Best After-School Program
Boys & Girls Clubs of the Midlands
Runner-up: The Karate Dojo
Since 1959, the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands have aimed to help youth reach their full potential as productive citizens. Collectively, the organization serves youth and families by operating 46 clubs, eight summer camps and a teen center from Fairfield, Kershaw, Lexington, Newberry and Richland counties.
Honorable mentions: Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Hammond PLUS Programs
Best Place for Music Lessons
Columbia Arts Academy | Lexington School of Music
Runner-up: Freeway Music, LLC
These two sister locations combine to form South Carolina’s largest music school, offering lessons in guitar, piano, voice, singing, drums, bass, banjo, mandolin and ukulele, along with rock band classes.
Honorable mentions: USC String School, Carolina Music Academy
Best Martial Arts School
Runner-up: Columbia Martial Arts and Fitness
Capital Karate will teach you or your kids the way of the empty hand, yes. But it also offers classes in krav maga and other martial arts, too.
Honorable mentions: Legacy Martial Arts, TNT Martial Arts & Fitness
Best Gymnastics/Cheerleading School
Carolina Gymnastics Center
Runner-up: ACX American Cheer X-Treme
Carolina Gymnastics Center is about more than just the technical aspects of helping children reach their potential. “We will use the sport of gymnastics to help each child gain greater self-confidence and a more positive self-image,” the center’s website states. Right on.
Honorable mentions: Brussell’s Gymnastics, Empire Gymnastics Training Center
Best Continuing Education Institution
University of South Carolina
Runner-up: Midlands Technical College
Yes, USC offers more than 250 graduate and doctoral programs across 13 different colleges and schools. But it also boasts a robust continuing education program that can help you get into college, get ahead at work or simply learn something new.
Honorable mentions: Columbia College, Exceed Real Estate School
Best Bank or Credit Union
Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union
Runner-up: AllSouth Federal Credit Union
OK, we get it. You like to keep your money wadded up and stuffed in an old Folgers coffee can in the hall closet. But hear us out: You need somewhere a little (OK, a lot) more secure to park your money, and maybe get some reward points along the way. Palmetto Citizens is just such a place. They’ve got locations across the Midlands ready to serve you.
Honorable mentions: First Citizens Bank, South Carolina Federal Credit Union
Best Mortgage Lender
Palmetto Citizens Federal Credit Union
Runner-up: Guild Mortgage Company
The purchasing of a home is an extremely big financial decision for most people. Palmetto Citizens can guide you in the right direction. Whether you are buying a new house or looking to refinance your current mortgage to lower your rate and payments, this credit union has experts ready to help you.
Honorable mentions: Mortgage Network, Inc.; Metro Mortgage Corporation
Best Real Estate Agency
The ART of Real Estate
Runner-up: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Looking for a townhome? A condo? A starter home? A suburban palace? The ART of Real Estate, the city’s premier boutique real estate broker, can show you — and sell you — one in any area of town.
Honorable mentions: ERA Wilder Realty, Keller Williams
Best Real Estate Agent
Runner-up: Sarah Bennett
There’s a prominent saying on Realtor Jeff Lawler’s website: “Leave it to Lawler.” That about sums it up. Whether you’re buying a home or looking to sell, Lawler, who is with Coldwell Banker, can assist you every step of the way.
Honorable mentions: Olivia Cooley, Mary Lane Sloan
Best Heating and Air Service
Cool Care Heating and Air
Runner-up: Cassell Brothers Heating & Cooling
In the Midlands, both heating and air conditioning are pretty much a necessity. Cool Care will keep your HVAC systems in top working order.
Honorable mentions: 2nd Wind Heating & Air Conditioning, Kaminer Heating and Cooling
Best Home Builder
Runner-up: Great Southern Homes
There’s a reason you see a Mungo development around seemingly every corner in Columbia: they build good homes, and they’ve been recognized by Builder magazine and the National Association of Home Builders for doing so.
Honorable mentions: Callaway Construction Co., Celtic Works, Inc.
Best Landscaping Company
Runner-up: Blue Moon Landscaping
Judging by the before-and-after pictures dotting the company’s Facebook page — with yards that are ragged and dotted with dirt patches transformed into lush, green spaces — they’ve got what it takes to get your own outdoor areas looking right.
Honorable mentions: Live Oaks Lawn Care, Trifecta Lawn Care
Best Moving Company
Two Men and a Truck
Runner-up: Soda City Movers
The fastest-growing franchised moving company does well in the Columbia market. Their workers operate by the “Grandma Rule”: “To treat everyone the way you would want your Grandma to be treated.” No wonder they won the hearts of Best Of voters.
