Meet the winners in our inaugural Best of the St. Croix Valley survey.
The St. Croix Valley always has been unique—not only because of the historic downtowns of Stillwater and Hudson, but because of the connection the two towns have, facing each other on opposite shores of the St. Croix River. Each town is unique, with its own shops and special features that make it attractive to tourists and residents alike, but connected by the river and the valley—and all the towns and villages in between. The edges of two states become one through the river; here are some unique aspects of each side that make this area so special.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Best Dermatology Clinic
Advanced Dermatology Care
With doctors who make their patients feel relaxed and at home, this professional staff has the knowledge and experience to get the job done. Your skin never had a bigger fan than Advanced Dermatology.
Runner-up: Stillwater Medical Group
Best Dental Clinic
Park Dental- Lake Elmo
After joining the Park Dental team last year, St. Croix Dental in Lake Elmo offers plenty of care options, as well as pleasant patient experiences, to keep those smiles big and bright.
Runners-up: South Hill Dental, Park Dental – St. Croix Valley
Best Orthodontic Clinic
Sletten & Brettin Orthodontics
At Sletten & Brettin, teeth aren’t all that matter. The staff treats their patients like family, and Dr. Slettin in particular treats the young people as if they were his own. The unique atmosphere for teens and young adults makes anyone feel comfortable and welcome.
Runners-up: Kristo Orthodontics, Valley Orthodontics
Best Pediatric Clinic
Stillwater Medical Group
Offering a wide variety of services and putting patients first, this clinic and hospital system provides services geared to the needs of the community.
Runners-up: Pediatric and Young Adult Medicine, St. Croix Kids Pediatric Dentistry
Best Eye Clinic
Associated Eye Care Stillwater
Associated offers a wide variety of services and excellent professional care for patients at the new Stillwater location.
Runners-up: Christenson Vision Care, Pearle Vision
Best Chiropractic Clinic
Croixview Family Chiropractic
Dr. Jennifer Shupe focuses on families at Croixview Family Chiropractic. “I strive to deliver the best care possible to people of all ages,” Shupe says. Croixview Family Chiropractic offers an integrative, holistic approach to treating the body to achieve 100 percent function. The team also offers acupuncture, massage and counseling services.
Runners-up: McCabe Chiropractic, Hilpisch Upper Cervical Chiropractic
Best Fitness/Yoga Studio
The Hudson YMCA offers a wide variety of classes for all ages, spaces for workouts and activities for kids all year long, and the staff pride themselves on service to their community.
Runners-up: River Valley Athletic Club, Studio One Yoga and Massage
St. Croix Skincare
Jocelyn Young opened St. Croix Skincare two years ago after working in the industry for six years, and was surprised at how quickly her business has grown. Located in the heart of downtown Hudson, the licensed estheticians on her staff are passionate about “teaching clients how to have healthy skin for life,” Young says. “And we do it without breaking your pocketbook.”
Runners-up: Transcend Medi Spa, Radiance Medspa
Best Financial Advisor
Mike Leverty, Northwestern Mutual Financial
Mike Leverty lives and works in the Hudson community. He is actively involved in a variety of local organizations, helping Hudson thrive. As a financial advisor, he assists clients in all phases of their financial needs.
Runners-up: Mark Schultz, Edward Jones; Brent Hanson, RBC Wealth Management
Jocelyn Young, St. Croix Skincare
St. Croix Skincare offers a wide range of services, from waxing and facials to injectable treatments. Jocelyn Young is certified in basic treatments as well as more advanced laser therapies. She works with clients to achieve lifelong results.
Runners-up: Brooke Fleetwood, BB Makeup; Laurie Wall, Transcend Medi Spa
Best Insurance Agent
Dan Stoudt, State Farm
Having made his home in the St. Croix Valley for many years, Dan Stoudt is well-versed in the needs of his community when it comes to insurance.
Runners-up: Sandeen Agency, Hudson Insurance
Best Law Firm
Eckberg Lammers, Attorney at Law
With a large team of attorneys, Eckberg Lammers offers a variety of legal services, including individual and business law. The law firm has been around since 1946, and serves clients throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Runners-up: Anderson Legal, Lawson Law Firm
Two Redheads and a Wolf
Tasia Ashton owns Two Redheads and a Wolf with her husband, Quint. They’re both natural redheads, hence the name; “the wolf” was their dog, Ishi, a half-wolf, half-German shepherd. Together the couple runs the salon and also sells their specialty products.
Runners-up: Japa Salon, A’Salonna
Tasia Ashton, Two Redheads and a Wolf
After a career in hairstyling that began in 2003 when she was 19, Tasia Ashton has turned her focus to creating hair and body care products at Two Redheads and a Wolf. She still makes time for cuts and styling, and also offers a la carte services.
Runners-up: Embellish Salon, Lake Elmo Barbershop
According to marketing coordinator Lauren Parsons, Creative Homes builds homes, not houses, using a foolproof process focusing on personalization and flexibility for each homeowner. “We take pride knowing that we are creating and delivering an unmatched customer experience revolving around our customers, trade partners and our employees,” Parsons says.
