Need a roofer or dentist? Looking to join a gym? What about a recommendation for kids’ activities?
The Best of Howard County can help. More than 57,600 votes were cast in this year’s readers’ poll, culling a list of the 73 top people to know, places to go and things to do.
Food & drink
Beer, wine and/or liquor store: Pine Orchard Liquors
Total Wine & More
The Perfect Pour
Jason’s Wine & Spirits
Caterer: Putting on the Ritz
9115 Whiskey Bottom Road, Laurel. 800-213-7427. puttingontheritz.com
Putting on the Ritz Catering’s sales went down by more than 90% at the height of the pandemic. To stay afloat, the company relied on the Paycheck Protection Program as well as catered to government groups feeding impoverished people.
But the wedding industry has exploded recently, said owner Bobby Mitchell, adding there have been more weddings he can handle.
“It’s fantastic to be back in person. It was a big worry,” he said. “We’re not back to normal, but we’re getting there. Things are climbing and growing every day.”
The company has been around for about 30 years, he said, so people are familiar with the services.
“We’ve been keeping people happy for a long time,” he said.
Weddings are the most popular service, but Mitchell said he enjoys helping people celebrate all types of events, including people celebrating new contracts and corporate events.
“Sometimes you help them out during their bad times — someone passed away and they need wake food,” he said. “We help during major aspects of people’s life.”
Cured | 18th & 21st
The White Oak Tavern
Farmers market/stand: Frank’s Produce & Greenhouses
Baughers Fruits & Vegetables
Breezy Willow Farm Country Market
Health food/supplement store: David’s Natural Market
MOM’s Organic Market
Places to buy seafood: Today’s Catch
Sea King Seafood Market
Whole Foods Market
Health & wellness
Alternative wellness center: Morrison Chiropractic
Jennum O’Hara Acupuncture
BRIGHTWATER | The Spa at Skin Care Institute
The Pearl Spa
Audiologist: ENTAA Care
Clarity Audiology & Hearing Solutions
Chesapeake Hearing Centers
Alternative Wellness & Chiropractor: Morrison Chiropractic
2850 N. Ridge Road #107, Ellicott City. 410-465-0555 or
6363 Ten Oaks Road #105, Clarksville. 301-854-3800. morrisonchiropractic.com
Chiropractor Brian Morrison measures the success of the medical interventions at his clinic in the things his patients don’t have to do to become pain-free: the expensive tests and medicines they don’t have to take, the surgeries they don’t have to undergo.
“When patients go to their primary care physician, they will get sent out for imaging, medication, specialist,” he said. “A chiropractor can evaluate the situation, come to a good working diagnosis and decide whether imaging is required. Usually, it’s not.”
Morrison and his wife opened a pair of clinics in 1988 after moving to Maryland from their native New York. Brian Morrison runs the Ellicott City clinic, while Haydee Morrison runs the Clarksville location. In addition, he was director of chiropractic services for the University Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Integrative Medicine from 2005 to 2019.
“We specialize in hands-on manual therapy, very heavily exercise and rehab oriented to help patients create their own recovery toolkit,” he said. “We aim to create self-reliance in our patients.”
