Best Of St. Louis Park 2016 Winners

The votes are in, and readers have spoken! Presenting the Best of St. Louis Park 2016!
A bouquet from Linsk Flowers.


It’s that time of year again, when we announce the businesses, people and organizations that you, our readers, chose as the best of our St. Louis Park community. And for the third year running, you’ve chosen well. From doggy daycares to bakeries, to insurance agencies and yoga studios, these quality people and places are what make our city shine. Because, each year, there are several close races in many categories, we always include the runners up to recognize the other special nominees.

So find a cozy spot to sit down and peruse these pages, and if you don’t see your favorite places and faces, be sure to nominate them next year. Let’s celebrate the Best of  St. Louis Park together!


Best New Restaurant
The Loop

One of the West End’s newer additions, The Loop is an upscale take on the classic sports bar. It has an upbeat atmosphere, music and sports playing on 23 TVs, and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Making its food almost entirely from scratch, The Loop’s mouth-watering menu includes our favorite salmon rice bowl— soy-ginger glazed salmon with bell peppers, carrots, green onions, fried egg, cilantro and sriracha mayo. And with a 360-degree bar open until the wee hours of the morning, you’re definitely in for a night of fun.
Runners up: Blackstone Bistro, Yard House

The Loop’s seared tuna sandwich; Photo by Emily J. Davis

Best Patio Dining
Rojo Mexican Grill

What says Mexico more than sipping on a margarita while dining al fresco on a warm summer day? For the second year in a row, readers chose Rojo as the best patio dining. For about half the year—when a remote-powered bay rolls open and an entire wall disappears—Rojo guests enjoy a one-of-a-kind indoor-outdoor experience. Overhead heaters make it comfortable on cooler days, and an awning provides shade on warmer ones.
Runners up: McCoy’s Public House, Crave

Best Tavern/Bar
Park Tavern

A St. Louis Park institution, Park Tavern has been satisfying bar goers for more than 50 years. The popular bar, restaurant, and bowling alley boasts more than a dozen local Minnesota beers on tap, domestic beers and wines. Looking for a place to watch the big game? Park Tavern is also popular among sports enthusiasts, even if it’s hard to find parking on Vikings-Packers game days!
Runners up: Bunny’s Bar and Grill, McCoy’s Public House

Best Bakery
Yum! Kitchen and Bakery

It’s hard to live in St. Louis Park without visiting Yum! when you’ve got a craving for something sweet. After opening the inaugural St. Louis Park restaurant and bakery 10 years ago, owner Patti Soskin now operates a second location in Minnetonka. A third-year veteran in this category, the bakery’s Patticake is something you don’t want to miss. Comprised of rich layers of chocolate cake topped with buttercream frosting, this mouthwatering cake is simply, well, yummy!
Runners up: Honey & Rye, Muddy Paws Cheesecake

Yum! Kitchen and Bakery cupcakes; Photo by Emily J. Davis

Best Breakfast
Good Day Café

Starting your day out with a hot cup of coffee and breakfast at the Good Day Café is a must. Be sure to try one of the café’s specialties like the German oven pancake topped with powdered sugar and lemon, or the apple soufflé pancake, which features Granny Smith apples smothered with a cinnamon and sugar glaze. But be careful, Good Day might just turn you into a morning person.
Runners up: Yum! Kitchen and Bakery, Bunny’s Bar and Grill

Editor’s Pick: Best Gathering Place
Park Yogurt

Since it opened two and a half years ago, Park Yogurt has built a following among kids and adults alike. It has become a favorite local hangout, especially in the warmer months. Pass by on any weekend, day or evening, and you’ll see families gathered on outdoor tables enjoying their delicious treats. You’ll find bikes parked out front, pets tied to the tables and plenty of conversation. In the spring and fall, you’ll see crowds gathered after sporting events, and entire teams hanging out after practice.

