August 26, 2008

Memphis Essentials

Most Lush Garden Store

Winner: Stringer's

For those with a green thumb, there's no greater pleasure than walking among row upon row of plants and blooms; and for the brown thumb, there's no greater comfort than knowing Stringer's Garden Center is nearby.

"The employees, they all love to garden," says Vador Vance, vice president of the company, when asked why the store won top honors as the most lush in town. "They're always fluffing, creating and making it look like their own back yards."

A combination of quality plants, employee attention and the right vendors have helped Stringer's make the most of Memphis gardens for 65 years. The company has put the property of the Chickasaw Oaks location up for sale, and it is now an outlet center, while the Poplar Pointe store is now the focus of all that lushness.

"We just want people to succeed," says Vance.

9495 Poplar, Germantown, 754-5700, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Stringer's Discount Outlet, 2974 Poplar, 458-3109, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday;

Finalist: Dan West Garden Center

The little shop along the railroad tracks at Poplar and Colonial is known for it's year-round Christmas shop and huge selection of yard accessories. Gardeners looking for just the right plant, tree or shrub can get lost for hours wandering the grounds of the center's newest location on Highway 64.

12061 Highway 64, Eads, Tenn., 867-2283; 4763 Poplar, 767-6743; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Lowe's Home Improvement

Mega-store, yes, but Lowe's garden area is a cornucopia of outdoor wonders, from flowering plants to basic shrubs, yard dcor, ponds, borders, fencing and the all-important huge bags of fertilizer to keep everything lush.

Nine locations in the Memphis area; hours and directions are online at

Most Geared Bike Shop

Winner: Peddler Bike Shop

It is all about the bike when it comes to the readers' choice of Most Geared Bike Shop in town, but don't let the Lance Armstrong types who frequent Peddler intimidate you, says co-owner Hal Mabray.

"Being in an urban environment, we have a wide range of customers, from the typical college student to a family member to a serious rider. We say 'hello' to everyone that comes in the door even if we're busy, and we give them our undivided attention."

Mabray says the mechanics at all three locations - Germantown, Cordova and the University of Memphis area - have the education and training necessary to keep riders on the road, safely. "We know what we're talking about when it comes to repairs," says Mabray. "We're not trying to up-sell something, just trying to make them safe."

1140 Germantown Parkway, Cordova, 758-9770; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday- Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday. 575 S. Highland, Memphis, 327-4833; 9 a.m.-6 p.m Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. 2095 Exeter Road, Germantown, 757- 8485; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m.- 5 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Midtown Bike Company

Racer or cruiser? Either way - and even if you have no idea what that means - the folks at Midtown are all about fitting customers with the right bike for their lifestyle, from an old school Schwinn to a high-performance triathlon bike.

2091 Madison, 726-4511, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday;

Finalist: Bikes Plus

The owners - a couple of retired Navy veterans - turned their love of biking into their after-the-service careers. The top-notch staff includes experts in BMX, cyclocross and mountain biking.

7780 Highway 64, Bartlett, 385-8788; 9445 Poplar, Germantown, 755- 7233. 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday;

Most Cherished Gift Shop

Winner: Babcock Gifts

It's noon on a Saturday, and a shopper rushes into Babcock's, frantically searching for the perfect wedding gift. Oh, and the wedding's at 12:30.

Panic at the shop? Hardly; the staff at the East Memphis shop have seen it - and can handle it - all.

"We have a very loyal clientele, an established, faithful clientele," says manager Adrienne Oeding, who's been on staff 22 of the 37 years Babcock has been in business. "But we have so many new customers who are just finding us, and realize our gifts, our gift wrapping, and our staff add up to the ultimate in service."

Babcock offers familiar names in the china and crystal departments, from traditional china patterns from Haviland and Mottahedah to local and regional pottery from Agnes Stark and The Good Earth, among others.

4626 Poplar, 763-0700, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. Saturday;

Finalist: Gift & Art Shop

The 50-plus-year-old emporium of good taste offers great service and product lines, from the upscale, including Herend and Baccarat, to the casual, such as Jon Hart and Tervis Tumblers.

4704 Poplar, 682-1621, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday;

Finalist: The Sanctuary for Mind, Body & Spirit

This little store in Bartlett offers alternative options for healing and holistic health. Visits from hypnotists and healers are the norm, while products tend toward essential oils, crystals and other natural elements .

6266 Stage Plaza, 377-6488; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday- Saturday;

Most Browseable Bookstore

Winner: Davis-Kidd Booksellers

With more than 200,000 items in the store, Davis-Kidd is more than a place to lose oneself in the latest mystery or historic tome; it's a destination for mothers with young children (for the reading groups), groupies hoping to meet their favorite author (for the book signings) and where more than a few business deals have been cut and charity auctions planned (in Bronte, the in-store bistro).

