The 2014 Best of the Southwest Metro: Top Shops, Restaurants and More

Meet the 50 people, places and businesses that make the southwest metro sparkle.

Click here to view photos from the 2014 Best of the Southwest Metro celebration at BMW of Minnetonka.

“Go big or go home” was our internal motto for our fourth annual Best of the Southwest Metro readers’ choice survey. This year marks the first time our survey results were published as a special 13th issue, and we doubled the number of categories readers could vote in. As a result, we received an unprecedented response from our readers. After putting together this issue, it’s clear that there is much to celebrate in the southwest metro. We hope you enjoy reading about these shining stars in our community.

WINE & DINE
The southwest metro is full of flavor, with plenty of homegrown and locally owned restaurants adding their own spices to the mix. From legendary hamburgers to a restaurant where the kids can run a little wild while they eat—not to mention a delectable butternut squash pasta—drinking and dining options abound.

Best New Restaurant
Tavern 4&5
Tavern 4&5 opened its doors in April 2013 and swiftly established a base of loyal customers. General manager Dave Guistolise attributes the restaurant’s quick rise in popularity to a concept that appeals to a wide audience—tavern food with a twist—a strong service team and its location in an area that needed great dining options.
16396 Wagner Way, Eden Prairie; 952.934.4545. —LB
Runners up: Prairie Tap House, Bullchicks

Best Breakfast/Brunch
Original Pancake House
You won’t find any microwaves in the kitchen of the Original Pancake House. From the tangy OJ to the batter that forms the Dutch Baby German pancakes to the dollop of cream on top, everything is squeezed, cooked and whipped fresh every day. And those with gluten allergies haven’t been left out of the mix: The restaurant offers an extensive gluten-free menu that has been expanded and refined over the years. 549 Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.224.9440.—LB
Runners up: Redstone Grill, Tavern 4&5

Best Ethnic Food
Rey Azteca
Rey Azteca brings authentic Mexican food to Chanhassen. If you’re feeling adventurous, order a combination dinner to explore a variety of traditional bites—from the chalupa to the chile relleno—or build your own meal a la carta. Temper the spiciness with tres leches (three milks) cake, a traditional Mexican dessert. Enjoy live music from 6–8 p.m. every Sunday. 7874 Market Blvd., Chanhassen; 952.934.6126. —LB
Runners up: Patron, Na’s Thai Cafe

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Cuzzy's Brick House
Ample seating space makes Cuzzy’s a popular choice when kids’ sports teams want to share a meal. And team discounts make end-of-the-season celebrations more affordable. Parents appreciate the spacious backyard where kids of all ages can go to run off excess energy, and the many kid-centric events. 2880 Chaska Blvd., Chaska; 952.448.5594. —LB
Runners up: Perkin’s, Houlihan’s

Best Pasta Dish
Butternut Squash Ravioli, Biaggi's
The butternut squash ravioli is popular among Biaggi’s Minnesota patrons. Managing partner Gary Chanen credits its popularity to a regional preference for squash, and the dish’s mixture of unique flavors: ravioli stuffed with real butternut squash, coated in brown butter sage sauce, Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive #3010, Eden Prairie; 952.942.8555.—LB
Runners up: Penne Rosa at Buca di Beppo, Penne Sardi at Biaggi’s

Best Burgers
Lions Tap
An independent, family-owned restaurant for more than 36 years, Lions Tap quickly found its niche in burgers and fries. With fresh meat delivered daily, hand-patted and prepared with their trademark “secret seasoning,” their burgers have topped many favorites’ lists. Stop in Tuesday nights during the month of March and kids will get a burger for just a buck. 16180 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.934.5299. —LB
Runners up: Hoppers Bar and Grill, 5 Guys Burgers and Fries

Best Bakery
Mackenthun's Fine Foods
Mackenthun’s Fine Foods takes pride in being family-owned and operated, and the food market’s bakery reflects that pride in quality. All of the cakes are made from scratch, and you can watch the decorators at work. “Our cake decorators are the focal point of our bakery,” says Jaime Mackenthun. “People can come and watch them decorating the cakes.” Custom orders are a cinch, and freshly baked pies, rolls, crusty bread, cookies and doughnuts are always ready-to-go. 851 Marketplace Drive, Waconia; 952.442.2512—BK
Runners up: Byerly’s, Yoyo Donuts

