Best of Racine County is an annual project of The Journal Times. From July 22 through Aug. 4, readers were invited to enter their choices online at www.journaltimes.com and on a paper ballot that was published in The Journal Times on July 22.
The winners in each category are the people, organizations and businesses that received the most votes from our readers.
1st Place: Meli Cafe Pancake House and Restaurant, 1158 Prairie Drive, Mount Pleasant
2nd place: Blue Bear, 2920 Taylor Ave., Racine
3rd place: Roberts Roost, 600 Sixth St., Racine
Everything is homemade at Meli Café Pancake House and Restaurant, and that has clearly paid off with the customers who have chosen Meli Café’s breakfasts as being the best in the entire county.
Meli is Greek for honey, explained owner Peter Tourlis. “It’s a pretty big staple in Greek cuisine, especially at breakfast.”
Meli makes loukoumades, or Greek honey donuts, and each customer is served a complimentary one.
The café, which opened in August 2015, serves all the traditional breakfasts but also offers its own special twists such as the Red Velvet Swirled French Toast. It contains sweetened cream cheese and homemade raspberry sauce. Tourlis said he never buys the premade fruit sauces; they’re all made in his kitchen from scratch.
“There’s no comparison” between the premade and homemade, he said.
Tourlis described another feature of the 187-seat restaurant. “We like big plates with a lot of food,” he said. “We say, ‘Go big or go home.’”
Meli doesn’t offer a breakfast buffet, and Tourlis doesn’t sound likely to do that. “I don’t want to put something under a lamp for 30 minutes,” he explained.
1st Place: Asian Buffet, 3701 Durand Ave., Racine
2nd Place: Charcoal Grill, 8300 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant; 3839 Douglas Ave., Racine; 580 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
3rd Place: The Dish Restaurant, 1220 N. Ohio St., Mount Pleasant
It's hard to argue with all you can eat.
Our voters didn't argue with that, as Asian Buffet on Durand Avenue won Best Buffet honors for 2018, a first-time win for the restaurant.
It came close last year, having narrowly lost to Charcoal Grill, which fell down to second place in 2018.
The Dish, freshly opened in May 2017, has apparently already made an impression on Racinians and came away with third place, the first time the restaurant has reached the top three.
Best Cafe/Coffee Shop
1st Place: Mocha Lisa, 2825 4½ Mile Road, Caledonia
2nd Place: Wilson's Coffee &Tea, 3306 Washington Ave., Racine
3rd Place: Starbucks, 5658 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant; and 2805 South Green Bay Road, Racine
After coming up short and placing second and third in the past, Mocha Lisa in Caledonia, has finally won the votes of area coffee drinkers.
Sue Brucker has owned the small café for the past 10 years and credits her staff as the ones who make Mocha Lisa a special place to sit down and have a coffee and a snack.
“We have baristas that make your drink the way you want it,” Brucker said, adding the espresso served is made in house and “made to order.”
For those who are looking forward to fall for the pumpkin spice coffee drinks, Brucker said Mocha Lisa can provide pumpkin flavor year round along with additional seasonal flavors.
For the non-coffee drinkers, Mocha Lisa also provides various teas and sodas.
Mocha Lisa also caters to dog lovers, allowing the fury four legged customers to enjoy a “pupachino.”
Aside from coffee, Mocha Lisa is located in an old farmhouse that Brucker said is over 100 years old.
For local artists and musicians looking to gain new fans and sell their works, Brucker said Mocha Lisa gives them some shelf space to expose their customers to area virtuosos.
“We have so much talent in Racine,” Brucker said. “I’m big on giving people a chance … local is very important to me.”
Best Franchise/Chain restaurant
1st Place: Chick-fil-A, 5315 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
Second place: Culver’s, 5801 21st St., Racine; and 722 S. Sylvania Ave., Yorkville; 1073 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
Third place: Charcoal Grill & Rotisserie, 8300 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant; 580 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
Chick-fil-A’s enormous and sustaining popularity has been shown again in our contest. Franchise owner Brian Goode says that popularity starts with the food that is all prepared on site. “We train (employees) about what good food looks like and tastes like,” Goode said.
The business doesn’t just care about customers, but also about its roughly 80 employees, Goode said. That’s how many people it takes to cover the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“We have good part-time team members,” Goode said, “and we want to be able to work with their schedules.”
The franchise strives to provide “second mile service,” Goode said, defining that as “more than what guests expect.” That includes such things as opening doors, greeting each customer with a smile, clearing trays and refreshing drinks, he said and added, the restaurant’s goal is for each customer to have had a better day for visiting Chick-fil-A.
Best Ice Cream/Frozen Treats
1st place: Culver’s, 5801 21st St., Racine; 722 S. Sylvania Ave., Yorkville; 1073 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
2nd place: Sugar Shack Sweet Shop, 530 Monument Square, Racine
3rd place: Divino Gelato, 245 Main St., Racine
You know frozen custard is good when it even does well during the winter, and that’s the case at Culver’s, this year’s winner in the Best Ice Cream/Frozen Treats category.
“Even when it’s 10 below zero, we have people lined up at the drive-thru,” remarked Pete Haman, owner with his brothers Tim and Tom of Culver’s of franchises in Racine and Yorkville.
There are three reasons for Culver’s frozen custard tasting as good as it does, and Pete Haman doesn’t mind sharing them.
1. Its high butterfat content.
2. It has “a touch” of egg yolk is added to it.
3. “We make batches constantly throughout the day,” Haman said. So the soft-serve product is always fresh.
For a fast-food chain, Culver’s has a large menu, but the frozen custard grabs a large share of the overall sales. “It’s a huge, huge percentage,” Haman said, “about 20 percent, probably.”
At any given time, four flavors are available. In the summer, they’re vanilla ice, chocolate, lemon ice and the flavor of the day. In total the company has about 55 flavors to choose from.
The custard is also made into the "Concrete Mixer," with custom toppings blended in. “No matter what you like, we have it,” Haman said.
He said about the frozen custard’s popularity, “It’s a refreshing treat. … It’s just good. I’m just really proud of what we sell.”
Best Italian Restaurant and Best Pizza
Best Italian Restaurant
1st place: Wells Brothers, 2148 Mead St., Mount Pleasant
Second place: Salute Italian Restaurant, 314 Main St., Racine
Third place: Infusino's Pizzeria & Restaurant, 3325 Rapids Drive and 3301 Washington Ave., Racine
1st place: Wells Brothers, 2148 Mead St., Mount Pleasant
Second place: Infusino's Pizzeria & Restaurant, 3325 Rapids Drive and 3301 Washington Ave., Racine
Third place: Mike & Angelo's, 6214 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
Wells Brothers' consistently tasty food and its fresh ingredients have kept customers coming back for the past 97 years.
“The food's always going to be good,” said owner Bill Rivers.
The restaurant makes many of its ingredients in-house including sauce, sausage and dough.
Wells Brothers has regularly been voted number-one for Italian restaurant and for best pizza in the Best of Racine contest.
“It’s humbling when people love you that much,” Rivers said.
The restaurant has withstood the test of time, and has been operating at the same location since it opened in 1921.
“We’ve been here for 97 years and we’re kind of a tradition in town,” Rivers said.
In the past, Wells had offered monthly special pizzas, but coming up it plans to add four of those pizzas to its regular menu. A couple of weeks ago it launched a new website, and recently began working with Door Dash for delivery services, which the restaurant doesn't offer itself.
