Best Of 2012

Goods & Services - Staff Picks

Best selection of gold by the pound

Magic Mall
2155 W. Colonial Drive

Nameplates! Doorknockers! Gucci bamboo hoops! Cuban links, herringbones, dookie ropes! Medallions! Dog tags! Caps and grills! On strictly utilitarian purchases like these, it just makes sense to seek out rock-bottom prices. To ensure you're not getting ripped off, hit one of the many gold stalls at the Magic Mall and pay by troy weight, with no poncey designer markup.

Best 24-hour gym for nerds

Familab
1355 Bennett Drive, Longwood 407-406-5946, familab.org

Familab is a "hackerspace": a tool-stocked workshop where creative thinkers of all stripes can come together to teach and learn. Software coders, makers of robots, steampunk solder-monkeys – all can meet for classes in microcontroller platforms and Python programming language, or slip in at any hour to use the 3-D printers, laser cutters and power tools. (It's like the best shop class ever, minus the angry eight-fingered teacher.) If you would prefer to geek out over Arduino and RFID technology rather than kettlebells and endurance gels, this is the 24-hour-access key card to have in your wallet.

Best party venue you never knew existed

The Acre
4421 Edgewater Drive, [email protected]

There's probably a reason you don't know this place exists, and it's because, by and large, only those in the know have used it as the rustic-in-all-the-right-ways venue for parties, festivals, photo shoots and celebrations. It sounds trite to say it, but trust us, this place is magical. It's a little compound in College Park comprised of quirky and rough-hewn garages, barns and outbuildings that have been restored and landscaped just enough to give the place class, but not enough to make it feel generic or precious – instead, it kind of feels like an eccentric neighbor's backyard retreat, a cross between a serene commune and an artist's studio. Owner Tim McMahon has been working on the place diligently, and he hopes to use it to host weddings, shows and parties. If you're not into the outdoors, and the idea of having your guests wander through various buildings, as if in a half-awake dream, sounds more like a nightmare than a party, this place is not for you; but if the idea of holding your wedding/birthday party/whatever in a sterile hall or hotel ballroom makes you cringe, you probably want to check out the Acre.

 

Best selection of bike messenger bags

Ace Metric Cycles
444 W. New England Ave., Winter Park
407-790-7802
acemetric.blogspot.com

There's nothing more perfect – or important, if you're using your bike for more than just recreational riding – than a well-designed bike messenger bag. You want something lightweight, but sturdy. Comfortable, but practical. And of course, you want it to look cool. Ace Metric carries a small but well-curated selection of some of the most well-designed and fashionable bags we've seen – Burro out of Jacksonville, Makr bags (made in Winter Park) and a handful of structured, minimalist bags made by the makers of Linus bikes with padded sleeves so you can safely transport your laptop. Now you have no excuses not to bike to work.

 

Best indie convenience store

Handy Pantry
522 E. Amelia St., 407-423-8954

In the brave new world of Aldis, Super Targets and Walmarts (not to mention 7-Elevens), Handy Pantry, located in the middle of Lake Eola Heights, recalls the charm of old-timey corner stores like those still found up in New Jersey or Massachusetts. Literally a mom-and-pop shop – a mother and father practically live there seven days a week – Handy Pantry offers a decent selection of wine and beer to accompany your typical snack-bag fare. But the real treat is the homemade sandwiches; the deli counter offers a variety of them named after downtown streets (our favorite is the Cathcart!), which you can eat there or rush home with in your laundry-day sweats. They also play host to the neighborhood association's annual block party, which is more fun than it might sound.

 

Best museum store

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
445 N. Park Ave., Winter Park
407-645-5311

Technically, there are probably more adventurous museum gift shops out there – ones that sell a wider variety of the tchotchkes and trinkets and coffee mugs and so forth that have become de rigueur at most museum gift shops. We like the gift shop at the Morse because, like the Morse itself, it's true to form. It focuses on American arts-and-crafts inspired pottery, glassworks, jewelry and bowls, stained-glass panels and accessories modeled on the designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany, to whom this museum is dedicated.

