The Best of Savannah

Best of Savannah 2011: Shopping & Services

Best Shoe Store

Globe Shoe Company

Best Jeweler

Levy Jewelers

What's behind 230 years of success for Savannah's Best Jewelry Store and Best Shoe Store?

Generations of Savannah-based ownership. Relationship building with staff, the customers, and the community.

Hands-on management. Sticking with what has worked for decades while staying 21st century current.

Located half a block apart on East Broughton Street, Levy Jewelers and Globe Shoe Company each moved to their present locations in the 1930's and anchored the downtown retail corridor through its bust and boom decades. Each has additional Savannah locations south of DeRenne Avenue.

The Levy Jewelers File:

Lowell Kronowitz is the fourth generation of the Levy Jewelers family. He purchased the company in 2004 from third generation owner Aaron Levy, his mother's cousin. Levy Jewelers was founded in 1900 by Kronowitz's great grandfather (a watchmaker also named Aaron Levy) and expanded by his great uncle Jack Levy.

Kronowitz on what sets Levy Jewelers apart: "Our business is about trust and confidence. Our customer service is second to none. Our associates know our customers and our customers know our staff. Assistant Manager Jackie Reed, who won the Downtown Business Association's Gracie Award for customer service, has been here 24 years. You want to look across the table from someone and know that you can trust them. After 111 years, the confidence level is there."

The merchandise: "We specialize in jewelry and watches, plus giftware. We have exclusive vendor relationships with many brands - Rolex, David Yurman, John Hardy -- that no one else has in Savannah. We have jewelry that's $20 to $200,000 in stock all the time. I can show you five pairs of gorgeous pearl earrings that are under $40."

On relationships: "One of the most exciting things is when someone comes in and says, ‘I am here to get my engagement ring because by grandfather bought his diamond here.' That's how we move from one generation to a second to a third to a fourth. To make one transaction with you, that's not what we are after. We are after a long term relationship."

On the 21st Century: "When out buying a ring to ask your girlfriend to marry you, you're not thinking about 21st century, you're thinking about tradition and longevity. But for a business succeeding it's about people who live it, dream it, sleep it, and have new ideas about the future. The attitude is absolutely essential because of intensified competition."

The Globe Shoe Company File:

Brother and sister John and Amy Sussman are third generation owners of Globe Shoe Company. The specialty shoe retailer sells women's and men's shoes and related accessories. Globe was founded in 1892, and acquired by their grandfather, Sol Lesser, in the 1930's.

John Sussman on what sets Globe Shoe Company apart: "We have great personal relationships with customers. Our brand structure is unique -- it encompasses all of Savannah, from high end designer to moderate priced merchandise."

The merchandise: "The key work is being ‘trend right.' The hot shoe that goes into Manhattan comes into Savannah at the same time. We work hard to relate locally to fashion trends happening throughout the country."

On relationships: "We have quality staff that understands customer service and fitting shoes. Amy and I are in the stores on the sales floor. We are able to relate that to what we see [when we are buying merchandise.] We treat the business as encompassing the public as family."

On family and longevity: "We were lucky to be nurtured in the business by our father, Seymour Sussman. It's a generational business. We maintain the integrity of the age of the business but also update the merchandise and stay current." -- Robin Wright Gunn

Runner-up, Shoes: Civvies

Runner-up, Jeweler: Zia Boutique

Best Furniture Store

Best Window Display


Perennial winner in both these categories, 24e raises the bar not only through cutting edge design and window dressing but through hosting charities and community events.

Runner-up, Furniture: Whelan's

Runner-up, Windows: Paris Market

Best Place to Use a Military Discount


Ten percent off year ‘round.

Runner-up: Home Depot

Best Independent Bookstore

E. Shaver Booksellers

They don't sell Starbucks here, but people flock nonetheless, drawn by a well-rounded inventory and a knowledgeable, professional staff.

Runner-up: The Book Lady

Best Comic Book Store

Home Run Video

A wide assortment compliments the video inventory at this downtown staple.

Runner-up: Comics and More

Best Musical Instrument Store

Portman's Music

A veritable local empire, from retail to classes to school band rentals.

Runner-up: AMR Music

Best Cigar/Tobacco Store

Ye Olde Tobacco Shop

When you just gotta have a smoke, old school.

Runner-up: Savannah Cigars

Best Lawn & Garden Store


A surprising win in this category for the corporate giant.

Runner-up: Home Depot

Best Motorcycle/Scooter Dealer

Savannah Harley Davidson

Ruling the local market, from their main store at I-95 and 204 as well as from locations on River Street and in Brunswick.

