2021 Readers Recommend Winners


Farmers Market: St. Paul Farmers’ Market

Connoisseurs can select from multiple market locations and find online information on which months to buy fresh-from-the-farm kohlrabi, turnips, brussels sprouts, and more. This food venue rewrites the definition of a public market while staying true to principles employed over 165 years ago when the St. Paul Farmers’ Market began.

Honorable mentions: Midtown Farmers Market, Mill City Farmers Market, and Minneapolis Farmers Market

Independent Bookstore: Red Balloon Bookshop

For more than 35 years, woman-owned Red Balloon Bookshop has nourished “kids and kids-at-heart” on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul. With a subscription program called “Bookshop in a Box,” home delivery, and a 20 percent discount on books destined for donation, owner Holly Weinkauf and her staff influence Minnesota readers of all ages and stages.

Honorable mentions: Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Moon Palace Books, and Wild Rumpus

Independent Clothing Store: boréal

boréal offers a unique selection of apparel and accessories from casual to chic. When shopping for clothing in this eclectic woman-owned boutique, buyers may also take home Ole and Lena fortune cookies or a Minnesota-shaped baby teether — the options are delightful.

Honorable mentions: GoodThings, PRIMP, and TradeWinds

Independent Eyeglasses Store: Spectacle Shoppe

With three metro locations and its own in-house labs, Spectacle Shoppe provides comprehensive end-to-end services for vision while staying dedicated to fashionable eyewear. Exams, frames, lenses, and repairs are all part of the package. People who do not need a prescription can still score stylish protection from sun or screens.

Honorable mentions: eyebobs, InVision Distinctive Eyewear, iWare Northeast, and Specs Appeal

Independent Gift Shop: GoodThings

Patrons of this gift shop might treasure a blue marble serving board, a gem discovery kit, a potted agave plant, or a ribbed jersey jumpsuit. An entire section “for the Minnesota obsessed” entices those who need a Paul Bunyan sticker or a Minnesota cribbage board. GoodThings literally stocks good things.

Honorable mentions: boréal, Corazon, and i like you

Independent Toy Store: Mischief Toy Store

There is mischief in Saint Paul’s historic steampunk district. Magical mischief. Mischief for all ages. The Victorian house on Grand Avenue marks the spot where playful Minnesotans can unearth prized books, games, candy, and yes, toys. Mischief Toy Store is not only independent, it is also majority women-owned.

Honorable mentions: Creative Kidstuff, GoodKids, and Kinoko Kids

Independent Hair Stylist or Salon: Tie: FoxFace Studios, Moxie Hair Salon

Whether the day calls for a formal up-do, a fancy shampoo with blow-out, a color touch-up, or simply a trim, FoxFace Studios and Moxie are Saint Paul salons that feature independent stylists who focus on creating art. FoxFace’s mission is to “uplift and spread positivity through the hands of our artists.” Moxie wants clients to “feel that a rare expectation has been met.”

Honorable mentions: Cajah Salon, Greyduck Salon, Petite Salon, and Turning Heads Salon

Store That Implemented COVID-19 Safety Measures Well: Seward Co-op

Seward Co-op prioritizes the safety of employees and customers while providing the community with healthy and affordable food. The co-op’s website has a dedicated COVID-19 page with detailed worker support information and current employee testing results. Shoppers can read about all the creative ways this Minneapolis co-op protects the neighborhood from viral spread.

Honorable mentions: Patina, Penzey’s Spices, Tim & Tom’s Speedy Market, and Trader Joe’s


Minnesota Livestreaming Music Venue: St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) pivoted to preserve and promote live music and musicians during a year when in-person audiences were not possible. The SPCO Digital Concert Library has a rich musical agenda available live or on-demand and includes treats like classical concertos and choral music.

Honorable mentions: Crooner’s Supper Club, First Avenue, and Minnesota Public Radio

Minnesota Podcast: Minnesota Public Radio

Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) provides hours of on-demand podcasts for listeners looking for entertainment or information. Our readers especially enjoy “MPR News with Kerri Miller,” covering topics from news to culture.

Honorable mentions: The Al Franken Podcast, In the Dark, money. power.land.solidarity., and University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP)

Retreat Center: ARC Retreat Community

The Lodge, The Cottage, and The Hermitage at the ARC Retreat Community offer peaceful shelters in the middle of a pristine white pine forest. Groups or individuals can escape the stresses of everyday life in this serene setting and spend time recharging as they walk, paddle, ski, read, or reflect.