Rivers said he appreciated all the loyal customers that continue to vote for Wells Brothers year after year.
Wells Brothers is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to about 8:45 p.m.
Best Lunch & Best Sandwich/Burger
1st Place: Kewpee Sandwich Shop, 520 Wisconsin Ave., Racine
2nd place: Blue Bear, 2920 Taylor Ave., Racine
3rd place: Out of the Pan, 550 State St., Racine
1st Place: Kewpee Sandwich Shop, 520 Wisconsin Ave., Racine
Second place: Culver's, 5801 21st Street, Racine; 722 S. Sylvania Ave., Yorkville; 1073 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
Third place: Lee's Deli, 2615 Washington Ave., Racine
Rick Buehrens, owner of Racine burger institution Kewpee Sandwich Shop, 520 Wisconsin Ave., believes that the extremely popular restaurant continues to leave its mark on the Racine community because of its long-standing ties. "We've just been here so long," Buehrens said.
Buehrens has owned Kewpee since he purchased it from his brother-in-law, Rick Kristopeit, in 2003. However, the Kewpee history goes back far further than that — back to 1926.
Once again, Kewpee Sandwich Shop has won two Best of Racine categories, as voted on by Journal Times' readers — Best Lunch and Best Sandwich/Burger.
Buehrens said that when he took over the establishment, he may have updated equipment and added a couple items to the menu, but for the most part, he has kept things the same, taking the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" policy.
"I really haven't changed a whole lot," Buehrens said. "When I bought it, it was working well just the way it already was."
That is probably why Kewpee is the place to be at lunch time, satisfying hungry diners' cravings for delicious burgers, treats and other goodies. Buehrens said it is not uncommon for 60 burgers to be going on the grill at one time between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
And Buehrens is often at the grill during that time, often working alongside what he calls an excellent staff, preparing burgers and also breakfasts. He also handles accounting for the restaurant.
Buehrens is glad to know that Kewpee has stood the test of time for the Racine community. "I'm glad we can keep making a quality product that people like," Buehrens said.
"We care about what we do. I don't want to serve something I wouldn't eat myself. I have drilled that idea into my staff's head. They want everything to make it look good and taste good for the customers."
Best Happy Hour/Mexican Restaurant
Best Happy Hour/Mexican Restaurant
1st Place: Jose's Blue Sombrero, 6430 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
2nd place: Scores Sports Bar and Grill, 4915 Washington Ave., Racine
3rd place: Buckets Pub, 2031 Lathrop Ave., Racine
Those looking to cap the work day with an adult beverage and an appetizer, look no further than Jose’s Blue Sombrero for a quality happy hour.
“We have excellent staff, we have excellent margaritas on special,” said General Manager Andy Talbott. “We got a really fun atmosphere.”
With 16 different margarita flavors, Jose’s Blue Sombrero has attracted the getting off of work and stopping for a drink crowd.
Recently the restaurant has added the “El Tornado,” which is a layered frozen margarita with frozen sangria.
But aside from the drinks, Jose’s offers a taco bar with ingredients laid out like a buffet, along with fresh and daily made chips and salsa.
For those looking to stay for a meal, or those who just missed the happy hour, Jose’s offers traditional and unique Mexican dishes.
For the past eight years, Jose’s has won both Best Happy Hour and Best Mexican Restaurant in the Best of Racine voting.
“The majority of my serving staff has been here for many, many years. We have a very consistent staff,” Talbott said.
Along with the chips and salsa, Talbott said the restaurant staff also prepares fresh made sauces and meats, and likes to “get creative with the tacos.”
For example, Jose’s offers a coconut chicken curry taco, and, starting in October, it will offer a vegan taco and root veggie taco.
Jose’s “street sheets,” which are updated three to four times per year, offer seasonal dishes that allows the customers to give their feedback.
Talbott said the street sheets allow the restaurant to experiment with its menu and customers can let them know “what should stay around (on the menu) or come back.”
“It’s very important to not have the same menu year after year,” Talbott said.
Best Outdoor Dining
1st place: Reefpoint Brew House, 2 Christopher Columbus Causeway, Racine
2nd place: John’s Dock, 303 Dodge St., Racine (Restaurant expected to close at this location on Sept. 23).
3rd place: Sebastian’s, 6025 Douglas Ave., Caledonia
If you are looking for a great place to eat outside, Reefpoint Brew House is the best place to go in Racine County, as voted by Journal Times readers.
“You are literally right on Lake Michigan,” said Patti Landreman, one of the owners of Reefpoint Brew House. “You get a view whether you are outside or inside.”
Being located right above Reefpoint Marina, you can watch the boats come in and you feel like you are on the ocean. And on the 4th of July, the Brew House has one of the best fireworks views in the city.
In addition to tables and chairs, there are couches for those who may want to relax and grab a drink and catch up with friends.
There is a wide variety of options, including several craft beers that Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee has made exclusively for the Brew House.
Those craft beers can be enjoyed along with an appetizer, such as the popular loaded tots or salmon or beef brisket dinner, which Landreman said are all popular options.
The steaks and the bacon wrapped meatloaf are also popular options.
You can go for the view and stay for the food. It’s the combo that makes it the best outdoor dining option in the county.
1st place: Olde Madrid, 418 Sixth St., Racine
Second place: Sebastian’s, 6025 Douglas Ave., Caledonia
Third place: Oh Dennis! Saloon and Charcoal House, 4301 Douglas Ave., Caledonia
Olde Madrid offers something different. And that's one of the things that keeps customers coming back for more, said co-owner Natalie Salinas.
“Definitely the food is unique,” she said. “It’s the only Spanish restaurant in Racine.”
Its dedication to fresh ingredients is another draw for customers, who've voted Olde Madrid the number-one restaurant for the past three years.
Salinas and her husband Manny opened the tapas restaurant in Downtown Racine in July 2007.
“We have home-spun recipes that my mother-in-law passed down to my husband,” Salinas said.
The eatery's most popular dishes are its beef stew and gumbo.
The restaurant's first few months were rough, as there wasn’t as much going on Downtown at the time, and there was construction going on right in front of the building.
But Salinas praised Olde Madrid's dedicated and supportive customers at that time, who climbed over construction barriers to come inside for a year.
And of those regulars are still coming back today, 11 years later.
Salinas said business is still going strong.
“We’re grateful and happy to still be here,” Salinas said.
1st place: Panera Bread, 5630 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
Second place: Olive Garden, 6000 Durand Ave., Racine
Third place: Out of the Pan, 550 State St., Racine
For the second time in three years, Panera Bread has claimed the Best Salad title in Racine County.
Panera's menu includes several tantalizing salad options, including Caesar with chicken, spicy Thai with chicken, and Greek.
The Caesar salad contains romaine, parmesan, homemade Black Pepper Focaccia and croutons tossed in Caesar dressing.
The spicy Thai is similar to the Caesar, but includes fire-roasted edamame, red pepper and wonton strips tossed in low-fat Thai chili vinaigrette.
Panera salads come in whole or half-sized portions and include a side item of either a baguette, sprouted grain roll, chips or an apple.