Runner-up: Motorini

Best Bicycle Shop

Bicycle Link

From their way-cool storefront on MLK, the Link not only sells bikes and gear but specializes in repair.

Runner-up: Perry Rubber

Best Place to Buy New Car

Best Place to Buy a Used Car

Grainger Honda

One of the great Savannah business success stories, Grainger Honda now occupies a huge, state-of-the-art dealership off Chatham Parkway and deals in new Hondas as well as a line of Certified used cars.

Runner-up, both: Southern Motors Honda

Best Auto Repair

Savannah Tire

With several locations, Savannah Tire does a lot more than tires.

Runner-up: Dixie Motors

Best Car Wash

Savannah Car Wash

They've washed over a million cars in their 15 years of existence. We're guessing that million includes a lot of repeat business, given this Southside giant's huge popularity.

Runner-up: Hurricane Bay

Best Rental Car Company


With half a dozen locations in Savannah, including the airport, Enterprise has you covered.

Runner-up: Hertz

Best Women's Clothing Store

Best Clothing Boutique

Best Thrift/Vintage Clothing Store


This is actually a huge win for this small but spunky locally-owned business, who beats out several big wins to take three very competitive categories this year.

You'll notice this is yet another Broughton Street business doing super well in this year's Best of Savannah reader's poll. Indeed, Broughton Street's success this year is as good a measure as any of the lasting renaissance of Savannah's premier historic shopping area.

And Civvie's is a huge part of that success story. The secret of their success seems to be in a very user-friendly inventory which blends vintage with new, hip with practical, while avoiding the usual overpricing evident in other stores which try to do the same thing.

In short, owner Robyn Reeder and staff have managed to do the impossible: Please all the people all the time.

Runner-up, Women's: Terra Cotta

Runner-up, Boutique: Terra Cotta

Runner-up, Thrift/Vintage: Goodwill

Best Men's Clothing Store

J. Parker Limited

This perennial winner in this category is a longtime locally owned business with two locations, one on Broughton and one on Waters.

Runner-up: Civvies

Best New Store

Best Children's Clothing Store

Sara Jane's Children's Boutique

Very friendly service with a great all-around collection of clothes for the hip Savannah youngster are the hallmarks of this new winner in this category. Yes, there's actually a Sara Jane - Savannah native Sara Jane Strickland is the delightful owner. They're based in a beautifully restored building on 37th Street. Look for the old-school tricycle on the sign.

Runner-up, New: Gigi's Cupcakes

Runner-up, Children's: Old Navy

Best Toy Store

Toys ‘R' Us

A perennial winner in this category continues to finish strong.

Runner-up: Four Kids

Best Day Care

Calvary Day School

The daycare arm of this large faith-based institution earns high marks like its academic and athletic components.

Runner-up: Maggie's Morning School

Best Arts/Crafts Store

Primary Arts

This locally-owned, totally hip Broughton Street business wins out over some stiff competition in this artsy town.

Runner-up: Michael's

Best Eyewear Store


They will set you up with an eye doctor, contacts, lenses, the whole nine yards, just by walking in the front door.

Runner-up: Iris Optical

Best Costume Store

Acme Costumes

This Garden City institution is where all of Savannah goes for that sexy nurse costume for Halloween or that rollicking Jack Sparrow outfit for the Tybee Pirate Festival.

Runner-up: Party City

Best Novelty Store

Sunset Novelties

With two locations in Savannah (Abercorn and Waters) as well as a new Hinesville store, Sunset is giving the adults all the adult fun they can handle.

Runner-up: Joker Novelties

Best Green Business

SEED Eco Lounge

This hip spot just between Franklin Square and Broughton Street combines two of Savannah's favorite concerns: Sustainable living and drinking! No wonder they won!

Runner-up: Thrive Café

Best Antique Shop

Habersham Antiques

One of Savannah's great small business institutions wins in a very prestigious category

Runner-up: Jere's Antiques

Best Grocery Store


Clean, well-lit, organized, a great bakery and deli, with friendly folks behind the cash register. And sushi!

Runner-up: Fresh Market

Best Gourmet Grocery Store

Fresh Market

Not only a huge range of organic/natural food stuff and great produce, but probably the best meat section in Savannah.

Runner-up: Brighter Day

Best Health Food Store

Brighter Day

Achieving total dominance in this category, and for good reason, Peter and Janie Brodhead continue to run one of Savannah's most beloved businesses, entering their fourth decade.

Runner-up: Fresh Market

Best Sporting Goods Store

Bass Pros Shops

Hunting, fishing, camping, shooting, it's all here, pardner.

