The Best of Columbia

2015 Winners selected

Photography by Jeff Amberg


Best Appetizer
Bonefish Grill


Best Bakery 
Tiffany’s Bakery and Eatery


Best BBQ
Hudson’s Smokehouse 


Best Biscuits


Best Cookies 
Insomnia Cookies


Best Boiled Peanuts
Cromer’s Pnuts 

Most memorable moment: We are about to celebrate our 80th birthday. 

Craziest sale: A thousand of our Bushel Bags of popcorn to one company who gives them out as Christmas gifts. 


Best Dessert 


Best Chicken Salad/Best Kitchen Store
The Gourmet Shop 


Best Doughnuts
Krispy Kreme 


Best French Fries
Five Guys Burgers and Fries 


Best Hamburger 
Pawleys Front Porch 

Most memorable moment: When we were featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners Drive-Ins and Dives.

Most notable customer: Todd McShay of “ESPN” Taste of the Town


Best Fried Chicken


Best Hotdog
Sandy’s Famous Hot Dogs 


Best Frozen Yogurt 
32 Degrees A Yogurt Bar

Worst moment: When our entire Glycol system froze up because of all the unusual snow. 

Funniest moment: When we accidently spilled an entire container of Jelly Beans in front of the store and two toddlers thought it would be funny to come over and jump up and down on the jelly beans. 

Happiest moment: We love when our regulars, who are pregnant, come back to the store to show us their new babies.

Most unusual experience: We had a school, from out of town, that had busloads of students that all came in the store at one time. It ended up being the busiest hour we’ve ever had in the store’s history!


Best Milkshake

Most memorable moment: Converting a new customer into a life long fan.


Best Ice Cream 
Marble Slab Creamery 


Best Iced Tea 
McAllister’s Deli 


Best Steak
Ruth’s Chris Steak House 


Best Pizza
Mellow Mushroom 


Best Ribs
Hudson’s Smokehouse 


Best Shrimp and Grits/Best Seafood
Blue Marlin 

Most memorable moment: When someone stole the Blue Marlin off the building. We received incredible publicity.

Worst moment: The fire at Blue Marlin.

Happiest moment: When I finally gave my son, Ryan, total responsibility of the Blue Marlin Signature Catering in 2013.

Most unusual experience: Catering Shrimp and Grits, Collards, Peach Cobbler and Boiled Peanuts to the Republican Senators at the Senators Dining room at the U.S. Capital in Washington, D.C.

Most notable customer: When we catered for President Obama and Hillary Clinton when they campaigned in South Carolina.


Best Sandwich
Groucho’s Deli 


Best Wings



Best Restaurant in Columbia
Motor Supply Co. Bistro 

Happiest moment: Closing up one night after I fully purchased Motor understanding it was mine.

Most difficult moment: Surviving the Gervais Street sweeping in 1996 and the recession of 2009.

Most exciting moment: Really the last two years … knowing that we can expect to pack the house every evening.

Funniest moment: In early1991 — a staff party when we danced on the bar and wore scallop buckets on our heads.

Best Restaurant in Irmo
Alodia’s Cusina Italiana

Most memorable moment: Adam proposing to Betsy at table 40 in the restaurant.

Most difficult moment: Opening the day after the recession began.


Best Restaurant in Lexington
Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar 

Most exciting moment: Hosting the Travinia Open to help support Palmetto Place for Children the past eight years.

Biggest break: We were one of the very first restaurants in the Northeast.

Funniest moment: One of the owners of Travinia marching through the restaurant with a Mexican band during a party.

Craziest sale: A loyal customer who comes in and always orders a pasta that he adds toppings to which comes to $60 in proteins and add-ons.

Most notable customer: Shelly and Mike Genova: they come in and eat with us three times a week.


Best Restaurant in Northeast 
Solstice Kitchen


Best Restaurant in West Columbia/Cayce
Café Strudel 

Most difficult moment: Watching the 9/11 attacks on a tiny black and white television while serving customers — all of us were in shock.

Most surprising moment: Being mentioned in Southern Living Magazine as the best breakfast place to go in Columbia before a big football game!

Worst moment: Air conditioning or computer failure with a restaurant full of customers.

Biggest break: Eaton Wrights’ fabulous food review in The State newspaper in 1998 about Café Strudel.

Most unusual experience: Finding out Kenny Chesney came in for breakfast and no one knew it!

Most notable customer: Cal Ripkin Jr. and his family.


Best NEW Restaurant

Most difficult moment: Finding enough Pappy Van Winkle to satisfy our customers.

Most notable customer: Jack White.


