Stone, Bros. & Byrd. Across from the old ballpark is a true family business, a feed and seed store boasting bulk seed and fertilizer, annuals, country hams, honey, garden hardware and truly informed advice. A pleasant flash from the past, where everybody knows your name and you can open a charge account that doesn't involve plastic. Old-fashioned, but up-to-date, we sometimes go there just to feel good. Stone Bros. and Byrd, 700 Washington St., Durham. 682-1311.
Best Skate Shop
Endless Grind. Peace to Reggie Barnes, the godfather of skating in North Carolina. Endless has been around since '86. Just beyond the train bridge on Peace Street they need on of those historical site signs. From the old school demos featuring some of the biggest skaters ever to being a mello, family style shop, they are known around the globe. So all you moms and dad's with a brat who wants to skate, Endless will set yawl up! Carrying only the best boards and gear! You can even cop a dunk! Endless Grind, 424 W. Peace St., Raleigh. 828-5877.
Best Used Bookstore
With a location in each major Triangle city, readers think Nice Price Books is hard to beat. Each location has its own personality--and if you buy enough stuff, they'll give you a groovy T-shirt.
The Bookshop on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill also made a strong showing.
Best Antique Store
Brian Ownbey, owner of Father & Son Antiques in Raleigh, has been in our "Best Of" issue before--as the best junker. His store is truly a reflection of those celebrated junking skills, collecting the best-looking contemporary antiques in the area, according our readers. We approve.
Best Thrift Store Sale to Wait Around For
There's a whimsical-looking white house across the street from The Independent, that's rarely open; often closed. "Whimsical," meaning the patch of garden lined with plates of different colors and sizes; or the over-large "Santa chair" flanking the door; or the shelves of books and other neat stuff on the front porch. This home--rather large, once you clear the doors--belongs to Kim Shuffler and is home to Decades, one of the chicest thrift stores in the Triangle. "Thrift store" is an understatement, as Shuffler stocks antiques, home furnishings and collectors' items--from various estates--not found in your friendly neighborhood thrift store. And boy do her clients know it! Several times a year, after she has amassed a collection of first-rate items, Shuffler hangs a large white banner announcing the sale. Customers who are smart shoppers attend the preview sale the night before, to eyemark their items. If the store opens at 8 the next morning, trust a line of folks will begin gathering at 6 a.m., to sign up for their places in line (and hopefully, thru the door). The doors open and there's a mad rush to grab or reserve coveted items. There are no specific dates for upcoming sales, so unless you're willing to drive past every week, you might want to join the mailing list. Meanwhile, visit Kim and her goods at (Everything But) Grannie's Panties, 2926 Guess Road, for a selection of less elegant items. 471-0996. Decades, 2811 Hillsborough Road, Durham.
Best Local Store to Buy a Dress
Uniquities is the place you can locally and actually find the dress you saw in that glossy magazine--you don't have to drive to Barney's New York. Undoubtedly that's why it's the readers' poll winner. Who isn't interesting in saving all those miles driving back and forth to the big city? Vintage-minded readers also told us the best dresses can be found at local thrift stores like Goodwill, the PTA Thrift Shop and Time After Time.
Best Women's Accessories
Say it with us ... P A T T I N I ... Pattini! Shoes, clothes, bags ... they have everything! Pattini's ear is to the street, so they know what's hot before you do, and if you don't ever know what's hot, just come in and they fix ya up! It isn't expensive, and the customer service is friendly and accommodating. Urban chic all the way! They carry Fornarina (shoes and clothing), Camper, and Jack Jomme bags, Sidewalk Shoes, Charles Jourdan and more ... check 'em out for yourself (www.pattinicollection.com). Pattini, 126 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh. 835-1355.
Best Cheap Golf Course
We don't know much about golf, but we do understand cheap.
Hillandale Golf Course in Durham was readers' pick and glancing at their fee schedule online, (www.hillandalegolf.com/fee_schedule.htm) it doesn't seem bad. $25 for a Saturday game? With prices like that, there's no excuse for not getting out more and bringing down America's overweight-and-outta-shape statistics.