Elite Chiropractic & Sport
Howard County Chiropractic Spine & Sports Rehabilitation
Essential Family Chiropractic (tie)
Muneses Chiropractic Center (tie)
Day spa: BRIGHTWATER The Spa at Skin Care Institute
The Pearl Spa
Mason & Friends Salon Spa
Dental practice: Roschella & Zinger Dental Group
Howard County Smiles
Dobbin Dental Suite
Columbia Smiles Family Dentistry
Eye care: The Wilmer Eye Institute
Physicians Eye Care Center
Medical Eye Center
Medispa: Between the Lines Medispa
BRIGHTWATER The Spa at Skin Care Institute
Heather Zade Aesthetics
Pura Vida Medspa & Cosmetic Laser Center
OB/GYN: Capital Women’s Care
Saint Agnes Medical Group: Women’s OB/GYN Group
Jeri Shuster and Women’s Center
Orthodontist: OX ORTHODONTIX
Baltimore Orthodontic Group, Ellicott City
Victoria M. Switzer, Ellicott City Orthodontics
Pediatric practice: Dr. Klebanow & Associates
Howard County Pediatrics
Ellicott City Pediatric Associates
Physical therapist: Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation
Revive Physical Therapy
Howard County Physical Therapy
Plastic surgeon: Dr. Eric Chang, Columbia Aesthetic Plastic Surgery
Dr. Sarah Mess
Brian Lee, Maryland Oculoplastic Surgery
Dr. Fady Sinno, Sinno Center for Plastic Surgery
Therapist/counselor: Congruent Counseling Services
A Healing Place
Urgent care: Patient First
University of Maryland Faculty Physicians
FirstCall Urgent Care
Righttime Medical Care
Veterinary practice: Countryside Veterinary Clinic
Dunloggin Veterinary Hospital
Triadelphia Veterinary Clinic
Hickory Ridge Animal Hospital
Floor and carpeting: Bode Floors
The Vertical Connection Carpet One Floor & Home
A Plus Carpet & Flooring
Andy Breeden Floors
Garden center/nursery: Frank’s Produce & Greenhouse
Homebuilder: Allan Homes
Lane Building Services
Housecleaners: The Neat Nest Maids
Good Life Custom Cleaning
The Cleaning Authority
Danny’s Cleaning Service
HVAC: Environmental Systems Associates
9375 Gerwig Lane Suite J, Columbia. 410-381-7991. esaheatac.com
This Columbia firm boasts 7,000 residential customers and a mantra that it has preached for 47 years.
“We do what we say we’re going to do, when we say we’re going to do it and for how much we say we’re going to do it for,” said sales manager Richard Dean. And though the company was sold in March, Dean — who had been co-owner — said nothing has changed, sales or service-wise for the longtime favorite of Howard County homeowners for their heating and air conditioning needs.
In a hurry-up world, ESA’s old-school approach — and its support of local charities — resonates with its clientele.
“We insist on looking at a project first before giving a price on the phone. There’s no bait-and-switch,” said Dean. “We advertise by doing good work.”
Some of the 35 employees have stayed for decades; at 72, Dean himself made a recent after-hours call to repair the wiring in a customer’s cooling system.
“Consistent quality service is what it’s all about,” he said. “We’ve never tried to be the biggest, the cheapest or the most expensive. We’ve just tried to be the best.”
Clarksville Heating and Air
Ken Griffin Plumbing Services
Jerry’s Heating & Air Conditioning
Landscapers: Rhine Landscaping
21st Century Lawn & Landscaping
Eos Outdoor Services
Plumber: Ken Griffin Plumbing Services
JA Smith & Co. Plumbing & Electrical
Mark Brew Plumbing & Heating
Real estate agent: Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams Lucido Agency
Dalia Bracy, The Wendy Slaughter Team of Elevate Real Estate Brokerage
Vicki Harvey, Long & Foster
Bob Chew of The Bob & Ronna Group, of Berkshire Hathaway
Remodeler: Clarksville Construction Services
Lane Building Services
Senior housing community: Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant
Winter Growth Memory Care & Assisted Living
Residences at Vantage Point
Out & About
Annual festival/event: Howard County Fair
2210 Fairgrounds Road, West Friendship. howardcountyfairmd.com
The Howard County Fair celebrated its 75th anniversary this year, capping three-quarters of a century of helping residents connect with the animals that provide food and clothing.
Technically, 2020 was 75 years after the fair debuted in 1946. But because the event was mostly closed last year except for the livestock show, the fair’s organizers decided to celebrate the milestone in 2021 in person.
Between 60,000 and 80,000 festivalgoers typically attend the eight-day event held the second week of August, according to Fair President Mickey Day.
“It’s important for the youth today to know the importance of agriculture provided by farmers of Howard County,” he said. “We try to make it fun and entertaining and educational at the same time.”
The 75th fair featured a performance by the Owings Mills-based oldies band, The Fabulous Hubcaps, closing night fireworks and a new annex building designed to showcase crops and 4-H displays. There was even a tent providing COVID-19 vaccinations.
Planning for each fair consumes most of the proceeding year, so Day always looks forward to the instant when the planning finally stops.
“The best moment for me is when the gates open,” he said. “If something hasn’t been done by then, it isn’t going to happen.”
