The 2020 "Best of Ashland"

Part 1

Countryside Village RetirementIt was a wild and crazy year since the last “Best of Ashland” was published in January/February 2019. First, a whole new Congress decided to put Pres. Trump’s feet to the fire, and instead of maintaining a low profile and being a good boy, he goes off and tries to extort a promise from the president of Ukraine to help him undermine the U.S. elections. You can’t get more brazen than that. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and the House decided to impeach him last month. It will eventually make its way to the Senate for a trial, and you almost hear the kangaroos laughing in the background.

Also making the news was the Sneak Preview’s ground-breaking story in March on the Helman Ditch, a 167-year-old water right still serving about twelve properties. The City wanted those people to pay for some damage the ditch caused to City property, but the users argued it was the City’s responsibility. That case is still pending.

Then in April we followed up with a story on Uproot Meats, a farm just outside Ashland off Siskiyou that had neighbors up in arms about pollution in the T.I.D. canal. The owners of the farm definitely admitted they made some mistakes and were now ready to follow all county rules. In May, we did a cover story on Uber coming to Ashland. We politely pointed out that for every $10 spent on Uber as opposed to a local cab company, $3 of that goes to the owners of Uber in San Francisco.

In June, the Ashland Food Project celebrated ten years serving the Ashland community. And in July, we took one more look at the theory that prescribed burns and forest thinning is the best strategy when it comes to managing forest fires. The research supports that theory.

Probably the most controversial cover story of the year was our August expose on the Mail Tribune/Daily Tidings’ relationship with Sinclair Broadcasting, a right-wing group that tries to impose its political philosophy on media companies that get entangled in its ever-expanding web. The owner of M-T/D-T insists he’s completely neutral, and I suppose we’ll have to take his word on it.

The “Soap Bubble Battle in Lithia Park” was pretty much a non-controversy. Despite the warnings of political activist Randy Dollinger, the City assured us that there was no soap bubble Armageddon in Lithia Park.

The biggest change, however, was the “Best of Ashland.” Over the years, we have noticed a considerable interest in this survey by people who send in ballots with only one or two categories mentioned. It’s obvious what is going on, and we also think it’s the reason why all those online surveys are not that valid; it just makes ballot stuffing way too easy and is almost impossible to detect.

 So this year we made a new rule: only those ballots with a minimum of 30 honest answers would be accepted. We fretted that it might turn some people off, but amazingly we got even more ballots than ever. Maybe the fact that we offered a drawing for a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant for those who submitted ballots swayed the day.

We would like to announce at this time that Ashland resident Susan Henderson was this year’s winner, and she selected Larks as her restaurant of choice (we gave her a list of 30 restaurants to choose from). Thank you to Susan and the other 285 people who sent in ballots.  

So without further ado, Part I of the 2020 “Best of Ashland.” Part II, “Restaurants and Entertainment,” will be published in our February issue.

MEDIA

FAVORITE RADIO STATION

 I’m not sure where everyone finds the time to listen to radio, as 29 different stations were mentioned in this survey, although Spotify and Sirius XM were also mentioned. And we don’t even want to talk about Alexa, who can play any song you want and tune in to any radio station, not to mention give you the capital of Botswana and the current weather conditions in the Dordogne region of France.

When it comes to tuning into local radio stations, our readers once again chose Jefferson Public Radio (KSOR-FM and KSMF-FM, along with KSJK-AM) as their favorite. Others mentioned a lot were:

  • KBOY (95.7), classic rock
  • Lite 102
  • KYVL “The Valley” – 106.3
  • KROG (96.9 “The Rogue), alternative
  • KISS 107.5, Top 40
  • KCNA (102.7), classic hits

FAVORITE RADIO DEEJAY

Alexa may be able to find that special song you haven’t heard since your prison days in East Berlin, but can she tell you war stories about her wild and sometimes sordid past? Can she tell jokes other than those lame ones that are programmed into her chip? Can she do a live feed from a furniture store where you can get $73 off on a recliner if you’re one of the first ten to call in?

Of course not, and that’s why we love our deejays, including this year’s top choice, Don Matthews, who is the classical music host at JPR. Don is also a member of the Southern Oregon Repertory Singers and is well-known among local theater goers, appearing in numerous productions, including One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Man of La Mancha and Sweeney Todd.

