There are many things referred to as “one-of-a-kind”: each snowflake, a new baby, the ugly duckling, a rare coin, an original song, your social security number (you hope). But what is it that makes something one-of-a-kind? Is it because it’s the only item of its particular type? Or, simply because it stands out in its surroundings?
We are fortunate to have amazing places, services, businesses and people at our disposal in the Maple Grove area. When readers/voters recognize the extraordinary nature of one of them by voting them the “best of” Maple Grove, we believe they mean: “We had a great time here” or, “I felt well cared for there.” It’s based on an experience. It’s tangible. It’s personal.
So, let us share with you the winners of this year’s Best of Maple Grove readers’ competition; winners for whom it’s also personal. For gratitude is expressed with every winning vote and even finalists come to understand that their work is truly appreciated.
Keep a look out for the Editor’s picks
Here’s my chance to get personal with one of a kind acknowledgements of people and things I experienced in our community during the year. Editor’s picks are always easy. Sometimes I ask for input to gain a more rounded view of a specific person, event or item, but most of the time the one-of-a-kind nature of the winners is so obvious, they practically move from one place to another with their own spotlight. Although my mom taught me not to, it’s always my pleasure to point a finger at these winners. —Cyd Haynes, editor
Wow, where to start in the area of food and restaurants? With so many to choose from, it’s always a crazy competition in this category. What seems to lift a finalist up to “winner” status is the very fact that they have capitalized on their uniqueness. We’ll let them tell you a bit about their goals. See if it matches up with your experience at their place.
Baked fresh on site with quality ingredients, Nadia’s cupcakes appeal to vegans, those with gluten allergies and even pets! “Our policy is ‘people first’, putting people above profits every day,” says owner Abby Jimenez. Nadia’s focuses on community outreach, regularly supporting critically and terminally ill children. Customers love the fun, themed cupcakes such as look-alike options for April Fools’ Day including unicorn poop, and daily cupcake oddities featuring bacon-French toast, or alcohol-infused varieties.
Runners up: Great Harvest, Patrick’s Bakery and Café
The crowning touch on a cupcake from Nadia Cakes; Photo by Emily J. Davis
Best Patio Dining
The Lookout Bar & Grill
Boasting a terrific view of downtown Minneapolis from the highest point in Hennepin County, the patio here features a truly one-of-a-kind experience. The patio is nearly two acres in size with two volleyball courts, a playground, hammocks for relaxing, a fire pit, water feature, beautiful flower gardens and real grass underfoot. “We strive for a family-friendly experience, so your kids can run and play while you relax with your meal,” says owner Mike Kinnan. “It’s super fun, and always packed.”
Runners up: Pittsburgh Blue Steakhouse, Redstone American Grill
Best Tavern / Bar
Malone’s Bar & Grill
With twice daily happy hours as well as daily entrée and sandwich specials, Malone’s has a wide appeal for everyone. “We have great food and drink specials during Minnesota sporting events,” says owner AJ Stevens, “easily making us your home away from home for all the big games.” Malone’s, locally owned and operated, frequently hosts fundraisers and supports many community programs in Maple Grove, maintaining a close relationship to the community and its needs.
Runners up: The Lookout Bar and Grill, Maple Tavern
When it comes to the first meal of the day, Maple Grove loves 3 Squares. A perennial winner in this category, they distinguish themselves with fare like salmon scramble, chicken and waffles, Irish oatmeal, chilaquiles and roasted veggie hash, among others.
Runners up: Original Pancake House, Patrick’s Bakery and Café
Best New Restaurant
At Punch, pizza is cooked in 90 seconds in a wood fire oven in the center of the kitchen, but that’s not the only thing that makes it unique. They use the freshest of ingredients: basil, crushed tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella, on dough that looks like it was born in Naples. Master pizzaiolo Rolando Uruchina says it’s a difficult cooking style, but he enjoys the challenge of training new employees in how to make their pizza. “The quality standards all of us hold ourselves to are very high,” Uruchina says. He wishes people understood the hard work that goes into every pizza they make, along with the teamwork that happens in the kitchen. “The talking and the energy of the kitchen when we are busy sets us apart, too,” he adds. It’s not hard to see why they are this year’s fave new place to grab a bite!
