"We can fix anything except for broken hearts and the crack of dawn. And we're working on that," says Mike McNeace, your selection as Richmond's best mechanic (pictured). McNeace, 32, is the owner of Elite Import Auto Service Inc. at 2820 W. Broad St. He's also full of homespun sayings like that. A sample: "Our difference is our customers become our friends and our friends become our customers" and "We do the things that you don't expect, but you should." Apparently, McNeace believes all this wholeheartedly, though. He talks about vehicles with reverence. McNeace, who prefers to be called a technician rather than a mechanic, started his 5,000-square-foot shop with 10 bays six years ago. As for his customers, he's planning a benefit event for one whose wife has brain cancer. "My mom taught me to take care of people," he says.
David M. Word, owner of David Word Automotive, comes in at second in our poll. Bucking a family trend to become a lawyer, Word started his business at age 23. His shop recently moved into a larger location at 2000 Dabney Road.
Best undiscovered shop
"Shopping should be an experience," says Jennifer Glave, co-owner of Glave & Co, a small purveyor of handcrafted jewelry and giftware alongside the railroad tracks in Historic Ashland. The 35-year-old Ashland native (pictured) and her 40-year-old sister, Ann, haunted the New York Gift Show and other shows along the East Coast and talked with artists while they dreamed of opening a shop with one-of-a-kind jewelry and gifts. Four years ago the opportunity to lease a brick-and-mortar building fell into their laps and Glave & Co was born. Specializing in silver jewelry and handmade items, the Glave sisters (yep, their uncle is the well-known architect) make their independent and creative stamp on Richmond with their own homemade, homegrown gift to us.
But don't think you can't find an undiscovered shopping treasure in the heart of the city. Readers remind us that Bill Bridgforth is making Richmond gardens affordably glorious with his The Garden Club, a small jewel of a shop at 1 N. Morris St. He's only open three days a week (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) because life is too glorious to spend working inside, but the talented and creative former owner of Brass Beds of Virginia has created an exceptional shop of fine, hard-to-find garden accessories at unabashedly affordable prices. From elegant fountains to cherub wall sculptures, plaques and pocket planters, this is art at 30 percent off retail. His store manager, Joan Dice, newly arrived from South Dakota, has doubled the store's inventory and guaranteed you will find something you can't live without and can't wait to crow about.
Best retail markdown sale to wait for
Those who live to shop have spoken. Hecht's satisfies the insatiable, and does so often. With markdown sales at least every other weekend, paired with discount coupons, added markdowns in the store and 15 percent discounts at the counter for using a Hecht's charge card, there is no room for restraint. This is not just end-of-season merchandise; it's designer clothing at really good prices.
Saxon Shoes lines up as the next-best markdown sale to wait for even if it is just twice a year. Why? Because, according to owner Susan Adolf, "a markdown is only as good as the merchandise," and Richmonders agree that Saxon's has some of the best, especially for those looking for hard-to-find sizes and widths. Rising from the ashes of a recent fire, Saxon's will reopen at temporary digs in the Westland Shopping Center at the end of May, though shoppers will have to wait until July for their next sale.
Is it sculptor Doug Curtler or is it Iggy the marvelous Bouvier des Flandres that makes Visions Richmond's favorite hair salon? Maybe it's the Greg Leach originals on the walls or the hand-painted toilet seats that prove real art can be found even in a bathroom. Whatever it is, it's refreshingly alive, and definitely high-class though you need not tremble that stylists here will whisper about your bad hair. It's not about hair at this place. It's about art. Maybe that's because 20 years ago Visions owner Doug Curtler never intended to do hair. He was an artist, a sculptor and a teacher, and Visions was an afterthought that suited the empty space in the building he owned and operated as his art studio. So the art of cutting hair at Visions flourished, tempered but unencumbered by convention. Today Curtler employs 12 hairstylists, nearly all with an artistic background, and runs an 18-month apprentice program, training young artists to sculpt through ringlets and perms, through thick and thin. He is a teacher with a love for art. Thank goodness for us, his favorite medium happens to be our hair.
Kudos also to Headliners and The Hair Cuttery who made the list of the top places for a great 'do.
Best place to go to look younger
Style readers know that what matters is not how much you have but the company you keep. And in the rarefied environs of Westminster-Canterbury and Cedarfield one can find both expansive incomes and, um, highly experienced people. One side effect of that, apparently, is that visitors look younger there. Or maybe our readers mean residents look younger after being there awhile. Either way, they are nice places to visit or to retire in assuming you can afford to do either. In second place: Nesbit, the salon.
When it comes to uniforms you're smitten with one in particular: that of the Richmond Police. Whether patrolling the city in a squad car, on a motorcycle, on a bike or on horseback, those dark-navy suits and buffed badges turn heads. Your second-favorite uniform goes to Ukrop's, for the comfortable and cool way employees are dressed. As for your third-place favorite, we can only guess that you didn't vote for UPS uniforms because they are flashy. It's all about the dark-brown shorts, right? Whatever your choice or your reasons, you may find yourself adding uniforms to your wardrobe. According to the fashion bibles, uniforms are this spring's fashion trend: utility wear, the more basic, the better. Just check out the latest Women's Wear Daily.
Best shopping experience
Where else in Richmond, or perhaps anywhere on Earth, can you find an exquisite hand-made doll, take a guitar lesson, buy a $340 Kate Spade bag, pick up a Guatemalan tapestry, don the work of a bona fide milliner, pencil in a tattoo and savor the finest chocolates? Carytown, to be sure. And there's plenty more! It's why you've picked the pedestrian-friendly corridor that runs from Thompson Street to the Boulevard as the best place to shop in town. With nearly 20 eateries and dozens of specialty shops you can't find in any ol' mall, Carytown is a regular destination site for neighboring folks from as far away as Ashland and Manakin-Sabot. And the city's convention and visitor's bureau reports scads of fariners go there, too. Carytown may be our answer to, well, Soho, but let's hope the landlords realize it's still Richmond, for Pete's sake. We don't want to see the local merchants bailing from spiked rent prices.
Your second-favorite place to shop is Ukrop's. Who would have guessed? And if you're not shopping in Carytown or at Ukrop's you prefer to scoot out of town with your purchasing power. But does that mean Greenfront or Greentop?
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