There were quite a few deejays mentioned, including:

  • Gemineye at KISS-FM
  • “Open Air” host Danielle Kelly at JPR
  • Valerie Ing of JPR
  • Leslie Haze of 93.7 Now FM
  • Geoffrey Riley at JPR

FAVORITE LOCAL TV ANCHOR PERSON

As things fall apart around the world before our very eyes, we would still rather watch the news from the 5-alarm fire on South Morton or the hunt for that latest suspect in the bank robbery downtown. The Iran deal is falling apart? Tell me about it later … that three-car accident on in front of Shop N Kart is more important right now.

Who to turn to when you want to know the latest locally? Many of our readers most often mentioned Brian Morton, evening anchor at KDRV, Channel 12. Brian received his bachelor’s degree from the University of California in 1985 and worked in media markets in California, Arizona and Spokane before “settling down” at KDRV in 1995.

Brian shares the anchor desk with Ashley Hall, who was also mentioned by our readers, followed by:

  • Craig Smullin at KOBI-5
  • Trish Glose at KTVL-10.
  • Kristin Hosfelt at Channel 5.

FAVORITE REPORTER AT THE DAILY TIDINGS 

If it weren’t for newspapers, who else would keep everyone honest? You can’t really rely on word-of-mouth for information (and these days, with Putin pulling the strings, even social media isn’t reliable). Did you ever play that game around a dinner table where one person whispers a story to the person next to him, then that person relays the same story to the next person, and so on, all the way around the table? The final story is wildly different from the original, and that’s what happens with word-of-mouth. Newspapers present the information, then allow for a follow-up exchange of ideas to make sure it’s accurate.

The front line for that free flow of information consists of reporters who are out there every day stirring hornet’s nests for juicy stuff, then trying to make sense of it. Or in this case just making sense of local sports, because this year’s winner at our almost-daily newspaper was sports editor Danny Penza.

The list also included:

  • Investigative reporter Caitlin Fowlkes
  • John Darling, feature writer
  • Reporter Vickie Aldous, who’s been there, like, forever
  • Chris Honoré, opinion writer
  • Arts reporter Jeffrey Gillespie
  • Theater reviewer Maureen Flanagan Battistella

FAVORITE PART OF THE SNEAK PREVIEW  

We celebrated our 29th anniversary in Ashland on October 17th, and a few things have changed during the last 2.9 decades … but not much. The Profile column, in which we feature a different community member every month and ask such scintillating questions as “Favorite movie” and “What would do if you won $10 million in the lottery?,” is still number one.

The “Best of Ashland,” of course was also mentioned a lot, followed by:

  • Letters to the editor
  • Business Grapevine
  • The coverage of local news, including the cover stories and news briefs
  • Calendar of Events
  • Twenty Years Ago Today column, written by yours truly
  • Rob Pell’s Health Corner

And of course, our thanks to all the many readers who mentioned the ads (and coupons) as their favorite part of the Sneak Preview. You’re the reason we’re still here.

PEOPLE/BUSINESS

BEST NEW BUSINESS IN TOWN (LAST YEAR)

The first line of defense for this country to not becoming a total Amazon economy is the strength of local businesses. If we let Amazon drones deliver everything to our front door, there will be a corresponding increase in obesity in this country. At least today, you have to get in your car and drive to the grocery store and work off at least 17 calories to get those three dozen processed doughnuts; with Amazon, you just sit in your chair and wait. Anyway, let’s give a shout-out to any business that attempts to make it in these tenuous economic times.

In this category, our readers named a few new businesses, including this year’s winner, Paddington Express, a new store from the Paddington Station family which “popped up” at the corner of East Main and 2nd. “With a new theme every four to 12 weeks, guests will have a revolving retail experience, as products and trends come and go in (our) permanent pop up.”

Others high on the list included:

  • North & East Co., a gift store featuring local goods and Oriental antiques at 242 E. Main (where Unicorn used to be)
  • Alice in Marrakech, a gift store at 37 E. Main (across from the Plaza) offering many gift items from Morocco
  • Mezcal, a Mexican cuisine restaurant at 23 N. Main (third floor)
  • Griffin Creek Roasters, a coffeehouse at 14 Calle Guanajuato
  • Manna from Heaven Bakery, also at 14 Calle Guanajuato, where they are teaming up with Griffin Creek Roasters
  • Awake Tea & Espresso Café & Gallery, at 1757 Ashland Street, next to Rogue Valley Metaphysical Library
  • Spativa, a store at 260 N. First Street featuring a range of CBD-related products

FAVORITE BUSINESSPERSON 

It’s not just a matter of opening the office every morning and going over the books. You have to deal with customers, employees, vendors, consultants, and office managers, plus your kids are calling on the phone wanting you to help with the homework, then Rotary calls and wants you as a guest speaker and could you have the speech ready by 1:00?