"It's the atmosphere," says general manager Eddie Burton, when asked what makes Davis-Kidd an enduring and endearing shop. "We try to make it customer-friendly and accommodating, and we listen to our customers. We will change our selection, or try new things because they ask for it."

Burton, who has been with the store since it opened in 1995 and has been general manager for the last six years, says the mix of veteran staffers is what keeps the store both fresh and iconic; the average employee has been on staff nine years.

387 Perkins Ext., 683-9801; 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.- 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Barnes & Noble

The bookstore giant offers Starbucks, comfy chairs for reading and a giant children's section; the Bookstar in Poplar Plaza, which is owned by Barnes & Noble, is located in a former movie theatre .

Four locations in the Memphis area; menu, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Borders

Although part of the Walden Books chain, Borders maintains a single Germantown location, including an extensive video collection of television series boxed sets, handcrafted cards, and a small caf.

6685 Poplar, 754-0770; 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday;

Most Outstanding Outdoor Store

Winner: Outdoors, Inc.

Never underestimate Memphians: That's the mantra Joe Royer, co- owner of Outdoors, Inc., lives by.

"The Memphians I know are climbing the Matterhorn, running the Boston Marathon, kayaking confidently in the Mississippi River," says Royer. "They have the skill and the fitness to do it."

Royer, a member of the Yellowstone Foundation and a former chair of the Sierra Club who studied engineering at the University of Memphis, says he's always been fascinated by and attracted to human- powered recreation and he loves sharing his knowledge with his customers.

"We test everything, like every kayak, every canoe we sell to the public, so we can talk about the way they paddle, the weight of the boat," says Royer. "And the glass is more than half full in our area" he says of the natural resources for outdoor recreation. "Many people are getting strong and fit, and doing it here locally."

Five locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Bass Pro Shop

Need something in camouflage? Bass Pro Shop has it, from bed linens to coveralls, and all the things hunters, anglers and campers need.

6140 Macon, 213-5800, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Sportsman's Warehouse

You've gotta love a store that has a "gift bar" - a place to find all those little accessories for the sportsman, like night vision binoculars and that all-important filleting knife.

7951 Winchester, 753-5000; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. Sunday; 130 Marathon Way, Southaven, 662-349-5500; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. -6 p.m. Sunday;

Most Fully Furnished Furniture Store

Winner: Ashley Furniture Homestore

What do women want? If a man could only answer that question, he could. ... well, win the category of Most Fully Furnished Furniture Store.

According to Chad Spencer, owner and vice president of Ashley Furniture Homestore, knowing what women want is what makes the difference when it comes to helping them, as key decision makers, furnish their homes.

"Women love accessories, women love furniture," says Spencer. "Typically, my customers are women 21 to 54 years old, and one thing she loves is for her home to look good."

Spencer says that means offering not only a wide-range of furniture, from traditional to contemporary styles, but offering a full line of accessories to complete the look, from lighting and mirrors down to the comforter and sheet sets for bedrooms.

Four stores locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Samuels Furniture

It's been a family affair since day one for the 92-year-old Memphis store, starting when carpenter Louis Samuels accepted an attic full of furniture in lieu of payment for his services. The store has staff designers and upscale lines, including Henredon, Bernhardt and Drexel Heritage.

5508 Poplar, 682-6681, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Friday- Saturday, and until 8 p.m. Thursday. 1615 N. Germantown Parkway, 624- 7738; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. Monday and Thursday. 2449 Scaper Cove, 743-6707, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday;

Finalist: Great American Home Store

A relative new kid on the block, the store offers a huge showroom for browsing, two-day express delivery and dozens of brands to choose from, including Broyhill, Howard Miller and La-Z-Boy.

7171 Appling Farms, 260-5900; 5295 Pepper Chase Drive, Southaven, 662-996-1000; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. Sunday;

Most Loaded Wine/Liquor Store

Winner: Buster's Liquors & Wines

Choosing from 8,500 spirits and wines can be overwhelming, but Buster's regulars know there's always someone close at hand to guide them to the right bin or shelf.

"It never gets old," says Josh Hammond, grandson of the founder, about serving customers. He notes the store's regulars aren't just from the surrounding area; many come from all across the city - and even farther away - to browse through the rows of wines from across the globe, the more than 100 tequila offerings and the vast selection of bourbon and whiskey.

"I had a customer come in the other day, who said 'we're from Cleveland,'" recalls Hammond. Turns out they weren't from the Mississippi Cleveland, but the Ohio city of the same name. "They come to Memphis every two or three months, and they said they can't wait to get in the store and see our selections."

191 S. Highland, 458-0929, 8 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Saturday;

Finalist: Kirby Wine & Liquors

The ultra-modern building on Kirby near Quince offers 8,000 square feet of fine wines and spirits. Tuesday is ladies' day, where women are treated to a 10 percent discount on wine.