Best Chinese


Best Greek
Zorba’s Greek Restaurant 


Best Italian
Pasta Fresca 

Happiest moment: After our first child was born, she spent every day at the old location. We would have a pack and play set up in the office. She was as happy as a clam. 

Most notable customer: Merrie and Bob Duggan have been coming to our restaurant every Friday for date night for more than 12 years. Bob passed away this past year, and we miss him so much. 


Best Japanese
Miyabi Japanese Steak & Seafood House 


Best Mexican
San José 


Best Sushi Restaurant 
Inakaya Watanabe Japanese Restaurant 


Best Thai
Mai Thai Cuisine 


Best Brewery
Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse 

Most notable customer: On our second night in business, an elderly man ordered two drinks at a time until he had tried all of our beers and wines. 


Best Happy Hour
Liberty Tap Room 


Best Wine List
Gervais & Vine 

Most memorable moment: The annual Beaujolais Celebration, which occurs every year on the 3rd Thursday of November and coincides with Vista Lights.

Most notable customer: Dawn Staley and Judge Sol Blatt, Jr.

Biggest break: When Ben Taylor, Carly Simon’s and James Taylor’s son, agreed to play at G&V … free of charge!


Best Coffee House
Drip Coffee Shop


Best Bang for your Buck
Cook-Out Restaurant 


Best Business Lunch
California Dreaming 


Best Family Restaurant
Lizard’s Thicket 

Most memorable moment/notable customer: When President Bill Clinton visited our Elmwood location a few years ago. He insisted on introducing himself to all of our back-of-house staff before entering the dining room. We thought that was very noble of him!


Best Fast Food Restaurant

Most memorable moment: Experiencing the excitement of the Grand Openings! It was so fun to give away ‘Free Chick-fil-A for a Year’ to the “First 100” in line! 

Funniest moment: Cow Appreciation Day is a blast! It is incredibly fun to watch our guests come in dressed “head to hoof” in their cow attire for our cow’s big day! And it’s really awesome to get to give away free meals to our biggest fans.


Best Fine Dining
Garibaldi Café 


Best Food Truck
2 Fat 2 Fly 


Best Healthy Restaurant
Zoës Kitchen 

Most surprising moment: Opening the doors on Halloween and having a line down the curb from open until close for the next week.

Biggest break: Aldi’s moving in next door and connecting to our parking lot so people have another way to escape the 378 traffic.


Best Outdoor Dining
Liberty Tap Room on the Lake 


Best Romantic Dinner
Al’s Upstairs Italian Restaurant 


Best Sunday Brunch


Best Wait Staff
Mr. Friendly’s 



Best Antique Store
Old Mill Antique Mall 


Best Appliance Store
Jeffers McGill TV Appliance & Furniture 

Most surprising moment: When customers come in and they are astounded by our prices. We take pride in providing low prices with great service and experienced sales people.

Most memorable moment: We have been serving the Columbia area for more than 50 years and have experienced many satisfying moments. 

Worst moment: Losing our father and founder, Mac McGill, at the much too early age of 67. He taught us how to do things the correct way in dealing with people. He always put the customer first and considered them to be his friends. 


Best Art Supply Store
Hobby Lobby 


Best Women’s Clothing
Copper Penny 

Most memorable moment: Market trips to New York City and Atlanta, Ga. — buying for our Columbia clients.

Most exciting moment: Trina Turk commenting on our Instagram account — it’s really her!

Most notable customer: Ann Summer — she always has a smile on her face and is ready to chat!


Best Women’s Evening Wear/ Best Bridal Wear
Carolina Couture 

Most memorable moment: A bride needed a bridal gown within seven days because a dry cleaner destroyed her dress when she went to have it cleaned. We were able to get the same dress from Barcelona, Spain within the seven days and it fit perfectly without any alterations.

Most surprising moment: To have a bride send flowers and cards thanking us for excellent customer service.

Happiest moment: A bride who was 75 years old and had never been married came into the store and successfully found a gown and veil. She looked absolutely stunning. 


Best Women’s Shoes
Gwen Rawls 

Most difficult moment: Walking into Designer Luis Onofre’s showroom in Milan and being asked to do a TV interview (on the spot) for him.

Most surprising moment: When website sales generated from other European countries.

Most exciting moment: Being asked to participate in the ad campaign for the S.C. Ports Authority and having visibility during the half-time show of the Super Bowl.

Biggest break: Actress Shanola Hampton wore a pair of our shoes to a red carpet event.

Most unusual experience: Getting a note from the lead singers of Little Big Town.


