The fervor around the Best of Harford County is a five-month affair. From the time the readers’ poll launches in late September to this issue’s delivery in February, businesses, nonprofits and readers are abuzz in anticipation of who might take home the coveted title.
At last, the wait is over.
This year, more than 12,000 voters selected their favorites in 65 categories, ranging from everyday needs like child care to special-occasion spots like event venues.
Readers’ passion is clear; when we asked voters to tell us why they chose one of their favorites, the responses were enthusiastic and heartfelt. A few of those testimonials are sprinkled throughout the results.
“Amazing Glaze is a wonderful place to unwind, or take your child for a rainy day activity. They allow you to bring food and drinks and even a bottle of wine to share with your friends.” — Nicole Long, Bel Air
Annual event/festival: Bel Air Festival for the Arts
Saint Margaret Fall Festival
Harford County Farm Fair
Maryland State BBQ Bash
Charity/nonprofit: The Humane Society of Harford County
In less than a decade, the Humane Society of Harford County has doubled the percentage of rescue animals it finds homes for, from 45 to more than 90 percent.
“We’re very proud of that,” says marketing coordinator Erin Long.
It’s just one reason county residents admire the facility, which last year took in more than 3,300 animals — dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, goats and even iguanas.
“We have a very engaged staff,” says Long, noting that description applies to both the 22 paid staffers and the more than 200 volunteers. “We’re all animal lovers, of course, and we’re committed to staff training and implementing enrichment programs for the animals” that include interactive toys, like rubber Kongs stuffed with peanut butter for dogs.
“Supernova Dance Company is an amazing dance studio that provides an excellent dance education for your child along with a positive and nurturing learning environment.” — Elizabeth Thornton, Bel Air
Dancing with Friends
Rage Box Contemporary Dance Center
Dance With Me School of Dance
Golf course: Mountain Branch Golf Club
Maryland Golf and Country Club
Winters Run Golf Club
Gym/fitness center: Bel Air Athletic Club
The Y in Abingdon (Ward)
The Arena Club
Martial arts classes: U.S. Taekwondo Academy
Chung’s Martial Arts
Tae Kwon Do Masters
Music lessons: Music Land
Maryland Conservatory of Music
Jim Bowley Guitar Instruction
Jessica Deskin School of Music
Personal trainer: Kim Kellagher, The Arena Club
Kim Kellagher isn’t sure what clients look for in a personal trainer, but she knows what she looks for in a client.
“I look for people who want it for themselves, who are willing to do the best they can,” says Kellagher, who has worked as a personal trainer at The Arena Club since she was certified 20 years ago. “If they don’t, it doesn’t matter how good a trainer you are, you’re not going to be successful with them.”
An experienced cyclist, runner and kickboxer, Kellagher leads group fitness classes like Tabata, a high-intensity workout developed Japanese Olympians, and Strong and Lean, a strength-training regimen.
“That’s the best thing about this job – it’s never boring,” she says. “And, I get to work out and the members are awesome.”
Former mobile boutique finds a home on Bel Air's Main Street
By By Kathi Santora
Oct 12, 2016 | 10:40 AM
Clothing boutique: Urban Pearl
“Urban Pearl fits every woman, every age, every size and always makes you feel like an extra-special customer. It's like hanging out with your best girlfriends.” — Karen Dombroskie, Bel Air
Stalefish Board Co.
Consignment/resale shop: Kid to Kid
Painted Daisy Consignment
Furniture store: Gardiner Wolf Furniture
Ashley Furniture Home Store
Gift shop: Two Sisters Gallery
Ann Marie’s Hallmark
A Country Setting & Mayfields
Full Heart Soulutions
Jeweler: Saxon’s Diamond Centers
The local co-owners of the two Saxon’s Diamond Centers, multiple-time Best of Harford winners, credit their popularity to a handful of reasons.
First, says co-owner Kevin Ferrell, they carry some of the finest brands in the business, Rolex watches and Hearts On Fire diamonds, for example.
Second, they take an active role in the community, sponsoring hundreds of community events every year, Ferrell said, to help such groups as Harford Family House and the Harford County Library Foundation.
Saxon’s also offers an unusual option for couples who buy their engagement and wedding rings from the store: A “Let It Rain” promotion gives newlyweds a refund of up to $3,000 if it rains an inch or more on their wedding day.
Finally, the owners take seriously their role in the memorable events in their customers’ lives.
“We’re so fortunate to be involved in these events,” co-owner Lance Hersh says. “It means a lot to us.”
1013 Beards Hill Road, Suite 103, Aberdeen; 410-272-3322. 217 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air; 410-836-8000. saxonsdiamondcenters.com
More than 1,300 voted in Harford Magazine's 2017 Best of Dining readers’ poll, delivering winners in 41 categories.
By Kit Waskom Pollard
Nov 26, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Beer, wine and liquor store: Ronnie’s Beverage Warehouse
Wine World Beer & Spirits
Bel Air Liquors
Friendship Wine & Liquor
Caterer: Pairings Bistro
Lagom (formerly Laurrapin Grille)
Dean and Brown Catering
Sunny Day Café
Farmers’ market/farm stand: Bel Air Farmer’s Market
“Shout out to Bel Air Farmers’ Market … for providing amazing vendors and a perfect opportunity for my daughter (who is vegan) and I to do something fun together after our workouts on Saturday mornings!” — Kelli Clawson, Bel Air
Harman’s Farm Market
Jones Family Farm
Grocery store: Wegmans, Abingdon
His store is part of one of the most popular supermarket chains in the country, but Bob O’Connor is always looking for ways to improve it.
