Best of 2012
FLORIDA WEEKLY AWARDS SOUTHWEST FLORIDA’S FINEST]
Welcome to Florida Weekly’s Best special section
Typical “Best of” sections in local newspapers require merchants to buy ads to have their names placed on the ballot. No ad, no chance to win.
That’s not our style here at Florida Weekly. We wanted to create a Best of Charlotte County that was fun, entertaining and untainted (for the most part) by commerce. We set out to create a list that captured the character of our unique area with the kind of flair you’ve come to expect from this publication. Instead of focusing on local merchants, we spotlight the people, places and events that make Southwest Florida special. If someone did advertise, however, we thanked them by including them as a best.
At least we’re honest.
And, instead of having readers vote, which is a process rife with skullduggery, we sent our award-winning writers and editors out to scour Charlotte County for the Best.
What makes us unique
BEST ODD COUPLE
>> Dawn and Mike Haymans
If only this edition had sound. This whimsical note would be perfectly punctuated by the theme song of the TV version of “The Odd Couple.”
Charlotte’s odd couple became a couple a couple of years ago. That’s when the artful lawyer and the famous hot dog lady were married.
It all happened in short order, and the lawyer and the lady became Mr. and Mrs. Mike Haymans.
Whatever the attraction — buns, wieners, whatever — (and yes, the Haymans gave their blessing to this write-up) — we’re throwing belated birdseed in the park for a community couple we all love.
BEST DIOCESE DEBACLE
>> Charlotte County Sheriff’s report
County deputies arrested a young man who scaled the roof of a Port Charlotte church to take a Facebook photo of himself next to the cross. During his ascent, the young man caused $600 in damage to the church’s roof exhaust system. He was jailed on $1,500 bond.
or re-welcoming inmates to the justice system as they appear via closed circuit TV from the Charlotte County Jail. When he isn’t conducting those appearances, he’s the ultimate referee in everything from cow ownership disputes to speeders trying to get out of another ticket. He’s a benevolent judge, but be ready to duck if he decides to throw the book at you. We’re thinking a “closer walk with thee” needn’t be so steep, so spendy or so stupid.
>> Visani Restaurant/Comedy Zone
Every Wednesday and Thursday night at Visani, you can find representatives of local nonprofits enjoying a night of entertainment. That’s because Visani donates tickets for admission to its comedy shows those evenings to local non-profit organizations who then sell them as a fundraiser. Attendees are required to make a minimum purchase during the show, and it’s a comic way for nonprofits to support their missions. 2400 Kings Highway, Port Charlotte, 629-9191. www.visani.net
>> Peter Bell
With a keen eye for detail and a calm voice, Charlotte County judge Peter Bell deals out justice. He’s quick to break down confusing legalities for the common man and quicker to restore order to his court when rogue witnesses, defendants or lawyers overreach. Most mornings, one can find Judge Bell welcoming
BEST WET-NAP COMEBACK
>> Friday nights at Sunnybreeze
When Hurricane Charley destroyed the palatial clubhouse at Sunnybreeze Golf Course, it took with it a beloved tradition held there as well. It seemed the wildly popular Sunnybreeze Friday night soirée was another Charley casualty. Members and neighbors persisted in asking owners Bill and Kathy Baker to bring it back. This season, they got their wish.
Punta Gorda City Hall
COURTESY PHOTO Chef Bill Baker got himself a smoker, perfected his technique and expanded the original barbecue ribs and chicken menu to include burgers and fish. Now, from 4:30-7:30 each Friday during the winter season, dozens of diners congregate under the thatched roof patio of the diminutive clubhouse and tap their feet to live music as they smack their lips and wipe their saucy fingers with Wet-Nap towelettes. Welcome back. 8135 SW. Sunnybreeze Rd., Fort Ogden; (888) 663-2429; www.sunnybreezegolf.com.
BEST OUT-OF-BODY KARAOKE
>> Biehl’s Slip-Knot
If the huge lighted trees don’t draw you into Biehl’s Slip-Knot off U.S. 41 in Punta Gorda, the sounds from its karaoke stage on Tuesday nights will lure you — even out of curiosity. That’s the weekday when everyone thinks that picking up a microphone makes him equal to Frankie Valle as one of the Four Seasons. Throw back a couple and you’ll think you’re taking in a first-class Vegas performance. As sobriety kicks in on Wednesday, your ears might still be ringing, but you’ll know a great night was had by all. 639-7677, www.biehls-slipnot.com.
BEST BLESSED TABLE FOR ONE
>> Jesus statue at Sacred Heart Church
Jesus dines alone at the table at Sacred Heart Church, bread in hand, wine goblet at the ready. Sometimes he stops traffic, and tourists and residents alike sit and sup with him for photo ops.
The sculptor, Timothy P. Schmalz, somewhat daunted by the idea of creating a 3-D version of “The Last Supper” already perfected by Michelangelo, came up with the idea of leaving the disciples out of the scene — an invitation to others to sit down and become disciples of Christ.
The former IMPAC campus.
COURTESY PHOTO Groovy idea from the artist whose “Quiet Moment” statue of Jesus, Mary and Joseph resides at the Vatican in Rome. 211 W. Charlotte Ave., Punta Gorda.
BEST GOVERNMENT BUILDING
>> Punta Gorda City Hall
Punta Gorda’s City Hall was erected in 1926 in classical revival style, including red brick façade, white columns and symmetrical windows. We wonder what Spanish fishermen would make of the structure erected in the place they called Punta Gorda — “fat point” — in the 1800s.
In 1885, Isaac Trabue mapped the point of land and took the liberty of renaming the settlement after himself. But in 1887, the majority of 34 residents voting for incorporation elected to call their frontier town Punta Gorda. We suspect the fishermen would be pleased. 326 West Marion Ave.
Juli and Mike Riley
COURTESY PHOTO BEST BIRD FRIENDS
>> Parrot Rescue Society
After suffering an injury that ended her nursing career, Pam Hill met up with a sassy umbrella cockatoo. That’s when she founded the nonprofit Parrot Rescue Society, a harbor for neglected and abused birds. She now cares for 40-60 exotic birds at a time in her home on acreage in Punta Gorda, where she restores them to health and places them up for adoption with carefully screened applicants.
The Hills’ 2½-car garage was converted into a rescue room, and the lanai is the parrots’ play area. The birds can be noisy, and the family’s cars are forever parked outdoors. But Ms. Hill says both husband and neighbors are good sports about it. www.parrotoutreachsociety.com.
COURTESY IMAGE BEST COACH
>> Bob Johnson, Model U.N.
Bob Johnson founded the Model United Nations team at Port Charlotte High School 17 years ago. Since then, his teams have won 60 meets against top schools across the country. Port Charlotte High School has a 23/25 record in national competitions over the past five years. The team has 50 members and is selfsupporting. Port Charlotte High School MUN Program, 18200 Cochran Blvd., Port Charlotte. 255-7485.
BEST NEW GOVERNMENT
>> Air Traffic Tower, PG Airport
The majority of airports in the world are “non-towered,” meaning that the airport operates without an air traffic control unit. Prior to 2012, the Punta Gorda Airport was part of this majority. Then, arriving and departing aircraft were “advised” about weather conditions and area aircraft, but not “controlled.” This changed when the new air traffic control tower went into operation in February. Now aircraft arriving and departing from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. are given specific instructions about approach, prevailing winds and runway use. Kathleen Coppola, chairman of the Charlotte County Airport Authority, says the tower stands as a symbol of safety in aviation, success in commerce and continued prosperity. We love that.
“La Pieta” recreation by Liz Hutchinson- Sperry.
KATHY GREY / FLORIDA WEEKLY BEST GHOST TOWN
>> Former IMPAC campus
It used to be a gated, secretive and security-heavy fortress of learning. IMPAC University in Punta Gorda, headquarters for Integrated Control Systems Inc., was shrouded in mystery and controversy before its owner took his life in 2009. What remains is an abandoned, 4-acre state-of-the-art campus that cries out for occupancy. Built in 1994 at a cost of $6 million, IMPAC has 41,000 square feet distributed among several buildings: a town unto itself.
“That is one of the greatest immediate economic development building opportunities,” said Charlotte County EDO director Tom Patton. “There’s nothing in the county like it.”
The campus includes classrooms, offices, workstations, an exercise facility, basketball and racquetball courts, locker rooms and a 247-seat auditorium.
Sadly, the campus town is more like a ghost town now.
BEST MUNICIPAL LEACH
>> Placida railroad trestles
Thanks to a defunct railroad line, the brilliant blue waters of Placida Harbor are now tough to navigate. The railroad once serving the Port of Boca Grande is slowly breaking apart and falling into the water. Aside from toxic chemicals leaching from the trestle, large pieces lurk underwater, posing risk to boaters. Charlotte County left the railroad to rot after purchasing it back in the 1980s. Decades later, the projected cost to tear it down is $8 million. Now Charlotte County taxpayers are left with a financial train wreck that also serves as a hazard and a potential hazmat issue.
BEST BUNGLED BURGLARY
>> Charlotte County Sheriff’s report
CCSO detectives were called to investigate the theft of two GPS devices from two unlocked vehicles in Port Charlotte. Upon arrival, they found the wallet of one of the thieves, complete with identification.
What’s more, the perp could have escaped — wallet intact — had he noticed the keys in the ignition.
To quote the great Bugs Bunny, we say, “What a maroon.”
