Best of Springfield®


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Photo by Carol Weems
Jason Lee

New Age Tattoos, Jason Lee

2915 S. MacArthur Blvd., 546-5006

We confess. We are not tattoo aficionados. But plenty of folks are, and readers, by an overwhelming margin, agree that New Age Tattoos is the place to go for a forever stamp on whatever part of your body you think needs one. During a recent visit, we were impressed by the friendly atmosphere and spotless surroundings. Photos of past work were even more impressive, especially tattoos created by owner Jason Lee, one of three artists based at New Age. Lee’s realistic portraits of people and animals are nothing short of jaw dropping, and his depictions of flowers, as well as his geometric designs, are equally amazing. The man seems a veritable Picasso, which earned him the title of Best Tattoo Artist. Unfortunately, we couldn’t compliment him in person because he was off premises, tattooing nipples, for free, on women who have undergone mastectomies. Talk about a big heart. That’s the kind of business owner anyone can, and should, love.

Finalists: Tattoo Shop: Black Moon Tattoos; Cloud Nine Tattoos; Spiral Out Tattoos; Redbird Electric Tattooing
Finalists: Tattoo Artist: Kevin Veara; Rachel Devault; Lorin Devine; Benny Dewitt

The Real Estate Group

3701 W. Wabash Ave., 787-7000

With more 140 real estate agents, The Real Estate Group would be better termed an army than a group. The company founded 20 years ago has, by far, the most agents in the Springfield area, and that helps when it comes to ensuring that no stone goes unturned when looking for either the ideal house or a prospective buyer. The numbers don’t lie. The most recent figures show that The Real Estate Group sold nearly 800 more homes since Jan. 1 than its closest competitor – it works out to more than one out of five residential properties that changed hands did so via The Real Estate Group, which had a sales volume of nearly $370 million during the past nine months. No one else comes close, and with these kinds of numbers, they must be doing something right. Readers certainly think so.

Finalists: Re/Max Professionals; Campo Realty; Coldwell Banker Springfield; Keller Williams

Robert’s Seafood Market

1615 W. Jefferson St., 546-3089

The best fish mongers are usually opposite of the things they sell. Which is to say, if you want the freshest fish, it often pays to look for the oldest purveyor, and there is no longer-lasting seller of seafood in Springfield than Robert’s Seafood Market, which wrapped its first fish in 1916. You know you’re in the right place when you walk through the door – the place smells nothing like fish, even though there are plenty on the premises. This is a good thing: Show us a place that smells like fish and we’ll show you a place that sells old fish. At Robert’s, they can tell you exactly when the fish on display hit the ice. And if they don’t have what you’re craving behind the counter, they’re happy to hunt it down for you. Just ask.

Finalists: Hy-Vee; Carter’s Fish Market; Schnuck’s; Sam’s Club

Discount Tire

2871 S. Veterans Parkway

We prefer to do business with local companies. When it comes to buying tires, however, one can be forgiven if they choose a nationwide company. Let’s say you’re cruising through Seattle and run over a nail. Even if you have a road hazard warrantee, it’s a long drive back to Springfield to get the tire fixed at a local shop. But, if the tires came from Discount Tire, you can get help from more than 900 shops in 29 states. The prices are low and the selection is large. The wait can sometimes be long – appointments are recommended – but that’s to be expected when you’re as popular as Discount Tire.

Finalists: Sam’s Club; CheckPoint Tire and Service Center; Johnson and Johnson Auto Services; Pomp’s Tire Service

Freedom Chevrolet Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

625 S. Springfield St.,Virden, 888-984-1025

It is little short of amazing that a town as tiny as Virden would have a car dealership with so many cars. And yet Freedom, at any given time, has at least 200 used vehicles from which to choose, a selection that rivals inventories of dealerships in much larger places. With prices ranging from south of $5,000 to north of $40,000, there are rides to fit most every budget. The dealership is located near the town limits, which is another bonus. You don’t want to find out too late that your newly purchased car doesn’t perform as you’d like at freeway speed, but, since there aren’t many cops patrolling that neck of the woods, you can put prospective purchases through their paces without much worry of landing a speeding ticket. So, whether you’re after a Camaro, a Charger or a Cadillac, Freedom is a good place to start your search.

Finalists: Tjelmeland Laketown Automotive; Robert’s Automotive; PJP Auto Enterprises

The state budget

It isn’t every year that the state passes a budget. After two years without one, a spending plan – most any spending plan – is better than no plan at all, which the legislature ultimately recognized in overriding Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a budget that included a tax hike but still left the state in a deep financial hole. The effect of two years without a state budget certainly didn’t help the Springfield economy, according to business owners and city officials, as unpaid state tabs rose into the tens of millions of dollars owed to medical providers and assorted vendors, including City Water, Light and Power, which at one point was owed more than $4 million. And so, here’s to brave House Republicans who bucked the governor and delivered a spending plan. If Rauner wants to get mad at someone, he should look in the mirror. A better governor would not have gotten himself into such a mess.

