REAL ESTATE COMPANY
Runner-up: Story House Real Estate and Montague Miller & Co. (tie)
Honorable mention: Loring Woodriff Real Estate Associates
If the name Jim Duncan sounds familiar, it’s because the realtor—and Nest founder—has been an agent in our area for nearly 20 years, penning the Real Central VA blog and educating clients about home-buying in Charlottesville, Crozet and beyond. He started Nest in 2009 to usher in a new generation of realtors, and has grown the company from three to 200 agents in 11 markets. In the No. 2 spot, Sasha Farmer and her six-person team make buying and selling—whether it’s your first or 10th time—a breeze, while Montague Miller earns your vote with 70 years in the business.
REAL ESTATE AGENT
Runner-up: Jamie White
Honorable mention: Candice Van Der Linde
Don’t call it a comeback. Though three years have passed since Sasha Farmer last took the best realtor prize, she hasn’t just been twiddling her thumbs. Quite the opposite: She’s been working on starting her own brokerage, Story House Real Estate, which she officially launched in spring of 2018, while serving as Montague Miller & Co.’s vice president of innovation. In the runner-up spot, another former Montague Miller & Co. realtor, Jamie White, whose own brokerage firm has earned a favorable reputation in the six years since it opened.
Southern Development Homes
Runner-up: Craig Builders
Honorable mention: Alexander Nicholson
Just six months from now, you could have a brand new house. If it sounds like one of those things that’s too good to be true, it isn’t. That’s how long it takes the folks at Southern Development to build your custom home—from researching floor plans to choosing light fixtures—in 10 communities throughout Charlottesville and Albemarle, including Crozet’s uber-desirable Old Trail Village. In the No. 2 spot, Craig Builders has been crafting stylish homes in the Charlottesville area since 1957.
Town & Country Services
Runner-up: Snow’s Garden Center
Honorable mention: Ivy Nursery
If you’re lucky enough to own some acreage in our area, you’ve probably hired Town & Country, the longest-licensed landscape contractor in Charlottesville and Albemarle (in business since 1973!). The city company handles everything from mowing and maintenance to installing pools and garden fountains. At Snow’s, find the lush elements you need to complete your backyard oasis, then hire the pros to do the work for you.
Runner-up: Wolf Ackerman
Honorable mention: Bushman Dreyfus Architects
In 2012, VMDO decided that, as the firm grew to include 50 or 60 architects under one roof, it no longer made sense to have everyone work as a generalist. It split into three studios—athletics and community, K-12 and higher education—and designated teams to specialize in each. The move paid off: The downtown studio has since done some of its best (and best-recognized) work, including a record-setting design for Arlington’s Discovery Elementary School, the largest zero-energy school in the country. Meanwhile, runner-up Wolf Ackerman takes a modern approach to designing spaces both public and private.
Runner-up: Gibson Design Group
Honorable mention: Faulconer Design
Tamara Lacy displayed an interest in design from an early age: She can remember how her grandfather, a farmer and oysterman, would collect pieces of furniture he loved and line them up on the wall. He appreciated each piece, but Lacy knew they could be arranged to better display their relationship to one another and to the space. These days, the Interior Concepts owner does the same for clients, either by dreaming up a brand new space or refreshing an existing one. Readers turn to her to turn their house into a home. In second place, Andrea Gibson brings a refined, thoughtful approach to residential, commercial and new construction projects.
Tucker Griffin Barnes
Runner-up: Legal Aid Justice Center
Honorable mention: McGuireWoods LLP
When William Tucker founded TGB in 1990, he had a few goals in mind: to create a firm large enough to handle a range of client issues but small enough that they’d feel welcome; to staff the firm with smart, talented and passionate attorneys who live and work in their community as well as give back to it; to vigorously fight for clients’ justice, but offer compassion when the outcome isn’t as planned. Twenty-eight years later, readers say he’s achieved his goal. The Charlottesville-, Palmyra- and Harrisonburg-based firm handles cases ranging from accident and liability to traffic and real estate (and more), by a staff of mostly female attorneys. In second place, nonprofit firm Legal Aid gives free legal assistance to those with low incomes on issues related to housing, domestic violence, economic stability, discrimination and beyond.
Runner-up: Scott Goodman
Honorable mention: Chip Royer
A founding partner of Tucker Griffin Barnes, William Tucker has been practicing real estate law since 1972. Readers turn to him for property disputes, short sales and general residential contracts. In second place, Scott Goodman has represented clients in criminal and traffic cases —including DUIs—for more than 30 years, with experience as both a defense lawyer and prosecutor.
UVA Community Credit Union
Runner-up: Bank of America
Honorable mention: Wells Fargo
Talk about a snowball effect. Beginning in the 1950s, as more corporations and institutions were creating credit unions to meet the financial needs of their employees, UVA Hospital did the same. In the ’70s, it grew to include other employee groups and absorbed smaller credit unions. In the 1990s, it expanded its offerings to serve anyone who lived and worked in the area. Today, UVACC has branches in eight counties and Charlottesville, providing checking, savings and loans to residents for more than 50 years. In second place, national institution Bank of America offers all the usual money management services from eight locations in our area.