2865 Kirby Parkway, 756-1993; 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Monday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday;

Finalist: Joe's Wine & Liquors

The dazzling, Sputnik-like neon sign might be the siren song luring customers to this Midtown must-stop, but once inside, it's all about the pricing and front-of-store sale rack.

1681 Poplar, 725-4252, 8 a.m.-11 p.m Monday-Saturday.

Most Handy Hardware Store

Winner: Lowe's Home Improvement

Although part of a huge national chain of hardware stores, Lowe's district manager John Scherich says there's plenty of local focus for every store in the Memphis area.

"One of the things we always focus is the store appearance, the store conditions and the appeal to local customers," says Scherich. "We have the autonomy to make the right choices based on our customers at each location."

That means wide-open aisles and friendly associates, says Scherich, along with getting most of the busywork - moving lumber and stocking shelves - out of the way before the store opens, so the customers never see the behind-the-scenes work.

Seven locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Home Depot

The bright orange sign beckons the serious do-it-yourselfer, who rubs elbows with the construction pros in the unfussy, product- packed aisles.

Nine locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Germantown Hardware

The family-owned store caters to the community with personalized service, equipment rentals and small engine repair.

2083 S. Germantown Rd., 756-9522; 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday;

Most Fabulous Flowers

Winner: Holliday Flowers Inc.

From what may be the city's most grand floral arrangement - that huge affair in the fountain of the Peabody Hotel's lobby bar - to a simple bouquet for a sweetheart, Holliday vice president Wayne Darling says they've got you covered.

"In the end, it's the length we are willing to go to for our customers," says Darling. "We're willing to do anything."

And he really means that. Darling himself regularly takes arrangements home overnight and pops them in the fridge so they're fresh for an early delivery.

"If the Peabody wants an arrangement the size of a Volkswagen, we're going to make it happen," says Darling, who notes that Holliday's floral workers spend four overnights a week creating arrangements for the hotel.

Four locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Pugh's

The store - and its cute little skunk mascot - has been around for 32 years, offering flowers flown in from around the world, as well as landscape and design services. Pugh's is one of Teleflora's top 100 providers - no easy feat for a little Memphis store.

1622 Union, 726-0738; 5645 Poplar, 682-2501; 2435 Whitten Road, 363-6744; 8 a.m. -5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, and Poplar store only, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Le Fleur

Tucked away in Laurelwood, the family-owned Le Fleur offers more than just masterful floral arrangements, with home dcor and accessories, garden accents and one of the city's most creative Christmas shops.

4538 Poplar, 683-4313, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday;

Most Uncommon Antiques

Winner: Palladio Antiques & Art

With dozens of dealers offering something for every taste, Palladio Antiques & Art is known as the go-to source for that finishing touch, eye-catching piece of art, or a little, must-have oddity.

"I think we have really encouraged our dealers to bring in the best quality and I think, by and large, the people who buy antiques are looking for quality things," says Mindy Roberts, who has owned the store with husband Frank for 13 years. "And, I think our dealers have best quality in the city."

Palladio serves up bistro-style meals in its lunch-only caf (open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday); the walls are decorated with works of local artists, which can be purchased .

In addition to Palladio, the Roberts own Market Central and Memphis Water Works, a trifecta of stores that adds up to quality and diversity, according to Mindy Roberts.

2169 Central, 276-3808, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday,

Finalist: Sheffield Antiques Mall

Shopping Sheffield is a marathon, not a sprint: The massive antiques mall has a multitude of booths and takes hours to peruse, something dedicated antique lovers live for.

684 W. Poplar, Collierville; 853-7822; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday- Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday; .

Finalist: Toad Hall

The cheery, yellow building and cute-as-a-prince cartoon toad hypnotically lure customers inside, where two floors are filled with primitives, gifts, accessories and truly random finds, including single stained glass windows.

2129 Central, 726-0755, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday;

Most Pedigreed Pet Goods

Winner: PETCO

Looking for a ball python to call your own? Or maybe a furry ferret is more your style. Either way, PETCO can help match potential owners with the perfect pet.

"We sell everything," says Ronnie Dowty, general manager of the store at Highland and Poplar. "We probably have 50 different pets - and that's not counting the fish."

And then there's the more than 6,000 items the store carries to help animal owners take care of their pets, from gerbil houses to dog carriers and all the food and toys imaginable; on-site grooming services are available as well.

There are pets PETCO doesn't sell, namely cats and dogs. The company has an active adoption program, working with local shelters and pet adoption groups to help abandoned or unwanted dogs and cats find a good home.

Six locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: PetsMart

Tails wag for the store's doggie day camp and PetsHotel, which even has a real front desk for check-in and optional add-ons (think room service) that include special bones, playtime and other perks.