Owner Nancy Pettit, who has lived in St. Louis Park for 18 years and has two sons currently attending Park schools, has been delighted with the reception: “I just love seeing families come in to celebrate a birthday, study groups using Park Yogurt as their meeting place, and students and their families coming in after concerts and plays.” Pettit has also supported many local fundraisers for area schools including Peter Hobart, Park Spanish Immersion, the SLP High School Orchestra and countless sports teams. Park Yogurt also provides donations to many community events such as Neighborhood Night Out, Holy Family Festival and Birdfeeder Food Shelf.

Pettit says most of the staff are Park residents, so there’s even more of a local connection. It was always her hope that Park Yogurt would become a part of the community. And it truly has. The community now has a much-needed gathering place.

Park Yogurt owner Nancy Pettit; Photo by Emily J. Davis

Editor’s Pick: Best New Business

In the heart of the Park lies JonnyPops, a manufacturing facility that pops out dreamy, creamy fruit bars you wish the ice cream truck of your childhood would have carried. JonnyPops has ascended the rungs of freezer aisles across the Midwest ever since the idea of creating an all-natural fruit bar was born in a St. Olaf dorm room in 2011. Fast forward five years, and JonnyPops is inking deals with local grocers such as Lunds & Byerlys, Kowalski’s, Costco and Cub Foods. JonnyPops CEO Erik Brust attributes the recipe for success to, well, a very simple recipe.

“It’s really the simple, natural ingredients that make JonnyPops such a winner,” says Brust. “We give a lot of credit to our suppliers of the Michigan cherries that pack such a delicious flavor profile. Without these high-quality ingredients, the product would not have been the same.”

Pair those ingredients with flavors that sound as mouthwatering as they taste, and it’s no surprise JonnyPops landed a spot as a food vendor at the Minnesota State Fair. The most satisfying part of the job, however, runs deeper than taste-testing a long line of delightful ice pops. According to Brust, it’s all the supporters who have shared in JonnyPops’ success.

“Hundreds of people have come out of the woodwork to show support for our company,” says Brust. And thanks to offering guided tours of their facility (a family favorite), they’ve also gotten to know their followers on a more personal level.

In an interview with St. Louis Park Magazine last July, the JonnyPops team had been averaging about 2,400 pops per day. Since then, production has increased to around 10,000 per day, with plans for expansion by providing desserts for ‘smart snack’ lunches in K-12 schools throughout Minnesota. Not a far cry from achieving JonnyPops’ mission to create “A Better Pop for a Better World.”

JonnyPops co-founders Connor Wray and Erik Brust; Photo by Tate Carlson


Best Landscape Designer/Architect
McChesney Landscape Design

After a long, cold winter, your yard deserves a little love, too. For the third year in a row, McChesney Landscape Design proves its prowess in the area of beautiful landscapes. With more than 35 years of experience, owner Wayne McChesney and his team work hard to create lasting landscapes. “I love to be able to improve our clients’ way of life by creating areas that they can relax in and enjoy year round,” says McChesney. “Every season should bring new beginnings.”
Runner up: CHW Landscape Design

Wayne McChesney from McChesney Landscape Design; Photo by Emily J. Davis

Best Builder/Remodeler
Anchor Builders

Family-owned Anchor Builders specializes in large additions, partial remodels, whole house renovations, and custom-built new homes. The folks at Anchor focus on the architectural details of each home so that the results blend with the original character and neighborhood. “We really enjoy working in St. Louis Park. The beautiful neighborhoods, friendly people, good schools, and its convenience to the rest of the Twin Cities are just a few things that stand out,” co-owner Barak Steenlage says.
Runners up: Sicora, Craft Homes

Best Home Furnishings
Mama’s Happy

The saying “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is what inspired Amanda Ficek to open her first Mama’s Happy store in Mound in 2010. Ficek opened up the SLP location in 2014, delighting shoppers with unique handcrafted, upcycled, and repurposed home goods and gifts created by local artists. The store features the entire line of Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan, as well as furniture they’ve painted using the popular paint—and workshops to teach you how to do the same.
Runners up: Ciel Loft & Home, Woody’s Furniture

