Best of Howard County 2021: Residents’ favorite people, places and things to do

·15 min read

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

Honorable mentions:

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.”

Honorable mentions:

Cured | 18th & 21st

The White Oak Tavern

Farmers market/stand: Frank’s Produce & Greenhouses

Honorable mentions:

Jenny’s Market

Baughers Fruits & Vegetables

Breezy Willow Farm Country Market

Health food/supplement store: David’s Natural Market

Honorable mentions:

Roots Market

MOM’s Organic Market

Crossroads Apothecary

Places to buy seafood: Today’s Catch

Honorable mentions:

Sea King Seafood Market

Wild Seafood

Whole Foods Market

Health & wellness

Alternative wellness center: Morrison Chiropractic

Honorable mentions:

Jennum O’Hara Acupuncture

BRIGHTWATER | The Spa at Skin Care Institute

The Pearl Spa

Audiologist: ENTAA Care

Honorable mentions:

Audiology Associates

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.”

Honorable mentions:

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

Honorable mentions:

The Pearl Spa

Mason & Friends Salon Spa

Massage Associates

Dental practice: Roschella & Zinger Dental Group

Honorable mentions:

Howard County Smiles

Dobbin Dental Suite

Columbia Smiles Family Dentistry

Eye care: The Wilmer Eye Institute

Honorable mentions:

Physicians Eye Care Center

Medical Eye Center

Professional Vision

Medispa: Between the Lines Medispa

Honorable mentions:

BRIGHTWATER The Spa at Skin Care Institute

Heather Zade Aesthetics

Pura Vida Medspa & Cosmetic Laser Center

OB/GYN: Capital Women’s Care

Honorable mentions:

Signature OB/GYN

Saint Agnes Medical Group: Women’s OB/GYN Group

Jeri Shuster and Women’s Center

Orthodontist: OX ORTHODONTIX

Honorable mentions:

Baltimore Orthodontic Group, Ellicott City

Vanguard Orthodontics

Victoria M. Switzer, Ellicott City Orthodontics

Pediatric practice: Dr. Klebanow & Associates

Honorable mentions:

Pediatric Center

Howard County Pediatrics

Ellicott City Pediatric Associates

Physical therapist: Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation

Honorable mentions:

Revive Physical Therapy

Morrison Chiropractic

Howard County Physical Therapy

Plastic surgeon: Dr. Eric Chang, Columbia Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Honorable mentions:

Dr. Sarah Mess

Brian Lee, Maryland Oculoplastic Surgery

Dr. Fady Sinno, Sinno Center for Plastic Surgery

Therapist/counselor: Congruent Counseling Services

Honorable mentions:

Focused Solutions

A Healing Place

HC DrugFree

Urgent care: Patient First

Honorable mentions:

University of Maryland Faculty Physicians

FirstCall Urgent Care

Righttime Medical Care

Veterinary practice: Countryside Veterinary Clinic

Honorable mentions:

Dunloggin Veterinary Hospital

Triadelphia Veterinary Clinic

Hickory Ridge Animal Hospital

Home

Floor and carpeting: Bode Floors

Honorable mentions:

The Vertical Connection Carpet One Floor & Home

A Plus Carpet & Flooring

Andy Breeden Floors

Garden center/nursery: Frank’s Produce & Greenhouse

Honorable mention:

Sun Nurseries

Homebuilder: Allan Homes

Honorable mentions:

Columbia Builders

JMB Homes

Lane Building Services

Housecleaners: The Neat Nest Maids

Honorable mentions:

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.”

Honorable mentions:

Clarksville Heating and Air

Ken Griffin Plumbing Services

Jerry’s Heating & Air Conditioning

Landscapers: Rhine Landscaping

Honorable mentions:

21st Century Lawn & Landscaping

Alejandro’s Landscaping

Eos Outdoor Services

Plumber: Ken Griffin Plumbing Services

Honorable mentions:

Heil Plumbing

JA Smith & Co. Plumbing & Electrical

Mark Brew Plumbing & Heating

Real estate agent: Bob Lucido Team of Keller Williams Lucido Agency

Honorable mentions:

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

Honorable mentions:

Allan Homes

Cornerstone Remodeling

Lane Building Services

Senior housing community: Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant

Honorable mentions:

Kenwood Care

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.”

Honorable mentions:

Wine in the Woods

Lakefront Festival

Blossoms of Hope Events

Art gallery: HorseSpirit Arts Gallery

Honorable mention:

Columbia Art Center

Kids’ activity: Clark’s Elioak Farm

Honorable mentions:

Howard County Library System

Robinson Nature Center

Sky Zone Trampoline Park

Performing arts group: Columbia Orchestra

Honorable mentions:

Cazbar belly dancers

Atholton Theatre

Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts

Special event venue: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Honorable mentions:

Savage Mill

Howard County Rec. & Parks Department

The Pink Cabbage

Volunteer organization: Columbia Community Care

Honorable mentions:

Neighbor Ride

Howard County Food Bank

VolunTeens

Personal services

Accountant: Dembo Jones

Honorable mentions:

John Kim, Kauffman | Kim

Bormel, Grice & Huyett

Laura McInerney, Turn Key Office

Auto repair: BA Auto Care

Honorable mentions:

Ken’s Service Center

Hillmuth Certified Automotive

Foreign Auto Experts Co.

