Best Women's Clothing
TIE: PROFFITTS AND KRISTI
Need some high-fashion threads to get you through your work week, without breaking the bank? Head down to Proffitts (pick your location) and rummage through the department store's racks where you'll find the latest from Liz, Ann, and Calvin.
If you've got an extra-special fête that calls for something a bit shinier, a bit more frou-frou, locally-owned Kristi's has just what you need. Hands-on service is the hallmark of this Bearden women's clothing boutique, where you can find the latest in fine formal wear for women.
(Runners Up: Dillard's, Talbots)
Best Men's Clothing Store
The best way to be uptown on Kingston Pike is to drop into Mr. McClellan's place in Bearden. When you step out in a fine new Italian suit, everybody will be calling you Mister, too. M.S. McClellan's has been the standard in men's clothing since Matthew McClellan opened his first store on Cumberland Ave. in 1966. It's never been a bargain basement. "We've always offered quality, regardless of price," McClellan says frankly. "And we offer service commensurate with that."
(Runners Up: Men's Warehouse, Dillard's)
Best Shoe Store
OFF BROADWAY SHOE WAREHOUSE
This is indeed a warehouse, with aisle upon aisle of name-brand and designer-label footwear at deep discount prices. Men and women and their feet and fashion sense profit when they hoof it into this West Knoxville emporium that has picked up its second straight Best honor. No kids, no accessories, no Western boots. What better reasons? Well, there's selection and there's value for adults in everything from dress shoes and sandals to athletic shoes and hiking boots. Go in there, they're gonna vamp your vamps, guaranteed.
(Runners Up: Donnamite, Just For Feet)
Best Bicycle Shop
For anyone who has ever worked on their own bicycle and found themselves tangled in a mess of parts, covered with grease and cursing the world, Bike Zoo is a pretty good name. Bike repair can be a crazy necessity for those who love to bike. But the folks at Bike Zoo know how to fix your ride, and they'll do it quickly and efficiently. They also carry a premier line of bicycles—Specialized, Thule, Cannondale, Seven Cycles—if you're shopping for a new one.
(Runners Up: Greenlee Bicycle Shop, West Hills Bicycle Center)
Best Grocery Store
It says something that the grocery store readers overwhelmingly selected as the best with 629 votes (second best was Gourmet Market, with 97) is also one of the smallest. The Asheville-based chain's two stores bring in less than 1 percent of the area grocery business. The sure bet is far more than 1 percent of the population visits there regularly. It's clear they love the place. Specializing in gourmet, healthy and exotic foods, the Fresh Market's size works in its favor. They give you the best of everything, and leave out the crap. And with its own bakery, butcher and cheese shop, they have a personal staff that knows their food. The days of the small food markets may be gone, but this is at least a decent reproduction.
(Runners Up: Gourmet Market, Nature's Pantry)
Best Health Food Store
Not far from the Krispy Kreme and Taco Bell and Calhoun's on Kingston Pike in Bearden is something that must give many motorists a slight tinge of guilt as they drive by. Its decor is bright and cheerful, and it sits on top of Bearden Hill like some shining light. If you step inside Nature's Pantry, you'll soon realize that eating healthy, natural food doesn't have to be unpleasant. The store offers anything you could possible need for nourishment, along with a complete line of vitamins and dietary supplements for any special needs you might have. And you can trust the staff to know what it is they're selling.
(Runners Up: General Nutrition Centers, Knoxville Community Food Co-op)
Best Garden Center
Lawn and garden worshippers unite! Mayo's is the garden center that has it all, from actual plant matter to heavy equipment to organic fertilizer. On a sunny Saturday morning, it's also the place to meet and greet other green-heads, most of whom will be wandering through the aisles, glazed look in their sleep-deprived eyes as they are overwhelmed by the sheer selection that Mayo's has to offer. As Martha would say, Mayo's is a good thing.
(Runners Up: Suzi's Groovy Garden, Stanley's Greenhouse)
CROUCH FLORIST & GIFTS
Talk about your runaway winners. Crouch blew away the competition by a 7-1 margin to take top honors once again. The venerable family-owned bloomsday biz has been on the Knoxville scene for almost a century and a half, and its four stores show off the experience nourished by such deep roots. Seven-day delivery Knoxville-wide helps them maintain their edge, along with sidelines such as gourmet food and fruit baskets. The personal service and the tips on the genuine little touches that make flowers and plants special gifts are your rewards when you pick Crouch's.
