Best Of 2020

Jim & Heather Gils YMCA

You can get pretty much any kind of exercise you want at this large facility, which includes a spacious workout room, a basketball/volleyball/pickleball gym, a huge heated pool, cycling studio, indoor rock-climbing wall and more. And that includes playing ultimate frisbee on the large outdoor field. Kids programs abound, as do those for seniors. Perhaps the best thing about this Y is the way a large, diverse group of folks representing an array of races, cultures and incomes mix easily and naturally. The Y reopened as the lockdown eased, installing a stringent set of cleanliness and safety protocols. During the shutdown, it reached out to members with online exercise videos. —Eric Snider

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Rick's Electronics Boutique

It’s a fair question to ask how a small retailer like this one stays alive in the face of online shopping and big box stores. With Rick’s, the difference begins and ends with service and expertise—and you can also factor in a diverse product line. Owner Rick Shook and his small team of experts and techs can do everything from installing a wireless, fully hidden sound system throughout your home to fix a broken turntable. Go ‘head, buy gear online and save a few bucks—friend, you are: On. Your. Own. Rick’s will help you get everything up and running, which ain’t often easy for us regular schmoes. Plus, the prices at Rick’s are competitive and … you’re buying local. —Eric Snider

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Dr. Jerry Copeland

It’s easier to get my four-year-old son to go to the dentist than to go to a park. That’s because his dentist is Dr. Jerry Copeland. Never have I met a nicer person without being suspect of underlying issues. It’s not just me, every client I know feels the same. He’s been described as Mr. Rogers, or Tom Hanks, or Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers. He is the right balance of goofy, sweet and professional. He explains things like a teacher, not like someone who knows way more than you do even though he most definitely does. —Stephanie Powers

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Laundry Project

In March, Current Initiative’s “Laundry Project” announced a six-week plan to hit four different Tampa laundromats and pay for the laundry of needy community members—plus hospitality workers left without jobs. Well the support, and need, hasn’t stopped, and neither have LP volunteers who’ve now been at it for nearly 30 weeks. It’s unclear how many families have been affected by the outreach, but it’s heartwarming to see others quite literally helping their neighbors take a load off. —Ray Roa 

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Wee Gallery

In April CL wrote a story about how St. Petersburg's Wee Gallery has brain-developing freebies like coloring sheets and craft projects for all the pandemic parents trying to entertain and educate youngsters during the lockdown. Unprompted, my sister (and volunteer babysitter to my nine-month-old) got a hold of a Wee Gallery wooden shape toy board. I don’t know that Patrick’s smarter for having it (we’re saving the standardized testing for when he turns one), but he sure does love spending time figuring out how it works. —Ray Roa

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SPCA Tampa Bay (St. Pete)

I am #dogmomaf to an awesome Labrador retriever mix named Tucker, who turns 12 this year. While he has, thankfully, always been in good overall health, any pet parent needs a good veterinarian to trust and count on for annual visits as well as occasional concerns. Last year Tuck and I were told by another local vet that he needed a complicated, invasive and incredibly expensive spleen removal surgery that would take him months to recover from. I was worried about my pup going under the knife and decided to seek a second opinion. Tucker and I checked out the SPCA Tampa Bay and were told his spleen was absolutely fine. They got him up-to-date on his vaccines and shots and treated Tucker like a prince. Being on a teacher-and-freelance-writer-budget has its limitations, and in any visit to the SPCA Tampa Bay I am given clear expectations on what the team is doing and how much it is going to cost. Each fee is itemized and the office asks permission before doing anything that costs extra. It also offers sheltering, pet adoptions and dog training classes. —Resie Waechter

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Trump Voodoo Doll

Renee Feinman hurt a lot of conservative snowflake feelings when she started making Trump voodoo dolls to help raise money for Feeding Tampa Bay. She sells the dolls on Etsy for $20.21, and each shipment comes with six straight pins, but the real winner was the local nonprofit which got a $1,1000 check from the 61-year-old educator after readers and fans cleaned her out. @itsafeinworld on Etsy —Ray Roa

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Kyle Kilgore

For most people, adhering to mask mandates was an easy ask, but one designer decided to up the ante, make it fashion and prop up his newly-relocated business at the same time. A personal favorite was the Orville Peck-inspired sparkling fringe mask, which was commissioned out of Miami. “We can practice extra safety measures and still look cute,” Kyle Kilgore told CL.” A global pandemic is not a good reason to give up on your aesthetic.”—Ray Roa

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Book + Bottle

Owned by young local entrepreneur Terra Dunham, who grew up in St. Pete, Book + Bottle opened just as COVID-19 hit. Book + Bottle is a self-proclaimed “bookstore with wine and wine bar with books.” Dunham fought hard to keep her small business alive throughout the quarantine and continues to push to make the bookstore better each day. With a cozy, inviting atmosphere of walls covered in books, well-spaced furniture and lots of natural light, Book + Bottle invites customers to come curl up with a good new book, use one of their tables as a workspace, or meet a friend for happy hour. Regularly scheduled events include yoga, book club, wine tastings and poetry readings. —Resie Waechter

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Hotel Haya

The renovation and repurposing of the former home to El Goya, Tracks, and Czar has been long coming. Hotel Haya is now open and guests will be able to enjoy the exquisite transformation of this property into a swank, luxury boutique hotel. Haya is uniquely sourced by many local vendors, including The Glass Studio (an arm of the Morean Arts Center), where resident glass artists crafted the round globes for the lamps in guest rooms. Next time you're in Ybor and a friend tells you to get a room, make sure it’s at Haya. —Alexis Chamberlain

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