Editor's Pick - Best Craft Brew
Enki Brewing
There’s no need to travel to Minneapolis to get a taste of the craft brew craze that is blowing up in Minnesota—at least not with Enki Brewing in Victoria. The company’s tap room offers a view of Steiger Lake, and hungry drinkers can enjoy a hot meal thanks to a partnership the
brewery has with the Victoria House. Check the website for tap room hours and events. 7929 Victoria Drive, Victoria; 952.300.8408.—LP

Best Outdoor Dining
Redstone Grill
Manager Michelle Stamman insists that each year, Redstone’s outdoor patio is the first to open and the last to close. When temperatures drop, guests can cozy up to fire pits encircled by large tables and soak in the view of Lake Idlewild, or drink in comfort under the heaters at the outdoor bar. When the sun goes down, the restaurant’s water fountains light up and rotate colors, lending a magical atmosphere. 8000 Eden Road, Eden Prairie; 952.903.9500.—LB
Runners up: Santorini, Lola’s Lakehouse

Best Private-party Venue
Wildfire
Wildfire offers a variety of private dining options, from the Minnesota Vikings and Rascal rooms that each seat up to 12 people, to the Avalon and Stardust rooms that (when combined) can accommodate up to 70. Order off the club supper menu to get a four-course meal served to your table family-style. With choices like bison meatballs, swordfish London broil and baked apple skillet pie, no one will leave hungry. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.914.9100. —LB
Runners up: Redstone Grill, Biaggi’s

Best Bartender
Jesse Seib, Houlihan’s    
Stop by Houlihan’s, and you’ll be greeted by one of their many veteran bartenders. If you happen to get Jesse Seib, you may wind up chatting about fishing, beer or his newly started family. If you aren’t interested in fishing or beer, never fear: Seib aims to put a smile on everyone’s face. “It’s a very rewarding job,” he says. 530 Pond Promenade, Chanhassen; 952.974.3939.—LB
Runners up: Jon De Mell, Wildfire; Brian Semira, Buffalo Wild Wings

Best Happy Hour
Houlihan’s
With 2-for-1 happy hour specials in effect every night of the week and friendly, longtime staff tending bar, Houlihan’s has built a winning combination to inspire repeat customers. Try the restaurant-exclusive house wine—a popular choice, according to manager Matt Giller—or one of the many unique craft beers on tap. Stop in during the season of Lent for a platter of fresh fish and chips. 530 Pond Promenade, Chanhassen; 952.974.3939. —LB
Runners up: Kona Grill, Floyd’s Bar

Best Wine Selection
Haskell’s
At the Haskell’s in Chanhassen, you’ll discover unique, exclusive wines carefully sourced from around the world, as well as knowledgeable staff members who are eager to share their expertise. The franchise offers a free wine clinic every Wednesday that draws a lot of customers, according to manager John Mills. Customers leave with a robust understanding of wine, as well as a handful of extra discounts to use on future purchases. 19900 W. 78th St., Chanhassen; 952.345.1115.—LB
Runners up: Dolce Vita Wine Shop, School II Bistro and Wine Bar

Editor's Pick
(Another) Bakery

Fred’s Bread
I want to make it clear right now: I have nothing against a bakery that produces bacon maple long johns—thank you, Mackenthun’s, for your wonderful contributions to the world of baked goods. So this “pick” isn’t meant to take anything away from our readers’ first choice, but rather to add to the conversation. Fred’s Bread in Eden Prairie is a little off the beaten path in the Washington Avenue Business Center, but it’s worth seeking out. Fred Mische and Mandy Chowen, the husband and wife team who own and operate the bakery, have built a cult following throughout central Minnesota (where they got their start) and the Twin Cities. Mische’s artisan bread has a flavor and density to it that can’t be replicated—it’s truly a bread lover’s bread. Meanwhile Chowen’s pastries aren’t overly fancy or fussy, just simply good. 6872 Washington Ave. S. Ste. 140, Eden Prairie; 952.905.1059. —LP

Editor's Pick - Wine Lover Day Trip
Waconia Wineries
Find a designated driver, and spend the perfect summer afternoon visiting Parley Lake Winery, Sovereign Estate Vineyard and Winery and Schram Vineyards. Each of these wineries has a unique wine list, its own ambience and a different set of attractions. An afternoon and evening spent sampling the wares will give you a good feel for the many flavors of Minnesota wine and a new appreciation for the natural beauty found in Waconia. Parley Lake Winery: 8350 Parley Lake Road, Waconia,  952.442.2290; Sovereign Estate Vineyard and Winery: 9950 North Shore Road, Waconia, 952.446.9957; Schram Vineyards: 8785 Airport Road, Waconia, 952.442.5105.—LP

HOME & GARDEN
Our home environments reflect our innermost selves, which is why finding just the right people and places to help create those spaces is so important. These service providers and businesses can help you do everything from a tweak to your home and garden design to a complete overhaul of your living space.

