Celebrating Our City

Columbians stand strong in their finest hour

Photography by Jeff Amberg and Robert Clark

Congratulations to the winners of Columbia Metropolitan Magazine’s Best of Columbia 2016 contest! In our wonderful city of Columbia, we are blessed with so many outstanding businesses, organizations and individuals. The voting process has grown more competitive each year, giving all nominees a race stoked with fervor and energy. As always, our readers did a fantastic job in selecting the best in each category. 

During the shocking flood that devastated Columbia and the state of South Carolina in October, many of our city’s businesses that were voted “best” encountered the worst. From the aftermath and rubble from the “thousand-year flood,” we saw many businesses, organizations and individuals come forward to battle this tragedy, resulting in a united effort to emerge as a stronger city and state. Read through the 2016 list to see how this year’s winners showed the best of Columbia during the worst our city has ever seen.


Best Appetizer

Bonefish Grill

Best BBQ

Hudson’s Smokehouse 

Best Chicken Salad

The Gourmet Shop 

Best French Fries

Five Guys Burgers and Fries 

Best Hamburger 

Pawleys Front Porch 

Best Fried Chicken


Best Hotdog

Sandy’s Famous Hot Dogs 

Best Sandwich

Groucho’s Deli 

Best Pizza

Mellow Mushroom of Columbia

What acts of bravery did you witness? Being in the Vista, we watched our military answer the call to repair our water system. The soldiers worked to build back the banks by helicopter the while dealing with wind, rain and all the city structures that obstructed their ease in making the repairs — it was a magnificent sight to see.

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? The basic outpouring of all those NOT affected trying to help. Vanderbilt University shipping water, Louisiana State University hosting the football game and playing our songs, the shelters expanding occupancy to help wherever they could, the high school teachers and coaches opening their facilities to house the stranded. The old saying is that “it takes a village,” and we were happy to see ours come together.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Multiple days we took food and tea to the teams working at the state museum parking lot, we made boxed lunches for the police and fire departments, and displaced residents were taken meals in the Gills Creek area. We could not be everything to everyone, but we wanted to be something for someone. I think we did, and I hope we helped. 

Best Ribs

Hudson’s Smokehouse 

Best Shrimp and Grits

Blue Marlin 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We are especially proud of our soldiers from Fort Jackson and our National Guard. Fort Jackson responded by sending boats and personnel to support rescue efforts in the area adjacent to the fort. Many of the National Guard soldiers left their own families while they reached out to help others in need.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Our employees contributed money and supported the American Red Cross. Blue Marlin provided meals to many military and first responders working at the canal site. Our management team helped distribute brooms, mops and cleaning supplies and we also partnered with Harvest Hope to raise money and collect nonperishable food items the week of Vista Lights.

Chris Freeman, (right) CEO, ISA Certified Arborist of Sox and Freeman Tree Expert Company, with homeowner Wilson Powell who lost a countless number of trees that lined his property along Gills Creek and Forest Lake. 

Best Steak

Ruth’s Chris Steak House 

Best Biscuits


Best Iced Tea 

McAlister’s Deli

Best Wings


Best Bakery

Tiffany’s Bakery and Eatery

Best Cookies 

Devine Foods

Jim Hudson, founder and principal of Jim Hudson Lexus, immediately loaned out 25 to 30 cars to victims of the flood, some who were previous customers and some who were total strangers.

Best Cupcake Store

Cupcake DownSouth

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? When the flood hit, we created a “Here Comes the Sun” cupcake with blue and white swirled icing for South Carolina colors with yellow sprinkles. We donated $1 of every cupcake sold to the American Red Cross. We are so proud to be living in South Carolina. People all over have banded together to offer help and aid, food, water, clothing and money. It will be quite a while before Columbia is able to fully recover from the terrible flooding, but we pray we are always able to see the need of our neighbors and lend a hand when we can. 

How did the flood affect your business? For small businesses like ours, it’s tough when you have to close for a number of days and then business is slow. But fortunately, we didn’t have much water damage and just had to work through the curfew and the boil water advisory. Our staff did an excellent job getting done what they needed. When we focus on the needs of others and work to help where we can, then God works out the rest. 

Best Dessert 


Best Frozen Yogurt 

32° A Yogurt Bar

Best Milkshake


How did the flooding affect your business? Like so many others, we were impacted with several restaurant closings until water was restored. We are thankful for the city engineers and workers who toiled tirelessly to resume water service and implement the road repairs. Thankfully, only minor damage was sustained to a few of our restaurants. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Many of our restaurants were open during the first hours of the flood serving first responders and neighbors without power. Our Decker Boulevard location was used for a command center for first responders for whom we gladly provided free food and drinks. We are so proud to be a part of a community that pulls together in times of intense difficulty, trouble or danger. As we have done for 75 years, Rush’s strives to be a diligent corporate citizen of the Midlands of South Carolina. 

Best Ice Cream 

Marble Slab Creamery 

Best Organic Food Store

Trader Joe’s

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We are truly a neighborhood store, and supporting our community is central to what we do. During the flood, we were able to donate both food and nearly 2,000 bottles of water to local temporary shelters, breakfasts and lunches to the first responders and several gift baskets to charitable organizations raising funds for flood victims and relief efforts. 