Honorable mention: Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery

Theater Company: Guthrie Theater

A Minneapolis icon, the Guthrie Theater looms large over the Mississippi River and has provided world-class entertainment to Minnesotans for over 50 years. “The Guthrie creates transformative theater experiences that ignite the imagination, stir the heart, open the mind, and build community through the illumination of our common humanity.”

Honorable mentions: Mixed Blood Theatre, Penumbra Theatre, and Theater Latté Da

Eat & Drink

Bakery: Sift Gluten Free

Gluten-free can also be delicious! Scotcheroos, rhubarb almond bars, salted caramel chocolate chip cookies, and even sourdough bread — every menu item at Sift Gluten Free has no gluten and no peanuts. The bakery offers delicacies to devour immediately as well as staples like hamburger buns to use at home.

Honorable mentions: Marc Heu Patisserie Paris and Wuollet Bakery

Brewery, Distillery, or Winery: Urban Growler Brewing Company

Inventing adult beverages using ingredients from local farms, Master Brewer Deb Loch and “co–head honcho” Jill Pavlak run Minnesota’s first woman-owned brewery and tap room. If diners struggle with social distancing, they remind patrons that six feet is about the same as “15 perch fillets fish lips to tail.”

Honorable mentions: Burning Brothers Brewing, Du Nord Craft Spirits, Seven Vines, and Surly Brewing

Co-op or Green Grocer: Mississippi Market Co-op

Mississippi Market Co-op offers local items from the immediate five-state area, but this does not limit them to selling only hotdish. Browsing the small businesses that supply the market reveals a diverse group of ventures owned by families, women, and nonprofits; and merchandise with cultural roots from at least five continents.

Honorable mentions: Hampden Park Co-op, Lakewinds Food Co-op, Seward Co-op, and Wedge Community Co-op

Delivery or Pickup Option: Pizza Lucé

In addition to award-winning pizzas, diners can order Lucky Luciano pasta salad, mostaccioli, carrot cake — or all three — for pickup or delivery. Many menu items are vegan or can be requested in a gluten-free version. In addition to many metro locations, Pizza Luce in Duluth serves Minnesotans from the North Shore region.

Honorable mentions: Gandhi Mahal’s Curry in a Hurry and Target’s Drive Up

Restaurant: Young Joni

Conceived and owned by Ann Kim, winner of the James Beard 2019 Best Chef: Midwest award, this Minneapolis restaurant offers signature wood-fired pizza and “small plate” cuisine that is “globally influenced.” Kim immigrated to Minnesota from Korea, loved helping her mother and grandmother cook, and now owns four metro restaurants.

Honorable mentions: Cheng Heng, Colossal, and La Tapatia

Business You Will Miss Due to Closure: Tie: The Bachelor Farmer, Izzy’s Ice Cream Café

Sometimes even great things come to an end. The Bachelor Farmer and Izzy’s Ice Cream are two of the victims of the 2020 pandemic. The Bachelor Farmer closed its doors after almost nine years of serving Minneapolitans and dignitaries fresh Northern cuisine made from local ingredients. Izzy’s no longer scoops cones in person, but is available in grocery stores and co-ops. Izzy’s is delivered by Pizza Lucé and will ship frozen to addresses in 48 states.

Honorable mentions: Bellecour, Grand Café, Moose and Sadie‘s, and Ol’ Mexico


Camp for Kids: YMCA

Caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility — four core values emphasized in the YMCA camp programs throughout Minnesota. Children absorb those lessons while learning to climb a rock wall, paddle a canoe, or make a tie-dye T-shirt. YMCA day camps, overnight camps, and family camps host Minnesotans for year-round adventure and education.

Honorable mentions: Adventures in Cardboard, Concordia Language Villages, and Dodge Nature Center

Minnesota University or College: University of Minnesota

Led by its first woman president, Joan Gabel, “the U” educates over 50,000 current students in subjects from astrophysics to urban studies. Gabel’s vision is that “together we will build spaces of discovery, standing as a beacon of inclusion, preparing students for lives well lived, and driving Minnesota forward. As we serve our state, we will help change the world.”

Honorable mentions: Hamline University, St. Catherine University, and University of St. Thomas

Place to Take a Creative Class: Tie: The Loft Literary Center, White Bear Center for the Arts (WBCA)

The artistic spirit of Minnesotans is nurtured with instruction from fellow creatives at The Loft and White Bear Center for the Arts. Course offerings range from journaling to poetry, from batik to acrylics, and everything in between. Both establishments have adjusted to the new pandemic normal and offer lessons online.