Finalists: School funding; Food freedom

Photo by Carol Weems

2115 S. MacArthur Blvd.

Walk into Hy-Vee, no matter the hour (the store is open 24) and you can always get help finding vinegar or barley or other things that aren’t nearly as easy to spot as milk or hamburger. And employees don’t stop at saying “It’s in Aisle 3,” then go back to whatever it was they were doing. Rather, they walk you to the item to make sure that the search is successful. We’ve had it happen with a clerk who’d already punched out. Even though she was off the clock – we didn’t know it when we asked for help – she took us straight to the dried kidney beans. Hy-Vee, of course, sells a lot more than beans. There’s a sitdown restaurant, complete with bar. There’s an eating area with plenty of television screens in case you don’t want to take out your readymade food. The salad bar is stupendous and fairly priced. The booze department is the equivalent of a full-fledged liquor store. Come Christmas, they sell such delicacies as venison and duck breast alongside hams and turkeys. And where else can you reliably find frog legs and live lobsters throughout the year? It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Best Customer Service finalists: United Community Bank; Troxell Insurance; Freedom Chevrolet Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram; Mark Cortesi, State Farm Insurance agent
Best Grocery Store finalists: Aldi; County Market; Meijer; Schnuck’s

Knight’s Action Park

1700 Recreation Drive, 546-8881

Knight’s Action Park is hot-weather heaven no matter your age. For kids old enough to swim and confident enough to believe that nothing can hurt them, there’s nothing like an afternoon spent twisting down the Bermuda Triangle, a humongous slide more corkscrew than triangle, ker-splashing again and again while adults kick back in the park’s peaceful lazy river that meanders near the perimeter. Folks have been having fun here since 1952, when a driving range for golfers opened. There’s still a driving range, plus miniature golf for duffers of all ages, with batting cages and go karts thrown in along with a Ferris wheel, so you can have fun even if it isn’t swimming weather. The park’s Route 66 Drive-In, which shows movies from spring through October, is also worth a visit after the sun goes down.

Finalists: Southwind Park; Washington Park; Sky Zone Trampoline Park; Ergadoozy Creative Play Center

St. Louis

Whether you’re a sports fan or aficionado of symphonic music, St. Louis is a fabulous town to enjoy what metropolises pushing 3 million residents can offer. Everyone should see a Cardinals game at least once in their lifetime, if only to experience firsthand the love and passion this town has for the game and its team. The city is large enough to draw arena acts as Elton John and U2 while being sufficiently eclectic and hip enough to have something worth listening to on almost any given night, if you take some time to scout local bars and clubs. When it comes to fine arts, St. Louis hits well above its weight, with an art museum rivaling that found in any city of similar size and a symphony that rightly enjoys a national reputation. A fabulous dining scene, with worthy restaurants found in every nook and cranny for those adventurous enough to venture past the Central West End and Delmar Loop, which understandably earn accolades as go-to neighborhoods for culinary kicks.

Finalists: Grafton; Fast Eddie’s in Alton; Sheedy Shores Winery in Loami; Chicago; Hill Prairie Winery in Oakford


Washington Park

Every town that’s worth being a town must have a magnificent centerpiece park, and in Springfield, it’s Washington Park. No matter the season, Washington Park is a balm for a busy mind, whether you’re jogging or cycling or walking or simply in a mood to sit and watch as the world saunters past. Aside from tennis courts and a playground for kids, the park is meant to be seen and absorbed rather than used for any kind of organized athletics. With the botanical garden offering dry space in case of inclement weather, the park is ideal for weddings, with lots of space for kids to run and play. Free concerts and movies make good excuses for Frisbees and picnicking. Think of it as Springfield’s backyard, the place we gather for fun runs in the spring and fireworks in the summer and zombie walks come Halloween.

Sunday Funday finalists: Sheedy Shores Winery; Obed and Isaac’s; Boone’s Saloon;
The Corner Pub and Grill
Wedding Venue finalists: Erin’s Pavilion; Long Bridge Golf Course, Sheedy Shore Winery, Lincoln Park

Lake Pointe Apartments

1600 Toronto Road, 529-2900

Located on Toronto Road, Lake Pointe Apartments may be a bit off the beaten path, but you can’t beat it for convenience to University of Illinois Springfield and Lincoln Land Community College. The 300-unit complex is big but doesn’t seem cramped, in part because it’s surrounded by green space while still being within easy walking distance of Lake Pointe Grill, which serves some of the best pizza in the city, and a handful of great down-home bars. The place is clean and modern looking – you won’t be ashamed to have guests over. They allow pets, floor plans include fireplaces and there’s a swimming pool as well as a fitness center that’s open around the clock.

Finalists: Lincoln Square Apartments; Prairie Vista Apartments; Homestead at Montvale; Hill Meadows Apartments

Photo courtesy Springfield Sliders
Springfield Sliders

Springfield Sliders

The chances of spotting the next Babe Ruth, or even Ernie Broglio, at a Sliders game are slim. The players are all college athletes, forbidden from taking money, and if they were surefire major leaguers, they’d likely be in the minor leagues by now instead of traveling a Midwest circuit for, well, the love of the game. Really, there is no other reason to do this, and therein lies the charm. The caliber of play is good, the price is right and there is nothing like the crack of real wood bats in the night air. It is humble, to be sure: The closest thing to a luxury box is a shed-like structure (the team calls it a “viewing lodge”) on the third-base side of the field where VIPs sip beer and munch wings. There is no amplified music blaring every single second to save us the burden of chatting with whomever accompanied us to the game. The fireworks afterward are a great cherry on top. So far as we’re concerned, this is baseball as it was meant to be.

Finalists: Springfield Junior Blues; Rochester High School football team; Glenwood High School football team; Auburn High School football team

United Community Bank

Multiple locations

Doing business with a local bank is crucial. We recently found this out when a big bank based in a big city lost track of a retirement account and didn’t much feel like helping find the missing money. You can’t get the cold shoulder when you’re across the counter from someone, and there’s no better someone in Springfield than United Community Bank. They have a half-dozen branches in Springfield, and many more throughout central and southern Illinois. Checking is free, with no minimum deposit. It’s also easy to move money around online, and their mortgage rates are as low as you’ll find most anywhere. In short, this is the way banking ought to be, with plenty of live people who are happy to help if something goes sideways, and they make you feel as if they are genuinely happy to have you as a customer. We’re glad they’re around.