BEST FASHION SHOWS FOR
WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE
>> Mobile home and RV parks
Fashion does exist for women of a certain age and size. And believe it or not, annual fashion shows at mobile home and RV parks demonstrate what to buy and how wear it.
Jonathan and Jedi
COURTESY PHOTO These fashion shows feature couture from local women’s clothing emporiums worn by beautiful dames of all sizes and shapes.
In the Yellow Pages, turn to “manufactured homes, parks and communities,” ask the secretary to put you on to the social committee for the date and time, buy a ticket and enjoy a lovely lunch and lively — and sometimes hilarious (these women are a riot) — show for 10 bucks. One park even does a fashion show with clothes from Goodwill. Cool couture prevails.
BEST PUBLIC DISPLAY
>> Mike and Juli’s big fat wedding
We scratched our heads and furrowed our brows. “How do we shoehorn Mike Riley into yet another edition of Florida Weekly’s ‘Best Of?’” The answer then came as swiftly as a bride and groom rush off to their honeymoon. The dusk-to-dawn marriage of Mike and Juli Riley at Laishley Park was red, white and wed all over. We gave them our cheers as we sobbed in our beers. And now we give ourselves a little pat on the back for coming up with a way to salute The BoogieMen band’s leader and his lovely bride — two of Charlotte County’s very best friends.
Drag Queen Bingo
COURTESY PHOTO BEST HOMEOWNER CHUTZPAH
>> Englewood vigilantes
With a rash of break-ins terrorizing quiet neighborhoods up and down the Gulf Coast probably fueled by pill-heads looking for quick cash, some Englewood East residents are talking tough to crooks. “If they come back in here, we have two guns ready for them,” Englewood East resident Marie Scott told NBC-2.
Senior citizens James and Bonnie Murray echoed the sentiment. “We’re ready for you. You might not make it out.”
We advise friends and family of these vigilantes to call before dropping in.
BEST SMEAR CAMPAIGN COMING
>> Commission’s Republican primary
Negative political campaigns are distasteful, but the Aug. 14 Republican primary vote for the County Commission District 3 seat might be one train wreck we just can’t help gawking at. Bill Truex, Denny Curtis and Floyd Davis Jr. have announced plans to snag the nod away from Robert Skidmore, who is seeking re-election. His opponents will no doubt bring up the incumbent’s questionable behavior in 2011. But try to play nice, fellas.
>> “Mote South”
Here’s one we hope gets off the ground — or, in this case — under the water. The on-and-off chatter about a Mote Aquarium in Punta Gorda has been going on for years, but seemed a pipe dream when Hurricane Charley ravaged Punta Gorda. But hope floats for the water-based attraction, with Florida Premiere Contractors’ purchase of the property in late March and sketches released about what a Charlotte County Mote might look like. Funding will need to be raised, and we’re hoping someone will dive into this one.
BEST PROMOTER OF
>> Liz Hutchinson-Sperry
Liz Hutchinson-Sperry is longhand for “art.” She can do it all: murals, portraits, landscapes and still life. She murals-it, oils-it, acrylics-it, color pencils-it and stained glasses-it. She teaches it, sells it, contributes it for charity and wins prizes for it.
Three of Ms. Hutchinson-Sperry’s murals can be seen on the Harbormaster Building in Laishley Park. One is in Veteran’s Park. She’s won awards from the Naples Art Association, Punta Gorda’s Visual Arts Center and in juried shows in Cape Coral and Sarasota, to name a few.
Ms. Hutchinson-Sperry teaches classes in her Red Hat Studio on Taylor Street in Punta Gorda. She also teaches in Monet’s Garden in Giverny, France. (Perhaps the tile should read, “Best promoter of art around the world.”)
BEST PUP IN TOWN
>> “Rodger Dodger Dog”
He’s an adventurer who climbs trees and has books written about him. His chronicler, Punta Gordian Jan Britland, took Rodger Dodger Dog to No. 1 on Amazon’s Christmas Dog Stories list last December.
Her rhymed stories are so “pupular” with kids that Ms. Britland is working on her fourth book. Ask nicely, and Rodger Dodger Dog might visit you in person. www.rodgerdodgerdog.com.
BEST ARTIST IN A GRASS SKIRT
>> Mary Taglieri
Talented people seem to gravitate to Charlotte County, especially artists who are inspired by the area’s natural beauty.
Artist Mary Taglieri has lived in a variety of beautiful locations, from North Carolina to Colorado, from Alaska to Hawaii — and now here. Her paintings depict her love of the environment. So attuned was she in Hawaii, she learned the art hula dancing. Ms. Taglieri has brought art — and her love of the hula — with her to Charlotte County. She teaches art and hula classes here — just not at the same time. www.taglierigallery.com.
BEST BASEBALL BOOSTERS
>> Stone Crabs
Local baseball doesn’t end with the last spring training game. For Charlotte County Stone Crabs fans, it’s just beginning. Stone Crabs players have a shot at “the show” as they rent homes, eat in local restaurants and become community members for nearly a half-year.
COURTESY PHOTO The Stone Crabs Boosters works to ensure that the men who provide extended play feel welcome and are comfortable in their Charlotte County digs. www.scboosters.com; www.milb.com/tickets.
BEST CAN-DO MUSIC TEACHER
>> Julie Cornwall
The adage goes that, “Those who can, do — those who can’t, teach.” Well, Julie Cornwall blows that one of the auditorium. A talented professional cellist, she teaches both cello and violin to students who have ranged in age from 2 to 89.
Ms. Cornwall started with the cello at the ripe age of 9, then picked up violin in college. (Her father was a professional cellist and her mother played the viola — so odds were against her taking up the tuba). She is currently under contract to the Southwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and the Sarasota Orchestra, and also plays at weddings (at least once a month at the Ritz), in churches, and at birthdays or other special functions. In her career, she has backed up such famous performers as Bob Hope, Jose Feliciano, Roberta Flack, jazz pianist and composer Oscar Peterson, cellist Leonard Rose, The Lettermen, Vincent Price and many others.
COURTESY PHOTO “I need to teach and perform equally,” Ms. Cornwall says. “As you perform, you can bring what you learn from that experience to your students.”
We love Ms. Cornwall for her can-do approach. 474- 7651.
BEST CEO IN ‘REGULAR JOE’
>> Gov. Rick Scott
You can take the man out of the suit, but can you take the suit out of the man? Florida Gov. Rick Scott overhauled his image by swapping his staunch dark suits for khaki pants and button-down shirts — like all the other working guys in Florida. He might be trying to look the part, and his strategies have evolved during his first year of on-the-job training, but he’s a businessman at heart who’s still trying to spearhead “Florida Inc.”
BEST SECOND-HAND APOLOGY
>> Charlotte County Sheriff’s report
A Port Charlotte woman called Charlotte County Sheriff’s detectives after a man entered her bedroom and touched her. She confronted the man, who fled. The offender later went to the woman’s home and apologized, confessing that he has a fetish for touching women. That’s when he was arrested.
The creative writers at Florida Weekly are continually amazed that we can’t even make this stuff up.
>> Ford Cooper
When Ford Cooper’s hair went white, folks started recognizing him as someone familiar. Turns out his hair turning color turned him into an Einstein look-alike. From Hal Holbrook’s one-man show about Mark Twain, Mr. Cooper embraced the idea of lecturing about Einstein’s life while adopting Einstein’s persona. After more than a year of research, Mr. Cooper developed his presentation, “Albert Einstein in Person — Relatively Speaking,” which he delivers using a German accent. His favorite Einstein quote is “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” In the case of Mr. Cooper’s presentations at the Renaissance Academy, you get imagination and knowledge — plus familiarity and a dose of high energy for good measure. https://registerra.fgcu.edu or 505-0130
COURTESY PHOTO BEST RED FLAG
>> Charlotte County sheriff’s report
A Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputy arrested a 14-year-old boy for a vehicle burglary after a witness says he ran, his pants fell down and revealed his red underwear. When the witness and deputies caught up with him, they asked the boy to pull down his shorts a bit, revealing red boxers.
KATHY GREY / FLORIDA WEEKLY Fashion advice for criminals: Pull your pants up.
BEST MIXED MESSAGE
>> Press release sent to Florida Weekly
Most people try hard to honor their parents. But hey, life isn’t perfect.
So if you have a family commitment coming up to honor the flawed folks who gave you life, here’s one solution: “… my new wine app can help make Mother’s Day and Father’s Day a happy blur both for parents and their offspring,” reads a press release from Natalie MacLean, author of “Red, White and Drunk All Over” and “Unquenchable: A Tipsy Search for the World’s Best Bargain Wines.”
Got family dysfunction? There’s an app for that. www.nataliemaclean.com.
BEST CHARLOTTE COUNTY MOM
>> Charlotte County sheriff’s report
Sometimes it’s best to set the absolute worst example. A Charlotte County mom was stopped early one morning as she sped through her son’s school zone. Officers noticed a syringe protruding from her purse. Upon further inspection, they found crack cocaine, morphine and oxycodone.
As the son walked from the car to the school, his mother was handcuffed and sent to the slammer. It’s an image we’re sure he’ll never forget, and one that hopefully ensures he won’t follow in mother’s footsteps.
We hope this Charlotte County mom will lead our next generation to success by showing them exactly what not to do.