Bank/credit union: APL Federal Credit Union

Honorable mentions:

M&T Bank

Tower Federal Credit Union

Fulton Bank

Barbershop: Floyd’s 99 Barbershop

Honorable mentions:

Rob’s Barber Shop

Friendship Barber

Sport Clips Haircuts of Dobbin Center

Child care: Bet Yeladim Preschool

Honorable mentions:

Columbia Academy

The Young School

Computer repair: ScottE Software Development

Honorable mentions:

DP Solutions

Gadget Guru

Doggie day care: Wagging Lounge Dog Resort

Honorable mentions:

Camp Bow Wow

Tecla’s K9 Academy

Countryside Veterinary Clinic

Family lawyer: Weinberg & Schwartz

Honorable mentions:

Mulinazzi Law Office

Ruben Law Firm

Lawrence-Whittaker

Financial advisor: Baltimore-Washington Financial Advisors

Honorable mentions:

Williams Asset Management

Cathleen Jordan, Morgan Stanley

Wells Fargo Bank

Florist: The Flower Basket Ltd.

Honorable mentions:

Wilhide’s Unique Flowers & Gifts

Raimondi’s Weddings

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.’ ”

Honorable mentions:

Grit & Ash

LS Interior Design Group

Cornerstone Remodeling

Pet groomer: Wagging Lounge Dog Resort

Honorable mentions:

The Dog Wash

Camp Bow Wow

K-9 Design Mobile Dog Grooming

Salon: Looks Salon & Spa

Honorable mentions:

Mason & Friends Salon & Spa

Define Hair & Skin

Thirty Hair

Travel agent: AAA Columbia Car Care Insurance Travel Center

Honorable mentions:

Cruise Planners, Cruise Happy Travel

Destinations

Personalities

Blog: Scott E’s Blog

Honorable mentions:

Merriweather Post

Howard County Progress Report

Kenwood Care

Clergyperson: Rabbi Craig Axler, Temple Isaiah

Honorable mentions:

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.”

Honorable mentions:

Liz Walsh, Howard County Council

Christina Delmont-Small, Howard County Board of Education

Elizabeth Ann Fitch, judge

Personal trainer: Bonnie Pace, Columbia Association

Honorable mentions:

Jason Schreiber, Top Tier

Tim Kennedy, Performance Private Training

Stella Fanzone

Police officer: Marcus Harris, Howard Co. Sheriff

Honorable mentions:

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

Honorable mentions:

Tracey Albright, Centennial Lane Elementary School

Ed Cosentino, Clemens Crossing Elementary School

Jeffrey Fink, Oakland Mills High School

Recreation

CrossFit: Top Tier Columbia

Honorable mentions:

12 Labours Fitness Columbia

RECHARGE: Modern Health And Fitness

Dance lessons: Dance Connections

Honorable mentions:

B. Funk Dance Company

Studio Dans

Teelin Irish Dance

Golf course: Hobbit’s Glen Golf Club

Honorable mentions:

Turf Valley Resort

Waverly Woods Golf Course

Gym: Columbia Association

Honorable mentions:

Top Tier Columbia

Life Time

The Dancel Y in Ellicott City

Martial arts: Okinawan Karate Dojo

Honorable mentions:

Klotz Institute of Karate

Black Belt Institute

S Martial Arts (SMA)

Music lessons: Mike’s Music

Honorable mentions:

Damon Foreman Music Academy

Roberson School of Music

Bach to Rock Fulton

Pools for kids: North St. John’s Swim & Tennis Club

Honorable mentions:

Forest Hill Swim & Tennis Club

Hopewell Mini WaterPark

Stevens Forest Pool

Speciality gym: Top Tier Columbia

Honorable mentions:

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 [25] 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.”

Honorable mentions:

Yoga with Olga

Danielle Beyers Yoga

Brickhouse Cardio Club

Shopping

Antiques: The Antique Center at Historic Savage Mill

Honorable mentions:

Grit & Ash

The Pink Cabbage

Bike shop: Race Pace Bicycles

Honorable mention:

Patapsco Bicycles

Bookstore: Barnes & Noble

Honorable mentions:

Second Edition Books

Books With a Past

Car dealership: O’Donnell Honda

Honorable mentions:

CarMax

Jim Coleman Honda

Antwerpen Toyota

Clothing boutique: Poppy & Stella

Consignment shop: Charity’s Closet/First Picks

Honorable mention:

Belle Patri

Furniture store: Grit & Ash

Honorable mentions:

Havertys Furniture

Arhaus

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.

Honorable mentions:

Everett Designers of Fine Jewelery

Edward Arthur Jewelers

Smyth Jewelers

Pet supplies: PetSmart

Honorable mentions:

My Pet Store & More

Loyal Companion

Petco

Editor’s note: Winners and honorable mentions were determined by popular vote. Readers were invited to nominate and vote online in June and July.

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