Honorable mentions: Senior RightSizing, Gentlemen Movers
Best Pest Control
Modern Exterminating Co Inc
Runner-up: Clark’s Termite & Pest Control
Modern Exterminating is that company that sometimes places those cockroach ads on the Rant & Rave page of this paper. If you hire them, that’s probably the only time you’ll ever see a cockroach.
Honorable mentions: Cayce Exterminating, Terminix
Best Plumbing Repair
Superior Plumbing & Gas
Runner-up: Freedom Plumbing
OK, we know that when you have a plumbing issue your first inclination might be to call your Uncle Bill to take a look at it. The problem is your Uncle Bill won’t show up for three days and has a raging drinking problem. Don’t call Uncle Bill. Call Superior Plumbing and Gas. They’ll show up on time, keep things clean and do the job right every time.
Honorable mentions: Castle Services, Stormy Plumbing
Crescent Construction, LLC
Runner-up: Burgin Roofing Services
Into every life, a little hail must fall. And when it does, it can really jack up your roof. If that happens, your best bet is to call Crescent Construction. They are experts in residential and commercial roofing. Whether it’s about the best type of shingle for your home or the financing that may be available, Crescent can answer all your roofing questions.
Honorable mentions: All Seasons Services, Crosby Roofing & Seamless Gutters
Best Dry Cleaner
Tripp’s Fine Cleaners
Runner-up: Ed Robinson Laundry & Dry Cleaning
Tripp’s Fine Cleaners is Columbia’s only certified master dry cleaner — and it’s been certified by no fewer than three dry-cleaning organizations. So, yeah, they can probably get that red wine stain out of your favorite dress shirt.
Honorable mentions: Ben’s, Palmetto Commercial Services
Best Law Firm
Runner-up: Richland County Public Defenders Office
That catchy radio-ad jingle, which just gets stuck in your head for days on end, might have put her over the top, but lawyer Lisa Hostetler’s reputation backs up her advertising: Her firm has an average review score of 4.6 stars (out of five) on Google and 4.8 (also out of five) on Facebook.
Honorable mentions: The Jeffcoat Firm, Thomas Law Firm
Best DUI Law Firm or Attorney
J. Taylor Bell, The Jeffcoat Firm
Runner-up: Seth Rose
Taylor Bell used to be a Richland County public defender, where he racked up the courtroom experience — and gained a reputation for fighting for people’s rights. Now he works for the Jeffcoat Firm. Give him a call.
Honorable mentions: The Shealey Law Firm, Dayne Phillips
Best Escape Room
The Final Door
Runner-up: Escape Plan Columbia
Have you ever watched a thriller or horror film where someone is seemingly hopelessly trapped and thought to yourself, “Hey, I’d like that to happen to me in real life, except without those pesky fatal consequences, and maybe with a little beer and wine mixed in”? Well, then you should give The Final Door a try.
Honorable mentions: Escapology, Great Escape SC
Best Event Venue
Runner-up: Riverbanks Zoo & Garden
Popular for rehearsal dinners, weddings, fundraisers, meetings, arts and music events, the lovingly restored mill building at 701 Whaley — with its original wood columns, original turnbuckle trusses and immaculate hardwood floors — is perfect for a wide range of special occasions. In fact, Southern Living named it one of the Best Venues to Get Married in South Carolina.
Honorable mentions: The Farm At Ridgeway, The Millstone at Adams Pond
Runner-up: Cottle Strawberry Farm
Because of its prominence on the food and events scene, City Roots has probably exposed more Columbians to farming than any other farm around these parts. The urban farm and event hub is best known for its microgreens, which can be found on local tables and those across the Southeast.
Honorable mentions: Doko Farm, Old McCaskill’s Farm
Blossom Shop Inc.
Runner-up: Something Special Florist
Blossom has been a Columbia mainstay for 70 years. Whether a friend had a new baby, someone close to you has had a death in the family, there’s a birthday that needs celebrating or congratulations are in order, this Devine Street shop has the arrangements you need.
Honorable mentions: American Floral, Fern Studio Floral & Event Design
Best Funeral Home
Dunbar Funeral Home
Runner-up: Shives Funeral Home
Death is an unfortunate part of all of our lives. Dunbar will treat your departed loved ones with the care and respect they deserve.
Honorable mentions: Leevy’s Funeral Home, Caughman-Harman Funeral Home
Best Place to Be Buried
Under the back deck of New Brookland Tavern
Runner-up: Dust 2 Dust Green Burial
People really love New Brookland Tavern.
Honorable mention: Greenhaven Memorial Gardens
Best Golf Course
Cobblestone Park Golf Club
Runner-up: Columbia Country Club
This club, formerly known as the University Club, features a picturesque, challenging 27-hole course with rolling hills and soaring oaks and pines. It also debuted a fancy new 28,000-square-foot clubhouse a couple years ago. Not a bad place for a few birdies and bogeys. (OK, maybe more than a few bogeys.)