 

Best place to buy local art in your underwear

Twelve21 Gallery online store
twelve21gallery.com/products-page

Twelve21, already rockin' it since 2010 with exhibitions of local art stars and lesser-known discoveries, has added online shopping to the mix with their new website. Check the store, put some art in your cart, and choose shipping or local pickup: easier than Amazon. (Actually, there's no good reason you couldn't go to one of the openings in your underwear. Just don't tell them it was our idea.)

Best relocation

Sam Flax
1800 E. Colonial Drive
407-898-9785, samflaxorlando.com

We were sad when we heard last year that Sam Flax was moving out of its longtime location on the corner of Shine Avenue and Colonial Drive. In our minds, that was the Sam Flax building: Quirky and loud from streetview, complete with a portrait of the business' founder and a mural by Orlando artist Andrew Spear painted on the side, and packed to the hilt with paints, easels, pastels, canvases, portfolios – a working artist's store if ever there was one. But then we saw what they had in store for the new space, just up the road in an old furniture gallery on Colonial. Lots of room to browse, an expanded retail space for gifts and stationary, plenty of floor space for demos, workshops and classes and art markets in the parking lot on weekends. And if we missed the artwork on the old building, the new artwork is even more impressive: Spear's company, Metro Finishes, painted the facade of the building to make it look like it was inspired by Mondrian, and three more murals by local artists – Spear, Swamburger and Charles Marklin – grace the wall next to the store entrance. It's a welcome jolt of color and energy on an otherwise dull strip of Colonial Drive.

 

Best stuffed animals

Walnut Animal Society
walnutanimalsociety.com

Local artisan Lauren Alane Bradshaw, previously known to Etsyers for her needle-felted birds and custom wedding-cake toppers, has bested previous adorable efforts with her Walnut Animal Society collection. Each Wes Anderson-esque fox, bunny, bear or what-have-you is filled with sustainably gleaned kapok, exquisitely stitched and hand-finished, and costumed in removable clothing. The pristine members of Bradshaw's Society are more keepsake material than kid stuff, but they're nearly irresistible to anyone still in touch with that inner child.

 

Best homebrew supply

Heart's Homebrew
6190 Edgewater Drive
407-298-4103
heartshomebrew.com

Heart's Homebrew, a nondescript shop in a strip mall on Edgewater Drive in College Park, is our go-to place when we get the yen for making our own beer and wine. The store has a wide range of homebrewing kits and booze-making equipment that'll suit the novice and advanced homebrewer alike.

Best expansion of the local food movement

Homegrown Food Co-op Farm Store
2310 N. Orange Ave.
407-895-5559, homegrowncoop.org

Since Homegrown has opened its storefront on Orange Avenue, it's only gotten better – more local produce, more local meats and dairy products, a wider selection of prepared treats like popsicles and heavenly homemade flans. But even better: The store is now open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., which means it's super-easy to put your money where it belongs – in the hands of local farmers and producers in our community who grow and raise the food you put on your table.

Best vegan meth

Free ice chips at Artichoke Red
1813 N. Orange Ave., 407-898-3353, artichokered.com

The candy "ice chips" given away free with purchase at Ivanhoe Village vegan supply depot Artichoke Red are homemade, tasty and, well, vegan – all traits that ought to make them unimpeachably wholesome. But the little plastic baggie filled with translucent whitish chips does bear an unfortunate resemblance to Nazi cold. Sweet and habit-forming, though perhaps (thankfully) not as addictive as the street variety.

Best local Zucks

Crunchy Logistics
189 S. Orange Ave., Suite 1530-B
crunchylogistics.com

Young entrepreneur Neil Dufva and his small team of tech-y imaginers at Crunchy Logistics have a thing for interactive screens – big ones. Investing millions into R&D paid off for the Orlando-based pioneers when they unveiled – via viral video, naturally – what they call the "Padzilla," a 70-inch, fully functional iPad that can double as a conference room tabletop, a check-in tool at a luxury hotel or, as currently on display at various Hard Rock Hotel and Casinos, a multimedia tour guide. Next up for the Padzilla: Xbox 360 Kinect integration, retinal technology and, well, a really big carrying case.