>> Jedi and Jonathan
Punta Gorda police officer Jonathan Mendel, 23, is the new handler of Jedi, the PG police department’s award-winning canine. Mr. Mendel’s older sister, master police officer Katie Heck, was Jedi’s original handler. She moved on to other duties and transferred the care of canine officer Jedi into the secure arms of family. All together: “Awwww…”
COURTESY PHOTO BEST TOXIC DUMP
>> Charlotte County sheriff’s report
Charlotte County law-breaking citizens continue to make news. Last month, a Port Charlotte man who couldn’t afford to have his septic tank pumped took it upon himself to pump it — into the street drain in front of his home. We just couldn’t pass up this one for the Local Color section. And that color would be brown. Ewwww.
BEST PLACE FOR PUBLIC
>> City Clerk’s Office, Punta Gorda City Hall
Sue Foster’s staff fills requests efficiently, inexpensively and with a smile. You can get copies of internal memoranda and e-mails sent to city officials on specific subjects. Also, the City Clerk’s Office will provide copies of audio recordings of official meetings or hearings.
If it’s considered public record, the City Clerk’s Office has it and makes it available.
If you’ve ever tried to access records in a big city, you’ll find the experience in Punta Gorda to be a pleasant surprise.
BEST PLACE TO GET STUCK
>> Dr. Diluv
Can getting stuck get you unstuck? Long-time massage therapist Dr. Denise Diluv is a licensed diplomat in acupuncture and oriental medicine. At her Port Charlotte venue on Edgewater Road, Dr. Diluv, a schooled expert in the 4,000-year-old healing art of acupuncture, uses stainless steel needles thin as a strand of hair to deliver relief. Her acupuncture needles are 10 times less invasive than a mosquito bite, she says.
So if you’re stuck, you might want to consider being stuck to become unstuck. www.diluvacupuncture.com.
COURTESY PHOTO DOWN TIME:
Relaxing and having fun
>> Drag Queen show and Bingo
You can find games in taverns, church halls, RV parks and civic organizations. But only at Port Charlotte’s Langdon Theatre can you shout “Bingo” and have a drag queen answer.
Drag Queen Show and BINGO is an interactive produced in the Charlotte Players’ black box theater on Market Circle in Port Charlotte.
Hint 1: Don’t try to guess the queen’s sex, or risk embarrassment.
Hint 2: To spare any embarrassment, keep your mouth shut.
And finally, get your tickets early because the show will sell out, proving that a mostly-senior crowd enjoys being teased and can’t get enough of sexual innuendo. www.charlotteplayers.org or 255-1022.
Dr. Alvara Bada is confident that his “ultroid” treatments will conquer that prickly pain in the butt.
COURTESY PHOTO BEST DO-OVER
>> Celtic Ray
Almost eight years later, the Celtic Ray, an Irish gem in Punta Gorda, has finally weathered through Hurricane Charley. Call it the longest (or most thought out) rebuild. The two-story bar is finally reopened.
Seems the reconstruction was worth the wait, and has been well received. With 85 empty kegs, most of Charlotte County celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by stopping into the Ray for a pint or two.
The Celtic Ray can now thumb its nose with the rest of Punta Gorda and tell Charley it’s better than ever. www.celticray.net.
VENUE IN PG
Punta Gorda has no movie theater, but the Renaissance Academy has filled that void. On Tuesdays for $5, you can watch a foreign film and stick around to talk about it afterward.
On Thursdays at the same place, Sharon Whitehill leads the after-movie talk for a series called “Strong Women in Film.” After this six-film series, she hopes to continue with other series, such as “Mysteries with a Twist,” “Lawyer, Lawyer, Pants on Fire” and “Tricksters.” Ms. Whitehill chooses movies from the U.S., UK, Belgium, Italy, France, Denmark, Rio, and anywhere in the world with flicks that suit her theme. 117 Herald Court, Suite 211, Punta Gorda, 505-0130; https://RegisterRA.fgcu.edu.
BEST KARAOKE DJ
>> George Rogner
He livens up crowds starting at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays at Dean’s South of the Border in Punta Gorda. At first, people are reluctant to get up and sing to George Rogner’s karaoke mix. But by 10 p.m., folks start believing they can carry a tune. By 11 p.m., everyone can sing — and they do. Mr. Rogner generously says it’s because his audience has talent. www.DeansSouthoftheBorder.com.
BEST FREE MUSIC VENUE
WITH A VIEW
>> Guitar Army, Thursday nights
Gilchrist Park is the best place to be for free live music on a Thursday night, offering your choice and style, balmy breezes, lights twinkling across the harbor and bonhomie all over the place.
Typically, five or six circles of players perform. Most are amateur, but some pros. They strum, pluck, pick and bow on guitars, mandolins, violins, fiddles, banjos, mouth harps, spoons and gut-buckets.
Everyone is welcome. Whatever your music taste — blues, jazz, country, Dixie, hill tunes — this is your night to play or listen, dance or tap your foot, and sing along or let it all sink in.
Bring a chair or wander from group to group from 6:30-10 p.m. theguitararmy. wordpress.com.
BEST EGO EDUCATION
>> “Awaken to Ego”seminar at the Renaissance
“Awaken to Ego” might be of special interest to those engaged in a spiritual journey and tired of the ceaseless chatter of the self-deprecating brain.
This course, presented by Dr. Sharon Whitehill, a veteran English professor of 32 years, will appeal to anyone who identifies with the consciousness movement and admires the work of writers such as Eckhard Tolle.
Based on Dr. David Mutchler’s book “Beyond the Ego: Where Happiness, Joy and Peace of Mind Await You,” this series of classes introduces a simple and practical way to reduce emotional pain and the behaviors we succumb to because of it. The next course offering starts June 6.
It will surprise you how simple it is to grasp this approach and come out of it feeling happy about your life. Register at www.fgcu.edu/HCC or call 505-0130.
BEST TROP ROCK EXPERIENCE
>> Jim Morris
With or without the Big Bamboo Band, Jim Morris embodies Trop Rock in Southwest Florida — think Jimmy Buffett hanging out in Charlotte Harbor instead of the Florida Keys. Inspirational lyrics such as “booze is the duct tape of life” have garnered quite a following for Mr. Morris, and his T-shirt-wearing, kazoo-blowing fans definitely know how to have a good time. www.jim-morrismusic.com.
BEST FIRST DATE PLACE
>> In Your Face Cupcakes
Nestled in the heart of Punta Gorda is the perfect place for a first date. In Your Face Cupcakes serves a magical mixture of coffee, cupcakes, beer and wine. The little shop is great for a first date mainly because you’ve got no time cards to punch. Start with conversation over sweet treats. And if the pressure is mounting, take the edge off with a full-bodied red or cold pint. If all goes well, reach for the chocolate cupcake and start whispering sweet things into your date’s ear. www.inyourfacecupcakes.com
BEST 15 MINUTES OF FAME
>> Open mic nights
For close to a decade and for 10 out of 12 months a year, “Open Mic” at Fisherman’s Village has been a hit for poets, storywriters, singers and musicians to cash in on 15 minutes of fame.
Starting at 6:30 p.m. every second Monday at center stage in Fishermen’s Village, you can present your work for that quarter-hour.
In Port Charlotte, the same opportunity has been in effect for two years at Hava Java Grill on Tarpon and U.S. 41.
There’s no fee, there’s usually a large audience and you get a professional intro and a live mic, fulfilling the dream of being center stage in your own selfexpression.
Just show up, sign up and perform. 575-3067 or 538- 8372.
BEST SUBSTITUTE FOR A MARTINI
AFTER A HARD DAY
>> A double martini
There’s a reason they call it happy hour. Cheers!
BEST STUDIO OFF THE BEATEN PATH
>> Jo Lapinski’s Inspiration Studio
“I look at everything as inspirational,” Jo Lipinski says. “And then my goal is to inspire others, to warmly encourage and embrace each person who comes into my studio.”
Located on Zemel Road between U.S. 41 and Burnt Store Road, who wouldn’t want to search out this hidden harbor of unique art and lessons? Jewelry, greeting cards, painted and stained glass, copper, silver and shell art abound. Ms. Lipinski even hosts boat rides to Useppa for shelling and searching for found things — light lunch included.
Art at the studio runs the gamut from traditional to funky, with watercolors, acrylics, wall murals and mosaics — most original, and some consigned from other artists. Ms. Lapinski also teaches sterling silver sheet metal art and dichoric acrylic artwork. Jo.L@comcast.net; 258-8046.
BEST FRESH MARKETS
>> Farmers markets about town
Punta Gorda, a haven of farmers’ markets, sells fresh fruits and vegetables someplace in town every day of the week during the winter season.
Monday: south Punta Gorda at Park Hill, Gulf View/Encore and Eagle Point mobile home parks
Tuesday: east Punta Gorda on Hwy. 17 and Piper Rd.
Wednesday: Fisherman’s Village, organic Worden Farms
Saturday: downtown Punta Gorda at Taylor and Olympia; VFW Lodge on Taylor Rd .
Sunday: History Park, 501 Shreve St., Punta Gorda
All week long from November through March: 8270 Pascal Dr. off Taylor Road.
Some of the diehard markets — including the Punta Gorda Downtown Market (winner of 2011’s Best Farmers Market in Florida) and the Sunday market at Punta Gorda’s History Park — weather the sultry summer for year-round residents.