Best Interior Designer
Jackie Halverson (Anchor Builders)

At the ripe age of 10 years old, Jackie Halverson decided she wanted to become an interior designer. Now the lead designer at Anchor Builders, Halverson puts her passion and experience to use creating beautiful spaces in the Park and surrounding area. “I’ve found that some of my favorite projects are from this area because of the character and unique features that each home offers,” says Halverson. “I appreciate how the people in this community value the rich architectural history of the neighborhoods and strive to maintain its integrity, even while updating the home to fit their modern lifestyle.”
Runners up: Allison Landers, Laura Potter Designs

Best Home Service
Star Electric

When the lights aren’t working, who are you going to call? Star Electric. A family-owned and -operated business since 1973, Star Electric offers a wide variety of electrician services and prides itself on giving each job, big or small, the same level of attention. In fact, owner Mark Degidio believes in the quality of his company’s work so much that all work and materials are guaranteed for one year from the date of completion.
Runners up: Uptown Plumbing, Heating and Cooling, Arrie’s Plumbing

Best Senior Living Residence
Parkshore Senior Community

You should enjoy your home no matter what stage of life you’re in. At Parkshore Senior Community, residents can choose from a number of independent living, assisted living, and memory care apartments adjacent to Wolfe Lake Park. In addition to a community of folks in the same stage of life, Parkshore also offers activities for residents, including exercise in the swimming pool, card games, transportation to events and volunteering opportunities.
Runners up: Sholom Home; Towerlight


Best Chiropractic Clinic
West End Chiropractic and Wellness

The doctors at West End Chiropractic use the most advanced techniques to treat conditions including neck pain, lower back pain, headaches and numbness to help increase patients’ mobility and remove restrictions to the joints caused by things like whiplash or injuries from a fall. The clinic also offers acupuncture and massage.
Runners up: Boulevard Chiropractic, Kenwood Chiropractic and Concussion Center

Dr. John Wertish, Dr. Dana Schomberg and Dr. Andrew Schwert from West End Chiropractic and Wellness; Photo by Emily J. Davis

Best Fitness/Yoga studio
CorePower Yoga

Residents love getting their zen on at CorePower Yoga. “We love being a part of the St. Louis Park community,” says studio manager Abby Cardinal. “It’s an opportunity to give our community a place to experience this powerful and transformational workout.” There’s a wide range of classes offered, but yogi favorites include C2, a vinyasa class that helps strengthen, balance, and detoxify body and mind, and Yoga Sculpt, which combines free weights with vinyasa sequencing, cardio and strength-training. We’re sweating already!
Runners up: Total Body Power, Solidcore

Best Dental Clinic
Park Dental

Serving St. Louis Park since 1982, Park Dental provides preventative dental services as well as teeth whitening, cosmetic enhancements, dental implants, and sedation dentistry. The local dental clinic also maintains close working relationships with specialty doctors to help provide seamless and consistent care for patients. Have a kiddo who’s not especially fond of the dentist? No problem. Park Dental reserves Saturdays for children’s hygiene appointments, allowing kids to be seen in a fun, relaxed setting.
Runners up: Metro Dental, Schramm Dental

Best Orthodontic Clinic
Family Orthodontics, P.A.

For the third year in a row, you’ve chosen Family Orthodontics as your favorite orthodontic clinic. After 25 years ago in practice, Dr. Angela Ross says she is still just as excited to come to work each day. Although visiting the orthodontist might be daunting for some, Family Orthodontics tries to make patients as comfortable as possible with a reception room featuring a video arcade with free games, movies, complimentary bottled water, snacks and WiFi.
Runner up: Orthodontic Care Specialists

Best Pediatric Clinic
Pediatric Services

Pediatric Services has been serving children from birth through college age for almost 80 years. Last November, Pediatric Services moved to a new convenient SLP location just a few blocks away and also began partnering with Psychology Consultation Specialists to provide regular access to mental health care by providing a space for them to work with families.
Runners up: Park Nicollet Pediatrics, Partners in Pediatrics

