Best Of 2018

Best attempt to bring culture to Palm Harbor
Jennifer RIng

What do you do when your small town lacks culture? If you live in Palm Harbor, you go to the library. Palm Harbor Library director Gene Coppola has been trying to fill the void in Palm Harbor’s cultural scene for years. If you’re looking for art, literature, language classes, museum passes, or a print copy of Creative Loafing in PH, then you should head to the Palm Harbor Library. While you’re there, wish them a happy birthday — Palm Harbor Libraries turned 40 this year. —Jennifer Ring

Nothing, I repeat, nothing, gives me more anxiety than taking my car to the mechanic. Be it something serious and mysterious or a routine oil change or maintenance, talking to someone about what ails my steel steed and then fretting over the cost makes me wanna puke. That said, trust is everything, and Bob at AutoWorks of Tampa goes just short of straight-up holding your hand when explaining the options you’ve got. His team has never pushed me into getting a service, and they’ve always been great about honoring warranties on work and parts. They may not be the least expensive team out there, but it’s hard to put a price on peace of mind and a crew that does business by a decent, customer-forward set of principles. 5507 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa. 813-237-3993. —RR

Need a postcard? Here. Need a newspaper? Here. Need a sundress? Yup. How about tickets to anything — and we mean anything — happening in town? The Gulfport Beach Bazaar has it, along with books, jewelry, antiques and snacks. Snacks, people! A few years ago, Gini and Mike Fagan bought the variety shop and slowly started adding in Gulfport-style sundries, and now it’s the place to go if you want to see, be seen, mail a package or find a beachy outfit for your weekend on the shore. And yes, we’re serious: If only they’d put in a soda fountain, we’d never leave. 3115 Beach Blvd. S., Gulfport. 727-381-8548. —CS

If you’ve ever had the benefit of having a great massage, you know how therapeutic it can be. It boosts your immune system, increases circulation and joint flexibility, relaxes fatigued muscles, improves your cardiovascular health, reduces pain, and improves your sleep by calming your mind and healing your spirit. But all licensed massage therapists are not created equal. Some have a special gift that elevates their touch and the knowledge to find your trouble spots and leave you walking on a cloud. Lori is exceptional; just hope you can catch her when she has room for new clients. 727-710-0654. —JPC

These days, you almost never have to set foot in a bank. GTE, for some reason, hasn’t taken that reality as an opportunity to hire shitheads to actually watch over the company’s physical locations. Sure, the inside tellers are of the onscreen variety, but the handful of on-site staff inside (shoutout Sean Franklin) are quick to help you with anything you may need. In a world where we complain about — and seemingly never compliment — customer service reps, this branch gives us some semblance of hope for human-centric service. 601 N. Ashley Dr. #100, Tampa. 813-871-2690, —RR

Admittedly, Jeff from JPM Pest Control doesn’t need a website to stay busy, and that’s OK because he seems too nice to be dealing with all the toxic stuff online anyway. He shows up to my house, bright and early, every two months, and with the biggest smile on his face. He sprays the inside and outside, and I never see bugs lurking the rooms... ever. Plus, I spend less money than I would at happy hour. Even my dog — who hates everyone — likes him. The little guy with ultra-fair prices and a rep for being reliable never gets enough love, so here’s to you, bug man. 813-299-4990. —RR

This is the dentist you want; he’s reasonable, there’s no frou-frou in his office and you won’t have to sell your plasma for any of his services. He’s fun, he knows his way around a molar, and, once, after I had my teeth cleaned, he offered me a jelly donut. Some say that’s simply guaranteeing repeat business; I like to think of him as a giver. 3800 5th Ave. N., Ste. B., St. Petersburg, 727-321-9610. —CS

This shop/community space feels like it belongs in some enchanted Sequoia tree hollow Out West. Fortunately for us, it’s right here, tucked away on a side street in St. Pete’s Grand Central District, offering a wonderful range of products. These include locally blended loose teas, herbal tinctures, handmade beauty products you won’t find elsewhere and jewelry handcrafted from crystals and fossils (which are probably infused with moonlight). Not that you need an excuse to check this place out, but if current events got your smudge stick burnt to a blackened stump, you can replenish your sage supply here. 17 21st. St. N., St. Petersburg. 850-443-2523, —KB

Kids and screens. Screens and kids. Yeah, we know. Yet while it may seem like most kids can’t pry their eyes from their devices for more than ten seconds, large aerial obstacle courses like this have us begging to differ. This Dade City attraction offers multiple ropes courses with varying levels of difficulty; some allow kids as young as eight. Our daring 12-year-old nephew had the time of his life — though, to his mother’s chagrin, he now swears he wants to go skydiving once he’s of age. But, hey, it’s better than spending one’s youth glued to a screen, right? 27839 St. Joe Rd., Dade City. 813-381-5400, —KB

I first met Vincent Luisi at the corner of Main and Victoria in downtown Dunedin. About a dozen of us were gathered here for a walking tour of Victoria Drive, downtown Dunedin’s historically luxurious waterfront neighborhood. As we walked up the street, Luisi told us about the families that lived in these homes over 100 years ago. He’s collected these stories over the years, pulling together Dunedin’s history through a combination of research, old records, and conversations with notable Dunedin residents. Now his knowledge of Dunedin’s history is on full display at the newly-renovated Dunedin History Museum. 349 Main St., Dunedin. 727-736-1176, —JR