Carol and Dickie Johnston, whose home was flooded in October, with Grace Salter of 5000 Forest Apartments. This apartment complex is home to Carol and Dickie for the next few months until construction on their home is complete.  

Best Supermarket

Publix Super Markets 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Publix Super Markets Charities contributed $100,000 to the American Red Cross and Publix donated a trailer load of food and water to Harvest Hope Food Bank as well as a trailer load of water to University of South Carolina students. Publix customers and associates also donated more than $500,000 to the American Red Cross via a two-week campaign where a donation could be added to your total grocery bill at the register.



Best Restaurant in Columbia

Motor Supply Co. Bistro 

Best Restaurant in Irmo

Alodia’s Cusina Italiana 

Best Restaurant in Lexington

Travinia Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar 

Best Restaurant in Northeast 

Solstice Kitchen & Wine Bar

Best Restaurant in West Columbia/Cayce

Café Strudel 

What were some touching acts of kindness? We were amazed by the number of people who immediately opened up their homes to anyone who needed a place to stay. The lines formed at the thrift stores with donations being dropped off. The number of volunteers along with the overall spirit of love and kindness of the people of Columbia was touching. Once again South Carolina strong in love!

Best NEW Restaurant

Eggs Up Grill 

Best Happy Hour

Cantina 76

Liliana Escalante, who was the manager of Zoës Kitchen’s Forest Drive location which flooded completely much to the chagrin of many local customers, and Whitney Hiller, manager of the Lexington Zoës Kitchen.

Best Brewery

River Rat Brewery 

What acts of bravery did you witness? 

It was amazing to see people with canoes and jon boats helping others get their things and get out. I witnessed brave people who are still dealing with displacement, hardships, loss of personal keepsakes and belongings. The bravery of men and women in the emergency rescue and air support helicopter squadron that flew overhead every day and night looking, rescuing and reporting the flood waters was astounding. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? The community came together, and for four days we took supplies and food to Glenwood and came back at night to bring beer for people to enjoy after the long days of work. We took items to the police officers, the National Guard and other stricken areas. For two weeks we couldn’t brew and the tap room was closed for over a week. During this time we helped others in need.

Best Wine List

Gervais & Vine 

Best Coffee House

Drip Coffee Shop

Best Bang for your Buck

116 Espresso & Wine Bar

Best Business Lunch

The Oak Table

What were some touching acts of kindness? It was amazing to see our staff here in Columbia and The Indigo Road Group pull together for one of our employees, whose family lost everything. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We held a fundraising dinner for Central Carolina Community Foundation’s Flood Relief. All of the money donated to them went directly to the Columbia flood relief efforts.

Best Family Restaurant

Lizard’s Thicket 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We had the opportunity to provide thousands of warm meals for breakfast, lunch and supper to the National Guard, first responders and several shelters set up around town during the flood and the week following.

Best Romantic Dinner

Al’s Upstairs Italian Restaurant 

Best Fine Dining

Ristorante Divino 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We’ve always been proud to call Columbia home, but especially after the flood. So many people’s lives changed overnight — people lost everything. But, in one of Columbia’s darkest hours, we saw businesses, neighbors and members of the community all supporting each other. Restaurants provided food at shelters where people were displaced, neighbors helped each other get clean water, and even strangers helped those affected by the flood, from ripping out wet carpet to helping separate items that were salvageable. Although it was a tragic event for our city, we are definitely proud of how everyone in our community joined together to help one another.

How did the flooding affect your business? Our basement was flooded, but our damage was very minimal compared to some others. Many of our customers and some of our employees lost their homes, everything. It’s so hard to watch people go through something like this; our hearts go out to them. While we all know our possessions are not the most important thing in life, it’s not easy when all of a sudden everything you own is gone or destroyed. Our goal has been to provide a little comfort to those who’ve been affected by the flood. 

Best Outdoor Dining

Liberty Tap Room on the Lake 

Best Sunday Brunch

DiPrato’s Delicatessen

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We were fortunate that we did not sustain any damage. To show our support to families affected, city leaders and first responders, we were pleased to deliver food over the course of the week, offering nourishment and comfort. 

Best Seafood

Blue Marlin 

Best Healthy Restaurant

Zoës Kitchen 

Best Food Truck

2 Fat 2 Fly 

Best Wait Staff

Mr. Friendly’s 

Best Wine Shop

Morganelli’s Party Store

Best Fast Food Restaurant


What were some touching acts of kindness? The Atlanta area Chick-fil-A operators donated 25,000 Dasani® waters that were distributed to water distribution points throughout the city as well as the emergency shelters and recovery centers for impacted and evacuated citizens.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? It was an honor to provide complimentary Chick-fil-A meals to many of our brave public service officers and community volunteers who gave countless hours and energy to help serve our amazing community.

Best Chinese

Eggroll Chen

Best Greek

Devine Foods

Best Italian

Villa Tronco 

How did the flooding affect your business? The flooding occurred right when we were scheduled to participate in the Italian Festival, which was expecting about 30,000 visitors. All of the food was already ordered. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? My employees came in without pay when they could and cooked for the first responders, EMS and news stations such as WISTV and WLTX. We are so proud of the dedication of our staff! We had so much food prepared for the Italian Festival that we couldn’t use, so sharing it with our neighbors and friends was the perfect thing to do. It was the most wonderful feeling to bring hot, home-cooked food to the police and fire departments when they were out helping others who were wet and miserable in the rain.