BEST WAY TO BLISS OUT
>> Robert Austin Crystal and Tibetan Bowl Concert
After a lifetime of working as a corporate chef, Robert Austin swapped his mixing bowls for crystal and Tibetan bowls and became a sound healer. His concerts are a cross between a yoga session and a slumber party as concertgoers sit or lie on yoga mats with bolsters, blankets and pillows. As you listen to the ethereal sounds that he creates on his bowls (punctuated occasionally with chanting, the sounds of Native American rain sticks and his mother Jennie’s xylophone playing), the noise in your head fades and the tension in your body evaporates. You can find Mr. Austin up and down the coast of Southwest Florida. www.crystalsoundbowlhealer.com.
BEST HORNY BAND
>> Here Come the Mummies
They have performed for three years at FunkFest, an outdoor concert phenomenon produced by Nick and Matt Nemec. Here Come the Mummies boasts a highly lascivious libretto, but its magnificent horn section earns it Florida Weekly’s Best Horny Band. (What were you thinking?) www.herecomethemummies.com.
BEST AMATEUR SLUGFEST
>> Golden Gloves
Who’d have thought Charlotte County would be an annual contender for some of the best amateur boxing in the state?
Local infectious disease specialist and entrepreneur Dr. Mark Asperilla has brought a lot of black and blue to an area known primarily for its gray by promoting the Florida Golden Gloves boxing championships. Both regional and state finalists have duked it out at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center, sponsored by Charlotte Harbor Boxing and Fitness, which Dr. Asperilla also founded. Last year, he punched it up a notch by adding the Women’s Nationals, with young ladies vying to represent the USA in the Olympics. Combined, the men’s and women’s tournaments in 2011 generated close to $1.3 million in estimated direct expenditures. It’s the kind of economic impact worth fighting for.
BEST PLACE TO EAVESDROP
>> CCSO lobby
From petty bickering to serious legal matters, the lobby inside the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office is arguably the best place to eavesdrop in all of the 941. Everyone entering the lobby is willing, eager and adamant to tell someone about his or her most recent problem. Take for instance a conversation we heard a few months back. (Beware though, we have selective hearing.) A stylist resident, dressed in jean shorts and a ripped undershirt, flew off the handle to the vulnerable volunteer at the lobby window about his neighbor. Seems he was furious about the neighbor’s extensive plastic flamingo collection, going on about the insulting flamingo flock and asking deputies to intervene. Ultimately, and after far too much time, he left, defeated. Next time you want in on trashy gossip, take yourself down to the sheriff’s office and indulge in news of the absurd.
BEST SPOT FOR A NEW RESTAURANT
>> The former Turtle Club
It’s a fantastic location in search of a new owner. That the Turtle Club on Marion Avenue in downtown Punta Gorda has remained empty for three years is bewildering. The fully equipped turnkey operation is ready to serve 200 diners in understated elegance if the price is right. All this location needs is a restaurateur with a vision and $1.5 million, which, we hear, the owner might be willing to finance. 139 West Marion Ave., Punta Gorda.
The great outdoors
BEST REDNECK TWO-STEP
>> Redneck Yacht Club
Step 1: Using a combination of alcohol, testosterone and mob-mentality assembled at the Redneck Yacht Club, get in a state of mind that allows you to believe it is a really good idea to run over a parked car with your monster truck more than once. Step 2: Absent the influences of the above combination — but under the influence of an arrest warrant — provide the owner of the pancaked car enough cash to get a new one.
BEST PEACE ON THE PEACE
>> Peace River Wildlife Center
Along the mangroves at Ponce de Leon Park on Charlotte Harbor you’ll find the Peace River Wildlife Center, a place for intensive care and rehabilitation of wildlife. Visit it once and you’ll find yourself returning again and again to spend a peaceful interlude with osprey, owls, hawks, American bald eagles and 125 other birds and critters.
In the enclosed pond area, screeching, prancing sandhill cranes — gorgeous birds with attitude — entertain free of charge, as do pelicans, cormorants and anhinga.
A safe, up close and personal time with the wild things makes for the best peace on the Peace. 3400 Ponce de Leon Parkway, www.peaceriverwildlifecenter.com.
BEST SIGN OF THE OBVIOUS
>> Sign on Burnt
We’re still looking for the sign that reads, “Rapid Turtle Crossing,” but it’s a slow process.
>> Harbor Walk
Punta Gorda’s Harborwalk leads travelers by secluded fishing piers; shady tree-lined sections and sunny stretches; access to bathrooms, restaurants, a tiki bar, under-the-bridges trail, benches, marinas, shelters, public tennis courts, impressive art, animal and bird footprints in the cement and people to talk to. Maps are available at Laishley Park and at the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce, located in the historic Freeman House at Retta Esplanade and U.S. 41.
BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR HANDS
>> Community Garden at South County
Heleen Schouten had a simple but beautiful vision: to create a community garden where people from all over Charlotte County could come together in a healthy way. After more than 18 months of collaboration with TEAM Punta Gorda, representatives of Charlotte County and countless individuals, her vision was realized in the Community Garden at South County Regional Park.
On any given day, you can find gardeners at the park tending their bountiful beds of vegetables, herbs and flowers. And once a month, master gardening classes are offered. A real sense of community has developed among the gardeners, who share both crops and gardening tips.
Small wonder there’s a waiting list for the next available plot. South County Regional Park, 670 Cooper St., Punta Gorda; 505-8686.
BEST BILLBOARD JUXTAPOSITION
Drivers trucking down the highway are deluged with billboards advertising fast food restaurants and economy hotels. In Charlotte County, advertisers like to give travelers something to think about along the way. Head north on I-75 and you’ll appreciate this odd juxtaposition of services provided by local businesses. The use of the word “no” in both billboards creates a nice sense of unity between these potentially contrary messages.
>> TEAM Punta Gorda and the Isles Yacht Club
Each year, members of TEAM Punta Gorda and the Isles Yacht Club join forces to organize Pedal and Play in Paradise, an event for cyclists to participate in a daylong inner and outer body experience.
After loading up on carbs at breakfast and donning event T-shirts, cyclists set out for their choice of rides. Those who want straight up cycling can opt for a 15, 30, or 62 mile course. Not a serious rider? Go for the ever-popular Mystery Tour, a ten mile outing that is equal parts bicycle ride and scavenger hunt. Not enough cycling for you? After the event lunch (featuring free icy cold beer), tag along on a ride with city manager Howard Kunick and learn about the latest developments in Punta Gorda. Proceeds from the event benefit TEAM Punta Gorda’s bicycle-friendly community initiatives and the Isles Yacht Club’s work on behalf of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. www.pedalandplayinparadise.com.
BEST PLACE TO PICK UP A
COUPLE OF OARS
>> War on the Peace Dragon Boat Festival
Back in 2008, U.S. News & World Report named Punta Gorda one of the top ten healthy places to retire. The article cited the Charlotte Harbor Paddlers as one example, calling it a “fit-crazy group of mostly seniors who…compete in frenetic, muscle-powered dashes in something called a dragon boat.” Thanks to the Draggin’ Dragons (the CH Paddlers’ highly inaccurate name), the War on the Peace Dragon Boat Festival has been added to the long list of annual events in Punta Gorda. Sponsored by the Punta Gorda Chamber, members of the Draggin’ Dragons organize the festival, coach the 20 person teams and serve as guides for the boats during the 350 meter races. Whether you’re paddling or cheering your favorite team on, you can feel that fiery burn as the boats make their final push to cross the finish line. www.puntagordachamber.com.
BEST PLACE TO SKIP THE SIDES
>> “Pickle Park”
On south U.S. 41, there’s a quiet and pleasant park officially named Charlotte Flatwoods Environmental Park. But those in the know refer to it as “Pickle Park,” for the unexpected recreation that can be found there. Take to the trails and you may get more than you bargain for. Far off the beaten path, the park attracts men on their lunch breaks in search of free dessert — dessert more suited for behind closed doors. If you’re a nature lover and happen down to the park to enjoy your sandwich, be advised to skip the free pickle, dessert or any one of the sides you might be offered.
>> Peace River Bridge
The stellar sunsets over the Peace River may draw you onto Charlotte County’s most iconic bridge. From the top, you take in gorgeous views of the horizon. It’s that beautiful mix of sensory stimulation and colors that make a bridge walk go by in no time. If you really want to work the 1½ trek, do some squats on the way, jog part of it or carry some weights. Before you know it, you’ll be taking in the panorama as a slimmer, sexier you. Now that’s the ultimate workout.
BEST SIGN OF SUMMER
>> Love bugs
No, it’s not swarms of beach-loving, bikini-clad co-eds. Nor is it the mass departure of our beloved snowbirds.
The surest sign of summer is the arrival of love bugs, which get their mojo going on your pool furniture, car, pets and even on your person. For a few weeks in May, they do their little love dance wherever they dang well feel like doing it.
They don’t sting or bite, but trying to erase their innards from the grill and paint of your car can be a nightmare.
Contrary to urban legend, they are not the result of a genetic experiment at the University of Florida gone awry. They’re just a graphic illustration of Darwin’s survival — and propagation — of the species.
University of Florida Agriculture Extension http:// edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
BEST PLACE TO TAKE THE KIDS/GRANDKIDS
>> Laishley Park’s interactive fountain
If you want to see what “happy” looks like, take your kids or grandkids to the interactive fountain at Laishley park. You’ll smile and laugh as children of all ages an nationalities delight in playing in the water. It’ll trigger memories of absolute joy. Best for the old folks, there’s dry seating for grown-ups. Best for everyone, it’s free.