Best Cheap Golf Course
Golfing is often associated with the trappings of wealth: country clubs and $400 drivers: madras and clenched jaws. Shh! Now that the Triangle has transformed itself from job hop city to laid-off land, not all golfers have the budget or the desire to shell out a gazillion clams on their coveted hobby. Public courses abound in the Triangle, and golfers being an opinioned lot each have their own favorite. Pine Hollow, in Clayton, though shines as a great inexpensive bet for 18 holes. Shabby it is not, golf snobs. With well-designed greens that allow the ball to roll true, and coolers allowed, the $23 weekday twilight rate, including cart is money well invested, if not in your future, at least your game. Pine Hollow Golf Club, 3300 Garner Road, Clayton. 553-4554. http://www.pinehollowgolf.com.
Well Carrie G takes the prize here! Bella Cosmetics isn't a joke. It isn't Clinque or Lancome. It isn't the mall. We're talking exclusive lines like Nars, Too Face, Anna Sui, Pretty Pretty, Tony and Tina, and Burt's Bees. Not pricey, and not snobby, this boutique is more of a place to learn, cuz let's face it (no pun intended); some folks just can't apply their own makeup! Right now they are featuring a Spring Makeover Special that's perfect for anyone--they have makeup for the men, too. Bella Cosmetics, 2024 Cameron St., Cameron Village, Raleigh.
Best budding artists gallery
Move over, Andy Warhol. Images of crayon-worked cartoon ducks clone themselves on the walls of both Elmo's Diners in a display that's in the very best Pop Art tradition. These amazing works are signed by various local artists (Max, 5, Brian, 22 and even Beth, 40)--patrons of the diners who create their masterpieces while waiting for their huevos rancheros, veggie plates and burgers to arrive. Howard Konell, a manager at the Durham Elmo's, says the model duck used to be Disney's Donald Duck, until a customer warned there might be copyright problems. So this duck was drawn specifically for use by creative diner patrons, who can pick up a blank duck and a handful of crayons on their way to their tables. The bulletin boards are cleared of ducks about once a week to make way for renditions by new artists. "We usually leave a couple of the good ones up," says Konell. "Sometimes we'll even keep them in the back for us. Especially the ones that shouldn't be out here, if you know what I mean." And by the way, both restaurants are smoke-free and have been for years. Elmo's Diner, 776 Ninth St., Durham, 416-3823; Elmo's Diner, 200 N. Greensboro St., Carr Mill Mall, Carrboro, 929-2909.
Best Store Window
Miss Karla Rea, as everyone knows, outdoes herself each time she does a store window. Cherry Bomb hair salon is a chill spot to get any Aveda products (the best natural products for your body), or some Paul Friedrich (Onion Head Monster) paintings, or maybe some handcrafted bags, or jewelry--oh, and she does hair incredibly well. But her store windows are amazing. Like right now, paper lanterns, Cosmo flowers, clay pots, cubes very spring. Honey, tell your interior designer to check Karla out, cuz your ish is dated! Cherry Bomb, 508 St. Mary's St., Raleigh. 755-0555. www.cherrybombstudio.com.
Best place to repair your Mercedes (or Volvo, or BMW, or Honda, or Acura)
Looking for an honest mechaninc? An extensive search on the Internet led us to an article in the Triangle Business Journal, about local repair shop,
Renaissance Auto Care. Renaissance was established almost 20 years ago--17 to be exact--after founder George Parrish realized that his mechanic was shammin' him. He'd make pencil marks on the part of his car that needed repairing, then wait to see if the work had been done. When he received his car and the bill, but found the marks undisturbed, Parrish confronted the owners of the company. He then determined to not relive that experience--or allow others to relive it. Enter, Renaissance Auto Care, a full-service repair shop, which opened its 1,500-square-foot facility in 1986. Today, the business boasts two 6,500-square-foot locations in Raleigh and Cary. On our first visit to the Raleigh location, the team did a pre-purchase inspection, which detailed (and prioritized)--in meticulous fashion--everything that needed work in the car. Other Renaissance services include major and minor repairs, N.C. inspections and complete detailing. Not to mention, the technicians, staff and owners are some of the friendliest, most helpful, and honest crew ever. Visit www.renaissanceautocare.com for more information, or http://triangle.bizjournals.com/triangle/stories/2001/10/08/smallb1.html to read the article. Renaissance Auto Care, 3816 Tarheel Drive, Raleigh, 876-8011; 1100 W. Chatham St., Cary, 461-0700.