Finalists: Bank of Springfield; Marine Bank; Illinois National Bank; Hickory Point Bank

Ace Bike Shop

2500 S. MacArthur Blvd., 523-0188

Bicycles can’t help but make one smile, because there is nothing bad about bicycles, and you can’t say that about much of anything anymore. And bicycle shops truly are magical places. The airplane, after all, was born in a bicycle shop. So, too, are everyday dreams, from finding the perfect two-wheeled steed to carry you to California to tracking down the final bolt to secure the back fender of the Schwinn Typhoon you’ve spent months restoring. Ace remains the epitome of what a bicycle shop should be, a place where they can fix what’s wrong, often in a day, or sell you parts and give you tips on how to do it yourself. They can fix most anything, even those crotchety old Sturmey-Archer three-speed hubs, and they have a ton of both new and used bikes to fit most any budget. Being of the old school, we love their collection of not-for-sale vintage bikes, particularly the Pea Picker and Orange Krate. You gotta love those souped-up Stingrays. There’s plenty of carbon fiber and aluminum here, sure, but there’s an equal amount of passion and soul that comes from having bicycles in your blood.

Finalists: R & M Cyclery, Biketek, Wheel Fast Bicycle Co., The Bicycle Doctor

Humphrey’s Market

1821 S. 15th St., 544-7445

We love this place, and for good reason. After nearly 80 years in business, the folks at Humphrey’s have forgotten more about meat than many places will ever know. Steaks from so many other stores look like steak and chew like steak, but they don’t taste like anything. At Humphrey’s, they understand that a steak should taste like steak, and so they buy meats from suppliers they’ve grown to know and trust to ensure that you’ll get meat with true flavor. Humphrey’s has long been known as a special-occasion place, the go-to spot for fresh turkeys come Thanksgiving and rib roasts come Christmas. But, really, it’s a place that should be a regular stop for anyone who appreciates fine meat and superb service. If you don’t see it, ask for it. They’ll do their best to find it.

Finalists: Magro’s Meat and Produce; Hy-Vee; Country Market; Midstate Meat

Rainstorm Car Wash

3101 Hedley Road, 670-1642
321 Cranmer Drive, 679-8243

Nothing beats washing and waxing your own car in your own driveway. After all, who cares about your car more than you? But it takes at least two hours, and it should be done at least once a week. Who has the time? For those who love their cars but have other demands on their time, there is no substitute for Rainstorm. You can spend as much or as little as you like. For six bucks, you get a basic no-frills wash. But for as little as $19.95 per month, you can get your car washed, and vacuumed, every single day, and not just at the two locations in Springfield. Rainstorm has nine locations in central Illinois, and purchasers of monthly plans are welcome at the company’s car washes in Decatur, Bloomington, Normal and Champaign, so there’s no excuse for arriving in a dusty car, especially since it takes less than five minutes. Such a deal.

Finalists: Sparkling Clean Car Wash; Car Wash City; Gas N Wash; Drive-In Car Wash

Nelson’s Catering

3005 Great Northern Ave., 787-9443

Everyone loves barbecue. Almost as many people like beer. With Nelson’s, you get the best of both worlds from a catering company that can handle both the beverage and food sides of the party. The Springfield location is truly a family affair, co-owned by brothers Josh and Jeff Lindvall. The business got its start 22 years ago, when Jeff imported a portable grilling method from Indiana, where he grew up, that brings fresh ’que to you. Beyond barbecue, Nelson’s also offers breakfast fare, sandwiches and vegetarian dishes, so there’s something for everyone in case chicken, brisket and ribs aren’t your cup of tea. The Nelson’s team does more than cook and pour, however. They are experts at event planning and can handle occasions ranging from corporate picnics with more than a thousand guests to fundraisers for churches and schools. And don’t forget football – Nelson’s is a great place to pick up everything you need for the perfect tailgate party.

Finalists: Hamilton’s Catering; Poe’s Catering; Hy-Vee; Five Flavors Catering; Cured Catering

Noonan’s Grand Rental

3031 S. Koke Mill Road, 546-7368

Let’s say you’re going to have a wedding reception, but first, you have to plant a rose garden and install a koi pond. No problem, because Noonan’s Grand Rental has you covered. From folding chairs to tents to pub tables to cocktail glasses to dunk tanks to inflatable fun houses to an honest-to-goodness portable video game center, Noonan’s has everything you need to keep both adults and kids entertained. Noonan’s also has the city’s best selection of tools and equipment that you may only need once, but costs a lot to buy. So if you need a stump grinder or sod cutter or small bulldozer to get your party area ready, Noonan’s is the place to go. They’re family-owned and celebrating their 70th year in business in Springfield, which is also a plus.

Finalists: Party Creations; Signature Event Rental; Best Expo

Photo by Blake Detherage
Caitlin McCarthy - Fit Club
Caitlin McCarthy

Fit Club South
3631 S. Sixth St., 787-8348

Caitlin McCarthy has been training and encouraging her clients for seven years, often to improve function, always to embrace life. “It’s amazing to see people’s everyday functions restored, such as tying their shoes, sitting down and getting up more easily, getting off medications, eating healthfully and increasing their water intake. It’s very rewarding to guide my clients through this journey,” she says.
“I’ve found through the years that patience is definitely key,” McCarthy continues. “My patience motivates people to continue and work hard for me. I’m not one of those authoritative trainers. I listen, not only about their injuries and medical histories, but also about their family life and friends. We set small and long-term goals right off the bat, and I teach them to really trust the process to get better every day and to live with a purpose.”
Finalists: Jeremy Ferry - Pure Performance Fitness Center; Brian Chandler - Capital City CrossFit; Nathan Rhodes - Fit Club; Jordan Barney - Capital City CrossFit


2811 W. Lawrence Ave., 787-1111
3631 S. Sixth St., 787-8348
2701 E. Sangamon Ave., 788-8250

The fitness biz can be tough, in more ways than one. For the typical couch potato, just walking into a gym after years of no exercise is a triumph in and of itself. And staying in business is a challenge for fitness centers, given the propensity of gyms to pop up, linger for a few years, then disappear as folks clamor for the latest and greatest in surefire ways to build six-pack abs. FitClub has been nothing short of a raging success. Started in 1995 by a pair of chiropractors, FitClub has evolved into a holistic fitness business that’s about more than just exercise. You can get your blood pressure checked at FitClub, plus pick up tips on healthy eating. The main FitClub center on Sixth Street is next to Southern View Community Park, where there is a walking and running trail, plus basketball courts for those who wish to augment indoor exercise with fresh air. The center itself offers a lap pool for swimmers and a Jacuzzi for post-workout relaxation. The center also shares a site with St. John’s AthletiCare, so it’s convenient for folks on the mend from injuries.

