Best Of 2004

Schedule a day at Spa West, and start by having their stretch limo pick you up -- preferably from work, so you can flaunt it in the faces of your fellow proletarians. Once onsite, you can luxuriate in a selection of European, American, and Oriental spa therapies; have your hair done; and even grab a meal or two. Spa West is the preferred day spa for the Ritz-Carlton, Renaissance, and Marriott at Key Center hotels.
For the trendy, fashion-conscious Cleveland shopper who's concerned about both her bottom and her bottom line, these stores -- neighbors at Woodmere's Eton Chagrin Boulevard shopping center -- are the perfect combination. First, stop by Trader Joes, where you can fill up on free (mostly healthy) samples and stock up on cheap, tasty gourmet fare (Charles Shaw wines run about $4 a bottle). Then head next door to Anthropologie, where you can splurge on the newest, hottest trends in women's fashions and still look good in them.
You can easily while away an entire day combing through the discount racks of more than 70 stores -- including Calvin Klein, Off 5th-Saks Fifth Avenue, DKNY Jeans, and Polo Ralph Lauren. And no one will know that you paid only a fraction of the price for the same designer jeans you've seen featured at Nordstrom or Lush. And with all the money you save, you can hit the more expensive stores at Beachwood Place and not feel too bad about it.
Since Loehmann's went out of business in Ohio, Stein Mart has had a lock on designer-discount ware here. And "Mart" is truly the only word to describe this marketplace of deals and selections. From 100-count sheets to $100 shoes, you can find everything you need for a night on the town -- or a night spent decorating it. It's one-stop shopping for all your higher-end needs.
At the Flower Child, everything old is new again. The top floor boasts funky vintage relics like ceramics and records and shoes from the 50s and 60s. The downstairs has mens and womens clothes arranged not by size, but by color. And while the department stores are currently flouting copycat retro trends, here you can buy the originals at a quarter of the price -- making this the first time in history that the original designs actually cost less than their counterfeits.
In the 40 years he's been in the music business, Dick Sodja has seen and heard it all. He sold guitars to Joe Walsh, back when the local kid might actually return your call. He provided backline rentals to the boys in the band at the old Front Row Theater. And his collection of customer photos includes the Dukes of Wail, Oroboros, and Tony Fortunato. Between them, in fact, Dick and his sales staff have racked up more than 100 years of experience in the biz; yet because none of them works on commission, helping you -- not selling you -- is their top priority. They'll greet you, listen to you, and give you straight answers and solid advice. The talent part? That's up to you.
After all those hours you've spent in front of the telly watching the Food Network, isn't it time you got off your butt and actually cooked something? Besides, the old excuses -- "I dont have a fondue pot," or "Wherever shall I find a tajine?" -- are getting really lame, now that Sur La Table has come to town. When it comes to out-of-the-ordinary kitchen equipment, if you've seen it, heard of it, or thought it would be cool if someone invented it, you can find it here. Pork chop frills? Check. Candy thermometers? Check. Handmade, pig-shaped, earthenware casseroles, delivered straight from the Andes? Yeah, they've got those, too. Oh, and about those tall pottery tajines, intricately decorated like Moorish tiles: Pick out two or three. If the Moroccan-meal thing doesnt quite work out, we hear they make cute planters, too.
When you need to send out gifts, don't become a basket case. Just call Miles Farmers Market, and have them send one of their woven wicker baskets filled with an enormous variety of fresh, top-quality food. Select from traditional fruit versions, themed baskets for football parties (beer and peanuts), celebrations (brie and champagne), or even make up your own, such as a tasty Black Angus steak/Cabernet wine/gourmet cheese/Ghirardelli chocolate number.
Thank goodness one can still go out for a nice dinner, wander down the street, and find a bookstore to browse through. Cute little Appletree Books is still providing that service after 29 years in Cleveland Heights. You won't find tons of how-to and art books, but there's a fine selection of other titles, with an emphasis on psychology (the owner's passion). Always open till 8 p.m. and sometimes later, Appletree is so friendly that some customers find the books they want on the internet and then buy (or order them) here.
For 57 years, Marie Novak has filed, buffed, and painted the fingernails of Clevelanders. The energetic 76-year-old received her manicure license in 1947 and has been filing away ever since. Her loyal customers say she's the best because her technique is old-school and her attention to detail is second to none. Today, The Madame of Manicures is semiretired; she works as an independent manicurist from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays at Ecclipse Hair Inc. at Eastgate Plaza in Mayfield Heights, offering natural-nail manicures ($25), buffing, and hot-oil treatments. Her services are the best in town, so don't expect to get a same-day appointment when you call; Novak's little black book is usually scheduled several weeks in advance.