Just bring a towel and a couple of bucks to buy ice cream cones at the nearby shop beneath the Laishley Crab House. www.laishleymarina.com
BEST GOVERNMENTAL PLAN
>> Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center
The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center on Burnt Store Road has been a lovely wild hiking haven since 1987, when Charley Caniff came up with the idea for a preserve to educate children about Florida flora and fauna.
It has grown far beyond his simple plan, although educating youth is still its prime mission. But anyone can hike short, medium and long trails through oak savannah, pine flatlands, Florida prairie and swampland, watching alligators and their babies from the dock of the freshwater pond and spending an hour or two perusing fascinating Florida that is vanishing by the year. Seeing an armadillo plow across your path like a Patton tank is a treat worth pursuing. CHEC is free and accessible.
The Caniff building itself is a trove of info about flowers and frogs, bats and butterflies, as well as the infamous Florida alligator and the elegant American bald eagle, all of which you may see on your hike. Scheduled guided hikes and river trips are led by volunteers.
The state, the county, the city and the school board were all a part of establishing this center of recreation, education, research, preservation and land management: Proof that sometimes bureaucrats can get it right the first time. www.checflorida.org; 575-5435
>> Bal Harbor Buddha
In 2002 Doug and Kris Shadle came upon a statue of Buddha and decided that he would fit perfectly in the alcove in the front of their home. Buddha looked so happy there, the Shandles decided he would enjoy dressing up to participate in holidays and Punta Gorda happenings. After Hurricane Charley, people stopped by to make sure that Buddha survived the storm. Buddha now has a good number of followers who drive by to check out his attire, sometimes making a stop to leave him flowers, cards, and the occasional chocolate treat. If you check out the steamer trunk with Buddha’s clothing choices, you’ll have no doubt that he has one of the best wardrobes in Charlotte County.
BEST WAY TO MEET A MANATEE
>> Manatee Park, Fort Myers
Lots of folks head to Manatee Park in Fort Myers to catch a glimpse from the viewing platform of manatees warming their svelte 1,000-pound bodies in the waters of the Florida Power and Light discharge canal. Adventure seekers can take it one step further and experience the manatees at water level from a kayak. As you sit quietly in the middle of the canal, you come to realize that the massive shadows all around you are in fact living, breathing creatures that surface to get some air every three to five minutes, often within inches from your kayak. Guided tours can be booked through local kayak companies such as Manatee Guides or you can rent a kayak onsite by the hour and go it on your own. www.leeparks.org/ pdf/Manatee_ park_ trifold.pdf
BEST LITERAL SEGUE
If you’re looking for space-age travel, you don’t have to go to Disney World or wait any longer for a tourist trip to the moon. A cheap, easy, fun Buck Rogers way to get around has segued into a Segway in downtown Punta Gorda.
Detroiters Maureen Kearns and Keith Steele found Punta Gorda and opened SEGWAYS2U at 207 Cross St.
Their two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporters have been segueing folks around downtown and the Harbor Walk since.
“The last time Keith saw this town was the aftermath of Charley, and it was not what it is today,” Ms. Kearns said. “Now this is the ideal place because of the Harbor Walk.” She added that people want the fun of the cool technology and something to look at while they’re tooling around, so they get Charlotte Harbor, the murals, the parks and the dozens of choices of eateries and drinkeries along the route of their mini-travels.
The Segway is more fun than a bicycle and about a thousand times quieter than a motor bike. You can ride it only on a sidewalk, but it will go about 12.5 miles an hour, with zero emission, no noise and the wind in your hair. And you and everyone you pass will be smiling. 207 Cross St., Punta Gorda; (855) 873-4929.
BEST CREATURE COUTURE
>> Mabel the manatee
Mabel is a manatee mailbox, but she’s so much more than that. She’s a seasoned and seasonal fashionista — decorated and re-decorated for every holiday and every season. Much like her runway compatriots, Mabel is a head-turner, and gives us reason to stop, admire and smile about our own haute couture along the runway known as Shreve Street.
BEST URBAN OASIS
>> Herald Court Centre
Across Herald Court from the preserved old Punta Gorda courthouse is a secret garden. It is bricked and full of hibiscus and other sub-tropicals. An artsy fountain blows with the breeze or tinkles musically on a still day. Benches surround this tiny oasis.
This is a public place to plop down in private to cool your brow with a book and an icy lemonade. An overlooked oasis, we’re hoping folks will experience the “secret garden,” for it’s very cool, in more ways than one.
BEST BIG TREE
>> Punta Gorda’s banyon
The biggest tree in Punta Gorda accessible to anyone is the majestic old banyan on Retta Esplanade on the Best Western Waterfront property east of Gilchrist Park. Hurricane Charley stripped it of its leaves in 2004, but it has stood its ground. Now it stands tall and proud and leafy as ever.
The tree was a twig when it was given to the owners of the property in the early 1900s by Thomas Edison, who shipped in cuttings from India. It is now 80-100 feet tall and 60 steps around. (In Calcutta, India, The Great Banyan is 250 years old and covers four acres.)
You can walk into the twined and twisted trunk of Punta Gorda’s big guy, sit down inside it and feel like a tree. It’s a wonderful backdrop for a family photo and an intriguing playground for kids. The tree is on Retta Esplanade in Punta Gorda on the Best Western Waterfront property.
BEST THOUGHTFUL REMINDER
>> Flag outside Isles Best Hardware
When you think you’ve got it bad, take a look at this flag posted outside Isles Best Hardware. Consider supporting the troops by making a donation to the USO or to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Info: woundedwarriorproject.org and USO.org.
BEST PLACE TO GET SOBER
>> Charlotte County Parks
Leave it to big government to take the fun out of community parks. Up till last month, you could booze freely in any Charlotte County Park. Following complaints from residents about drunks in McGuire Park, county commissioners decided to crack down and ban alcohol in six county parks in “troubled” areas.
So if you want to clean up your act, Charlotte County’s swings, jungle gyms and picnic benches might just be the pace to pick up a new habit and get sober.
GOODS AND SERVICES:
What we take in
BEST PLACE TO LIFT YOUR SPIRITS
>> Burnt Store Presbyterian Church
Got God? Find Him at Burnt Store Presbyterian Church, which in true Presbyterian style offers both traditional and non-traditional services for all stages of Christians. Suit up for classic sermons (at 8:15 or 11 a.m.) or don denim for the “Come as you Are” service at 9:40 every Sunday morning, featuring modern Christian music and a twist on the old standards. Burnt Store Presbyterian is all about reaching up, making disciples and changing lives. 11330 Burnt Store Road, Punta Gorda; 639-0001; ww.bspconline.org.
BEST PLACE TO BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS
>> Edison State College
Whether you’re in your teens or an octogenarian, Edison State College offers courses and curriculum designed to exercise your brain and earn a degree at any stage of life. Edison’s focused programs in criminal justice technology, nursing, small business management and others help students fast-track their studies and careers. Class sizes, personable professors and a beautiful campus enhance this higher education experience. www.edison.edu/charlotte; 26300 Airport Road, Punta Gorda, 33950; 637- 5629
BEST PLACE TO FEEL LIKE A WOMAN
>> Timeless Image
With all due respect to male OB-GYNs, sometimes those with two X chromosomes prefer a female physician for all of life’s milestones, from motherhood to menopause. Charlene Okomski understands women’s special needs and concerns, and offers complete services spanning all stages of a woman’s life. The good doctor’s Timeless Image also provides life-changing solutions for women who could benefit from skin rejuvenation, tummy tucks, body sculpting and even incontinence issues. www.timelessimageswfl.com; 6210 Scott Street #216, Punta Gorda; 205-2666
BEST WATERFRONT DESTINATION
>> Fishermen’s Village
Sure, Fishermen’s Village, with its sweeping views of Charlotte Harbor, is one of the best places in Southwest Florida to impress your guests, but its unique boutiques, specialty shops and local restaurants — plus a military heritage museum — also make it a must for locals. Live entertainment, special events and an onsite marina offering sightseeing cruises and fishing excursions ensure that no visit is ever the same. Better yet: Be your own guest. Spend a morning or two waking up to those views. The village offers two-bedroom villa rentals. www.fishville.com, 1200 Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, 639-8721
BEST PLACE TO GET DOWNRIGHT CREATIVE
>> Arts & Humanities Council
Channel your inner Michelangelo or Maya Angelou and you’re also bound to expand your cultural horizons and circle of friends by relying on the Arts & Humanities Council’s thorough knowledge of all things Char-tistic. The organization celebrates the arts and nurtures it throughout Charlotte County — with plans to delve into the performing arts. (Drama, dance and music classes are coming soon, according its website.) Members also have opportunities to share the arts with others through Arts in Public Places, volunteering with local schools and training to reach folks with dementia through art. www.charlottearts.org, 2702 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, 764-8100
>> Charlotte Orthopaedic Clinic
Although the specialists at Charlotte Orthopaedic can’t mend a broken heart, they’ve got just about every bone in the body covered. A general orthopaedic practice, the clinic offers surgical and non-surgical techniques to fix that failed hip or knee and have you up and running, like the bionic man — or woman — in no time. What’s more, you can search the practice’s informative website by the topic that ails you — from shoulder to foot and ankle. www.charlotteorthopaedic, 4161 Tamiami Trail, Suite 101, 635-0984
BEST PLACE TO GRIN AT THE “WILDLIFE”
>> Panther Hollow Dental Lodge
Welcome to the jungle ... OK, the wilderness. Each of the 13 treatment rooms at Port Charlotte’s Panther Hollow Dental Lodge pays homage to a national park, including Yosemite and the Everglades. True to its name, Panther Hollow feels like a lodge from the moment you enter the lobby, with its wood-clad pitched ceilings, stone and wood accents and fireplace. Even Smokey Bear is there to greet guests at the front desk. This creates a relaxing setting for patients young and old, even those facing a root canal. Panther Hollow’s team of dentists are also experts in implants, cosmetic dentistry, dentures and partials. www.pantherhollowdental.com, 19240 Quesada Ave., Port Charlotte; 743-7435
BEST PLACE TO GET STRUNG ALONG
>> Charlotte Symphony Orchestra
Sure, today’s Charlotte Symphony is a full-fledged 70-member professional orchestra, but what you may not know is it got its start in 1978 by 13 volunteer string players. The 2012-13 season is poised for memorable music as beloved Maestro T. Francis Wada presides over his last concerts, including three led by the trio of finalists for the conductorship. From classics to pops, the symphony is always the best bet to enjoy the music of the night. www.charlottesymphony.com; 205- 5996.