Finalists: Planet Fitness; LA Fitness; Capital City CrossFit; Powerworks Fitness

Food Fantasies

1512 Wabash Ave., 793-8009

Open since 1989, before organic was cool, Food Fantasies is a veritable institution on Wabash Avenue. It’s small compared to the typical supermarket, but don’t let size deceive you. There are more good-for-you, and good-tasting, things per square foot in this place than practically anywhere else in town. We like the bulk food department, where you can stock up on beans, spices and other dry goods, or simply buy the pinch of whatever it is that you need for tonight’s dinner. Produce comes from local farms. Lord knows how they fit a bakery into this shop, but they did, and so their bread is always fresh. Beyond foodstuffs, Food Fantasies also carries vitamins, supplements and oils you can spread on yourself or smell to ease pain and put your mind at ease. Life, however, is more than simply eating right and taking vitamins, and so Food Fantasies also sells (shudder) alcohol. But not just any alcohol. The small-batch whiskey is distilled from organic ingredients, and the selection of mead – and anyone who hasn’t sampled mead hasn’t really lived – can’t be beat. All in all, it’s an incredibly fun place to shop, food should be as fun as possible.

Finalists: Hy-Vee; Robert’s Seafood Market; Just Right Eating

Giganti & Giganti

3325 Robbins Road, 793-3300

When we think of Giganti & Giganti, we can’t help but be reminded of “Against All Odds,” the classic Phil Collins song from 1984, released just two years before our readers’ favorite jewelry shop was founded. Take a look at me now, indeed. Three years ago, Giganti & Giganti was shoehorned into a tiny shed of a building in Jerome that’s now home to a sandwich shop and gambling parlor – you had to be buzzed in, speakeasy style. Today, the company does business from a building built brand-spanking-new on Robbins Road, and the tasteful digs befit a firm that thrives on quality and value. It’s a palace, complete with fireplace, compared to the old spot. You can spend as much as you like for any sort of bauble or trinket, and Giganti & Giganti has plenty. There are watches, rings, necklaces and bracelets to fit most any budget, but this place especially shines for folks who don’t have a million dollars but still want to look like a million bucks.

Finalists: Denney Jewelers; AB Lauer Jewelers; Jamies The Diamond Mine; Helzberg Diamonds


Buckley’s Prairie Landscaping

3735 Chatham Road, 787-5033

Older than dirt is a compliment if you’re in the landscaping business, and Buckley’s Prairie Landscaping certainly can claim to be, if not older than dirt, then pretty darn close. You don’t stay in business for more than a century if you’re not doing something right, and Buckley’s Prairie Landscaping does many things extremely well. From putting greens to irrigation systems to ponds, the company can install most anything you need or desire. They’re experts at figuring out what plants will grow best in your yard and tailoring designs and picking species so that folks who dislike yardwork aren’t constantly weeding and pruning. As much as anything, landscaping is hard work. If you have a strong back and want to save a few bucks, Buckley’s has tons upon tons upon tons of plants, shrubs, trees, sod, paving stones, fountains and myriad other things to make your yard – and your muscles – look great.

Best Landscaping Company finalists: Pleasant Nursery; Green View Landscaping; Knob Hill Landscape Company; Scooter’s Lawn Care and Maintenance
Best Landscape Supply finalists: Lowes; Menards; Artisan Stone Products; Bluestem Landscape Materials

Memorial Medical Center

701 N. First St., 788-3030

Bigger, apparently, is better, as readers say that the city’s largest hospital is Springfield’s finest. Memorial in the past four years has spent more than $152 million spiffing up the place. Improvements include a remodeled lobby, expanded surgical facilities and 114 new private rooms, with most non-private rooms being eliminated. The Memorial Center for Learning and Innovation, which opened in 2015, gives both health care professionals and the community at large a chance to learn new things and hold meetings and conferences. The 72,000-square-foot building boasts classrooms, a café, a library, an auditorium, simulated surgical facilities, mock patient rooms, a simulated nursing station and a model home setting that includes a kitchen, living room and bathroom, all to help train doctors and other health care professionals. When folks get hungry, they can feast on such delicacies as filet mignon and bourbon glazed grilled salmon served up by the hospital’s own catering service. Hospital stays are never fun, but with amenities like these, Memorial may well be Springfield’s most comfortable place to feel lousy.

Finalists: Springfield Clinic; Hospital Sisters Health System; Southern Illinois University School of Medicine; Orthopedic Center of Illinois

Isringhausen Imports

229 E. Jefferson St.

Forget buying a house. What you really need is a 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo, and you can buy one for the low, low price of just $178,180 from Isringhausen Imports, which takes the prize as the best place to buy a new car in Springfield. Admittedly, the market for cars costing six figures is somewhat limited in the capital city (even for such practical models as the Panamera Turbo, which seats four and has a convenient hatchback design for hauling cargo) and so Isringhausen offers delivery to out-of-state buyers, with a money-back guarantee: If the car isn’t exactly as described when it shows up, they’ll take it back, and the buyer owes nothing. It’s that sort of business ethic that explains how a dealership that began as a used-car lot in 1981 has grown into one of the most respected companies in Springfield. They started selling Volvos in 2014, but German cars remain the company’s lifeblood, and you can choose between BMW, Mercedes-Benz and, of course, Porsche. Cars are more than a business at Isringhausen. The dealership has established a racing team that is considered one of the best on the Porsche Club of America racing circuit, which holds events at tracks from coast to coast. You gotta love passion, and Isringhausen has plenty.