In the past year, for example, the manager of Wegmans in Abingdon has overseen the introduction of a new line of Mexican meals, which customers can prepare themselves following a store menu, buy in prepared form to take home and heat up, or buy at the store’s hot bar.
“We’re about helping the customer to go home and put a meal on the table really easily,” O’Connor says.
He’s proud of the store’s customer service and food quality, but the best part? “We do it with consistently low prices,” he says.
“The Goddard School cares about your children almost as much as you do. My child loves going and she is so excited to learn so much.” — Tricia Ghent, Bel Air
Stonewall Daycare Center (tie)
Celebree Learning Centers (tie)
Harford Community College Early Learning Center
Computer repair: Computer Renaissance of Bel Air
Best Buy Geek Squad
The Computer Market Place
Maryland Computer Store
Doggie day care: Best Friends Fur Ever Dog Daycare & Overnight Resort
Country Comfort Kennels & Camp for Pets
Financial adviser: The Kelly Group
Harford Financial Group
Florist: Richardson’s Flowers & Gifts
Sandy Riley used to drive by Richardson’s Flowers & Gifts and admire the gorgeous displays in the window. In 2001, she and her husband bought the shop from the original owner’s daughter, and now it’s their work that others admire.
“It’s a cliche thing, but it’s a very beautiful business,” she says. The shop provides arrangements for all occasions but specializes in custom funeral pieces, among them the “Bleeding Heart,” a giant arrangement that depicts a broken heart.
The beauty is only part of what keeps Riley and her team of experienced floral designers going.
“The nature of the business is we’re invited into all the celebrations of people’s lives,” says Riley, asked what makes her shop special. “We consider that to be a privilege, and realizing we’re providing a service that is very important in people’s lives, we want to do the very best we can for everybody.”
Every other Friday at 8 a.m., Dr. Bill Howard sits down for his haircut in the Bel Air Plaza on Baltimore Pike. The orthopedic surgeon and Harford County native has been following this routine for decades, but as of September, his barbers now sport tattoos instead of suits and bow ties.
By By Valerie Bonk
Nov 25, 2015 | 9:00 AM
Barbershop: Old Line Barbers
“Old Line Barbers is the only place that can cut and style my boys' hair, as well as my husband's. My 6-year-old loves to have a faux-hawk one day and look ‘normal’ the next. Kevin O'Brien makes that possible for him.” — Holly Miller, Forest Hill
Brian Bunce Barbers
Chiropractor: Chiropractic Care of Bel Air
Dr. Poane’s Chiropractic Office
Spineworks Medical Center
Day spa: Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa
Spa on the Boulevard
Lavish Salon & Spa
Dental practice: Laurel Bush Family Dentistry
Abingdon Family Dentistry
Bel Air Smile Partners
Miranda Family Dentistry
Eye care: Seidenberg Protzko Eye Associates
Wilmer Eye Institute of Bel Air
Advanced Eye Care
MyEyeDr. (formerly Vision Associates)
Hair salon: Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa
Lavish Salon & Spa
NVS Salon & Spa
Visage Salon & Day Spa
OB/GYN practice: Upper Chesapeake Women’s Care
Susquehanna OB/GYN & Nurse Midwifery
Capital Women’s Care
MedStar Women’s Care at Bel Air
Orthodontist: Dr. Stephen Godwin, Bel Air Orthodontics
We dug into data culled by online real estate service MRIS to identify the Harford County ZIP codes on the upswing — which are as diverse as the county itself.
By Kit Waskom Pollard
Aug 25, 2017 | 5:55 PM
Flooring and carpeting: Bel Air Carpet
“Bel Air Carpet has an amazing staff that helps you make decisions about your purchase for your home as if it was theirs.” — Heather Knox, Fallston
Top Notch Floors
Carpets & Flooring by Danny Lee
George’s Carpet One
Garden center/nursery: The Mill
Grier Nursery and Greenhouses
Home improvement contractor: Krause Companies
Bel Air Construction
Bailey Building & Remodeling
Homebuilder: Ryan Homes
Bailey Building & Remodeling
Richmond American Homes
Housecleaning service: Merry Maids
Maid to Perfection
The Cleaning Authority
Interior designer/decorator: Simply Grande Interiors
Jim Ryan had been an interior designer for a quarter century when, a little over 10 years ago, he mentioned to the owners of Simply Grande Home Furnishings that he was surprised that they were not in the design and window treatment business.
Within days, he said, the owners called and invited him to join the business. Ryan now runs Simply Grande Interiors, a separate business inside Simply Grande Home Furnishings.
“We go the extra mile,” he says of his business’ success and popularity. “We listen very closely to our clients — take their tastes and stretch them. But always remembering it’s their home, not ours.”
A few years ago, for example, he redid a dining room for a woman who wanted a lot of color on the walls but nothing jolting. He suggested white walls below the chair rail and above, a pastoral mural. “She was very happy with that,” Ryan recalls.