The best of the best of shops and services, locals who give back, favorite haunts and more.

Best nightclub / nightlife

1. The Rusty Nail

2. The Matterhorn

3. Zenbarn

Nominees: The Backyard Tavern, Burt’s Irish Pub, Doc Ponds, Martell’s at the Red Fox, Moog’s Place, The Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room, Rimrocks, Tap 25

The Nail nailed it, once again. The bad news? The Nail is no more. After decades of entertaining throngs of party animals and ski bums, The Bench folks plan to open a Mexican restaurant — with a much smaller music venue — in the storied spot. The greater Stowe area will no longer boast a spot for larger musical acts, unless Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center opts to get into the dance party game. Just a thought.

Best massage therapist

1. Kate Graves

2. Judith Foti

3. Rosie Manning

Nominees: David Bateman, Lily Chavez, Jeffrey Williams, Katie Zettek

No, no a little bit to the right. Down, down, to the left a hair. Yes, that’s the spot. There’s no need to direct our top vote-getter. From yoga to relaxation massage to LaStone therapy, Thai-Yoga bodywork and acupressure, Kate Graves has expertly therap-ized folks in these parts for 30 years.

Best hair services

1. Salon Salon

2. Artistic Roots

3. Salon Ruelle

Nominees: Antoine Brechu, BGB Salon, Birch. Hair Studio, Essence Salon & Day Spa, Garfield’s Hair Dressing, Hello, Gorgeous, Lush Salon and Boutique, Moira’s Hairstyling, Northern Highlights, Romano’s Barber Shop, Salon4Men, Shear Image, Stowe Barber Shop, Salon on Main, Stoweflake Spa, Styles on Sunset, Sunflower Salon, Topnotch Spa

Like a good car mechanic, when you find the right person to cut, color and coif your hair, your loyalty knows no bounds. Right on the curls of Salon Salon, the clear winner once again, a pack of other salons tallied respectable numbers of votes.

Best manicure

1. Phinne Nail Salon

2. Topnotch Spa

3. Salon Salon

Nominees: Essence Salon & Day Spa, Hello, Gorgeous, Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stoweflake Spa, Sunflower Salon

Whether it’s a quick color change, long-lasting shellac manicure or the whole nine (ten) of gel sets with precise custom artwork, husband-and-wife team Phinne and Vilaysack will keep your tips sharp and your tootsies treated.

Best jewelry store

1. Von Bargen’s Jewelry

2. Stowe Craft Gallery

3. Stowe Gems

Nominees: Ferro Estate & Custom Jewelers, Tangerine & Olive

Stowe Gems, which officially closed in December — or did it? — got knocked out of first after two consecutive wins. The most important facet in this category, however, is once again the closeness of the vote totals.

Best art gallery

1. Helen Day Art Center

2. Stowe Craft Design Gallery

3. West Branch Gallery & Sculpture Park

Nominees: Axel’s Gallery and Frame Shop, Bryan Memorial Gallery, Green Mountain Fine Art Gallery, Green Mountain Light Gallery, Northwood Artisans Gallery, River Arts Center, Robert Paul Galleries, Vermont Studio Center

A close one, but Helen Day, the state’s only public contemporary art gallery, took top honors again.

Best clothing store

1. Miller’s Country Outfitters

2. Green Envy

3. AJ’s Ski & Sports

Nominees: Billie Jean Vintage, The Boutique, Bunya Bunya, Caplan’s, Decisions, Forget Me Not Shop, In Company, Peebles, Ruelle Boutique, Shaw’s General Store, Shops at Spruce Peak, Stowe Street Emporium, Well Heeled

See our writeup.

Best outdoors / sportswear

1. Pinnacle Ski & Sports

2. AJ’s Ski & Sports

3. Johnson Farm & Garden

Nominees: Caplan’s, Darkside, MountainOps, The Great Outdoors, Power Play Sports, Outdoor Center at Shaw’s General Store, Trapp Family Lodge, Waterbury Sports

Neck-and-neck at the top of the ticket, but Pinnacle ekes out the win. See our writeup.

Best children’s shop

1. Yellow Turtle

2. Once Upon a Time Toys

3. The Tiny Acorn

Voters split into camps when picking their preferred kids store — clothing (first), toys (second), general gifts (third). Like an exciting game of T-ball, we like it when everyone wins!