Honorable mentions: Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and Northern Clay Center

Zoom Class From a Local Business: Up Yoga

Up Yoga offers online guidance with Baptiste Yoga and in-person options in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Their mission is “to empower you to generate connections, take action, and be a leader in your own life.” Up Yoga has built a supportive community based on stated values of connection, growth, integrity, leadership, and empowerment.

Honorable mentions: Clay Squared to Infinity, Minnesota State Horticultural Society, and Rose Academy of Burlesque

Healthy Directions

Dentist: Minnehaha Falls Family Dental

Minnehaha Falls Family Dental is women-owned and women-staffed. This dental practice cares for smiles through all life’s phases — from children’s dentistry to dentures, with a focus on preventive care. Dr. Joan Jakubas and Dr. Jenna Swenson want to be “your family’s home for gentle dental care.”

Honorable mentions: ADT Dental and Larson Dental

Elder Services: Episcopal Homes

Minnesota’s first Episcopal Deaconess, Sister Annette Relf, had a vision 125 years ago to serve the “aged and infirm.” Sister Relf ’s concept evolved into Episcopal Homes, which provides a full range of home health care and senior living services in the heart of Saint Paul as a not-for-profit organization.

Honorable mentions: Abiitan Mill City, Catholic Eldercare, and Chosen Valley Care Center

Mental Health Services: Wild Tree Psychotherapy

Wild Tree Psychotherapy provides mental health services to clients of all ages and has several specialty services including art therapy, trauma therapy, and mindfulness coaching. Wild Tree believes “that the mind-body connection is essential to life-long health” and they “are committed to teaching you how to be well for a lifetime — not just for now.”

Honorable mention: Invigorate Life Counseling

Place for Holistic Care : Jennie Hoglund, Classical Homeopath

Clients seek homeopathic care for everything from Lyme disease prevention to chronic pain to mental health issues. Jennie Hoglund uses her four years of classical homeopathic training and her vast experience to bring relief and provide “expert homeopathic care to help moms, kids, and families create lives of joy and wellness.”

Honorable mentions: Healing Elements and Penny George Institute for Health & Healing

Reproductive Health Care Provider: New Heart Doula Care LLC

Whether she is helping a new mother give birth for the first time at home or helping a veteran mother with her eighth hospital birth, Susan Chargo of New Heart Doula is attuned to the pregnant person’s priorities and provides a constant source of comfort and education.

Honorable mentions: Family Tree Clinic, Planned Parenthood, and Women’s Health Consultants

In Our Community

Arts Organization: Springboard for the Arts

By artists and for artists, Springboard for the Arts strives to help creatives be “visible and valued” — linking them to other craftspeople, helping them expand skills, and providing connections to healthcare, legal support, and more. With offices in Saint Paul and Fergus Falls, the organization serves artistic Minnesotans throughout the state.

Honorable mentions: Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association (NEMAA), Textile Center, and Theater Latté Da

Social Justice Organization: Black Lives Matter

Founded by three women in 2013, Black Lives Matter has grown into a “member-led global network of more than 40 chapters.” Locally, Black Lives Matter has been center stage in the fight for racial justice as discrimination and violence against Black Minnesotans continue.

Honorable mentions: Coalition of Asian American Leaders, Gender Justice, and Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

Spiritual Community: First Universalist Church of Minneapolis

For over 150 years, this thriving Unitarian Universalist congregation has welcomed all Minnesotans to its “liberal religious community.” More than 1,000 First Universalist family members support each other in spiritual searching, young adulthood, grief, later life, and activism. The religious education program serves over 500 youth.

Honorable mentions: Common Ground Meditation Center, Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates, Temple Israel, and Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality

Minnesota Leadership

Business Leader: Dr. Jennifer Blair

From veterinary assistant to practice owner, Dr. Jennifer Blair has been with St. Francis Animal Hospital for over 20 years. Her vision expanded St. Francis’s services to include Integrative Services and Hospice & Palliative Care Services. Blair assembled a talented professional team and maintains a state-of-the-art facility to serve clients.

Honorable mentions: Vicky Couillard, Nancy Lyons, and Kayla Yang-Best

Environmental Activist: Winona LaDuke – Honor the Earth

Winona LaDuke and her organization, Honor the Earth, seek to provide “both financial support and organizing support to Native environmental initiatives.” Her efforts are tireless and include “initiatives to protect sacred lands, [to] stop extreme fossil fuel extraction at the source by supporting frontline Native communities,” and to revitalize Native culture.

