Best Of 2014

A bait shop isn’t always the same thing as a tackle shop; if you’re going to load up on gear, this isn’t the place for you. But Alafia Bait & Tackle always seems to have a wide and inexpensive array of live bait — including multiple sizes of shrimp, and pinfish and chubs if you’re too lazy to catch ’em yourself — and doesn’t set gougerific prices for the tackle you always realize you forgot, like extra hooks, leaders, or a replacement for that dehooker you dropped overboard when you saw the size of that black drum. You can even grab a new spinning rig for one of the kids without breaking the bank, and if you are willing to spend a little extra, the shop usually has some high-quality handcrafted castnets on hand. Plus, it’s less than a minute from the Alafia River and its boat launch and fishing dock at Williams Park. 9851 US Highway 41 S., Gibsonton, 813-677-2575.

Best beach gym

Conveniently located in the heart of North Redington Beach and often overshadowed by its highly popular neighbor The Frog Pond, Beachfront Fitness Center is a fantastic full-service exercise and fitness facility with certified personal trainers on site, no obligation to sign up for pricey memberships or annual contracts, and offering a cheap visitor rate for those in town for a short time. Owned and operated by Jake Gordon, it is equipped with the most advanced body sculpting and cardio equipment in the area and offers an array of classes from spin to yoga, zumba and Pilates. 73 170th Ave., N. Redington Beach, 727-498-7056,

Best bow ties

When bees are attracted to your bow tie because it was fashioned from the wood of a former Jack Daniels bourbon barrel, you know you’re wearing a genuine article. While most aren’t created from bourbon barrels, every Ella Bing exotic wooden bow tie is a work of art handcrafted locally by David Kraus in a labor of love shared with his family. Each is tied to tradition with a cloth center knot sourced and sewn by David’s wife and Ella Bing co-founder Lisa Kraus, and is designed to honor the memory of their son, Matthew.

Best doggie boutique

We discovered this tucked-away dog haven when CL did its Neighborhood Issue on Hyde Park/SoHo earlier this year, and we’re still convinced it’s among the best of its ilk. The inventory is unique, the store is airy and inviting, and the owners are dog-lovers who take good care not just of their customers’ canines, but make a point of helping organizations that facilitate adoptions. 1631 W. Snow Circle, Tampa, 813-250-3647,

Best greeting cards

Word has it that a very well-known local theater director visits this eclectic Gulfport shop before every opening night to buy thank-you cards for his cast. Makes sense — Domain’s well-chosen assortment of cards is ideal for those whose hallmark is individuality (as opposed to those who buy nothing but Hallmark). The cards range from witty to pretty to downright odd — we particularly like Susan Mrosek’s Pondering Pool line — and so varied that you’re bound to find something that’s just right whether you’re assuaging a nervous actor, wooing a new love, or simply sharing deep thoughts. 3129 Beach Boulevard, Gulfport, 727-302-9299,

Best holiday sweater

Best Hometown Swag

First came BlueLucy’s “Paris London Tokyo St. Pete” shirts for Keep St. Pete Local, which quickly became the cool kids’ (and discerning tourists’) souvenir garment of choice, churning up t-shirt envy wherever they were worn (which was everywhere.) Then the Venture Compound came out with a somewhat sinister variation on the theme, producing “Jonestown Hindenburg Chernobyl Venture Compound” T-shirts which were made even more distinctive in the way they got shipped out: in old, smelly LP jackets from unknown psychedelic rock bands, ensuring that the goods inside were as weird as the horse they rode in on. 2621 Fairfield Ave. S., St. Petersburg, 901-619-1519,

Best Honest Mechanics in a Dishonest World

The Ice Cold Air location at Sligh and 275 doesn’t look like much, blending in with the rundown butcher shops and gas stations that surround it. But it’s home to a team of mechanics who are just as likely to tell you what isn’t wrong with your ride as what is, who won’t treat you like an idiot if you can’t tell a sparkplug from a gas cap, and who, maybe most important, seem to be having a pretty good time. Be sure to pick up the Car Care Club coupon book for even better deals. 501 E. Sligh Ave, Tampa, 813-231-0211,

Best Las Vegas infusion

With more than 17 years of experience and a client roster featuring Mandalay Bay, the MGM Grand, and the Venetian hotels and casinos, DiGioia Creative is going all-in by relocating from Las Vegas to Tampa Bay. Specializing in advertising, strategy, graphic design, branding, and according to their website, “excellent Sean Connery impersonations,” founder Tommy DiGioia will in no time be the creative director to place your bets on. 702-334-0188,

Best live look-book for home decor

If Pinterest is your ultimate pastime, then Mis en Chic will become your ultimate live look-book. Heidi Kiffin, owner and chief curator of this exquisite showroom, carefully selects, buys and styles every single item in the store. With one-of-a-kind furniture, elegantly designed lighting and chandeliers, pillows, bedding, candles, wall art and beautiful seaside accessories, Kiffin’s space encompasses chic coastal décor with an European edge. You may just want to move in. 1180 Central Ave., 727-216-6316,