It's that time again, time to sift through the results of our annual readers' survey, a little exercise we like to call Best & Worst. The complete list of winners (and a few losers) is available in our August issue, on newsstands now, but we thought we'd provide a preview online, along with editors' picks from three of our staffers. This year, the layout followed a sports theme, which you'll see reflected in a couple of the photographs on this page, including our staging of the traditional Gatorade shower with Martin Agency creative director Andy Azula, the UPS whiteboard guy, in recognition of his employer's win in the category of best local ad agency. A short clip of his celebration is below, along with the resulting photograph. Enjoy.
Best Local Ad Agency
The Martin Agency
Based on the penetration of their work for GEICO — "15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance," the gecko, the cavemen, the ads featuring a pile of money with eyes and a remake of '80s one-hit wonder Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me," we could go on and on — you'd have to give the Martin Agency its due. But wait, there's more! "Save money. Live better" for Wal-Mart, "What can Brown do for you?" and the Whiteboard Guy for UPS, those ubiquitous FreeCredit-Report.com ads — "We have a broad list of clients," says Dean Jarrett, Martin's director of corporate communications, in what may be the understatement of the year.
Best Local TV Personality
WWBT 12's Andrew Freiden
You like Mr. Freiden. You really like him. But is he as pleasant off the air as he is onscreen? "It's not an act," says Freiden, laughing, "but I look nicer on television." As for his win, NBC 12's morning meteorologist figures that being employed by the market's ratings leader might have had something to do with it. He'd also like to believe that you appreciate the work of the station's entire weather team. "I think that we as a whole at the station, when we're doing the weather, we try to make it clear, easy to use and informative."
2. WWBT 12's Gene Cox
3. WWBT 12's Sabrina Squire
Worst Restaurant Service
501 S. Pine St., 788-4205
Richmonders possess a limitless capacity for badmouthing the places they love. Maybe it's reverse psychology: If we diss it, the tourists will stay away. After all, somebody is standing in line to get into this Oregon Hill restaurant — elsewhere in this survey it took top honors for Best Nonchain Italian. Mamma 'Zu is the place you take out-of-towners for a "Richmond experience," akin to sharing some hole-in-the-wall New York City eatery nobody's heard of, yet everybody goes there. Of course, the more tourists who learn the secret, the louder the badmouthing will grow.
2. Edo's Squid, 411 N. Harrison St.,
3. Kitchen 64, 3336 N. Boulevard,
Best Nonchain Italian
501 S. Pine St., 788-4205
This Oregon Hill landmark is a favorite of Patrick Getlein, a former restaurant critic and food writer, who says, "What makes Mamma 'Zu so good is the quality of the ingredients, the consistency of preparation and the honesty of the place. One of my biggest frustrations with restaurants is when a place overreaches, puts on airs or is dishonest about its food. Mamma 'Zu doesn't do any of that." Evidently, lots of people agree.
2. Edo's Squid, 411 N. Harrison St.,
3. Maldini's, 4811 Forest Hill Ave.,
Best Organic Grocer
4 N. Thompson St., 359-7525
Though the natural foods store has been around since 1989, people on occasion still ask for Mr. Thompson, says Cyndi Watkins, the company's marketing director. "They'll even say Mr. Thompson told them something. And giving directions is always fun." The store began as the City Market, but a then-12-year-old daughter of a deli employee came up with the obvious name that tells everybody where the store is. The grocer expanded this year and added a coffee shop where the free Wi-Fi has proved popular.
2. Whole Foods, 11173 W. Broad St., 364-4050
3. Trader Joe's, 11331 W. Broad St., 360-4098
Best Eco-Conscious Renovator/Builder
3310 W. Clay St., Suite 100, 353-0491
A basic precept of "green" construction and remodeling is getting the most out of a building that already exists. "It's much more than bamboo floors," explains Cityspace's principal, Blue Crump. "It's about efficiency and indoor air quality. Bamboo floors aren't going to do anything about heating and air going on and off all day long." The company now has a solar-energy component, too.
Best Eco-Friendly Home Accessories
Ten Thousand Villages
3201 W. Cary St., 358-5170
The nonprofit shop of fair-trade items opened in Carytown in 1995 and landed at its present location in 2003. Several groups of visiting artisans have visited the store. "When people actually come and meet the makers and see what we are and who we are and what we're about, their opinions change," says executive director Karin Taylor, who began with the store as a volunteer in 2003. As for the artisans, "They all felt very welcome when they met customers, curious and inquisitive; [it's] really a special thing to know where their products are going."
2. Diversity Thrift, 1407 Sherwood Ave., 353-8890
Best Eco-Conscious Clothing
3125 W. Cary St., 358-0781
Amy McFadden moved here from Ohio in 1998, wanting a fresh start, and she was attracted to Richmond's small-town/big-city qualities. She opened her store in September 2007, without prior retail experience, inspired in part by an event to raise awareness about Darfur. "That spurred me to want to do more socially conscious things," she says. "I was really interested in opening a business. … I really love finding new and innovative eco-friendly products I could bring to Richmond; I'd always had a passion for fashion, jewelry. Now there's bamboo fabric. I wanted to show it wasn't all just crunchy and granola."
Best Hybrid-Vehicle Dealer
9319 W. Broad St., 755-9234
According to Nick Scola, McGeorge's marketing director, the popularity of the Prius at their dealership — with sales coming in right behind the regular Corolla and Camry — is an anomaly among Toyota dealers. Last summer, with gas at close to $4 a gallon, some 7,000 people signed up hoping to win one in McGeorge's giveaway. "But the demand hasn't slacked since then," Scola says. "It's a muscle car of the 21st century." In 2008, McGeorge sold 320 Priuses, 97 Camry hybrids and 39 Highlander hybrids. This summer, Toyota introduced the third-generation Prius, with solar roof panels that power the ventilation system.
