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 Chicken Salad
The Gourmet Shop
Best French Fries
Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Pawleys Front Porch
Best Fried Chicken
Sandy’s Famous Hot Dogs
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 Shrimp and Grits
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.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Best Iced Tea
Tiffany’s Bakery and Eatery
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
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 Frozen Yogurt
32° A Yogurt Bar
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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 Healthy Restaurant
Best Food Truck
2 Fat 2 Fly
Best Wait Staff
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.
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 Sushi Restaurant
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
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
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
Best Toy Store
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
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
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
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
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
Best Office Supply Store
Gann Office Suppliers
Best Shopping Venue
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 Retirement Community
Still Hopes Episcopal
Best Assisted Living
Best Home Builder
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
Best Outdoor Furniture Store
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
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 suc