2805 Wolfcreek Parkway, 384-9823; 7941 Winchester, 756-2676; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Hollywood Pet Star

Smaller than the big chains, but fully stocked with food, grooming supplies and accessories for the pampered pet.

6765 Stage, 382-8002; 2648 Broad, 425-2474; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Memphis-Shelby County Humane Society location, 935 Farm Road, 937-3900; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Most Monster Motorcycle Shop

Winner: Bumpus Harley Davidson

In Memphis, it's all about the pig, barbecue-wise, but to really go hog wild, our readers ride over to Bumpus Harley Davidson.

In this hog heaven with two wheels and no sauce in sight, hog equals American engineering at its most sleek and speedy -a Harley or a Buell.

From comfy touring bikes to a retro-style softail to the ultra- sporty and speedy Buells, Bumpus carries it all, plus accessories and gear so even novice riders can at least look the part.

2160 Whitten Road, 372-1121; 325 South Byhalia Road, Collierville, 316-1121; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Al's Cycle Shop

The oldest Honda dealer in the Mid-South, Al's sells motorcycles and so much more, including ATVs, Sea-Doos and utility vehicles.

3155 Summer, 324-3767, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday;

Finalist: Kawasaki of Memphis

Super-cool, super-sport bikes are the specialty at Kawasaki of Memphis, but the big selection also includes ATVs, utility vehicles and watercraft.

6412 Summer, 372-8210, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

Most Equipped Sporting Goods

Winner: Dick's Sporting Goods

There's a new sporting goods sheriff in town, and his name is Dick.

The store opened in November 2007 (there's another opening in October on Hack's Cross), and has established itself as the place to go for not just the goods, but the good advice, according to store manager Mark McCuiston.

"We have specialists in each department," says McCuiston, noting that there are certified fitness trainers and bike technicians on staff, as well as an archery technician, a running specialist (a former U of M track athlete) and even a teaching PGA pro on staff in the golf department.

"Our customers feel comfortable talking with a teaching PGA professional about their games and their needs. Plus, we do a lot of service work; we fit clubs, clubs, lengthen them, bend them."

2393 N. Germantown Pkwy, Cordova; 386-5302, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Sports Authority

Just about anything for any sport: Ski pants? Check. Tennis racquets? Check. Those all-important spandex shorts for whatever it is you might be doing? Yes, but remember to wear them under other shorts, please - unless you look like Lance Armstrong.

Four locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Bass Pro

The hunter's paradise, with camo-colored everything, as well as all the fishing and camping supplies a Mid-South sportsman might need.

6140 Macon, 213-5800, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday;

Most Grand Grocery Store

Winner: Kroger

It may be a national grocery giant, but the neighborhood feeling of most Kroger stores is what keeps customers loyal.

"Kroger's overall philosophy of keeping our eye square on our consumer ... the way we handle them, the products we carry, we do all of that with our customer in mind," says the company's Joe Bell.

Kroger's Plus card - one of the first shopper 'discount' cards offered by a grocery chain - not only gives in-store discounts, but now can be loaded with coupons from the Kroger Web site, eliminating the need for some paper coupons.

With more than 25 stores scattered over the Memphis region, Kroger is one of the city's largest employers, with 3,500 associates.

Twenty-five locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Fresh Market

Gastronomic Nirvana for the gourmand - and the gourmand wannabe - Fresh Market offers the gifted chefs among us fresh (and sometimes difficult to find ) ingredients. Those of us who must fake culinary creativity can rely on the already-prepped foods in the chef's case. ... shhh.

835 S. White Station, 682-3434; 9375 Poplar, Germantown, 737- 5759; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Schnucks

The full-service favorite is all over town with well-stocked and well-staffed meat, bakery and produce sections, plus a vast array of kosher delicacies.

Twenty-one locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Most Appealing Produce

Winner: Easy Way Produce

Seventy-six years after Pate Carter, Sr., opened his first bright orange building on North Main Street - still in operation today - Easy Way Produce is still a family operation and a favorite of vegetable lovers across the Mid-South.

The Main Street location is the only full-service Easy Way, in fact, offering among other things a meat counter in addition to produce, but the other locations are primarily produce (they also carry some staples such as milk, cheese and bread), and offer fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered daily, straight off local and regional farms. Depending on the season, look for a small selection of plants, and wreaths and garland during the Christmas season.

Oh, and why the color orange? It's an easy way to attract attention, as well as supposedly being an appetite stimulant.

Nine locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Fresh Market

The produce selection at Fresh Market may be smaller than some stores, but it's well-stocked and the freshness and quality are top- notch.

835 S. White Station, 682-3434; 9375 Poplar, Germantown, 737- 5759; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Kroger

A wide range of produce for the picking, from organically-grown, ready-to-eat or just the most basic of fruits and vegetables.

