Best of Harford County: 65 favorites from 2017

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.

OUT & ABOUT

Art studio/gallery: Amazing Glaze

“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

Honorable mentions:

Harford Artists Gallery

Arts by the Bay

Exploration Art School

Annual event/festival: Bel Air Festival for the Arts

Honorable mentions:

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.

2208 Connolly Road, Fallston. 410-836-1090. harfordshelter.org

Honorable mentions:

SARC (The Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center)

Boys & Girls Club of Harford County

Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna

Elected official: Havre de Grace Mayor William T. Martin

Honorable mentions:

County Executive Barry Glassman

Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler

Circuit Court Clerk James J. Reilly

Kids’ activity: The Arena Club kids’ programs

Honorable mentions:

Jump On It Fun Center

The Bouncy Place

Kinetic Youth Academy

Museum: Steppingstone Farm Museum

Honorable mentions:

Liriodendron

Havre de Grace Decoy Museum

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum

Park/outdoor spot: Ma & Pa Trail

Honorable mentions:

Rocks State Park

Annie’s Playground

Churchville Golf Driving Range

Principal: Madeline Hobik, Saint Margaret School

Honorable mentions:

Thomas Smith, Youth Benefit Elementary School

Dyann R. Mack, Bel Air Elementary School

Stacey L. Gerringer, Abingdon Elementary School

Private school: Saint Margaret School

Honorable mentions:

The John Carroll School

Friends School of Harford

Harford Day School

Rainy-day activity: The Playroom

Honorable mentions:

Horizon Cinemas Fallston

The Arena Club (tie)

Bel Air Library (tie)

Special event venue: Rockfield Manor

Honorable mentions:

Swan Harbor Farm

Liriodendron

The Arena Club

RECREATION

Dance lessons: Supernova Dance Company

“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

Honorable mentions:

Dancing with Friends

Rage Box Contemporary Dance Center

Dance With Me School of Dance

Golf course: Mountain Branch Golf Club

Honorable mentions:

Bulle Rock

Maryland Golf and Country Club

Winters Run Golf Club

Gym/fitness center: Bel Air Athletic Club

Honorable mentions:

The Y in Abingdon (Ward)

The Arena Club

Planet Fitness

Martial arts classes: U.S. Taekwondo Academy

Honorable mentions:

Chung’s Martial Arts

Tae Kwon Do Masters

Method MMA

Music lessons: Music Land

Honorable mentions:

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.”

The Arena Club, 2304 Churchville Road, Bel Air. 410-734-7300. thearenaclub.com

Honorable mentions:

Kelly Albright-Backert, Kore Bootcamps (formerly Boot Camps by Kelly)

Wendy O’Bryant, The Arena Club

Travis Hash, Hash Fitness

Swim club: The Arena Club

Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Athletic Club

Fountain Green Swim Club

Fallston Club

Yoga classes: The Y in Abingdon (Ward)

Honorable mentions:

Peace Yoga

Bel Air Athletic Club

The Arena Club

SHOPPING

Antiques: The Painted Mill

Honorable mentions:

Belle Patri

Churchville Country Store

Bahoukas Antique Mall

Bridal boutique: K&B Bridals

Honorable mentions:

Amanda Ritchey Bridal and Beauty

Pizazz Wedding Boutique

Edel’s Bridal Boutique

Car dealership: Jones Junction Auto Group

Honorable mentions:

Boyle Buick GMC

Adams Jeep of Maryland

Thompson Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram

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

Honorable mentions:

Tiger Lily

Pink Silhouette

Stalefish Board Co.

Consignment/resale shop: Kid to Kid

Honorable mentions:

Uptown Chesapeake

Belle Patri

Painted Daisy Consignment

Furniture store: Gardiner Wolf Furniture

Honorable mentions:

Jarrettsville Furniture

Simply Grande

Ashley Furniture Home Store

Gift shop: Two Sisters Gallery

Honorable mentions:

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

Honorable mentions:

Kay Jewelers

Talles Diamonds & Gold

Littman Jewelers

FOOD& DRINK

Beer, wine and liquor store: Ronnie’s Beverage Warehouse

Honorable mentions:

Wine World Beer & Spirits

Bel Air Liquors

Friendship Wine & Liquor

Caterer: Pairings Bistro

Honorable mentions:

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

Honorable mentions:

Brad’s Produce

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.