Best Jewelry Store


Best Accessories


Best Children’s Clothing
Little Lambs & Ivy II

Most memorable moment: We have dressed many famous children all over the country, seen customers wearing our clothing in celebrity spotlights and in national TV ads.  

Favorite customers: The little ones whose birth dates are written on our blackboard and whose births we celebrate as if they were family. 


Best Children’s Shoes
Tootsies Children’s Shoes

Biggest break: The acceptance of our store as representative of major brands like Nike, UGG Australia, Hunter Boots, Reebok, Merrell and Keen.

Most notable customer: A beautiful woman who had polio as a child and could never find shoes for her two different sized feet, one was adult and the other was a child size. We did it, and now she has ballet flats, loafers and boots, all age appropriate.

Funniest moment: Children dancing and singing on our platform fitting stand. We hear everything from Taylor Swift to Meghan Trainor. Personalities blossom with new shoes and a stage.


Best Clothing Consignment Store

Most difficult moment: Deciding to close our furniture shop which was in the same location we are in now.

Most surprising moment: Being asked to join the cast of Resale Royalty in New York City for an episode of their reality TV show.

Worst moment: Water pouring in through the ceiling during a busy day and having to turn the electricity off (but we stayed open for our customers).

Funniest moment: Dressing some of Columbia’s most popular drag queens from head to toe.

Happiest moment: Realizing we could do more than just donate unsold clothing to various local charities and opened Revente’s Second Chances to benefit The Women’s Shelter.

Most unusual experience: Helping a favorite customer find the perfect outfit to bury her mother in.


Best Furniture Consignment Store
Roundabouts Consignments 


Best Flooring


Best Florist
Rosewood Florist 

Most challenging moment: Preparing floral arrangements for a large Greek wedding that was held on the Fourth of July weekend a few years ago. It was 105 degrees with 650 guests and with 65 tables that needed flowers. I must have lost 20 pounds that day from the heat, from the incredible set up, plus another wedding on the same day.


Best Frame Shop
City Art 


Best Gamecock Store
Garnet and Black Traditions 

Most memorable moment: When the University of South Carolina won the National Championship in Baseball and then did it again the next year.

Biggest break: For us, we started handing out the “beat” stickers in 1984 — just so happened to be the best year in Carolina history at that point. The beat sticker tradition was born because of that.

Happiest moment: Beating Clemson five years in a row and Baseball Championships.

Craziest sale: When we sold 100 Taneyhill hats with long blonde hair — to Taneyhill’s parents in Pennsylvania. 


Best Gardening Store
Woodley’s Garden Center 

Most surprising moment: In the 1980s, when Ridgeway Gold Mine purchased three tractor-trailer loads of plants.

Most exciting moment: In 1994, Danny DeVito was filming the movie, Renaissance Man here on Fort Jackson. He stayed at a private home in Northeast Columbia. When we delivered the “privacy hedge” plants to the home, we got to see him!

Funniest moment: A customer touched what they thought was a giftware item and the live tree frog they had been admiring jumped at them!

Most unusual experience: A baby doe ran into our nursery and became separated from its mother by our fence. We caught the baby and released him in the tree line to find its mom.

Craziest moment: Figuring out how to ship eight large Flowering Mimosa trees overnight to a perfume photo shoot in New York City.


Best Gift Store
Just the Thing 

Most unusual experience: We did some major renovations in the store a few years ago (twice actually) and we stayed open almost the entire time. Customers didn’t seem to mind the major noise, mess and chaos. But we still laugh about how it all worked out and how we all survived. It’s amazing the obstacles women will go through to shop.


Best Glass Store
Sheppard’s Glass 


Best Home Furnishings
Ethan Allen


Best Hunting/Fishing Store
Barron’s Outfitters 


Best Running Specialty Store
Strictly Running 


Best Bicycle Specialty Store

Best Lighting Store
The Lite House 

Most memorable sale: March 2006, Quoizel’s National Tour ‘de Tiffany. Quoizel’s specially painted trailer travels across the country filled with Tiffany style lamps and fixtures. Someone torched the trailer at about 1 a.m. the day before the sale in our parking lot. Inside the truck were two original Tiffany lamps! (Valued over $60,000.) Luckily they were heavily crated and in the front of the trailer so there was no damage to them.


Best Home Specialty Store
The Tile Center


Best Mattress Store
Best Mattress 

Most memorable moment: Having National Public Radio call and broadcast a 10-minute interview with us nationwide.

Most exciting moment: Watching a five-minute segment about us on MSNBC’s nationwide Sunday morning news program.

Funniest moment: Dressing both of my young children in mattress costumes for TV commercials — they still give me a hard time about it.