Editor's Pick
Best Garden Inspiration
Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

It could be argued that capturing the beauty of the gardens at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is completely unattainable for the home gardener—after all most of us don’t have a staff of professionals dedicated to maintaining our “grounds.” But the professionals at the arboretum are willing to share their knowledge.
The arboretum offers classes on everything from flower arrangement to plant propagation. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take a class on shade gardening from Duane Otto, the aboretum’s landscape gardener, and I still look through the notes I took in that class as I make plans for my garden.
   
Don’t have time for class? A stroll through the arboretum’s grounds can provide inspiration for plant selection (most plants are clearly labeled), as well as artful arrangements. Just make sure to bring your notebook. 3675 Arboretum Drive, Chanhassen; 952.443.1400.—LP

Best Home Furnishings

Yetzer’s Home Furnishing
When asked what has kept Yetzer’s in business since 1941, owner Steve Yetzer says “Luck.” Which might be part of the truth, the other part most likely has to do with Yetzer’s notable customer service. “We want to treat customers as we’d want to be treated,” Yetzer says. The highly knowledgeable sales staff is trained to listen to its clients and find them the perfect piece of furniture to fit their needs. It also helps that customers know they’ll be seeing a friendly face when they walk through the door. “We know our customers, and our customers know us,” Yetzer says. “We keep our employees around.” In addition to selling good quality furniture, Yetzer’s also offers furniture repair.  33 W. First St., Waconia; 952.442.4242.—LP
Runners up: Romens, HOM

Best Builder/Remodeler
mackmiller design+build
For husband and wife team Mark and Mary Mackmiller, remodeling is about more than making a space look great—it’s about making it work for you. Mary says they draw on their longtime experience in construction and interior design, as well as their own busy lives to help clients create their ideal spaces. “We are parents and love to entertain, so we are able to create high functioning, beautiful spaces that meet the needs of our clients’ lifestyles,” she says. 15694 Village Woods Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.949.8600.—BK
Runners up: CRE Construction, Iron River Construction

Best Interior Designer

Jane-Marie Bloomberg, Embellishments Design Studio
Jane-Marie Bloomberg draws on her business and finance background to make the most of her clients’ budgets, and keep their projects right on schedule. She won’t skimp on style either—one of her specialties is made-to-measure window treatments. “Window treatments can be very tricky, but are so important to a room’s design,” she says. Her system allows clients to preview the custom design in their chosen fabric, on their own window before it’s made, so everyone is delighted with the final product. 6766 Woodland Drive, Eden Prairie; 612.251.6512.—BK
Runners up: Heidi Dockter at Gabbert’s, Devane Design

Best Landscaper
Southview Design
Southview Design began in 1978, so they bring experience and know-how to your project. With a rich knowledge of the plant life in Minnesota, as well as the demanding local weather conditions, they never shy away from a challenge. “We’ve built a reputation for excellence tackling difficult projects, like building patios and pools on steep slopes and making the most of small spaces,” Karen Filloon says. “Our landscape teams excel at translating our homeowner’s dreams into functional, beautiful outdoor spaces.” 275 Market St., Suite C24, Minneapolis; 952.881.2296.—BK
Runners up: The Mustard Seed, By the Woods
                     

Best Garden Shop

The Mustard Seed
The Mustard Seed offers a wide variety of plants, and its Chaska location is a true destination shopping experience. Rolling farmland and woods are an idyllic backdrop for an assortment of animals, including miniature donkeys, pygmy goats and plenty of chickens. “We offer a complete selection of shrubs, annuals, perennials and even some fun tropicals,” says partner Kelly Lorenz. “We try to be good stewards, not only of the land that we occupy, but also of the friendships that we build with our customers.” 6055 Hwy. 212, Chaska; 952.361.9954. —BK
Runners up: Bachman’s, Garden By the Woods

KIDS & FAMILY

Editor's Pick
Best Place to Celebrate
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
It’s hard to find a place to entertain the entire family, but Chanhassen Dinner Theatres sure fits the bill. Whether you’re celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary or a 12-year-old’s birthday party, chances are there’s something on one of the theatres many stages to keep your crew happy. Disney’s The Little Mermaid opens February 28 on the main stage, and a concert series featuring many different genres of music will keep music-lovers rocking through the spring. Plus Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret—a popular improv show that would earn a PG-13 rating if it was a movie—keeps audiences laughing every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Playhouse Theatre. The theatre even offers a popular summer musical theatre camp for children and teens who’d like to learn more about putting on their own show. 501 W. 78th St., Chahassen; 952.934.1525.—LP