 

Best place for green thumbs

Lukas Nursery
1909 Slavia Road, Oviedo, 407-365-6163, lukasnursery.com

As a newbie gardener, you need to know one thing above all else: how not to kill your plants. Which is why we love the sprawling Lukas Nursery in Oviedo. The place is staffed with a welcoming and helpful group of Florida-certified horticultural professionals who'll help you get to know your root rot from your dry rot, and the plant selection is adeptly sorted by variety, height and tolerance to sun exposure. But the best part about this nursery is its Butterfly Encounter, a year-round butterfly conservatory where you can not only watch swarms of pretty, colorful insects flock to the nectar-rich flowers but also feed them from your fingertips.

 

Best way to preserve floral arrangements

Keepsake Floral
724 Brookhaven Drive
800-616-5337
keepsakefloral.com

If you've been married, you know: Brides spend an asinine amount of money on wedding floral arrangements. If you've dished out all that cash for something that's just going to wilt and die anyway, it makes sense to try to get some kind of long-term keepsake out of it, right? It just so happens that Keepsake Floral, a nationally renowned company featured in pubs like Martha Stewart Weddings, calls Orlando home. The company's custom floral-preservation packages range from $100 for something simple to upward of $800 for more elaborate packages. Shadow boxes, glass displays, framed mementos – you name it, they offer it. Keepsake Floral's 10-14 week processing time might seem lengthy, but we're talking about memories here. Plus, your only other option is to let your floral investment go to waste, right? Trust us, it's worth it.

 

Best nostalgic voodoo

Treasures and Artifacts
1263 S. U.S. Highway 17-92
Longwood

Deep in the heart of one of 17-92's many strip malls lies a film lover's must-see: A Hollywood memorabilia and antiques shop – a "uniqueatorium," in fact – where old McDonald's tie-in toys rest in peace beside a 1969 Dark Shadows board game with a boy's gameplay notes still inside. The best part: Ask nicely and the owner might show you his Marwencol-esque, self-assembled and painted G.I. Joe action figures, reimagined to suit his own dream world.

Goods & Services - Reader' Picks

Best adult entertainment store

1st Fairvilla Megastore, 1740 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-425-6005; 7631 International Drive,407-826-1627, fairvilla.com
2nd Premier Adult Factory Outlet, 5009 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-857-2050, premieradult.com
3rd Tease, 6325 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-445-3939 teaseorlando.com

Best bike shop

1st Orange Cycle, 2204 Edgewater Drive, 407-422-5552, orangecycleorlando.com
2nd Kyle's Bike Shop, 203 N. Primrose Drive, 407-228-7088, kylesbikeshop.net
3rd David's World Cycle, mult-iple locations, davidsworld.com

Best CD store

1st Park Ave CDs, 2916 Corrine Drive, 407-447-7275, parkavecds.com
2nd East-West Compact Discs & Tapes, 4895 S. Orange Ave., 407-859-8991
3rd Rock & Roll Heaven, 1814 N. Orange Ave., 407-896-1952, rock-n-rollheaven.com

Best comic book shop

1st A Comic Shop, 114 S. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park, 407-332-9636, acomicshop.com
2nd Coliseum of Comics, multiple locations, coliseumofcomics.com
3rd Acme Superstore, 905 E. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-331-0433, acme-superstore.com

Best custom body shop

1st 809 Auto Worx, 6200 E. Colonial Drive, 321-438-3031, 809 autoworx.com
2nd Daya's Custom Auto, 6650 Kingspointe Parkway, 407-781-1414; 800 Bennett Drive, Longwood, 407-331-5599, dayas.com
3rd Willie's Paint & Body Shop, 4114 Park Lake St., 407-895-8850

Best doggy Daycare

1st Dog Day Afternoon, 1015 Sligh Blvd., 407-835-9200; 200 S. Myrtle Ave., Sanford, 407-328-9205, dogdayafternoon.net
2nd Ranger's Pet Outpost and Retreat, 1239 Minnesota Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-4884, rangerspetoutpost.com
3rd Happy Paws Pet Resort, 12693 E. Colonial Drive, 407-282-5656, happypawsorlando.com

