Best Of 2014

Clemons Produce
3325 Curry Ford Road, 407-897-1413, clemonsproduce.com

If you’ve driven past this produce stand in a strip mall on Curry Ford Road (next to the Daybreak Diner) and you haven’t stopped, do yourself a favor and get in there. This huge space is dedicated not just to fresh fruits and veggies, many sourced from family farms, vendors and markets in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, but also to a surprisingly robust Amish deli, purveying meats and cheeses (many of which are gluten-, soy- and nitrate-free), dairy products, preserves, and dry goods sourced from the Dutch Valley company in Pennsylvania.

Garry Postell’s semi-regular all-vinyl garage sales
46 E. Steele St., [email protected]

While Park Ave CDs, Rock and Roll Heaven, East West Music and all of our local record stores do a pretty fine job of keeping the vinyl flowing, real crate-diggers know that when you see the “Record Sale” sign at the corner of Princeton Street and Formosa Avenue, you’d better cancel the rest of your plans for the afternoon. Garry Postell, an avid record collector, is known to spend a good portion of his free time buying large collections of vinyl, weeding out the junk and then offering up the goods in his backyard at almost-rock-bottom prices. If you want a heads-up as to when the next sale will be, you can send him an email and ask to be notified a few days before he sets up his backyard bazaar.

Cherry Blow Dry Bar
1430 N. Mills Ave., 407-250-5808, cherryblowdrybar.com

Just because you’ve got two X chromosomes doesn’t automatically make you a wizard with a flat-iron, curling wand or hair dryer. (Seriously, it’s like you’d have to be an octopus to wrangle all those tools.) But even if you don’t know the difference between shine serum and salt spray, it’s nice to know you can still look like you do. For those occasions when it’s imperative that your locks look lovely, the experts at Cherry Blow Dry Bar live to serve. They take walk-ins or appointments; they do updos and braids in addition to the standard menu of stick-straight or beachy waves; and they even serve you a glass of champagne to sip while they mend your moptop. We just wish we could afford to go every day.

Best Hidden Vintage Gem

The Owl’s Attic
4031 Forsyth Road, Winter Park, 321-300-6957, theowlzattic.com

If you don’t know to look for it, it’s easy to miss the Owl’s Attic, situated in front of a car repair shop and sharing the same lot. But keep an eye out for the darling owl insignia as your hoot signal that you’re headed in the right direction. Turn to face Forsyth, then wing it left and walk along the street to find the entrance. Inside the shop, discover a rotation of vintage clothing (for women and men), jewelry, shoes, bags, sunglasses and other oddities to keep your look decidedly your own.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando in Kissimmee
610 Oak Commons Blvd., Kissimmee, 407-246-1788, ppgo.org

It may have been a long time coming – Osceola County has never had a clinic that performs abortions before – but this May, Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando accomplished the unfathomable and cut the ribbon on its long-in-the-works Kissimmee health center. Naturally, the development brought its share of protesters, both local and national. But the advent of a new office also provides symbolic hope for reproductive rights in a year that saw Gov. Rick Scott signing another bill into law designed to curtail a woman’s right to choose. Oh, and just in case you forgot, Planned Parenthood does significantly more work to prevent unwanted pregnancies than it does to terminate them. Which is why this new clinic, which is going to serve an incredibly under-resourced area, is so important.

Best Little Bit of Old Florida Left in South Orlando

Red Hill Groves
3725 S. Conway Road, 800-654-5562, redhillgroves.com

There was a time when Conway wasn’t known primarily as a suburban community near the airport, but more as the area south of the city that was full of open space and orange groves. Red Hill Groves is one of the last visible references to Conway’s citrusy past. Part fruit stand, part tourist shack, part citrus packing house, this little shop operates from October through May, selling honeybells, grapefruits, navels and other grove-fresh fruits, as well as random novelties (citrus sippers, coconut patties) and fresh-squeezed juices. Oh, and ice cream – just like any farm store worth its salt, Red Hill Groves has soft-serve. But you can’t just settle for a vanilla cone – get your scoop floated in a cup of fresh-squeezed juice. Divine.

Delight Nails & Spa
6735 Conroy Windermere Road, 407-313-8820

We feel like royalty when we check into Delight Nails & Spa, partly because the space looks ridiculously upscale, with its jeweled chandeliers and immaculate massage chairs, but also because of the star-quality service we get whenever we visit. This local gem offers gel and acrylic nail services, waxing, facials and even a Mommy & Me spa package. Better yet, mani-pedi deals start at $32. Treat yourself and feel like a million bucks without going broke.

Best New (to Us) Supermarket

Trader Joe’s
131 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-622-0874, traderjoes.com

People gave us a lot of static for our enthusiasm about the entry of Trader Joe’s into our market. For years, we found ourselves making monthly treks to Gainesville or Sarasota to get our fix of habañero-lime tortillas, simmer sauces and roasted seaweed snacks. Now we have but to fight a little traffic battle on Orlando Avenue (and brave the insane competition for spots in the way-too-small parking lot) to get to our cookie butter and inexpensive dry goods. And lest you think Trader Joe’s is just another overpriced gourmet grocery store, you’d do well to stop in one day when you have some free time (we recommend Tuesday mornings before 11 a.m.). You’ll discover, just as we have, that the place is stocked with reasonably priced frozen foods, dairy products, organic goods and wine – lots and lots of wine. Seriously – Trader Joe’s is not the place to go if you’re looking for a bottle of Clorox, a six-pack of Coke or a package of Charmin, but it gives Publix a run for its money when it comes to produce, organic goods and the yummy treats that make our lives complete.

Bookmark It
3201 Corrine Drive, bookmarkitorlando.com

Sometimes “best” means “only.” Orlando, like a lot of cities, has faced the slow decline of independent bookstores, whittling down readers’ choices for unused books to the bare minimum of Barnes & Noble or Amazon – neither a choice that gives those who prefer to support local business much to feel good about. Enter Bookmark It, a tiny book nook on the second floor of that shrine to local biz, the East End Market. Owner Kim Britt and her staff of knowledgeable booksellers preside over the warm space, where the shelves full of all-new books are sprinkled lightly with volumes written and published by locals and enriched with recommendations from Orlando literati. Keep an eye out for periodic book fairs, writing workshops and readings as well.

Best New Old Hardware Store

Hinge
1506 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-401-9112, hingevintagehardware.com

When obsessed hardware man George Baker sold his antique inventory to Rick Bosserman, Bosserman promptly saw precious metal. One man’s OCD is another man’s treasure, right? And Hinge, sited in College Park near the Fairvilla Megastore, has aisle after aisle of gleaming brass, copper and iron stuff. Pre-Revolutionary door locksets, wooden ice skates, rooster weathervanes … it just goes on and on. Complimentary vintage candy (anyone remember Mary Janes?) fits the vintage theme. Look for the eerie rows of colorful Depression-era glass Southern Belles on a shelf in the back, lined up like so many Stepford wives.