Best Community Event/Festival
Waconia’s Nickle Dickle Day
“It’s hard to articulate what makes Nickle Dickle Day different from other festivals… it just is,” says Kellie Sites, Waconia Chamber of Commerce president. The one-day event attracts about 30,000 participants and features just about everything that’s wonderful about a small town festival: a car show, 3-on-3 basketball tournament, live music, fun runs, a pie eating contest, duck races, pickle making contest, a mechanical bull, craft fair, games, demonstrations, food and shopping. “Visitors comment every year on how much they love this event, because it really has that small town feel,” Sites says. “It brings people to town who used to live here, and people who have never been to Waconia.” You can join in the fun on Sept. 13. Various locations throughout Waconia.—LP

Best Preschool/daycare
Step By Step Montessori
Since 1991, Step By Step Montessori has been preparing children ages 6 weeks through kindergarten for life. “Our special methods, certified teachers and carefully planned environment help each individual child reach their full potential,” says Center Director Jean Steele. The Montessori curriculum at Step By Step includes language arts, math, geography, botany, zoology, Spanish, music and art, Steele says. “The first five years are so critical for a developing child’s mind: 85 percent of the brain is developed in those first five years,” Steele says. “It’s not your child’s college education that is the best investment you’ll make.” 1485 White Oak Drive, Chaska; 952.368.4456.—LP
Runners up:  Children of Tomorrow, Especially for Children

Best High School Teacher

Steve Cwodzinski, Eden Prairie High School
You never forget the good teachers, and Eden Prairie High School’s Steve Cwodzinski is fondly remembered by many of his students. His passion for teaching history and government earned him the Best High School Teacher title for the second year in a row. —LP
Runners up: Linda Sachs, Eden Prairie High School; Holly Pottebaum, Holy Family

Best Class/Program for Seniors
Safari Island Community Center
The Safari Island Community Center is a haven for people of all ages in Waconia, including seniors. With SilverSneakers group fitness classes, a walking track, Pickleball,  Table Tennis and more, there are plenty of ways for older adults to stay physically active and socially engaged. The center is also home to a bi-weekly Senior coffee club open to Safari Island members and a meeting place for Waconia’s Young at Heart Club. 1600 Community Drive, Waconia; 952.442.0695.—LP
Runners up: Prairie Village, Eden Prairie Senior Cente

Best Kids’ Birthday Party Spot
Jump & Jam Activity Center
What makes a great place for a kid’s birthday party? A spot that kids will love and where parents can celebrate their child’s special day without stress. At Jump & Jam Activity Center, children can burn off the birthday cake sugar high with a variety of fun activities. “We have both indoor trampolines and laser tag combined, which gives kids two activities that they love to do,” says Wendy Johnson, co-owner of Jump and Jam Activity Center. 18832 Lake Drive E., Chanhassen; 952.937.6218.—AH
Runners up: Pump It Up, World TaeKwonDo Academy, Eden Praire

 
Best Music Lessons
Chaska Music Studios
From the time she was little, walking down the music school hall carrying her violin and hearing all the different instruments being played behind closed doors, Leslie Rieser Hercules has wanted to own her own music studio. Now, after nearly two decades in business, Hercules has mentored her share of young musicians, starting at 18 months old through high school graduation. Adults as old as 87 have crossed learning an instrument off their bucket list under the direction of the highly trained Chaska Music Studio instructor, too. 1340 Crystal Lane A-1, Chaska; 952.448.5656.—AH
Runners up: MacPhail Center for Music, Kindermusik

Best Summer Camp
Camp Tanadoona
Picture the quintessential summer camp, and you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like at Camp Tanadoona. Activities at the camp have remained traditional since they opened in 1924: Children still fish and canoe, identify animal tracks and learn archery. “What’s so cool about camp,” says outdoor program instructor Becky Lewis, “is that we’ve been able to evolve and change but still keep the core programming.” The camp offers day programs, as well as an overnight camp. 3300 Tanadoona Drive, Excelsior; 952.474.8085.—AH
Runners up: Step by Step Montessori, World TaeKwonDo Academy, Eden Prairie