Finalists: Green Hyundai, Freedom Chevrolet in Virden, Landmark Ford, Green Toyota

Photo by Carol Weems
Monster Pawn

Monster Pawn

2324 S. MacArthur Blvd.

Before you even walk in the door, it’s clear that Monster Pawn isn’t like most businesses in Springfield. How many other shops have signs at the door saying that guns are welcome? Step inside and you won’t find firearms for sale – Monster Pawn doesn’t peddle guns. But they do buy and sell most anything else, from mounted Grateful Dead posters to guitars to tools to jewelry, all at terrific prices. Customers rave about the service and the quality. Consider eBay, where Monster Pawn sells thousands of things each year. During the past year, more than 2,700 customers left positive feedback for Monster Pawn on eBay’s website; just five folks complained. That’s a batting average that should be the envy of any business. And speaking of batting averages, we’re more than a little tempted by that autographed Mickey Mantle photo that’s up for sale. Loans are the other side of the equation, and pawn shops can be good options for folks who need quick cash but don’t want to do business with payday or title loan shops. You get 30 days to pay your debt with an additional 30-day grace period. And if you don’t want a loan, Monster Pawn is happy to buy things outright or negotiate a trade if you see something you like on their shelves.

Finalists: Pawn King; Stevenson Drive Pawn; The Piggy Bank Pawn

Precision Detailing

230 S. Grand Ave. E., 416-0857

If you need your vehicle to look and feel like a million bucks, travel no further than Precision Detailing. The Precision Detailing building, located at 230 S. Grand Ave. E., has a storied history, functioning as a Texaco gas station during the 1930s and eventually transitioning into a service station and transmission shop before Trevor and Theresa Miller purchased the building and converted it into a 1950s-style shop with a garage theme. In addition to detailing services, which come in interior, exterior and combination packages, Precision Detailing also offers spray-in bed lining, hydro-graphics, painting and auto body services, window tinting, Xpel paint protection, and much more. Should you have the desire to look as sharp as your vehicle, you are in luck, as Precision also offers barber services. For more information about Precision Detailing, including services and pricing, visit

Finalists: The Car Janitor, Robert’s Automotive, Danno’s Auto Detailing, Luxury Detailing and Appearance Center

Capital City CrossFit

1615 W. Jefferson St., 414-2544

One word immediately comes to mind when it comes to Capital City CrossFit, affectionately referred to as “C3” by its members. That word is community. According to one Facebook review, C3’s crowning glory is the “welcoming, attentive, kind and incredibly competent owners and staff that will elevate your fitness no matter your level. There is a large degree of discipline among members that is complemented by grounded people genuinely enthused by others’ progress.” With a variety of class times, competitive pricing (including discounted rates for military, fire and police) as well as membership plans that range from monthly commitments to drop-in sessions, you too can easily and affordably join the C3 community when the next round of “On-Ramp” classes begins on Monday, Nov. 6. For more information about Capital City CrossFit, visit

Finalists: Rail Splitter CrossFit, CrossFit XLT, CrossFit Instinct

Springfield Dance

5531 International Pkwy, 483-3623

Since first opening the doors 22 years ago, Springfield Dance has produced a myriad of talented dancers who have gone on to experience fulfilling professional careers and a lifelong love of dance. Springfield Dance has grown immensely since founder Rhonda Brinkman began operations out of a small strip mall in 1995. The studio’s enrollment quickly doubled during that first year of business and tripled soon thereafter, which prompted the decision to build the current studio. Today, Springfield Dance is located on International Parkway, just southwest of the Wabash exit for I-72, making the studio easily accessible from both the highway and county roads. The 5,000-square-foot building boasts four dance studios, two dressing rooms, two bathrooms and two waiting areas. For more information about Springfield Dance, including a schedule of classes available to toddlers, children and adults, visit

Finalists: Dance Arts Studio Inc., Dance Creations Dance Studio, Jan’s Dance Studio, Studio M Dance Centre

Silverleaf Children’s Academy

207 S. Walnut, Rochester; 3220 Pleasant Run, Springfield; 2715 S. Fourth St., Springfield; 679-2029

Now operating out of three convenient locations in Springfield and Rochester, it is easy to see why IT readers chose the Silverleaf Children’s Academy as Springfield’s best daycare. The Silverleaf Children’s Academy was founded in Rochester in 2005, expanded to Springfield’s west side in 2009 and eventually expanded to an additional Springfield location in 2012. The Academy prides itself on “providing excellence through environment, experience and education” for infants through school-age children. This is accomplished by maintaining a highly qualified teaching staff, an academic curriculum that includes Spanish lessons, sign language and literacy, personalized care and small class sizes, a private parent-staff communication line that features text and photo messaging, and healthy meals that feature organic milk plus fresh fruits and vegetables. For more information about the Silverleaf Children’s Academy, including an online enrollment form, visit

Finalists: Lake Shore Learning Center, My Friends Discovery Center, Pleasant Park Child Development Center, First Impressions Day Care

Bomke’s Patch

605 Country Lake Rd., 341-4905

It’s not just about Christmas trees! Our readers chose Bomke’s Patch as the best destination for fun during the season of changing leaves and cooler temperatures. And with acres of pumpkins and gourds to choose from (you can get yours from a curated selection or clip one straight off the vine) a corn/bean maze, wagon rides, a petting zoo, play and education areas for children, a foam party and a trick-or-treat maze, who can blame them? All patch visitors receive a complimentary bag of popcorn, a warm drink, and complimentary digital family photo, adding up to general autumn awesomeness and fall frolics.