Honorable mentions: Forest Lake Club, The Woodlands Golf & Country Club
Runner-up: Inn At USC Wyndham Garden
Most hotels are simply utilitarian, a place to catch a little rest while traveling for business or during the middle of a long, long drive. Hotel Trundle, the city’s first independent boutique hotel, is different; it offers a taste of Columbia to its tenants, having incorporated the handiwork of local artists and artisans and craftsmen into its unique architecture.
Honorable mentions: Hampton Inn Downtown, The 1425 Inn
Best House of Worship
St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church
Runner-up: First Baptist Church of Columbia
This Forest Acres church does lots of outreach through its workshops, its backpack programs, its popular drop-in nursery and its many other services to the community. Maybe that’s why people love it so much.
Honorable mentions: Downtown Church, Midtown Fellowship
Best Insurance Company
There is one undeniable truth in life: S#!t happens. When it does, State Farm, long one of the nation’s leading insurance companies, is here to help.
Honorable mentions: Nationwide, Giles Insurance Agency
Best Local Insurance Agent
Craig Giles, Giles Insurance
Runner-up: Brad Giles, Allstate
Giles Insurance Agency owner Craig Giles tops our readers’ list when it comes to meeting their insurance needs, from homeowners insurance to auto insurance and more.
Honorable mentions: Kali Render, State Farm; Bill Turbeville, Turbeville Insurance Agency
Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Retailer
Mast General Store Columbia
Runner-up: The Backpacker Quality Gear
Don’t let the fact that Mast sells everything from Gamecock gear to tea towels to saltwater taffy fool you — head downstairs, and you’ll find outdoor gear galore, with knowledgeable staff to help you find your way through it.
Honorable mentions: Half-Moon Outfitters, Sportsman’s Warehouse
Best Printing Company
K & K Printing
Runner-up: Professional Printers
K&K Printing has earned its reputation for quality printing and excellent service; it’s been in business for nearly 30 years, and offers quick custom printing at competitive prices.
Honorable mentions: Copy Pickup, Sun Solutions
Best Private or Charter School
East Point Academy
Runner-up: Heathwood Hall Episcopal School
Founded just seven years ago, this Chinese immersion charter school has shot to the top of the local education scene. Whether you’re a native speaker looking to keep your child exposed to Mandarin while also learning English and serious academics, or whether you want your English-speaking kid exposed to the world’s most spoken language, this could be the place for your family.
Honorable mentions: Hammond School, St. John Neumann Catholic School
Best River Rental/Guide Company
Carolina Outdoor Adventures
Runner-up: Half-Moon Outfitters Inc
Offers equipment rentals and guided kayak tours of cool local stuff like Rocky Shoals Spider Lilies in bloom or Lake Murray at sunset. Experience the incredible natural beauty that flows through the heart of the Midlands.
Honorable mentions: Palmetto Outdoor, River Runner Outdoor Center
Best Screen Printer
Custom Embroidery & Screen Printing
Runner-up: Image Ink
With more than 30 years of experience, Custom goes beyond screen-printing, offering embroidery, signs and banners, and other promotional products to really get your brand out there.
Honorable mentions: Frenzy Tees, Perfect Printing
Best Shooting Range
Palmetto State Armory
Runner-up: Shooter’s Choice
If you want to own a firearm, it’s in everyone’s best interest that you know how to shoot it. Palmetto State Armory’s range is a great place to practice, with ample hours, 18 shooting lanes and reasonable prices.
Honorable mentions: Lexington Guns and Shooting Range, Mid Carolina Rifle Club
Best Smartphone and Computer Repair
Runner-up: Mr PC
One repair that SmartPhone Medic advertises is fixing charge ports. That’s something that’s gone wrong with at least two of our own phones, and also to phones belonging to more than a few of our friends. Your phone might be broken, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. Let Smartphone Medic help you out.
Honorable mentions: CPR Cell Phone Repair, Cell Surgeon iPhone Repair
Best Staffing Agency
Carolina Legal Associates
Runner-up: AppleOne Employment Services
That this category was won by a specialty company like Carolina Legal Associates, which handles placement of experienced attorneys, paralegals and support staff, speaks volumes about the quality work they do. Need a contract attorney? Now you know who to call.
Honorable mentions: Recruiting Solutions, Roper Staffing
Best Wine and Paint Studio
Runner-up: Wine & Design
Sometimes you want to paint. Sometimes you want to drink. And sometimes, well, you want to do both. When that combo feeling hits, Studio Cellar has what you’re looking for. It’s a perfect place for your special nights, parties, group outings or social gatherings. Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available right on-site, and you don’t need to be an experienced artist to join the fun.
Honorable mentions: Grapes & Gallery, Painting with a Twist