Introducing your 2017 top picks.
This is a milestone year for Woodbury, as our city is celebrating its 50th anniversary. There’s a lot to celebrate in our town. Each month, Woodbury Magazine brings you stories of the people, restaurants, shops and service providers that make our city such a wonderful place. In this issue the focus is on you, our readers, as we recognize your favorite things with our Best of Woodbury 2017 readers’ choice winners.
We asked readers to vote for the best our city has to offer in 30 categories. This year’s response was spectacular! That’s a testament to just how engaged our citizens are with this place we call home.
Looking for a dentist, interior designer, preschool or hairstylist? Woodbury is home to some excellent service providers. Need to spruce up your home with a remodel or some new landscaping? Woodbury has top choices to make your home dreams come true. Searching for the perfect gift or a great place to dine? Our city’s shopping and restaurant scene just keeps getting better each year.
You’ll find some familiar names in this year’s Best of Woodbury, repeat winners who have a loyal following. There are also some new names as well, an indicator of the growth and vitality of our city as we welcome new businesses to town. And be sure to check out the five editor’s picks which highlight a few special initiatives and events that have made a positive impact on our city.
The city has no shortage of great spots to eat, so when it comes to crowning the very best, all factors must be considered. Ambience, experience, service, menu offerings and plain old deliciousness all have to be there. Here are the go-to destinations Woodbury residents count on as the best bites in town.
Best Patio Dining
The Tavern Grill
Minnesotans take rooftop and patio season very seriously, so when a business gets it right, a loyal following is to be expected. And a loyal following is exactly what The Tavern Grill has created with its spacious, paved patio. Locals and non-locals alike flock to the spot on any given day above 50 degrees to sip drinks under the shade of umbrellas and trees throughout. Site manager Naomi Baird suggests tapping the full outdoor bar for a Minneapolis mule, which swaps out the traditional vodka for the homegrown 2 Gingers whiskey—served in a copper mug, of course. “It’s a great place to spend a sunny afternoon with friends and family, and there’s enough space out there to really enjoy the experience,” Baird says.
Runners Up: Angelina’s Kitchen, Tamarack Tap Room
In an era dominated by chain restaurants, Angelina’s Kitchen has gained devoted supporters with an incredible Italian menu, and through the feeling of familiarity every patron has when taking a seat at any table. “I’ve always said Woodbury is the smallest big town I know. As large as it is, there is a true small town sense of community here, and I love being a part of it as a neighborhood restaurant,” says owner and head cook Angela Verrastro. The restaurant has recently added a banquet area that is sure to be the go-to for special gatherings. Must-trys on the menu include the cioppino, a traditional Italian seafood stew, and the popular eggplant parmesan. “When I am eating it, and close my eyes, it takes me back to grandma’s kitchen,” Verrastro says.
Runners Up: The Tavern Grill, Crave
Best Tavern or Bar
The Tavern Grill
There’s a lot more than drink and beer offerings that goes into creating a great bar. And though The Tavern Grill has the beer selection and cocktail creativity to boast, it’s the neighborhood-friendly environment and service that have won the city over. Tavern also makes a great case with their Tavern Club, which rewards loyalty patrons with 25-ounce tap beers for $4 and 20 percent off food. “We see a lot of the same faces in here, and we’re really proud of the fact that so many families and friends have made this their spot,” says site manager Naomi Baird.
Runners Up: Tamarack Tap Room, O’Malley’s Irish Pub
Keys Café and Bakery
Looking for a bounty of omelets? Buttermilk pancakes or a Belgian waffle? How about cinnamon French toast, Italian hash, eggs Benedict or an eggswich? Look no further than Keys Café and Bakery, which has been humming at Valley Creek Mall for 22 years come August. “Our recipes go back to the original Keys on Raymond in St. Paul, started by Barb Hunn back in 1973,” says Amy Mahowald, general manager. “We feel like our own family here in Woodbury. Some of our staff have been with us since opening day, and our customers are a huge part of that as well. We are so grateful to be a part of this community.”
Runners Up: Woodbury Café, Ze’s Diner
It’s said that home is where the heart is, but adding a little extra touch of design inspiration certainly helps the heart want to be where the home is. These businesses are trusted by the community as having the service, expertise and creative eye to bring it all together.