BEST PLACE TO SAVOR FLAVOR AND SOAK IN THE
>> The Wyvern
Expansive views of Charlotte Harbor set the stage for a memorable meal atop the Wyvern Hotel, courtesy Lulu’s, hotel’s very fine dining restaurant with a Latin flair. A large menu takes guests and locals from morning to night, often providing a unique Latin or Floridian spin on traditional cuisine: gingerbread pancakes, coconut lobster chowder and plantain lasagna.
Or sup in the handsomely appointed restaurant and opt for a nightcap on the roof, with a spectacular view of the pool and the prettiest little city on the Gulf Coast. www.thewyvernhotel, 101 E. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, 639-0100
BEST PLACE TO SHOW OFF THOSE
>> Advance Vein Center of Charlotte County
Who wears short-shorts? You will, after visiting Advanced Vein Center and Dr. Laura Gruneiro, who uses state-of-the-art and minimally invasive technology to zap and erase varicose and spider veins from your luscious legs. No need to shun this season’s minis after Dr. Laura work her magic. The center is devoted strictly to the diagnosis and treatment of venous disease and also treats fatigued legs, swelling and discoloration and other issues. 18316 Murdock Circle, Suite 107, Port Charlotte, 627-6700
BEST PLACE TO SPIN YOUR
>> Acme Bicycle Shop
We bet the coyote would finally nab the Roadrunner if he teamed up with a different Acme company — Acme Bicycle Shop. Owners Karen Freeman and Earl Lang are experts at pairing the person with the appropriate pedal-power. They’ll find your perfect match, whether you plan leisurely rides or 25-mile marathons. And you don’t have to be a customer to join the shop’s weekly Saturday morning group ride. www.acmebicycleshop.com, 615 Cross St., Punta Gorda; 639- 2263; 1700 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte; 258-3400
BEST PLACE TO LOOSEN THE
>> Dr. Domingo Galliano
No, we’re not talking about divorce, but something even more delicate and hush-hush — gastrointestinal conditions. Dr. Galliano specializes in colon and rectal surgery, using often-painless and minimally invasive robotic surgery to resolve these issues, usually on an outpatient basis. www.gallianosurgery.com, 18308 Murdock Circle, Suite 108, Port Charlotte, 625-3411
BEST SHOPPING NOT INVOLVING
>> Palm Auto Mall
The name of this long-time Punta Gorda fixture really doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like Palm Auto Mile, a blocks-long stretch along Tamiami Trail featuring a dozen different dealers, new and pre-owned cars and trucks and friendly and courteous employees focused on creating lifetime customers. They want to sell you your next car, too. Family owned and operated since 1955, Palm makes its customers — and employees — feel like part of the family. www.palmautomall.com, 1901 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda, 639- 1155
BEST GIFT FOR A CHILD
>> Peace River Psychology Center
The best gift from a parent to a child is actually free, priceless and everlasting. But when marital discord upsets the household, that gift can be snatched away.
Peace River Psychology Center offers an open door to parents and their children to work through family issues that could potentially lead a child to aggression, anxiety and low self-esteem — and compromise academic performance.
The best gift for a child is to make home a trusted sanctuary. That’s something the trendiest doll, latest video game or upgraded cell phone cannot replace. Peace River Psychology Center, 425 Crossing St., Punta Gorda; 505-6162.
BEST PEDAL POWER
>> Bicycle Center of Port Charlotte
No bikes in a box here. For 40 years, the Bicycle Center’s pro staff has pre-assembled the top brands in bicycles so you don’t have to. Stop in, and they’ll have you geared up and outfitted in no time, ready to ride and looking spiffy with streamlined helmets, cool accessories and even bike shorts, if you insist. www.bicyclecentercc.com, 3795 Tamiami Trail S., Port Charlotte, 627-6600
BEST PLACE TO PUTT AND
>> St. Andrew’s South Golf Club
No only does St. Andrew’s offer the best private golf course value in Punta Gorda, its 19th hole is almost as storied as the original Scottish golf course. Bartender Bob whips up the best Bloody Marys in Southwest Florida and legendary Long Island iced teas this side of New York. www.standrewssouth.com, 1901 Deborah Dr., 639-5261
BEST PLACE TO GET THE BEST
>> Caring Way Dentistry
You’ll be ready to flash those pearly whites for the camera after a visit to Caring Way Dentistry. Dr. R. Boyd Gilleland has been giving patients a reason to smile since 1990. The practice offers the full gamut of dental services — from routine checkups and cleaning, porcelain veneers and whitening to dentures and dental implants. www.caringwaydentistry.com, 2496 Caring Way, Port Charlotte, 627-9900
BEST CRAB CAKES THIS SIDE OF
>> Phil’s 41 Restaurant
Yes, Phil Cerciello’s Punta Gorda restaurant serves delicious mostly Italian dishes (the seafood fra diavolo is divine) and his chicken wings won top honors in the 2010 Charlotte County Battle of the Wings, but it’s the crab cakes that have become a perennial favorite in our best-of listings. Plump and moist, these full-of-jumbo-lump-crab creations really take the cake for those in the know. www.Phils41.com, 1975 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda, 575-7575.
BEST HIDDEN GETAWAY
Despite its somewhat remote location, Florida residents — and a few lucky tourists — always find the Nav-A-Gator, whether they’re arriving by land, water or sky. Located along the Peace River, Nav-A-Gator offers multiple bars, indoor and umbrellaed al fresco seating, a full food and drink menu and live entertainment. It;s perfect as a day-trip or weekend destination and is the top trop rock hot spot in the country, continually beating out well-known venues like Key West’s Hog’s Breath and Margaritaville to claim the Trop-Rock Music Association’s No. 1 ranking. If you can’t bear to, stay the night in one of the cottages and explore the river next day by airboat, canoe or kayak. www.nav-a-gator.com, 9700 SW Riverview Circle, Lake Suzy; 627-3474
>> Downtown Punta Gorda Farmers Market
If you really are what you eat, those of us who shop the Downtown Punta Gorda Farmers Market each Saturday are filled with all the goodness Florida has to offer — fresh fruits and veggies, just-caught fish and even prime butcher-cut beef. Offered weekly in the shade of the old courthouse on Taylor Street, the market, voted Florida’s favorite in 2010, also features vendors selling home-baked pies and desserts, freshcut flowers and exotic plants. The year-round market, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., is the best place for things to take home and a feast for the senses. Saturday mornings, around the old Charlotte County Courthouse on Taylor Road
BEST PLACE TO BID AND BUY
>> Charlotte Auction House
Forgot about staring at a computer monitor or awaiting an e-mail alert announcing you’re in a bidding war. Visit Charlotte Auction House on auction day and you’ll experience the heart-pounding live action and adrenaline — and stare your competitor in the eye — as founders Charles T. Hughes and Daryl Gutridge auction off everything from classic cars and war memorabilia to elegant jackets and gowns. Plus, you get instant gratification by walking away with your bargains; no waiting weeks for that FedEx package to arrive. www.charlotteauction-house.com, 1205 Elizabeth St., Suite J, Punta Gorda,
BEST PLACE TO LOOK BEAUTIFUL
>> Shawn & Company
You’ll leave Shawn & Co. looking your diva best after an hour or two in the chair — hair, manis and pedis, that is. Whether you want a new do, the glow of a facial or sun-kissed skin from the tanning bed, you’ll find it at this full-service salon and spa in Punta Gorda. www.shawnandcompany.com, 4678 Tamiami Trail, Suite 107, Punta Gorda, 625-0060.