Best Eye Clinic
Park Nicollet

Experienced Park Nicollet ophthalmologists and optometrists help detect and treat eye problems before they become serious health problems. Doctors conduct routine eye exams using the latest testing measures and technology in addition to performing more specific screenings for conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts, as well as pediatric eye exams and surgery.
Runners up: Pearle Vision, Rose Fashion Optical

Best Dermatology Clinic
Park Nicollet

Park Nicollet’s team of experts helps evaluate and treat a variety of skin conditions. The clinic also provides treatments like laser therapy and Botox. Its state-of-the-art Mohs surgical center gives patients access to experienced surgeons who are trained in the latest surgical techniques to remove skin cancers, provide reconstructive services, and achieve a high skin cancer cure rate.

Best Medspa
Urban Retreat

Since opening in 2013, Urban Retreat owner Suzanne O’Brien has been helping people feel confident about their skin. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or have a specific skin care need, the local spa offers a wide variety of services from facials and dermaplaning to waxing and laser services, along with massage therapy and even a makeup bar. Bonus: Urban Retreat uses products that are entirely free of parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate and other harsh chemicals often found in standard beauty products.
Runner up: Life Time Athletic Spa

Editor’s Pick: Best Hearing Advocate
Kim Fishman, Chears Audiology

Audiologist Kim Fishman has more than 20 years of experience treating hearing loss, but her work goes beyond the personalized service and attention she gives her patients at Chears Audiology. For the last two years, as director of an organization called Loop Minnesota, Fishman has been working to increase the number of local businesses, places of worship and public spaces that offer a special technology called a hearing loop. So far she has helped get three St. Louis Park locations—City Hall, Chears, and Sabes JCC Theater—equipped with hearing loops, consisting of a copper wire that surrounds a room and connects to an amplifier, which can turn an ordinary hearing aid into a wireless speaker. (St. George’s Episcopal Church also has a hearing loop.) In public spaces, where background noise is abundant, hearing aids can create uncomfortable jumbles of sounds and echoes, and make it difficult for users to hear.

“I have always been an advocate type of person,” says Fishman, a 15-year Park resident. “I want to help as many people as I can hear better so that they can stay connected to the world around them.” Fishman got involved in looping because of the huge impact it can have for people with hearing aids, which do not work as well in large venues where background noise is plentiful. Fishman says a lot of patients complain that they can’t hear in church or at a theater. With a hearing loop, “having that direct input to your ear from the speaker is absolutely amazing,” she says.

Kim Fishman of Chears Audiology; Photos by Marissa Martinson & Emily J. Davis


Best Apparel Boutique

St. Louis Park moms love Evereve—and the boutique loves them back. “What makes Evereve unique is our mission to inspire every mom to embrace her beauty and power,” says styling floor manager Melissa Hanson. “Evereve stylists offer every mom a personal, one-on-one styling experience and fashion adventure, with the purpose of encouraging each mom to shine on.”
Runners up: Primp, Judith McGrann & Friends

Best Florist
Linsk Flowers

Since 1948, St. Louis Park neighbors have turned to Linsk for beautiful flowers, making it a perennial favorite. “I think St. Louis Park has supported the shop in a wonderful way over the years,” says owner Cheryl Vavricka. A key ingredient to the business longevity? Service-oriented attention to detail. “We are focused on the customer—that is the number one thing that sets the tone above all else,” says Vavricka.
Runners up: Arts & Flowers Design Studio, Bachman’s

Best Jewelry Store
Continental Diamond

Quality jewelry with excellent customer service makes Continental Diamond sparkle, whether you’re searching for designer jewelry or a custom piece. Owners and husband and wife Jimmy and Helain Pesis are long-time residents. “We’ve been a part of St. Louis Park forever,” says Helain.
Runners up: Max’s, Bergstrom Jewelers