Honorable mentions: Land Stewardship Project, Shanai Matteson, and Jacqueline Zepeda

Political Leader: Governor Tim Walz

Governor Tim Walz has an inclusive vision for Minnesota. On his second day in office, he established the One Minnesota Council on Inclusion and Equity. He believes “in Minnesota, we know we are all better off together. … Diversity, inclusion, and equity are therefore essential core values and top priorities to achieve One Minnesota.”

Honorable mentions: Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar, and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar

Racial Equity Activist: Nekima Levy Armstrong

Minneapolis’s Nekima Levy Armstrong is front and center in the fight for racial justice for Minnesotans and all Americans. An attorney and ordained reverend, Levy Armstrong is a “national expert on issues at the intersections of race, public policy, economic justice, public education, juvenile justice, and the criminal justice system.”

Honorable mentions: Black Lives Matter, Josie Johnson, Toussaint Morrison, and Dionne Sims


Animal Hospital or Veterinarian: St. Francis Animal Hospital

St. Francis Animal Hospital provides health care for both traditional and exotic pets. Services like preventive vaccines, surgery, and palliative care are offered as well as integrative options like herbal therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. Owner Dr. Jennifer Blair and staff bring core values to every visit: excellence, compassion, dedication, respect, and integrity.

Honorable mentions: Banfield Pet Hospital, Grand Avenue Vet, Midway Animal Hospital, Minnehaha Animal Hospital, and Nokomis Pet Clinic

Pet Supply Store: Chuck & Don’s Pet Food & Supplies

Known as the “pet wellness store,” Chuck & Don’s is a trusted source of supplies for Minnesota pets. Employees offer expert advice on “building a bowl” of protein, toppers, hydrators, and supplements for pets because “pet food should be real food.” There are over 30 Chuck & Don’s Minnesota locations.

Honorable mentions: Pet Supplies Plus, PetSmart, and Urban Tails

Place for Pet Daycare / Boarding: Dog Days

A woman’s best friend sometimes needs to get away for a while and chill with other canines. Woman-owned Dog Days provides quality daycare, boarding, and grooming at multiple metro locations, and can include training. “Dog Days = Safety + Attention + Care + Trust.”

Honorable mentions: Downtown Dogs and Now Boarding

Place for Pet Training Classes: The Canine Coach

Minnesota children are not the only ones learning remotely — even dogs can sign up for a Skype session with a personal trainer or a Zoom class with a pack at The Canine Coach. There are in-person training options, and this summer, kids and dogs can attend camp together.

Honorable mentions: Animal Inn Pet Resort & Spa, Petco, and Twin Cities Obedience Training Club

Rescue Organization: Animal Humane Society

The Animal Humane Society (AHS) helps with lost and found animals, surrender and rehoming of pets, veterinary care, animal cruelty cases, pet care education, and even pet training (including rabbits). Over 22,000 animals a year find comfort at AHS, and many go on to be adopted in a devoted Minnesota home.

Honorable mentions: Cause for Paws, Safe Hands Rescue, and Secondhand Hounds

Professional Assistance

Accountant: Vetscher & Associates LLC

For over 40 years, Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses have trusted Vetscher & Associates with their tax preparation, payroll, business consulting, and other financial needs. Vetscher & Associates commits that their “number one priority is our clients,” and they “aim to develop lasting relationships with each and every one.”

Honorable mentions: Fox Tax LLC, Triangle Accounting, and Weivoda Financial LTD

Attorney: Tie: Evon M. Spangler — Spangler and de Stefano PLLP, Ann Viitala — Viitala Law Office

Ann Viitala and Evon Spangler are both partners in their respective firms. Viitala has operated her firm for over 25 years, specializing in estate planning and family law while also advising businesses and nonprofits. Spangler provides personal insight as a business owner and focuses on proprietors and their families, consulting on transactional business law and estate planning.

Honorable mentions: Schromen Law LLC and Tarrant & Liska PLLC

Bank / Credit Union: Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

For day-to-day banking, loans, investments, insurance, or retirement funds, Affinity Plus ensures “members feel taken care of.” The credit union offers such personalized options as a bicycle loan or a student technology loan and has a special interest in providing funding for converting homes to use solar energy.

Honorable mentions: Spire Credit Union, Sunrise Banks, and Wings Financial Credit Union

End of Life Service: Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens

A “green burial” avoids putting harmful chemicals and materials into the Earth. Prairie Oaks Memorial Eco Gardens offers alternatives that are biodegradable and benign. Customers may also choose a Living Urn with memory tree. The gorgeous grounds are in a land conservancy and intended to be a peaceful respite in perpetuity.