Best locally owned pet supply store

1st Pookie's Pet Nutrition & Bow Wow Bakery, 1980 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-7387, pookiesbowwowbakery.com
2nd Woof Gang Bakery, multiple locations, woofgangbakery.com
3rd Baldwin Bark & Meow Supply, 4836 New Broad St., 407-893-6868, baldwinbark.com

Best dry cleaner

1st Best Cleaners, multiple locations, bestcleanersorlando.com
2nd Acme Cleaners, multiple locations, acmecleaners.com
3rd Adair Custom Cleaners, 1310 Edgewater Drive, 407-422-1946

Best farmers market

1st Winter Park Farmers' Market, 200 W. New England Ave., Winter Park, 407-599-3397, cityofwinterpark.org
2nd Downtown Orlando Farmers Market, Lake Eola Park, corner of East Central Boulevard and North Eola Drive, orlandofarmersmarket.com
3rd Audubon Park Community Market, 1842 E. Winter Park Road, apmarket.wordpress.com

Best garden center

1st Palmer's Garden & Goods, 2611 Corrine Drive, 407-896-5951, palmersgarden.com
2nd Lukas Nursery, 1909 Slavia Road, Oviedo, 407-365-6163, lukasnursery.com
3rd Lowe's, multiple locations, lowes.com

Best furniture store

1st IKEA, 4092 Eastgate Drive, 407-355-3155, ikea.com
2nd Washburn Imports, 1800 N. Orange Ave., 407-228-4403; 116 E. First St., Sanford, 407-322-1449, washburnimports.com
3rd 1618 Something Different, 1618 N. Orange Ave., 407-897-6707, somethingdifferentretro.com

Best hair salon

1st Alchemy, 2812 Edgewater Drive, 407-650-8022, alchemyorlando.com
2nd (tie) Halo Salon and Spa, 1910 Alden Road, 407-898-4256, haloorlando.com
2nd (tie) J. Bauman Salon, 1043 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-9044, jbaumansalon.com
3rd Parlour Salon and Spa, 904 S. Bumby Ave., 407-896-6335, parloursalonandspa.com

Best health food store

1st Whole Foods Market, 8003 Turkey Lake Road, 407-355-7100; 1989 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, 407-673-8788, wholefoodsmarket.com
2nd Chamberlin's Market & Café, multiple locations, chamberlins.com
3rd Hoover's Market, 1035 Academy Drive, Altamonte Springs, 407-869-0000, hooversmarket.com

Best jewelry

1st Jared – The Galleria Of Jewelry, multiple locations, jared.com
2nd Dear Prudence Shop, 2912 Corrine Drive, 407-894-8941, dresssweet.com
3rd Victoria Jewelers, 4844 New Broad St., 407-895-0047, victoriajewelers.net

Best liquor store

1st Total Wine, 2712 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-6553; 4625 Millenia Plaza Way, 407-352-6330, totalwine.com
2nd ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, multiple locations, abcfws.com
3rd Wally's Mills Avenue Liquors, 1001 N. Mills Ave., 407-896-6975, wallysonmills.com

Best mechanic

1st Auto Repair Inc., 1024 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-872-7352, orlandoautorepair.com
2nd Gene's Auto Service, 3025 Corrine Drive, 407-645-1647
3rd Mahoney's Auto Repair, 1120 N. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-628-3450

Best men's fashion

1st Dechoes Resale, 2110 Edgewater Drive, 407-648-7480; 2525 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-6622, dechoesresale.com
2nd Death by Pop, 1844 Winter Park Road, 407-960-4745, deathbypopshop.com
3rd Joseph A. Banks, multiple locations, josbank.com

Best women's fashion

1st Dechoes, 2110 Edgewater Drive, 407-648-7480; 2525 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-6622, dechoesresale.com
2nd Etolie Boutique, 2424 E. Robinson St., 407-895-6363, etoileboutique.com
3rd Tuni's, 301 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-1609, shoptuni.com