Custom One Homes
Custom One Homes is a custom/design builder, working with each client to deliver an amazing home. “Our client experience and process is second to none in the industry; we independently (third party) inspect 347 touch points in our homes during the building process to ensure the best construction practices possible,” says Todd Polifka, president. “Woodbury is my community—our family farmed this land many years ago, and to carry on the tradition of developing Woodbury is something we take great pride in.”
Runners Up: Derrick Custom Homes, Lennar
Ispiri is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017, providing industry-leading residential home architectural design, interior design and construction renovation management services throughout the Twin Cities. “We are proud to have started our business in Woodbury which is one of the most business friendly, socially connected and community involved cities I have ever experienced,” says CEO Jason Fabio. “We have worked for hundreds of local clients over the past decade, with our focus of delivering an exceptional client experience, innovative designs and quality craftsmanship. We want to get it right every time.”
Runners Up: Cardinal Homebuilders, Michael Lee
Best Interior Designer
“We ask the right questions and listen to our clients’ needs,” says CEO Jason Fabio. “We understand we are in their home and private space, and that demands respect, planning and being adaptable to their every-changing needs. At Ispiri, the client always comes first.”
Runners Up: Interior Impressions, Pomegranate Designs
Best Landscape Designer
Warner’s Outdoor Solutions
Woodbury residents love to spend time outside. When it comes to those outdoor chores, Warner’s Outdoor Solutions offers it all: outdoor maintenance, landscaping, irrigation, tree and shrub care, snow removal, holiday lighting, hockey rinks, even pest control. What sets Warner’s apart from the competition? “We’ve made our ordering, receiving and paying processes as easy as possible so it’s simple for customers to do business with us,” says Ryan Warner, owner. Warner likes doing business in his hometown and making customers happy, and appreciates their loyalty and referrals. “What I enjoy the most is teaching employees how to do their job well and having them take pride in that; they start in production and then move into foreman and senior manager positions,” he says.
Runners Up: Ispiri Landscaping, Heins Nursery
Best Senior Living Residence
Saint Therese of Woodbury
On Leap Day—February 29, 2016—Saint Therese of Woodbury opened its doors, offering a full continuum of care in a faith-based community. The beautiful facility on Bailey Road is able to accommodate many different levels of care which can be easily adjusted as care needs change. For senior couples, a continuum of care allows them to remain living together, regardless of varying care needs. “We’ve already seen many independent living tenants able to take advantage of the convenience of transitional care or outpatient therapy, all within the community where they live,” says Karrie Tipler, executive director.
Runners Up: Woodbury Senior Living, Oak Meadows Senior Living
HEALTH & WELLNESS
When it comes to living the best life possible, personal and family health is a major factor, and who to trust it with is just as critical. Woodbury has spoken on the professionals to turn to for everything from everyday wellness, to white smiles, to making sure the littlest community members are healthy.
Best Fitness /Yoga Studio
When it comes to businesses that really represent Woodbury, it’s hard to find a better example than the YMCA. Members from birth through 100 years of age can find classes that fit their wellness and fitness goals, with supportive and knowledgeable experts to help each individual reach them. The YMCA also leads the Special Olympics programs in the community and is consistently adding classes with differing levels of difficulty and mobility, such as classes that are totally based in a chair, to meet all unique needs. “We celebrate the presence of differences that make each person unique… we strive to connect and serve all populations to increase awareness for healthy lifestyle changes,” says JoJo Goulding, program manager.
Runners Up: Life Time Fitness, CorePower Yoga
Best Chiropractic Clinic
Woodbury Chiropractic & Wellness Center
According to chiropractor Jim Kreibich, the biggest misconception about chiropractic and massage therapy is the end goal. “It’s about more than just making the pain disappear; it is about learning, understanding and taking care of your body to improve your quality of life,” Kreibich says. While many think of chiropractors as just correcting through massages and adjustments, Kreibich and his team are committed to giving a go-forward action such as a new stretch, new workout routine or added supplement to proactively counteract future issues. Under this guiding philosophy, the office has helped Woodbury patients reach a greater level of health and understanding for 16 years.
