the latter is par for the course at all the Baptist facilities. Doctors, nurses and staff at each location care for the whole person—nobody’s a number there. That’s why they’ve been the most preferred provider in Northeast Florida for donkey years—and why they top our readers’ list as the Best Hospital.

Best Lawyer
Best Local Righteous Crusader
Reader Nominated Category
Best Social Justice Warrior
JOHN M. PHILLIPS
Lawyer Finalists: Eileen Dolaghan, David M. Robbins
Righteous Crusader Finalists: St. Johns Riverkeeper, Hope McMath
Social Justice Warrior Finalists: Jimmy Midyette, Hemming Park Five
If you don’t know John M. Phillips, you must’ve been living under a rock, ’cause Northeast Florida’s top choice for Best Lawyer seven years running is a force of nature. You’ll find him lending his voice to the downtrodden, giving city officials hell when they step on the little guy, and generally being an all-around nice dude. That’s why he’s again our readers’ choice for Best Local Righteous Crusader and has captured the title of Best Local Social Justice Warrior like the boss he is. If he used his powers for evil, this smart-as-a-whip family man and social media whiz could be a supervillain. Lucky for us, his sense of right and wrong is so on fleek, he’s a genuine inspiration to us all.

Best Day Spa
Best Plastic Surgeon
DR. CLAYMAN’S PLASTIC SURGERY CENTER & MIRACLE SPA
DR. MARK CLAYMAN
Day Spa Finalists: The Spa at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, The Ritz-Carlton Spa
Plastic Surgeon Finalists: Dr. Robert Burk, Dr. Richard Glassman
As the timeless Dolly Parton observed in Steel Magnolias, “Time marches on, and sooner or later, you realize it is marchin’ across your face.” If you want to reverse that march, relax and rejuvenate at our readers’ choice for Best Day Spa, where the staff will scrub you, peel you, rub you and pamper you until the stress (and years) just fall away. If you’re looking for something a tad more, ahem, permanent, Best Plastic Surgeon Dr. Mark Clayman can assist with a li’l nip, tuck and lift.

Best Hair Stylist
VICKY HOYER, The Corner Salon
Finalists: Amanda Adams, Carolina Sherman, Cut-N-Edge Salon
When we called Vicky Hoyer to let her know she’d won Best of Jax, she didn’t believe us. She then hopped off the phone to finish up with a client, “that one-on-one attention always come first,” she said with a laugh. The stylist, whose more than 27 years of experience began in England, says her focus is the emotional as well as the physical side of client care. “I listen and I pamper because it’s how I was trained.” The Corner Salon is also a distributer of the naturally-based Monat line of haircare products.

Best Hair Salon
HAWTHORN SALON
Finalists: Cut-N-Edge Salon, Cortello Hair Salon
Located in the heart of 5 Points in Riverside, Hawthorn Salon promises to give men and women “the hair you’ve always dreamed of.” Admittedly, for some of us, the dream is to just be presentable. But for those who have loftier ambitions—things like fashion-forward shags, tight fades, sleek Wintour-inspired bobs and festival-perfect braids, the crew at Hawthorn will keep your hair looking relevant and steer you away from your worst impulses (don’t ever try mermaid hair at home). As a salon committed to the best in haircare, all of the stylists take continuing education classes from some of the best names in the business including Bumble & Bumble, Redken and L’Oreal.

Best Veterinarian
Best Doctor
SAINT FRANCIS ANIMAL HOSPITAL
DR. SUSAN SHELTON
Veterinarian Finalists: San Juan Animal Hospital; Kyla Savick, Merrill Animal Clinic
Doctor Finalists: Dr. Ali Kasraeian, Dr. Rodolfo
Local pets are treated to top-quality care at Saint Francis Animal Hospital. This not-for-profit clinic offers a wide range of services at prices all pet owners can afford. Under the direction of Northeast Florida’s choice for Best Doctor, Dr. Susan Sheldon, the medical staff has been providing healthcare to pets since 2003. (Seems Folio Weekly readers love their pets almost as much as we love our readers!) The clinic is open seven days a week with no appointment necessary—soooo convenient when Dogzilla swallows a Furby. Saint Francis now offers doggie daycare and a pet resort as well as grooming space and retail. Annual events help raise awareness and funds for the hospital.