Wings & Best Sports Bar
1st place: Buckets Pub, 2031 Lathrop Ave., Racine
2nd Place: Scores Sports Bar & Grill, 4915 Washington Ave., Racine
3rd place: Buffalo Wild Wings, 5880 Durand Ave., Racine
Best Sports Bar
1st place: Buckets Pub,
2nd place: Scores Sports Bar & Grill
3rd place: Dewey's Restaurant and Sports Bar, 600 Main St., Racine
In its nearly 35 years of business, Buckets Pub has never resorted to marketing tricks or gaudy advertisements to attract customers. The bar-restaurant has relied on Racinians’ intuition and taste buds to do that.
“We don’t have any big flashy lights outside,” said Manager Christine Grochowski, who is also the daughter of Buckets founders Chuck and Connie Brandt.
Grochowski has been managing the restaurant for a few years now, and she says that there are no plans to change the formula that’s been working for so long.
The pub gets fresh chicken delivered six days a week and makes its secret sauce in-house, a recipe that hasn’t changed since Buckets started serving its iconic wings.
That consistency is part of the reason Buckets has won both Best Sports Bar and Best Wings in Best of Racine for at least four years in a row.
The pub isn’t dimly lit, but there aren’t overpowering light fixtures. The bartenders don’t resort to silly gags to earn extra tips and there isn’t any loud music blaring while you try to enjoy your cold beverage or jalapeño poppers.
“There’s a level of comfort for those who know what’s going on behind the bar,” Grochowski said, complimenting her easygoing yet hardworking staff.
Still, the relaxed atmosphere manages to be deliciously overshadowed by the oh-so-good wings, not to mention the ample on-tap selection or the appropriately named “beer bucket.”
As a sports bar, it covers pretty much all of a sports fan’s on-the-air needs. On any given day there will usually be at least three different sports on the dozens of television. During football season, every single NFL game will air at Buckets.
“We’re not just going to have the Packer game on. The game you’re looking for will always be on at least a few of the TVs,” Grochowski said. “We’re very fortunate to have such a great following from the community, whether it be day after day or week after week or just during the football season.”
Best Live Music/Free Entertainment
1st Place: First Fridays, Downtown Racine
2nd place: Route 20, 14001 Washington Ave., Yorkville
3rd place: The Nash, 522 Sixth St., Racine
1st Place: First Fridays
2nd place: North Beach Oasis, 1501 Michigan Blvd., Racine
3rd place: Franksville Craft Beer Garden, Caledonia-Mount Pleasant Memorial Park
Tony Begonia, chairman of First Fridays, knows why the monthly Downtown Racine event took top honors for Live Music and Free Entertainment in Best of Racine County voting.
“It’s basically the fact that they can come Downtown and have a good time and not spend money on the entertainment, because we provide it,” he said.
Of course, the Downtown merchants — Begonia owns Uncorkt, 240 Main St. — have an ulterior motive to buy the necessary permits and arrange for the bands, solo musicians and artists to set up at Crosswalk Park, Paul Harris Park, Monument Square, or in front of or inside their businesses on the first Friday of a given month.
“We want them to check out places they might not have gone before, and hopefully buy something in our stores,” Begonia said. He added that it’s not just musicians: Some businesses, especially the art galleries, will bring in artists to do live demonstrations.
As to the popularity of the event with Journal Times readers, he said: “I think the public likes the fact that we have a hidden gem: Downtown Racine. It’s a quaint little downtown area.
“If it takes them getting free entertainment and a good time to come Downtown and check out our stores, then that’s what we’ll do."
Best Nightclub/Lounge, Best Entertainment of the West
1st Place: Route 20, 14001 Washington Ave., Yorkville
2nd place: The Brickhouse, 316 Main St., Racine
3rd place: John’s Dock, 303 Dodge St., Racine (closing Sept. 23)
Best of the West Entertainment
1st Place:Route 20
2nd place: Dead Mann’s Saloon, 3518 S. Beaumont Ave., Kansasville
3rd place: 1175 Sports Eatery, 22840 Durand Ave., Kansasville
Route 20 owner Ray Stibeck isn’t one to grow complacent with success. Since opening Route 20, Stibeck has been in nearly constant bigger-and-better mode.
When Route 20 opened on March 1, 2012, it was a 3,900-square-foot bar-restaurant. Today, with expansions, it’s at 8,300 square feet — and Stibeck isn’t finished. “We’ll probably grow to close to 10,000 square feet,” he said.
Route 20 consistently brings in national music acts, and the word has gotten around. “Racine hasn’t (previously) really been known for national entertainment acts,” Stibeck said. “Management and touring companies reach out to us now.”
Route 20 can seat up to about 600 people for a concert if all of the tables are removed, but with the next addition, that number will reach about 850, Stibeck said.
He also bought additional acreage to offer enough parking for the larger concerts.
Soon, Stibeck will start his next project: enlarging the stage. Musical acts are adding features such as video walls, and Route 20 must be able to accommodate them, he said.
In early 2017 Stibeck merged his former Route 20 Chicken and Waffles, 904 S. Sylvania Ave., into the Route 20, thereby adding breakfast. It’s been very successful, he said.
Burgers and wraps remain popular, Stibeck said, but Route 20 has also been adding vegan and gluten-free items. In early January, he said, he’ll revamp the menu again.
With all of the changes come more and more customers. Stibeck said 2017 drew almost 20,000 more customers than the year before.
No new Route 20 feature is more eye-grabbing than the 30-foot-tall electric-guitar sign that Stibeck had designed and built and installed in October 2017. He believes that’s also helped pull customers off nearby Interstate 94 and into Route 20.
1st Place: Toad Hall, 611 Wisconsin Ave., Racine
Second place: Joey's West, 9825 Kraut Road, Franksville
Third place: The Ivanhoe Pub & Eatery, 231 Main St., Racine
For patrons looking to take a break from all their worries, for a place to get away, and maybe to a place where the bartender knows their name, Toad Hall is willing to be that place.
It’s cozy booths and wide variety beer menu have caused bar regulars to spread the word about Toad Hall, which has claimed victory for the second year for Best Tavern in Racine County.
“We’ve got a lot of regulars, that breeds familiarity and they bring their friends,” said owner Corey Szaryc. “Our menu is not typical pub food. We have a variety of burgers, sandwiches. It’s really the driver of our success.”
Szaryc owns Toad Hall with his business partner Jaimie Utley, and said the tavern’s “international flavors,” like the Bangkok steak wrap, have helped draw customers in.
“It really runs the gambit,” Szaryc said of the menu.
For beer lovers, Toad Hall has an estimated 100 different bottles of beer available. Above the bar are metal cups for those that paid the $40 to be part of the “beer mug club.”
“That only covers the mug, it doesn’t cover the beer,” Szaryc says with a laugh about the exclusive club. “Some people say they want to try 100 beers in a year.”
The last several years Toad Hall has hosted a burger contest for food gurus to try their hand to create a new burger. Aspiring chefs can fill out a recipe form and then tavern officials narrow the list to three burgers which are served to customers and voted on by customers.
Szaryc said the winner will have their burger placed on the menu for the rest of the year.
Best Golf Course
1st Place: H.F. Johnson Park, 6200 Northwestern Ave., Racine
2nd place: Ives Grove Golf Links, 14101 Washington Ave., Yorkville
3rd place: Meadowbrook Country Club, 2149 N. Green Bay Road, Mount Pleasant
After one year in second place, the H.F. Johnson Park Golf Course is back in a familiar position — back on top as the Best Golf Course in Racine County, as voted by Journal Times readers. It's the seventh time in nine years the course is No. 1.
Johnson Park is under new management this year — Public Golf Associates (PGA), which ran Johnson Park and its nine-hole sister courses, Washington Park and Shoop Park golf courses, for 17 years, decided not to renew its contract beyond 2017.