Runners Up: ChiroWay, Woodbury Spine Wellness Center
Best Dental Clinic
Art & Science family Dentistry
Fear of the dentist is a classic and prevalent phobia, but it’s safe to say that patients of Art & Science Family Dentistry don’t hold this fear, or at least not for any great length of time. The family-oriented clinic has served generations of Woodbury families, and beyond providing high quality care, it is this connection to the community and patients that sets them apart. “It really comes down to building and valuing relationships. We focus on getting to know our patients and then help them make the best decisions for their care,” says Tom Musser, dentist/co-owner. The office’s inspiration to grow and continually improve is a cue from the city itself. “Woodbury has been very fortunate to have great civic leadership, both elected officials and volunteers. The planning done 50-plus years ago to map out a strategy for growth has definitely paid off for Woodbury. As a business owner, being able to witness the development of our community makes us proud to be a part of it.”
Runners Up: Woodbury Dental Care, Park Dental
Best Orthodontic Clinic
A smile is arguably the most universal expression, and when it comes to putting the best possible smile forward every day, Woodbury turns to Henseler Orthodontics. The clinic offers metal braces, ceramic braces and the latest in Invisalign, a popular choice for many adult patients. Orthodontist Steve Henseler names the highlight of the clinic’s 22 years in business as the connections that have been made with patients. “Great communities are made up of great people and Woodbury is no exception. It’s rewarding to get to know so many Woodbury families while also serving their orthodontic needs,” Henseler says.
Runners Up: Dunn Orthodontics, Minnesota Orthodontics
Best Pediatric Clinic
When it comes to kids and health, trust and accessibility are highly-sought qualities for pediatric clinics. According to marketing and public relations coordinator Lisa Collins, Central/Priority Pediatrics keeps this top of mind. “Our hours are very accommodating for busy families; we welcome walk-ins seven days a week, including evenings. Whether you are here for a scheduled well visit or walk-in sick visit, you’ll see a board-certified pediatrician at every visit.” It is not unusual for the clinic to keep a patient from birth to young adulthood, and in addition to offering this full spectrum of care for young patients, the clinic meets the critical needs of new mothers by offering lactation consultants for breastfeeding support.
Runners Up: HealthEast Clinic – Tamarack, Pediatric & Young Adult Medicine
Best Eye Clinic
St. Paul Eye Clinic
In the craziness that is sometimes life, good vision can be taken for granted. For almost 50 years, St. Paul Eye Clinic has been helping residents value and take care of their vision, whether it be through routine exams or more advanced surgical procedures. “Many eye diseases have few symptoms in their early stages, but with early detection, we can provide treatment options specifically for the situation,” says CEO David Rothschiller. And they walk the walk, too—the clinic carries advanced industry technology in addition to claiming 16 board-certified doctors on their staff.
Runners Up: Associated Eye Care, Allina Health Woodbury Clinic
Best Dermatology Clinic
While it has become a well-known “fun fact” that skin is the largest human organ, it often does not receive as much professional medical attention as the ones that aren’t seen. Dermatology Consultants was one of the first clinics devoted specifically to dermatology in the Twin Cities, and during its more than half a century tenure, it has become a trusted source of expertise. “When you visit our practice you will always see a doctor… our 20 board-certified dermatologists have years of experience and training in the latest general and cosmetic dermatology, and skin cancer treatments,” says CEO Bill Kenney. Beyond the expertise is the experience it grants each of its customers. “We’ve built strong, long-lasting relationships with our patients and their families in Woodbury,” Kenney says.
Runners Up: SkinSpeaks, Advanced Dermatology Care
Beauty is far from only skin deep, and that’s why Radiance Medspa’s philosophy is to rejuvenate from the inside out—focusing on a superior experience the entire time a client is in their space. Their expertise is on the same level: The spa is in the top one percent of all cool sculpting and injectable service facilities in the country. Other service offerings include facials, laser treatments, massage treatments and spa packages for special occasions. “At Radiance Medspa, we understand your time with us is precious…we strive to make every visit relaxing and enjoyable, and to ensure your goals are being met each visit,” says owner Rebecca Pappas.