Quite a few businesspeople were recognized this year, and as a little going away present, our readers named Ken Silverman of Nimbus as their favorite (Ken won this same category in 2000, exactly 20 years ago). We’re all going to miss Nimbus, but Ken wanted me to remind everyone that there’s still time, with his consulting expertise, to turn that space into something fun and profitable.

The list also included:

  • The Hammonds at the Paddington Station family of stores
  • Gill Anderson of Platt Anderson Urban Winery
  • Doug and Becky Neuman of the Neuman Hotel Group (Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites, etc.)
  • Drew Gibbs of Winchester Inn and Alchemy Restaurant
  • Rich and Ron Hansen of Gold & Gems Fine Jewelry
  • Jane Almquist of Tree House Books
  • Judy Howard of Hanson Howard Gallery

FAVORITE MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER (CITY)

Sometime in the middle of the night I still have dreams about my days substitute teaching middle school students. The kids have me locked up in a torture chamber, and I could hear moaning from the cell next to me. Then a boy I sent to the principal’s office that morning comes in carrying a book called “Waterboarding for Dummies” and says, “We’re only kidding, Mr. Hayden, this is just a dream.”

Anyway, taking down top honors in this category for 2019 was Jenifer Carstensen, Middle School band teacher. And that reminds me, why don’t the middle school and high school have marching bands in the Fourth of July Parade? Something to think about for Jenifer.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Jennifer Gonzalez, Spanish
  • Karl Pryor, Library and Media Specialist
  • Julie Inada, Language Arts
  • Daniel Otte, Science
  • Beth Oehler, 6th Grade

FAVORITE TEACHER AT SOU/RCC 

Since I officially spent eleven years in college spread over three decades getting a B.A. in Social Work and Sociology, a post bacc in Education, a Master’s in Public Administration, and a Master’s in Neurobiology, I have a soft spot in my heart for this category. By the time I got to the biology gig, I was older than some of my professors. But it was an exciting time actually being around people willing to spend good money in order to learn about the world.

Our readers named quite a few teachers at SOU this year, with the number one nod going to creative writing/English professor Craig Wright, who is also a local musician. It’s been a while, but Craig also won this category back in 1997.

Also making the list were:

  • John Buttrick, Environmental Science
  • Jackie Apodaca, SOU Theatre Arts Department
  • Dennis Slattery, Business
  • Bill Hughes, Political Science
  • Linda Hilligoss, Environmental Science

CUTEST BABY BORN IN THE LAST YEAR

We got the babies together for a cuteness stare-down and all they wanted to do was crawl around on the floor acting like big babies. But they were definitely cute, and winning this category for 2020 was Otis Matthew Nunes, who was delivered by stork at Asante Ashland Community Hospital on July 7, 2019, to proud parents Ashley and Matt Nunes. His two older brothers welcomed him with open arms.

A close runner-up was June Mengel.

CUTEST PET

Okay, we are probably guilty of a little nepotism on this one, as my wife, daughter and I rescued Bowie from the Animal Shelter last year. He’d been found starving to death on Coker Butte Road, and when we got him, he weighed only 38 pounds (the boxer/mastiff mix now weighs 78). He is total fun and very loving, and we’re proud to have him as part of the family (although my wife and I are only grandparents, as Bowie gets dropped off at our house when our daughter is working or on vacation).

Other cuties included Cally Lilly, Ann Tibbot’s darling calico kitty; and Poppyseed, Saudia Sharkey’s cute little puppy.

FAVORITE DENTIST

Having perfectly straight, bright white teeth is always a meaningful goal, but for Westerners living with an imperfect diet, the dentist is our best friend. And these days you don’t have to freak out about huge drills that sound like jackhammers chipping away at your teeth; the new technologies make even the most complex jobs a piece of cake … not to mention the mind-numbing substances that will make you think you’re hanging out in Margaritaville.

Our readers were all over this category, naming 21 different dentists. Two who definitely have a dedicated core of the voting public are Brandt Cullen of Ashland Family Dental and Mehdi Ghavam.