The new course management group, Green Golf Partners, based in Danville, Indiana, has run the three city courses since the beginning of 2018 and while GGP has done some renovations and changed a few things, the basic fact remains that golf is what Johnson Park is all about.
The 18-hole course has been one of the most played in the state over the years and continues to draw golfers from all over, according to the course’s new website, www.johnsonparkgc.com
“Johnson Park boasts some of the most beautiful holes in Racine County, bordering the Root River winding through the thick woods surrounding the course, making it a destination for golfers from all over southeastern Wisconsin,” according to the website.
"All 18 holes of golf are meticulously and carefully maintained, guaranteeing a fun golf experience regardless of your final score,” according to the website.
The clubhouse was recently renovated and the Root River Bar & Grill is open for business inside the clubhouse.
Best Health Club
1st Place: Razor Sharp Fitness, 7300 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant, and 3900 Erie St., Racine
2nd place: Sealed Air YMCA, 8501 Campus Drive, Mount Pleasant
3rd place: Planet Fitness, 5748 Durand Ave., Racine
Razor Sharp Fitness, which operates two locations in the county, has been selected Best Health Club in Racine County in six of the past seven years.
But the facility has not rested on its laurels. This summer the fitness center's Washington Avenue location underwent an extensive renovation, including new paint inside and out, new flooring, a remodeled exercise room, new lighting and retiled locker rooms and showers.
"It was time for a fresh look and a new vibe," said Jacob Thomas, general manger at Razor Sharp for almost six years. "Our members are awesome and we really appreciate them. We have invested in our clients. We think this creates a whole new excitement."
Razor Sharp features a variety of exercise equipment, a swimming pool, sauna, a whirlpool, workout rooms, and a running track. The center also offers a long list of fitness classes and workouts.
"We try to be something for everyone," Thomas said. "We want people to reach their goals, whatever they might be. That's why people come here."
1st Place: Dr. Leah Johnson, Racine Dental Group, 1101 S. Airline Road, Mount Pleasant
2nd place: Dr. Paul Elcano, Racine Dental Group, 1101 S. Airline Road, Mount Pleasant
3rd place: Dr. Ashley Berghuis, Racine Dental Group, 1101 S. Airline Road, Mount Pleasant
It was on a mission trip to Honduras in Central America while she was a college student in 2009 when Leah Johnson's connection to dentistry was made.
"That's what really introduced me to dentistry," she said. "I assisted a dentist down there, got to see a lot and I think that really ignited my passion for dentistry and, moving forward, to go to dental school."
That's just what the 28-year-old native of Stoughton did after she graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in biology in 2012. She attended the dentistry school at Marquette from 2012-16 and then settled into Racine with her husband, Alex, and Teedoh Chip, their golden retriever.
In the last two years at the Racine Dental Group, she has developed a strong reputation with her skill and compassion. Just ask Brenda Christian of Caledonia, who admittedly never felt comfortable in a dentist's chair.
"I was a nervous, stressed-out patient when I had to go to the dentist," she said. "And I've had to have some major work done since going to Dr. Johnson. She just totally puts me at ease and doesn't make me feel like a baby. She just coaches me through it and she's very patient and understanding of where I am when it comes to dental work."
Christian no longer is nervous when going to the dentist. And that's because of who her dentist is.
"She's continuously updating her techniques," Christian said. "She's very on top of her business. I'd recommend Dr. Johnson to anyone, especially if you have any anxieties about a dentist. She totally puts you at ease."
Best Eye Care
1st Place: Vision Clinic, Dr. Savin and Associates, 1421 Washington Ave., Racine
2nd place: Eye Center of Wisconsin, 3805B Spring St., Suite 140, Racine
3rd place: Wisconsin Vision, 3905 Douglas Ave., Racine; 6035 Durand Ave., Mount Pleasant
Dr. Bruce Savin, owner of the Vision Clinic in Uptown, treats patients at the very same clinic his father started in 1947.
Voters named the clinic the Best Place for Eye Care in Racine County for the second year in a row.
"It has been our privilege and joy to provide for the visual needs of our patients and their families, many of whom we have treated for multiple generations," Savin said.
The Vision Clinic has three doctors — Dr. Savin, Dr. Rick D. Anderson and Dr. Chelsea Miller — and a support staff of 15.
In addition to performing vision exams and selling glasses and contacts, the practice also specializes in treating eye diseases and conditions, and provides vision therapy for stroke and traumatic brain injury payments.
The practice also is skilled at providing children’s vision therapy, and in filling difficult-to-fit contact lens prescriptions.
"We continue to explore, acquire and implement the latest breakthrough technologies in eye care diagnostics and treatment," Savin said. "With three dedicated doctors and a fantastic support staff of 15, we pledge to continue to set the highest standards in eye care."
Best Auto Dealer
1st Place: Frank Boucher Chevrolet Cadillac of Racine, 8100 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
2nd place: Palmen Motors, 6001 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
3rd place: AutoWerks, 1300 90th St., Sturtevant
The idea isn't simply to sell a customer one car.
The real intent is to sell that customer five cars. And that's why Frank Boucher Chevrolet Cadillac of Racine is going to do everything in its power to keep their customers satisfied.
"We want to be the No. 1-selling dealership in Racine County," said Chris Tessmer, who has served as general manager at the dealership for eight years. "We went to give that customer 100 percent satisfaction 100 percent of the time.
"It's really repeat customers and bringing additional people in, so family members, grandparents, kids, we want to sell to your whole family. We don't want to just sell you one. We want to sell you five."
This dealership, one of 18 under the Frank Boucher name in southeast Wisconsin, certainly has the ability to do that. Tessmer oversees 90 employees and this facility features 22 service bays and a complete body shop. There are also numerous GM-certified pre-owned vehicles on the site.
What is the secret to Boucher's success?
"We treat you the way you would want to be treated," Tessmer said. "We try to find you the best vehicle that fits your budget and we try to do it in a timely and professional manner."
But Boucher also looks out for those beyond its customers.
"We're involved in charities like breast cancer awareness, muscular dystrophy ... we also sponsor kids who need school supplies and clothes to make the school year good for them," Tessmer said.
Best Auto Repair
1st Place: AC Auto Body, 2819 S. Memorial Drive, Mount Pleasant
2nd place: Pinkalla Auto Solutions, 3059 Durand Ave., Racine
3rd place: A1 Auto Body of Racine, 2040 S. Memorial Drive, Mount Pleasant
Tony Coey knows that bigger is not always better. Yet over the years he has expanded his operations on South Memorial Drive to meet customer demand. He even bought a former warehouse, two doors north of his main facility, where he has stationed a couple of mechanics.
Between his flagship auto body business, the auto repair division and the car sales lot on Durand Avenue, Coey now employs 23 people. They are needed because AC is typically scheduling work out two to three weeks ahead.
There's that much demand — and customer satisfaction — for the work that's done at AC. So what's the secret to the business' success?
"To be honest with you, there are so many mechanics that try to rip you off. Like my grandpa always said, you treat people the way you want to be treated and it will be good. He taught me good," Coey said.
A good crew is also important. And it's definitely a family affair at AC. Six family members and one of Coey's buddies from his high school days nearly 40 years ago are employed at AC.
Tony’s daughter Ashley Coey runs the office with the help of his niece Tia Verikas and Miranda Nobile, who recently joined the staff from a Kenosha auto parts business.