Runner-up: Russell's

Best Lighting Store

Pace Lighting

This 18,500 square foot state-of-the-art designer showroom - a 2010 National Showroom of the Year finalist -- is off Chatham Parkway and has nearly 3000 fixtures for residential or commercial use.

Runner-up: Circa Lighting

Best Maid Service

Merry Maids

This franchise business is now offering $10 off each of your first three cleanings.

Runner-up: Molly Maid

Best Shopping Center

Oglethorpe Mall

The New York Times recently referred to Oglethorpe Mall as "Savannah's town square." Which is a ridiculous thing to say on many levels, but still an enormous compliment to this major economic driver for the entire Savannah region, which keeps getting better and better.

Runner-up : Savannah Mall

Best Florist

John Davis

This repeat winner specializes in weddings and gala events.

Runner-up: Kiwi Fleur

Best Photography Service

Daly and Salter Photography

Steve Salter and Kathy Daly-Salter together offer a full range of services, from weddings to portraiture, including children.

Runner-up: Christine Hall Photography

Best Pawn Shop

Welsh Pawn Shop

With several locations around town, this is one of Savannah's most successful and long-running locally owned businesses.

Runner-up: Bob's Big Buck

Best Pet Store

Best Pet Boutique


A love for stray dogs and a quest for pet food led TailsSpin owners Jusak Yang Bernhard and Jeff Manley into the pet store business in 2007.

"We were looking around for a food to feed one of our dogs who had some allergies," says Bernhard. "We took on a stray that was following us around, along with our two rescues. Dog issues had taken over our lives.

"We said, ‘Why don't we open a pet store?' Because of the food, and we can learn more stuff about dogs."

These days TailsSpin is earning local and national awards, and a growing fan base of pet lovers, kids, and at least one school principal. The pet store in Habersham Village specializes in premium dog and cat foods and accessories, plus items for birds, ferrets, bunnies, turtles, fish and hamsters.

TailsSpin was chosen by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as one of 75 Blue Ribbon Small Businesses in the country, evaluated on business practices like customer service, staffing procedures, and the bottom line. This month, they were voted Business of the Year by the Savannah Small Business Chamber.

Quality ingredients are the hallmark of the fifteen brands of wet and dry dog and cat food sold at TailsSpin. "None of our food has corn wheat or soy in it, because animals can't properly digest it," says Mike James, assistant manager. "That's where allergy issues come in."

When the 2008 recession hit, "we realized we were going to have to be competitive,' says Manley.

"We developed our more economical line of food. Some of them are cheaper than Iams or Beneful, and you are still getting good food," says Bernhard.

TailsSpin has built its business through community outreach. "We are involved with dog park issues, supportive of pet rescue agencies, we offer adoption packages," says Bernhard.

"We do a low cost vaccine clinic twice a month. Part of that fee goes to the rescue agencies."

In partnership with nearby Jacob G. Smith Elementary School, TailsSpin sponsored a Halloween PAWrade last October, a costumed parade for kids and animals, with over 75 four-legged entries. The event raised over $6000, with half donated to the school and half to animal rescue agencies.

"The money was used to buy multimedia projectors for the classrooms,' says Jane Tyler, Principal at Smith Elementary. "Along with the PTA money, we were able to put them in all the classrooms that the sales tax money didn't take care of."

Manley and Bernhard serve on the Smith School Council, spoke at Career Day, and routinely post drawings and stories in their store created by Smith students.

A pet care and adoption fair in the school gym on May 7 brought out over 1000 people and raised about $10,000 for the school and rescue agencies.

"If they see a need, they jump," says Tyler. "It ends up being a truly symbiotic relationship. It's been a love fest between the two groups."

Runner-up, Pet Store: PetSmart

Runner-up, Boutique: The Grateful Hound

Best Pet Grooming


Tonia Crane has built a successful business making beautiful dogs even more beautiful. That's livin' the dream!

Runner-up: PetSmart

Best Bed and Breakfast

The Ballastone Inn

Not only Savannah's favorite B&B, it's also one of the nation's premier ones as well. The William Gibbons Preston masterpiece has been a B&B for 30 years, and has a distinguished Savannah history going back 200 years.

Runner-up: Foley House Inn

Best Hotel

AVIA Hotel Savannah

This modernist gem blends the best of minimalist design with boutique sumptuousness, all overlooking beautifully restored Ellis Square.

Runner-up: The Mansion at Forsyth

Best Lawyer

Mike Hostilo

Best Law Firm

Michael G. Hostilo LLC

Also a winner for best local TV commercial, Mike Hostilo is one of the area's premier personal injury attorneys.