Best Japanese


Best Mexican

Cantina 76

Best Sushi Restaurant 


Best Thai

Basil Thai Cuisine

Heyward Brabham, owner of Brabham Fence, stands in front of a newly installed fence at the Quail Racquet & Swim Club that was destroyed during the “thousand-year flood.”


Best NEW Boutique

Scout & Molly’s

Best Women’s Clothing

Copper Penny 

Best Women’s Evening Wear


Best Women’s Shoes

Gwen Rawls Shoes

What were some touching acts of kindness? Seeing so many people volunteer their time to staff shelters and offer their homes to those who were displaced from their homes.

Best Men’s Clothing

Brittons of Columbia 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We came out on the other side of this disaster physically unscathed but deeply affected by the plight of our friends and neighbors, the community we have been a part of for 66 years. To aid the recovery effort, we launched a #BrittonsUnited campaign at the beginning of November. As a part of this campaign, we sold a number of limited edition items, donated by popular brands, with 100 percent of the proceeds going toward United Way of the Midlands flood relief. We also celebrated the giving season with a variety of events benefitting United Way of the Midlands and the South Carolina National Guard.

Best Men’s Formal Wear

BP Skinner Clothiers

Best Men’s Shoes

Brittons of Columbia 

Best Children’s Clothing

Little Lambs & Ivy 

What amazing survival story do you know about? Many of our customers had their homes wiped out, plus many more had severe flooding issues. Our hearts were moved over the stories we heard: the family whose hiccuping newborn baby woke up the household to find the floodwaters to their ankles, the family whose son was carried out of the second floor window by the firefighters with Mom and Dad swimming behind, and so many more. These are our friends!

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We called our favorite vendors who were also moved by the stories of families with newborns or toddlers suddenly without anything. Boxes and boxes came pouring in from Kissy Kissy, Little English, Mulberry Street and Le Top. 

Best Children’s Shoes 

Tootsies Children’s Shoes

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We gave more than 150 pairs of shoes to children that were victims of the flood. After the flood, Seven Oaks Magnate School sent pictures and letters of smiling happy children in their new shoes. Amid such devastation, brightness shines.

Best Bridal Wear

London and Lace

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? In the two weeks after the flood we spent time organizing relief efforts for the Pine Glen community that was hit hard. Our efforts with social media organized more than 500 volunteers in the first week alone and we made an enormous amount of new friends in the process. 

How did the flooding affect your business? Although our business was not damaged, in the following weeks we discovered that more than 20 bridal appointments were cancelled which hurt us tremendously. We know that our faith will get us through it, just like our new friends in this strong state of ours. 

Best Weekend Wear

Pink Sorbet A Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store

What acts of bravery did you witness? We will never forget the rescue efforts of many individuals in the neighborhood of Lake Katherine. Brave men navigated boats to rescue families, senior citizens and even our golden retriever. They worked tirelessly for many, many hours to ensure the safety of others. What a selfless act! Those men are heroes.

Best Jewelry Store


What were some touching acts of kindness? The acts of kindness have been abundant, but what we found really great were the sites on Facebook that normally sell items were actually giving things away to flood victims instead of looking for a profit. 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We are very proud of how our city pulled together in a time where all hope could have been lost.

How did the flooding affect your business? The flooding has definitely caused our traffic to be slower. A lot of our client base was hit very hard.

Nori Warren, DVM, and Tracy Wales, DVM, owners of Four Paws Animal Clinic, suffered terribly from the flood with waters reaching above door thresholds; however, they found hope through their clients who came out in droves to volunteer, donate and support them.

Best Bridal Registry 


Best Accessories

Monkee’s of Columbia

Best Gift Store

Just the Thing 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? So many friends, neighbors and customers were affected. We were most inspired by the victims and how so many mentioned how God and the outpouring of love from others have gotten them through it. Strangers helping strangers by the hundreds was a remarkable sight! 

Best Vision Wear

Devine Eyes

Best Toy Store

Be Beep 

Best Clothing Consignment Store


What were some touching acts of kindness? Seeing so many people, both local and from other cities and states, coming down to lend a hand. One woman, Rita, was there every single day. Her kindness impressed everyone she came in contact with. She is a hero. 

Best Antique Store

Old Mill Antique Mall 

Best Frame Shop

Havens Fine Framing

Best Art Supply Store

City Art 

Best Pet Boutique

Dalespets Grooming Salon

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We were so happy to hear that a lot of the shelters were taking pets. Columbia stepped up and made it a priority to try to accommodate every member of the family.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We offered 40 percent off to any flood victims. It is our way of trying to help.