Best place to get pet supplies

1. Guy’s Farm & Yard

2. The Dog and Cat

3. Menard’s Agway

Nominees: Aubuchon, Dogs Etc., Stowe Kennel Kare, Waterbury True Value

Morrisville’s farm, garden and pet store triumphs, despite that Hitchcockian “Birds” TV ad.

Best gift store

1. Stowe Mercantile

2. Stowe Kitchen Bath & Linens

3. Stowe Craft Design & Gallery

Nominees: Bridgeside Home, Cabot Annex, Country Store on Main, Inside Out Gallery, Shops at Spruce Peak, Stash N’ Stowe, Stowe Street Emporium, Tangerine & Olive

We checked what we wrote last year and it was pretty darn good… “Penny candies, birdhouses, tchotchkes, T-shirts, jams, jellies and maple syrup. You name it, Stowe Mercantile probably has it. Clearly that’s why it’s our readers favorite stop for gifts. It’s just fun to poke around.”

Best bookshop

1. Bear Pond Books

2. Bridgeside Books

3. Ebenezer Books

Nominees: Galaxy Bookshop

See our writeup.

Best housewares

1. Stowe Kitchen Bath & Linens

2. Country Store on Main

3. Stowe Hardware

Nominees: Aubuchon, Bridgeside Home, Downeast Tile, Hannon Home Center, Johnson Farm & Garden, Stowe Craft Design Center, Stowe Mercantile, Stowe Street Emporium

Big box stores beware. The little guys rule in our neck of the woods, from the venerable Stowe Kitchen to the best little tile store around. Shop local!

Best resale shop

1. Creative Consignments


3. Billie Jean Vintage

Nominees: Bargain Boutique, Nicky’s Nook, Second Chance

Bought. Sold. Consigned. Bought again. From Waterbury to Hyde Park, get outfitted with this lineup.

Best florist

1. Uncle George’s Flowers

2. Peck’s Flower Shop

3. Wildflower Designs

Nominees: From Maria’s Garden, The Painted Tulip, Proud Flower

Peter Piper picked a pocketful of pansies. Or he smartened up and let Uncle George, or one of our other nominees, do the picking.

Best customer service

1. Pinnacle Ski & Sports

2. Green Envy

3. Stowe Mercantile

Nominees: Stowe Craft Gallery & Design, Stowe Kitchen Bath and Linens, Topnotch Resort & Spa, Zenbarn

Pinnacle should market customer-service training videos. A three-peat in this category — 2015 to 2017. See our writeup.

Best local market

1. Commodities Natural Foods

2. Harvest Market

3. Stowe Seafood

Nominees: Alpine Mart, Edelweiss Mountain Deli, Johnson’s Sterling Market, Mac’s Market, Pete’s Greens Waterbury Farm Market, Sunflower Natural Foods, Village Market of Waterbury

What did Stowe ever do without a natural foods market? The hands-down favorite, Commodities, which opened another location in Winooski last year, came, saw and conquered. Look out next year. MoCo is coming …

Best place for a first date

1. Stowe Bowl

2. Doc Ponds

3. Harrison’s

Nominees: Flannel at Topnotch, Mt. Mansfield, Plate Restaurant, Stowe Cinema, Trattoria La Festa, Zenbarn

Bowling on the first date? Who knew? Clearly, lots of guys and gals (and guys and guys and gals and gals) on a first date go bowling. And this isn’t even the Midwest! Wonder how many strike out or end the night with time to spare?

Best place to catch live music

1. Rusty Nail

2. The Matterhorn

3. Moog’s Place

Nominees: Doc Ponds, Helen Day/Stowe Free Library Gazebo, Legion Field Johnson, Martell’s at the Red Fox, The Music Box, Oxbow Park, The Reservoir, Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, Tap 25, Trapp Family Lodge, Zenbarn.

What’s left to say? See best nightclub, above.

Best spa

1. Topnotch Resort & Spa

2. Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa

3. Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge

Nominees: Lumina Med Spa, Saucha

Breathe in … With 35,000 square feet comprised of 30 treatment rooms, private lounges, a plethora of indoor and outdoor pools, fireplaces, sauna and steam, Topnotch is our readers’ favorite place to relax and get perfectly pampered. … Breathe out. Bliss.

