Shopping and Spending

your Best of the Chippewa Valley 2010 winners for shops and services

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BEST THRIFT STORE

1st Place: Savers
2nd Place: Hope Gospel Mission
3rd Place: My Best Friend’s Closet

When you’re in the market to save a few bucks on everyday things, the Chippewa Valley offers a variety of thrift stores to meet your penny-pinching needs. The number one place to score some stuff is Savers. Known primarily for their extensive Halloween section, Savers also offers everyday clothing, books, music, and house wares. If you’re looking for larger items to fill your apartment, the number two spot, Hope Gospel, will have you covered. In its extensive showroom of used furniture, you’re sure to find some treasures ranging from couches to candle holders. Maybe you’re just a smart shopper who likes to stay in style. In that case, the number three pick, My Best Friend’s Closet, will indeed be your best friend. MBFC takes in gently used name brand clothing that’s in style and sells it at a fraction of the price of the local mall. Go forth and save. – CP

BEST PLACE TO BUY ALCOHOL

1st Place: Gordy’s County Market
2nd Place: The Coffee Grounds
3rd Place: Stave & Hoop

Anyone who’s ever entered the cavernous barn that is Gordy’s liquor section has felt the magic of overwhelming selection: aisles upon aisles of pretty wines, malt liquor beverages, hard liquors, and obscure beers. It’s so large that it doesn’t so much feel like part of a modest grocery store as a rare cave of treasures. Coming in second is the smaller, but decidedly worldly, Coffee Grounds. Imported beers and fine wines are stacked high on the racks and in the refrigerators, and the staff will thoroughly impress you with their knowledge. Stave & Hoop on Water Street is straightforward and simple, being that the only thing they sell is … liquor. Plus, the wooden barrel on their storefront sign is pretty cute. – KJ

BEST ARTS & CRAFTS STORE

1st Place: Michaels
2nd Place: Benny HaHa Art Supply
3rd Place: Scrapalicious (tied)
3rd Place: Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts (tied)

With the Valley full of artists, there’s quite a need for a supplier of goods. Well goody, there are a number of places to go for your every need. Michaels, topping out, offers nearly anything and everything a creative craftsman could want from home-décor and professional art to kidsy supplies, as well as periodic activities and classes. Benny HaHa, a locally owned supplier of art materials, custom frames, gallery space, and skill-imparting classes settles nicely into Eau Claire’s old downtown. Tying for third, Scrapalicious of Menomonie and Jo-Ann’s are centers of more focused hobbyists. Scrapalicious is for memory-recording, scrapbooking enthusiasts looking to make fantastilicious mementos of time gone by, while Jo-Ann’s (although a provider of a wide array of crafts) is particularly well-known for their fabrics and sewing materials for hand-created clothing. – KS

BEST GROCERY STORE

1st Place: Gordy’s County Market
2nd Place: Festival Foods
3rd Place: Menomonie Market Food Co-Op

Now in two locations in Eau Claire (Hamilton and Birch), Gordy’s ruled the grocery scene this year. They’re known for an extensive seafood selection with competitive pricing, friendly service, and a great liquor selection. Festival Foods gobbled up second place with the help of voters who believe they truly get great stuff for not a lotta money. Their smorgasbord of melon samples earlier this year was also pretty noteworthy. Rounding out the category is organic, local, and natural-focused food co-op Menomonie Market, who declares their job is “to carry the products that our members want.” Though not a health food store, they do strive to offer foods that are free of artificial colorings, preservatives, and additives. – KJ

BEST WOMEN’S CLOTHING STORE

1st Place: Isabelle & Co.
2nd Place: Kohl’s
3rd Place: TJ Maxx

When ladies of the Chippewa Valley are looking for that perfect outfit to wear for Girl’s Night Out/Date Night/to impress the cute guy at work, they may just want to head over to Isabelle & Co, the number one place for women’s clothing. Isabelle & Co. offers stylish, age-appropriate and one-of-a-kind clothing for the fashionable girl on the go. If your pockets are a little less deep, Kohl’s, the number two spot, will do the trick. Kohl’s offers stylish lines by Simply Vera Wang, LC Lauren Conrad, and Chaps at reasonable prices. When you’re in the mood to dig a little and save a lot, then the number three store, TJ Maxx, is the place for you. TJ Maxx has name brand clothing at a significantly better value than you’ll find in any department store. – CP

BEST MEN’S CLOTHING STORE

1st Place: Kohl’s
2nd Place: TJ Maxx
3rd Place: Muldoon’s

Although the poll for best women’s clothing store received more votes, that doesn’t mean guys don’t care about how they look. Otherwise, prom dates would show up at doorsteps just wearing football jerseys. Our very own Wisconsin-headquartered store, Kohl’s, ran away with the lead. They have a little something for everyone, from shoes to shirts, for toddlers to the Hoveround generation – all for pretty cheap. TJ Maxx and Muldoon’s Men’s Wear almost tied, with TJ Maxx’s outlet mall prices on name brands just barely edging out local historical landmark Mr. Muldoon. – RT