Innvesting in the business and keeping up on new technology is also important. In fact, earlier this month a new state-of-the-art spray booth was being installed.
"It practically does it itself. That will be nice," Coey said.
Best Car Wash
1st Place: Rocket Wash, 4733 Spring St., Mount Pleasant
2nd place: Victory Lane, 5310 Washington Ave., Racine
3rd place: Royal Car Care, 3829 Douglas Ave., Racine
For the second year in a row, Rocket Wash was voted Best Car Wash and Detailing operation in the Racine area.
Rocket Wash is owned by the Willkomm family, which runs gas stations and restaurants in Racine, Kenosha and Oak Creek, in addition to their car wash.
The car wash has been a popular spot due to its high efficiency and timeliness. It takes a car only two minutes and five seconds to pass through, according to Michael Willkomm, who helps run the car wash and the family's other businesses.
"We are two years into this car wash being open and it's going great," Willkomm said. "We are thankful for all the support we've received."
Best Stylist/Barber & Salon
First place: Sophie Aslanidis, Salon Gloss, 6800 Washington Ave., Suite D2, Mount Pleasant
Second place: Carrie Sanchez, Salon Gloss, 6800 Washington Ave., Suite D2, Mount Pleasant
Third place: Katie Falaschi, Meraki Beauty Lounge, 10009 Northwestern Ave., Franksville
First place: Salon Gloss, 6800 Washington Ave., Suite D2, Mount Pleasant
Second Place: Lux Beauty Salon, 512 Monument Square, Racine
Third Place: Meraki Beauty Lounge, 10009 Northwestern Ave., Franksville
Salon Gloss and its owner, Sophie Aslanidis, 44, have been voted as both Racine County's Best Stylist/Barber and Best Salon. Aslanidis won the top honor as Best Stylist in 2015 and Salon Gloss was named best salon the following year.
The most in-demand service at Salon Gloss is coloring, especially balayage, a popular freehand technique.
Aslanidis and her four fellow stylists keep their customers looking good by staying up-to-date and educated on current techniques and trends.
Aslanidis thinks the homey atmosphere at the business has kept customers coming back since the salon opened its doors in 2011.
“We’re all really welcoming to anyone,” Aslanidis said. “People really like our vibe.”
She likened the salon to the fictional bar "Cheers" where "everybody knows your name."
“It’s a happy place,” she said.
Best Tattoo Parlor
1st Place: Private Stock Tattoo, 312 Sixth St., Racine
Second place: Skin Candy, 5200 Washington Ave., No. 104, Racine
Third place: I ov Thee Dragon, 614 Sixth St., Racine
For the sixth year in a row, every year since it has opened, Private Stock Tattoo has been named the Best of Racine's Best Tattoo Parlor as voted on by Journal Times' readers.
Owner Sean Fletcher, 38, said a commitment to art is what ultimately causes his shop to be such a success. “It's all about dedication to what we do,” Fletcher said. “We are all really serious about our jobs and our artwork.”
Fletcher also cites the cleanliness of his shop, quality of the tattoos produced and customer service as other reasons why the shop leaves such a mark not only on their customers' bodies, but also in their minds, creating loyal customers ranging from 18-year-old newcomers to nonagenarians.
Fletcher said he is friends with other tattoo shop owners and has no problem referring a customer to another shops if he feels one of those would be a better fit for a person.
“We really try to make sure every customer is happy when they leave the store, even if we can't do the tattoos ourselves,” Fletcher said. “If we can't nail their vision, we try to send them to someone else who we think can. ”
Fletcher is ecstatic that Private Stock is in the running for the sixth year in a row, and that the the shop is leaving an impression on the Racine community.
“It blows my mind, it's insane to know the customers like us so much,” Fletcher said. “In Downtown Racine, there is such a drive for art. It's a great place to be.”
1st Place: Polished Beauty Bar, 6012 Washington Ave., Suite B, Mount Pleasant
2nd place: LUX Beauty Salon, 512 Main St., Racine
3rd place: Urban Trends Salon Spa, 10351 Washington Ave., Sturtevant
Erricka Stark decided to open a spa after having a bad experience at another salon.
"It was so bad I had to go to a doctor," said Stark, who is a trained social worker. "That's when I decided that if that was as good as things got, I could do better."
She opened Polished Nail Boutique, then expanded to become Polished Beauty Bar in 2016. This year, voters selected it as the Best Spa in Racine County.
Polished offers facials, eyelash extensions, massages, nail services and waxing in 3,000 square feet of space on Washington Avenue.
"Things have been wonderful," Stark said. "We have very loyal clients who book things with us for the whole year. We like to have those kind of deep relationships with our clients."
Sanitation is the No. 1 priority at the spa — a lesson learned from her bad experience at a nail salon. "We put our emphasis on making sure we are at the highest levels of cleanliness. We want to have the highest level of sanitation in Racine County."
Best Butcher Shop
1st Place: Danny’s Meats & Catering, 1317 4 Mile Road, Caledonia
2nd place: Brossman’s Meat Market & Catering, 6900 Highway 31, Caledonia
3rd place: Festival Foods, 5740 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
Selling the best meat they can find, from Yorkville to Japan, Danny's Meats and Catering wins Best Butcher Shop in Racine County for a lucky 13th year in a row.
Owner Dan Johnson said he spends a lot of his time these days raising the shop's own beef on his farm in Yorkville, where he also harvests his own honey.
Manager Jason Boyce said not only do they take their meat sourcing seriously, but they want top quality cuts as well.
"Cutting meat is like an art," said Boyce. "Its not just taking a piece of meat and hacking it into pieces. You have to cut it right, trim it right. But you have to have a good piece of meat on top of that."
Boyce said that in addition to the primo cuts of standard meats, Danny's carries some exotic or hard-to-find varieties such as buffalo, ground, strip steaks and rib eyes, Berkshire pork and waguy beef from Japan.
Johnson also attributes the store's success to its emphasis on customer service and giving back to the community. Johnson is one of the organizers of the annual community Thanksgiving feast at Festival Hall and Danny's Meats provides enough meat to feed hundreds of Racinians. He's also involved in Empty Bowls and other community events and organizations.
"Various people that work at our shop volunteer with things," he said. "We stay active in the community as much as we can."
1st Place: Plumb Gold, 322 Main St., Racine
2nd Place: Rasmussen Diamonds, 6220 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
3rd Place: Art Metals Studio, 332 Main St., Racine
More and more, when millennials are preparing to get married, they are looking for something unique, something no one else will have, said Austin Schultz, the owner of Plumb Gold, 322 Main St.
Customization of jewelry is what Plumb Gold specializes in, one of the key factors that likely contributed to the Downtown shop being named the best jewelry shop in Racine County in 2018, as voted by Journal Times readers.
While the store has a large selection of diamonds, the shop also has gems of all different sizes and colors. Those gems are becoming more popular for wedding band center stones, as brides are looking for something different, Schultz said.
In addition, Plumb Gold carries the Naledi Collection, which is known for its “socially responsible bridal” collection. Naledi gives back to the communities where the jewels are mined and promotes responsible, ethical, social and environmental practices within the jewelry supply chain.
In addition to the bridal collection, Plumb Gold sells earrings, bracelets and necklaces, with a focus on customization.
Customers come to them with a vision, “We make it come to life,” Schultz said. “We take it from the idea phase all the way through to a completed piece.”