Best Doggy Daycare/Kennel/Boarding

Top Dog Country Club
If your pup can’t be with you, Top Dog Country Club is probably the next best thing. Jean Beuning, owner and general manager at Top Dog Country Club, says her number one priority is your dog. “We give them whatever they need,” she says. But they also try to make it a vacation for everyone, including the owner. While you may not be off to a Club Med-style location, you can be assured that your canine friend is being pampered as if he were at a resort. Staff specialties include grooming, training and veterinary experience. 5120 Vega Ave., Hollywood Township, New Germany; 952.353.2600.—AH
Runners up: The Canine Club and Spa, Adogo Pet Hotel

 
Best Pet Grooming/Services
The Canine Club and Spa
When you drop off your dog for daycare or a vacation, you can pick up your pup cleaner than when you left him or her. The Canine Club and Spa’s number one groomer, Chelsea Nelson, is a favorite because of the patience she lavishes on each pet she cares for. The club and spa’s overall degree of professionalism and passion is a winning combination. 2910 82nd St., Chanhassen; 952.361.9663.—AH
Runners up: Adogo Pet Hotel, Adorable

 
Best Veterinary Services
Chanhassen Veterinary Clinic
Chanhassen Veterinary Clinic is a certified Cat Friendly Practice by the American Association of Feline Practioners. Manager Tammy Knutson says clinic staff gets to know its clients well. They look out for a pet’s special needs at each life stage, enabling them to detect and prevent problems early. This repeat winner prides itself on being an advocate for pets. 1440 West 79th St., Chanhassen, MN 55317; 952.934.8862.—AH
Runners up: Waconia Veterinary Clinic, PA; Chaska Valley Veterinary Clinic

HEALTH & WELLNESS
Take care of yourself and your family at these places dedicated to helping you live a healthier life—you’ll feel better inside and out.

Editor’s Pick
Best Excuse to Get Off the Couch
Lake Minnewashta Regional Park
Even in the darkest days of winter, this 340-acre park shines at night with its popular candlelit ski events. Groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trails will keep you moving during the snowy season, while a beach, boat access, fishing pier and hiking trails provide great ways to stay active in the hotter months. An 18-acre off-leash dog park with a separate area for small dogs makes this a great destination for your pups, too. 6900 Hazeltine Blvd., Chanhassen; 952.466.5250 —LP

Best Chiropractor
ABC Family Chiropractic      
Half of Dr. Becky Pauly’s practice is pediatrics. With kids of her own, Pauly recognizes the need to empower parents to make their own decisions about what care is right for their family. Pauly and her staff provide patients with thorough assessments and never pressure them to come in more than they are able to. Aside from chiropractic, ABC Family incorporates three additional services: nutrition response testing, massage therapy, and weight loss counseling. 1405 78th St., Victoria; 952.443.3710.—LB
Runners up: SouthWest Chiropractic, Chiro Club

Best Dental Clinic
Chaska Dental Center     
Dr. Thomas Meschke (25 years’ experience) and Dr. John Seaverson (13 years experience) care deeply about the health of their community. That’s why Chaska Dental provides comprehensive exams, on-time scheduling, advanced technology and low staff turnover, thus ensuring patients see the same technician, hygienist, and doctor every visit. Meschke also specializes in one-appointment crowns, a service he says only 10 percent of dental offices in Minnesota offer. 2634 Shadow Lane, Ste. 101, Chaska; 952.448.4151.—LB
Runners up: Prairie Dental, Dentistry on the Ponds


Best Orthodontist

Veil Orthodontics (Eden Prairie)
Dr. Jesse N. Veil is the go-to for many dentists when a difficult case crops up. According to Shelly Eichhof-Schuman, Veil Orthodontics’ public relations specialist, Veil can look at any mouth and come up with a plan. Eichhof-Schuman recalls many patients who have gone to other offices and returned, saying Veil Orthodontics is the friendliest practice they’ve encountered. Veil Orthodontics also sponsors art and sporting programs in its community. 11800 Singletree Lane, Ste. 200, Eden Prairie; 952.903.9484.—LB
Runners up: Hultgen, Hoxie and Waki Orthodontics, Chaska Orthodontic Specialists

Best Pediatric Clinic
Southdale Pediatric Associates, Ltd.  
Whether your child needs asthma management, allergy tests, or vision and hearing screenings, Southdale Pediatric Associates has you covered. The clinic offers a wide variety of services for patients from birth through age 21, as well as adoption screenings and lactation guidance. If you need immediate answers, pediatric registered nurses can be reached via telephone any day of the year. 18315 Cascade Drive, Ste. 170, Eden Prairie, 952.949.0399.—LB
Runners up: SouthLake Pediatrics, Lakeview Clinic