Best Pet Supply Store

Mill Creek Pet Food Center 

Best Hunting/Fishing Store

Barron’s Outfitters 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We are very proud of how quickly the citizens reacted when the storm waters rose and flooded many areas. While we were fortunate at Barron’s to avoid damages caused by the storm waters, we knew many of our customers could be and would be in harm’s way. We are most proud of the actions of Frank Roddey, a highly valued employee of Barron’s Outfitters. It comes as no surprise to us that he put the safety of others ahead of his own. Along with his father and a few of their friends they took selfless actions that saved lives. While their actions during the storm were detailed in an article in The State, we felt Frank deserved another opportunity to be recognized for his heroic deed. While Frank will never seek to gain personally from the events of that day he indeed warrants our heartfelt “thank you.” We at Barron’s could not be more proud to call Frank our friend. Frank is what helps make Barron’s Outfitters “Best of Columbia!”

Best Outdoor Store

The Backpacker Quality Gear 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? One person in our family lives on Lake Katherine and had a flooded home and cars. The outreach of neighbors was exceptional for them and meant so much. It was certainly inspirational to witness people coming together in the aftermath of such a calamity!

Best Running Specialty Store Strictly Running 

Best Bicycle Specialty Store

Outspokin’ Bicycles 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? After the flood, we offered free “flood mitigation” tune ups. We emptied the water out of the bikes, lubricated everything and cleaned them. We have done more than 40 bicycles. It was great to be able to contribute. Everyone was very appreciative, and we were glad to have helped out our neighbors.  

Best Gamecock Store

Garnet and Black Traditions 

Best Mattress Store

Best Mattress 

What were some touching acts of kindness? We were honored to make a delivery of requested items to some apartment complexes. Interestingly, at every stop we were told that they already had all that they needed, but to take them to another location. We also called to offer to volunteer the day after the flood and were told that they were filled with volunteers. To us this is a touching act of kindness from people throughout Columbia. There was a need and that need was met ... immediately ... over and over again.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We put out our version of a PSA, offering assistance to anyone affected by the flood that needed a mattress. When our friends and neighbors lost so much, it was something that we could do.

Best Office Furnishings

Corporate Concepts

Best Office Supply Store

Gann Office Suppliers

Best Shopping Venue

Trenholm Plaza

What were some touching acts of kindness? We were proud of our retailers who stepped up to help their community — from free meals for flood victims and first responders, to discounts on services needed and just being open during such a disaster as a place for water, food or essentials.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Along with First Citizens Bank, Trenholm Plaza hosted the Bill Ellis Barbecue truck from Wilson, North Carolina. More than 2,000 meals were served to the community just days after the flood. 



Best NEW Home Community

The Reserve on the Saluda

Best Apartment Complex

5000 Forest Apartments

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Estates & Companies is thankful that our communities were able to respond immediately to aid in the Columbia flood relief efforts. Our doors were open to assist those in need, with our residents and employees responding enthusiastically. The success of our supply drive is attributable to efforts made by both our residents and employees to promote the drive throughout the city, state and country. Our employees volunteered their time and energy to deliver the necessities raised through the drive and assist individuals affected by the flood. Our city has been able to rise above the tragedy and return stronger than ever.

Best Condominiums


Best Retirement Community

Still Hopes Episcopal 

Best Assisted Living

Lutheran Homes

Best Home Builder

Mungo Homes 

Best Home Remodeler

Palmetto Construction & Renovations

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? The way people of Columbia came together to help — police officers from USC, a teacher who had the day off, students from USC, City of Columbia firefighters, and the list goes on and on, all volunteering to help with the demolition efforts. There are stories like this all across our city of people rolling up their sleeves to help. Everyone doing a small part to help neighbors in need.

Best General Contractor

Cohn Construction Services, LLC

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We were taken aback by the outpouring of community involvement in helping others. We saw an immediate shift by our neighbors from their normal daily lives to tirelessly and selflessly help people in our community. We saw friends and neighbors do everything from helping clean up debris to welcoming displaced families into their homes. We have never been more proud of Columbia than in its biggest time of need. 

How did the flooding affect your business? In the time of such a significant disaster, our business came secondary to the safety and well-being of our associates and staff. We closed our business for two days to ensure that our staff would be safe and able to be at home with their families throughout the duration of the tragedy. Although many of our active construction sites had flooding and erosion issues, these problems seemed small in the grand scheme of what was happening around us. We were blessed to have some very understanding clients and were able to get our job sites cleaned up and back operational in a relatively short amount of time.

Best Home Furnishings

Ethan Allen

Best Outdoor Furniture Store

Casual Living 

What new friends or neighbors did you get to know because of the flood? There were so many thoughtful and kind gestures provided everywhere. As we were not directly affected at either our home or two stores (all in Forest Acres), we were a bit more on the periphery of things. At our home, we have a spacious and private guest room above our garage, and we were happy to let someone who was flooded out of their home stay there until they found another place. We had the great pleasure of getting to know a couple who are not immediate neighbors but live in our neighborhood, and were happy to be able to help in some small way. 

Best Furniture Consignment Store

Main Street Home 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We are contributing to the recovery by discounting the purchases of the flood victims who are re-furnishing their homes during the next 12 months, and we are donating all of the furniture for at least one flood victim’s home. 

Best Custom Furniture 

Strobler Home Furnishings

Best Furniture Refinisher 

Colonial Woodworks

Best Appliance Store

Jeffers McGill Appliance and Furniture 

What acts of bravery did you witness? There are so many heros and touching stories. The men in the boats, the man that swam out to the truck to save another man that drove into the flood … it was a blessing that we did not have more casualties. The best survival story is of a friend’s parents being rescued by boat from their deck on Wood Lake Road. They pulled right up to the French doors and pulled them out. That was an angel in a jon boat! What a Southern story. The bravery of the first responders and citizens of this city make us all very proud.