Runners up: Freddy’s, Patrick’s Bakery and Café
Punch Pizza, fresh from a blistering hot oven; Photo by Tate Carlson
There’s nothing more personal than one’s own castle and whether picking, building, remodeling or decorating it, there are some amazing people in our neck of the woods to help you. Here are some of the best.
Best Builder / Remodeler
J Brothers Home Improvement
The Johnson family, behind J Brothers, is always willing to bring life to your ideas, with quality products and attention to detail which results in many repeat customers. “We have employees that have grown up here,” says Chelsey Olafson in the marketing department. “And, we have some city blocks where six houses were worked on by our team, simply due to word of mouth.” With more than 30 years of experience, creating the home of your dreams is their biggest goal and desire.
Runners up: Alan Johnson Construction, LDK Homes
Best Home Furnishings
Becker Furniture World
Becker has the type of furniture you need for the lifestyle you live. Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor space, you’ll find the furniture, accessories and accents that make your home shine. Becker also offers free in-store or home design consultations to help answer all of your questions.
Runners up: Home Depot, Homegoods
Best Landscape Designer / Architect
When Charles Lynde opened a nursery around the beginning of the 20th century, located along what is now Theodore Wirth Parkway in Golden Valley, someone had to wake every three hours to load the coal burning stove to keep the lilies and Christmas poinsettias from freezing in the greenhouse. When they were looking to move, their new location was an easy sell: There was a gas line buried along Hwy. 30 in Maple Grove. Many generations of family members have run the greenhouses, and you can bet they get a better night’s sleep than Charles Lynde ever did.
Runners up: Matt’s Lawn and Landscape, Task Masters
Best Home Service
You never think you’ll need a plumber until you do. For 2016, TJK Plumbing is the readers’ choice favorite in Maple Grove.
Runners up: Kal’s Plumbing, LeVahn Bros Plumbing
Best Senior Living Residence
Arbor Lakes Senior Living
Last year, Arbor Lakes Senior Living was recognized for the one-of-a-kind place it is. A second win secures their spot as a popular option for seniors.
Runners up: Rose Arbor and Wildflower Lodge, SilverCreek on Main
Best Interior Designer
Sandy Stratton: Floor Coverings International
Owner Sandy Stratton takes pride in offering a convenient, customer-oriented business, with the intent of seeking the best possible solution for her clients. “We bring everything to your home,” she says, “so you can see what best works for the needs and living situation for your space. We want you to feel you have the best solution for your project.” Each initial consult is free, including measuring, pricing and samples, and they see the entire project through to completion. Stratton keeps up on the latest trends in floor coverings, and is excited to begin offering carpets with a water-proof backing (excellent for pet owners and families with small children).
Runners up: DeAnne Koppendrayer: LDK Homes, Enhance with Style
Sandy Stratton, owner of Floor Coverings International, offers
in-your-home service that puts her a step ahead of the competition;
Photo by Marissa Martinson
HEALTH + WELLNESS
This is the category where you will find some of the most long-lasting relationships. People tend to put themselves only into the hands of those they have come to trust, and that trust is harder to earn than it is to lose. So, that core relationship is taken quite seriously. If these winners (and finalists) haven’t elicited loads of confidence over the years, they wouldn’t still be around. You can trust that!
Editor’s Pick: Best Volunteer Initiative
Maple Grove Hospital
Maple Grove Hospital became the first hospital/health care entity to receive elite certification as a Service Enterprise by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Service Enterprises methodically leverage volunteers and their skills to successfully deliver on the mission of their organization.
Maple Grove Hospital volunteers serve in 17 different departments, fulfilling 27 different positions. In 2014, they had 464 volunteers who gave more than 14,937 hours valued in in-kind contributions at $363,123.