Finalists: Apple Barn, Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular at Washington Park, New Salem State Historic Site, Lincoln Memorial Garden Indian Summer Festival


When our readers are in the mood to listen to the music of the traffic in the city – or perhaps linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty – nowhere beats downtown (even if nobody currently in their 20s knows Petula Clark from Nancy Sinatra). With a variety of bars and restaurants, festivals and other events in the warmer months, as well as housing for UIS grad students, how can you lose? Things’ll be great when you’re downtown.

Finalists: Historic West Side, Sherwood, Enos Park


Fat Ass 5K and Street Party

Where fattening food, charitable fundraising, putative physical exercise and shocking double-entendre t-shirt slogans come together! The Fat Ass 5K and Street Party recently had its 10th anniversary. It’s described on its website as “a professionally timed 5K race through downtown Springfield.” But unlike most such races, there are “corn dog, donut and ice cream stops along with live music and entertainment throughout the race route...followed by a street party that includes cold Pepsi, Coors beer, barbecue and more live music.” Another big distinction: all profits (over $1 million since 2008) are given to charitable organizations such as the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Alport Syndrome Foundation, Mini O’Bierne Crisis Nursery, St. Patrick’s School, Operation Smile, Camp Coco and SPARC Summer Camp.

Finalists: Charity Event: Festival of Trees, Paint the Streets, Legacy of Giving, Making Strides Walk

Finalists: Foot race: Abe’s Amble, Girls on the Run 5k, Lincoln Memorial Garden Trail Run, Lincoln Presidential Half Marathon

Second Time Around

2440 Denver Drive, 744-7873

If you are hardcore, you look for the nastiest junk stores on the face of the earth – the ones without air conditioning or heat, with sagging roofs and horrible smells and trip hazards. You might find, nestled under cat litter boxes or garbage bags stuffed with underwear, a pair of brand-new socks for 50 cents, and so walk away happy. Not everyone enjoys this sort of hobby, and for folks who have better things to do with their time, there is Second Time Around. Selling only women’s clothing with a focus on the working professional, the place is spotless. You’ll pay a fraction more than at an anything-goes thrift store (and a lot less than at a mall), but all the work has been done for you, with clothing sorted by size and color. It’s name brand and current – think dresses from The Limited or Lucky jeans – and there are sizes to fit most every shape. And you can make a few bucks yourself if you no longer need that wedding dress or decide that the blouse you bought really doesn’t go with those shoes from last season. Just bring it in and let Second Time Around sell it for you.

Finalists: Once Upon A Child; Land of Lincoln Goodwill Industries; Clothes Mentor; Plato’s Closet

Photo by Brian Bowles
Dave and Dina

Dave and Dina – 101.9 FM the Wolf

Holding down the morning shift at the home of “fresh country music for Springfield, and a whole lot of it,” (per 101.9 the Wolf’s Facebook page, anyway) our readers can’t seem to get enough of the personable, down home repartee of veteran broadcasters Dave Daniels and Dina Michaels. Dave, who has worked in Springfield radio for 14 years, is also program coordinator for the Children’s Miracle Network at St. John’s Children’s Hospital. Dina is originally from St. Louis, but has been in Springfield for over 10 years and in addition to the morning show, also hosts the nine-to-noon slot.

Finalists: Lynch and Liz - 100.5 FM WYMG, Ray Lytle - 970 AM WMAY, Sam Madonia - WFMB AM Sports Radio, John and Heather - 104.5 FM WFMB

Old Capitol Farmers Market

Fresh produce and a sense of community are high priorities for our readers, who can’t think of a better reason to venture downtown than to partake of the Old Capitol Farmers Market, from May until October. The long-running open air market boasts more than 50 vendors offering products ranging from meat and poultry to fruit and vegetables to locally roasted coffee beans. The friendly, historic and picturesque downtown environment provides the ideal backdrop for eating local and supporting area farmers.

Finalists: music festivals, restaurants, Hoogland Center for the Arts, bars and nightclubs

Pie’s the Limit

1710 S. MacArthur Blvd., 679-3846; 3429 Freedom Dr., 679-4106

If you have ever wished for a pizza equivalent of Subway or Chipotle, Pie’s the Limit has you covered. Similar to the aforementioned sandwich and burrito chains, patrons of the two recently opened Springfield PtL locations are invited to stand in line while eager employees behind a glassed-in counter build a 12-inch pizza to each customer’s precise specifications, utilizing an embarrassment of topping riches. With so many ingredient options and a quick turnaround time, Pie’s the Limit might just be both the most efficient and varied of the many area pizza options.

Finalists: Cooper’s AlleySide, Gypsy Dreamer, Oh My Dog Mobile Grooming, Page 261

Grandstand Concerts

Our readers love their national touring acts – and the big names don’t get any bigger than the ones showing up year after year for the State Fair Grandstand concerts. From the hottest current country heroes to the biggest reconstituted classic rock bands (original members optional) to the latest auto-tuned pop sensations and back again, the stars can always be counted on to show up and pound the floorboards while the fans crouch happily on the muddy racetrack, absorbing the torrents of sound and charisma. Beats the Tilt-a -Whirl any day!
Finalists: Live music in the beer tents, the butter cow, Conservation World, Sky Glide

Erin’s Pavilion

4965 S. Second St., 585-2941

The Springfield Park District’s Erin’s Pavilion remains one of the most environmentally progressive structures in the area. The building has been LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the United States Green Building Council and was built expressly to serve the needs of the disabled. The Southwind Park location ranks it among the most visually pleasing as well. It’s an understandably popular spot for nuptials as well as galas, banquets and the occasional bar mitzvah reception.