                                                                                                              
Best Yoga Class
Hatha with Carole McMonigal, Yoga Bella
Carole McMonigal suffered from a variety of sports-related injuries, but now she finds relief in the practice and instruction of Hatha yoga. She describes Hatha as a traditional yoga practice that focuses on balancing the body through a series of poses and counter-poses. Classes are intentionally small, so McMonigal can pay close attention to her students and their abilities. Personalized instruction ensures students can engage with the postures without fear of injury. 521 Lake Drive, Chanhassen; 952.937.8200.—LB   
Runners up: CorePower Yoga, Living Yoga   

                                                                                                                                                
Best Fitness Studio
Higher Power Training
Since opening in September 2006, Higher Power Training has built a strong client base solely through word-of-mouth recommendations. Instead of spending money to advertise his family-run fitness studio, owner Jason Ivesdal develops effective programming, knowledgeable trainers and a facility comparable to big-box training centers. Especially popular is the 21-day detox program, which took Ivesdal six months to develop. The program instills in clients nutrition strategies for a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. 10360 W. 70th St., Eden Prairie; 952.942.6320.—LB   
Runners up: Bring It! Studio, Lifetime Athletic       

Best Golf Course
Chaska Town Course
Stop by Chaska Town Course to play on its high-quality course—they co-hosted the U.S. Amateur in 2006—and you can be sure to find golf professionals to help you. One of those golf professionals is Eric Chiles, 2013 Minnesota PGA Section Teacher of the Year. Regular customers can get on the course at a lower price through the loyalty program. And take advantage of the birthday program to get one free round of golf. 3000 Town Course Drive, Chaska; 952.443.3748.—LB   
Runners up: Deer Run, Hazeltine National Golf Club       

Best Medspa/Rejuvenation Clinic
Beyond Beauty      
Registered nurse Julie Jacques has seen firsthand what can happen when patients aren’t properly screened before undergoing a medical procedure. The motivation for opening Beyond Beauty was to provide patients with safe, honest and effective beauty procedures. Thoroughly trained staff, including laser specialists Junelle Grindberg, April Thomes and Cynthia Trout, physician-grade products, comprehensive screenings, and a commitment to providing professional medical procedures have helped the business build quickly through word-of-mouth recommendations. 7770 Dell Road, #120, Chanhassen; 952.955.7850.—LB
Runners up: Envy Skin Clinic, Spalon Montage

RETAIL
Looking for a perfect gift for the new baby? Tazzie Baby and Child has you covered. Want your yellow gold to look “white?” Go see the folks at Weinzeirl Jewelry. Does your home décor need an update? Swing by Carver Junk Company’s next sale. No matter what you need, you can find it at these local shops, where the shopping experience is just as rewarding as the fun items you’ll find.

Editor's Pick
Best Boutique for Affordable Clothing

The Stash
So you want to look like a grown woman, but not one who’s totally off-trend? And you’d like to do it without spending a fortune? Get yourself to The Stash—either online or in person. This collection of clothes—carefully cultivated by shop owners Becky Melchert and Summer Jensen—is trendy without being too much. Best of all, you won’t have to drop a bunch of cash to revamp your wardrobe. Open Thursdays, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m–5 p.m. only. 544 S. Elm St., Waconia; 612.805.0130.—LP

Best Gift Shop/Place to Buy Unique Gifts
Carver Junk Company
“It was our biggest impulse buy ever,” says Brandy Dressen, explaining how she and her husband, Chad, came to own Carver Junk Company. The couple had just done the final walk-through on a house in Carver when they happened on a “For Lease” sign in a window. Brandy was already dialing the number as Chad started to say they should rent that space. The closed on their house and signed a lease for their shop on the same day.
   
The only problem: They both had full time jobs, had never planned on opening a store and had no idea what their new shop should look like. They spent the next five weeks gathering inventory for their new occasional shop and opened the weekend of Carver Steamboat Days in 2012. And they must have been doing something right because by January of 2013, they had moved into a new space with double the square footage.
   