Best Dentist
DR. KEVIN SNYDER, HARBOUR DENTAL CARE
Finalists: Dr. Donald Alexander, Dr. Richard C. Mullens
A healthy smile is the gateway to a healthy body and residents of the First Coast clearly think that Dr. Snyder’s focus on compassionate, seamless, pain-free care is the pathway to better oral health and happier dental visits. Numerous patients cite the humor, kindness and laughter they find in what is generally an unpleasant appointment; well, at the very least, anxiety-provoking anticipation. Most striking, though, clients mention the level of trust they have in the doctor and his staff, and that’s why they keep going back.

Best Massage Therapist
CARLTON SIZER, Massage Envy Jax Beach
Finalists: Kimber Medrano, (tie) Chloe Pearce, Willow Organic Salon & Spa, Katlyn Sharpe
According to his fans, Carlton Sizer doesn’t just rub your back—rather, he digs in, targeting problem areas and stretching tight bodies out. It’s a kind of physical reset that helps with mental stressors, too. Specializing in deep tissue and firm pressure massage, Sizer makes certain to keep his sessions relaxing and this, combined with his genuine concern for the well-being of each person on his table, keeps his clients returning again and again (of course, Massage Envy’s monthly plans help with that, too). Le sigh our fingers hurt from typing all this praise … we should probably book a session today.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Tattoo Artist
NICK WAGNER
Finalists: Dave Wood, Selena Medina, Ralph Royals
Many a fool walks the Earth who thought they were getting a tattoo then wound up with an inky scar that cost them some cold hard cash. For more evidence, scour Duval for various body parts riddled with “I Love Moom,” “Doneld Trump for Bresidents,” etc. Serious tattoo lovers make an appointment to see Nick Wagner, proprietor and ink guru of Black Hive Tattoo in Riverside. From classic El Corazón type imagery to intricate, detailed line work, superhero characters, well-rendered beasts, even a deftly penned and much-treasured Sanskrit phrase Ishvara Pranidhana inked on the arm of an unnamed Folio Weekly A&E writer (it’s Dan), Wagner has got you covered. Black Hive Ink boasts the additional talents of three more artists and to separate the serious customers from the Kid Rocks (Kids Rock?), the studio’s site lists a 10-point shop etiquette on what you should and shouldn’t do to make sure you walk out with some stellar body art.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Family Lawyer
MATTHEW HUNT
Finalists: Paul Green, Jacqueline Green
Divorce and custody disputes are among the most stressful situations you may ever have the misfortune of experiencing. No big surprise: They combine the drama of family with the horrors of the judicial system. Shudder Family law attorney Matthew Hunt with the Law Offices of John M. Phillips can traverse through the process with the patience and compassion of a preacher and the sharp mind and passionate advocacy of a hard-nosed attorney. Plus, he looks pretty damn good doing it. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