Best Specialty Food Store
Trader Joe’s

This Excelsior Boulevard hub offers a wide selection of popular Trader Joe’s products, but the national chain also knows how to keep it local. The store recently spruced up its walls with original, hand-painted murals illustrating several St. Louis Park landmarks.
Runners up: Lunds & Byerlys, Nelson’s Meats

Best Gift Shop
Mama’s Happy

The one-stop shop for unique, handcrafted, upcycled and repurposed home goods and gifts is making St. Louis Park shoppers happy. The quaint store is filled with hand-painted furniture, home décor and a full line of Annie Sloan Chalk Paints.
Runners up: Bean & Ro, Max’s

Amanda Ficek, owner of Mama’s Happy; Photos by Amanda Gahler & Marissa Martinson

Best Liquor Store
Liquor Boy

The team at Liquor Boy enjoys being part of the great happenings in the West End area. “We go on the philosophy of everyday low prices,” says owner John Wolf. In addition to offering a great value to St. Louis Park residents, Liquor Boy has outstanding customer service—they go the extra mile with their unique carry-out service.
Runners up: Liquor Barrel, Jenning’s Liquor

Best Grocery Store
Lunds & Byerlys

For 35 years, Lunds & Byerlys has been a neighborhood grocer and community partner: the store has partnered with the Rec Center, local schools, churches, synagogues and more. With many long-time employees living in the area, there’s a local flavor inside, too. “Certainly we are selling groceries, but it’s a lot more than that,” says general manager Ross Huseby. “It’s about creating and building relationships.”
Runners up: Trader Joe’s, Cub Foods

Best Veterinary Clinic
Oak Knoll Animal Hospital

We love our pets and so does Oak Knoll Animal Hospital. That’s why we continue to entrust our dogs’ and cats’ health to the neighborhood clinic. “The clinic has been part of the St. Louis Park community for over five decades,” says Dr. Jeremy Smith, “and our current, newly renovated facility is a testament to our commitment to continue to service St. Louis Park in the future.”
Runners up: All Paws, City Cat Clinic

Heidi Hackett and Dr. Jeremy Smith with Milo at Oak Knoll Animal Hospital; Photo by Marissa Martinson

Best Preschool/Childcare
Kids’ Place

While offering high quality care for St. Louis Park little ones, Kids’ Place utilizes the greatness our city has to offer. Child care coordinator Lisa Campbell says, “As part of St. Louis Park Schools, we really feel connected to the greater St. Louis Park community.” At Kids’ Place, the kiddos and their care providers venture around town for memorable field trips—Park Tavern and Texa Tonka for bowling, Westwood Hills Nature Center, city parks, Pavek Museum, The Rec Center and Roller Garden to name just a few.
Runners up: Beth El Aleph School, Kid Zone

Best Doggy Daycare/Kennel
Pampered Pooch Playground

Readers voted Pampered Pooch Playground a favorite spot to house dogs while owners are away and it has become the go-to destination for pets in the community. “When someone finds a lost dog, we often get a phone call asking if we know the dog or who the owner is,” says co-owner Keith Miller. Miller also says that while providing exceptional care for your dogs, the team has fun doing so: “After eight years, I still enjoy going to work every day.”
Runners up: Petropawlis, The Canine Club and Spa

Best Learning/ Tutoring Center

Travis Loeschen, director of Mathnasium SLP-Edina, says the center’s goal is to discover learning gaps and put together an individual learning plan for students. Loeschen sums up the heart of it: “We use small group instruction to address those needs and fill in the gaps in a fun and engaging environment that focuses on understanding concepts as opposed to memorizing and drilling.”
Runners up: Academic Tutoring and Testing, Groves Academy