How did the flooding affect your business? We are doing all we can to help people try to value and replace there lost possessions. Our store was lucky to have no flooding. We have been very busy with the customers who had such great loss. 

Best Glass Store

Ace Glass Company 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We are most proud of the selfless generosity seen throughout the entire Columbia community. Our neighborhood was flooded as well as part of our home and both cars. We were so grateful to all the people who walked our streets going house to house to help out.

Best Flooring

Flooring by Cogdill 

Best Wallpaper/Wall Covering Store

Wallpaper Additions 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? The love and compassion shown was beautiful. The community came together in prayer and the outpouring of help made us feel so proud that we live in Columbia.

Best Home Specialty Store

Tile Center, Inc. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Having experienced flood damage ourselves, we can certainly empathize with our community who suffered devastating losses. To help in the recovery efforts, we have offered discounts to anyone suffering flood damage, and will continue to do so in the upcoming months. In this small way, we hope to make rebuilding a little less costly to our friends and neighbors.

Best Gardening Store

Woodley’s Garden Center 

What were some touching acts of kindness? Many of our community and out-of-state vendors reached out to us in making sure we that were okay. We are so proud to be part of such a compassionate community and industry. Prayers and concern for all who have lost and continue to struggle.

Best Fence Company

Brabham Fence

Best Swimming Pool Company

Jack Oliver’s Pool, Spa and Patio

How did the flooding affect your business? Although our business was not structurally affected by the flood, we have been helping folks get their pools back in order and cleaned up. 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? After the flood, the thing that made us most proud was how the small business owners in Forest Acres all pulled together to lift each other back up and get our close-knit community back on its feet. Folks worked tirelessly cleaning up homes and businesses to help their neighbors start heading back in the right direction. Hopefully, we will never experience anything like this again, but if we do, we know that we have friends and neighbors who are always willing to help. 


Best Farmer’s Market

Soda City 

Best Festival

Greek Festival 

Best Exercise Facility

barre3 Columbia

What amazing survival story do you know about? One of our wonderful clients, Laura, was out of town for the weekend, and had one of our child care staff members, Sophia, babysitting her three young children. The flood waters came into the house very quickly in the early hours of the morning, and Sophia sprang into action. She stayed calm and safely got all three children out of the house, with the help of two other barre3 families. Sophia said the whole day she and the kids were taken care of by the same mommas and kiddos who she sees in the studio. After the water went down, these same families jumped into action and helped Laura and her family clean out their entire home. It was so devastating to see the damage, but so inspiring to see all of our barre3 families come together to help this amazing family. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? Our entire staff felt lead to jump in and help wherever they could. Our instructors, front desk and child care staff were all over Columbia volunteering, cleaning out homes and delivering meals. Our staff has a text chain to keep in touch, and it was filled with opportunities to help and loving sentiments. Our studio also collected thousands of dollars in gift cards to distribute to the community, and to our clients who were affected. This was a terrible tragedy for our city, but to see the bond and strength that came out of it was amazing.

Best Wine and Paint Studio

The Mad Platter

What were some touching acts of kindness? Debbie McDaniel and Margaret Hane Murphy were the Patron Saints of Facebook! These two women could coordinate for the City of Columbia anytime if it were up to me. They could coordinate so many different volunteers within seconds. 

Best Golf Course

Cobblestone Park Golf Club

How did the flooding affect your business? We were very fortunate that the historic rains and flooding had minimal effect on the course and property. There were signs of high water levels on the golf course; however, because of the hilly terrain, the water drained quickly. The biggest effect was many of our customers were not as fortunate, causing a temporary drop in business. Several golf outings had to be cancelled or moved to different dates as well as many of our “regular” golfers were dealing with the aftermath.

Best Lodging

Inn at USC Wyndham Garden


Best Facial

Urban Nirvana

Best Massage

Urban Nirvana

Best Nail Salon

OCCO Luxury Spa

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We were most impressed with the huge outpouring of local, Columbia support. Tons (literally) of food, clothing and diapers were collected before the National Guard was even present. The countless volunteers and businesses that contributed to the effort really exemplified what this city is about — coming together and supporting one another. OCCO is proud to be a member of such a giving group of people.

How did the flooding affect your business? We were closed for part of the week while we waited for the water situation to improve. After day four of being closed, we came up with several modified procedures so that we could return to operation while still maintaining a high quality of service and a healthy experience for clients. We were elated when the water advisory was lifted.

Best Hair Salon

Metropolis Salon & Dry Bar

Best Spa

OCCO Luxury Spa

Best Florist

Rosewood Florist

Best Caterer

Southern Way Catering

Best Event Planner

Cricket Newman Designs

What were some touching acts of kindness? There was so much kindness and bravery as our neighborhood was struck with terrible flood waters. Total strangers arrived in boats and worked for hours in the rain rescuing total strangers from their homes.