(Runners Up: Flower Market, Petree's)
Best Gift Store
EARTH TO OLD CITY
Downtown's spunkiest, funkiest gift store has reversed the trend of most area commerce. Instead of fleeing the center city, it's branched out into franchises in Gatlinburg and Farragut. And it's not just the Beanie Babies either, although the owners will tell you candidly the little critters helped them through the down times. No, it's the idiosyncratic assortment of jewelry, totems, kites, lamps, and clothing from the four corners of the globe; it's the stunning photography of intrepid husband-wife adventurers Scott and Bernadette West; it's the top-notch frame shop in the back; and it's the constant sense that you might find something you've never seen before. The Wests are now looking to relocate from the Old City to Market Square; it's hard to imagine a better business to begin whichever revitalization plan ultimately takes shape there.
(Runners Up: Green Earth Emporium, Andrew Morton's)
Best Antique Store
WESTWOOD ANTIQUE AND DESIGN MARKET
As with most antique stores, Westwood's building on Kingston Pike in Bearden is crammed full of old things—furniture, books, paintings, glassware, china, architectural accents. Unlike other antique stores, though, you don't have to sift and sort and dig to find the good stuff. It's all good stuff here—all 16,000 square feet of it.
(Runners Up: Jackson Avenue Antique Market Place, West End)
Best Jewelry Store
Harold Markman, now celebrating his 25th anniversary in the business, has a well-earned reputation for trustworthiness in jewelry. "We have a very simple policy," he says. "We sell beautiful jewelry, and if you're not happy with it, we don't want your money." He adds, "We're a home-grown organization, not a chain store." Even though they're so popular they're in some danger of becoming one. Markman's also has a second store in Knoxville Center and now runs a third store down in Chattanooga.
(Runners Up: Jared, Pardon's)
Best Furniture Store
ROOMS TO GO
Moving right up the ladder, right along with its national reputation and burgeoning market share across the country, Rooms To Go has leapt unknown year before last to third last year to first this year here in town. It's more than just a matter of product, pricing and service, or is it?
(Runners Up: Braden's, Fowler's)
Best New Books Store
For a big corporate chain, Borders still manages to make you feel at home. Comfy, even, so you can grab a stack of newspapers or a biography of Harry Truman or the latest Oprah's Book Club selection (the helpful and knowledgeable sales people can tell you just where to look), pull up a chair, and take your time. And now that they've added Tomato Head salads and sandwiches to their already deep selection of desserts and coffees, you may never leave.
(Runners Up: Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million)
Best Used Bookstore
MCKAY USED BOOKS AND CDS
Who else? McKay's perennial win in this category constituted by far the largest margin of victory of any of the "best-of" races for 2001. Quite simply, no local used bookstore in recent memory has pursued its ends with this sort of scope and ambition, collecting, cataloging and categorizing tomes in every field of literary endeavor. Its supply of used book mainstays—sci-fi, romance and western paperbacks, reference materials, etc.—is far beyond the pale of mere mortal bookstores. And it's not that uncommon to find a cheaply-priced gem from the likes of Bukowski or Jim Thompson, stuff that's rarely turned over once it's been purchased. We daresay that McKay offers a selection equal to or better than many of the corporate-owned "new" bookstores in town.
(Runners Up: The Book Eddy, What the Dickens)
Best Record Store
THE DISC EXCHANGE
Another no-brainer, an annual winner who this year garnered twice the vote total of its nearest competitor. The concentration of sought-after used discs is a bit diluted since most stores now offer some number of used titles, but the selection at either of the Disc Exchange's two outlets still reigns supreme. Their supremacy isn't just based on the quality and quantity of previously-owned music, however; they also have an expansive selection of new discs in all genres, including hard-to-find indie and import stuff many stores would never think to offer. Oh yeah, they also stock new/used DVDs, and all the music magazines you'd ever (or never) want to read.