Carver Junk Company features a variety of vintage items, antiques, repurposed or refinished goods and locally handmade items. There’s a big focus on seasonal items, and the shops inventory changes each month. The shop is generally open from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Thursday–Saturday on the third weekend of every month.  The couple also recently opened a showroom in Carver for its vintage wedding and event rental business. 300 Broadway St., Carver; 612.615.8650.—LP
Runners up: Finding Joy Boutique, Jim Gilbert's Wild Bird Store

Best New Shop
Tazzie Baby and Child
Tazzie Baby and Child fittingly opened on Mother’s Day of 2013, fulfilling the Anderson family’s dreams of opening a store in downtown Victoria. The cozy shop features a wide variety of clever products designed for babies and children, as well as a selection of fun gifts for moms, dads and grandparents. Shoppers can expect to find everything from clothes with magnetic fasteners from Magnificent Baby to the popular Sophie the Giraffe products by Vulli. 1750 Tower Blvd., Victoria; 952.479.1391.—LP
Runners Up: Carver Junk Company, Iris Valley Boutique and Gifts, Chanhassen

Best Jeweler
Weinzeirl Jewelry
Weinzeirl Jewelry marks its 120th year in business this year. Owner Dick Weinzeirl’s grandfather’s uncle opened the store in St. Bonifacius in 1894, and the shop has been in its Waconia location since 1919. Dick took over the store in 1979—the year before he married Diann—and he and his wife are constant fixtures at the store. “People like that reliability,” Dick says, adding that he’s sold engagement rings to multiple generations of the same family throughout the years.
In addition to seeking out and carrying unique lines of jewelry, the shop specializes in repairs and custom work. Dick says it’s not unusual for a customer to bring in several pieces, asking that they be combined to create something new—a challenge that he enjoys. He also enjoys re-working pieces to make them wearable with current trends. 8 W. First St., Waconia; 952.442.2885.—LP
Runners up: Becklund Jeweler, EverGreene Jewelers


Best Children’s Shop
ABC & Toy Zone

Manager Barb Weisner is not surprised that ABC and Toy Zone has won yet again in the Best Children’s Shop category. The shop has a loyal following of families and is a go-to place for teachers looking for supplies. ABC and Toy Zone recently moved to a new location to expand their offering of supplies, which includes specialty toys. “It’s easy for the teachers to just pop in and get what they need,” Weisner says. 860 W. 78th St., Chanhassen; 952.474.4366.—AH
Runners up: Tazzie Baby and Child, Once Upon A Child

Best Boutique
Mainstream Boutique
Dawn Reinke has owned Mainstream Boutique for almost two years and cultivated a bevy of repeat customers. She picks clothing for the store, but assures that not everything is “her” style. “We aren’t a big retail boutique. Our items are all different,” she says. “We have styles that fit people from extra small to size 18, as well as accessories like scarves and footwear.” 600 Market St., #180, Chanhassen; 952.974.1564.—AH
Runners up: Hot Mama, Carver Junk Company

Best Sporting Goods
Scheels
Scheels opened in Eden Prairie in 2006 as a boutique-style sports store, looking to expand into the fashion side of the sports business. Many of its original associates remain at the store, and manager Kevin Murphy says it’s because they love what they do. “They have a good time working in an environment where they are passionate,” Murphy says. Employees have a say in what the store carries and love to find just the right item for anyone who comes through the door. 8251 Flying Cloud Drive, Eden Prairie; 952.826.0067.—AH
Runners up: Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority

Best Eyewear
Southwest Eye Care
You might say that Southwest Eye Care has an eye for eyes. “We have two opticians who pick out our frames and they know our patients and what they are looking for in style quality and price,” says business manager Kristi Narum. And, because hearing, blood pressure and vision go together, Southwest also offers pressure checks and hearing tests too. 1464 White Oak Drive, Chaska; 952.466.3937.—AH
Runners up: Precision Eye Care, Chanhassen Vision Clinic


Best Small-Business Customer Service

Higher Power Training
The secret to Higher Power Training’s excellent customer service is its stellar staff retention. Owner Jason Ivesdal takes good care of his trainers and front desk staff so they can then take good care of the clients. Sometimes trainers will help clients prepare nutritional food, or call clients to check in if they haven’t been in for a while. Ivesdal says that trainers need the best principles possible to provide the best service. 10360 W. 70th St., Eden Prairie; 952.942.6320.– LB    
Runners up: Carver Junk Company, Snips Spa Salon     


PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

These people have your back. Whether you’re buying a new house, finding a new hair style or managing your money, these experts help you solve the problems—big and little—that can crop up throughout life. And the massage therapist? She has your back, hips and knees, too.