Best Men’s Clothing/ Best Men’s Formal Wear
Brittons of Columbia 

Most surprising moment: We had a ring bearer move up two whole coat sizes in less than a month. He was growing pretty fast for a 5 year old!

Biggest break: We once had a 21 person wedding party, which is the biggest we have ever had to date.


Best Men’s Shoes


Best Office Furnishings
Lorick Office Products


Best Office Supply Store


Best Outdoor Store
The Backpacker 

Most notable customer: Recently, one of our regulars did the 14-day trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp. 


Best Outdoor Furniture Store
Casual Living

Most unusual experience: When a van full of costumed clowns from Ringling Brothers circus showed up at our store and delighted both staff and customers.

Craziest sale: The day of the 9/11 attacks, a customer came in and bought furniture because she said she wouldn’t be doing any traveling for a while and wanted to create a vacation spot at home.

Most surprising moment: When the AAA on Forest Drive had an explosion and fire a few years ago. An unidentified woman called, said she had heard about the explosion and wanted to know if we were okay.


Best Pet Boutique
Mill Creek Pet Food Center 


Best Pet Supply Store


Best Shopping Venue
Trenholm Plaza 


Best Organic Food Store
Whole Foods 

Most notable customer: A couple of our favorites were Scott Avett (Avett Brothers) and Dave Chappelle.


Best Supermarket

Most exciting moment: Our Publix in Lexington is celebrating 20 years next year! Additionally as a company, we are celebrating our 85th birthday in 2015. 


Best Toy Store


Best Vision Wear
Sansbury Eye Center 


Best Wallpaper/Wall Covering Store
Wallpaper Additions 


Best Wine Shop
Total Wine & More 



Best Apartment Complex
The Residence at Marina Bay 

Most difficult moment: When we began to realize the high demand on our popular floor plans and had to create a waiting list to accommodate future residents.

Most exciting moment: Having a film crew on-site to film our property’s commercial — we all felt like movie stars!

Funniest moment: When some of our mild-mannered, businessmen-residents walked into our annual Halloween Party dressed as Baywatch Babes!

Most unusual experience: The big snowstorm in February 2014 that kept our residents stranded at home for two days and resulted in an awesome all-day Board Game Marathon in our Billiards Room.


Best Condominiums


Best Home Remodeler
Palmetto Construction & Renovations















Best Home Builder
Mungo Homes 


Best NEW Home Community
Saluda River Club 


Best Retirement Community
Still Hopes Episcopal 


Best Assisted Living
Lutheran Homes 

Most exciting moment: As staff/caregivers, we are amazed time and time again at how quickly new residents acclimate to their home at the Heritage at Lowman. Our new residents typically jump right into their new environment of life enrichment activities, trips and social engagements. This involvement really helps them to feel at home in just a short period of time. 

Most notable customer: Mr. ‘Smith’ was a notable resident in the fact that he acclimated so well to assisted living, that he was able regain his independence to the point of being able to move from assisted living to an independent apartment. One of his most exciting achievements was learning how to use the walking sticks/hiking poles. He moved into one of our independent apartments where he lived for several years assistance-free!



Best Farmer’s Market
Soda City 


Best Festival
Greek Festival 


Best Place for a Kid’s Birthday Party


Best Sporting Event Facility
Williams-Brice Stadium 


Best Golf Course


Best Children’s Park
Saluda Shoals Park



Best Auto Repair Company
Nuttall Tire 


Best Car Dealer


Best Car Rental Agency 


Best Boat Dealer
Mid-Carolina Marine 


Best Bridal Photographer
Clark Berry Photography 


Best Carpet Cleaner
Stanley Steemer 


Best Chiropractor
Chiropractic Wellness Center 

Funniest moment: Telling patients they are wearing two different shoes or socks or their clothes are on wrong side out!

Happiest moment: When patients tell me how their quality of life has improved and they can return to doing what they love to do!

Craziest sale: Patient Appreciation Day. Occasionally, we will have a day when we provide care in exchange for donations to a local charity or need.

Most notable customer: I had a young woman patient who was 29. She came for chiropractic care because she had a headache that had lasted her entire life. She said she never remembered a time in her life when she didn’t have a headache. We evaluated her, adjusted her neck and spine. Her headache was gone. We both cried and she never had another headache while I knew her.
















Best Caterer
Southern Way Catering 


Best Chimney Sweep
Top Hat Sweepers 

Most memorable moment: During the Christmas season, when I see the excitement and pleasure in a young child’s face when I “find” a piece of red velvet with a bit of soot on it in the chimney.

 Most difficult moment: Being called to remove a noise-making animal from a chimney, expecting the usual squirrel or bird, only to open the damper to find a snake!