Finalists: Inn at 835, Artisan Building (Fairgrounds), Illini Country Club, Hoogland Center for the Arts

Photo by Carol Weems
Magnolia Lane

Magnolia Lane

3600 S. Sixth St, 503-6513

“We have a little bit of everything!” proclaims Magnolia Lane, and our readers can’t help but agree. “Everything,” in this case, extends to furniture (much of it delivered weekly from Macy’s) as well as accessories both new and “gently used” along with some hand-painted items. Having opened its doors way back in April 2013, Magnolia Lane has had time to develop a loyal clientele and it shows.

Finalists for Antique / Vintage Store: Springfield Vintage, Abe’s Old Hat, Nickorbobs Home Décor, Recycled Cottage
Finalists for Best Place to Buy Home Furnishings: Hendricks Home Furnishings, Ashley Furniture HomeStore, Barney’s Furniture, Consign & Design

Wilkerson’s Service Center

2840 Stevenson Drive, 529-0292

Sometimes all the flowery words in the world are no substitute for the honest, appreciative expression of a grateful customer. Such is the case with our readers’ favorite auto repair/service center. From “This is the only place I take my vehicles. I figure they have saved me thousands on repairs. I’ve gotten estimates from other shops who wanted to replace everything they could. Wilkerson’s always gives me an honest estimate with recommendations on what I may need later. They don’t repair things just because they can.” And what greater recommendation could a potential customer ask for?

Finalists: Brahler Tire and Auto, Vern’s Auto Repair, CheckPoint Tire and Service Center, Freedom Chevrolet Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Hair of the Dog Bar/Ber Shop

Everything old is new again in this self-described “American traditional barbershop attached to the type of bar your grandfather would have stopped into on his way home.” A throwback to the grand old days when America was already great, thank you, and no one even blinked in recognition regardless of how brazen a pun you used in the name of your business. As one satisfied customer wrote on Facebook, “If you are a man & have not been here yet, you are missing out. If you are a female, find a man & bring him here.”

Finalists: Dukett’s Barber Shop, Jones’ Chop Shop, Beggs Barber Shop, Precision Barbers

Once Upon a Child

4225 Wabash, Ave., 679-7134

 If “saving money on children’s clothes, shoes, toys and baby gear” is your priority ( it is for our readers), Once Upon a Child is the place to go. “We focus on quality, safety, and value – the same things you feel important for your own families,” says their Facebook page. Customers have great things to say, along the lines of, “I have never in my life walked into a business where I have felt so welcomed! From start to finish, the professionalism never once stopped! These employees work very hard and they always had a smile on their face.”

Finalists: Gypsy Tribe, The Children’s Place, Just Kids

Photo by Carol Weems
Gypsy Soul

Gypsy Soul

Self-identified on its Facebook page as “a unique store that is always changing,” Gypsy Soul can be counted on for a welcoming and pleasantly eclectic funky vibe, regardless of what the inventory consists of on the day you visit. An out-of-town customer agreed with our readers about the high quality of the place and its staff: “I found that the ladies were very patient, kind and accommodating. It was a fabulous experience.”

Finalists for Best Clothing Boutique: District 23, Eye Candy, Springfield Vintage, The Wardrobe
Finalists for Best Place to go for a Last-Minute Gift: District 23, The Cardologist, J. Parkes Ltd., Simply Fair

Heartland Credit Union

2213 W White Oaks Dr., 726-8877

“They offer so many electronic products that I am not able to find anywhere else,” gushes one online review, helping explain the popularity of Heartland Credit Union among our readers. Founded in 1946, Heartland describes itself as a “hometown institution offering complete member services for every financial need, large or small.” With more than 24,000 members and four Springfield-area locations, Heartland is nothing if not accessible. And not just in person. “Being able to deposit my checks remotely via the mobile app is so convenient,” continued that same online fan. Sign us up!

Finalists: CEFCU, Illinois Educators Credit Union, Illinois State Police Credit Union

Fifth Street Flower Shop

739 S. Fifth St., 522-3334

Self-described on its website as “offering only the finest floral arrangements and gifts, backed by service that is friendly and prompt,” Fifth Street Flower Shop proved the favorite among our readers. “We always go the extra mile to make your floral gift perfect,” the website continues. But don’t just take their word for it. “I have done business with Fifth Street Flower Shop multiple times,” says one typical online review. “Thank you Fifth Street Flower Shop for the beautiful arrangement, put together and in time.”

Finalists: Flowers by Mary Lou, Trendsetters, Petals & Co.

Apple Barn

2290 E Walnut St., Chatham, 483-6236

“Very reasonably priced and probably the best damn pie I have ever had in my life.” Sometimes a one-sentence online review says everything that needs to be said. Our readers appear to concur, crowning this family business in Chatham as their favorite. Indeed, Apple Barn is a veritable one-stop shop for baked goods, local meat, fresh produce, fruits and vegetables.

Finalists: Green View Garden Center, Lowe’s, Buckley’s Prairie Landscaping, Ace Hardware

BJ Grand Salon and Spa

3055 Professional Dr., 753-8880; 3300 Robbins Rd., 787-7770

An area beauty favorite in various forms for four decades, BJ Grand Salon and Spa stays on top of the local market by keeping up with what their website terms “the latest in techniques, services and trends.” Best of Springfield voters agree. In the words of one review on their Facebook page, “The owners are wonderful, the management is great, and everyone you talk to there loves what they do!”

Finalists: Willow & Birch Salon, Studio 6 Hair Salon, Meraki Salon & Spa,
Colorific Hair Color Salon

University of Illinois Springfield

Springfield has been the home of one of only three University of Illinois campuses since Sangamon State University became part of the U of I in 1995. In the ensuing 22 years, UIS has transformed from a two-year “commuter college” to a full-fledged four-year institution, complete with dorm rooms and an athletics program that regularly recruits national and international baseball, volleyball and tennis talent, all while providing the educational quality associated with the prestigious University of Illinois system as represented in Champaign-Urbana and Chicago.