For those who can, Maple Grove Hospital is a great, supportive environment in which to give the gift of time. The program values the skills volunteers offer and conducts thorough training until everyone is confident and effective in assisting the professionals who help patients regain the best health possible.
Best Chiropractic Clinic
Broman Chiropractic & Wellness Center
Dr. Doug Broman is a long-term fixture in Maple Grove, helping scores of people achieve optimal health and wellness through chiropractic care. With a team of doctors and a massage therapist, patients receive customized care using techniques such as myofascial release, acupuncture, exercise and rehabilitation, as well as nutrition and weight management programs.
Runners up: ChiroWay, DC Wellness Center
Best Pediatric Clinic
Partners in Pediatrics
Partners in Pediatrics makes health care more accessible for all families with extended hours and weekend appointments. “We see clients from birth to age 23,” says clinic manager Angela Roth, “and help with adult transitions to regular doctors in every way we can.” Roth says it’s not at all unusual to see generations of customers come through the doors, with former patients bringing in their own children to trusted doctors and nurses. “It’s really a special feeling to know they trust us so much,” Roth says.
Runners up: Park Nicollet, South Lake Pediatrics
Best Dental Clinic
Metro Dentalcare Specialty Center
For a healthy—and beautiful—smile, Maple Grove citizens turn to the pros at Metro Dentalcare’s Specialty Center who offer oral surgery and specialties like periodontics and orthodontics, too.
Runners up: Park Dental, Brook West Family Dentistry
Best Orthodontic Clinic
For more than 48 years, Accorde Orthodontists has treated more than 20,000 patients. That’s a record to be proud of and one that underlines the importance of a highly skilled team which includes assistants that average over 10 years of orthodontic specialty experience. But any orthodontist can have the best product, technology and business plan. According to Dr. Mark Dale, what sets Accorde apart is their dedication. “All of the staff members are passionate, positive, patient and productive…the perfect combination of attitude and intelligence,” he says.
Runners up: Kottemann Orthodontics, Twin Cities Orthodontics
Best Fitness / Yoga Studio
A results-driven environment and passion for helping people makes Orangetheory a special place. “We take great responsibility and pride in removing the barriers most people find in fitness and health…regardless of age and ability,” says owner John Finn. “I do [the Orangetheory] workout 3 days a week and at 45, I am in some of the best shape of my life!” he says.
Runners up: CorePower Yoga, Life Time Fitness
Amber Johnson says finding a workout that she’s been able to maintain
for over a year now has contributed to a big improvement in her health
as well as giving her the energy and confidence to make a career move
and the ability to balance family, career, faith, fitness and fun; Photo
by Marissa Martinson
Best Eye Clinic
No other eye clinic seems to be able to match this family-owned and operated business when it comes to the vote of our readers. Pearle Vision does it again.
Runners up: Bass Lake Family Eye Care, Northwest Eye Clinic
Best Dermatology Clinic
Associated Skin Care Specialists
With 18 doctors available for general dermatology, surgery and cosmetic procedures, there are a lot of choices at Associated Skin Care Specialists. They are also unique in running a number of their own research studies.
Runners up: Fairview, Park Nicollet
Celebrating 10 years in business, Robin Bernens loves the ongoing interaction with her clients, and prides herself on being honest about client needs. “I will not sell a service to anyone who I feel truly does not need it,” she says. “When you are honest with people, it gives them a deeper faith in your abilities.” Bernens requires her employees to experience all manner of services offered at Belladerm so they can easily answer questions and make recommendations. “We won’t do anything on a client that hasn’t been done on ourselves.” Belladerm covers all skin-care services, facial and body rejuvenation and laser hair removal.
Runners up: Massage Envy Spa, Simonson’s Salon & Spa
SHOPS + RETAIL
Everyone in this category absolutely loves what they do. We never fail to get that vibe when we talk with them about what makes them distinctive. You know the old adage: “Find a career you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s as if these shop owners have found their perfect matches. Now, they’re ready to help clients find their perfect blouse or bouquet, vino or vegetable. It’s a pay-it-forward kind of category.
