Best Of 2007

The tacky blue building with the white trim and drive-thru is home to a 200,000-plus collection of used and antiquarian books. The cozy interior features several rooms’ worth of selections casually arranged by genre and a smattering of comfortable armchairs for those shoppers who like to linger. Various unique, interesting and rare reading materials are also available, like back issues of Parabola — a quarterly magazine about the study of myths, rituals, symbols and the art of spiritual traditions — and a collection of incunabula (books, sheets and/or images from books printed before 1501). Owner Jeff Morris is a helpful, friendly, almost constant presence who seems to thoroughly enjoy serving his customers, and he offers fair trade in cash or store credit for unwanted, gently-used books

Goods & Services

A reserved but amiable arborist, Treedom Tree Service owner Daniel Alloncius (aka Dependable Dan) handles the residential and commercial tree and landscaping needs of the greater Bay area public with integrity, skill and without losing his respect for the green world. He’s licensed and insured, his estimates are free, his rates are reasonable, and he can manage any greenery issues you may have, whether it’s as simple as pruning hedges, planting a sapling or removing a branch that’s strayed too close to a power line — or as complicated as evaluating the condition of an unhealthy tree and, if necessary, removing said tree and clearing the site of its remains. 727-798-2570.

Installing windshield wiper blades should be easy, right? And it just might be for some of you, but to most of us it’s like solving a Rubik’s Cube in a clothes dryer. Those clips, ugh. The sliding of the rubber strip, aaagghh. But hey, our troubles are over. Merely buy your wiper blades at Advance Auto Parts, and one of their dexterous staffers will come outside and slap ’em on for ya. You might be embarrassed when you see how easily they do it, but at least you won’t have to drive home and waste a Saturday afternoon trying to wrestle the things on yourself. Several Bay area locations, advanceautoparts.com.

BEST BOUTIQUE LIQUOR STORE: Richard Roy of American Spirits.
Photo by ALEX PICKETT
BEST BOUTIQUE LIQUOR STORE: Richard Roy of American Spirits.

cheapest in the city, nor does it carry much more than the popular liquors. But you certainly can’t find a more relaxed and knowledgeable staff. Co-owner Richard Roy, a former barkeep, opened the upscale beer, wine and liquor store three years ago, fed up with the watering-hole business. So far, he’s carved out an impressive niche in the fast-growing downtown area, serving condo residents and USF students alike. Oh, and don’t miss the monthly wine tastings. They’re free.

BEST CHEAP, FRESH ROSES: Nga and Nick Phan of La Vie en Rose.
Photo by ERIC SNIDER
BEST CHEAP, FRESH ROSES: Nga and Nick Phan of La Vie en Rose.

It’s located inconspicuously in a cramped strip mall across from a Publix. The space is plain: no gaudy flower arrangements, no luscious floral scent. A friendly young woman, owner Nga Phan, greets you and shows you to a room in the rear that’s refrigerated. Row after row of tightly wound packages of roses — a dozen per — cover the floor and several benches. Myriad colors. Different sizes. The bunches start at $5.98 (sometimes $3.98 on sale) and go up to $12.98. La Vie’s roses are the perfect start for a guy looking to get back in his woman’s good graces — on the cheap.

BEST CHIMNEY SWEEP: Robert Westerfield Jr.
Photo by ALEX PICKETT
BEST CHIMNEY SWEEP: Robert Westerfield Jr.

Florida may seem like an unlikely place to make a living cleaning chimneys, but between the fireplaces in restored 1920s bungalows and the ones in newer suburban homes, there’s plenty of business for Chimney Sweep of Florida’s Robert Westerfield Jr. Unlike other chimney sweeps in the area, who wear overalls or a corporate uniform, Westerfield comes to your door in the traditional 19th-century chimney sweep outfit: a wool pea coat and 8-inch top hat. But he’s not just there for show; typically, Westerfield can spiff up a chimney, educate you on proper lighting techniques and clean up his mess within 10 minutes. But ask about his passion for crafting metal armor and it might take a little longer.

This outlet store for Thompson Cigar Company, Casual Living and The Linen Source — three national (but locally owned) catalogs based in Tampa — is situated in a warehouse space that’s been converted into a retail storefront for a variety of exceptionally marked-down merchandise, some of it overstock, some of it discontinued or returned for one reason or another. The tall rows of shelves are jam-packed with everything from random cigar accessories like humidors and cigar cutters to unique kitschy gifts and ladies’ clothing to quality household wares (300-thread-count sheets, faux-suede couch covers, palm-tree-covered rugs). Definitely worth a visit. Open every other week; hours vary.

Her husky voice has a touch of Harvey Fierstein in it; she’s more dog rasper than dog whisperer. But when she leads her Canine Connection obedience classes, Lisa Lombardo’s distinctive timbre carries instant authority. She’s tough but empathetic, training owners along with their dogs and dealing effectively with all behaviors, from rowdy to reserved. She also possesses a wealth of information about collars, nutrition, treats and toys — which is no surprise, since she’s co-owner of Gulfport’s Mecca for pet owners, the well-stocked Bark and Browse.

Two years ago, Eric Atwater (son of the original Atwater’s Cafeteria owners) opened My City Fashions in an empty storefront attached to the popular soul-food restaurant, selling jeans and shorts by Dickies and MFG. But after a series of shootings in south St. Pete last year, Atwater began to sell T-shirts emblazoned with airbrushed likenesses of people who’d been murdered. They quickly became keepsakes for friends and families of the slain. He calls them R.I.P. shirts, and if you take a stroll through Midtown, you’ll no doubt see a few. Prices vary, and sometimes Atwater donates shirts for funerals. Though the shirts may seem a little morbid, Atwater says they help with the grieving process — and also keep the senseless killings in the public consciousness.

BEST IDEA FOR YOUR NEXT PARTY: Noahs Ark On Wheels.
Photo by DAWN MORGAN
BEST IDEA FOR YOUR NEXT PARTY: Noahs Ark On Wheels.

Long a favorite of the elementary-school party set, petting zoos fell out of favor in recent years after the industry was beset by bad press (a 2005 e-Coli outbreak was linked to a zoo at the Strawberry Festival) and skyrocketing insurance premiums. That’s a shame. When done right, as is the case with Noah’s Ark on Wheels, the petting zoo is still a classic. In March, Odessa-based Noah’s Ark brought a petting zoo to the Loaf offices, where we found that hanging out with billy goats, a turtle, bunny rabbits and one aggressive swan is as much fun for adults as it is for kids. Just be sure to hit up the hand sanitizer on the way out of the pen. noahsarkonwheels.com.