Best builder

1. Gristmill Builders

2. Donald P. Blake Jr. Inc.

3. Tim Meehan

Nominees: Gordon Dixon Construction, Patterson & Smith Construction, Sisler Builders, Stone Brothers

Gristmill is Stowe’s Brendan O’Reilly, whose vision it is to “help people create the special places that will affect not only their own lives, but the lives of those around them.”

Best architect (or architectural designer)

1. Milford Cushman, Cushman Design Group

2. Andrew Volansky, Volansky Studio, Architecture & Planning

3. Sam Scofield, Sam Scofield Architect

Nominees: Bud Wilson, Ernie Ruskey, Greg Paus, Silver Ridge Design, Tektonica Studio Architects, Wilson Architecture

Collaborative. Responsive. Professional. Intuitive. Respectful. Milford Cushman is our readers’ favorite, once again.

Best real estate agent

1. Pete Kelly

2. Pall Spera

3. Susi Benoit

Nominees: Sharon Bateman, Meg Kauffman, Cindy Lyons, McKee Macdonald, Susan O’Rourke, Gayle Oberg, Peggy Smith

The best real estate agent is the one who sells your house. Sold.

Best auto repair

1. Willie’s Village Auto

2. The Auto-Diesel Shop

3. Larson’s Auto

Nominees: Bourne’s Service Center, Checkered Flag, Fred’s Import Specialists, Madadashcar, McMahon Chevrolet Buick, Snowfire, Waterbury Center Auto Repair, Waterbury Service Center

A good editor always says, don’t use 20 words when one will suffice. Willie.

Best local musician or band

1. Allen Church

2. Seth Yacovone

3. Eames Brothers

Nominees: CopOuts, Cropduster, DJ 2Rivers, DJ Rekkon, Full Cleveland, George Petit, John Wilson, Meat Milk, The Shady Trees, Sugar Daddies, TURNmusic

Longtime Vermont musician Allen Church outsings and outplays the competition. (Don’t date yourself, but who remembers when Allen was the music teach at Stowe Elementary?) See our writeup.

Best local artist

1. Jen Hubbard

2. Craig Mooney

3. Mickey Myers

Nominees: Jeremy Ayers, Lisa Beach, Evan Chismark, Eric Tobin, Rachel Laundon, Rick Loya, Ella Skye, Sarah-Lee Terrat, Lance Violette

Hubbard’s life-sized fine art portraits and landscapes caught the eyes of local art lovers, and in this category she’s facing some super-sized talents.

Ms. Stowe

1. Nielle Roselip

2. Heidi Scheuermann

3. Diane McCarthy

Nominees: Leslie Anderson, Huntly Armbruster, Ani Petrolito, Alison Kaiser, Lauren LePage, Danielle Moffatt, Kristen Mooney, Cam Page, Mary Windler

If you added up all the hours these women have contributed to the community… well, we can’t count that high. See our writeup.

Mr. Stowe

1. Steve Sulin

2. Bobby Roberts

3. Willie Noyes

Nominees: Paul “Archie” Archdeacon, Esbert Cardenas Jr., Chuck Dudley, David Jaqua, McKee Macdonald, Ed Rovetto, Stefan Windler

Oscar nominees always say the honor is in being nominated, and this list truly bears that out. See our writeup.

Ms. Waterbury

1. Sue Minter

2. Susan Fishman

3. Liz Schlegel

Nominees: Hiata DeFeo, Lynn Mason, Laura Parette, Christina Warnstedt

Madame Governor wasn’t in the cards this time, but Ms. Waterbury surely is — for the second year in a row. See our writeup.

Mr. Waterbury

1. Ari Fishman

2. Peter Miller

3. Mark Frier

Nominees: Bill Minter, Ed Steele, Jason Reichert, Chad Rich, Tom Stevens, John Walsh

Wait until next year Mr. Miller, when your new book comes out. This year, however, Ari Fishman’s got the zen on his side. See our writeup.