Honorable mentions: AseraCare Hospice, Compassion & Choices, N. C. Little Hospice, and Minnesota Cremation Society

Estate Planner: Rachel Schromen — Schromen Law LLC

Rachel Schromen, solo practitioner, helps Minnesotans plan for later life and their legacies. Schromen says her “Midwest work ethic drives [her] to work relentlessly” on behalf of her clients. Mabel, the therapy dog, is available to clients desiring a canine cuddle for extra reassurance during a consultation.

Honorable mentions: Jen Becker — Thrivent, Andrea Thermos — Boulay Group, and Sara Valesano — Edward Jones

Financial Planner: Joan Gilles — Financial Planning Partners

As a financial advisor and coach, Joan Gilles is motivated to help Minnesotans plan and reach their goals. She brings over 25 years of professional financial experience, plus her personal life history, which she draws on to steer customers toward their financial objectives.

Honorable mentions: Focus Financial, Julian Locke — Edward Jones, and Jennifer Tix — Thrivent

Insurance Agent: Davina Baldwin — State Farm Insurance

Automobile. Homeowners. Renters. Personal Articles. Business. Life. Health. Who knew there were so many types of insurance? Davina Baldwin has known for over 30 years. Her State Farm Insurance agency helps “people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams.”

Honorable mentions: Hanna Cox Connor — Cox Insurance Associates Inc., Dash Leander — Farmer’s Insurance, and Kevin Wilson — Country Financial


Bike Shop: ERIK’S Bike Board Ski

With multiple metro locations and some in Greater Minnesota, ERIK’S serves customers looking for fat tire bikes, road bikes, electric bikes, BMX bikes, training bikes, mountain bikes, recumbent bikes, or even “bikes” with one or three wheels. Minnesota’s cycling community goes to ERIK’S for accessories, repairs, riders’s clubs, and more.

Honorable mentions: Gateway Cycle, The Hub Bike Co-op, and Now Bikes and Fitness

Car Repair Shop: Roering Auto Body

Lisa Roering owns and operates Roering Auto Body, ensuring customers quickly get their cars healed and back on the road. Roering’s “facility and certified staff have won the hearts of customers who have experienced the trauma of being involved in a car accident.” The business also offers detailing and headlight buffing services.

Honorable mentions: Brausen Repair Center, Park Service, and Starr Automotive

Gardening / Landscaping Service: Mother Earth Gardens

From herbicide-free Christmas trees to flowering bulbs to local ceramics, Mother Earth Gardens has supplies for all seasons. The business focuses on “organic gardening, sustainably grown plants, and eco-friendly products.” Mother Earth’s two Minneapolis locations “feature the largest selection of native plants of any retail garden center in the Twin Cities.”

Honorable mentions: Field Outdoor Spaces, Gerten’s, and Phillips Garden

Home Remodeler: Kelli Mickelson — Brynn Alden Interior Design LLC

Owner Kelli Mickelson says, “We absolutely LOVE ugly kitchens!!” That is because her specialty is rehabilitating them. Her business offers full-scale remodeling, from composing plans to supervising the changes. Using paint, design work, accessories, lighting, tile, or whatever it takes, Mickelson gives those “ugly” rooms a new lease on life.

Honorable mentions: Castle Building and Remodeling, Parrot Head Remodelers, Sylvestre Remodeling & Design, and Terra Firma

Plumber: Ron the Sewer Rat

A plumbing company with its own online coloring book? Yep. Color Ron the Sewer Rat in Duluth and Gooseberry Falls, playing hockey and baseball, and enjoying Lake Harriet and the State Fair. This clever plumbing company is almost 50 years old and brings creativity to quality drain cleaning and sewer inspections.

Honorable mentions: Rose Plumbing and St. Paul Pipeworks

Realtor: Leah Drury — Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty

Leah Drury knows Minneapolis personally and has worked in real estate for over 10 years. As a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Urban Studies program, she “incorporates a dynamic and nuanced understanding of the neighborhoods, arts communities, and family resources that define and enrich [the] area.”

Honorable mentions: Kathy Borys, The Odd Couple Team, and Holly Stomberg — Success Home Team

In-Home Service That Implemented COVID-19 Safety Protocols Well: Caravan Vet

Dr. Christa Williams and her all-women “Team Amazing” believe that keeping pets comfortable and in a low-stress familiar environment can be better for their health. Caravan Vet makes house calls, taking the veterinary staff and specialized clinic van to the clients, even in cases where surgery is necessary.

Honorable mentions: Krinkie Heating, McQuillan’s, and MN Pets