Shopping and Spending

your Best of the Chippewa Valley 2009 winners for shops and services

V1 Staff, illustrated by Erik Christenson

BEST WOMEN’S CLOTHING STORE
1st Place: Isabelle & Co.
2nd Place: TJ Maxx
3rd Place: Savers

Perhaps one of the most venerable of retail categories, a women’s clothing store is a thing that more than one well-intentioned husband or boyfriend has wandered awkwardly around for hours at a time. Isabelle and Co. is located in one of Eau Claire’s newest high-end clothing stores, and the caliber of the merchandise fits in perfectly with the beautifully remodeled downtown building in which it resides. TJ Maxx holds strong as an affordable store where one can find the best fashions at prices that the average lady can easily afford. Like going on a treasure hunt, Savers pins down the third place spot by offering diamonds in the rough that you just simply can’t find everywhere else. Your mother might laugh that you spent money on something she wore at some point in high school, but your friends will wish they had seen it first. – Aryn Widule

Really?: My sewing machine

 

BEST MEN’S CLOTHING STORE
1st Place: Kohl’s
2nd Place: Savers
3rd Place: JC Penney

When my shirts (and pants) tissue paper-like existence eventually blow away in the breeze, I will proceed to the blue ribbon of the past three lists, Kohl’s. It’s all too simple – everything is always on sale in this place! Ties – buy one get one. Grundies – half off. Anything Packers – basically free during the offseason. Need I say more? Second place is Savers (same as 2008). The key at this store is patience. Visits can last up to four or five fitting room visits because we all know a size large from 1976 isn’t necessarily a large in 2009. It’s a scavenger hunt where your time spent determines your reward. In third place is JC Penney (same as 2008). I venture here for my dress pant needs. Although my needs are minimal and usually exist the day before a wedding, JC has come through every time. – Mark Koening

 

BEST PLACE FOR SHOES
1st Place: Kohl’s
2nd Place: Payless
3rd Place: Scheels

Have you ever heard of the show Sex and the City? Yeah, so apparently it features these four women who talk a lot and deal with stereotypical chick-show stuff, but the cornerstone of the show is shoe shopping.Anyway, we bring up the program as a stark contrast to the Chippewa Valley’s footwear situation, because we apparently are not tempted by big brand names or fashionable price tags. As Kohl’s, the winner of the best shoe location, illustrates, we are all about deals and one-stop shoe shopping. From high heels to men’s slippers, they have it all, often on sale. The second place winner, Payless, in both its stand-alone and Shopko forms, offers even cheaper selections of kicks. Third place winner Scheels offers more specialized sporting and casual footwear, but the winners prove if it’s got a sole, some laces, and a big sale tag, we will slap them right on our tootsies. – Eric Rasmussen

 

BEST THRIFT STORE
1st Place: Savers
2nd Place: Chaos Gaming Center
3rd Place: Goodwill

I have bought nearly every shirt I own at Savers. My friends get Halloween costumes there, and there is a good chance at least 25 percent of college houses have kitchens filled with awesome glasses, waffle irons, and cooking pots that someone picked up at Eau Claire’s favorite thrift store. Like a perpetual, quality garage sale, Savers recycles clothing and goods in conscientious and affordable way. Chaos Gaming Center breaks the thrift store mold in offering the Valley’s best selection of used video games. When money is tight and you can’t shell out $60 for the latest Call of Duty, Chaos is the place to go. Goodwill fills the list with the happiest business name around, offering wonderful prices on quality pre-owned goods, and then putting the money into programs that help people in need get jobs. Try finding that at your aunt’s yard sale. – Aryn Widule

 

BEST LOCAL BIKE SHOP
1st Place: Simple Sports
2nd Place: Eau Claire Bike & Sport
3rd Place: Anybody’s Bike Shop