 Most unusual experience: Legend has it that receiving a kiss from a chimney sweep is good luck. It is always a pleasure to be invited to a wedding reception to bestow a ceremonial kiss on the cheek of a bride to bring good luck to the newlyweds!


Best Dry Cleaner
Tripp’s Fine Cleaners 

Most memorable moment: Cleaning the jersey worn by Ray Tanner during the University of South Carolina National Championship celebration. It was covered in red Gatorade but we were able to clean it nicely.

Most exciting moment: The day we began our home pick-up and delivery service in 1995. At that time, no one else in Columbia had that service.

Funniest moment: A confused customer came into one of the stores and asked for a 1/2 gallon of Vodka!

Happiest moment: Seeing the expression on a customers face when you “save” a garment they truly love.

Most unusual experience: Cleaning a wedding gown with a care label that said, “Dangerously flammable if washed!”

Craziest sale: Elton John’s concert wardrobe.


Best Fence Company
Brabham Fence 


Best Facial/Nail Salon
OCCO Luxury Spa 

Most memorable moment: Bringing in a large selection of mineral based makeup — Glo! Minerals

Most difficult moment: Overly Mimosa’d Bridezillas!

Most exciting moment: When we receive the new OPI Nail Laquer Collections!

Worst moment: The sound of polish bottles shattering on the floor!

Funniest moment: Seeing the many interesting ways clients suit up in their spa-wear.

Most unusual experience: An older gentleman who comes in quarterly to have his toes polished green.


Best Event Planner
Flock and Rally 

Most exciting moment: Hitting our 4th anniversary as a company in Columbia!

Worst moment: Learning the hard way that large coffee percolators pull much more power than you’d think, resulting in the lights blowing during the opening keynote of a conference. Lesson: always double- and triple-check power loads with your tech crew, facilities crew and caterer. 

Funniest moment: We show up to the office at 701 Whaley wearing similar outfits all the time. It’s ridiculous.

Most unusual experience: Doing local event consulting and PR for Bravo TV reality stars Tina and Tarz during season one of the show Newlyweds when they were living in Columbia. They were larger than life yet so down to earth!


Best Hair Salon
Metropolis Salon & Dry Bar 


Best Furniture Refinisher
Colonial Woodworks 


Best Heating/ Air Service
2nd Wind Heating & Air Conditioning

Most exciting moment: Watching as we had our first truck logoed. It was very exciting to watch our creation come to life. 

Worst moment: When I had five senior technicians leave at the same time: three to go into business for themselves (becoming competitors) and two to go to work for a local utility.

Funniest moment: Receiving a call from one of my customers stating that we had killed Juniper. I kept apologizing thinking that Juniper may have been the family pet. When I informed my staff that we had killed Juniper, they all seemed puzzled but not too concerned. The attitude of my staff really affected me and caused me to call in a manager and ask him what the heck was up with our staff. Therein lies the irony of how I got educated on plant life. 


Best Insurance Agent
Brad Giles 

Most difficult moment: When you have to tell one of your clients that something is not covered. Even if you have no control over it and it is something that is just not covered by a policy, it’s still hard to have to explain that.

Most memorable moment: When you see an insurance policy do exactly what it is designed to do. I have a client who experienced a house fire due to a malfunction with his home generator. It was a complete loss and they, of course, were devastated. They now have a brand new home with everything new on the inside as well. Those are the moments you live for as an agent.


Best Insurance Agency 
State Farm 


Best Hardscape/Landscaping Company 
Hay Hill Garden Market 

Most memorable moment: The day I was able to talk David Stack into joining Hay Hill Services, Inc. That is when we truly became a design build firm due to his landscape architect degree.

Most difficult time: Being told I had stage 4 cancer and a year more would be lucky.

Most surprising time: Being here six years later.

Worst moment: Knocking the corner off of a brand new house. 

Biggest break: My first irrigation job with the help of my cousin, David Gantt, at Cliff Kitchens’ house took me a month. We could do same job in two days now. We have come a long way.

Most notable customer: Debbie and Danny Mixon. When they heard I had cancer and knew that I was going to be at Duke for a long time they had a huge project in the works. They let my company do the job knowing that I was not going to be able to supervise. My employees stepped up to the plate, as always, and did a great job of over-seeing this job in my absence. Had I not had that large project at that time, I don’t know if Hay Hill would still be here. 


Best Interior Designer (Commercial) 
Katherine J. Anderson Design/Interiors 

Biggest break: When Lolly Dana hired me and then told all her friends.

