For the eighth year in a row, The Eagle has organized an event called Best of Pine Island. It's an annual public pat on the back for island business owners and service providers, determined by island residents casting votes in various categories.
As advertising and sales executive for the Pine Island Eagle, Charlene Russ recently greeted winners in 50 categories as they gathered for appetizers, awards and some downtime too, at Sandy Hook restaurant in Matlacha.
This evening of recognition makes winners feel appreciated, Russ said.
"It's like a big thank you to be chosen,l" she said. "And this event has always been well received by the community."
"As strong supporters of the local business community, it gives us great pleasure to sponsor the 'Best of Pine Island' recognitions each year," said Scott Blonde, publisher of The Eagle. " Not only does it allow us the opportunity to invite the public to recognize those businesses that are very good at what they do, it gives us an opportunity to say thank you to both long-time and new establishments that have earned a reputation for excellence. We thank the community for its input, and we congratulate those who have culled this year's ' Best of' awards. Pine Island is well served by the businesses that call it home."
As a first-time winner, Tiger Baker, owner of A/C Medic 911, was all smiles as Russ called his name to receive a plaque. A long-time resident of the island, Baker operated a family business for a few years until 2009, when he sold the family business and launched this one.
Food & Entertainment
Bar - Bert's Bar & Grill
Chef - Matt Marud, Red's Fresh Seafood House
Deli - Little Lily's Island Deli
Hamburger - Bert's Bar & Grill
Fish sandwich - The Lazy Flamingo
Happy Hour - Miceli's Restaurant
Ice Cream - Great Lick's Ice Cream Shop
Local bands - Deb & The Dynamics and
Seafood - Red's Fresh Seafood House & Tavern
Pizza - Pizza Bella
Waiter/Waitress - Marisol Berna, Red's Fresh
Seafood House & Tavern
Breakfast - Perfect Cup
Lunch - Little Lily's Island Deli
Dinner - Red's Fresh Seafood House & Tavern
Waterfront Dining - Tarpon Lodge
Art Gallery - WildChild Art Gallery
Gift Shop - Pine Bay Gallery & Gifts
Bait & Tackle - D&D Bait & Tackle
Boat Dealer - York Rd. Marine
Boat Repairs - Four Winds Marina
Seafood Market - Andy's Seafood Co.
Accountant - Pine Island Tax & Accounting
Air Conditioning & Heating - A/C Medic 991,
Appliance Repair - Pine Island Home Care
Attorney - Tim Bruehl
Automotive Repair - St. James Automotive
Bank - Sun Trust
Cabinets - Tropical Kitchens
Computer Services - Anole Computer Services,
Chiropractor - Dr. Mark Jeter, DC
Day Spa - Center of Attention
Dentist - Riverdale Dental Associates
Electrician - Bob Sangelo
Financial Service - Sprynal & Associates, Inc.
Fishing Guide - Ken Honc
Flooring - Island Floors & Interiors
Hair Stylist - Heidi Talbot
Hair Salon/Barber Shop - Angles of Matlacha
Housewatch Service - Pine Island Housewatch
Insurance Agency - Safety Harbour Insurance
Motel/Inn - Knoll's Court Motel
Lawn/Landscaping - Mike Jendrusiak Lawn
Marina - Pineland Marina
Marine Construction - Donkersloot Marine
Massage Therapist - Vonnie Bixby
Painting Contractor - Island Breeze Home
Plumber - Joel's Plumbing
Real Estate Agent - Leroy Lippman
Real Estate Agency - Pine Island Realty
Service Organization/Club - Matlacha Hookers
Being recognized in his profession means a lot, Baker said. But he quickly points out that the award isn't only about him.
"I have some great people who work for me, too,"he said."They relate well to my customers and they are island people, also."
For the winters of 2002 and 2003, George and Cindy Spyrnal fled snowy Illinois in favor of the slowed, sunny pace of island life. They fell so much in love with the island that snowbird status was no longer enough.
In 2004, the Spyrnals took a leap of faith and made Pine Island the forever home for their family and their business, Spyrnal & Assoc. Inc.
"When my wife and I first opened our business here, we had only two employees and no clients,"George Spyrnal said."Now we have six employees and 400 clients."
Living and working on the island is definitely one of those rare win-win situations.
"There's such a family feeling here,"Spyrnal said."Everybody takes care of each other. We just love the sunshine, the weather and the friendly atmosphere."
Though Heidi Talbot and her husband, Keith Talbott, have won Best of Pine Island every consecutive year since it was launched, it's still not"old hat"to them.
"It's absolutely an honor to win the award,"Heidi Talbott said.
Customers keep Angles, their Matlacha hair salon and barbershop, busy all the time. But they are never so busy that they lose sight of the ways to stay in the forefront of their industry, Talbott said.
For example, one sure way to offer great customer service is to simply stay in the know. Talbott commits to continuing education opportunities. Knowing about style changes, new hair color products and fashion trends helps her to keep client needs met.
Heidi Talbott describes her profession as"a mom and pop shop."
"And it's so nice to be given this award. It's nice to be thought of so wonderfully by people."