UVA Community Credit Union
Runner-up: Waterstone Mortgage
Honorable mention: Atlantic Coast Mortgage
Second verse, same as the first. UVA Community Credit Union gets your vote for mortgage lending, too. You turn to them for a range of product offerings—from FHA to jumbo loans—as well as homebuyer seminars to help you get better acquainted with the process. At runner-up Waterstone Mortgage, readers get funding fast, through innovative mortgage solutions and great customer service.
Runner-up: Gary Albert
Honorable mention: Beth Towe Heck
Former Florida Marlin Hunter Wyant may have ended his baseball career in 2003, but he’s been hitting it out of the park as a State Farm agent ever since. Specializing in everything from auto and health to home and life insurance, the UVA alum also offers training and consulting to insurance and finance pros through his business, Trophy Consulting. In second place, fellow State Farm agent Gary Albert guides you through the process with nearly 15 years of experience.
Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA
Runner-up: Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
Honorable mention: Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia
The Charlottesville Albemarle SPCA took in 2,844 animals in 2017, and all but 300 were adopted. Of course, adoption isn’t the only service of the SPCA: The shelter is also a resource for dog training, spaying and neutering, pet therapy and cremation. In other words, it’s a one-stop pet shop (it also has a retail arm, the SPCA Rummage Store, and a small shop at the shelter with pet food and accessories for sale), so your donation goes a long way. In second place, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has been providing the food-insecure with assistance through a network of more than 200 food pantries, soup kitchens, schools, churches and other nonprofit groups.
CAR REPAIR SHOP
Airport Road Auto Center
Runner-up: Bob’s Wheel Alignment
Honorable mention: Peacock Auto Services
A visit to the mechanic, to us, has always seemed like a visit to a foreign country: You don’t speak the language and you get the feeling that whatever you buy, you’ve overpaid. Not so at Airport Road Auto Center, where you can get upfront quotes and bring in your own parts (translation: You’re not tied to their vendors; you can shop around). In second place, Bob’s Wheel Alignment on Market Street specializes in tires—fitting, selling, rotating—but handles other repairs like alignments, inspections and heating and cooling services, too.
All Things Pawssible
Runner-up: The Dogg House
Honorable mention: Pet Paradise and Tail Wags (tie)
As a young girl, Karen Quillen was often getting in trouble for stealing meat out of the fridge to give to hungry neighborhood dogs. It’s no wonder, then, that she grew up to provide the same kind of care and hospitality to her clients. A stay at All Things Pawssible’s Bed & Biscuit—a 4,000-square-foot facility with open, sunny spaces and artificial turf for exercising—offers your furry friend a cozy spot to lay her head, with a raw beef marrow bone and calming music in the background. Plus, readers say, Quillen is a master during obedience classes, helping you speak Lucy’s language and understand her idiosyncrasies. At The Dogg House, both canines and felines are welcome, and get five-star treatment with playtime, rest time and grooming options.
Georgetown Veterinary Hospital
Runner-up: Monticello Animal Hospital
Honorable mention: Charlottesville Veterinary Hospital
“Honest,” “ethical,” “caring,” “gentle”—there’s no end to the number of positive accolades given to Drs. Fietz, Handley, Peppard and Stone at Georgetown Vet. The family-run practice opened in 1959 and has provided quality care for puppers and kittens—including pet boarding and grooming—every year since. Over on Fifth Street, Monticello Animal Hospital earns praise for its compassionate care and friendly staff.
St. Anne’s-Belfield School
Runner-up: Tandem Friends School
Honorable mention: The Covenant School
Broadly speaking, if the goal of academia is to prepare students to be curious, responsible, honorable citizens of the world, St. Anne’s-Belfield has been setting the standard in our area since its founding in 1856, when it opened as an all-girls academy promoting the type of learning afforded to men at the University of Virginia. When the school re-opened in 1910 as a coed, pre-K to grade 12 institution, it re-committed to its mission. Today, by the time they graduate, students log 60 hours of community service, travel abroad and participate in an internship. At Quaker day school Tandem Friends, students in grades five through 12 experience rigorous academics and participate in the stewardship of their environment, through community gardening and sorting recyclables.
Albemarle High School
Runner-up: Western Albemarle High School
Honorable mention: Monticello High School
With programs like MESA (Math, Engineering & Science Academy), TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More) and Arts and Letters, it’s clear that academics at the largest comprehensive high school in the area is of utmost importance. And it shows: By December 2017, 91 graduating seniors had been accepted to colleges during on-site admissions, with initial scholarship offers totaling $1.64 million. At runner-up Western Albemarle, students are encouraged to participate in cool projects like designing and building a tiny house or donating their hair to help cancer patients (talk about school spirit!).