Twenty-five locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Most Service-Oriented Sales Staff

Winner: Sephora

They're not just another pretty face, those sales folks at Sephora.

Cast members, as they are called, have taken over the top spot in customer service in this year's Memphis Most survey - no mean feat, considering some of the ultra-service oriented staffs which have claimed the prize in years past.

Collierville store director Kelli Camurati says the stores - open just over a year in two locations - are simply completely different than anything Memphis has seen before; she calls it "AutoZone for women."

"We put so much training into what we do, and the cast - myself included - is dedicated to giving good service," says Camurati. "We don't work on commission, and we don't just give a spiel - we really care about and are invested in our clients, and everyone here gets that."

Camurati notes that the tough economic times of late are even more reason to exceed customer expectations, and she says they're fighting to keep their clients happy.

"I've never worked anywhere where even the vice presidents who visit the store come and help the clients. Without the client, we're nothing."

4630 Merchants Park Circle, Collierville, 861-3400; 2760 N. Germantown Parkway, 388-8466; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon- 6 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Oak Hall

The venerable upscale clothing store, says owner Bill Levy, is dedicated to hiring the right people; as he puts it, "I'd rather make a friend than make a sale."

6150 Poplar Avenue, 761-3580. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday- Saturday and Thursday evenings until 7 p.m.;

Finalist: James Davis

The "clothier for all occasions" offers anything - and any designer label - one could lust after, including Armani and Barry Bricken, made-to-measure custom shirts for gentlemen, and the designer jewelry boutique, Gregory's.

400 Grove Park, 767-4640, open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday- Saturday and Thursday evenings until 7 p.m.;

Most Select Shopping Center/Mall

Winner: Wolfchase Galleria

Over a decade old, the mega-mall is still going strong, with 135 stores and almost 10 million shoppers a year.

"Store selection is certainly critical in that," says general manager Keith Stewart of the continued success of the mall, which offers Macy's, Dillard's, JC Penney and Sears as its anchors. Other shopaholic faves include Hollister, Pottery Barn, Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic.

As Stewart points out, an open-air lifestyle center can't compete with a roof when it comes to attracting shoppers. "They can come inside regardless of weather, and it is a nice, clean, and fun place to spend their time."

2760 N. Germantown Parkway, 381-2769; open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday- Saturday and Sunday noon-6 p.m.; default.aspx?ID=840.

Finalist: Oak Court Mall

The easy-to-navigate, centrally located mall is a dream destination for the fast shopper, who can park, shop and grab a snack in record time.

530 Oak Court, 682-8928, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: The Avenue at Carriage Crossing

The Collierville lifestyle center is an appealing mix of retail favorites and restaurants, with public art, fountains and lush landscaping to soothe those who are just waiting for their loved ones to finish up, already!

4674 Merchants Park Circle, Collierville, 854-8240, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday;

Most Beautifying Beauty Salon

Winner: Gould's

You look mah-ve-lous, darlings.... It's what we all want to hear, and helping Mid-Southerners look spectacular is what Gould's has been doing for over 75 years.

"We are only as good as our staff," says Philip Gould, "and we provide our staff an outstanding continuing education program to learn the newest and latest trends. That keeps them motivated and excited - and they share that with their customers."

With over 400 stylists and technicians on staff at the 14 area locations, Gould's has become a Memphis institution; Philip Gould says a measure of their continued success is staying on top of the ever-changing salon industry.

"You can build beautiful salons and spas and provide the ambiance," says Gould, "but if someone books an appointment, we've got to have qualified techs and stylists to perform the services, and we do - but we are very selective."

Fourteen locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Master Design

The full-service salon offers the latest in color technology and cutting-edge style, and complements its hair services with a full range of wellness services including skin care and massage therapy.

5149 Wheelis Drive, 685-2351; open Monday by appointment only; 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday;

Finalist: Capelli

The East Memphis "it" salon, the chairs at Capelli are arranged for easy, maximum chat and see-and-be-seen-ability; beauty services are offered along with some of the city's best cut-and-color talent.

4615 Poplar, Suite 7, 767-5066, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday- Wednesday, until 6 p.m. Thursday and 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Most Fashion-Forward Clothes - Women

Winner: Macy's

For a company that's 150 years old, Macy's is still a fashion- forward place for Mid-South women to shop, according to our readers.

"We certainly have apparel for all of customers," says Macy's Annette Askew. "From missy and contemporary clothes, to special sizes, to all of our designer and private labels, we have a great array of merchandise to choose from."

The traditional department store features hot upscale brands including Hollywood favorite Ed Hardy, Lacoste, Michael Kors and local girl Dana Buchman, as well as shoes and bags from Coach and Kate Spade and more moderate lines, including Liz Claiborne and store brands INC and Charter Club.

