Best Of 2023

Tampa Heights has long been a neighborhood in renaissance, and there’s even more positive energy on the corner of Florida and Floribraska Avenues thanks to New Heights Dance Academy where owner-director Cassie Plumridge has assembled a dedicated team of energetic instructors who not only teach a wide range of classes from beginner to advanced levels of ballet, jazz, tap, choreography and much more, but also create an inclusive space for folks of all ages (seriously).
For almost three years now, YogaSix has been a go-to yoga studio for all of St. Pete. Not only because of the mix of six meditative and rigorous classes but also because YogaSix is so frickin’ clean. The floors, the bathrooms, the changing room, the lobby. Not only do the walls sparkle but it also smells so fresh and so clean. And the Eucalyptus scented towels at the end of every class are absolute icing on the Nothing Bundt Cakes that you can periodically smell through the neighboring walls when you’re in a downward facing dog. @​​yogasix_stpetersburg on Instagram—Kate Oberdorfer
Owner/artist Kim Vorperian started Bodhi Basics a decade ago out of her friend’s living room. She makes awesome soaps and skincare products, and is never afraid to make changes to her business in order to stay authentic to her vision (and not sell out to The Man). After moving a few times to different storefronts in downtown St. Pete, Vorperian recently decided to close her storefront and work out of her home to reduce overhead and make more time for her art. Vorperian still makes soaps but also offers incense, body balms, and most recently, fresh herbs from her Florida farm. Bodhi Basics is a stellar example of how artists can stay tight with their local community, make kickass products while avoiding a high price point, and allow their brand to evolve right along with them.
Let’s face it: life with curls ain’t easy. It ain’t easy in the real world, and it definitely ain’t easy in Florida where the humidity creates this situation where the curls grow so big and so ugly that they barely make it through doors and must never ever be photographed. Enter Michelle at Number 9 Salon in St. Pete. Michelle cuts curls by the book of Ouidad™ and distracts you from your own hair with stories from her road trips and dog, Basil, plus tips on where to buy the best beer, wine and of course, dairy free cookie butter creamer. She stands behind you through the thick but also the nightmarishly and frightening thin, and when your hair leaves her chair, it’s better equipped to deal with that Florida air and anything else that life throws at its way.
Aerialists fly, it’s what they do. One studio in Tarpon Springs takes it beyond the silks, yoga and circus arts by also inviting in anyone who wants to swing, drop or even meditate in asanas. GypSea instructors are always mentoring and instructing folks at every level, and that can make you feel like the sky’s not the limit, but only the beginning.
Ever feel like recycling is great, but you’d rather not purchase so many plastic products in the first place? Help is here—like, right here in Tampa Bay. Sans Market is a “zero waste lifestyle store” that sells a variety of bath, body, and menstrual care products, household cleaning products, incense, perfume, and more. Customers can bring their own container to fill, grab a free (clean) used container off the shelf, or purchase a container for repeated use. Sans is owned by Eniko Olah and Lin Hales, two women who met in Tampa in eighth grade, and started to expand and offer locally-grown produce and food items.
This South Tampa tux shop offers high end attire that’s customized for Florida’s scenery and climate, such as color palettes that compliment various native backdrops and breathable fabrics like linen. The third generation-run business, helmed by Ash Dudney (full disclosure: Ash has contributed photos to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay), has found a unique way to stay true to its history of bespoke offerings while maintaining a sense of humor, as is evidenced by the various wildlife artifacts and high-end liquor bottles artfully displayed throughout. Python skin cufflinks and hats made in-house adorned with gator bones play nicely with the noir lounge feel of the shop, which definitely makes this anything other than your average formalwear experience.
Having a metal rod shoved through different body parts is rarely an enjoyable experience, but it’s always up to the piercer to make you feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. After years of straight up bad service and creepy ass dudes with ulterior motives, I stumbled upon Jess Martin, the last piercer I’ll ever work with. Martin—the brand new mother of a baby girl— pierces out of a cutely-decorated cubicle in the back corner of Plantas and Tinta, a woman-owned tattoo shop in West Tampa. She’s a true professional in her craft and approaches piercing with the same enthusiasm and meticulousness as a doctor or dentist—someone who just exudes a pure passion for what they do every single day. Not only does Martin hook you up with a pleasant body modification experience and high quality jewelry, she helps each client discover what their own style is when it comes to which piercings, metals and colors compliment you the best. @gildedlotusfl on Instagram.
Don’t let its unassuming exterior deter you—Tampa’s Shangri La Spa & Sauna is the best place to relax on a budget. For $35, guests have access to its various amenities, but can add different spa services or a delicious Korean meal from its restaurant for an additional price. While its decor and services are bit dated (especially if you’ve been to glossy Korean spas in bigger cities), its hot tub, steam room, clay and salt saunas, and cold plunge tub will have your skin and muscles feeling a decade younger. At first, it may be uncomfortable to overcome Shangri-La’s nude-only rule in its wet spa areas, but we promise that no one will look at you weird for being in your birthday suit. Of course, blue and pink uniforms are worn in the dry saunas and common areas. Whether you’re looking to relax with a massage or full-body scrub or just want some alone time away from your daily routine, Shangri-La offers the ultimate way to relax without paying any outrageous prices. We highly recommend getting the mandu-guk soup, kimbap and spicy rice cake stir fry from the Shangri-La’s onsite Korean kitchen, too.
Lida’s started as a small plant shop that shared space with another local business on Central Avenue in St. Pete. It’s done super well and grown enough to expand to a much bigger spot nearby. Walking into Lida’s is instantly calming to the senses; the shop is full of unique and awesome plants, a build-your-own-terrarium bar, and all-around good feels. The back area has a path that winds around native plant beds, pollinator gardens, and plants you won’t find at the larger nurseries and plant shops around town. Recent example: The other day, I stopped by on my way home for a little pick-me-up, and walked out with my hands full of something called a Dutchman’s Pipe vine, which was covered in swallowtail butterfly eggs—feeling excited, rejuvenated and hopeful once again.