Finalists: Lincoln Land Community College, SIU School of Medicine, St. John’s College of Nursing, Benedictine University

Buraski Builders

3757 S Sixth St., 529-5172

“No job too big or too small,” says the website of this category’s big winner and perhaps it is that level of dedication and openness that has made Buraski Builders an area favorite since the late 1980s. In addition to a wide range of services, they have built some notable structures including the Villas at Pine Creek and the Homes of Stone Creek. “I loved the kindness given and the fine details and coming back when needed!!!!” raved one online review. “Now we know exactly whom to contact for any project.”

Finalists: Michael Von Behren Builders, Creasey Construction, Pasley Builders, Greyston’s Remodel & Repair

Henson Robinson Company

3550 Great Northern, 544-8451

Established in 1861, Henson Robinson is not only our readers’ preferred HVAC company, it’s one of Springfield’s most venerable and well-established companies overall. In words credited to the firm’s 19th-century founders (quoted at, they aim to “provide and install quality products, backed with superior customer service and support. We strive to maintain this dedication to ensure our customers’ comfort and peace of mind throughout their place of work and residence.” Online reviews are typically glowing, with technician “Eric E.” frequently singled out for praise.

Finalists: Rich Gatschenberger Heating & Cooling, Allied Plumbing & Heating, Weidner Refrigeration


Friar Tuck

3080 Mercantile Dr., 698-1116

A regional chain with stores in Illinois and Missouri, the west side’s Friar Tuck Beverage is the favorite among Best of Springfield voters, scoring high in both the liquor store and retail wine store categories. “I love this place,” crowed one Facebook review. “They have BY FAR the largest selection within 50 miles in any direction and the staff is always friendly and knowledgeable. They ordered a specific craft beer for my wedding and were a pleasure to work with. They aren’t always the cheapest, but their helpfulness and selection more than makes up for it. Highly recommend.”

Finalists: Hy-Vee, The Corkscrew, Famous Liquors, 709 Cut Rate Liquors

Finalists: Retail Wine Store Finalists: The Corkscrew, It’s All About Wine, Hy-Vee, Meijers

Photo by Carol Weems
Soak Nail Massage Spa

Soak Nail Massage Spa

2963 Lindbergh Blvd., 546-3821

Our readers can’t get enough of the “relaxing pedicures, no-chip shellac manicures and full sets” (as listed at offered at Soak Nail Massage Spa, which also offers couples pedicures and massages. “My legs are so relaxed that I’m not sure how I’m going to walk out of here,” said one online review. Who could ask for more?

Finalists: BJ Grand Salon, Luxe Nail Bar, Pink &White Nails & Spa, Sasa Nails & Spa

Michael Von Behren Builder, Inc.

3537 S Douglas Ave., 698-8484

“Had work done at our home and they were professional from start to finish,” reads a typical Facebook review of Michael Von Behren Builder, our readers’ favorite new home construction company, founded 35 years ago by Michael after having worked for his father, Robert E. von Behren for many years. “Our team is ready to get to know you and your family,” says the company’s website, which also promises “as little disruption to your day-to-day life as possible.”

Finalists: Creasey Construction, D & S Builders, Pasley Builders, Robert McCurley Contractor

Laketown Animal Hospital

1115 Stevenson Dr., 529-4211

“I will never take my dogs anywhere else,” says one Facebook review of Laketown Animal Hospital, exemplifying the trust and loyalty which placed them in the number one spot with our readers. “They have been taking care of the dogs in my family for more than 20 years.” Family-owned and employing six veterans, they have been operating for 50 years and their website explicitly promises to “feed, nurture, and lavish your pets with attention” when they board there.

Finalists: Howliday Inn & Suites at Sangamon Avenue Vet Clinic, Kinner Kennels, Tail Command, Fun Animal Sports Training

Suds N Pups Pet Grooming

235 N English Ave., 546-3686

A groomed pet is a happy pet and our readers’ furry friends are decidedly happiest at Suds N Pups. But don’t put all your faith in the numbers. “My little guy smells and looks great!” says one Facebook review. “They took such great care of my little lady -- we will be going back!” says another.

Finalists: Paws N Claws Grooming, Bubbles of Fun Pet Grooming, Oh My Dog Mobile Grooming, Tail Command

Vision Care Associates

121 N Grand Ave W.; 2741 Prairie Crossing Dr., 800-272-7393

 “The staff, especially the ladies in the frame department, went out of their way and above the norm to help me,” according to one online review of Vision Care Associates, bolstering the opinion of our readers, who placed the two-location eye care facility, with eyewear shop on premises, at the top of the list of places to go for your glasses frames and contact needs.

Finalists: Prairie Eye & Lasik Center, Eyemart Express, Bergh-White Opticians

Concordia Village

4101 W. Iles Ave., 793-9429

Concordia Village – a Lutheran senior community – was ranked highest by our readers. With a slogan like “Live life to the fullest!” it’s not hard to see why. “We are so pleased we made the move to Concordia,” wrote one happy resident on the Concordia Facebook page.”The staff and the residents display a positive attitude which cannot help but rub off on everyone they meet. Keep it up, folks; you make life worth living!”

Finalists: The Villas Senior Care Community, Sherman, River Birch Senior Living, Brenden Gardens

Ahh Yoga

2201 W. White Oaks Drive., 725-2373

Ahh Yoga aims to provide “an oasis from the hustle and bustle of everyday life,” according to its website. “We want to be the place that feels warm and friendly and where you feel accepted just as you are.” Our readers apparently feel just that, elevating it to the highest level of local yoga studios. “I have never done Yoga but was excited to go each Sunday,” said one beginning yoga student in an online review. “I would recommend Ahh Yoga to anyone who is wanting to try yoga.” Can we get a Namaste?

Finalists: Fit Club, Half Moon Yoga Fit, Yoga 7even

Created with flickr slideshow.

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