Best Green-Friendly Business
1512 W. Wabash Ave.
If you've ever "fantasized" about
free-range turkeys and locally harvested tomatoes, you may not be surprised
to learn our readers' choice for Best Green Business, Food Fantasies,
began as as a gourmet food specialty shop in 1989. The founder still works
at the Wabash store. When Jerry Caslin purchased it in 1996,
"green" was more closely connected to a television frog named
Kermit than a lifestyle served so well by the informed, friendly staff
today. "We've offered eco-friendly cloth shopping bags for more
than 10 years," Caslin explains. More than a dozen area suppliers,
including many regulars at the downtown farmers' market, keep the
buffalo meat and farm-fresh eggs coming. Though all meat arrives frozen,
none contains chemicals or hormones. Caslin estimates more than 100 grains
and seasonings are sold in bulk. Though the store makes a relatively small
eco-footprint at its Wabash address, the Web site provides lots of room to
roam and shop, almost 27,000 items. Besides merchandise, visitors will reap
a profusion of information about nutrition and healthy living. Today as
never before, a visit to Food Fantasies' Web site or store will
reveal proof positive: it's easy being green.
Best day trip destination
Since the Beatles introduced the phrase to the
American lexicon in the '60s, "day tripper" has meant
different things to different people, a fact borne out by the variety of
sites receiving votes this year. Reader recommendations ranged from
"Downtown Springfield" to Chicago, and included Oak Ridge
Cemetery, Dr. Jazz Soda Fountain and Grille in Lebanon (Illinois, we
presume) and "Fast Eddie's in Alton on a motorcycle."
Most, by a landslide, cited St. Louis in one form or another. "Lunch
and grocery shopping at Viviano's on 'The Hill.' More
shopping at 'Trader Joe's,' " quoth one
enthusiastic reader. "A great art museum and watching the cheetahs
run at the zoo is awesome," chimed another. "Close by and
cheaper than Chicago," and "Close enough, but far enough
away," were variations on a theme. Whole Foods in Brentwood, a St.
Louis neighborhood, was particularly prominent in the responses. To view
the Gateway City's big picture, visit www.explorestlouis.com.
Runner-up: Allerton Park in Monticello
Best cable access television show
Life Without Limits
Wednesdays at 3:30 and 11:30 a.m.,and 8:30 p.m.
The set is like virtually every other Channel 4 chat
show: blue stage, maroon chairs and those ubiquitous ugly green plastic
potted plants. Despite the catchy title, the show is focused on dealing
with disabilities — a theme that could be depressing in the hands of
anyone other than the persistently-perky Jill Egizii, fundraising chair for
the local chapter of United Cerebral Palsy. The show's dual purposes
are to educate the disabled about available help (assistive technology, job
training, housing opportunities) and to remind us lucky types that the
disabled are also gainfully employed, going to school and striving for
independence. After four years and approximately 180 episodes, the
energetic Egizii still declares that all of her guests are
"exciting." Lately, she's especially pumped about the
nearly $1 million grant UCP got from HUD to build two new group homes for
disabled adults in Springfield. We're just wondering if it would be
kosher to siphon off a few bucks to buy the Channel 4 set some decent
Best oddball place to take out-of-town guests
Museum of Funeral Customs
1440 Monument Ave.
It's one of only two of its kind in the U.S. and the
only one in the world where you can snack on candy coffins in light or dark
chocolate. The Museum of Funeral Customs opened just outside the south gate
to Oak Ridge Cemetery in 2001, the creation of the Illinois Funeral
Directors Association, not a separate not-for-profit, 501(c)3 organization.
Jon Austin has been director since it arrived. He credits the changing
array of relics and re-creations of American funeral history for its
growing popularity. "We recently added a borrowed embalming pump to
our Civil War display," he said. Other arrangements appear half a
year at a time. The large-format gallery of pictures of stained-glass
windows in St. Louis-area mausoleums continues through the end of this
year. Other "must sees" include a reproduction of Abraham
Lincoln's coffin, a re-created 20s-era embalming room and a
re-creation of an 1870s home funeral. Knight's Action Park it
ain't, but Austin reports about 12,000 visitors dropped in last year.
Museum hours are Tues.-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and
Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Admission: $2 for children aged 6 to 17; $4 for adults;
$3 for age 62 and older.
Kimberly Smoot Photography
An unconventional approach that will surprise
visitors expecting traditional verbose self-indulgence, professional
photographer Kimberly Smoot's sunshine super-gallery lets her
pictures talk for her, eloquently. Text is almost nil. A recent visit
encountered re-postings of Good Deeds letters published in a local news
daily. The rest was all pictures, all the time. Subjects included high
school seniors, a young lady hugging a lucky Labrador, and what appears to
be a groom and male attendees posing informally outside a mansion. Some of
the seniors' pictures are poster heart-throb material. With faces and
poses like these, who needs Hollywood? An archive organized into categories
— maternity, kids, babies, families, etc. — will keep
"readers'" attention for more than just a passing glance.
Unique to the blog is an invitation to comment about each picture. Smoot
explains this is for the photographer's benefit only; comments are
not published or shared. She provides the pictures; you provide the words.
On the whole, the presentation is an affirmation of life, cookies and
lemonade for the soul. Visitors harvest lessons that are always ripe and in
season. It's a fine blog; well worth a lingering
Best Business Website and Best Non-Profit Website
In 2004 Kim Leistner Little, frustrated by no central
source for information about parenting and kids-related activities,
produced a newsletter that shared the information she felt other moms would
appreciate and sent it as e-mail to 30 friends. From that acorn a mighty
oak has grown: 50 pages of everything you ever wanted to know about raising
sprouts and didn't know where to ask. Brightly arranged, easy to
navigate and well supported by area sponsors, it is a cornucopia of facts,
including a list of restaurants where kids eat free, birthday party ideas,
resources for children with special needs, support groups, a family forum
and focusing on activities within a 50-mile radius of the capital city.
Webmaster Dawn Dively keeps a tidy home page with little outdated
information and a calendar of events that will keep families away from
their couches and out having fun. You can also subscribe to twice monthly
e-mail updates. It adds up to a safe, secure, entertaining browse for moms,
parents and grandparents with time and kids on their hands.