BEST FAST SLOW FOOD
>> Alli-Gators Bar & Grill
Whether you’ve worked up an appetite at the mall or the office, this locally-owned bar and grill features fresh fare that outranks any fast food joint along 41. Decorated with a life-sized gator sculpture and conveniently located at Port Charlotte Town Center, Alli- Gators is known for its selection of burgers (order one slathered with your favorite wing sauce), fresh fish, pasta plus comfort foods like pulled pork, quesadillas and soups. A focus on quick service makes the office crowd happy. 1441 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte; 624-0067
BEST FOR SEEING CLEARLY
>> 20|10 Optical
Downtown Punta Gorda’s 20-10 Optical offers complete eye care for children and adults, including comprehensive vision testing and the full spectrum of optical and optometry services. Locally owned and operated, 20|10 offers contact lenses, sunglasses and fashionable frames by Ray Ban, Burberry, Tory Burch and other top designers that will make you the envy of your 20-20 friends. www.2010optical.com, 121 E. Marion Ave., Punta Gorda, 833-9044
BEST PLACE TO GET IT DONE
>> Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference
With 43,500 square feet overlooking the Punta Gorda waterfront, the event and conference center has become the ideal place to mark milestones in life — and work. Brides and businesspeople are choosing the center for receptions and banquets not just because of its stunning scenery but its proximity to other necessary amenities: Three hotels and downtown Punta Gorda are just a hop, skip and a jump away. Plus, the center’s onsite kitchen can manage 700 meals in a single sitting. www.charlotteharbormeetings.com; 75 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda; 833-5444.
BEST FOR FIXING US UP
>> Morton’s Ace Hardware
We all know Ace is the helpful place, especially for those of us who don’t know the difference between a socket wrench and a hex key and think a shoe makes a perfectly good hammer. But Morton’s makes us feel at home and not the least bit tool illiterate. Family owned and operated for more than a quarter of a century, the folks here are patient and friendly, willing to take the time to figure out exactly what “do-hickey” or “thingamajig” we’re really talking about. And for that, our shoes thank you. www.mortonshardware, 3035 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, 625-1454
BEST PICK WHEN YOU’RE
>> Law offices of David Orosz
Ever since we were kids, we’ve been picking people to be “our side.” As adults, the stakes are higher, but we still get to pick who’s on our side for issues including Veterans Affairs benefits, Medicaid plans and applications, deeds and trusts and wills. When you need someone on your side, the Law Offices of David Orosz offers fee consultations. (800) 771-6053. BEST PLACE FOR BUCKS >> Busey Bank
This Illinois-based bank has been around since 1868 and has locations in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties. Experience is the key to finding a better fiscal future. If it could, your money would thank for your depositing it with the caring and responsive professionals at Busey Bank. www.busey.com
BEST WAY TO LIVE IT UP
>> Lexington Manor
At Lexington Manor assisted living facility, the days are full of options and activity. Residents are served meals and snacks prepared by culinary institutetrained chefs, including such delicacies as frosted lime salad for lunch and glazed Cornish game hens for dinner. And myriad daily events include shopping opportunities, trips to museums and creating arts and crafts. Lexington’s accommodations include nine floor plans, with services such as weekly laundry service included. All you have to do is enjoy the good life. 766-7991; www.lexingtonmanorportcharlotte.com
BEST MOBILE SHOWROOM
>> Simply Cabinets
Simply Cabinets has the interior design expertise and materials to make any room in the house sparkle with your unique style sensibility. But instead of going to a brick and mortar showroom, they’ll bring a showroom to you. You’ll save on gas, and you can consider materials and colors at home, including Yorktowne Cabinet displays. The mobile showroom is equipped with countertop and lighting options, and a wide variety of tile samples. www.simplycabinets.net; 505-5502.
BEST WAY TO OVERCOME
>> Cayo Costa Dental Inc.
Dread going to the dentist? Relax. At Cayo Costa Dental, there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. Dr. Frederick J. Fox III and his team employ dentistry’s latest technologies and techniques coupled such care and compassion, you’ll wonder why you didn’t stop in sooner. Specializing in digital x-rays and intra-oral photography Cayo Costa offers a full range of services, including checkups, cosmetic dentistry, gum treatment and more. www.cayocostadentalfl.com; 575-1446
BEST DISAPPEARING ACT
>> Phil’s Murphy Beds
You can fit plenty of junk under a bed, but making the bed itself disappear is a completely different trick. The magic happens when with a simple flick of the forearm (and a blink of an eye for good measure), the bed not only magically disappears, but opens up a world of possibilities for transforming a guest bedroom into a home office or playroom or other necessary space. www.philsmurphybeds.com; 391-5262
BEST LONG-TERM COMMITMENT
>> Coldwell Banker Sunstar Morris
It has survived and thrived in Southwest Florida’s residential and commercial real estate market for more than 20 years. For people planning to move to Southwest Florida or those buying a home within the region, Coldwell Banker Sunstar Morris’ relocation department is there to help every step of the way. An award-winning management team includes agents who specialize in referrals, short sales, foreclosures, relocation, property management, information technology and marketing. And the group’s referral department can hone in on homes that pique your fancy anywhere in the United States. (800) 615-7232; www.morrisrealty.com.
BEST PLACE TO BE TREATED LIKE
A FRIEND, NOT A CASE NUMBER
>> Hometown Title & Closing Services LLC
Going through the process of buying a home can be a chore. Especially if you’re buying a foreclosure property, the red tape and credit requirements can make closing a pain. You’re just another homebuyer in a big market. Hometown Title & Closing Services has the integrity, knowledge and professional experience to make your closing process memorable for all the right reasons. They underwrite title insurance with Old Republic Title Insurance Guaranty, which has been serving the mortgage industry for more than a quarter century. It’s great to have Hometown Title on your side. www.hometownclosing.com; 505-0004
BEST SENSE OF URGENCY
>> Fawcett Memorial Hospital
Every second seems an eternity when you’re in severe pain. And sometimes it can mean the difference between life and death. So we applaud Fawcett Memorial Hospital for taking care of us pronto at the ER. The national benchmark to reestablish blood flow to the heart after a STEMI (a common type of heart attack) is 90 minutes. Fawcett’s is 58 minutes. The hospital posts the averages on its website the first of each month. And the average wait time in the ER before seeing a medical professional us often only a few minutes (it’s updated every 30 minutes on the website), compared to a one hour national average. www.fawcetthospital.com; 629-1181
BEST FIVE ACRES IN SWFL
>> Pottery Express & Bamboo Farm
The scrubbrush flatlands of Florida can be as barren and lonely as a winter wind, but Pottery Express changed all that on five acres of such land in Charlotte County. Now it’s stacked high with pottery, fountains and statuary, both local and international, including vessels from Vietnam. Vibrantly colored Talavera pottery gives voice to artisans south of the border. Other items include work from contemporary Mexican studios, including Pineapples, Alebrijes and Katrina dolls. Spectacular fountains or jars perfect for an entryway abound. The place is full of treasures, but just strolling through the property is a pleasant getaway. www.potteryexpress.com; 505-8400
BEST REASON TO TAKE THE KIDS/
GRANDKIDS TO SARASOTA
Got kids in those ’tween years? Tired of hearing “I’m bored?” Tomorrow’s doctors, engineers and inventors can ditch that anthem at Sarasota’s Gulfcoast Wonder and Imagination Zone, known as GWIZ (“gee whiz”). The hands-on museum lets kids program Lego Mindstorm robots, learn how to take vital signs at the Meduzone health exhibit or even solder and weld their innovations into reality in the Fab Lab, with the help of foreman Eric McGrath. And while their hands and minds are busy, you’ll have a few moments to figure out the next thing to keep them “not bored.” www.gwiz.org
BEST REASON TO BREATHE EASY
>> Charlotte Regional Medical Center
Breathing conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease range from mild to life threatening. But you can breath easier knowing that Charlotte Regional Medical Center has proven its excellence in respiratory care, earning a special recognition two years running from the American Association for Respiratory Care — an honor shared with only about 15 percent of U.S. hospitals. The Quality Respiratory Care Recognition helps consumers identify the best hospitals, the AARC says, earned only by hospitals with respiratory therapists available 24 hours a day. www.charlotteregional.com; 639-3131
BEST REASON TO TAKE HEART
>> Peace River Regional Medical Center
The new $25 million Peace River Heart Institute is already saving lives with its staff of top surgeons, doctors and nurses. The 50,000-square-foot improvement in January added 35 private patient rooms, three hightech surgical suites and three catheterization labs. And the facility’s state-of-the-art technology make it Charlotte’s premier facility for cardiac care, not just now but in the future. Peace River Regional’s central location makes it accessible to the wider community. We feel better already knowing it’s there. www.peaceriverregional.com; 766-4122
BEST PHARMACY TIME CAPSULE
>> Medicine Shoppe
Some things don’t change — and that’s a comfort. The sun still rises in the East, birds still fly South for the winter, and The Medicine Shoppe pharmacy, which was established in 1968, still stands for personal service and affordable medication. With caring, knowledgeable pharmacists and hundreds of generic brands that are easier on your pocketbook, it’s helping us get well and stay well. That’s a timeless comfort we can all be grateful for. 505-1095; www.medicineshoppe.com.
BEST RETIREMENT HOME
>> Adams Homes
With its sparkling harbor, unbounded recreational opportunities and affordable housing, Charlotte County has consistently been rated one of the top places in the nation to find a dream home for your golden years. And for decades, Adams Homes has helped homebuyers realize that dream with its longstanding commitment to value. In the words of Wayne Adams, who in 1991 founded what is now one of the largest privately held homebuilders in the country, “Regardless of price, size, or location, all buyers want their builder to deliver value. That’s Adams’ no nonsense approach: value, fair and square. Always has been. (239) 278-5766; www.adamshomes.com.