Best Wedding Planner

Meagan Warren Weddings 

Best Bridal Photographer 

Landon Jacob Photography

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We are so proud of our city in the way so many people came together to help and love on each other. It was immediate, and automatic with no hesitation. It was a beautiful picture of community!

Best Wedding Venue

701 Whaley 

How did the flooding affect your business? We were very fortunate to not be affected by the rain or flood. We were also happy to be able to accommodate two weddings that had outdoor venues that were unusable because of all the rain.

Best Pet Boarding

Wescott Acres Luxury Pet Resort and Rescue

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We were fortunate to have no storm damage, and right away we reached out to local police, the fire department and military personnel offering to take in displaced pets and pets of families who had to relocate and could not take their pets with them. We kept them at no charge to their families. As a result, we received more than 60 cats and dogs. Most were from families who had to quickly evacuate their home. Many pets were also “displaced.” We received litters of kittens found in flooding areas and dogs that were wandering flooded neighborhood areas as if they didn’t know how to get “home.” So many people were kind and helped pets who had nowhere to go, and we were happy to take those pets in.

Best Pet Grooming 

Groomingdales of Columbia 

Best Vet

Four Paws Animal Clinic

In the middle of this tragedy, where did you find hope and inspiration? After the flood our clients came out in droves to help us. They came to give, and gave generously, and then gave more. They lifted us, gave us optimism, hope, encouragement and inspiration. Within days we received thousands of dollars in donations, and hundreds of hours of volunteer work. With that kind of support we knew we would get through this disaster.

Best Chiropractor

Dr. Shelly Jones, Chiropractic Wellness Center, Inc. 

What were some touching acts of kindness? I was touched by how many of our patients were calling, texting or contacting me on Facebook to make sure we were safe and had no damage. Patients left water on our doorstep!

How did the flooding affect your business? I was traveling back into Columbia on Sunday from a continuing education seminar, but the interstates had closed and there was no way to get into Forest Acres, so I spent the night in Augusta, Georgia, and we had to close Monday. I returned Monday evening, but because the major streets had some closures or problems, it was a problem for patients to get into the office on their normal path. What would have been a 5 to 10 minute commute was a 30 to 60 minute commute. Our patients are the best, though, and they were here!

Best Dry Cleaner

Tripp’s Fine Cleaners

What were some touching acts of kindness? While helping at several homes in the Lake Katherine neighborhood, we saw people, whose own homes were devastated, inside another person’s home helping a complete stranger move items out of the house. One person purchased an entire tractor-trailer of water and offered bottled water to anyone that needed it. We had a supplier in California call and offer to donate three pallets of clothing bags for people to be able to move items out of their homes.

Has your business contributed to the flood recovery? After the flood, our employees went into homes and helped people remove wet, dirty clothing and take it in for drying and cleaning. Over the course of a week, we collected and cleaned items for more than 100 families in the Columbia/Irmo/Lexington areas. Given the nature of the disaster and the economical affect it had on so many, we also cleaned these items at our regular retail prices instead of our typical fire, smoke, water damage restoration prices, which is a discount of 40 percent.

Best Carpet Cleaner

Stanley Steemer of Columbia 

In the middle of this tragedy, where did you find hope and inspiration? While on many job sites, we witnessed so many people coming together to help strangers, neighbors and friends during this tragedy. We are very proud of Columbia and our state of South Carolina.

How did the flooding affect your business? We were extremely busy helping customers with the flood damage to their homes and businesses. It was devastating to witness people who lost everything during these historic floods.

Best Chimney Sweep

Top Hat Sweepers 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? I am not a native Columbian, but I have lived here for 35 years. I have always enjoyed the opportunity for business growth here, the incredible arts culture, the rich history and the Gamecocks. But it was after the flood that I realized what I truly love about being part of Columbia. It is the incredibly strong and gracious people who make up the fabric of the city. We are #famouslystrong.

Best Heating/Air Service

2nd Wind Heating & Air Conditioning

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? The selfless sacrifice that neighbors were willing to make for their community. All Columbians banded together for the greater good and still continue to do so.

How did the flooding affect your business? Our staff was working day and night to find an expedient solution to everyone’s problems. Our installation department was and continues to stay booked three to four weeks out due to the flooding of ductwork and systems located in basement areas. We also had a small cold spurt that added to our already full schedule a few weeks after the flood.

Best Pest Control

Clark’s Termite & Pest Control

Best Mosquito Company

Mosquito Squad

Best Hardscape Company

Hay Hill Services & Garden Market

What acts of bravery did you witness? A key employee’s son, Frank Roddey, drove down Shady Lane in his boat rescuing people from their homes. It made us proud of this fine young man.

In the middle of this tragedy, where did you find hope and inspiration? We found hope in the selfless acts of strangers helping strangers and in witnessing how the worst of nature brought out the best in human nature.

Best Landscaping Company

Hay Hill Services & Garden Market

Best Lawn Maintenance Company

Blue Moon Landscaping

What acts of bravery did you witness? During the pre-dawn hours of Sunday Oct. 4, Justin Pifer noticed an unusually high amount of water in his rain gauge, and as a weather buff he knew this was a problem. Without hesitation, he headed just down the road on a rescue mission with a friend. They rescued some stranded motorists from their cars, and then by way of his canoe, began to help others escape their homes from the rapidly rising flood waters. He became known through the news media as “the canoe guy.” In the week that followed, he helped clean up and remove debris and personal items from homes along with teams of others who ceased their normal lives to minister to the urgent needs of others. We are so proud Justin is a part of our Blue Moon Family. 