(Runners Up: Cat's Music, Best Buy)
Best Video Store
Sometime in the not-so-distant future, we'll be able to download any movie we want directly into our big-screen digital television sets. Overwhelmed with choices, from obscure Asian art films to European pornography, we'll spend hours arguing over what to watch. For now, those squabbles are limited to the aisles and selection at our local video brokerages. Blockbuster may or may not be the best in town (it's hard to forgive their policy of editing "objectionable" content out of NC-17 movies), but they're certainly the biggest kids on the block. So it's no surprise they're the favorite of our readership, who no doubt value the guarantees the big blue offers on top new releases (if it's not in, you get a rain check for a free rental) and the enticing selection of movie-theater popcorn and candy by the cash registers.
(Runners Up: Gemstone, Hollywood Video)
Best Computer Store, Best Electronics Store
We're at risk of getting redundant here, but could it be that the best buys are at Best Buy? Well, they are, at least when it comes to purchasing those chips, wires and software stuffings that go together to run your hardware, tune in your tunes or put the audio with video. This company has come from nowhere to overtake the other biggies in the field, and the readers who voted know something about what they want and where to get it, don't they? Did we mention they've got great staff members with real as well as real-time knowledge of their products and how to use and fix them? Any other questions?
(Best Computers Runners Up: Gateway, Comp USA; Best Electronics Runners Up: Circuit City, Radio Shack)
Best Pet Store
Are you one of those people who talk about your cats like they're children? When you come home from work, do you get down on the floor with your dog and rub his belly, oozing, "Ohhh, how's my little baby, did baby miss me?" as he thumps his tail against the carpet? Do you walk around the house with a bird on your shoulder? Or do you just spend meditative hours staring at your tropical fish? Whether you're a dog person or a cat person or rat person or a fish person, Petsmart has got just about whatever you'd need to keep your pet (and yourself) happy. Its name maybe should be Peoplesmart. Because they understand you people.
(Runners Up: Superpetz, Pet Supplies "Plus")
Best Liquor Store
BOB'S PACKAGE STORE
No matter what you're after—a charming accompaniment for a gourmet dinner, cocktails for a dinner party, a gift bottle of wine (they'll quick-chill it for you, too), or just a big bottle of the hard stuff to get your morning started—you can count on Bob's. Just west of West Town Mall on Kingston Pike, Bob's has anything you need, and the sales staff to help you get it right.
(Runners Up: McScrooge's, Ashe's)
Best Dry Cleaners
Year in and year out, Prestige runs away with this prize. Sure, there's the button guarantee—they replace it, even if it's missing when you drop your cleaning off—and a drive-in and pick-up and delivery service, even treats for the family pooch. But what really keeps these guys so far ahead of the rest of the dry-clean pack? Oh, yeah, the dry cleaning. They do it so well.
(Runners Up: Executive Cleaners, Farragut Cleaners)
Best Fitness Club
In a lot of Best of Knoxville categories, there are one or two heavy hitters who trade the title back and forth from year to year. But it's hard to think of any category that has been as subject to single-party dominance as Best Fitness Club. This is the eighth B.O.K. poll, which means it's also the eighth straight year that local health club chain Courth South has ruled the fitness roost. As usual, the club got twice as many votes as any of the runners up, no small feat in a town with so many gyms. What's the secret? Well, competitive membership rates help, but it's also a matter of clean, airy facilities, constantly updated equipment, nice racquetball courts and aerobics rooms, helpful staff, and a generally relaxed atmosphere. Plus, in the summer months, there's literally no cooler place to be than the big pool out behind the Alcoa Highway club.
(Runners Up: The Rush, Fort Sanders)
Best Hair Salon, Best New Business, Best Day Spa
SALON VISAGE/SPA VISAGE
Our annual Best of Knoxville issue leaves every last member of the staff looking, feeling, and smelling like we've been ridden hard and put up wet. The solution? A trip to the trifecta-winning best hair salon/new biz/day spa out in Downtown West. Here we can get new 'dos (which should hide the bald patches where we've torn our hair out), buff up our bods, manicure our stressed typing fingers, and come out smelling much, much better than we normally do. Ah, Visage.
(Best Hair Salon Runners Up: Ross the Boss, Belleza; Best New Business Runners Up: Panera Bread, Dick's Sporting Goods; Best Day Spa Runners Up: Madison, Bella Spazio)