Best Gift Shop
Dave Looney and his wife Linda offer their customers a warm and inviting space to browse and shop. “We can actually see them visibly relax when they walk in the door,” Looney says. With its rustic Northwoods lodge look, The Woods feels like home—a home full of a huge selection of locally made items and seasonal gifts. Among the treasures you can find are funky stone garden sculptures from Francis Metal Works and the best selection of Woodwick candles. Need a beverage dispenser made out of a large rock? They’ve got that, too.
Runners up: Goodthings, Stonecrop
Best Apparel Boutique
Owner Donna Rongstad’s favorite aspect of owning a clothing boutique is having three generations of women come shopping together. “It’s wonderful to see Grandma, Mom and daughter all finding the clothing that makes them feel beautiful,” she says. Rongstad and her daughter, co-owner Gina Hoben, specialize in clothing from XS to 2X, in unique, American-made styles in small quantities. “It minimizes the problem of showing up to work wearing the same outfit as someone else,” she adds. Personal stylists help with wardrobe choices and there are always the latest trends to peruse. It’s one-of-a-kind clothing from a one-of-a-kind shop.
Runners up: Evereve, Francesca’s
Every occasion is better with flowers, and for 28 years, Maria Donato and her sister-in-law Anna Donato-Ghani have provided the glory and color of floral arrangements for all occasions. In addition to everyday needs, customers have the Donato’s Direct option of purchasing flowers at wholesale cost, and the ability to use the Donato’s design studio to create their own arrangements, a boon to the DIY-er in all of us. Donato’s award-winning designers stay on top of the latest trends in the floral business, too, ensuring your arrangements look fresh and inviting. “We’re always trying to stay one step ahead of our customer needs to make their decisions easier.” Donato says.
Runners up: Bachman’s, Maple Grove Floral
Best Specialty Foods Store
Love That Olive
For six years, Terri Chaffer has brought 100 percent pure olive oil to Maple Grove from the same family in Italy. “Once customers realize how delicious our oils are, they simply don’t buy them anywhere else,” she says. Unique products grace the shelves at Love That Olive—items not found elsewhere in Minnesota—such as sweet potato salsa, chemical free olive oil sprays and their signature line of marinades, pasta sauces and spices. In addition, you’re sure to find beautiful gift items and a wide selection of balsamic vinegars in multiple flavors every time you visit.
Runners up: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods
Photo by Emily J. Davis
Editor’s Pick: Best (and most courageous) New Business
Omni Brewing Co.
We covered the courageous adventures of Zack Ward, Justin Walsh and Steve Hayes in our January issue this year. They’ve gone out on a limb to fulfill a dream of creating a place where a newly born brew can intersect with a comfortably seated, thirsty connoisseur. It’s a place where they listen to your input because they want to make the best beer possible. And, it’s a place where, believe it or not, you can bring your kids without feeling like you’re breaking some kind of law. Now that’s a one-of-a-kind brewery.
Photo by Joel Schnell
Best Jewelry Store
Mark Michael Designs
Pure, sparkling beauty is what you’ll find at Mark Michael. Owner Mark Lauer is a genius at creating jewelry designed specifically to match the personality and resources of anyone looking for a once-in-a-lifetime piece. Voters know when there is design perfection in their midst and Mark Michael commands winning attention every year in this category.
Runners up: Goldwear Jewelers, Wedding Day Diamonds
Best Grocery Store
Lunds & Byerlys
From personalized wedding cakes and deli salads to cheeses from around the world and the freshest of fruit, Lunds & Byerlys is the store for specialty items. If you’re looking for a place that’s upscale, but sized as to not overwhelm, Maple Grove voters say this place is the “best”.
Runners up: Trader Joe’s, Cub Foods
Best Liquor Store
With the arrival of “new and bigger” liquor stores in our area comes the biggest in the state, but Haskell’s has managed to create a small-town-proprietor experience for customers, offering customized input and options that make imbibing akin to an exploration of the foodie revolution, although vino has been around far longer. Their wine tastings are a community-melding event not to be missed.