Ms. Lamoille (all towns in the county, except Stowe)

1. Maggie Cleary

2. Theresa Snow

3. Kim Kaufman

Nominees: Dawn Archbold, Tricia Follert, Marisa Menendez, Max Neal

See our writeup.

Mr. Lamoille (all towns in the county, except Stowe)

1. Hank Glowiak

2. Rusty DeWees

3. Shap Smith Jr.

Nominees: Peter Bourne, Jimmy Goldsmith, Howard Manosh, Rich Westman

See our writeup.

Entrepreneur of the year — Stowe

1. David Wolfgang

2. John & Jen Kimmich

3. Graham & Cristina Mink

Nominees: Rachel & Mark van den Berg, Ryan Meravi, Trevor Crist, Mark Ray, Ed Rovetto, Laura Vilalta, Stefan & Mary Windler

A nice mix of old guard and new blood. The Alchemist, Stowe Bowl, Country Store on Main v. Piecasso, Pinnacle and Inntopia. Settle it in the (bowling) alley, perhaps?

Entrepreneur of the year — Waterbury

1. Ari, Noah & Marlena Fishman

2. Nicole Grenier

3. Danielle Moffatt

Nominees: Hiata DeFeo, Mark Frier, Lynn Mason & Dave Juenker, Jessica Wright

Zen. Collective. Barn. Spirit. The Fishmans’ vision “to build community from soil to soul” appears to be putting down solid roots.

Entrepreneur of the year — Morrisville

1. Hank Glowiak

2. Peter Bourne

3. Jennifer Isabell

Nominees: Jimmy Goldsmith & Kim Kaufman, Marisa Menendez & Michael Jansen, Andrew Mink, Michelle Tomlinson

Hank Glowiak of Chuck’s Bikes spins his magic once again. (Get to know the Mad Mechanic in Jake Goss’s short film at

Volunteer of the year / local who gives back

1. David Wolfgang

2. Donna & Jake Carpenter

3. Darsey Moon

Nominees: Leslie Anderson, Huntly Armbruster, Barbara Baraw

These are the names that — always — top the list of folks who give back. Remember their names and say yes when they ask for your help.

Best nonprofit / community organization — Stowe

1. Stowe Land Trust

2. Helen Day Arts Center

3. Stowe Free Library

Nominees: iShareworks, Spruce Peak Arts Center Foundation, Stowe Adaptive Sports, Stowe Education Fund, Stowe Mountain Bike Club, Stowe Performing Arts, Stowe Rescue Squad, Stowe Rotary, Stowe Theatre Guild, Stowe Vibrancy, Stowe Volunteer Emergency Services, Stowe Weekend of Hope, TRIP Dance Co.

Goodness, how to choose among the players on this list. In the end, saving farms, the working landscape and beautiful forests — some of the work of the Stowe Land Trust — won out, but not without respectable showings from the town’s art center and library.

Best nonprofit / community organization — Lamoille County

1. North Country Animal League

2. Justice for Dogs

3. Lamoille Community Food Shelf

Nominees: Center for America’s First Horse, Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Green Mountain Support Services, Lamoille Area Cancer Network, Meals on Wheels of Lamoille County, Lamoille Family Center, Lamoille Home Health & Hospice, River Arts, Salvation Farms, United Way of Lamoille County

Lamoille County overflows with good causes, from helping battered women and families to feeding the hungry and supporting the arts. But the animals topped the rankings this year when locals judged the many worthy nonprofits in this year’s 4393 awards. Woof. Meow?

Best nonprofit / community organization — Waterbury

1. Waterbury Area Food Shelf

2. Waterbury Area Trails Association

3. Children’s Literacy Foundation

Nominees: A River Runs Through It Garden Club, Duxbury Elf’s Shelf, Friends of Waterbury Public Library, Himalayan Cataract Project, Waterbury Area Senior Center, Waterbury Rotary

Waterbury residents know a good thing when they see it. And they support it too. Last year, for example, the Waterbury Congregational Church donated 80 grocery bags of goods to the food shelf, and during an election day food drive the group collected almost $2,500 and 21 bags of food. The annual turkey drive — thanks Kia and Tony — yielded $785, 87 turkeys, a chicken, a ham and various Thanksgiving fixings. That puts a lot of food on the tables of local families and feeds a lot of souls, too.

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