Portman’s Music Superstore
7650 Abercorn St./354-1500
The Portman family has been selling and renting musical instruments, PA systems, recording equipment and accessories in Savannah for over 70 years. For decades, their West Broughton location (now home to Welsh Pawn Shop) was a hub of the downtown scene.
However, since moving their operations to a specially-constructed “Superstore” on the Southside several years ago, the scope of their business has changed somewhat.
Now, under the leadership of CEO Bruce Chapman (a musician and music retailer who moved here after years in his homeland of Canada), they are slowly re-branding themselves as a more competitive brick and mortar establishment. A large potion of their annual business still comes from supplying local school kids with band and orchestra instruments, but more and more, Portman’s is matching the discounted prices offered by major online and mail-order firms.
“We’ve also worked very hard on improving our customer service,” says Chapman. “And we’re excited to be bringing some new guitar lines in, such as E.S.P. and Jackson.”
They’re also presenting more public demonstrations and clinics, many of which raise money to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. “We’re trying to give back to the community,” says Chapman. “It’s what we should be doing, and we are.” Learn more at: portmansmusic.com. - JR
Runner-up: Annie’s Guitars
Best Furniture Store & Best Window Display
24 E. Broughton St./233-2274
A local retail powerhouse on a Broughton Street increasingly dominated by national chains, Mr. Joyner and company continue to not only stay competitive, but to win.
Runner-up, Furniture: Haverty’s
Runner-up, Window: Marc Jacobs
Best Place to Use a Military Discount
The Savannah Mall’s proximity to Hunter’s Rio Gate makes this a no-brainer.
Runner-up: Bass Pro Shops
Best Video Rental Store
The chain has upped the ante in its competition with Netflix.
Runner-up: Hollywood Video
Best Cigar Tobacco Shop
Savannah Bulldogs Cigars
244 Bull St./232-2650
One thing you don’t expect to find in a cigar shop is a truly romantic love story. Savannah Bulldogs Cigars is an exception.
The shop was opened by John Patterson. “My husband was a corporate attorney in Richmond and was moving this way,” says Elizabeth Patterson.
“He saw an ad for a tobacconist in the Wall Street Journal and thought it sounded more fun than practicing law. He opened the store 11 years ago in Savannah.
“I moved down here in 2000 from upstate New York,” Elizabeth says. “I moved to the same block where the store is. I had a consulting retainer for a 3-year project.”
When the project ended, Elizabeth was looking for something to do. “I decided to open a music store,” she says. “When I checked out rents, I realized why there wasn’t one downtown. I found a guy with a cigar store who had plenty of space for CDs. I came up with a business plan and approached him. He agreed to put CDs in the shop as a partnership deal.”
The Pattersons got a lot more than a business partnership. “Five years ago, we got married on the Fourth of July,” Elizabeth says. “I certainly have learned a lot about cigars since then.”
But cigars and other tobacco products account for only about 50 percent of Savannah Bulldogs sales. The store also offers Franklin Mint cars, aircraft and collectibles, chess sets, and, of course, music CDs.
“We’re shipping all over the place,” Elizabeth says. “We’re on Bull Street near the intersection of Bull and Liberty, and that is a prime pathway for tourists going to river and coming back. Our job is to attract them with windows and get them in here.”
Savannah Bulldogs has standard chess sets and novelty ones. “They range from $30 to $500,” Elizabeth says.
“The most popular is the Civil War chess set. We also have a number of other wars, plus dogs, cats, sea birds, King Arthur and pirates against the British navy. We even have a football chess set where people can order the two colors they want and set them up with their own favorite rivals.” - LS
Runner-up: Ye Old Tobacco Shop
Best Book Store
Barnes & Noble
All that and Starbucks, too.
Runner-up: E. Shaver
Best Record/CD Store
7929 Abercorn St./920-9240
When you’re not downloading tunes to your computer, you’re buying ‘em here.