Runners-up: McCormack Classic Construction, Cates Fine Homes
Best Home Furnishings
The Lived-In Room
After 11 years in the business, this small and unique consignment furniture and accessory store knows how to cater to its customers. Taking in a variety of items, from new Pottery Barn or Pier One items to vintage and upcycled pieces, they really do have a little bit of everything. The store has arranged vignettes in their showroom to suggest design ideas, and works with many interior designers. “We have high standards for the furniture we take in,” says owner Celine Brandon.
Runners-up: Simonet’s Furniture Co., Alfresco Casual Living
Best Interior Designer
Chris Dillingham, Hello the House
Designer Chris Dillingham knows how to make house décor pop. Interior design comes naturally to Dillingham, and her interest in tailoring her work to each customer shows in the unique results.
Runners-up: Bria Hammel, Bria Hammel Interiors; Brynn Alden, Brynn Alden Interiors
Best Landscape Designer/Architect
In the St. Croix Valley since 1928, Abrahamson Nurseries has developed three locations all along the river valley and plenty of loyal customers. They are a full-service garden center and landscape design center. “We have very knowledgeable staff, and we’ve got everything,” says retail manager Joelle Nielsen.
Runners-up: Heins Nursery, Willow River
Best Home Service
The finest in heating, air-conditioning and air-quality services and products serves the Hudson area with pride, with highly trained professionals and a dependable crew.
Runners-up: Comfort by Design, Dad’s Plumbing and Heating
Best Senior Living Residence
Offering a full array of living options, from independent townhomes to skilled-nursing homes and memory care, Boutwell’s Landing is “complemented by everyday conveniences, 130 acres of natural land and parkland, restaurant dining and a movie theater,” says Billie Jo Fox, community relations director. Transitional help and rehab are also offered, all in an environment that makes for an easy transition for families and residents.
Runners-up: Croixdale, Presbyterian Homes
SHOPS and RETAIL
Best Apparel Boutique
Mainstream Boutique is a franchise retailer with locations around the country. However, each store is locally owned, so the Stillwater shop has its own unique selection of clothing, jewelry and other gifts.
Runners-up: Enchanté, La Rue Marche
As a third-generation family-owned business, Rose Floral has been an institution in Stillwater since 1979. The flower shop can serve as a quick stop for a simple floral arrangement, and their greenhouse is open all year, offering a variety of plants and garden accessories.
Runners-up: Hudson Floral, Camrose Hill Flowers
Best Jewelry Store
Diamonds on Main
JoAnn Grundhauser has owned Diamonds on Main since 1985. She opened the spot in downtown Stillwater, then relocated to the Valley Ridge Mall in 2005. Before opening her shop, Grundhauser worked as a high school English teacher; it was a big change, but Stillwater residents have rewarded her entrepreneurial spirit as happy and loyal patrons.
Runners-up: J.R. Haubrich, Inlow Designs Jewelers
Best Liquor Store
Historic Casanova Liquor
Anything with “historic” in its name had better live up to the title, and Casanova Liquor does: Its beginnings date back to 1896. The store prides itself on its selection of high-quality spirits, craft beer and wine.
Runners-up: Chicone’s, Haskell’s
Best Specialty Foods Store
You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store at Knoke’s Chocolates. Dave Knoke started his chocolate shop 15 years ago in downtown Hudson. He has since opened a second location that specializes in both chocolates and nuts, combining two of everyone’s favorite flavors.
Runners-up: The Wedge & Wheel, Cooks of Crocus Hill
Best Gift Shop
This local boutique offers everything from specialty foods to the latest fashion. What’s on hand changes to keep up with trends, and comes from both local talent and designers and artists from all over the world.
Runners-up: Alfresco Casual Living, the Purple Tree
Best Grocery Store
You’ll find a Cub Foods in just about every community, and the St. Croix Valley is no different. With its roots in Stillwater as Hooley’s, Cub Foods has a specail place in the hearts of locals. 1801 Market Drive, Stillwater; 651.430.2350;
Runners-up: County Market, Kowalski’s Market
Editor’s Pick: Big Idea
The Little Free Library
In 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson built a miniature schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former teacher. He filled it with books, attached it to a post and placed it in his front yard along with a sign that read “Free Books.” People liked it so much that, today, nearly 40,000 Little Free Libraries are scattered in neighborhoods around the world. In October 2015, Little Free Library was honored by the Library of Congress for creating communities of literacy.
FOOD AND RESTAURANTS
Best Patio Dining
“If I really talked about what sets us apart, really put into one quick snapshot of what makes us different, it’s our people that have been here since we opened,” says owner Andrew Kron. The scratch kitchen at Pier 500 has been around for 10 years, where staff cut the steaks and fish, make their own sauces and are always creating something new to add to their longtime mainstay menu items. “In the industry that’s making it easier to open a bag and put it on a plate, we really focus on the ingredients,” Kron says.
Runners-up: Dock Cafe, Lake Elmo Inn
Barker’s Bar & Grill
Barker’s has been open for 27 years, serving quality food and drink. Owner Pete Foster is particularly proud of their drink selection. “We served craft beers before they had a name,” he says. “We get 16 micro and specialty beers on tap, and we like to think those pair very well with our American-inspired bistro-style menu here at Barker’s.”