Eau Claire’s labyrinth of bike trails and scenic paths act as the veins feeding the heart of the Chippewa Valley’s active community. Simple Sports on Main Street in Menomonie was voted the No. 1 place to get your toys, whether you are hitting the roads, mountains, or rails by bike, snowboard, or skateboard. Pick up quality hockey and disc golf items there as well. Or take a peek down Water Street at Eau Claire Bike & Sport, a snazzy store that’s loaded with Giant and Schwinn bicycles as well as many unique trick bikes, adult trikes, unicycles, and sporty clothing. If you are into snowboarding, disc golf, or rollerblading, Eau Claire Bike & Sport has you covered. Still hungry? Let your eyes feast upon the rows of gleaming Cannondales and KHS bicycles at Anybody’s Bike Shop, also located on Water Street, known for their excellent, down-to-earth atmosphere and service. – Heidi Kraemer

Chippewa Choice: Spring Street Sports

 

BEST TATTOO PARLOR
1st Place: Skin Prints
2nd Place: A Brand New Tattoo
3rd Place: Midwest Tattoo

Tattoos are things that people are sometimes reluctant to get at first, but then when you do, it’s hard to stop. They are like potato chips; beautiful, permanent potato chips. Skin Prints is Eau Claire’s longest running tattoo shop. Having recently moved to a new location on Farwell Street, Skin Prints produces quality work in a professional atmosphere. Located on South Barstow Street, A Brand New Tattoo continues the perma-inking tradition as a new face in a familiar space. Conveniently named for the best part of our fine country, Midwest Tattoo caps off Water Street with a professional atmosphere and walls coated with pictures of skin art sprawled all over people that you may very well recognize from around town. There has never been a better time to get that motorcycle-riding Yoda on your arm, and there have never been so many solid establishments in which to do it. – Aryn Widule

 

BEST GROCERY STORE
1st Place: Festival Foods
2nd Place: Just Local Food Co-Op
3rd Place: Mega Foods

“Will it bring the customer back?” Oh yes it will. For the third year in a row Festival Foods is the best grocery store in the Chippewa Valley. Perhaps it’s the 24-hour convenience, the free weekly samples, or the check-out lines that allow a shopper to bag-up their own groceries. Just Local Food Co-op follows in second. Doing their best to provide local food to the public, their homemade salsa is worth the trip alone. A distant neighbor and third place goes to Mega Foods. Becoming a Mega member is cost-effective and brings out a lot of benefits, including saving money on gas while you grocery shop – a win-win for customers and owners. – Emily Diehl

Menomonie Morsel: Menomonie Market Co-Op

 

BEST PLACE FOR GIFTS
1st Place: Avalon Floral
2nd Place: Eclectica on Grand
3rd Place: Cadeaux

Avalon Floral greets you with colors and aromas so vibrant that it makes you smile. From funny cards to elegant home décor, this store will meet your whimsical gift giving needs. Bits, baubles, and bracelets peek out from every drawer, cabinet, and case at Eclectica on Grand. If you are looking for an antique necklace like grandma’s or to replace your brother’s record that the “dog ate,” this is the place to check out. Not to mention the beautiful glasswork by local artists. Cadeaux makes the list after opening only last year. Walking into this high-class glam store, no matter where you look, something will catch your eye. One of a kind decorating items and wine gift baskets add to the allure of this new store. – Ashley F. Dziuk

 

BEST HOSPITAL/CLINIC
1st Place: Luther Midelfort
2nd Place: OakLeaf Surgical Hospital
3rd Place: Sacred Heart

After being in an accident, paramedics ask where you’d like to be transported to, and as far as voters are concerned, Luther Midelfort is the place to go. Luther Midelfort provides Eau Claire with a myriad of medical specialties ranging from comprehensive cardiac and trauma care to family-based primary care services, so its no wonder that they’re No. 1 in the Valley. Following just behind, OakLeaf Surgical Hospital  is specifically designed for patients having surgery (go figure). Sacred Heart Hospital isn’t exactly a slouch, either. They boast the Da Vinci robot, making surgeries more precise. Whichever you choose, you’re in good hands. – Bailey Berg