BEST LOCAL BIKE SHOP

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

No one’s opinion has changed since last year’s poll, as the results are exactly the same. Menomonie’s Simple Sports rolled into first place. The family-owned business has been around since 1999 and has equipment for all you bikers, snowboarders, and general recreationists (yes, that’s a real word). A couple of Water Street businesses took second and third place again. Want to embarrass yourself trying to ride a unicycle? Eau Claire Bike & Sport has you covered! Or are you just looking for a bike shop with a nice atmosphere? Anybody’s Bike Shop will help you with that. What an altruistic bike shop that must be. – RT

BEST PLACE FOR GIFTS

1st Place: Cadeaux
2nd Place: Truckers Union
3rd Place: Eclectica on Grand

Weather you want to spoil yourself or a friend, first place winner Cadeaux is the place to go. With lavish gift baskets, wine, and home décor, this is the perfect place to give a little luxury to someone important to you. If you want something a bit more down-to-earth, then second place winner Truckers Union is your spot. Funky cards, books, posters, glass pipes, and much more will  give you lots of options for the perfect gift. For the person in your life that has everything, head over to third place winner Eclectica on Grand. Among the jewelry – antique, new, or local – glasswork, candles and boxes, you’ll have no problem finding a unique, one-of-a kind gift. – AD

BEST ANTIQUES/OLD STUFF SHOP

1st Place: Eclectica on Grand
2nd Place: Antique Emporium
3rd Place: Dell’s Architectural Antiques

Everyone loves a great treasure hunt. And at first place, Eclectica on Grand, you’ll find that X always marks the spot. From amazing jewelry and glassware to records and antique clothing, this store will keep you mesmerized while you’re there and still thinking about it when you’re not. The second place winner, Antique Emporium, has plenty to draw you in as well, with three floors stacked top to bottom with everything you could ever want, give or take a few dozen taxidermy animals. Wind through the stacks of books and gaze into the display cases full of glass and sparkle to find your own personal gem! And third place winner, Dell’s Architectural Antiques, has amazing pieces that will help you create a unique, environmentally friendly atmosphere for whatever space you choose to exploit. Everyone can use a touch of old whimsy. – AD

BEST NEW BUSINESS

1st Place: Punkerdoops Diapers
2nd Place: Down to Earth
3rd Place: Whippersnappers

Aside from having an amazing name, Punkerdoops Diapers was voted the best new business in the Valley. Punkerdoops specializes in producing cloth diapers, which, according to their website, reduce cost, diaper rash, and danger to the environment. (Besides, they’ll make your baby look even more adorable!) Second on the list was Down to Earth, an outdoor garden center with a knack for designing unique landscapes and providing excellent lawn care. Whippersnappers, a local children’s boutique, was third on the list. Chock-full of all the baby products you can imagine, they offer toddler clothes and toys, as well as maternity merchandise. – EL

BEST PET-RELATED BUSINESS

1st Place: emBARK
2nd Place: Pet Food Plus
3rd Place: Tropic Waters

Pet owners can be extremely picky about where they shop for their “fluffy-little-flufferkins,” so this year’s favorite, emBARK, should be extra proud. Plus, they finished third last year, so the doggie day care has done something to win over our readers and will certainly attract many more after this impressive showing. Three-time placer Pet Food Plus has certainly established a territory amongst you readers for pet supplies, and not just for dogs and cats, but for horses, birds, hobby farm animals, you name it. Started in 1974 as a place for all your fishy needs, Tropic Waters has since expanded into a full-scale pet shop with grooming, supplies, and loads of pets for purchase. – RT

BEST PLACE FOR YARD SALES

1st Place: Eastside Hill in EC
2nd Place: Third Ward in EC
3rd Place: Halmstad area of Chippewa

In May of this year, the Eastside Hill Neighborhood Association in Eau Claire organized a day of simultaneous thrift sales, and the proportions were epic. More than 80 households officially participated in the event, bringing droves upon droves of bargain shoppers cruising for deals, and earning first place in our poll. The Third Ward snagged second place with their classic annual one-day sale that allowed people to peruse the antique and modern loot of dozens of historic homes. The Halmstad Area in Chippewa Falls raked in the third most votes this year, because the classifieds were brimming with their sales, many of them multi-family. – KJ

BEST MECHANIC’S SHOP

1st Place: Joel’s Water Street Auto
2nd Place: ATS (tied)
2nd Place: Happy Days Auto Body (tied)
3rd Place: Affordable Auto Repair (tied)
3rd Place: Anderson Automotive (tied)