Runners Up: Bella Beau Salon Spa, Midwest Facial Plastic Surgery & Aesthetic Skin Care
Editor’s Pick: Best Birthday Party
Woodbury’s Golden Birthday Party
On March 25, the community came together at Central Park to celebrate Woodbury’s 50th anniversary at a special birthday party open house. Kudos to the Woodbury Community Foundation for planning the fun event which featured a wonderful variety of activities for people of all ages. My favorite was the Heritage Walk, where residents could learn more about Woodbury’s rich history. Central Park’s amphitheater came alive with performances from the Aspire Music Academy and the Villa Vixens Senior Choir as well as demonstrations by the robotics teams from Math and Science Academy, East Ridge High School and Woodbury High School. Happy Birthday to Woodbury was sung and birthday cake shared, and Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens introduced Antonela, Woodbury’s anniversary baby who was born March 7, 2017.
The fun spilled into the nearby Woodbury YMCA with a bounce house and craft activity hosted by Artists of Woodbury. The R.H. Stafford Library featured activities for kids including bedtime story time. Thanks to event coordinator Claudia Millington for leading the team, along with these event sponsors who did a fabulous job putting together this celebration: Artists of Woodbury, Big Frog, Centerpoint, City of Woodbury, Image 360, KDWB Radio, League of Women Voters of Woodbury-Cottage Grove, Merrill Community Arts Center-home of Woodbury Community Theatre, Washington County Library, Woodbury Community Foundation, Woodbury Senior Living and Woodbury YMCA.
SHOPS & RETAIL
There may be a long and growing list of things to do in Woodbury, but it’s no secret that shopping is near the top of that list. The city is home to a range of retailers, both local and corporate, catering to every need and preference. The following businesses have set the gold standard and won the hearts of every household.
Sweet Peas Floral
Flowers look pretty, but creating astounding floral arrangements is a feat Sweet Pea Floral achieves every day. The shop is about as local as you can get: owner Tara Carlson grew up in Woodbury and graduated from Woodbury Senior High School, allowing the shop to understand and meet the needs of businesses and residents alike. But local is not to be confused with Mom and Pop. “We are custom in our work, working with clients to create a piece suitable for the situation or event…we are continually expanding our education and experiences in the industry,” Carlson says.
Runners Up: Woodlane Flowers, Kowalski’s Market
Best Apparel Boutique
There are certain wardrobe pieces that have such character or interesting detail that they instantly lift moods and make the complete outfit. Imagine a store full of those pieces, and that’s Francesca’s. “We are always changing; we have our unique pieces for a short time until the next collection arrives. Our stylists can help you find the perfect outfit or gift for all of life’s occasions,” says boutique team leader Eva Hansen. The shop is also a sure bet for small gifts and jewelry to tie together any outfit. Expect color, expect clever details and certainly, expect an experience.
Runners Up: Mainstream Boutique, Primp
Best Gift Shop
It’s an easy guarantee that gift-seeking shoppers will walk out with something from Patina. How easy it will be to decide on that gift, however, is a different story. “Our products are hand-picked in response to our customers’ desires; they are affordable, generational and all inclusive,” says store manager Hannah Pozorski. And, as every good Minnesota-based business does, the shop shelves products that reflect the current season. Shoppers—be prepared to fall in love with multiple whimsical and joy-filling gifts for others, and for yourself.
Runners Up: Kowalski’s Market, The Woods
Best Specialty Foods Store
Kowalski’s Market has won the heart of Woodbury for the 17 years it has been open, but its tenure is hardly what has done so. At the core of Kowalski’s is incredibly prepared and curated food. According to culinary director Rachael Perron, the love is mutual. “We try to provide the best of everything, and everything shoppers are looking for: the brands they want, unique products and recipes they can’t find anywhere else, plus a seriously intense selection of unique, local, artisan, organic, natural and healthful goods all wrapped up in an environment that’s relaxing and full of joy,” Perron says.
Runners Up: Trader Joe’s, Jerry’s Foods
Editor’s Pick: Best Community Health Initiative
A grassroots community effort by community members and organizations collaborating together to create a healthy place to live, Woodbury Thrives has made major strides the past year. Following input from over 350 community members, three top items have been identified as focal points for the effort: mental health, physical inactivity and obesity, and social inclusiveness. Woodbury Thrives’ next steps involve action-planning teams centered on each of these focus areas, to develop a culture of health in the city of Woodbury.