Best Liquor Store
1st place: Timer's Beverage Center, 3800 Northwestern Ave., Racine
2nd place: Ayra’s Liquor And Cigars, 4700 Washington Ave., Racine
3rd place: Arbee's Liquor Store, 4606 Douglas Ave., Caledonia and 2062 Lathrop Ave., Racine
When Racinians are looking for variety, they come to Timer's Beverage Center.
Cameron Voss, the store's vice president, said its vast selection of beer, wine and liquor makes it stand out from other local liquor stores.
“People want to try new things,” he said.
The business itself, however is old. Timer's opened its doors in 1926, in the midst of prohibition, when it sold church wine, medicinal alcohol and ingredients for home-brewing.
It moved to its current 12,000-square-foot location in 1995.
The store's most popular items change with trends and the seasons, Voss said. Items to look for this fall are red wines and dark beers.
Timer’s store-picked single barrel whiskeys continue to be a popular product throughout the year, as well.
Voss said he appreciates the Racine community's continued support. Timer's has been named "Best Liquor Store" multiple times over the years.
“It’s been a tough year with the construction (on Northwestern Avenue and Highway MM), but we still have our regulars and new people coming in for our selection,” he said.
Best Non-chain Clothing Store and Best Place to find Unique Gifts
Non-chain clothing store
1st Place: Dimple’s Imports, 416 Main St., Racine
2nd Place: Lornacopia, 310 6th St., Racine
3rd Place: Milaeger’s, 4838 Douglas Ave., Caledonia; and 8717 Highway 11, Sturtevant
Place to find unique gifts
1st Place: Dimple’s Imports
2nd Place: Milaeger’s
3rd Place: Sheepish, 326 Main St., Racine
From socks and scarves to lamps and earrings, Dimple’s Imports really has it all.
It’s because of their large variety of items that Dimple’s, 416 Main St., has been named the best place to find a unique gift and best non-chain clothing store in Racine County, as voted by Journal Times readers.
Dimple Navratil, who owns the Downtown Racine shop with her husband, Denis, and whom the shop is named after, said they are able to accumulate the variety of items through their world travels.
When they make their purchases, they go directly to the source, which means they know who made the products.
Also, when they make purchases for the shop, they only buy six to eight pieces of any one item. That helps ensure that almost no one else in Racine will have a customer’s same shirt or dress.
Fancy derby hats are also growing in popularity and Dimple’s has a wide selection. While they are popular the day of the Kentucky Derby, they are also popular throughout the year for weddings and bridal showers.
Navratil said, after the recent royal weddings, there has been an increased demand for derby hats and Dimple’s has been happy to fill that need with fun hats for any occasion.
When the owners travel, they always come back with all sorts of fun gifts for the shops. Also, they often bring back specialty items for their regulars, who they have become friends with over the years.
The shop opened in 1999 and Navratil said, “Racine has treated us well. We are not going anywhere.”
Best Wine Store
1st Place: Uncorkt Wine Bar and Craft Beer, 240 Main St., Racine
2nd place: Timer’s Beverage Center, 3800 Northwestern Ave., Racine
3rd place: Ayra's Liquor and Cigar, 6900 Highway 31, Caledonia; 2121 Ole Davidson Road, Mount Pleasant; 4700 Washington Ave., Racine.
Once again, it's time for Uncorkt to pop the champagne as they've won the title for Best Wine Store in Racine County for the fourth year in a row.
"Winning four years in a row excites me to no end," said owner Tony Bigonia. "Because my customers are telling me I’m doing the right thing."
Wine is Uncorkt's signature product and they've hosted wine tastings and wine and food pairing classes educate and entertain the public with their selection of unique and boutique wines.
Bigonia has recently added beer tasting sessions and beer/wine pairing classes to the mix to highlight the hundreds of beers they also have available.
"It's an untapped market," said Bigonia.
Bigonia earlier this year bought the building which currently houses Eye Openerz, 337 Main St., and Focus 21 Studios, 345 Main St and he plans on relocating Uncorkt to that property by 2020.
The plan is to grow into a larger space while staying Downtown so they can continue to do what they do best: provide a wide selection of fine wines and beers.
"Also provide good company," said Bigonia. "It’s the atmosphere, the camaraderie of being a customer here, like the old show 'Cheers.' You come as a stranger, you leave as a friend."
1st Place: Liamani Segura
2nd Place: Mean Jake
3rd Place: Duosonic
She is only 9. Yet, she has been voted the best musician in Racine County in 2018, as voted by Journal Times readers.
Who is she?
She is the one and only Liamani Segura, a Racine fourth-grader who has performed all around the country, including at the Indy 500, at on "America’s Got Talent."
While she didn’t make it on television for "America’s Got Talent," she did make it to one of the final rounds before the judges.
While that was an honor, she said some of her favorite performances have been at Brewers and Bucks games.
She started singing when she was 2, belting out “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from the “Wizard of Oz.”
Then by the time she was 6, she was performing regularly in public, with one of her first big performances at a St. Catherine’s High School basketball game.
When Liamani grows up she says she wants to be a professional singer. But she wants to be a doctor, too, so she can sing to them in the hospital and help make them feel better.
“I like to make people smile. I like sharing God’s gift,” Liamani said.
1st Place: Italian Fest, Racine Festival Park, Racine
2nd place: Greek Fest, at Kimissis Greek Orthodox Church, 1335 S. Green Bay Road, Racine
3rd place: St. Lucy Parish Festival, at St. Lucy Catholic Church, 3101 Drexel Ave., Racine
For four decades, Racine County residents have flocked to Italian Fest to indulge their inner Italian — eating pasta, drinking wine, enjoying music, munching cannoli.
The annual event is so well-liked that voters selected Italian Fest as the Best Festival in Racine County.
"We take great pride in putting on one of the best festivals in the city year after year," said David Chiapete, president of Roma Lodge, which sponsors the event every summer. "We try and do things that will get a tremendous turnout. We believe it works because we tend to see the same people coming back year after year after year."
The annual event of traditional foods, entertainment, family fun and fireworks takes almost 10 months to plan and organize, Chiapete said.
"Each year we look at what has worked and try to continue that, and if something doesn't really click, we try to improve it," Chiapete said.
Members from Roma Lodge and Vittoria Colonna Lodge prepare all the food and desserts, and plan all the music and activities. And their hard work makes all the difference, Chiapete said.
"What makes everything work is our membership," he said. "We are 500 strong and they come together and put in tremendous time and effort to make a great event. We all take great pride in that."
Best Day Care
1st Place: Little Saints Child Care Center, 4021 Spring St., Racine
2nd place: St. Edward's Child Development Center, 1430 Grove Ave., Racine
3rd place: St. Rita's C.A.R.E.S., 4339 Douglas Ave., Caledonia
Janice Borchart, the director of Little Saints Child Care Center, 4021 Spring St., thinks the reason Little Saints has won Best of Racine Best Daycare two years in a row is the institution-wide approach that guides how the kids at her daycare are looked after.
“The Ascension All Saints Hospital philosophy of personalized compassionate care extends to our childcare center,” Borchart said. “Children we care for are seen as unique and precious.”
Little Saints started as a daycare exclusively for the children of patients at the hospital, but it opened up to the public almost two years ago.
That seems to have paid off, since there are 150 kids currently enrolled in the program.
Little Saints accepts children as young as 4 weeks old up to 11 years old.