They were followed by:

  • Brian Kitchell
  • Gary Macgraw
  • Ed Warr of Today’s Dentistry
  • Michael Uffens of Premier Care Dental
  • Eugene Robbins
  • Pete Schwarzer
  • Zahra Tahvili

FAVORITE DOCTOR

You can only put off going to the doctor for so long before that nasty little stomach pain turns into an ulcer. Or you Google about that nagging injury to the shoulder and learn it just might be a torn rotator cuff and that you should get to a doctor immediately. Or those persistent bouts of vertigo might be related to an inner-ear infection that could be routinely cleared up with antibiotics. The list could go on, and our readers definitely appreciate the work that our local physicians do to keep everyone healthy, wealthy and wise, as they named 25 different physicians in this survey, giving the top nod to both Jani Rollins (winner of this category in 2012, 2015 and 2017) and Sylvia Chatroux (winner in 1996 and 2011).

Others high on the list were:

  • Linda Niehaus
  • Miriam Soriano of Ashland Family Health Care
  • Karin Kuhl, internal medicine
  • Patrick Honsinger
  • John Sager
  • Sara Walz
  • Melissa Noble
  • Howard Morningstar

FAVORITE NURSE PRACTITIONER

According to Wikipedia, nurse practitioners are “advanced-practice registered nurses classified as mid-level practitioners. They are trained to assess patient needs, order and interpret diagnostic and laboratory tests, diagnose illness and disease, prescribe medication, and formulate treatment plans.” Whew! Almost sounds like a doctor to me.

Our readers were able to name 14 different nurse practitioners in this survey, with Patrice Friers, FNP in Jani Rollins’ office, taking down the top spot, followed by:

  • Tara Lee Frazier Rice, FNP
  • Francesca Gunn, FNP at Stone Medical
  • Jennifer Hill, FNP
  • Kathryn Stringer, FNP
  • Shannon Rio, FNP

FAVORITE NATUROPATHIC DOCTOR

Their whole mission in life is to keep people healthy and/or “use the healing powers of nature to return a patient to health by supporting the body’s own healing abilities.” By focusing on nutrition, exercise, and reducing stress with some lifestyle changes, Naturopaths are confident they can prevent many of the chronic diseases now plaguing America’s health care system.

Leading the way in that regard was Geoff Houghton, ND, of Clear Creek Healing Arts.

Others high on the list were:

  • L. Elyssia Herrick, ND
  • Chris Chlebowski, ND, of Ashland Natural Medicine
  • Brigid Crowe, ND, of Wild Fern Natural Health
  • Gloria Schwartz, ND

FAVORITE HAIR STYLIST

You were walking through a seedy pawn shop when your hair got caught in a ceiling fan. It took three grown men and a jaws-of-life to extricate you from the thing, and by the time you got out of there, a visit to the hair stylist was in order. Where to go? This is another popular category, as 31 different hair stylists were mentioned. Taking down the top spot was a tie between Holly Stanley of Blue Giraffe and Mary Brooks of Sunshine Salon.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Susan Zastoupil of Be Cherished
  • Leon Danielle
  • Georgene Crowe of Hair City
  • Vonda Sambrano at Strands
  • Rene Whyte at Waterstone
  • Edythe Westbrook of Sunshine Salon
  • Julie Schmiess of Blue Giraffe

FAVORITE MANICURIST/PEDICURIST

I’m not an expert in human anatomy, but I would be willing to bet that a manicurist is quite capable of moving from fingers to toes without having to get out the manual, and vice versa. And in the category “Favorite Manicurist/Pedicurist,” Lee Pham and her staff of trained professionals at Chloé Salon & Boutique were mentioned most often, followed by:

  • The staff at Blue Giraffe Day Spa
  • The friendly folks at Oasis Nails & Spa
  • Plaza Salon
  • Kelly Clary-Lamb at Abbinito
  • Nails by Tina Siegl

FAVORITE CHIROPRACTOR

Your brother-in-law was moving out of his house and politely asked if you could help out. What he didn’t mention was that it included a piano, freezer, refrigerator, pool table, safe, and a set of anvils he had stored in the basement. At the end of the day, you could hardly walk, and even combing your hair was a major effort. The situation required some major adjustments from top to bottom, so you paid a visit to your favorite chiropractor, which according to our readers was Kelly Lange of Hands On Wellness.