Most surprising moment: I arrived at the house of one of my favorite clients and while I was standing on the porch, I watched my car roll out of her driveway and into the neighbor’s yard — taking out her mailbox.


Best Interior Designer (Residential) 
LGB Interiors 

Most difficult moment: Having the nerve to start my own company at age 27 when I was still single.

Most surprising moment: Getting cast on the game show — Win, Loose or Draw.

I tried out on a whim on a visit to LA when I was 27 years old.

Biggest break: Working for a great mentor, Pamela Temples, who taught me that hard work pays off.

Funniest moment: The day I found out that a chest of drawers wasn’t called a “chester” drawer! And that a wheel barrow wasn’t actually called a “wheel barrel” — which still makes much more sense to me. I think I was actually in college when I got it all straight!

Most notable customer: Lou and Bill Kennedy.


Best Lodging 
The Inn at USC 

Worst moment: Losing a football game ... not a good time.

Funniest moment: During move-in weekend, at the request of a parent, Cocky went upstairs and took a picture with their sleeping incoming freshmen son in bed. He never woke up!


Best Massage
Urban Nirvana 

Most exciting moment: Once we had a military officer on active duty overseas ask our staff to help him with his marriage proposal! He sent us the engagement ring and asked our staff to hide the ring in his then girlfriend’s spa locker. Our staff went all out to help him. When she opened the locker it was filled with rose petals, chocolates, a bottle of champagne, notes from him to her, and of course, the ring! I think it’s safe to say that was one of the most exciting and fun things we have ever experienced at our spa!


Best Modeling Agency
Millie Lewis Columbia 


Best Moving Company
Two Men and a Truck 

Most memorable moment: Moving a king size bed into a 16th floor condo.

Most surprising moment: We had a customer call one day to tell us she needed to be moved to Maine that same day. With a quick rearranging of our schedule we were able to quickly help with their very long-distance move. 

Worst moment: Rainy move days!

Funniest moment: Packaging a stuffed grizzly bear for shipment to Colorado.


Best Outdoor Lighting Company
Outdoor Lighting Perspectives 

Craziest Sale: When on a nighttime demo as Kenny was setting up the lights before 6 p.m., he noticed a few ladies walking up to the house in exercise clothes who entered the back of the house. A few minutes later, a few more ladies walked up. The owner of the house, Mr. Smith, came out and talked to Kenny about the lights. Kenny gave his best 15-minute sales pitch and told him he would turn on the lights as it got a little darker. Mr. Smith said, “That sounds great. I am about to teach a jazzercise class and if you join us, I will buy the lighting system!” So, Kenny did a 45-minute jazzercise class in his polo, slacks and dress shoes with about eight other ladies. Afterward, Kenny turned on the lights. Mr. Smith said they looked amazing and couldn’t wait to have them installed. The total job was approximately $4,000, and he is still a customer today.


Best Pest Control
Clark’s Termite & Pest Control 


Best Pet Boarding
Wescott Acres Luxury Pet Resort 

Most surprising moment: When we helped give birth to puppies! Two different times in our first few years of business, families boarded pregnant females who gave birth earlier than expected while staying with us. 

Funniest moment: When a Great Pyranese, weighing more than most of us, had bullied our caregiver in the hallway and opened our refrigerator! He knew how to open a refrigerator … and was determined to eat a pack of hot dogs. Every time anyone came near him, he growled at them! He ate his hot dogs and calmed down. We all had a good laugh after he decided he was our friend again. His family said they had to put lock their refrigerator at home, too!


Best Vet 
Shandon-Wood Animal Clinic 

Most memorable/happiest moment: When we are able to take in an animal that is presented to us in poor health, make them better and see them leave Shandon-Wood with their happy and grateful owners.


Best Pet Grooming
Carolina Paws 


Best Plumbing Company
Superior Plumbing & Gas 













Best Real Estate Agent 
Jill Moylan 

Strange fact: I still live in the first house I ever bought.

Funniest moment: Going for a final walk through before a closing and finding a colony of 40 domestic rabbits in the yard. 

Most memorable moment: Meeting the seller who lifted his shirt at closing to show his gunshot wound, inflicted by his wife. I had wondered why they sat in separate rooms at the closing.

Most unusual moment: The “I told you so” moment when an inspector confirmed what my nose already knew: 10 feet of bat guano in the walls of an old Victorian house. 

Best supporting cast for real estate sales or most memorable customers: The buyer who realized she left her certified check for closing at Starbucks. The client who spray-painted a half dozen pine trees orange to mark them for removal upon closing, only to determine she didn’t want to buy the house after all. 


