The Baltimore Sun’s readers and staff scoured the region for the best service providers, from audiologists to veterinary surgeons.
First, you’ll find critics’ picks from The Sun’s editorial team — whom we recommend and why.
The Baltimore Sun will celebrate the winners with a party at the Assembly Room on May 9. Visit baltimoresunevents.com/best for more details.
Here’s who came out on top in 2019:
Smith Auto Glass and Upholstery
Though it has 27 television and movie credits to its name (repairing and customizing cars used in “The Wire,” “House of Cards” and “Tin Men,” among others), this shop treats its regular customers with equal respect. “We’re old school, yet with the technology you need to be in this business,” says co-owner Fred Smith, whose family has been at this site for 59 years.
42 N. Caroline St., Oliver. 410-342-2677. smithautoglass.com
Autobahn of Towson
In 1968 when Dave Evans was 15, he wrote to Hoffman Motors, the company importing BMW autos into the U.S., and asked detailed and sophisticated questions about the newest line of luxury cars. He received a response from company officials who probably never realized they were writing to a kid.
Two letters now hang on the wall of Autobahn of Towson, the business into which Evans has channeled his passion for understanding the inner workings of and repairing European-made cars: Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini, Volkswagen, Volvo and Saab. Thirty-year-old Autobahn may lack a plush office and amenities such as loaner cars or free coffee, but Evans and manager Frank Doty have a vast knowledge of foreign vehicles, they’re hardworking and reliable and customers say they’re not overcharged by so much as a dime.
Customers rave about them.
As one longtime client wrote on Yelp, “I like them so much that I will only buy a car they work on.” Another said on Angie’s List: “They go above and beyond. I've called them from New Jersey with something wrong with my car, and they'll tell me what to do to jury-rig it to get it home.”
7217 York Road, Towson. 410-583-1200. autobahnoftowson.net
The Cobbler Shop
In a throwaway world, there are still those who fix things. Like footwear. For 31 years, Alex Shkolnik has repaired the soles and heels of everything from pumps to golf shoes in his narrow workplace on Saratoga St. He rehabs loafers and wing-tips, orthopedic shoes and boots.
“You bring me shoes, 99 percent of the time I fix them,” says Shkolnik, 74. Two years ago, during the Baltimore run of “The Lion King,” he repaired the shoes of several performers. In gratitude, they invited him to the musical, where the entire cast signed a poster for the show. It hangs on the wall of Shkolnik’s shop.
Born in Russia, he left to escape the anti-Semitism and emigrated to Baltimore in 1987 with his family and $100 in his wallet. Two years later, Shkolnik opened the shop where he sews, stitches, sands and polishes the shoes of grateful walk-ins.
“I have some customers for 20 years,” he says. “When you leave here happy, it’s good for me, too.”
Sidelined by back surgery some years ago, Shkolnik says he hobbled into work soon after.
“My wife said, ‘You’re stupid,’ but I love my work,” he says. “When I stay home, I die — so I no stay home.”
219 W. Saratoga St., downtown. 410-234-2959
The Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute
In the early 1990s, the Wilmer Eye Institute was a pioneer in the Lasik eye surgery that has allowed 19 million near-sighted patients to put down their spectacles. Their researchers are still hitting the medical equivalent of home runs. One physician, Elliott Myrowitz, is the team optometrist for the Baltimore Orioles — literally helping players keep their eyes on the ball.
10753 Falls Road, Pavilion II, Lutherville-Timonium, and six other Maryland locations. 410-583-2802. hopkinsmedicine.org
Mercy Personal Physicians at Lutherville
Think of it as the MD equivalent of trade secrets. Some of Baltimore’s top female physicians seek out the gynecologists working for Mercy Personal Physicians when they or their daughters need health care. Their doctors combine medical expertise with the ability to put patients at ease. Can there be a higher recommendation?
1734 York Road, Lutherville-Timonium, and five other locations. 410-252-2273. mercydocs.com
Pet day care
Good Doggie Day Care
Routinely, 130 pooches woof and wag their way through the day at this canine care center in Remington. Owner Jo Anne Garrett and her staff of 35 keep the dogs busy with structured programs of play, from chasing balls to tugging ropes in a 26,000-square-foot Funland for Fidos. Then they eat lunch. Then they all take naps, on cots. The dogs, that is.
“It’s just like nursery school,” says Garrett, 73.
Small wonder, at day’s end, that some clients balk at leaving.
“They do get attached to us,” Garrett says. “We’ve had owners who had to carry their dogs to their cars because they wanted to stay.”
The business she began 15 years ago with two dogs in a small house in Hampden has grown to the point where there’s a six-month waiting list (more than 100 dogs). Several regulars have been coming all that time.
“We’ve watched them get as gray as me,” Garrett says.
Dogs are grouped by size and temperament — about 15 per attendant — from four-pound teacup poodles to a 160-pound Great Pyrenees. Purebreds hobnob with mongrels and dogs that are deaf, blind or missing a leg. And when one has a birthday, the staff gives it a party hat and cornbread muffin and sings.
529 W. 29th St., Remington. 410-889-3031. gooddoggiedaycare.com
Maryland Veterinary Surgical Services
“Equal parts skill and empathy” is how Honor Ame Walesby describes her work doctoring people’s pets. Her 2,400 clients from five states swear by Walesby and her staff, who treat everything from orthopedic ills to cancer. An alumnus of Notre Dame Prep, she is one of eight surgeons worldwide who are board-certified to operate on both large and small animals.
32 Mellor Ave., Catonsville. 410-788-4088. mdvss.com
— Mike Klingaman and Mary Carole McCauley
Readers’ choice winners
Audiology at GBMC
First Financial Federal Credit Union
Mrs. Sue's Little Sunshine Learning Center
Dental Designs of White Marsh
Lorien Health Services
GBMC Healthcare - Greater Baltimore Medical Center
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield
Martial arts classes
U.S. Martial Arts Academy
Peabody Preparatory, Towson Campus
Statewide Exterminating Company
Tecla's K-9 Academy
FX Physical Therapy