Runners-up: Lolo American Kitchen and Craft Beer, Dick’s Bar
Best New Restaurant
Lolo American Kitchen and Craft Beer
This gourmet street food restaurant puts an emphasis on local, fresh ingredients. “We have a dedicated and great bartending staff,” owner Joe Ehlenz says. Along with co-owner Brad Nordeen, Ehlenz is proud of their drinks from local distilleries and their cutting-edge house-made cocktails, all with an attention to detail that’s unmatched, he says. “I think it shows with our staff: They’re friendly, and they really enjoy what they do. We’ve been blessed,” he says. “You walk in and you feel like you’re part of a party.”
Runners-up: Sweet Taste of Italy, Big Guy’s BBQ
Mom-and-pop bakery Bread Art is the St. Croix Valley’s one-stop shop for homemade goodies. For more than 10 years, Heather Peterson and her husband Chris have run this bakery. “We do everything right here, and we use as close to natural ingredients as we can,” Peterson says. It’s a full bakery with everything from breads and pastries, cakes and pies, as well as a small cafe line with sandwiches and soups during the winter.
Runners-up: Keys Café & Bakery, Great Harvest
From the mac-and-cheese pancake to breakfast salads and banana bread French toast, this breakfast spot is known for its creative menu options. Head chef J.V. Zontelli is always cooking up something unique, owner Craig Beemer says. The cafe was originally opened in 1957 (Beemer’s is the fourth family to own it). “It’s a roadside diner that, I’d like to think, takes comfort food to another level,” he says.
Runners-up: Not Justa Cafe, San Pedro Café
Editor’s Pick: Sail Away
Saint Croix Sailing School
There are many wonderful opportunities to enjoy the St. Croix River, and one of our favorite programs for youth is the Saint Croix Sailing School in Hudson. Throughout the boating season, the school teaches children and teens, ages 6 through high school, how to sail safely on the river. This nonprofit corporation is managed by a volunteer board and uses donations to help keep the costs affordable for families. With a focus on safety as well as fun, the school’s young sailors learn all about boat handling, sportsmanship, teamwork and the river’s beauty.
Editor’s Pick: Family Wins
Coaches Brian and Elmer Luke
On September 17, 2015, Stillwater Area High School coach Brian Luke set the state record when the Ponies girls’ swimming and diving team captured its 125th consecutive dual meet win—which means the team hasn’t lost a dual meet in more than a decade. Remarkably, the previous record was held by Luke’s father, Elmer, who was the Hopkins High School swim coach from the late 1970s to early 1990s. Brian Luke began his coaching career in Stillwater in 1975. The team won its first section title 21 years later, and since then, they’ve earned seven True Team titles and four Minnesota State High School League championships. Elmer also attended the historic meet to support his son and the team he had worked with as a volunteer coach. Sadly, Elmer, an accomplished coach swimmer who competed until he was 78, passed away in December at the age of 89.
KIDS, FAMILIES and PETS
Best Preschool/Child Care
New Horizon Academy
New Horizon Academy is a staple in Minnesota child care. When they opened their Stillwater spot in 2012, it quickly become the go-to place. In addition to all the fun toys and games, New Horizon Academy offers extensive education options, from Spanish to dance to activities focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
Runners-up: Ark of Angels Montessori, Bethel Highlands Church
Best Doggy Day Care/Kennel
Animal Inn Pet Resort and Spa
Part of the community since 1966, the staff at Animal Inn Pet Resort and Spa knows the animals of the St. Croix Valley. The 13-acre facility features plenty of room for play, and its staff is trained in dog and cat care, whether you’re going out of town for the weekend or your pooch just needs some play time during the work week.
Runners-up: Paws & Claws, Under One Woof
Best Veterinary Clinic
Stillwater Veterinary Clinic
In addition to standard veterinary services, Stillwater Veterinary Clinic is the only one in town providing overnight hospitalization. The clinic has five veterinarians with a variety of expertise, and a large staff of technicians. It has served the community for 35 years.
Runners-up: Cedar Pet Clinic, At Home Animal Clinic
Best Learning/Tutoring Center
A math-only learning center, Mathnasium focuses on each child’s individual needs. The Stillwater center serves kids from first grade through high school in the St. Croix Valley area, offering classes and tutoring year round.
Runner-up: Huntington Learning Center
Best Place to Pamper Your Pet
Animal Inn Pet Resort and Spa
At Animal Inn, there are many ways your dog can play, which is pampering enough, but they also offer services ranging from canine massages to mud baths (yes, mud baths). The services help relax and rejuvenate your pet, and are the true definition of pampering.
Runners-up: Angel’s Pet World, Bubbly Pooch
Best Place for Kids’ Activities
Giggle Factory indoor playground serves kids ages 10 and younger. In addition to offering open playtime, the facility can be rented for events or birthday parties, and an on-site cafe gives parents the chance to relax while their kids are running around.
Runners-up: Belle Ballet, Curio Dance