The top five were actually pretty close and they included:

  • Kathleen Manley of Renaissance Chiropractic
  • Marc Heller
  • Scott Roberts (at the Blue Giraffe)
  • Mark Adams

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • John Kalb
  • Robert Medeck

AUTO SHOP WITH FRIENDLIEST MECHANICS 

He doesn’t need to know all the latest jokes or be conversant in current political upheavals, but when your baby is going in for surgery, it’s great to have a mechanic with a good bedside manner. “It’s okay, Mr. Smith, before we rip out that transmission and replace it with a new one, we’ll make sure your car has been properly anesthetized. We even have headphones playing music by The Cars.”

Okay, I was exaggerating, but our readers were still able to name 17 different auto shops as their favorites in this category, starting with the top which ended in a 3-way tie between Zach Edwards’ Ashland Automotive, Inc. at 550 Clover Lane; Dan Dawson’s McClure’s Auto Repair, located at 1765 Siskiyou Boulevard; and Ashland Auto Repair at 75 Lithia Way. Seriously, the votes were so close that it would have been unfair to name just one as the winner.

Also receiving lots of votes were:

  • Siskiyou Imports
  • Miles Automotive in Talent
  • Valley View Auto Repair
  • Aaron’s Autowerks in Talent
  • Rudi’s Auto Service
  • Dan Wolff Auto Repair

FAVORITE CAR SALESPERSON

Other than buying a home and paying for a college education, buying a car is one of the biggest investments one makes in a lifetime. The last thing you want is a car salesman who sits at the desk working a crossword puzzle while you’re trying to get information on that perfect car sitting out there in the lot. He or she has to be alert and ready to answer any and all questions, no matter how stupid, i.e., “It comes with all four tires, right?”

Our readers were able to identify quite a few car salespeople, and while the votes were spread out fairly evenly, Rocky Moore at Butler Ford Acura ended up at the top of the leader board, followed by:

  • Michael Nixon at Ashland Motor Company
  • Ralph Emerson at TC Chevy
  • Rex Cunningham at Butler Ford Acura
  • Rodney Maxwell at TC Chevy

FAVORITE ATTORNEY

I’ve been running these “real” courtroom scenes for a few years, but the Internet keeps coming up with more. Enjoy!

Lawyer: “Officer, what led you to believe the defendant was under the influence?

Witness: “Because he was argumentary, and he couldn’t pronunciate his words.”

* * * * *

Lawyer: “The truth of the matter is that you were not an unbiased, objective witness, isn’t it? You too were shot in the fracas.”

Witness: “No, sir. I was shot midway between the fracas and the navel.”

* * * * *

You have to wonder how attorneys can keep a straight face when they encounter scenes like that. Here in Ashland, our attorneys have probably seen their share of amusing answers. Fifteen different members of the bar were named by our readers, including this year’s winner Cheri L. Elson, who took over Alan Drescher’s practice after he retired a few years ago.

The list also included:

  • Jack Davis
  • Susan Krant
  • Bob Good
  • Mike Balocca
  • Sonja Friedman
  • Lexi Packer
  • Garrison Turner
  • Chris Hearn

FAVORITE POLICEPERSON  

Crime in Ashland is actually fairly boring if you read the police reports: “Woman arrested on a failure to appear”; “Ashland police impounded an abandoned vehicle”; “A woman was cited on the charge of an open container of alcohol”; “hit and run report”; “disorderly conduct”; “Ashland police took a report of a stolen bicycle”; etc., etc. Whatever happened to bank robberies and hostage standoffs? I’m definitely not complaining, and my hat is off to local police for keeping us safe.

Our readers definitely appreciate the work our local officers do, and this year they named Ashland police lieutenant Hector Meletich as their number one guy, followed by:

  • Police chief Tighe O’Meara
  • Officer Matt Caswell
  • Officer Bon Stewart
  • Officer Matt Carpenter
  • Officer Mike Vanderlip

FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT OWNER 

They have to be some of the hardest working businesspeople in Ashland. Dealing with food is not always easy, and you have to be totally on top of deliveries, storage and cooking. And God forbid the walk-in cooler goes out … or the dishwasher … or three employees call in sick one night … or, well never mind, I think you get the picture.

A total of 29 different restaurant owners were mentioned by our readers, and this year the top award went to Dan Durant at Brothers who, along with his partner David Newton, bought the popular restaurant in 2007.