“The number of people joining us in Woodbury Thrives has been overwhelming,” says Roger Green, chair, Woodbury Thrives Leadership Team. “We expect that number to grow as we design solutions to these community needs. Widespread grassroots engagement is key to creating a genuine culture of health in Woodbury.”
The founders of Woodbury Thrives include the city of Woodbury, Washington County, the Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce, the Woodbury Community Foundation and HealthEast, with sponsors HealthEast, HealthPartners, Tria Orthopaedics and AARP Minnesota.
KIDS & FAMILY
Near the top of Woodbury’s calling card is the fact that it’s a great place to raise a family; it’s the reason many families select it as their stomping grounds for little ones. A large part of this allure is the resources the city offers. From the health and education of a child to the care of fur babies, one need not look far for superior support.
Best Doggy Daycare /Kennel
Hudson Road Animal Hospital
For the pet owner who has to be away, Hudson Road Animal Hospital offers overnight boarding for dogs, cats and some exotic pets. The full-service veterinary hospital has been part of the Woodbury community since 1961 and is committed to providing each pet with the best care possible. “The ability to offer boarding and grooming gives our clients everything their pet may need in one facility,” says practice manager Marcy Ward. “It also helps that our team members love the work they do.”
Runners Up: Paws Unleashed, Animal Inn Pet Resort and Spa
Best Preschool / Childcare
New Life Academy
New Life Academy’s early education program for 2 to 5-year-olds creates the freedom to explore in a nurturing, hands-on environment. “The curriculum includes Spanish, STEAM, arts, Bible and learning center rotations that focus on math and reading readiness, science and writing skills,” says Amy Clausen, director of marketing and enrollment. The program takes place in a full school setting including a music room, dedicated library and two gymnasiums. “Our youngest students have specialists in music, library and physical education and also participate in field trips, music performances and all-school pep fests such as the homecoming parade and spirit week activities,” Clausen says.
Runners Up: Primrose School of Woodbury, Woodbury Lutheran Church Preschool
Best Veterinary Clinic
Valley Creek Road Animal Hospital
Our pets are truly members of the family. When it comes to their health care needs, Woodbury turns to Valley Creek Road Animal Hospital. The clinic provides high quality medicine in an environment that is both comfortable and welcoming. “We make it our goal to know you and your pet so we can offer personalized care,” says Jennifer Urban, veterinarian/owner. “What sets us apart is our friendly team of professionals that makes sure every client feels welcome and well-cared for, and confident that their companion animal will receive the best care possible.”
Runners Up: Hudson Road Animal Hospital, Woodbury Animal Hospital
Best Learning /Tutoring Center
Sylvan Learning Center
In business for 35 years, Sylvan Learning Center has served over 2 million students ranging from pre-K to adults through a gamut of services. “A lot of people think ‘catch up’ when they think about learning centers—we do offer remediation programs in math, reading and writing as well as study skills,” says Nick Cunningham, regional manager. “But we also offer programs that are meant to enrich such as robotics and coding, giving exposure to things that students may not get in school.” What sets Sylvan apart from the competition? “Our technology; we’ve integrated our learning programs on the iPad which allows us to change the direction as needed vs. using a workbook. We’re not wasting time on things that the students already know, so we’re better able to help them reach their goals.”
Runners Up: Mathnasium, Peace of Mind Education Center
Best Place for Kids’ Activities
Woodbury Dance Center
Since 1995, students aged 18 months through adults have been getting their dance on at Woodbury Dance Center (WDC). With seven dance rooms, WDC offers a variety of classes that are convenient for busy families, from a recreational program to their award-winning competitive program. “Our instructors strive to help our students gain confidence through the art of dance in a fun atmosphere,” says owner Kathy Mueller, who runs the center with her sister, Buffy Johnson Breen. “Woodbury is a great place to raise a family, and we feel fortunate to live in a community that cares about its kids.”
Runners Up: Bielenberg Sports Center, Perpetual Motion Children’s Sports Center
Editor’s Pick: Best New Commercial Development
When State Farm Insurance left its Woodbury regional campus in 2004, Woodbury lost a vital employer at the highly visible site of I-94 and Radio Drive. After a number of years, State Farm was eventually able to find a buyer for the site in 2013: real estate investment firm Elion Partners of Aventura, Fla., who partnered with Minnesota-based Kraus-Anderson to purchase the property for redevelopment. The result: CityPlace, a dynamic 100-acre multi-use development that is well underway.