Runners up: MGM Liquor Warehouse, Princeton’s Liquors
KIDS, FAMILY + PETS
Here are some winners that push the envelope on what it means to be outstanding in their field. They go the extra mile to deliver service and the experiences we all strive to capture. They can tell you what they set out to accomplish. It’s mostly to affect some kind of change or deliver the best care possible. You’ve made our lives at home infinitely better with your endeavors. Thank you!
Best Preschool / Childcare
Primrose School of Maple Grove
The Balanced Learning curriculum at Primrose School focuses on individual learning for each age level. Owner Joe Piket began the school eight years ago after seeking childcare for his own children. “The focus at Primrose is always on the family connection,” he says. Monthly events include potlucks and holiday-themed gatherings. In May, the school holds their annual Spring Fling Carnival, open to the public, with games, food and a silent auction.
Runners up: Step by Step Montessori, New Horizon Academy
Best Learning / Tutoring Center
Learning Rx focuses on development of mental skills, utilizing a one-on-one brain-training program that teaches critical skills for lifelong success. “We have graduated over 400 people, and work with ages 5 to 64,” says Pam Hendel, assistant director. Through processing skills, and long and short term memory skills, Learning Rx, in its six years, has helped those with autism spectrum disorders, brain injuries and ADHD, as well as help prepare students for college entrance exams.
Runners up: Mathnasium, Sylvan Learning
Editor’s Pick: Best Jr. High Teacher
Cheri Meyer, Physical Education teacher at Maple Grove middle school
Meyer has been dedicated to teaching health and physical education for many years in our district. “She writes grants and advocates for students relentlessly,” says principal Lisa Hartman. “Students speak so highly of her loving, caring approach to them as young adults and she cares for the total child—academic, social, physical growth and wellness.”
Mrs. Meyer makes me want to have a child in junior high all over again. And for you parents out there, you know that’s saying a lot. If you had her as a teacher, you know what I’m pointing at on this one. If you have kids on their way to Maple Grove Middle School, count yourself blessed.
Photo by Marissa Martinson
Best Doggy Daycare / Kennel
Adogo Pet Hotel
Looking for a place where your pet feels at home when away from home? At Adogo, your Fido will find friends, fun and great exercise. Area pooches may have been voting in this category too!
Runners up: All Seasons Canine Country Club, Animal Wellness Center
Photo courtesy of Adogo Pet Hotel
Best Veterinary Clinic
Animal Wellness Center
Dr. Carolyn Apker and her fellow veterinarians are always a fave in this category. Congrats ladies!
Runners up: Heritage Animal Hospital, North Paws Veterinary Clinic
Best Place to Spoil Your Pet
Chuck & Don’s Pet Food
When it comes to one-of-a-kind, Chuck & Don’s is a boutique in a sea of big box pet supply places. It’s a superb place to spoil your pet again and again, and have fun doing it.
Runners up: Adogo Pet Hotel, Animal Wellness Center
Best Place for Kids Activities
Maple Grove Community Center
Birthday parties become something special here, whether it’s basic swimming and romping through the Maple Maze indoor playground, or a themed party for princesses or super heroes. With a Teen Room full of game tables, an ice skating oval, outdoor sand volleyball courts, and a big gymnasium, kids of all sizes and ages can let off steam, meet up with friends and have a great time in a safe environment.
Runners up: The Dance Complex, World TaeKwonDo Academy
Editor’s Pick: Best Bet for a Snowy Day with the Family
Winter Recreation Area at Elm Creek Park Reserve
Elm Creek’s recreation area features a lighted tubing hill with an easy-to-use lift. And, it’s open even during the warmest of winters (read 2015-16) because they have a snowmaking machine. It’s like magic! The beginner-level downhill ski and snowboard hill make testing out the sport actually doable while the hotdoggers enjoy a more challenging course within eye shot, providing ample example of what is possible while standing on a small piece of curved wood.
