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BEST OF THE COAST | Vol. 11, No. 38, October 15, 2009
(Best of the Coast 2009)

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Winner: Best Independent Market, Best Take Out
Top 3 Finish: Best Gourmet/Specialty Food

From the outside Apple Market looks like your typical mom and pop grocery.

But once inside, you'll quickly find that it's much more.

"We have executive chefs in our grocery store the same capabilities that a lot of luxury hotels have," says owner David Apple. "We have homemade dishes, salads and desserts that we are able to produce under supervision of a skilled chef.

"There are more than 20 people in the deli operation to help make that high-quality food."

This year the market takes home the BOC awards for Best Take Out and Best Independent Market.Apple says it shows that his store is providing great products at a great value.

"We're honored and very proud of our staff," he says. "And we're committed to continuing the same course that we're on."

Winner: Best New Retail Shop, Best Place to Buy Wine

What does it mean for Aragon Wine Market owner Charlotte Gordon to win two BOC awards?

"I have worked very hard at the wine store on a daily basis to make it exactly what I hoped it would become: a comfortable, nice place to buy quality wine."

Gordon says she worked six months to develop a business plan to ensure she would have the foundation to make the business a success and be able to provide wine from all over the world.

Winner: Best Commercial Real Estate Agency, Best Rising Leader- Justin Beck

There is no shortage of real estate agents in the Pensacola area. That's why Justin Beck of Beck Property Company says it's such an honor for his company win the Best Commercial Real Estate Agency award.

"It's a huge honor for us," he says. "It absolutely without a doubt falls back on our people as an organization."

Beck is also the winner of the Best Rising Leader award, which he says is a "very cool responsibility."

"It's a surprise," he says. "I saw the other people nominated and it's an honest surprise."

Winner: Best Boutique
Top 3 Finish: Best New Retail Shop

Newcomer Belle Ame Handmade Bath and Body is this year's BOC winner for Best Boutique. The boutique has made an impact by offering handmade bath products with the finest ingredients.

Winner: Best Jeweler Overall
Top 3 Finishes: Best Place to Buy Engagement Ring, Best Unique Jewelry

This year marks the 25th anniversary for Bere Jewelers in Pensacola-a year in which IN voters named it the Best Jeweler Overall.

"To be thought of that way is pretty cool," says owner Barry Cole. "We started as just a small jeweler that sort of catered to a lot of custom work and we've kind of evolved over the years."

Bere offers large selection of  jewelry, including engagement rings.

"We do a huge engagement ring business-a lot of military business here," he says. "We also do a ton of stuff for the community. It's why I think we have had such a great year, even in these bad economic times.

"We've been blessed to have been able to wrap our arms around the community."

Winner: Best Bridal Store

According to The Bridal Loft owner Brenda Carraway, the bridal business is built on creating a dependable reputation.

"It becomes a referral business," she says. "If you mess up, they will tell the world. You definitely have to know everything about the business."

Being voted Best Bridal Store is something Carraway says is the greatest honor because it is the brides who are voting.

"That's my goal," she says. "It's very exciting to have our brides believe in us and give us business."

Winner: Best Residential Real Estate Agency
Top 3 Finish: Best Commercial Real Estate Agency

Why is Coldwell Banker the Best Residential Real Estate Agency in the area?

According to Director of Marketing Connie Lewis, her company's success is a reflection of great agents who provide great customer satisfaction.

"It mirrors the exceptional customer satisfaction our agents get day in and day out," Lewis says with pride.

 "It's all about the agents. We're nothing without the agents."

Winner: Best Cigar Shop

With three different lounges and a backyard patio, it's no wonder area smokers lover to hang out at Cordova Cigars.

"We have a domino lounge, a TV lounge and a patio outback where we have a lot of events," says manager Tom Morton.