The concept for CityPlace is a “work-play-stay” community—retail, office, medical and hotel, offering a wide variety of services and amenities. The first phase of retail opened at the end of 2015 and includes a growing list of tenants, many which are new to the area such as Sur La Table, Café Zupas, CycleBar, Naf Naf Grill, Piada Italian Street Food, Sierra Trading Post, Whole Foods Market and Nordstrom Rack. CityPlace is also home to a Residence Inn by Marriott and the 3-story, 78,000 square foot Tria Orthopaedic Center, the first in a series of new office tenants in the development’s planned multi-unit office park.
“The vision behind CityPlace was to add a complementary mixture of uses and amenities to enhance the ability to attract corporate users to the site,” says city of Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens. “We are thrilled with the momentum that has built and continues to build at CityPlace, with the Tria Orthopedics building and the recently announced medical office building. This project will add hundreds of jobs and provide enhanced shopping and dining opportunities for the community.”
There are just some things that are better left to professionals, and the businesses that represent this category are shining examples of this. Where common knowledge ends, their expertise takes over to create the results that set them apart. Here are the top experts Woodbury relies on in the services category.
Everyone deserves to be treated like someone special. That’s the Spalon way. Spalon Montage is cutting edge in the industry, providing continuous education for team members who are dedicated to providing a personally rejuvenating experience. “I think the Woodbury team has a great sense of family with both team members and clients,” says CEO Patty Smith. “Long-term relationships are built there, and that’s very refreshing.”
Runners Up: Salon Ultimo, Bella Beau Salon Spa
Best Insurance Agent
Heather Stefani: State Farm Insurance
Going on her 16th year as a State Farm agent in Woodbury, homegrown native and Woodbury High School graduate Heather Stefani takes care of her clients’ auto, home, health, business and health insurance needs. “We place an emphasis on customer service and believe our clients are more than just a policy number,” she says. “I love that my job is different every day and, most importantly, I realize I have one of the best jobs in the world when my clients become my friends and I get to see them out in this great community.”
Runners Up: Katie Olafson: Farmers Insurance, Lori Zimmerman: State Farm Insurance
Best Law Firm
Meshbesher & Spence
Primarily a personal injury law firm, Meshbesher & Spence has been in business for 53 years, earning a reputation for excellence through empathetic dedication to their clients and the achieved results. “Doing business in Woodbury has allowed me to get to know, and work with, many other small business owners and also become an active member of the business community,” says Mark Streed, president. “Woodbury is a terrific major league city and we are proud to be a part of it.”
Runners Up: Baumann Law Office, Sjoberg & Tebelius, P.A.
Amanda Bever: The Salon
“Being a stylist is not just a career to me—it is my passion,” says Amanda Bever. She chose Woodbury because of the community, noting that there are a lot of good people in our city who come together to help others. That sense of putting others first translates into how she treats her clients. “Whether someone has been a client for 13 years or it’s their first time, I do whatever I can to accommodate them and fit them in when they need to come,” she says. “I believe you are only as good as you are available.”
Runners Up: Michelle Hanson: HAIRitage ‘Hous, Nikki Schmidt: Salon Elite
Editor’s Pick: Best Community Ambassadors
Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors
Woodbury continues to welcome dozens of new businesses each year. That’s a lot of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings coordinated by the Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce and attended/facilitated by the chamber ambassadors, an enthusiastic group of local volunteer chamber members. Think of them as the welcoming arm of the chamber, also organizing the popular business networking luncheons and after-hours events.
“One responsibility that we have at any chamber event is to make sure ‘no one stands alone,’” says Ruth Petermann, publisher, Best Version Media and chamber ambassador. “We’ve all been in a situation where we are new to an organization and don’t know a soul. It can be really uncomfortable when no one talks to you, and you may never attend a second event.”
According to chamber president Barbara Tuccitto Warren, the ambassadors play a vital role in membership recruitment and retention, key to the Chamber’s steady growth and success over the past few years.