The daycare’s hours are 5:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and kids are served three meals a day from the Ascension All Saints Hospital kitchen, which Borchart thinks sets it apart from other childcare centers.
Best Event (non-festival)
1st Place: Party on the Pavement
2nd Place: First Fridays
3rd place: Animal Cracker Jazz Series
Three great community events, but alas, there can only be one winner and that honor this year goes to the area's biggest block party — Party on the Pavement.
Actually, block party is a misnomer: The popular fall festival encompasses 12 blocks.
This year's event, the 16th in Party on the Pavement's history, was scheduled to take place this weekend. It was to feature three stages of live entertainment, a BMX Show a "unique and antique car show," carnival rides, good food, fun and shopping.
“Party on the Pavement started as a celebration of the streets re-opening after months of construction. It is southeast Wisconsin’s largest street festival attracting 10-15,000 people each year,” said Kelly Kruse, executive director of the Downtown Racine Corp., which coordinates the massive party. “With over 12 blocks filled with live music, incredible food and drinks, street performances, shopping, games and rides, there is something for the whole family at Party on the Pavement.”
See you there next year!
Best Garden Center/Landscape Service
Best Garden Center:
1st Place: Milaeger’s, 4838 Douglas Ave., Caledonia, and 8718 Durand Ave., Sturtevant
2nd place: Wayne’s Daughters, 2429 43rd St., Raymond; 6207 Douglas Ave., Caledonia
3rd place: Stein’s Garden & Home, 6626 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
Best Landscape Service:
1st Place: Milaeger’s
2nd place: Neighborhood Lawn Care and Landscaping, 2650 4½ Mile Road, Caledonia
3rd place: Premier Lawns, 10518 Northwestern Ave., Caledonia
Milaeger’s continues to be Journal Times readers’ favorite when it comes to Best of Racine County voting.
For the sixth straight year, Milaeger’s took first place in voting in both the Landscape Service and Garden Center categories.
“We are so grateful for our loyal customers who appreciate what we do, and are really supportive for our company for 58 years now,” Milaeger’s President Kris Reisdorf said.
When asked why her company’s customers remain so supportive, Reisdorf replied: “I think it’s a combination of the people behind the company — our family, and our employees, who we consider our extended family: The care that they have in our customers makes the difference. They treat people the way they want to be treated.
“The second thing is the commitment to the customer: We grow our own plants, and select our own varieties very carefully for our area. I think our customers appreciate the quality and the selection.”
With two locations in the Racine metro area, Milaeger’s has come a long way from its origin in a 8-by-12 foot hobby greenhouse.
Best Veterinarian/Locally Owned Business
1st Place: Magnolia Springs Veterinary Center
2nd place: Belle City Veterinary Hospital, 4701 Spring St., Mount Pleasant
3rd place: Racine Veterinary Hospital, 5748 Taylor Ave, Mount Pleasant
Racine Veterinary Hospital Inc
Best Locally Owned Company
1st Place: Magnolia Springs Veterinary Center, 2555 Wisconsin St., Sturtevant
2nd place: Meraki Beauty Lounge, 10009 Northwestern Ave., Franksville
3rd place: Medical WeightLoss and Wellness, 1458 Horizon Blvd. No. 150, Mount Pleasant
Magnolia Springs Veterinary Clinic has only been open since March 19. But Dr. Morgan McCoy and Dr. Melissa Gallick clearly brought their good reputations with them, as the clinic took Best of Racine County honors both for Best Locally Owned Company and Best Veterinarian.
“We are humbled,” McCoy said. “Our clients are great. We have a very good clientele, and it’s just been kind of fun getting to know everybody.”
Asked what make Magnolia Springs stand out, she said: “We really get to know our clients. It’s obviously about the patient, but I know what type of beer a certain client is brewing, and I know when another client is getting back from Peru. We take the time to get to know them.
“We take the time to explain the treatment: Here are the diagnostics, and here is the ‘why’ of what we’re doing.
“I think we operate at a high level of transparency. I think if I can explain why we are doing a test, you do build a high level of trust.”
Cathy Allison took her dog Sophie to see Dr. McCoy and said that she had a great experience.
"After just one session with Dr. McCoy, Sophie was walking straighter, sitting more normally and wanting to play outside in the snow for the first time in three years," Allison said. "I wish these treatments had been available to her much earlier in her life."
Magnolia Springs is to have a new location in the near future: McCoy and Gallick have purchased 3.3 acres at the northwest corner of Highway 20 and West Road (the northern extension of Highway H), roughly 2 miles from Interstate 94, and on July 18, the Mount Pleasant Plan Commission unanimously recommended approval of the veterinarians’ site, building and operational plan.
Best New Business
Best New Business
1st Place: Meraki Beauty Lounge, 10009 Northwestern Ave., Franksville
2nd Place: Magnolia Springs Veterinary Center, 2555 Wisconsin St., Sturtevant.
3rd Place: Butcher and Barrel Gastropub, 300 Sixth St, Racine
Meraki Beauty Lounge opened in May, so it certainly fits in the category of New Business. Journal Times readers voted it the best New Business in Racine County.
“People feel comfortable here. They say ‘I just want to hang out here,’ “ owner Katie Falaschi said. “Being here makes them feel beautiful.”
Falaschi, herself a repeat winner in the Best Stylist category in previous years, credits the experience of her fellow stylists.
“All of our stylists have been working for a very long time, we’re all independent stylists; we have more of a personal touch on how we interact with our clients,” she said.
As to what makes Meraki — a Greek word, which Falaschi said means “to do something with soul, creativity or love; to put something of yourself in your work.” — stand out from the crowd, she said: “The look of the salon is unique: Warm, inviting more on the glam side. So many people feel like they don’t think they’re in Racine, or Franksville for that matter.”
The amenities make a difference as well, she said.
“We offer a variety of beverages, snacks, toy boxes for the kids, little Barbie heads that the kids love to play with, pretend they’re stylists. Everyone just feels really comfortable.”
She added that her location, in the Diamond Plaza in the Franksville business district of Caledonia, is underrated: “I think people don’t give this area, the Franksville area, enough credit. There’s a lot going out here.”
Best Pet Pampering
1st Place: The Woof, 5326 Durand Ave., (Behind Regency Mall) Racine
2nd place: Woofdorf-Astoria, 1308 18th St., Racine
3rd place: Katie's Canine Klubhouse, 5246 Douglas Ave., Caledonia
There's a new doggy day care at the top of the pecking order in Racine.
The Woof — a spacious day care that features over 10,000 square feet of artificial turf — has been voted Best Pet Pampering in Racine County.
According to its website, dogs are allowed to play inside and out all day long. The Woof also contains supervised play areas, where dogs are able to swim in pools.
If you're worried about your pet not meshing well with other dogs, The Woof will ease your mind. The day care requires that every pup pass a temperament test in order to stay.
The Woof has an experienced staff and even allows you to check in on your animal with its innovative "doggie-cam."
Heather and Kevin Harvey are co-owners of The Woof and attribute the company's success to their staff.
"Our staff is amazing and our top-notch facility makes all the difference," Kevin Harvey said. "We soon will have over 22,000 square feet of outdoor turfed play area and it's only going to help grow our business."
Best Place to Take Kids
1st Place: Racine Zoo, 2131 N. Main St., Racine
2nd place: North Beach, 1501 Michigan Blvd., Racine
3rd place: SC Johnson Aquatic Center, 2800 Ohio St., Racine
The Racine Zoo is not monkeying around! Once again, the zoo has claimed the title of Best of Racine's best place to take children as voted on by Journal Times' readers.
