Best Of 2008

Even more surprising than being able to buy a stun gun is being able to buy a stun gun at a gas station. But at the Sunoco Food Mart in downtown St. Pete, you can purchase one of three models of stun gun (retailing between $69-$99) along with your beef jerky and malt liquor. And if electricity isn’t your weapon of choice, the gas station also has an assortment of mace, pepper spray and tear gas (yes, tear gas). This is one St. Pete quickie mart that thieves should probably steer clear of. 1517 Central Ave., St. Pete, 727-823-0960

Goods & Services

Sweet, spunky and self-assured, Sith Moth performs first-rate manicures, pedicures and skincare procedures, from body wraps and scrubs to a full range of facials and peels. For a woman who hasn’t yet reached 30, she’s a wellspring of skincare wisdom and offers treatment suggestions for all manner of epidermal issues as well as info about useful products — moisturizers, toners, astringents, vitamin infusions or whatever else — for a day-to-day skincare regimen. 1041 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-895-5975,

Yes, it’s a bridal behemoth with more than 280 locations across the country. Yes, there are several independently owned bridal and formalwear boutiques located all over the greater Tampa Bay area where you can funnel your money back into the local economy. But for those on a budget, David’s Bridal is an affordable one-stop shop. From wedding attire to prom gowns to cocktail dresses, the price is right. Plus, you get one-on-one service from pleasant, attentive specialists who are ready and waiting on the sidelines to assist you with anything you may want or need. 4503 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, 813-281-8053; Clearwater Mall, 2637 Gulf-to-Bay Blvd., Clearwater, 727-669-2233

Show up just a few times, and Tiny Tap night bartender Kelly will have memorized both your name and beverage of choice. She’s a friendly woman quick to listen to your woes or engage in a conversation ranging from cult movies to geopolitics. Kelly’s also a music buff who handpicked the CDs for the Tiny Tap’s estimable jukebox. But remember, if you misbehave, the little gal behind the bar will throw your ass out, which only adds to her appeal. 2105 W. Morrison Ave., Tampa, 813-254-3872

Family-owned and operated for more than 40 years, these St. Pete-based insect assassins offer free estimates, fair prices and a full range of bug-blasting services. Customer satisfaction is paramount: PPTC’s extra efforts range from providing detailed instructions on how to prep for an upcoming tenting with toxic gas, to actually bagging up any perishables you may have left behind. 1020 49th St. S., St. Petersburg, 727-323-8866,

Curbside recycling has always been a contentious issue in St. Petersburg. For more than a decade, neighborhood activists and city leaders have clashed over its merits. Most Tampa Bay municipalities have embraced curbside recycling, but the mayor of St. Pete — which was designated Florida’s first “green city” (by the Florida Green Building Coalition) — has consistently argued it is inefficient and too costly. Enter Greg Foster, a University of South Florida alum and Shore Acres resident who has found an innovative solution to the ’Burg’s lack of recycling: capitalism. For $15 a month, Foster and his team will pick up your recyclables once a week and save you the hassle of taking them to a recycling center. No fuss, no muss and a small boost to the local economy. 727-452-5278,

We walked into Clearwater Toyota on a Saturday afternoon in need of a new whip. Fast. The insurance company rental allowance was about to dry up. We brought along the usual bad attitudes: don’t wanna be here dealing with the obnoxious salesperson, trapped in the box while he or she bounces back and forth between us and the manager. Ugh. Then Joe sauntered up in the asphalt-radiated heat. He was spunky but laid-back. An ex-boxer. Kinda rough around the edges, not a fast-talkin’ slickey boy. He took his time, kibitzed, didn’t seem to mind taking us on a test drive, and actually told us some neat shit about the car. The negotiation lasted a while, with a few back-and-forth offers, but the exchanges remained good-natured. Actually, Joe seemed to be on our side rather than trying to help the house rip us off. We beat him up on the price. He laughed. We bought the car, checked the Internet, and it turns out we got a pretty good deal. We’ll buy from Joe again any time. Clearwater Toyota, 21799 U.S. 19 N., Clearwater, 727-799-1234,

An unusually jolly soul well-versed in the subject of spinal health, Joseph Papia runs a solo show from his offices in downtown Tampa, where he’s been adjusting folks in the greater Bay area for more than 20 years. He’s not the sort who will diagnose your problem and dive right in; Papia spends an hour with new patients filling out a detailed spinal checklist, tapping spots up and down your neck and back to determine the problem areas, taking X-rays to confirm beyond doubt that his diagnosis is correct, and then explaining in depth why the pain is occurring and what he can do to treat it. The most refreshing thing about him, however, is his sincere belief that his treatment will not only help your pain, but your entire physical health. 1004 N. Florida Ave., downtown Tampa, 813-229-0207

D.C. Goutoufas, owner of Gaspars Cigar Shoppe
Photo by Wayne Garcia
D.C. Goutoufas, owner of Gaspars Cigar Shoppe

This year brought some good new entries onto the cigar-smoking scene in a region that already had a rich heritage of burning one (legally) down. Especially promising is the Cigar Loft on Central Avenue in St. Pete, with its good selection, free wi-fi and sidewalk tables where you can get food from the coffee shop next door. But the Best of the Bay nod has to go to Gaspar’s Cigar Shoppe on Westshore Boulevard in Tampa, the dreamchild of former banker and politico Davelis Goutoufas. The shop is the adult version of a treehouse, where “the boys” can hide out from wives who would have them do housework or clients who would demand work-work, and instead luxuriate in a rich leather chair and smoke a stogie. The selection is impressive for such a small shop, and members who have lockers are granted 24-hour access to the smoking salon. On any given day, you’ll find connected lawyers and entrepreneurs smoking, drinking, playing dominos and eating a take-out meal from the Italian joint next door. Gaspar’s Cigar Shoppe, 3675 S. West Shore Blvd., Tampa, 813-831-0100,

Nothing beats the deals you find at a garage sale — except for the deals you find in the air-conditioned confines of the Garage Sale Store. The stock of used household goods — dishes, vases, ashtrays, all manner of tchotchkes, pictures, retro electronics, furniture and plenty else — are bought in bulk from area estate sales and sold piecemeal with seemingly slight markups at the St. Pete storefront. There’s also books, games, toys, jewelry and vintage clothing, some of it in mint condition, and everything priced so low that you can’t help but leave with something, no matter how little you may want it. If you plan to pay a visit, call and find out how recently the current batch of wares was replenished, and whether or not a new batch is due to be dropped off in the near future. The locals are hip to the super savings and swoop in like shopping vultures when the white truck pulls up with a new load. 3011 16th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-898-7182