For the past three  years, Cordova Cigars has won over IN cigar aficionados. You have to admire owner Robbie Morton's style. He opened the Ninth Avenue location with a bang, hosting cigar celebrity Ernesto Padilla, whose cigar brands include the new Padilla Signature 1932.

Cordova Cigars offers a selection of over 700 fine cigars including some that are very hard to find, and will special order a brand for customers if they don't have it.

Besides its comfortable, luxurious smoking areas, Cordova Cigars offers large selection of tobacco accessories, including premium lighters and cigar cutters, pipes, pipe tobacco and pipe accessories

Winner: Best Store for Musical Instruments

For the sixth consecutive year, the Best Store for Musical Instruments is Dollarhide's Music & Sound. The business provides everything from pianos to saxophones and offers rentals for grade school bands.

Winner: Best Skin Care

Skin care has become a very important topic in the past decade, with products and treatments becoming more readily available than ever before.

To be a successful in the skin care industry generally takes a great level of respect and a reputation for quality

"The Best of the Coast award just proves the fact that Dr. Welch is on top of his game and he's the best of the best and the patrons feel so as well," says Kim Grant, Director of Corporate Marketing at the Medical Center Clinic. "He provides quality, compassion, knowledge and experience.

"I think the people who voted for him also understand that in addition to his credentials he is someone who gives back to the community and is a person who is entrenched here."

Winner: Best Bank

Gulf Coast Community Bank is this year's Best Bank for the second consecutive year.

"It's all about the people who work here, particularly the people out front and how people are treated on the phone," says bank president Buzz Ritchie. "A lot of effort goes into paying attention to public."

Ritchie says his company prides itself in directly speaking with its customers.

"When you call our bank for help you are talking to a human being," he says. "We are not a 1-800 machine."

Winner: Best Hotel

This full-service hotel on the Gulf of Mexico has won this category for four consecutive years. Hotel guests enjoy the heated indoor pool, large free-form heated outdoor pool with its Latitudes Beach Bar, whirlpool and exercise room-all the while enjoying a breathtaking view of the Gulf.

It may be time to sneak away for a couple nights. Just tell your boss that you're at a conference.

Winner: Best Tattoo/Piercing Shop

Its slogan is "Make art NOT money!" IN readers choose Hula Moon year after year because Hula Moon definitely does art. When you've made the serious commitment to permanently mark your body, Hula Moon should be your choice.

Winner: Best Local Photography Studio

Patsy Brown Photography specializes in weddings and approaches them with a unique blend of romance and photojournalism. And yes, each of her photos is worth a thousand words.

Winner: Best Pharmacy

Pensacola Apothecary is the area's only full service, PCAB Accredited compounding pharmacy. It specializes in preparing customized medications for patients as well as offering pharmaceutical grade vitamins and supplements.

Compounding pharmacies differ from retail ones in that their approach to medicine is customized to each patient rather than a one size fits all, dispensing only approach. It's this attention to the individual needs of its customers that won this award.

Winner: Best Pilates

For Pilates Core Training owner Barbara Bruni, being recognized as the best means she and her staff have reached their goal of raising the bar for Pilates instruction in the area.

"Our goal has always been to responsibly represent Pilates in its highest form in Pensacola and to continually raise the bar," she says. "Our instructors stay current with the latest information in the mindbody field of fitness, wellness and rehab principles.

"Our clients mean the world to us and are as passionate about how Pilates makes them feel and look as we are.  It is very rewarding to have your passion become your career and grateful to be recognized for it as well."

Winner: Best Tanning Salon

Although Planet Beach Contemp Spa has established itself as the premier tanning facilityin the area.

Established as a company in 1985, Planet Beach now has locations in 380 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

For the second year in a row, it was been awarded BOC Best Tanning Salon for our area.

"Planet Beach offers convenient, affordable and self-automated spa and UV treatments to help customers achieve total skincare, wellness and stress relief goals while offering high quality skincare and holistic nutrition products," says Monica Cone, local franchise owner.