Runner-up: Tie, FYE/Silly Mad CDs
Best Motorcycle/Scooter Dealer
Savannah Harley Davidson
6 Gateway Blvd./925-0005
Born to be wild? Check out the models at Savannah Harley Davidson.
Runner-up: Coastal Scooters
Best Women's Clothing
205 W. Broughton St./443-0011
A perennial favorite with our readers, Bleu Belle Boutique has style and the clothes to match.
Best Men's Clothing
J. Parker LTD
19 W. Broughton St./234-0004
4813 Waters Ave./352-9995
Longtime local favorite J. Parker has everything from casual to formal.
Best Thrift/Vintage Clothing
Civvies New & Recycled Clothing
20 E. Broughton St./236-1551
While Savannah has long had its share of consignment clothing and resale stores where one could easily find used or retro wear at reasonable prices (such as Goodwill Industries or The Humane Society Thrift Shop), we’ve had a spottier history as far as dedicated vintage clothing boutiques go. In general, they’ve been few and far between and have had a hard time making a go of it in the downtown area — which is where such establishments would most naturally fit, but where exorbitant property values ironically make leases cost prohibitive for funky businesses of that sort.
This upstart endeavor, owned by the same folks behind Primary Art Supply, has not only been successful, but seems to be growing. Based in no small part on similarly-themed NYC shops which stock a mix of both “recycled” clothing and new, unworn stock from hip and trendy punk and rock-oriented designers not otherwise found in our area, Civvies is a one-of-kind in Savannah, and is as much about selling attitude and vibe as it is couture.
Look for jeans by Cheap Monday, Rock Revolution, and Tripp NYC, as well as t-shirts by Impact, Peg Leg, Uzi and Teen Hunk. They’re choosy when it comes to buying used clothes outright, but that’s because they know what they want. You can receive cash or a higher amount in store credit for your used duds, and browse a growing selection of local band merch as well. Learn more at: myspace.com/civviessav. - JR
Best Shoe Store
Globe Shoe Co.
17 E. Broughton St./232-8161
A true local institution if there ever was one.
Runner-up: Rack Room
Best Place to Buy a Used Car
1596 Chatham Pkwy./790-5444
When you want something as nice as new, our readers say Grainger is the best.
Runner-up: JC Lewis Ford
Best Place to Buy a New Car
10300 Abercorn Dr./927-0700
Nothing beats that new-car smell, and Connect readers say Southern Motors has the best deals in town.
Runner-up: Grainger Honda
Best Automotive Repair
When the clunker needs a tune-up, check out Savannah Tire. They do more than sell tires.
Runner-up: Mall Auto Repair
Best Day Care
4625 Waters Ave./351-0700
They say only a mother’s love is better than the child care provided by Calvary Day Care.
Runner-up: Maggie’s Morning School
Best Arts/Craft Store
Michael’s Arts and Crafts
8108 Abercorn St./927-3806
Michael’s has all the tools and materials you need to express your artsy, crafty side.
Runner-up: Primary Arts
Best Eyeware Store
5500 Abercorn St./352-2020
If you’re having trouble reading this, a visit to Lenscrafters may be overdue.
Runner-up: Islands Eye Care
Best Jewelry Store
A diamond may be a girl’s best friend, but Levy Jewelers has something special for everyone.
Runner-up: Harkleroad Jewelers
Best Costume Store
2604 Hwy 80/966-0201
You can become a real character at Acme Costume in Garden City.
Runner-up: Party City
Best Antique Shop
9 N. Jefferson St./236-2815
Jere’s features a 33,000-square-foot showroom stocked with rare English and Continental furniture from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Runner-up: Habersham Antiques
Best Grocery Store
Publix has one of the finest delis, some of the freshest produce and lots of friendly cashiers.
Best Gourmet Grocery Store
The Fresh Market
5525 Abercorn St./354-6075
Try walking into The Fresh Market and walking out with just one item. It’s impossible!
Runner-up: Parker’s Market
Best Health Food Store
Brighter Day Natural Foods
1102 Bull St./236-4703
With a certified nutritionist on staff and clerks who are trained to answer health questions, Brighter Day Natural Foods is dedicated to full service and education.