With nearly 18 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, Elm Creek stands out among other facilities for its beautiful design and accessible nature. Your family (and friends) can easily spend from morning ‘till after nightfall having fun while barely noticing the cold. However, if they do feel the chill, they can grab a hot cocoa and warm their toes next to the fireplace in the chalet. Best of all, you don’t have to own a pile of equipment to enjoy winter sports here. The chalet offers rentals for anything you may need. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a snowy winter day.
Photo by Derek J. Dickinson, Three Rivers Park District
Now here’s the category where it really gets personal. These are the people who sometimes come to know the intimate details of your life. Your vote of confidence is a double acknowledgement that they are great at what they do and they do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. That alone makes them one-of-a-kind; standing out among those in their surroundings—making what’s personal into what’s also reassuring.
Editor’s Pick: Best Service to the Public
Tim Phenow, Maple Grove Park Board member (since 1981)
Tim Phenow has been so much a part of the phenomenal development of the natural features of Maple Grove that it’s hard to think of him as a volunteer. He’s served so consistently and stepped into leadership so confidently for so long he seems like a staff member. But no, he has a regular day job on top of all his work with the city. When it comes to one-of-a-kind, this guy definitely broke the mold.
He retired from his park board position last year, so if you see him on a city trail or enjoying the new central park (some of the many, many projects he had an important hand in developing over the years) be sure to shake the man’s one-of-a-kind hand.
Photo by Marissa Martinson
Best Insurance Agent
James Miller: American Family Insurance
Since the 1980s, Jim Miller has focused his insurance business solely on the Maple Grove area, providing his customers with an annual personal insurance review, considered the cornerstone of the operations. “We are deeply committed to our customers, and are very grateful for the success our agency has enjoyed here.”
Runners up: Steve Riebel: State Farm, Nick Simon: Country Financial
Best Hairstylist / Barber
Ashli Roberts: Willow Salon
Ashli Roberts “speaks hair”. “I can explain what is going to work for you and your lifestyle,” she explains. “I love educating myself and staying current with new and old hair trends.” Because her experience is broad, Roberts specializes in nearly every aspect of haircare and styling.
Runners up: Danie Fabel: Willow Salon, Sharayah Stammeyer: Willow Salon
Best Salon / Spa
The competitiveness of the yearly Best of Maple Grove plays itself out again in the salon category. Seems the top salons get to edge each other out year by year. Congrats Willow Salon, you are on top this year!
Runners up: Simonson’s Salon & Spa, Kalla Lily Salon and Spa
Best Financial Advisor
Anthony Brinda: UnderDog Wealth Management
An independent, privately owned investment firm, UnderDog Wealth Management helps to create favorable investment plans for retirement, college savings, social security and other investment topics. Their goal is to help the underrepresented in the financial services industry. “Managing finances isn’t just for the wealthy,” says owner Anthony Brinda. “In fact, at UnderDog, we have no minimum investment requirements and no minimum fees.”
Runners up: Tony Kieffer: Edward Jones, Michael Matheson: Financial Dimensions Group
Best Law Firm
Henningson & Snoxell
Since 1981, Henningson & Snoxell has been an uncommon place in Maple Grove when it comes to legal help. From the moment clients arrive to finalization, lawyers and support staff are there every step of the way, insuring that everything is covered and everyone is comfortable. “From day-to-day legal needs to special litigation, our care for our clients is our number one priority,” says Patti Ploehn, firm administrator.
Runners up: Donohue and McKenney, Mundahl Law
Vera Jones: Waxing the City
Vera Jones says she stands proud of what estheticians can bring into the community: passion, empathy and love. She shares an example: One of her very first clients was in the shop again. “I asked her how she was, and to my surprise she answered, ‘I’m OK.’ Why only OK? I asked. ‘Well, Vera, I just found out I have breast cancer and I’ve started my first round of chemo last week. My doctor said the last of the hair to go will be my brows. I just want to enjoy my brows for a little while longer before I do lose all of it.’ I knew that I helped my clients create a better self-esteem, but this goes on a deeper level.”
Runners up: Jessica Arnold: Simonson’s Salon & Spa, Shelly Williams: Simonson’s Salon & Spa