 

BEST VETERINARIAN OR ANIMAL HOSPITAL
1st Place: Westgate Animal Hospital
2nd Place: Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital
3rd Place: The Ark Animal Hospital

All three winners in the best vet or animal hospital category are known for providing pets with the best service in a caring atmosphere. Placing first in this category is Westgate Animal Hospital. Founded in 1968, Westgate provides emergency veterinary services as well as medical, surgical, and dental veterinary care. They even contain a separate boarding and grooming facility. Second place goes to AAHA-accredited Oakwood Hills Animal Hospital, which in 1999 received the “Practice of Excellence” designation from Veterinary Economics, one of only 60 awards ever given in North America for excellence in veterinary medicine and practice management. The small staff at The Ark Animal Hospital, which places emphasis on a more personal approach to taking care of your pets, took third place this year. – Jenna Campbell


 

BEST PET-RELATED BUSINESS
1st Place: Grooming Hut
2nd Place: Pet Food Plus
3rd Place: Petco (tied)
3rd Place: EmBARK (tied)

With more than 25 years experience in styling and clipping, your pet is sure to receive royal treatment at Grooming Hut, voted the best pet business in the Chippewa Valley. If you’re looking more in the arena of toys and treats for your pet, head over to Pet Food Plus, a one-stop shop that covers the gamut in terms of pet needs for dogs, cats, fish, reptiles, you name it! Tied for third are Petco and EmBARK. Petco stresses your pet’s health with their nutrition center, and their wide aisles provide customers with endless supplies to choose from. EmBARK, formerly The Beastro, is best known for their dog daycare and unique social interaction events for your pets. – Emily Diehl

Menomonie Morsel: Fauna

 

BEST MECHANIC’S SHOP
1st Place: Joel’s Water Street Auto
2nd Place: Rick’s Service Center
3rd Place: Happy Days Auto Body

To many of us, our car is more than an engine on wheels. When you are in need of a trust-worthy mechanic, look no further than Joel’s Water Street Auto, voted the best in the Valley again this year. Along with quality service at a good price, Joel’s also provides free donuts and coffee. Other favorites this year are Rick’s Service Center and Happy Days Auto Body, who repeat as second and third, respectively. – Jenna Campbell

 

BEST PLACE TO BUY A CAR
1st Place: Markquart
2nd Place: Ken Vance
3rd Place: A private seller

When it comes to what makes a car dealership great, it’s not just what kind of cars they carry, although that’s part of it. Chippewa Vallians look for knowledge, negotiable prices, and customer service. And when we’re talking cars in the area, we head to Markquart, with locations in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls boasting “more value for less money,” and house more new Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC vehicles that you can shake a stick at. Another solid choice is Ken Vance, which carries Honda, Hyundai, Pontiac, and VW, just to name a few. Although some locals prefer to shop from a private seller. Whatever floats your boat … or should we say car? – Bailey Berg

 

BEST JEWELER
1st Place: Lasker Jewelers
2nd Place: Tangled Up in Hue
3rd Place: Token

If I’ve learned anything about jewelry polls, it’s that you can learn a thing or two from jewelry polls. This year, Chippewavallians stood up for variety, choosing winners from all segments of the jewelry spectrum. In first place is Lasker Jewelers, a classic family-owned fine jewelry store that has sold many a diamond engagement ring since 1928. Newcomer Tangled Up in Hue, which is geared toward the more casual wearer, shows up in second place – probably because of all those charming little bird pendants and handmade “button” earrings.  For yet another distinct style, head to Isabelle & Co and Angelus Salon & Spa to peruse third place finisher Sarah Jensen’s “Token” collection – a classy-casual array of sterling silver and gold-fill jewelry. – Kinzy Janssen

Up-and-Comer: A Bead for Change opened its Eau Claire space just this summer, and came in fourth