Best Place to Spoil Your Pet
Bubbly Paws

This favorite salon offers creature comforts such as a self-service bath, full-service bath and grooming services for dogs. “We want to provide a place that feels the same way as a human spa—welcoming and inviting,” says general manager Lill Luce. From the same people who bring us Pampered Pooch Playground, Bubbly Paws also supports local pet rescues. “We love to give back to the community doing fundraisers for pet-related charities,” says Luce.
Runners up: Lulu & Luigi, Petropawlis

Best Place for Kids’ Activities
St. Louis Park Recreation Center and Aquatic Park

The local hangout for families all summer long, the Rec Center boasts a 25-meter lap pool, 4-story winding water slides, and toddler favorite sand pit.
Runners up: Kenwood Gymnastics, Little Gym

Editor’s Pick: Best Youth Initiative
Children First

Shifting the focus from what’s wrong to what’s strong is the philosophy behind Children First, a local nonprofit bringing together community stakeholders to build attributes that youth and teens need to become successful members of our society. These attributes, based on the framework of Search Institute’s 40 developmental assets, include fundamental needs such as family support, achievement motivation and interpersonal competence.

“Leaders and residents alike have been unwavering in their support of St. Louis Park’s young people,” says executive director Karen Atkinson. “Children First is part of the DNA of the St. Louis Park community because the research is clear: As we focus on character-building assets, young people flourish.”

Children First was launched in 1992 when Carl Holmstrom, former St. Louis Park school superintendent, took the podium at a weekly Rotary Club meeting to broach a noticeably declining quality of life for area youth. He wasn’t sure how to address the growing problem, but he knew his audience. The Rotarians had roots that ran deep in St. Louis Park and felt instantly compelled to take action. The very next day, Wayne Packard, former president of Culligan Water Minnesota, showed up at Holmstrom’s office with checkbook in hand and his mind on a mission. The rest, as they say, is history.

Serving 8,000 youth on an annual operating budget of $90,000, Children First wholly relies on support from a volunteer board of directors, in-kind donations and sponsorships, and a pool of 250 volunteers - “Asset Champions” - made up of leaders in the community, local businesses, congregations and schools. Their website states, “If we want to ensure the best life possible for the next generation, it is up to all of us to be a part of the solution.”

Editor’s Pick: Best Throwback Entertainment
Roller Garden

Any place that boasts almost 50 years of roller skating grooves and generations of adolescent memories—my own parents remember going there, and now my children enjoy it—deserves a special designation. As the SLP Historical Society’s Jeanne Andersen explained in one of her past columns in this magazine, the building goes back much farther than its wood floor reveals.

“The building was originally constructed as an indoor horse arena in 1930,” writes Andersen. “Pastime Arena and Indoor Riding Academy was the first permanent building outside of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for holding horse shows in the Twin Cities, but its dirt floor was occasionally flooded to accommodate ice skaters. A wooden floor came later, and the building would become home to a tennis club, weekend roller skating and dances at what was once called ‘a rock-and-roll’ dance venue. So next time you’re bopping to the beat on eight wheels at the Roller Garden, remember all the St. Louis Park history—including hay—beneath your skates.”

Roller skating seems to be the activity with the most longevity at the Roller Garden, as the painted green dinosaur continues to welcome skaters, young and old.

Best Financial Advisor
Michelle Monson Klisanich, Thrivent Financial

Basing her approach on transparent advice, Michelle Monson Klisanich aims to educate and empower people when it comes to the financial decision-making process. “In addition to helping individuals and families, I have a passion to help women experiencing divorce by serving as a financial expert alongside their attorney or mediator,” Klisanich says. “This gives women more confidence that they are making the right decisions for themselves and their families to set up a solid financial future.”
Runners up: Mark Nevermann, Edward Jones; Seth Schuett, Edward Jones

Thrivent Financial’s Michelle Monson Klisanich; Photo by Emily J. Davis

Best Hairstylist/Barber
Darrin Miernicki, Darrin James Salon

Darrin Miernicki has been cutting hair in St. Louis Park since 1991. “I’m a fixture,” Miernicki says. “I love it here and can’t imagine working anywhere else.” The stylist values good communication with clients and wants everyone to walk away happy. “We call ourselves an uptown salon without uptown prices or attitude,” says Miernicki.
Runners up: Sasha Zoghi, Revolution Salon; Rochelle Nichols Farrow, Tangles and Co. Salon