2. West Broad Honda, 7014 W. Broad St., 672-1111
3. (Tie) Haley Toyota, 3600 Lonas Parkway, 545-7411 ; Mechanicsville Toyota , 6546 Mechanicsville Turnpike, 559-8717
Best Eco-Friendly Building/Renovation Supplies
1606 W. Main St., 254-7336
Stephanie and Fred Ackermann didn't intend to open a showroom. "We were going to do a green remodeling business," she says. "There's a wonderful synergy between being green and using local materials," such as the Buckingham slate and Alberene soapstone that are still quarried in Virginia. When consulting with clients, the Ackermanns don't always recommend ripping out and replacing cabinetry and other fixtures if the originals can be improved. "Materials are also recycled through Habitat for Humanity," Stephanie says.
2. Richmond Metropolitan Habitat for Humanity, 1901 Roane St., 228-1305
Best Farmers' Market
17th Street Farmers' Market
17th and Main streets, 646-0477
George Bolos, market manager since October, enjoyed seeing youngsters from Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority communities get their hands dirty this summer creating the Shockoe Neighborhood Community Garden, right behind the market. The 24 raised beds are planted with varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs that will go to the Central Virginia Food Bank. "The garden has attracted such traffic. We're putting a bench out there so people can sit." The market is the site of year-round events, including the Friday-evening Red, White and Brew; Aug. 1's Shockoe Chef Show-Down; and fall programs culminating with Nov. 7's Brunswick Stew Festival.
2. South of the James Market, Forest Hill Avenue and 42nd Street, themarketumbrella.blogspot.com
3. Tom Leonard's Farmer's Market, 4150 Brookriver Drive, 364-5800
3158 W. Cary St., 358-0884
In recent years, Ken Langston's displays for this Carytown clothing store have included an elaborate Marie Antoinette theme and a larger-than-life shrine to artist Frida Kahlo that won last year's window-display contest during the Watermelon Festival, says Pink co-owner Debra Boschen.
2. World of Mirth, 3005 W. Cary St., 353-8991
3. Bygones, 2916 W. Cary St., 353-1919
3158 W. Cary St., 358-0884
It's a thin line between love and hate. Just ask Debra Boschen, co-owner of the Carytown boutique that took top place in this category while also winning "Best Storefront" (see above). Huh? We're scratching our heads, too. Boschen takes it in stride: "That'll keep us on our toes, I guess — help us to keep it real."
2. (Tie) West Broad Village; Wal-Mart
By Brandon Fox
Cooking is my favorite thing to do, but I always seem more pressed for time this time of year. Although some people at my house could eat pizza every night, others like a change-up every once in a while.
Nate's Taco Truck
http://twitter.com/NatesTacoTruck My newest favorite ready-made dinner, however, can be found in all of its infinite variety at Nate's Taco Truck on Tuesdays at the Byrd House Market.
401 Strawberry St., 358-8505
My first choice here is the sausage, polenta and white beans.
6004 W. Broad St., 288-8929
If I want something cooler and less heavy, there's always Mekong's do nuong dac biet, a platter of grilled chicken, beef, shrimp and pork you roll up with lettuce, cucumbers, basil, scallions and pickled shreds of carrot in steamed rice paper.
2007 Walmart Way, Midlothian, 897-9007
With its outstanding pulled pork and ribs, Q is fast and gets bonus points for its excellent sides.
Ellwood Thompson's Local Market
4 N. Thompson St., 359-7525
If everyone's cranky and demanding different things, I can usually find something that will please them all between the hot bar and the deli.
By Susan Winiecki
Here's a line-up of some of my favorite artists who live in Richmond:
Thomas Van Auken Van Auken, long known for his masterful figure painting, enters the outdoors and captures what lurks between sundown and sunup. Van Auken's work is shown at Eric Schindler Gallery ( ericschindlergallery.com ).
The printmaker's printmaker. A retired VCU professor and Fulbright winner, Freed devotes much of his work to the James River and the atmospheric qualities of his daily walks along its shores.
Resident potter and instructor at VMFA's studio school since 1982, Glass' work combines classic forms with painterly surfaces. You can find his work at Quirk Gallery ( quirkgallery.com ) and always at the 43rd Street Festival (Sept. 19 this year).
I came across Angevine's work at Tyler Snidow's OnesmART Gallery show in 2007. Her hazy, languid watercolors were simple yet evocative. Now having far more color and abstraction, her landscapes are layered with emotion.
By Chad Anderson
Before we had children, my wife and I were already parents — to three dogs and two cats. Once we had kids, help on the pet front became even more important.
The Barking Lot
606 N. Belmont Ave., 358-4038 Clean dogs with trimmed nails, and we didn't have to lift a finger.
Pets at Play
320 N. 25th St., 343-7387
One of our cats is diabetic. Whenever we go away, our Pets at Play sitter gives him his twice-daily insulin shots.
Break of Dawn Farm & Kennels
5803 Charles City Road, 795-5933
Our Lab loves romping around with the other dogs here so much that it's like he's going on vacation, too.
Friends United with the Richmond Shelter
3420 Pump Road, No. 228, 364-1944
This volunteer-staffed rescue group matched us up with our much-loved first dog, a husky mix named Wolfie.
Cary Street Veterinary Hospital
3210 W. Cary St., 355-9144
You know how they say someone's true measure gets revealed in a crisis? When we had to put Wolfie to sleep recently, one of our vets here offered invaluable advice on breaking the news to our kids.