 

BEST CHIROPRACTOR
1st Place: ClearWater Chiropractic
2nd Place: Schleppenbach Chiropractic
3rd Place: Stucky Chiropractic

Whether you’re suffering from back pain, muscle soreness, or just feel the need to release some tension with a relaxing massage, ClearWater Chiropractic is the best place to go according to V1 voters, who placed it first on this year’s poll. Coming in second is the family-run Schleppenbach Chiropractic, which came to downtown Eau Claire just last year. Dr. Stucky leads Stucky Chiropractic Center, which placed third on our list this year, and has been helping Chippewa Valley residents achieve greater health since 1959. – Jenna Campbell

 

BEST FLORIST
1st Place: Avalon
2nd Place: Brent Douglas
3rd Place: Four Seasons

You may have been walking down Water Street one day and noticed some sidewalk chalk, or a beautifully decorated sandwich board hanging out. You may have noticed the colorful doorway and gone inside. Then you may have realized that Avalon is Eau Claire’s top place for floral arrangements and flower-related décor. With a professional, European style, and a commitment to local philanthropy, Avalon floral has been the model of a successful small business. Tucked up on a hill downtown, Brent Douglas floral produces some of the most unique and memorable arrangements around, and resides in one of the most beautiful commercial spaces in Eau Claire. Family owned Four Seasons Floral will pretty up your home, office, or help your girlfriend forgive you in a professional and prompt manner; and there are times when few things are as important as prompt flowers. – Aryn Widule

 

BEST SALON OR BARBERSHOP
1st Place: Starr’s Sister
2nd Place: The Hair Den
3rd Place: Sport Clips

Everyone has had hair on his or her head at some point in their life; and most of us like to keep it trimmed, styled, or otherwise managed. Attempts at doing that yourself usually end in tragedy, and that’s why we look to places like Starr’s Sister Salon. With unique décor, friendly service, and consistently satisfying results, Starr’s Sister has been making sure that everyone keeps looking good from the neck up. The Hair Den in downtown Eau Claire brings a contemporary salon to a former barbershop, and offers quality results to men and women in a professional atmosphere. Sport Clips is like the Valhalla of men’s haircuts. I know it’s a stretch, but with a constant stream of sports, massages, steamed towels, and guy-tuned haircuts, it’s hard not to feel like it would be an alright place to end up after the inevitability of Ragnarok. – Aryn Widule

 

BEST PLACE FOR A MASSAGE
1st Place: Body Focus
2nd Place: Lotus Spa
3rd Place: Gaia Massage and Yoga

Nothing says peace and tranquility like someone squeezing your fatigued muscles and rubbing away your stress. And locals think the very best massage is at Body Focus, where they offer a free chair massage to every new client. Lotus Spa in Eau Claire, voted second best, offers all kinds of services, from therapeutic and aroma massages to hot stone and maternity. Tempted by a lymph drainage massage or perhaps Thai Foot Reflexology? Gaia Massage and Yoga offers a wide variety of massage techniques, all focused on healing and rejuvenation. – Heidi Kraemer

Really?: Some joker suggested, “Call me.”

 

BEST SPA (Honorary category!)
1st Place: Lotus Spa
2nd Place: Lotus Spa
3rd Place: Lotus Spa

Lotus Spa recieved a ton of votes in the “Best Salon or Barbershop” category. The problem is that they’re not technically a salon – they don’t do hair. So, to address their massive fan turnout on the polls, we created an honorary category just for them! Chippewa Vallians, men and women alike, enjoy a retreat to Lotus Spa for the ultimate relaxing and refreshing spa experience that Eau Claire can offer. Clients can opt for a therapeutic or stone massage, partake in a “look better naked” body wrap, a fusion facial, or a body exfoliation and polish, just to name a few. Go ahead, transcend to a state of pure bliss, ride a current of aromatic blends, and enjoy the indulgent restoration. – Bailey Berg