Best Esthetician
Corie Young: Urban Retreat

It’s no surprise St. Louis Park residents voted for Corie Young, who enjoys making her clients feel beautiful and getting to know them in the process. “I love the one-on-one connection,” she says. Young caters to her clients and makes it all about them. “I love getting to know new people, making them feel comfortable and making them look good at the end of the day.”
Runners up: Kate Plec, Phresh; Becky Bjorklund, Waxing the City

Best Insurance Agent
Greg Loffhagen

The Greg Loffhagen State Farm Insurance office has been part of the community for more than 30 years. “We feel a strong sense of community with our local customers and enjoy welcoming new customers and sharing our knowledge about the many things St. Louis Park has to offer,” says Loffhagen. Cultivating personal relationships and valuing the day-to-day interactions with all customers, Loffhagen says, “We take pride in helping our customers and potential customers make informed decisions on how and where to best spend their hard-earned money.”
Runners up: Tom Schmitz, David Jurisz

Best Law Firm
Bloomgren Hanson Legal

Serving clients throughout the Twin Cities, Bloomgren Hanson Legal is a multi-disciplined law firm that St. Louis Park residents trust. “We believe our office is unique because we provide high quality and affordable legal services in multiple areas of practice in order to serve our clients as their needs evolve,” says attorney Katie Hanson. “We take great pride in educating our clients so that they can not only trust the result but understand the process and feel comfortable with the decisions being made.”
Runners up: SeilerSchindel, PLLC. Margolis Law Firm

Best Salon/Spa
Revolution Salon

The folks at Revolution Salon get excited about making their clients’ style wishes come true. “We look at someone from head to toe and help them decide the best look for them,” says co-owner and stylist Sasha Zoghi. She adds that the salon is unique in the way it tailors a look to fit the client’s individual needs and lifestyle: “We don’t just look at hair, we look at the whole package.”
Runners up: Phresh, Darrin James Salon

Editor’s Pick: Business that Gives Back
MUDDY PAWS Cheesecake

Tami Cabrera was raised in southern Wisconsin by restaurant owners who exposed her to the kitchen and to running a business at a very young age. But they also exposed her to something bigger, which influenced her own business philosophy. “My dad took me around the world on an 80-country trip one summer,” says Cabrera, owner of Muddy Paws Cheesecake. “We went to several Third World countries. I was 14 then, and came back with a forever promise that I would do my part to make the world a better place. I’ve worked hard and volunteered since then.”

Cabrera has made her popular Muddy Paws Cheesecake bakery a bastion of the SLP community through that same give-back mentality. Her biggest event is a yearly cheesecake sampling in December that collects pet food and toys for STEP and Perspectives Kids Place. Last year was the 23rd year and they collected 1,800 pounds of pet food and 750 toys! With entertainment and food expenses, the event costs Muddy Paws several thousands of dollars to organize. “But the donations and smiles are worth every penny,” she says.

Cabrera also supports Perspectives Kids Place by volunteering her time, and donating her ingredients and skills in their kitchen with children in their program. Muddy Paws donates treats to many local school events, including Family Fun Night and Teachers Conference Days, and they send hundreds of gift certificates to local benefits, sports teams and charity silent auctions.

Cabrera loves living and having her business in the Park. “It’s like living in a small town with beautiful values within a big city,” she says. “It has a central location, good parking, loyal residents and a great city staff. The community has always been supportive of the arts and small business. I’m thankful to live and work here!” And if you’ve ever wondered how she named her business, she explains: “It comes from my history of veterinary school combined with my love for animals. But we kept it because it sounds chocolatey and gooey.”

Muddy Paws founder Tami Cabrera; Photo by Marissa Martinson