Best Photographer

Taylor Hubbard Photography
Photographer Taylor Hubbard documents the milestones in people’s lives, and it’s an honor that she doesn’t take lightly. Whether she’s snapping senior portraits or documenting a wedding, Hubbard listens to her clients and does her best to deliver portraits unique to them. Hubbard has worked in Waconia for more than 10 years, first as a photographer for Wedin Studios and most recently at her own studio, where she has been for the past 4 years. 44 W. First St., Waconia; 952.442.2711.—LP
Runners up: Lynn Laumann, Waconia; Maren Delaney Photography, Waconia

Best Massage Therapist
Bonnie Kimble, Bodywork Ultra
Massage therapy is Bonnie Kimble’s second career. She worked in finance and marketing when she went a massage therapist as a last resort to battle chronic knee pain. The massage therapy worked, and Kimble was able to begin running again—an activity she had enjoyed for 37 years. The experience inspired her to quit her job and take the plunge into starting her own business. “I liked the idea of doing something for other people,” she says. “I wanted to do something I believed in.”
That was 5 years ago, and the switch has made her “so incredibly happy,” she says. Kimble specializes in neuromuscular therapy, and a massage with her is not your typical spa massage. She meets with clients before each massage to do a head-to-toe assessment, determining the source of their pain. “I’m really dedicated to helping them feel better,” she says. 10360 W. 70th St., Eden Prairie; 952.374.8886.—LP
Runners up: Balance Life; Amber, Snips Spa Salon


Best Financial Advisor

Chuck Schmidt, Edward Jones
Chuck Schmidt believes that the bottom line is client satisfaction. Since Edward Jones is a partnership, his attention goes to his clients, not shareholders. He prides himself on his ability to clearly communicate with his clients. “We speak English in our branch, not ‘broker-talk’,” Schmidt says. He meets with clients face to face to help them determine their financial goals and create a strategy to reach them. 718 Vista Blvd., Waconia; 952.442.4524.—BK   
Runners up: Bruce Helmer, Wealth Enhancement Group; Peter Hess, Thrivent Waconia   

                                                 
Best Hairstylist/Barber
Lindsay Perry, GiVan’s Salon & Spa
Lindsay Perry keeps her clients looking great, which is why they keep coming back. “My clients are loyal to me because I’m loyal to them,” Perry says. She takes the time to do an in-depth consultation and specializes in hair density solutions, making fine, thinning hair look fuller, and thick, bulky hair look sleek and polished. The best part is when her clients see the results in the mirror. “A good cut and color can make a person’s month,” Perry says. 9621 Anderson Lakes Pkwy., Eden Prairie; 952.942.7981—BK
Runners up: Shannon Moore, Snips Spa Salon in Bloomington; Maddie Johnson, Crosstown Life Spa, Eden Prairie


Best Real Estate Agent

Karen Hansen Real Estate
When choosing a real estate agent, you want someone who knows your neighborhood and knows how to negotiate. Karen Hansen is a lifelong Eden Prairie resident, who grew up watching her father and aunt in the business. She has 20 years of experience, and a passion for the job. “My clients appreciate my diplomacy and ability to guide them through buying and selling a home while managing the transaction, regardless of what situation arises,” she says. 11200 W. 78th St., Eden Prairie; 952.829.2939.—BK
Runners up: Mary Jo "Josie" Patterson, Colleen Larson

Best Salon/Spa
Spalon Montage
Spalon Montage has three locations offering a variety of services for hair, nails, body and face. The elegant décor, mirror-lined walls and perfect lighting help you begin to relax and look more beautiful the moment you walk in. The staff treats you like a movie star too. “Clients feel highly pampered,” says Patty Smith, CEO. “We provide the finest services, products and surroundings.” 600 Market St., Ste. 270, Chanhassen; 952.915.2900.—BK
Runners up: Sanctuary Salon Spa, The Parlour Salon and Spa

 
Best Insurance Agent
Sharlene Downs, State Farm
Sharlene Downs has been working in her community for 24 years, and is now serving a second generation of clients, the children of the parents she first insured years ago. For her, this business is all about helping her clients solve problems. “The world of insurance and finance has become infinitely more complex than it was when I started as an agent 24 years ago,” Downs says. “I’m more passionate than ever about helping my clients navigate these areas.” 480 W. 78th St., Ste. 103, Chanhassen; 952.934.7329.—BK
Runners up: Lorie Treff, State Farm Chaska/Bavaria Road/Engler Road; Paul Eveslage

Congratulations to all of our finalists and winners, and thanks to everyone who voted!