Racine Zoo Executive Director Beth Heidorn believes that the zoo continues to be voted in because the zoo offers guests with a fun, safe place for kids to be kids.
”We have fascinating animals for them to see, we have green space to relax in and playgrounds to burn off some energy,” Heidorn said.
Nestled next to Lake Michigan, the zoo offers guests the opportunity to visit more than 77 species of animals, with more than 500 individual animals.
“Some of our animals are endangered and we are blessed to be their caretakers,” Heidorn said. “The animals we have are very special and some have been here for over 30 years. In fact, our white handed gibbon Yule is the oldest of all gibbon species in all of North America! That is unique in itself.”
Heidorn says zoo staff focuses on providing superior customer service to guests, and aims programs and events they offer to all ages and family groups. The zoo plans to continue surprising its guests with expanded education offers, new events, new animals and new places to explore.
She also said that because because the zoo is open to guests seven days a week, it fits into most parents' busy schedules, allowing all children the opportunity to enjoy a day at the zoo.
“It is hard not to have a spectacular day at the zoo,” Heidorn said.
Best Senior Community
1st Place: St. Monica's Senior Living, 3920 North Green Bay Road, Caledonia
2nd Place: Primrose Retirement Community, 1775 N. Newman Road, Mount Pleasant
3rd Place: Fountain Hills, 1100 Fountain Hills Drive, Mount Pleasant
The transition to senior living should not make one feel like a teenager being sent to their room. That's why the staff at St. Monica's Senior Living does everything it can to foster a sense of community for its residents.
“At St. Monica’s Senior Living, our goal is to support each individual so that they are engaged in life right up until their last day. In order to accomplish this goal, we strive to deeply understand each person, their interests and create opportunities for enjoying life, “ stated Loretta Baxter, the facility's administrator.
A typical day includes multiple activities to meet the varied interests of community members such as a car show and the pocket prayer shawl knitting group.
St. Monica’s has a 47-year history of setting the standard in terms of excellence in nursing and medical care. For instance, St, Monica's has a physician who comes right on site so that residents do not have to go out for clinic visits. St. Monica’s has six LPNs and six RNs to provide the most knowledgeable care on site. The facility has an “Aging in Place” philosophy so this can be their last address and we partner with Home Care agencies and Hospice organizations to make this happen seamlessly.
In November 2017, St. Monica’s new 26-person Memory Care Wing opened to provide the opportunity to care for community members in a facility designed to promote healthy living while providing the same high standard of care.
“This has proved to meet a need in the community” said Kevin McCabe, board chair at St. Monica's, and “we are happy to be able to assist these community members and their families.”
Best Tree Service
Affordable Tree Care, 3201 Highway H, Sturtevant
Second place: Cassity Tree Service, 9160 Charles St., Sturtevant
Third place: Milaeger's, 4838 Douglas Ave, Caledonia
Exactly 26 years ago, Affordable Tree Care was founded and so began a tree-cutting dynasty.
And now it's been selected Best Tree Service in Racine County.
The company was founded and is owned by Jeff Nelson. Nelson has 20 employees who work with him in cutting down and pruning trees throughout the area.
Tree removal is the main component of Affordable Tree Care, but the company also handles other problems, including insect and disease control issues.
Deb Lein, Affordable Tree Care’s vice president of operations, said she's proud of the progress the company has made in its 26 years of business.
"We continue to grow and expand because of our quality customer service," Lein said. "And this isn't even like a job to us, this is a lot of fun."
Best of the West: Best store
Best store west of I-94
1st Place: 7 Mile Fair, 2720 W. Seven Mile Road, Raymond
2nd Place: Reineman's True Value, 417 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington
3rd Place: Union Grove Lumber & True Value Hardware, 1024 10th Ave., Union Grove
It might not be a store in the traditional sense, but with about 750 vendors spread out over 40 acres indoors and outdoors, 7 Mile Fair is a bargain-hunter's delight providing shoppers abundant opportunities to hunt for what they need and to perhaps pick up an item or two on impulse.
"You also never know what you will find at the fair, from fruits and veggies, tools and everything in between," said Scott Niles, president/CEO of 7 Mile Fair.
The fair, which dubs itself Wisconsin's largest flea market, opened in April 1961, catering at the time to a largely rural clientele. Today, fair visitors come not just from Racine County and the immediate environs, but also from greater Milwaukee and even Illinois. And it's a multi-generational and multi-cultural customer base.
"One of the things that drives the fair each weekend is the many cultures that shop at the fair and sell their goods at the fair," Niles said.
7 Mile Fair is open 52 weekends a year and also on Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Outdoor Market is open from the first weekend in April until the end of October each year.
"We do have outdoor vendors that set up year round when the weather is nice and sometimes when it is not so nice," Niles notes.
Assisting Niles in operating 7 Mile Fair is a staff of about 125, comprising full- and part-time workers. And students from local high schools who work at the fair can be eligible for a scholarship from the fair.
Best of the West: Best Restaurant
1st Place: Fred's Burgers, 596 N. Pine St., Burlington
2nd place: Apple Holler, 5006 S. Sylvania St., Yorkville
3rd place: Michael's on the Lake, 3101 Eagle Rd., Kansasville
While more competition is cropping up west of Interstate 94, Fred's Burgers still reigns supreme. Owner Fred Mabsen said the reason is simple:
"We’ve done the same thing for 38 years here — we put out the best product you can get as far as burgers go," said Mabsen.
However, that doesn't mean it's easy. They buy the freshest products, ground their beef the day it's used, season and shape the patties by hand.
"It’s a lot of work to do something right," said Mabsen. "We do a lot of extra things to make our product better."
In addition to The Journal Times' Best of Racine honors, Fred's has received plenty of recognition over the years.
"We have a reputation of putting out the best product in the burger game," said Mabsen. "And that’s what’s made us successful here."
Best Bowling Center
1st Place: The Lanes on 20, 6501 Washington Ave., Mount Pleasant
2nd place: Castle Lanes, 5615 Castle Court, Racine
3rd place: Old Settlers Bowling Center, 1500 15th Ave., Union Grove
It’s been quite a while since a bowling center other than Castle Lanes has won the Best of Racine County voting, but The Lanes on 20 finally broke through.
The Lanes, 6501 Washington Ave., in Mount Pleasant, was voted by Journal Times readers as the Best Bowling Center in Racine County after an eight-year run by Castle.
The main reason The Lanes has become a favorite is the family atmosphere, according to John Landreman, who owns and runs the business with brothers David, Gregg and Tom. Their father, Norb, has been in the bowling business for 60 years.
The business has been run by the Landreman family since the brothers purchased Spencers Elmwood Plaza Bowl in July 1992 and turned it into Plaza Bowling Center. The Landremans bought the former Paradise West Lanes five years ago and that became The Lanes.
John Landreman, who with Gregg runs day-to-day operations at The Lanes, said the business is busy all year, with bowling leagues in the fall, winter and spring and open bowling, volleyball leagues and horseshoe leagues in the summer. There's also room for birthday parties and bridal and baby showers. Patrons can also get food and drinks from Angry Brothers Pub.
“We have a lot of different things going on,” Landreman said.
A popular feature is the national Kids Bowl Free program, of which The Lanes is a participating member. Kids under 18 can bowl two games for free and pay just $2 for shoe rental.