Best Tree Service

Sox and Freeman Tree Expert Company

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? In the days following the flood, we were very impressed with the turnout of volunteers to help flood victims. During a tree emergency in the South Beltline area, it was impossible to get a truck there because so many cars and pickup trucks from volunteers were lining the street helping people deal with the flood damage.

Best Plumbing Company

Superior Plumbing & Gas

Best Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor Lighting Perspectives

Best Interior Designer (Commerical)

Katherine J. Anderson Design/Interiors

What were some touching acts of kindness? Jane Hearn and her family were so compassionate to their neighbors. I was impressed with her huge heart, determination to help and her tireless gifts of help doing the hard and dirty stuff. I was reminded of her enormous strength of character.

What new friends or neighbors did you get to know because of the flood? I was lucky enough to reconnect with a childhood friend of mine and her mother, in whose house my group hung out during high school. Bettie’s house was flooded on Burwell Lane and her daughter, Rebecca, came to clear out and work on the house. They both stayed with me and between the tears we had laughs about high school adventures.

Best Interior Designer (Residential)

LGB Interiors

In the middle of this tragedy, where did you find hope and inspiration? Forest Lake Fabrics is very important to LGB Interiors. Not only has the Marsha family been close friends since childhood, but their business plays a huge role in the design industry of Columbia. When the flood water hit, the building was devastated and all of the inventory washed out of the front door and across Forest Drive. It was hard to even look at the pictures that were plastered all over the local and national media of a place that we visit almost every week. Even though the situation appeared hopeless, the community stepped up and countless volunteers arrived on the day of the cleanup. They had the entire building cleared out in four hours. We have been inspired by the community and its effort to support this amazing business, helping them get back on their feet and continuing what their family has been doing for generations, selling beautiful fabrics in Columbia. 

Best Residential Painter

Coggins Wallcoverings

Best Moving Company

Two Men and a Truck

What were some touching acts of kindness? We saw people delivering food to residents that were busy cleaning their homes and unable to go anywhere as their vehicles had been lost in the flood. We also noticed many people finishing the cleanup at their own homes and then going over to assist their neighbors. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We have donated more than 2,800 boxes and other packing materials to help those affected pack personal belongings or to help distribute donations that the community collected for those affected by the flooding.

Best Car Dealer

Jim Hudson Lexus

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We loaned 25 to 30 cars immediately to victims of the flood. The majority of these were previous customers, but some were total strangers. We felt the need to provide those who had lost everything a car to help get them on the road to recovery as quickly as possible. 

Best Used Car Dealership

Jim Hudson Lexus

Best Car Rental Agency

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We were proud to see our employees volunteering to hand out water, serve meals and collect supplies for victims. Enterprise moved thousands of vehicles into South Carolina to make cars available for those whose vehicles were flooded, and our Enterprise Holdings Foundation donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross to assist in relief efforts.

Best Auto Repair Company

Whetzel’s Automotive 

Best Tire Store

Nuttall Tire

Best Boat Dealer

Mid-Carolina Marine

Best Insurance Agency 

State Farm

Best Insurance Agent

Brad Giles, Giles Brothers Insurance

What were some touching acts of kindness? Just the overall charity of our community that crossed all cultural, racial and socio-economic lines. At the end of the day, we’re all South Carolinians, and we help each other.

Best Mortgage Bank

Midland Mortgage Corporation

Best Real Estate Agent

Jill Moylan, Home Advantage Realty 

In the middle of this tragedy, where did you find hope and inspiration? On Sept. 30, Forest Acres Police Officer Greg Alia, was killed in the line of duty. Less than one week later, his widow Kassy Alia, was volunteering to help those hurt by the flood. To me, Kassy Alia was grace personified.

Best Real Estate Agency (Commercial)

NAI Avant

What part of the aftermath made you proud of Columbia? As a company, we collectively witnessed countless acts of heroism and compassion in the days and weeks following the flood. But it was the resiliency that makes us most proud. After leaving a cleanup site just days after the flood, one of our brokers, Boyd Brown, passed a handmade sign that had been posted in a victim’s yard that quoted Psalm 118, “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad.” Even in the direst of circumstances, our citizens refused to yield to the deadly waters and instead faced them head on united together as one.

Best Real Estate Agency (Residential)

Home Advantage Realty

Best Staffing Agency

Recruiting Solutions

Best Travel Agency

Forest Lake Travel

Best Modeling Agency 

Millie Lewis Columbia



Best Art Gallery 

Columbia Museum of Art 

Best Live Theatre

Trustus Theatre

In the middle of this tragedy, where did you find hope and inspiration? The staff and artists at Trustus were able to witness the preventative efforts of the National Guard, which was stationed across Huger Street right by the theater. The dedication of the service men and women to our community was uplifting. 

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? We took flood relief from the attendees at our Dick Goodwin and His Big Band fundraiser on Oct. 11, 2015 — a week after the major flooding began. Patrons brought canned foods and baby needs for flood victims, and many of them were thankful to attend an uplifting concert from local jazz legend Dick Goodwin. We were thankful to be able to provide a positive experience when the community needed it most. 