21 Wegmans Blvd., Abingdon. 443-372-2900. wegmans.com

Honorable mentions:

Shop Rite, Forest Hill

Shop Rite, Main Street Bel Air

Safeway, Bel Air

Vineyard/winery: Fiore Winery & Distillery

Honorable mentions:

Harford Vineyard & Winery

Mount Felix Vineyard & Winery

Legends Vineyard

PERSONAL SERVICES

Animal hospital: Bel Air Veterinary Hospital

Honorable mentions:

Hickory Veterinary Hospital

Chadwell Animal Hospital

Animal Emergency Hospital

Auto repair shop: Forest Hill Automotive

Honorable mentions:

Jones Junction Auto Group

Dave Serio’s Vehicle Service Plus

Faby’s Auto Repair

Bank/credit union: APG Federal Credit Union

Honorable mentions:

M&T Bank

PNC

Har-Co Credit Union

Child care: The Goddard School

“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

Honorable mentions:

Stonewall Daycare Center (tie)

Celebree Learning Centers (tie)

Harford Community College Early Learning Center

Computer repair: Computer Renaissance of Bel Air

Honorable mentions:

Best Buy Geek Squad

The Computer Market Place

Maryland Computer Store

Doggie day care: Best Friends Fur Ever Dog Daycare & Overnight Resort

Honorable mentions:

Country Comfort Kennels & Camp for Pets

BowWag Kennels

PetSmart PetsHotel

Financial adviser: The Kelly Group

Honorable mentions:

Harford Financial Group

Wells Fargo

Edward Jones

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.”

816 S. Main St., Bel Air. 410-838-3883. richardsonsflowersandgifts.com

Honorable mentions:

Petals ’n Posies

Amanda’s Florist

Flowers by Lucy

Pet groomer: 4 Paws Spa and Training Center

Honorable mentions:

PetSmart

Pawsitively Purrfect

Burlane Cat & Dog Boutique

Real estate agent: Chris Streett, Streett Hopkins Real Estate

Honorable mentions:

Lee Tessier, Keller Williams

Laura Snyder, Keller Williams

Cecil Hill Jr., Coldwell Banker

Tattoo parlor: Flesh Tattoo Company

Honorable mentions:

Tattoo Dynasty

Daddy Dice Tattoo Company

Inkslingers Tattoo Studio

Travel agency: AAA Bel Air

Honorable mentions:

Travel Makers

Partners in Travel

Hurley World Travel

HEALTH & WELLNESS

Alternative wellness center: Ultimate Health

Honorable mentions:

Harford Acupuncture & Associates

Remedy Wellness

Chiropractic Care of Bel Air

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

Honorable mentions:

Towne Barbers

Brian Bunce Barbers

Axels Barbershop

Chiropractor: Chiropractic Care of Bel Air

Honorable mentions:

Ultimate Health

Dr. Poane’s Chiropractic Office

Spineworks Medical Center

Day spa: Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa

Honorable mentions:

Spa on the Boulevard

Lavish Salon & Spa

Massage Envy

Dental practice: Laurel Bush Family Dentistry

Honorable mentions:

Abingdon Family Dentistry

Bel Air Smile Partners

Miranda Family Dentistry

Eye care: Seidenberg Protzko Eye Associates

Honorable mentions:

Wilmer Eye Institute of Bel Air

Advanced Eye Care

MyEyeDr. (formerly Vision Associates)

Hair salon: Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa

Honorable mentions:

Lavish Salon & Spa

NVS Salon & Spa

Visage Salon & Day Spa

OB/GYN practice: Upper Chesapeake Women’s Care

Honorable mentions:

Susquehanna OB/GYN & Nurse Midwifery

Capital Women’s Care

MedStar Women’s Care at Bel Air

Orthodontist: Dr. Stephen Godwin, Bel Air Orthodontics

Honorable mentions:

Dr. Joseph LaPonzina

Drs. Nawy, Isaacs, and Stern Orthodontics

Amanda Gallagher Orthodontics

Pediatrician: Pediatric Partners

Honorable mentions:

Bright Oaks Pediatric Center

Box Hill Pediatrics

North Park Pediatrics

Physical therapist: Agape Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation

Honorable mentions:

ATI Physical Therapy

Drayer Physical Therapy Institute

Gold Medal Physical Therapy

Primary care physician: Harford Primary Care

Honorable mentions:

Plumtree Family Health Care

Smaldore Family Practice

Dr. Julie Tinney

Urgent care center: Patient First

Honorable mentions:

ExpressCare

MedStar PromptCare

Total Urgent Care

HOME

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

Honorable mentions:

Top Notch Floors

Carpets & Flooring by Danny Lee

George’s Carpet One

Garden center/nursery: The Mill

Honorable mentions:

Grier Nursery and Greenhouses

Kroh’s Nursery

Home Depot

Home improvement contractor: Krause Companies

Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Construction

Bailey Building & Remodeling

W.M. Remodeling

Homebuilder: Ryan Homes

Honorable mentions:

Korey Homes

Bailey Building & Remodeling

Richmond American Homes

Housecleaning service: Merry Maids

Honorable mentions:

Maid to Perfection

The Cleaning Authority

Cornerstone Cleaning

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.

215 E. Jarrettsville Road, Forest Hill. 410-879-9709. simplygrande.com

Honorable mentions:

Joy Home Design

Christy Brown Interior Design

Billee Smith Designs

Landscaper: Lawnscape

Honorable mentions:

Akehurst Landscape Services

Ivy Hill Land Services

Turf Connection

Plumber: PlumbCrazy/Bogan’s Plumbing

Honorable mentions:

Grove Plumbing and Heating

Cobra Plumbing Services

Hometown Plumbing Services

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