Best musical instrument store

1st Sam Ash, 4644 E. Colonial Drive, 407-896-5508; 912 Lee Road, 407-599-1222, samashmusic.com
2nd Guitar Center, 520 North Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-975-9119, guitarcenter.com
3rd Georges Music, 6817 Visitors Circle, 407-352-8000, georgesmusic.com

Best nail salon

1st Koi Nail Spa, 2025 W.P. Ball Blvd., Sanford, 407-302-3655, facebook.com/pages/koi-nail-spa/113646612438
2nd Parlour Salon & Spa, 904 S. Bumby Ave., 407-896-6335, parloursalonandspa.com
3rd The Spa, LLC, 2626 Edgewater Drive, 407-898-7737, thespallc.com

Best skate shop

1st Galactic G, 2020 N. Orange Ave., 407-895-0410, galacticg.com
2nd Ron Jon, 5160 International Drive, 407-481-2555, ronjons.com
3rd USS Catalyst, 12299 University Blvd., 407-380-7427, universitysurfandskate.com

Best smoke shop

1st Kush Hookah Lounge, 23 S. Court Ave., 407-843-5874, kushultralounge.com
2nd Climax, 714 N. Mills Ave., 407-440-4506; 11039 E. Colonial Drive, 407-704-8758, orlandosmokeshop.com
3rd Corona Cigar Company, 407-404-5344, 127 S. Orange Ave., coronacigar.com

Best spa

1st The Spa, LLC, 2626 Edgewater Drive, 407-898-7737, thespallc.com
2nd The Ritz Carlton, 4048 Central Florida Parkway, 407-393-4900, ritzcarlton.com
3rd The Beauty Spot, 2305 Edgewater Drive, 407-481-1188, beautyspotinc.com

Best T-shirts

1st Mother Falcon, 817 E. Washington St., 407-423-3060, motherfalconclothing.com
2nd Enemy Ink, 407-788-7865, 1500 Alden Road, enemyink.com
3rd Death by Pop, 407-960-4745, 1844 Winter Park Road, deathbypopshop.com

Best tattoo/piercing parlor

1st Black Chapel Tattoo, 693 N. Orange Ave., 407-420-9636, blackchapeltattoos.com
2nd Ascension Tattoo, 832 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-2013, ascensiontattoo.com
3rd Orlando Tattoo Company, 11229 E. Colonial Drive, 407-412-5922, orlandotattoocompany.com

Best thrift store

1st Goodwill, multiple locations, goodwill.org
2nd Dechoes Resale, 2110 Edgewater Drive, 407-648-7480; 2525 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-6622, dechoesresale.com
3rd Community Thrift Store, 5456 S. Orange Ave., 407-290-6003; 6015 Edgewater Drive, 407-295-2799

Best used book store

1st The Book Worm, 422 N. Bumby Ave., 407-898-7888, thebookwormoforlando.com
2nd Barrel of Books & Games, 144 W. Fifth Ave., Mount Dora, 352-735-1950, booksetseller.com/info.html
3rd Bright Light Books, 161 E. State Road 436, Fern Park, 407-622-6657, brightlightbooks.com

Best vintage clothes store

1st Dechoes Resale, 2110 Edgewater Drive, 407-648-7480; 2525 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-6622, dechoesresale.com
2nd Etolie Boutique, 2424 E. Robinson St., 407-895-6363, etoileboutique.com
3rd Déjà Vu Vintage Clothing, 1825 N. Orange Ave., 407-898-3609

Best vinyl record store

1st Park Ave CDs, 2916 Corrine Drive, 407-447-7275, parkavecds.com
2nd Rock & Roll Heaven, 1814 N. Orange Ave., 407-896-1952, rock-n-rollheaven.com
3rd Vinyl Richie's Wiggly World of Records, 2436 E. Robinson St., 407-895-0001

Best wine shop

1st Total Wine & More, 2712 E. Colonial Drive, 407-894-6553; 4625 Millenia Plaza Way, 407-352-6330, totalwine.com
2nd Tim's Wine Market, multiple locations, timswine.com
3rd The Wine Room on Park Ave, 270 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-696-9463, thewineroomonline.com