Wine in the Woods
Blossoms of Hope Events
Art gallery: HorseSpirit Arts Gallery
Columbia Art Center
Kids’ activity: Clark’s Elioak Farm
Howard County Library System
Robinson Nature Center
Sky Zone Trampoline Park
Performing arts group: Columbia Orchestra
Cazbar belly dancers
Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts
Special event venue: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Howard County Rec. & Parks Department
The Pink Cabbage
Volunteer organization: Columbia Community Care
Howard County Food Bank
Accountant: Dembo Jones
John Kim, Kauffman | Kim
Bormel, Grice & Huyett
Laura McInerney, Turn Key Office
Auto repair: BA Auto Care
Ken’s Service Center
Hillmuth Certified Automotive
Foreign Auto Experts Co.
Bank/credit union: APL Federal Credit Union
Tower Federal Credit Union
Barbershop: Floyd’s 99 Barbershop
Rob’s Barber Shop
Sport Clips Haircuts of Dobbin Center
Child care: Bet Yeladim Preschool
The Young School
Computer repair: ScottE Software Development
Doggie day care: Wagging Lounge Dog Resort
Camp Bow Wow
Tecla’s K9 Academy
Countryside Veterinary Clinic
Family lawyer: Weinberg & Schwartz
Mulinazzi Law Office
Ruben Law Firm
Financial advisor: Baltimore-Washington Financial Advisors
Williams Asset Management
Cathleen Jordan, Morgan Stanley
Wells Fargo Bank
Florist: The Flower Basket Ltd.
Wilhide’s Unique Flowers & Gifts
Interior decorator/designer: Get a Room Interior
For details, visit facebook.com/EllenVirdenDesign. 443-847-8380.
Ellen Virden’s clients sometimes describe her as the “wall whisperer.”
She has an instinct for color, for knowing what shades make everything else in the room glow — including the people inside them.
“I’ve been helping friends for years,” she said. “The walls would talk to me. I always say that a new coat of paint is like Spanx for the walls.”
Virden, 54, of Ellicott City launched her color consulting business in 2004. At first, it was a career she could fit in around the schedules of her three daughters, now aged 16 to 22. As the girls grew, so did the scope of her services.
“One day I realized that I had just been in this lady’s house and after we talked about paint color, we also measured for a rug and restyled a bookcase and discussed a new backsplash,” she said.
Virden’s approach is collaborative and says her best work arises from the bonds that form with clients.
“The best compliment a client ever gave me,” Virden said, “is when she told me: “ ‘You’re like the girlfriend decorator. Working with you is like having a best friend with great taste.’ ”
Grit & Ash
LS Interior Design Group
Pet groomer: Wagging Lounge Dog Resort
The Dog Wash
Camp Bow Wow
K-9 Design Mobile Dog Grooming
Salon: Looks Salon & Spa
Mason & Friends Salon & Spa
Define Hair & Skin
Travel agent: AAA Columbia Car Care Insurance Travel Center
Cruise Planners, Cruise Happy Travel
Blog: Scott E’s Blog
Howard County Progress Report
Clergyperson: Rabbi Craig Axler, Temple Isaiah
Fr. Gerry Bowen, St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church Columbia
The Rev. Mitchell Lee, Grace Community Church
The Rev. Mike Louia, First Evangelical Lutheran Church Ellicott City
Elected official: Calvin Ball, county executive
Howard County Executive’s Office, George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, 410-313-2013. howardcountymd.gov
Calvin Ball had been in office for just 16 months when COVID-19 invaded Maryland, upending the plans of every elected official in the nation.
Ball, 46, immediately put every other county program and initiative on hold and focused all available resources to grappling with this new invisible enemy. For instance, when Howard County received its first shipment of 100 doses of the vaccine last December, Ball didn’t even pause for Christmas.
“A truck pretty much just showed up,” he said. “At that moment, I got my leadership team together and we began working on a vaccination plan.”
That early, intensive focus is one reason why Howard County consistently had one of the lowest infection rates in the state, Ball said, and why the county’s vaccination rate today is among the highest in Maryland.
As of early October, between 85% and 90% of eligible county residents aged 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, he said. “It’s been challenging,” he said. “There were other things we would have loved to have gotten going on. But we were dealing with a historic problem. Fighting COVID-19 had to be our priority.”
Liz Walsh, Howard County Council
Christina Delmont-Small, Howard County Board of Education
Elizabeth Ann Fitch, judge
Personal trainer: Bonnie Pace, Columbia Association
Jason Schreiber, Top Tier
Tim Kennedy, Performance Private Training
Police officer: Marcus Harris, Howard Co. Sheriff
Timmy Usher, Howard Co. Police Dept.