Runner-up, Lawyer: Ken Nugent

Runner-up, Law Firm: Hunter-Maclean

Best Real Estate Agent

Don Callahan

Best Real Estate Agency

Keller Williams

Two Tuesdays ago, while most of Savannah’s business community was pouring their first cups of morning coffee, several dozen Keller Williams Realty employees were packing a panel truck with bottled water, Gatorade, canned food, disposable diapers, sheets and towels, and new clothing — donations they’d rounded up for victims of the recent tornadoes in Alabama. 

Last Thursday, Keller Williams staff spent the day at the Fresh Air Home on Tybee Island, for their third annual paint, clean, and spruce up the yard session, prepping for this summer’s camp for underprivileged children.

Community service is all in a day’s work at Keller Williams Realty Coastal Area Partners.  Don Callahan, Savannah’s best Real Estate Agent, was part of both of these activities.  A few weeks ago, he sponsored a volunteer day at the Humane Society for Greater Savannah, rounding up customers and friends for a half day of dog walking and other chores.

A Long Island native, Callahan arrived in Savannah in 1997 by way of Key West, and became a real estate agent in 1998. The multi-year winner of our Readers Poll sees himself as a “consultant to people, to help them make educated decisions with their real estate holdings.”

Relationship and community building, knowledge of the market, team building and delegation, keeping up with ever-changing financing products, training and coaching, and maximizing technology are Callahan’s tools for success.  They also reflect the Keller Williams company approach.

“The focus of Keller Williams is the agents and not the company,” says Nancy Thompson, Operating Partner for Keller Williams Realty Coastal Area Partners.  “The business comes from the agents up instead of from the company down.  Everybody wants everybody to be successful.”

Callahan mentors other Keller Williams agents in Savannah, and has a local Keller Williams coach, whose advice led him to make a major strategy shift in his business in recent years.  Instead of taking on every listing that comes his way, he focuses on potential sellers who are willing to make their properties as sellable as possible.

“They have to be situated in the market so they will sell in 120 days or less,”  says Callahan.

He works with owners to consider price, condition and appearance, providing potential clients with detailed recommendations in these areas before he’ll take them on.  He hires a staging consultant at his own expense to advise each client on how to declutter, depersonalize, and reorganize to maximize a home’s appeal. 

“I don’t turn away listings, but those who don’t come on board are usually unwilling to do what I’ve required.”

Each property features its own QR code mounted on the For Sale sign, taking buyers to a quickie virtual tour of the house with one click of a smartphone.  “While you’re in the car you are actually looking inside the house,” says Callahan.

He’s been a Savannah Board of Realtors top producer since beginning his career, and in 2008 was awarded one of the Ten Most Dependable Real Estate Professionals in the Eastern United States by Goldline Research/Forbes Magazine.

Callahan joined Keller Williams when they entered the Savannah market in 2005.  This year, Keller Williams had the highest number of sales in the area, among buyers and sellers.  “We also had the most closed dollar volume in both categories,” says Thompson.

“This company, the culture is different than anything I’ve ever been associated with,’ says Thompson. “It’s win-win and everybody supports everybody.” -- Robin Wright Gunn

Runner-up, Realtor: Robert Jones

Runner-up, Agency: Re/Max

Best Local Moving Company

Two Men and a Truck

We have a sneaking suspicion that given their huge success, this company actually employs more than two people and owns more than one truck. Call us crazy.

Runner-up: Robert Jones

 Best Local Homebuilder

JT Turner

Weathering the downturn nicely. Get it? “Weathering?”

Runner-up: Fred Williams

Best Wireless Company

Verizon Wireless

Kickass network? Check. iPhones? Check.

Runner-up: AT&T

Best Bank

Suntrust Bank

Keepin’ it regional out of its Atlanta offices and with a primarily Southeastern presence, Suntrust concentrates on service.

Runner-up: Wells Fargo

Best Taxi Service

Yellow Cab

Not exactly New York City levels of ubiquitousness, but still not hard to find.

Runner-up: Adam

Best Place to Work

Gulfstream Aerospace

A perennial winner in this category. Think about it: When’s the last time you saw an unhappy Gulfstream employee?

Runner-up: SCAD

Business You’re Most Sorry to See Go

T-Rex Mex

Those Cali-style brisket burritos sure were awesome while they lasted… the lack of a liquor license seemed to be an issue, however.

Runner-up: Polks Produce (moved to Pooler)

Best Category We Forgot

Best Improv Show

Did someone say Odd Lot? Or Bay Street Theatre?

Runner-up: Best Interior Designer






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