Five locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Oak Hall

A must-shop for the must-have designers, Oak Hall features denim by David Kahn and AG, evening wear by Badgley Mischka and Vera Wang, and outwear from Burberry and Kooba.

6150 Poplar, 761-3580, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and until 7 p.m. Thursday;

Finalist: Joseph's

The list of designers is an unpronounceable but loveable "Who's Who" of clothing, accessories and shoes: Prada, Taryn Rose, Eskandar, Zac Posen and Vigal Azroul.

418 South Grove Park Road, 767-1609, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday- Saturday and until 7 p.m Thursday;

Most Fashion-Forward Clothes - Men

Winner: Oak Hall

Can being fashion forward fuse with traditional Southern style, when it comes to men's clothing?

Absolutely, says Bill Levy of the family run Oak Hall. Levy says the store is noted more for "updated traditional clothes and giving the most in customer service," but also for helping the traditional business dresser find their right fit when donning a cutting-edge look.

"When a man is casual, that's when he wants to dress a little more up to date," says Levy. "We can dress someone from the boardroom to the playroom." Designer labels at Oak Hall include Brioni and Ermenegildo Zegna, as well as Robert Graham and Tommy Bahama.

As for trends? Levy says denim is not dead by a long shot (he carries 15 brands) and seersucker is always fashionable in the South, but has enjoyed a more current look in terms of cut and fit.

6150 Poplar Avenue, 761-3580, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and Thursday until 7 p.m.;

Finalist: James Davis

The sharp-dressed man can find it all at James Davis , from furnishings (that's shirts, ties and the like) to suits by Armani and outerwear by that favorite of the British country set, Barbour.

400 Grove Park, 767-4640,6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and until 7 p.m. Thursday;

Finalist: Sammy's Man of Fashion

The fashion-forward store just opened a second location in Southaven, spreading the trendy men's wear featuring lines like Steve Harvey.

2703 S. Perkins, 366-0026; 5672 American Way, 523-2201; 6717 Airways Boulevard, Southaven, 662-536-0922; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday- Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday.

Most Stylish Shoes - Women

Winner: Joseph's

Not to go all " Sex and the City" on you, but seriously, if Carrie and the girls lived in Memphis, they'd live at Joseph.

"We've been in the shoe business for 75 years," says Barrie Wurtzburg, the lucky gal who gets to travel the world in search of the best flats, pumps, boots, slides, wedges, kitten heels and sandals.

"Our customers know our reputation and what we stand for," says Wurtzburg, who notes that the most fabulous shoes in the world aren't worth a darn if they don't fit well. "And our people know how to fit women in shoes - that's really important."

Amen, sister.

418 South Grove Park Road, 767-1609, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday- Saturday and until 7 p.m. on Thursday;

Finalist: DSW

A veritable candy store for the well-heeled (as in stylish, not wealthy) bargain hunter, with aisles upon aisles of designer and name brand shoes for women - and you too, boys.

7712 Poplar, Germantown, 755-2204, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday- Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday;

Finalist: Peria

Peria Gober put the fun into funky when it comes to her selection of shoes at the two-year-old Midtown boutique, with whimsical shoe, handbag and accessory collections sure to delight.

1680 Union, 274-8488, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m Tuesday-Saturday and until 7 p.m. on Thursday;

Most Treasured Jewelry Store

Winner: Mednikow

The oldest jeweler in the city is dear to the hearts of our readers - kind of like that special piece of jewelry that catches your eye as you walk by Mednikow's glittering windows.

"About half the jewelry we sell, we make ourselves," says Bob Mednikow, the fourth-generation owner who along with son Jay runs the business in what he calls "the old-fashioned, family way."

"With age comes the certain continuity; what you've done in the past reflects on what you'll do in the future," says Mednikow, who notes that in addition to their own creations - many now designed by Jay - the store offers designers including David Yurman, Rolex and Patik Phillipe.

474 Perkins Ext., 767-2100, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday,

Finalist: Las Savell

The man with the poodles knows his jewels; the Midtown favorite (and featured in the movie "The Rainmaker") has been selling fine jewelry since 1980.

61 S. McLean, 725-5200, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday.

Finalist: Kay's Jewelers

Every kiss begins with Kay, as the commercial says, and the selection at Kay ensures many kisses to come if you're on the receiving end of a bauble; the brilliantly cut Leo diamond and watches from Movado and Bulova are a good place to start.

Four locations in the Memphis area; hours and directions are online at

Most Charming Children's Clothes

Winner: Little Lamb & Ivy

After 21 years in business, Arden and Jim Korn have closed their much-loved East Memphis store at 1227 Ridgeway, and are going out on a high note.

"We have had so many people express their sadness, and at the same time their joy for us," says Jim Korn. The couple will be splitting their time between Memphis and South Carolina in order to spend a lot of time with their new granddaughter.