Runner-up: The Fresh Market
Best Lighting Store
7601 Waters Ave./355-3852
Johnson Lighting will light up even the darkest corners of your world.
Runner-up: Circa Lighting
Best Cleaning Service
1200 Shannon Ave./356-3366
Not only do they clean houses, they’re so darned cheerful about it.
Runner-up: Carmen’s Cleaning
Best Shopping Center/Mall
With its huge food court, Oglethorpe Mall is close to the heart of Savannah.
Runner-up: Savannah Mall
Best Photography Service
Erin Adams Photography
212 E. Gaston St.
An eye for beauty in everyday objects resulted in Erin Adams being chosen by Connect readers.
Runner-up: Russ Bryant Photography
Best Pawn Shop
Welsh Pawn Shop
A local institution, Welsh is a great place to look for bargains.
Runner-up: Cash America
Best Pet Store
11132 Abercorn St./925-1116
Smart pets drag their owners to Petsmart for the latest in kibbles and bits.
Runner-up: Tails Spin
Best Bed and Breakfast
14 E. Oglethorpe Ave./236-1484
The Ballastone is a four-story antebellum mansion built in 1838 that combines old-fashioned elegance and charm with modern-day convenience.
Runner-up: Azalea Inn
Mansion on Forsyth Park
700 Drayton St./238-5158
Built around a Victorian mansion in the Historic District, Mansion on Forsyth Park is an intimate yet opulent hotel that boasts a spa, art gallery and its own cooking school.
Runner-up: Westin Savannah Harbor
Best Real Estate Agency
31 W. Congress St./238-0874
When it comes to real estate, Mopper-Stapen Realty has Savannah covered.
Runner-up: Keller-Williams Realty
Best Real Estate Agent
This veteran, now with Keller-Williams, is happy to meet your real estate needs.
Runner-up: George Cohen
Best Local Home Builder
7370 Hodgson Memorial Dr./356-1791
Connect readers say Beacon lights the way when building a new home.
Runner-up: JT Turner
Best Cell Phone Service
Verizon claims to be America’s most reliable network -- and Connect readers agree.
Need a good place to keep all your money? Bank on Wachovia.
Runner-up: Bank of America
Best Rental Car Company
A winner in past Connect polls, Enterprise is prized for it’s clean, well-maintained fleet.
Runner-up: Tie, Budget/Avis
Best Taxi Service
Need a lift? Yellow Cab is happy to provide one.
Runner-up: Adams Cab
John Davis Florist & Balloon Fair
2430 Abercorn St./233-6077
John Davis isn’t your typical florist. He opened his shop, John Davis Florist & Balloon Fair, 21 years ago, and says customers are comfortable in his shop.
“We’re dog-friendly,” Davis says. “We have a shop dog, a boxer named Bear. Everybody enjoys the dog and brings him dog treats.”
There’s also a cockatoo named Merlin. “He usually screams at the dog,” Davis says. “Every now and then, we hear him say ‘Bear!’ Everyone brings the bird treats.”
Soon, even the delivery vehicle will be unique. “We just got a Smart Car for deliveries,” Davis says. “We’re going green. We’re fixing to have ‘John Davis’ put all over it -- and pink rubber daisies.”
The shop may not be typical, but it does provide the same services other florists do. “Our busiest times are Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” Davis says.
“The wedding season is busy,” he says. “The most fun is the wedding season because every wedding is different.” - LS
Runner-up: Madame Chrysthanthemum
Best Toy Store
Toys R Us
7400 Abercorn St./354-5222
Still playing around at Eisenhower and Abercorn.
Runner-up: KB Toys
This tireless advocate for local Democratic causes was runner-up this year for Best Liberal, in the City Life section.
Runner-up: Josh Walker
Best Place to Work
Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation
141 Knowlton Way/966-0825
Gulfstream employees say the business jet manufacturing company is the best place to work in Savannah, and it must be true. It beat out the second-place finisher -- working at home.