John Lloyd, Howard Co. Police Dept.
Nick Ventura, Howard Co. Police Dept.
Principal: Marcy Leonard, Wilde Lake High School
Tracey Albright, Centennial Lane Elementary School
Ed Cosentino, Clemens Crossing Elementary School
Jeffrey Fink, Oakland Mills High School
CrossFit: Top Tier Columbia
12 Labours Fitness Columbia
RECHARGE: Modern Health And Fitness
Dance lessons: Dance Connections
B. Funk Dance Company
Teelin Irish Dance
Golf course: Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club
Turf Valley Resort
Waverly Woods Golf Course
Gym: Columbia Association
Top Tier Columbia
The Dancel Y in Ellicott City
Martial arts: Okinawan Karate Dojo
Klotz Institute of Karate
Black Belt Institute
S Martial Arts (SMA)
Music lessons: Mike’s Music
Damon Foreman Music Academy
Roberson School of Music
Bach to Rock Fulton
Pools for kids: North St. John’s Swim & Tennis Club
Forest Hill Swim & Tennis Club
Hopewell Mini WaterPark
Stevens Forest Pool
Speciality gym: Top Tier Columbia
Campanaro Strength & Conditioning
Krav Maga Maryland
RECHARGE: Modern Health And Fitness
Yoga studio: The Yoga Center of Columbia
8950 MD-108, suite 109. 410-720-4340. columbiayoga.com
Time and again, during the pandemic, the thank-yous poured in to owner Kathy Donnelly. You have been my lifeline, one woman wrote. This is my refuge, confessed another. Such is the bond between yoga staff and students, who swore by the therapeutic in-person and online classes during the crisis.
“Our sense of community and the quality of our  instructors keep people coming back,” said Donnelly, 68, who bought the business in 2005. “We pride ourselves in being welcoming and supportive.”
A number of her more than 700 students have been with her from the start, said Donnelly, who offers 100 classes each week for yoga enthusiasts as young as 5 and as old as 80.
“We have classes for everyone,” she said, from expectant moms to “Baby and Me” offerings. There are classes called “gentle yoga,” “chair yoga” and yoga for amputees. The center has held sessions for the deaf and blind, as well as for autistic students and those with Parkinson’s disease.
Classes last 60 to 90 minutes and cost $16. Zoom workouts, new during the pandemic, constitute half of the sessions and are here to stay, she says, because “they’re a good way for family members all over the country to exercise together.”
Yoga with Olga
Danielle Beyers Yoga
Brickhouse Cardio Club
Antiques: The Antique Center at Historic Savage Mill
Grit & Ash
The Pink Cabbage
Bike shop: Race Pace Bicycles
Bookstore: Barnes & Noble
Second Edition Books
Books With a Past
Car dealership: O’Donnell Honda
Jim Coleman Honda
Clothing boutique: Poppy & Stella
Consignment shop: Charity’s Closet/First Picks
Furniture store: Grit & Ash
The Antique Center at Historic Savage Mill
Jeweler: St. John’s Jewelers
9141 Baltimore National Pike #6, Ellicott City. 410-465-7770. stjohnsjewelers.com
Linda Miller had worked for her parents’ jewelry shop, St. John’s Jewelers, up until high school and doubted it was an industry she wanted to pursue.
She went to Florida Southern College in Lakeland, and earned a degree in biology, with plans to go to medical school. But Miller, then 22, said she realized her true passion was gemology.
“It’s a feel-good industry,” Miller, now 60, said. “I love the customer service, so people are taken care of. I also love jewelry and selling them.”
As owner, she travels four times a year to buy jewelry and has been to at least 25 states. She credits the success of the 1,800-square-foot, one-story shop to same-day services.
People enjoy how well their questions are answered, including whether a piece of jewelry is worth repairing, if it’s real and how expensive it is, she said.
“We stay current to the trends and designs [to] meet demands,” she said.
Everett Designers of Fine Jewelery
Edward Arthur Jewelers
Pet supplies: PetSmart
My Pet Store & More
Editor’s note: Winners and honorable mentions were determined by popular vote. Readers were invited to nominate and vote online in June and July.