Bright Beginnings Preschool
Runner-up: The International School of Charlottesville
Honorable mention: St. Mark Lutheran Preschool
Bright Beginnings? Try Humble Beginnings. When BBP owner Kathe Petchel opened the school in 1984, it was out of her Earlysville home and had just nine students. But like any true success story, the school continued to grow, becoming what it is today, with three locations for infants, waddlers, toddlers and beyond to learn everything from motor skills and responsibility to literacy and nutrition. At The International School, students participate in Spanish and French immersion programs from preschool through kindergarten.
Moxie Hair & Body Lounge
Runner-up: The Honeycomb
Honorable mention: Bristles Hair Design & Day Spa
The difference between a good haircut and a bad one, as they say, is seven days. But whether you’re looking for a spiky pixie cut, a balayage dye job or want to experiment with bangs, at Moxie, none of those silly old adages are needed. Readers say the hip Preston Avenue salon gets it right every time. At The Honeycomb downtown, try out the latest trends —or just get an expert cut for your hard-to-handle tresses—with impunity.
Red Handed Nails Salon & Spa
Runner-up: Serenity Nails & Spa
Honorable mention: Neroli Spa & Beauty Lounge
You look like you could use a break. Pick one of the salon’s hundreds of colors—from acrylic to gel to organic—then head to the bar (the nail bar, that is, where the technicians perform the sacred relaxation ritual) for a profesh polish. Don’t forget about the pedicures, though: Forty-five minutes in the Stonefield salon’s uber-comfy chairs, readers say, is an unparalleled way to feel pampered. At Serenity Nails on Preston Avenue, friendly service amps up the relaxation factor.
Halo Salt Spa
Runner-up: The Brow House
Honorable mention: Signature Medical Spa
Why so salty? Because Himalayan salt is known to reduce inflammation and aid breathing, thin out mucus and eliminate allergens. So, a visit to the downtown spot is practically like taking an antibiotic. It’s medical. What’s more, the crystals are known to increase your seratonin levels—if that’s not the true function of a spa, we don’t know what is. Runner-up Brow House offers you waxing from top to bottom, plus facials and eyelash lifts and tints.
Brooke Fossett (The Brow House)
Runner-up: Lyn Chang (Signature Medical Spa)
Honorable mention: Leigh Walsh (Signature Medical Spa) and Ruby Liesen (The Brow House) (tie)
Last year, aka the year of the eyebrow, freed faces from plucking, threading, microblading and generally torturing its forehead fringe in favor of lush, prominent brows. Of course, not too lush, which is where readers say Brooke Fossett comes in. TBH’s owner waxes and shapes your caterpillars into beautiful butterflies. And while the Preston Avenue shop waxes other parts of your body, too—its Brazilian execution is expert—it’s named The Brow House for a reason. Runner-up Lyn Chang offers a range of high-end services for the face, eyes, body and hair, from microdermabrasion to SilkPeel.
Graduate Charlottesville and Omni Charlottesville Hotel (tie)
Runner-up: Keswick Hall
Honorable mention: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charlottesville
Don’t get it twisted: A tie for first here doesn’t mean the winners are interchangeable. In fact, just the opposite. On the Corner, the Graduate offers overnighters whimsical details (think a mix of patterns and textures, quirky artwork and bikes to rent) and a rooftop bar. For those with more traditional design sense, the upscale Omni impresses with Blue Ridge views, a glass elevator (don’t look down!) and just a few steps to the Downtown Mall. Keswick Hall, which closed for a makeover in 2018, is poised to come back better than ever—with renovations to the guest rooms and suites, public areas and restaurants (in other words, the whole hotel).
INN OR B&B
Runner-up: The Clifton
Honorable mention: 200 South Street Inn
Certainly a staycation (the term people use when they forego travel expenses and, instead, indulge locally) isn’t the only reason Oakhurst has captured our hearts —its proximity to UVA and downtown make it attractive to out-of-towners, too—but a random Tuesday at the Jefferson Park Avenue inn, followed by a Wednesday morning brunch at its in-house café, is the best way to recharge. Runner-up The Clifton revamped its look in 2018, with new interior design that features a bolder color palette and richly textured fabrics, giving it a new grown-up, urban feel. Perhaps it’s making a play for next year’s No. 1 spot?
Runner-up: Stone Creek Village
Honorable mention: Lakeside Apartments
There are at least three reasons residents like living in City Walk, that 300-unit monolith at the end of Water Street: location, location, location. With its proximity to Beer Run to the east and the Downtown Mall to the west, it’s in a prime position for regular entertainment—and brews, which renters can work off in the 24-hour fitness center or by taking a few laps around the saltwater pool. At Stone Creek, Albemarle renters get a taste of Europe, with a cobbled façade and amenities within walking distance.