Best Of 2012

"We're still here. We have all of our fingers and toes" —George Medeiros (standing), w. Scott Durfee.
Photo by Todd Bates
"We're still here. We have all of our fingers and toes" —George Medeiros (standing), w. Scott Durfee.

If you've been paying attention to the local design scene of late, you couldn't have missed the inimitable creations of George Medeiros and Scott Durfee of Spathose. Their line of accessories made from the outer casings of the palm flower, aka the spathe, has shown up everywhere from the runways of Dunedin Fine Art Center's Wearable Art to the pages of Creative Loafing, where columnist Leslie Joy Ickowitz featured their one-of-a-kind variations on the power tie in our RNC issue. (She also selected their ties for a Best of the Bay award.)

Their personal style is just as compelling as their artwork. A shared background in theater and interior design informs their flair for the dramatic, whether it's the way they present their products or the way they pose for a photo. The two New Englanders met when Scott helped push George's car out of the snow when we was stuck on the side of a Rhode Island highway. Twenty-three years later, they've learned how to weather all kinds of storms and tap into each other's strengths. It's like "when a tornado meets a volcano," says Scott. "We vent a lot."

In business dealings, Scott's the enforcer. George is the diplomat.

"He has a great business sense," says George of his partner. "I don't think I could do a checkbook. I do well in writing."

"I'm a good problem-solver," says Scott.

"He drives home the points," adds George.

They started Spathose only three years ago. "We fell in love with spathe," says Scott, whose father was a carpenter. They began making planters out of the fibrous material — "the celery of wood," George calls it — and hung them from a live oak in their front yard in St. Pete's Old Southeast neighborhood. The strikingly shaped objects attracted attention, and they moved from making garden ornaments to wearable art — "the best bang for the buck," says Scott.

Best known to date for their beautiful yet sturdy purses, the pair will debut an expanded collection called Architexture — ties, jewelry, armbands and other adornments — during the Fashion Week Tampa Bay runway show Sept. 21 at the Ritz Ybor.

Does all this 24-7 togetherness in work and in life ever get a bit much?

"We're still here," says George. "We have all of our fingers and toes."

Goods & Services

Goods & Services

Whether it’s your compressor or condenser that’s spent, you won’t spend your entire paycheck here — ICA beats competitors’ estimates by 20-50 percent. They also offer routine maintenance, in addition to air-conditioning repairs. There’s nothing chilly about the service you’ll receive — customer satisfaction is priority to owner Kevin O’Donnell. ICA also contributes to the community through Toys for Tots and other programs. 5890 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park, 727-545-1107,

Billiard balls, bird cages, modern industrial furniture, gym lockers, old projectors and telephones: St. Petersburg's Paper Street Market boasts an inventory you can get lost in — whether you're browsing through an old violin case to find your favorite religious or Florida-themed postcards, or digging through the huge collection of large commercial lettering to find just the right capital "A" for the baby's room. 915 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-894-7777,

Runners-up: Fusion 1560 Apartments, Post Harbour Island

Best Artistic Repurposing of a School Bus

Shelving her dream of owning a retail bookstore, Mitzi Gordon created something even better — the Bluebird Books Bus, a formerly-yellow short bus painted blueberry blue (Pantone 301, to be exact) and stocked with new and used books, artists’ publications and books about art. A frequent sight at cultural events on both sides of the Bay, the Bus has become a mobile icon and champion for visual and literary arts.

Watch: Mitzi Gordon, Elizabeth Williams and David Durney — Bluebird Books Bus founder, project librarian and "the guy in the back of the bus," respectively — talk about going mobile, suffering book-related injuries and hanging with The Moth in Georgia. CL's David Warner interviewed them during the Best of the Bay awards reception on Sept. 19 at Creative Loafing.

Photographers Matt Larson and Rebecca Sexton Larson converted their silver bullet — a gently used, custom-decorated Airstream trailer — into what may be the sexiest miniature photo gallery ever imagined: Boxfotos Airstream. Bonus: Their photography, packaged in specially-designed boxes and displayed inside the trailer, is awesome. Boxfotos will present an iPhoneography & Photo Safari workshop for Hillsborough County art teachers at the Ruskin Firehouse Cultural Center. Call the Tampa Museum of Art’s Education Dept at 813-421-8397 for information.

Watch: Matt & Rebecca Sexton Larson talk about Boxfotos Airstream, their sexy little gallery on wheels, in an interview with CL's David Warner during the Best of the Bay awards reception on Sept. 19 at Creative Loafing.

Runners-up: Marpena's Auto Repair, Bob Lee's Auto Repair

It’s not easy to become a competitive lender alternative to the private banks. Grow’s beating the odds with special volunteering initiatives in our community; plus, their loan rates are outstanding. Their fresh and catchy green ads give you the illusion that you could possibly “achieve your dreams” one day, whatever that means.

Runners-up: Fade Masters, Gandy Barber Shop

These big cats are not your typical fat cats — they include lions, tigers and lynx. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this sanctuary houses over 100 abandoned, abused, orphaned and retired big cats and saves them from extinction. A variety of guided tours are available, including day, night, kids, wedding and private. Hop on the golf cart if the idea of the 90-minute walking tour makes you cringe. 12802 Easy St., Tampa, 813-920-4130,