Best Museum

South Carolina State Museum

What were some touching acts of kindness? In the first few days after the flooding occurred, we saw EdVenture, our great neighbor, sending their staff out into the shelters and neighborhoods to provide learning and fun playing opportunities for children who were affected by tragedy. This act of thoughtfulness, to provide something fun for the children, warmed our hearts. Kudos to them.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? The State Museum offered a free kids weekend and first responders and their families were free the entire month of October. On Nov. 1, we hosted a community day to provide consultation on conservation of items damaged by flood waters, and counseling services for families. We collected oral histories, stories of the flooding, donated all general admission for the day to Central Carolina Community Foundation’s Flood Relief Fund and collected food for Harvest Hope. 

Best Conference Venue

Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We are most proud that selfless acts of kindness and generosity still continue months after the waters receded. The road to recovery will be long for many, but they won’t be on it alone. The long-term dedication to neighbors and strangers alike makes this a special place.

How did the flooding affect your business? We improvised and got creative. We brought in ice and water by the truckload to serve guests, including a plated dinner for 900 people. Many clients couldn’t reschedule, and cancelling would’ve cost them so much. It was a privilege to help their events go on as planned. 

Best Radio Station

104.7 WNOK

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? We were touched by the amount of volunteers from around the Midlands who dropped their normal schedules to pitch in and help friends and neighbors rebuild their lives.

How did the flooding affect your business? Immediately, Ace & TJ and Greg Applebee of 104.7 WNOK, Jonathon and Kelly of 97.5 WCOS, and the rest of our iHeartMedia crew went into action — updating the community multiple times per hour of the latest news surrounding the flood. Partnering with our sister station NewsTalk Radio 560 WVOC, we were able to communicate news from those who were on the ground and at the scene directly and immediately to our listeners. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott even commended us on our being their only source for getting the news out to the public for much of the catastrophe time period.

Has your business contributed to the recovery effort? In addition to airing hundreds of announcements on all six of our Columbia radio stations directing people on how and where to get help, we also sent our most popular radio personalities to Harvest Hope Food Bank to work with their staff in delivering food to those in need.

Best Radio Personality

Jonathon Rush 

What were some touching acts of kindness? The day after the floods I enlisted my two oldest sons, John and David, to go with me to the Lake Katherine area to check on a couple of friends and their homes. We found ourselves walking down Shady Lane asking at each house if anyone needed help. We walked into a large home, filled with flood damaged furniture. We moved the sofa and the soaked pillows and cushions to the side of the road from folks who lives had been turned upside down. I pray their family was able to find replacements that resembled their previous furnishings. 

Best TV Station


Best TV News Anchor

Judi Gatson

What amazing survival story do you know about? I’ll never forget a man named Ty. It was his turn to open their church that Sunday morning. He didn’t know service had been cancelled so he ventured out in the weather to make sure the church would be open for praise and worship. Along the way, his truck got stuck near one of the dam breaks and the water started rising trapping him inside. Instead of staying on the phone with 911 dispatch he decided to stay on the phone with his wife who was desperately trying to get emergency crews to his location. We were tweeting back and forth trying to get help with the rescue. Someone made their way to him but couldn’t get him out. Then, it took a while for his wife to respond. I just prayed. Eventually, she tweeted and said her husband was on his way home! Miraculously, someone managed to break the windshield and get him out. I remember doing a praise dance and just thanking the Lord. Later that night I received the nicest email from him which, in part, said, “Still shaking some but not as bad. Hugging my spectacular wife and fantastic German shepherd, Terra. I appreciate my family even more than ever.” Ty’s story will stay with me forever. I’m hoping to meet him one day.

What new friends or neighbors did you get to know because of the flood? I had the honor and privilege of getting to know some of the wonderful people of the Pine Glen neighborhood. It was amazing to see neighbors helping neighbors, even as they were dealing with their own devastating losses. It was also uplifting to see their incredible faith. Many of them lost everything they owned and didn’t even know if they’d be allowed to rebuild but they were still counting their blessings. In fact, they’re already planning to have a big neighborhood cookout this summer to thank all the first responders and volunteers who helped them recover from the floods.

Best TV Sportscaster 

Rick Henry 

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? I was touched by how our community responded to help out our friends and neighbors. I assisted with our news coverage during the flooding and spent time at one of the shelters. It was amazing to see cars and trucks pull up non-stop loaded down with water and food. I’m also very proud of the college and high school sports teams that helped and continue to support the recovery effort.

Best TV Weatherperson

Ben Tanner 

What acts of bravery did you witness? Several residents navigating by boat to save elderly neighbors with no way out.

What were some touching acts of kindness? Elementary students earning lemonade stand money in their driveways days afterward to donate to the American Red Cross.

What amazing survival story do you know about? A good friend, his wife and their five children barely escaping to safety holding on to patio furniture to keep them afloat for about 100 yards to dry land down the road.

What part of the aftermath made you most proud of Columbia? Friends of the devastated still working with neighbors in the recovery to this day.

Best Live Music Venue

Township Auditorium 

Best Local Band

Atlas Road Crew

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