BEST UNOFFICIAL MAYOR OF
>> Denise Henry, RE/MAX Anchor Realty
Denise Henry never misses an opportunity to tell newcomers about her town. She works ceaselessly to improve Punta Gorda and polish its image, in her own inimitable way. She issued her latest unofficial statement from her unofficial mayor’s office at RE/MAX Anchor Realty: “I know so many people and strike up conversations with people I have never met, telling them with great enthusiasm about the area, events and why I love ‘Punta Gorgeous.’ Having lived here since 1985, I know a lot about this community: How to meet new people and get involved, what events are happening every week, where to go for shelling to scuba diving to blue crabs to finding the perfect swimsuit.
“Finding the perfect home is a natural next step. I have been boating on the Charlotte Harbor and Peace River for 27 years, so I know all the great beach spots, fishing and restaurants and fun watering holes. We live in a beautiful, friendly town. I invite you to stay and play with us.” 628-0856; www.dhenry.remax.com
BEST SENSE OF HUMOR
>> Dr. Alvaro Bada
Thank heaven for Dr. Alvaro Bada, a surgeon who for years has cheerfully solved health issues where the sun doesn’t shine, and does so with a light touch. He proudly proclaims himself the King of Hemorrhoids, confident that his “ultroid” treatments will conquer that prickly pain in the butt.
Dr. Bada offers help in other regions, including colon issues and GERD. He also treats such delicate ailments as skin and breast cancer.
His bedside manner extends to after-hour emergencies, and he is a Medicare participant who accepts most insurance types.
In any case, Dr. Bada’s got the cure for whatever ails you down under. 255-0069; www.badamd.com
BEST FAMILY CAR
>> Gene Gorman’s Auto Sales and Auto Repair
No one knows how important family is than Gene Gorman. After all, his wife and son are crucial to his success. Together, they run three pre-owned auto dealerships in Charlotte County, best known for their bend-over backwards service and Mr. Gorman’s famous line, “I’d give ’em away…but my wife won’t let me.” Son Owen got in on the proceedings a few years ago, opening two service shops. This business knows families. So if you’re looking for a car for yours, check out the Gorman’s dealership. www.genegormans.com
>> Friendly Floors
Floors are not actually capable of being friendly, and if they could speak they might say with dry sarcasm, “thanks for walking all over me.” But you wouldn’t know that visiting Friendly Floors. The shop’s beautiful flooring can change the personality of a room or an entire home. With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Friendly Floors has expert designers and installers, a huge selection and nointerest financing. There’s no reason not to see what flooring is will be the friendliest for you. 629-0077; www.friendlyfloors.com
BEST SHOWROOM ON THE
>> Bacon’s Furniture
The three-acre furniture showroom at Bacon’s Port Charlotte location is the largest in the area. And if that weren’t enough, Bacon’s has expanded into new digs in Sarasota (formerly home to Robb & Stucky). Bacon’s has everything could possibly want to see in home furnishings and accessories — and in your home, for that matter. The showroom features room after gorgeous room filled with traditional and contemporary pieces representing famous brand names, such as Thomasville, Lexington and Broyhill. A Charlotte tradition since 1977, Bacon’s offers complimentary in-home design consultation and delivery nationwide. 625- 4493; www.baconsfurniture.com
BEST WAY TO MAXIMIZE YOUR
>> Miller’s Murphy Bed and Home Offices
Specializing in Murphy-brand beds, home offices and cabinetry, Miller’s can customize a room to transform swiftly from bedroom to office/library/den and back again. The Bi-Fold Murphy Bed is floor-mounted with a powder coated steel frame, and counterbalanced with springs for ease in raising and lowering. Visit the showroom in Port Charlotte to see the options yourself or check out the website. 743-BEDS; www.millersmurphybedoutlet.com
BEST FAMILY HOME
>> Sage Homes
A second-generation homebuilding company, Sage Homes is run by Paul Schaefer Jr., his father Paul Sr., and mother, Lorraine. The family’s services range from custom homebuilding to renovations. The Punta Gorda-based company offers homes that fit your individual lifestyle and budget in Charlotte, Sarasota, DeSoto and Lee Counties. They’ll help you every step of the way with anything you need, including site selection, construction and all the finishing touches. And one thing you can be sure of: there’ll be a Schaefer overseeing your home from start to finish. www.sagehomesfl.com; 575-7242
>> Donna’s Doors & Window
Brides gets carried over them and sometimes you have to hoist yourself through one if you lock yourself out of your home. Doors and windows are something we don’t often put thought into until we need them, but Donna Kallnischkies has probably installed more of them in Port Charlotte than just about anyone. It’s been three decades now since she first started providing doors and windows for Charlotte County residents. Her showroom is a great place to get a look at all the styles you can imagine and get a free estimate. 255-3770; www.donnasdoor.com
BEST EASTERN PATH FOR
>> Kathryn Kornhaus Acupuncture and Herbal
To westerners, the idea of bodies covered in pins during for acupuncture treatment might seem bizarre. But Kathryn Kornhous discovered what the Chinese have known for centuries: That the body can heal itself. And acupuncture helps achieve that. Licensed in Florida as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture Physician, letting her stick pins in you (albeit very thin ones that aren’t painful as the uninitiated imagine) might be one of the best health care decisions you’ve made. She’s been practicing for more than a decade after turning to Chinese Medicine to successfully treat her chronic back pain. www.acupuncturepuntagorda.com; 575-6645
THE BEST PLACE TO FEEL GOOD
>> Charlotte County YMCA
Even some 30 years after the Village People transformed its initials into a household name — and a song and dance number — the YMCA is still the fun place to go. In Charlotte County since 1969, the Y offers feel-good programs and support services for children and adults. The organization’s diverse programs help members find balance in life and motivation to manage their health and well-being. Children grow here in a safe nurturing environment while older residents discover activities and camaraderie. At the Y, you’re more than a member; you’re part of the family. www.CharlotteCountyYMCA. com, locations in Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and North Port, 629-YMCA
BEST PLACE TO PUT UP (WITH)
>> Microtel Inn & Suites
They can drive you nuts, but that doesn’t mean you don’t love your extended family. That’s why when they come to visit, Microtel Inn & Suites is a place that they — and you — will surely enjoy. Conveniently located along U.S. 41 in Port Charlotte, Microtel’s friendly staff, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen televisions, pool, continental breakfast and affordable rates all make it one of the best deals in town. The Microtel is close to great shopping, downtown Punta Gorda and just a short trip to the beach. It’s also good for you, helping take down the blood pressure a few notch or two. 624-6339; www.microtelinn.com
BEST GLUTEN-FREE MENU (AND
IT’S DELI-CIOUS, TOO!)
>> Jason’s Deli
Big stacked deli sandwiches and homemade toppings are staples at Jason’s along with a focus on health and well-being. That why there’s also have a gluten-free menu with a full line of dressings, soups, breads, potatoes, kids meals and more. That’s what helped earn Jason’s the vote for Best Restaurant Chain in America by Parent’s Magazine in 2011. And of course, if it comes from Jason’s kitchen, there’s no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial trans fats and no MSG. All that healthy goodness goes so much better with the free soft-serve ice cream that finishes up every Jason’s meal. www.jasonsdeli.com; 235-3354
>> Ace Hardware
With the ever-inflatable world of body parts, we sought out the county’s best knockers. But some of our literary pros are pretty literal.
That said, the best knockers in Charlotte County can be found in a variety of decorator styles and colors at Ace Hardware. (Editor’s note to self: be more specific next time.
DOCTOR WHO TREATS YOU LIKE
>> Tom Kartis, M.D.
You’re probably not a blood relative of Dr. Tom Kartis, but he’ll treat you as if you are. A Charlotte County surgeon who specializes in the heart, lung, and vascular systems, his broad range of expertise includes procedures such as open-heart surgery or treating “spot on the lung.” But he always strives to provide the most minimally invasive solutions possible. Whether you need a coronary bypass or an update on the latest treatments and medications, Dr. Kartis cares about your health as if you were family. www.MyHeartLungDoc.com; 235-4400)
BEST REASON TO GO TO THE
>> Candy Heaven
Maybe you head to the Port Charlotte Town Center to catch a flick or check out the latest in fashion colors, but here’s another good reason to go: Candy Heaven. Sure, there are plenty of bins of bulk candy to buy, but you’ll want to catch the owners baking up confections in the back. The intoxicating smell alone is worth the trip. And on busier nights, such as opening weekends for movie blockbusters, Candy Heaven steps up to the plate by cranking up its oh-so-tempting cotton candy machine. 766-1100
BEST STORE TO COME BACK
FROM THE DEAD
>> Scarlet Dragon
Once upon a time there was a store that sold mystical art — dragons and faeries, eagles and owls, swords and skulls — stuff to make Harry Potter drool. The store was a success, expanding to larger quarters in the Town Center Mall. Then, like a medieval plague, the economy dashed the hopes of owner, Robin Stine, who (with her husband, Troy), attempted to keep the store alive by moving it to North Port. Alas, the economic powers of darkness proved too strong.
But two years after its untimely death, Scarlet Dragon has been resurrected in the mall, bringing with it the creepy charm its customers had come to love.
“I was told that the mall received quite a few calls asking for us after we left,” Ms. Stine says.
With a smaller inventory and a selection of merchandise that doesn’t cost a wing and a talon, Ms. Stine concentrates on fantasy-world items, while her husband chooses weapons from pocket knives to Tasers to Samurai swords.
The couple fills many special orders but keeps the store stocked with the kind of items they’d like to buy themselves — which makes you wonder if their home has a pool or a moat. 1441 Tamiami Trail, Unit 875, Port Charlotte. 764-6721