Korn says the weeks before closing were emotionally tough, as customers came in and shared their memories. "They bought their baptismal and christening outfits here, their first shoes for their children. They've given us so many wonderful years."

Finalist: Chocolate Soup

Cute A-line dresses, appliqud with holiday and themed designs have long been a favorite of Memphis moms, as have the killer sales the yummy Germantown retailer holds with great frequency.

7730 Poplar, Suite 6, Germantown, 754-7157, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday- Tuesday and Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

Finalist: The Children's Place

Parents love it for the affordability factor and quality, while the under-teen set likes the fashionable (but age appropriate - don't blow the secret) clothing selection.

Five locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Most Detailed Car Wash

Winner: Mr. Pride

Primp my ride, please! Between the weather, the dust, the mud and the pollen that settles on our precious automobiles any given day, there will always be a need for a car wash which goes the extra mile - and that's just what Mr. Pride Car Wash is all about, according to its director of operations (who also cops to cleaning the toilets when the need arises).

"One thing that is important to know: In our society, service as a whole is going down," says Kevin Nieminen, caught for an interview between toilet scrubbings. "We want to bring back the old-fashioned service that we used to get - that's what we pride ourselves on."

The company recently opened a lube center at its Poplar Avenue location; the four Mr. Pride locations employ about 80 people.

Nieminen says how the company treats its employees pays off for its customers. "We take care of our employees a lot better, with free insurance and higher pay than other jobs. We really try to focus in on that team-mate, so he'll make our customer happy."

Four locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Germantown Car Wash

It's a bit tucked away, but Germantown Car Wash is worth hunting down if "Wash Me" can be read on your car.

7601 Poplar, Germantown, 753-9274, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday- Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

Finalist: Simoniz Car Wash

Express detailing - and one of those new-car-smell air fresheners - are just part of the package at Simoniz.

6800 Stage, Bartlett, 377-9693; 6040 Mount Moriah Rd. Ext., 375- 4848; 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday;

Most Conscientious Car-Repair Shop

Winner: Barton Car Care

It's been 10 years since Ken Barton opened up his car repair shop, and he says it's the loyal customers and his crackerjack technicians that keep the motor running at Barton Car Care.

"Its personal service - literally personal service," says Barton. "We know them by name, they're not just a number, they're not just a car . We know their kids."

Barton's five techs work on 30 to 35 cars daily, doing general repairs on all makes and models; his customers come from all over the city.

"We have customers all the way from Collierville," says Barton of his Midtown shop.

1553 Overton Park, 274-1881.

Finalist: Goodyear

Goodyear is more than just tires in Memphis; the company offers car care services as well as the right tires for your ride.

Multiple Goodyear tire center and auto service center locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Gateway Tire & Service Center

A one-stop shop for tires and auto services; Firestone and Bridgestone tires plus an array of car care services.

Six locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Most Valued Bank

Winner: First Tennessee

When it comes to banking, some folks feel like it's them against "The Man."

But the man at our reader's most valued bank - First Tennessee - says he and his 3,000 or so co-workers in the Memphis region are all about knowing their customers.

"It's all about balance," says David Popwell, president of the First Tennessee Bank of Memphis/Mid South market. "When you run a bank, you're running it for four groups - your employees, your customers, your shareholders and the community. If you do a good job taking care of your employees, then your employees take care of your customers and so on; that's a balanced formula for success."

Popwell says First Tennessee's employee retention rate is among the best in the industry, which is critical for the customer relationship; the bank is also big on giving employees autonomy to make decisions.

"They know how to do their job, know their authority and what decisions they can make," says Popwell. "That's a really big advantage."

Fifty-eight locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Regions

The mega-bank - with 1,900 locations nationwide - still has that hometown feel from its old days as Union Planters; Morgan Keegan is a Regions partner, offering diverse financial services in concert with the bank itself.

Ninety-six locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Paragon

The average Paragon employee has 15 years in the banking business; the locally owned and operated bank has expanded to four locations since opening its doors in 2005.

Four locations in the Memphis area; locations hours and directions online at

Most Reliable Mobile Phone Service

Winner: AT&T

A 30-day bring-it-back policy , a $20-billion investment in nationwide network technology, and listening to their customers - that's what sets AT&T Wireless apart when it comes to serving the Memphis area, according to Mike Bennett, executive director of consumer and government affairs for the company.

"We've rolled out the most consumer-friendly policies," says Bennett, who points to an online coverage mapping tool, detailed cost analysis for new customers, and a pro-rated early termination fee and ability to change plans at any time without having to extend the contract.

"Here are the results of building the best network and doing all the things consumers wanted - we have the lowest complaints in the history of the company, and the cool thing i s Memphis and the Tennessee market have the lowest complaint rate in the entire company."

We heard that with our bad ear.