On the corner of Water Street and 7th Avenue lives a happy, donut-bearing giant that many people consider a local landmark as well as a beacon of area auto repair. For the third straight year, Joel’s Water Street Auto tops the poll for best mechanic. There is a tie for second place and a tie for third place, making five finishers this year rather than the usual three. ATS and Happy Days Auto Body share the second place trophy (Fonzie’s alma mater placed third in two previous polls), while Affordable Auto Repair on Truax and Anderson Automotive butt heads for third. – RT

BEST GARDEN CENTER

1st Place: Klinger Farm Market
2nd Place: Down to Earth
3rd Place: The Potting Shed (tied)
3rd Place: Gordy’s Garden Center (tied)

Folks who bleed green voted for the Klinger Farm Market as their favorite area garden center. Head north of Chippewa Falls past the Collision Center that sits at the Hwy 124 turn-about (my wife and I still chuckle every time we pass there) and watch for the sign (now partially hidden by the corn that’s higher than an elephant’s eye). Their website brags that they have 17 greenhouses and the various buildings and staging areas, complete with hay bales, are a treat to stroll through. Down to Earth can be found south of Eau Claire on Hwy 93 and once you twist and turn to get into the back entrance, you’ll find a wonderful little Eden. Gordy’s Greenhouse near Lake Wissota and the Potting Shed on Altoona’s south side are also agronomical (it pays to have a thesaurus nearby) delights. – RR

BEST FLORIST

1st Place: Brent Douglas
2nd Place: Avalon Floral
3rd Place: Eau Claire Floral

Snatching first place from Avalon this year is Brent Douglas. BD is located in a beautiful downtown Eau Claire location (with equally unique interior design), and offers recognizable and innovative arrangements that will grace your weddings and funerals and mark the changing seasons. A persistent placer on our list every year is Avalon Floral, whose convenient Water Street location teaming with phenomenal staff and service culminated in last summer’s Floral Arrangements & Fine Art, a public reception featuring local paintings, jewelry, and other media alongside aesthetically harmonious flower arrangements. Genny Hay’s Eau Claire Floral up on Brackett Avenue deposed the 2009 third placer, Four Seasons. – TG

BEST JEWELER

1st Place: Tangled Up in Hue
2nd Place: Lasker
3rd Place: Token (Sarah Jensen)

Moving up to first this year (from second) is Tangled Up in Hue, the downtown co-op that houses local art and jewelry. Find tooled leather cuffs, ceramic, porcelain, and wooden beaded bracelets, spoon pendant necklaces, sterling silver rings, and a smorgasbord of beaded earrings. Grabbing second place this year is Lasker Jewelers, an Eau Claire-founded institution of diamonds, particularly known for their selection of engagement rings. Sarah Jensen’s Token jewelry (available at Isabelle & Co., among others) lets the faceted stones and briolettes speak for themselves, pairing them with cool silver and warm gold in her handcrafted, upscale beaded items. – KJ

BEST BARBERSHOP OR SALON

1st Place: The Garage Salon
2nd Place: Starr’s Sister
3rd Place: Calista Salon & Massage

“So what are we getting done today?” The Garage Salon in Chippewa Falls knows how to address your answer, scoring first this year – a big comeback after not having placed at all in the 2009 poll. Starr’s Sister was bumped from first in 2009 to second this year. The salon’s unique décor, friendly staff, and convenient Water Street location make it a consistently competitive choice for your cranial follicles’ needs. Also on Water is third place winner Calista Salon and Massage, who bumped Sport Clips from its bronze perch last year. – TG

BEST CHIROPRACTOR

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

Oddly enough, this was one of the closer contests we had in the Best Of poll. Sneaking to the top of the list by a single vote, Schleppenbach Chiropractic was voted Eau Claire’s favorite chiropractic practice. Located in the heart of the North Barstow redevelopment, Schleppenbach’s bright office and friendly atmosphere go a long way toward making a patient feel comfortable. And if you’re anything like me, you’re convinced that your back is on fire whenever someone works on it, so comfort is a big thing. Coming in second for this particular photo finish was ClearWater Chiropractic, so near to Famous Dave’s that you can get rehabilitated and think about lunch all at the same time. Offering easy access with locations in Eau Claire and Hallie, Stucky Chiropractic Center filed out this hard-fought category. – AW

BEST PLACE FOR A MASSAGE

1st Place: Body Focus
2nd Place: Calista Salon & Massage (tied)
2nd Place: Advanced Massage Therapies (tied)
3rd Place: Lotus Spa

When Chippewa Vallians want to leave life’s stresses and tensions behind and indulge in a luxurious massage, they know where to go. Topping the charts is Body Focus, which offers hot stone, shaitsu, Thai, and prenatal massages, plus free chair massages for all new clients. Tied for second are Calista (formerly known as Twisted Trends), and Advanced Massage Therapies, both which offer Swedish, deep tissue, hot stone, and prenatal massages, although Calista offers a student discount on 60-minute massages. And rounding out the chart is Lotus Spa, which offers sports massages, aroma, scalp, neck, and face massages. – BB

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