Best Real Estate Agency (Commercial) 
Russell & Jeffcoat Real Estate 


Best Real Estate Agency (Residential) 
Home Advantage Realty 


Best Tire Store
Nuttall Tire 


Best Staffing Agency

Most memorable moment: Our owners came to visit us this year and it was such an inspiring time with them. The founder and owner of our company, Bernie Howroyd, is a brilliant man with such wisdom about our industry. It was a great experience to have Bernie and his son, Brett, come and share their knowledge and insight on our industry.

Biggest break: We have become very involved in state government staffing. This has been a wonderful relationship for us. We have been able to employ many people in the Columbia area because of all of the state and government divisions that we are working with.


Best Swimming Pool Company
Griffin Pools and Spas 


Best Travel Agency 
Forest Lake Travel 

Most difficult moment: Our founder and president, Joe Bouknight, died in November 2012.

Craziest sale: A walk-in customer booked an “Around the World” cruise within 30 minutes of walking in.


Best Wedding Venue 
701 Whaley 

Most difficult moment: Early on, we almost double booked the space!

Most surprising moment: The tremendous turnout for the first Annual Sustainable Holiday Market in November. Even though it was raining, the room was filled with vendors and shoppers.

Most exciting moment: The first group exhibit to show in the gallery of the 701 Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) with Beth Melton, Ellen Kochansky, Phil Moody and Scotty Peek.

Worst moment: Being stuck in the elevator during an electrical storm.

Funniest Moment: The What’s Love Burlesque show featuring a puppet seductress!

Happiest moment: The acquisition of Phase II, the old indoor pool and gymnasium adjacent to 701 Whaley.

Craziest sale: The 701 Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA) Annual Garage Sale.

Most notable customer: Anita Hill attending the 20th anniversary of the Annual Anita Hill Party.


Best Wedding Planner 
Meagan Warren Weddings

Biggest break: Seeing that Pottery Barn reposted an image from one of our favorite weddings at 701 Whaley on Instagram — crazy!

Funniest moment : In June 2013, we had a wedding at Lowndes Grove Plantation — one of the premier venues in Charleston. During the garter toss, the groom decided to fake ‘punt’ a football with the garter on the ball. The photographer wanted to get a good, shot before the real toss. One wedding guest was more than ready to catch the football and pretty much belly-flopped in the middle of the dance floor, trying to catchit. Everyone’s mouth dropped and the DJ actually cried laughing — we had never seen anything so funny before!



Best Art Gallery 
Columbia Museum of Art 


Best Live Theatre
Trustus Theater 

Most memorable moment: Celebrating the start of our 30th season this year and kicking off The Preservation Society — a donor program that will improve the Trustus facilities.

Most surprising/exciting moment: Seeing sold-out support from Columbia patrons when we premiered two original local works in August: The Restoration’s Constance and The Black Man … Complex.

Biggest break: Being able to produce a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Patrick Barlow, as it was premiering Off-Broadway. Why go to New York City when you can stay right here at home and see some great theatrical art?

Happiest moment: Winning the Theatre of Distinction award from the S.C. Theatre Association.

Most unusual experience: When the great S.C. Blizzard of 2014 blew through in February, we had to postpone the opening of our highly popular Henderson Bros. Burlesque (named after creators Terrance and Chad Henderson) for one night. We rescheduled the cancelled show for a Sunday evening — and we were happy to see a group of people pack out the Main Stage and have a bawdy night of teases and tunes on a Sunday night.


Best Museum
South Carolina State Museum 


Best Radio Station
97.5 WCOS


Best Radio Personality
Jonathon Rush 


Best TV Station

Most memorable moment: We have some of the most generous viewers anywhere, and they really come through each and every year by adopting families during Families Helping Families.

Most surprising moment: Snowfall on November 1st in the Midlands!

Worst moment: Anytime we have to report on the death of children.

Most exciting moment: Being awarded S.C. Television Station of the Year for the third year in a row in 2014.

Happiest moment: Celebrating more than 60 years broadcasting to our loyal viewers.


Best TV News Anchor
Dawndy Mercer Plank 

Most memorable moment: Flying in an F18 Blue Angels fighter jet over South Carolina. My pilot had us pulling 7 G’s then peppered our flight with stunts, tricks and flips. 

Most difficult moment: The women’s marathon time trials for the upcoming 1996 Olympics were held in Columbia. As a runner, I was to run a mile live on air. Not a big deal. I was wired with two microphones and my IFB ear communication to the studio. There was a camera ahead of me on a motorcycle and one in a car beside me. I was to interview fellow runners in what was to be a slow, easy jog as we waved to the crowds along Main Street. The gun went off and the other runners sprinted full speed ahead. I had to keep up, which meant that was one tough live shot gasping for every molecule of air the whole time — all while holding onto microphones, my ear piece and a smile.