Winner: Best Antiques

For the third year in a row, Poor Richard's Antiques on 9th Avenue has been voted BOC winner for Best Antiques.

"We have excellent customers and we have very unusual pieces that you won't find just anywhere," says manager Barry Riley. "It's a high-end place with a lot of European specialty items.

"We are thankful to our customers for recognizing us as the best."

Winner: Best Athletic Store

Running Wild prides itself as a place to help runners and athletes perform at their maximum capacity.

Owner Paul Epstein says the Best Athletic Store award reflects that athletic vision and commitment that his store has been known for.

"We have a commitment to our customers' goals," he says. "We're interested in helping them achieve fitness goals instead of just selling stuff.

"We try to be the hub of endurance exercise in terms of proper equipment and proper training."

Winner: Best Hospital
Top 3 Finish: Best Place to Work

Sacred Heart Hospital is proud to be chosen the Best Hospital in Northwest Florida by the readers of the IN for the fourth year in a row, as well as being named as the area's top ranked hospital for overall quality by the National Research Corporation (NRC) for the past 14 years. Sacred Heart has also been named as the NRC Consumer Choice award-winner for Best Doctors and Best Nurses.

Sacred Heart Hospital has 458 beds, including the region's only dedicated Women's and Children's Hospital, a Regional Heart and Vascular Institute, a Level II Trauma Center, a comprehensive Cancer Center, a Surgical Weight Loss Center, and a Regional Joint Replacement Center.

Winner: Best New Car Dealership

Pensacola native Sandy Sansing has become an icon with his TV ads showing him perched atop an elephant and in support of various youth sports teams from the area. Sansing "owns" this category with six consecutive wins.

IN readers believe "Sandy Sansing Can!" when it comes to offering a good deal on a new car. All his dealerships are staffed with professionals ready to make your car purchase as painless as possible.

Skin Beauty Boutique
WINNER: Best Beauty Products

A Best of the Coast newcomer, Skin offers cosmetics and skin care products exclusive to the Pensacola market. Our readers have finally found a fresh alternative to mall cosmetics counters.

Winner: Best Massage, Best Day Spa, Best Salon for Waxing Services
Top 3 Finishes: Best Skin Care, Best Nail Salon, Best Beauty Products

Still Waters Medical Spa considers winning Best Massage, Day Spa and Salon For Waxing Services indications of just how well they've been doing as a business.

"This is a great gauge for us to see how well we are serving our customers and the community," says owner Jeff Aanestad.  "We have already had quite a few new customers who have called for information and appointments thanks to these awards."

This is the fourth year Still Waters has won the Best Day Spa, something Aanestad attributes to the extra effort his group puts forth be the best.

 "It takes attention to detail, searching for and keeping the best providers of care and service in the industry, as well as getting to know our customers so that we can better serve their needs," he says.

Winner: Best Hair Salon

Style Downtown won in one of the most contested Best of the Coast categories, Best Hair Salon. The salon prides itself on being unique and having friendly and creative stylists.

Winner: Best Consignment/Vintage Clothing

What is Suellen's secret for being the Best Consignment/Vintage Clothing shop on the coast?

"It takes great customers and great consigners to give us the winning edge I guess," says owner Suellen Troup. "My customers and consigners I really consider the best."

The store describes itself as being a "fresh, feminine resale environment" that provides name brand products at great prices and provides consigners with 40 percent resale.

Winner: Best Unique Jewelry
Top 3 Finishes: Best Boutique, Best Fashion Accessories

Susan Campbell says her jewelry store offers customers something different that they can't get anywhere else.

That may be why BOC voters have once again voted the store Best Unique Jewelry in Pensacola.

"It's the third year we have won, which is fantastic," says Campbell. "I think we offer a unique jewelry experience for this community, which sets us apart from other jewelers.

"It works well because we have 15 or 16 designers that we represent in our gallery, so we have a lot of diversity in our line."