Reader Nominated Category
Best DUI Lawyer 
REID HART
Finalists: Jonathan B.B. Lucas, David Robbins
More people than care to admit know how this feels: blue lights in the rearview, an officer asking “Have you been drinking?” The system “presumes” innocence, but it sure doesn’t feel like it in the back of a police cruiser. (We assume.) In moments like these, Reid Hart is Folio Weekly readers’ choice for that all-important phone call. Just dial 444-4444. Hart, the lead criminal defense attorney with the Law Offices of John M. Phillips, will provide you with the defense you deserve: the very, very best.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Salvage/Reuse/Repurpose Company 
ECO RELICS
Finalists: Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, HabiJax
When your best friend texts you a photograph of his newest treasure, a mid-century equine lamp with an architectural shade, you know he’s been shopping at Eco Relics without you (probably because otherwise you’ll just end up squabbling over that unsettling unsigned folk art drawing). The warehouse is jam-packed with everything from reclaimed wood tables (made in-house) to Deco bureaus and armoires bigger than some studio apartments. They’ve also got a selection of lighting, siding, doors, windows, miscellaneous hardware and hundreds of tchotchkes and tchotchke-adjacent items to spruce up your place. Whether you’re looking for a singular focal point or historically appropriate architectural details, chances are they have it.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Vape Shop 
NEW LEAF VAPOR COMPANY
Finalists: All Day Vape, Fuzion Vapor
What many consider to be the Meerschaum Pipe of the Millennial Age, vaping (or “vaporizing” for you daffy-brained nesbits) has become a fashionable way to get a nicotine fix without that awful cigarette smell, yellow teeth, fingers, nails. #Tar. With six locations in the area, New Leaf Vape has the products you need to set you up on a cleaner smoking experience.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Flea Market
RAMONA FLEA MARKET
Finalists: Pecan Park Flea & Farmers Market, Beach Boulevard Flea Market
One part colorful bazaar, one part family fun day, and one part Direct-to-Red-Box action comedy, each weekend Ramona Flea Market has something for everyone. As you navigate 46 acres of this discount-price Shangri-La, everything is within your reach, from produce and clothing, to DVDs, tobacco accessories (cough...), along with a karaoke lounge where the overheated can cool down with a beer and the chance to be “discovered” as they warble through their innovative version of “Midnight at the Oasis.” Where else in this area can you buy boxing gloves, a DVD player, kettle corn and a glow-in-the-dark sword? You know, other than Lenny Curry’s new “Le-Cur” boutique. Kidding.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Travel Agent
STEVE CRANDALL
Finalists: Avondale Travel, Corey Determan
When Folio Weekly readers want to “get away from it all,” or merely flee the scene, they hit up Steve Crandall at Discount Travel to set them up with an affordable and enjoyable getaway plan, regardless of motivation. So whether it’s a romantic honeymoon trip to Bora Bora, a real-time reenactment of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street concert in Amsterdam, or an adventurous church youth group trip to Sierra Leone that those pious rascals will never forget, let Steve be your guide so you can travel affordably, securely and in style!

Reader Nominated Category
Best Mattress Store
MATTRESS FIRM
Finalists: Mattress One, Hazouri Adjustable Beds
With a store in nearly every town between here and the Keys, chances are you have either bought a mattress or know someone who has bought one from Mattress Firm. Also, depending on whether or not you smell like you just got sprayed by a skunk, you can pop in the stores any time and try out one of their bajillion types of mattresses. And yes, a bajillion may or may not be a real number.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Sex Shop
INSERECTION ADULT FANTASY STORE
Finalists: Adam & Eve, Sunset Novelties
We all get by with a little help from our friends, and if you need a little intimate help, whether it’s condoms for safer sex or toys and costumes—including a good selection of plus-sizes—to add a little fun and variety to your between-the-sheets, on the kitchen table, against the wall…sorry, we digress…frolics, our readers agree that Inserection is the place to go. The friendly and knowledgeable staff is happy to make suggestions, is totally nonjudgmental, has proudly tried many of the products and they’ve got a four-star Yelp rating.

Reader Nominated Category
Best Real Estate Agent
ANITA VINING
Finalists: Sonny Downey, Blake Meacham
There are many reasons to sell one’s house: eagerness to move on to newer, fancier digs; making a quick buck on the housing rates in your neighborhood going “full Melania,” or simply tiring of hearing those howling voices rip through the vents as ectoplasmic blood shoots through the walls. You know, life stuff. Our readers know that whether they are looking to sell or buy, the best Real Estate agent in Northeast Florida is the inimitable Anita Vining. A resident of Jacksonville since 1983, Vining has seen the market trends come and go, which surely gives her the edge on her competitors. While her specialty is in waterfront properties along the St. Johns River and coastline and tonier ’hoods, she’s knowledgeable in all areas of Jacksonville and can make your buying or selling experience a smooth process.

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