Worst moment: Former USC president Dr. John Palms was having dignitaries around the world for a luncheon event on the horseshoe. His staff called me for a weather update (back in the early days when I played weather girl). I went outside, saw cloudy skies and “predicted” showers. The university quickly moved the event indoors. An hour later — the dignitaries arrived. And so did the blue skies, light breeze and beautiful sunshine on a picture perfect Carolina day. Oops. 

Funniest moment: One of my first stories as a reporter in Green Bay was a jewelry store heist. I wore the suit and high heels thinking it was the right reporter look. It was. Until a near blizzard developed, dropping several inches of snow on my ultra-cold toes. 

Happiest moment: I covered several stories on a little boy in Columbia who was born deaf. I continued the coverage in the operating room as he underwent a cochlear implant. I got to be there as the child heard his first sounds ever. I was overjoyed for him! The expression of surprise and delight on his face is etched in my memory forever. 

Most notable customer: My favorite interview remains Astronaut Charles Bolden from the greater Columbia area. My admiration for him grew immensely after having him on my show. He’s one of the most humble, down-to-earth people. This, for a man who travels out of this world.


Best TV Sportscaster 
Rick Henry 

Most memorable moment: Doing a live interview with Michael Jordan one month after I started working at WIS, covering the Masters when Tiger Woods won his first green jacket in 1997 and getting to fly in an F-16 for a Double-Dog-Dare.

Most difficult moment: Anytime I have to report on the death of a young athlete. Two years ago, a high school football player collapsed and died at one of the games we were covering. It was very hard to concentrate on finishing the show that night.

Most surprising moment: The day Steve Spurrier walked up and joined me for a live broadcast on the “Spur” of the moment. You can never predict what the HBC will do on any given day!

Most exciting moment: It was also one of my most memorable moments … taking a flight in an F-16. It’s like the ultimate roller coaster ride.

Worst moment: The time all the monitors died in the studio. I didn’t know if we were on the air or not. I called a quick audible and tossed to a commercial break. One of the few times in my 33-year career where I felt helpless.

Funniest moment: My grandson was at the station one day and he decided to crash our weather guy’s forecast and joined him uninvited on live TV! Judi Gatson saved the day and pulled him off camera.

Happiest moment: Doing highlights of my son’s high school football games on Football Friday.

Most unusual experience: Chasing a greased pig for my very first Double-Dog-Dare. It was not a pleasant experience!


Best TV Weatherperson
Ben Tanner 

Most memorable moment: “Are You As Regular As I Am?” Check it on You Tube … quite silly.

Most difficult moment: All of those “blown snow forecasts.”

Most surprising moment: Two to 4 inches snow forecast that ended up at almost 9 inches. It’s the sixth highest total ever.

Worst moment: A wise man once told me, “It’s only TV” when I have challenging moments, luckily I take them all in stride.

Biggest break: Getting the job here. It’s hard to believe it was almost 17 years ago.


Best Live Music Venue
Township Auditorium 

Most difficult moment: When an event gets cancelled things are probably the most difficult.

Most surprising moment: When KEM played here a few years ago, a note was passed to him about a gentleman wanting to propose to his girlfriend, and KEM stopped in the middle of his set and put the spotlight on the patron. She said yes!

Most exciting moment: When an act that could have generally played a much larger facility chooses to play our venue because of the more intimate nature of the show. For example John Mellencamp, R. Kelly or especially Widespread Panic!

Biggest break: Being selected as one of 12 venues in the country for Widespread Panic’s 25th Anniversary tour.

Happiest moment: The grand reopening of the Township Auditorium, with Tony Bennett, after being closed for over a year for renovation.

Most unusual experience: Bassnectar or Pretty Lights concerts because sonically it is a different experience from any other show, and also nobody brings out the costumes like they do.

Craziest sale: Jack White or Kevin Hart because they both sold out so quickly.

Most notable customer: Anytime Honor Flight of South Carolina brings the Glenn Miller Orchestra to the Township, they offer free tickets to veterans of WWII and you can sit down with any one of them to hear a great story … Especially when they tell us about seeing different shows here in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.


Best Local Band
Tokyo Joe 

Congratulations to all winners in this year’s Best of Columbia contest! Following a competitive and exciting nomination process, readers enthusiastically selected their favorite Cola Town restaurants, stores and companies. Our computers were smoking during the final voting phase this past fall with the number of ballots tripling from years past. See who won in the various categories and celebrate these wonderful businesses that make Columbia a great place to live!