Ten locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: Verizon

The V-Cast and other cool tools, including yummy Chocolate phones, are part of the offerings from Verizon. Can you hear me now?

Ten locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: T-Mobile

The pink-hued T-Mobile has the Memphis metro area covered, with 40-plus locations in the area - and that figure includes stores like Target and Wal-Mart where you can buy pay-as-you-go phones.

Forty-one locations in the Memphis area, including inside some other retailers; locations, hours and directions are online at

Most Fit Health Club

Winner: YMCA of Memphis & Mid-South

Developing the whole family - not just muscles - is what the YMCA is all about, and Keith Johnson, CEO of YMCA Memphis, says that philosophy is what is so appealing to so many Mid- Southerners.

"We try to focus not just on the individual coming in to lift weights or go to a class, but the whole family, to grow together and grow individually and develop," says Johnson. "And people respond to that."

Johnson notes that a big factor for YMCA members is that they are not intimidating to those who are just starting to work on a healthier lifestyle.

"Our goal is to make everyone feel comfy in the environment," says Johnson. "My hope is that someone who is not fit would feel just as comfortable as the athlete."

Eight locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: French Riviera Spa

Personal training, tanning, spin classes, even massage - the French Riviera Spas in the Memphis area offer a variety of services for today's athletes.

Five locations in the Memphis area; locations, hours and directions are online at

Finalist: 24 Hour Fitness

Despite its name, the club is not open 24 hours, but in addition to the gym, yoga, tanning and a kids work-out club are all part of the package.

1285 Ridgeway Rd., 763-3265, 5 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday;

Most Recommended Real Estate Agent

Winner: Lisa Cox, Coldwell Banker/John R. Thompson Co. Realtors

A bad real estate experience 13 years ago is what prompted agent Lisa Cox to get into the business.

"When I moved here, I had the worst agent in the world - and I knew I could do a better job," says Cox. "I actually listen to my clients, and take care of them like they're my mother or my children - I want the best for them."

Cox has been the top agent for five years straight in her office, and is in the top 5 percent for Coldwell Banker agents in the nation.

6520 Stage Road, 872-4948;

Finalist: Jan Gordon, Crye-Leike

The East Memphis agent was the top vote getter in last year's Memphis Most poll, and she continues to impress our readers with her service.

585 South Perkins, 766-9004;

Finalist: Betty Carter, Crye-Leike

Carter's a life member of the multimillionaire club, and offers 17 years of experience in the Memphis real estate market.

894 Germantown Parkway, Cordova, 756-8100; bettycarter.crye-

Most Exemplary Employer

Winner: FedEx

The Memphis-based global distribution giant is the hometown favorite when it comes to being the best employer; 32,000 Memphis- based employees are what makes the company hum across every time zone.

"All of us take pride in the principles of our People First philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of treating each other with dignity, respect and fairness and of creating an environment that enables our employees to succeed," says Judy Edge, corporate vice president, human resources for FedEx, in a statement.

But without the customer, Edge notes, the company could not exist; she says that earning the respect and confidence of those customers every day is critical. "It is this spirit of dedication to excellent service and the respect for each other that makes FedEx a great place to work."

3610 Hacks Cross Rd., 434-8400;

Finalist: Paragon National Bank

The locally-owned bank offers a family-like atmosphere for employees, who average 15 years of experience in the business.

Four locations in the Memphis area; hours and directions online at

Finalist: Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare

The 10,000-plus associates of Methodist, from Le Bonheur Children's Hospital to each and every surgery and diagnostic center, know they're part of the Mid-South's healing and hope, and give their all to their employer and patients.

Twenty-three locations, including hospitals, surgery centers and diagnostic centers in the Mid-South; locations and more information online at

Most Exceptional Hospital

Winner: Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare

"Your readers are incredibly smart, intelligent people," laughs Donna Abney, the executive vice president for Methodist Le Bonheur Health Care.

Kidding aside, Abney says the associates (employees) of the health care system - some 10,000 strong - are what makes Methodist exceptional.

"For us, it's all of us holding hands and understanding our role as a health care ministry," says Abney. "We're taking care of each other's moms and dads and neighbors and sisters - and that's motivating to our associates. This award is going to resonate with them."

Twenty-three locations, including hospitals, surgery centers and diagnostic centers in the Mid South; locations and more information online at

Finalist: Baptist Memorial Health Care

It all started with one, 150-bed hospital; today Baptist is one of the Mid-South's largest hospital systems.

Nineteen locations, including hospitals and minor medical centers, plus a variety of outpatient clinics and services in the three-state area; locations and information online at

Finalist: St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

The hospital and research center that Danny Thomas built is forever in the hearts of Memphians; the huge complex near Downtown is fighting for children here and across the world every day.

262 Danny Thomas Place, 495-3300;

(c) 2008 Commercial Appeal, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.