The list also included:

  • Julie Gurwell of Hearsay
  • Tom and Lisa Beam of Pie + Vine and Sesame
  • Gary Allen of Oak Tree
  • Dal and Renee Carver of Wild Goose
  • Pete and Krystal Foster of Breadboard
  • Billy Harto of Thai Pepper
  • Nicole Ruibal of Kobe
  • Crissy Barnett of Peerless
  • Drew Gibbs of Alchemy Restaurant

FAVORITE WAITPERSON

My favorite waitperson of all time was my mother. There were nine of us kids, and every morning she’d wake everyone up and take personal orders for breakfast. My go-to order was three eggs, two toasts and a glass of milk. I’d jump out of bed, put my clothes on, rub the crud out of my eyes, go over three pages of Geometry, and by the time I got to the dining room, the food was on the table waiting for me. She was an extraordinary woman.

This is another popular category, as 27 different waitpeople were mentioned. Landing in first place for 2020 was Rebecca Davis of Cucina Biazzi, followed by:

  • Amy Wong of Martino’s
  • Pai Kim at Omar’s
  • Alli Campbell of Thai Pepper
  • Lance Standridge at Peerless
  • Kerrie Baldwin of Breadboard
  • Chino Orozco at El Paraiso
  • Norma Jimenez of Agave

FAVORITE BARTENDER

Back by popular demand, more bartender jokes. —The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar; it was tense. —A termite walks into a bar and says, “Is the bar tender here?” —A roll of duct tape walks into a bar. The bartender asks politely, “What can I get you?” The duct tape looks around and says, “I think I’ll just stick to my usual.” —What is a bartender’s least favorite guitar chord? A minor.

Yep, pretty stupid. The Internet needs to upgrade their bartender jokes. But if you want to hear some really good ones, hit up your local bartenders, as they’re required to stay on top of that stuff. Meanwhile, our readers selected 18 different bartenders as their personal favorites. Landing at the top was Zach Benson, bartender at Thai Pepper.

 Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Freddie Herrera of Mezcal
  • Blake Henry of Brickroom
  • Caitlin Hilligoss of Peerless
  • Jen Campbell of Kobe
  • Todd Hendrickson at Wild Goose
  • Chris Arthur at Omar’s
  • Jeremy Sellinger at Taqueria Picaro
  • Zeke Hudson of Alchemy

FAVORITE CONTRACTOR/HOME BUILDER 

When my wife and I moved into our house 27 years ago, it included a 250-square-foot shed in back that was something out of a Stephen King novel. Part of it we converted into a chicken coop, until the raccoons ransacked the roof and killed all of them. The walls were put together with ¾-inch particle boards below a flimsy corrugated roof. The inside was dark and dingy and inhabited by mice, rats, black widows, possums and an assortment of other mutated mammals we couldn’t find on the taxonomic chart. So last year we called a contractor, had the thing razed, and we now have one of the classiest tool sheds in the state of Oregon.

Who to call when you want to build or remodel a house, tool shed, etc.?  Our readers were actually able to name 22 of them (and there are a lot in southern Oregon, by the way). The top nod this year went to Steve Asher of Asher Homes, followed by:

  • Dale Nugent Construction
  • Jeff Hamlett of Hamlett Construction
  • Michael Hodgkins of Coleman Creek Construction
  • Walt Stokes
  • John Fields of Golden Fields Construction
  • Dale Shostrom of Shostrom Brothers

FAVORITE ROOFER 

Then two years ago we needed a new roof on the main house, and because it had been re-roofed three times over the previous forty-plus years, the roofers were required to remove everything down to the studs and start over. It was a five-day effort, and they did an outstanding job. It ain’t easy being a homeowner, let me tell ya.

And when you need to replace the roof, our readers can steer you in the right direction, as they named twelve different companies that do great jobs, starting with their first choice, Rogue Valley Roofing.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • JAM Roofing
  • Pressure Point Roofing
  • Quality Roofing

FAVORITE HOUSE PAINTER

And the beat goes on. Now we’re talking about painting the house, and while I would love to do it myself, having it done right is more important. And when it comes to that, our readers named fifteen different house painters, including their number one choice, Derek Volkart, followed by:

  • Two Stiffs Who Need Work
  • Robert Jennings Painting
  • Tom Chott
  • Garrett Edmands Uptown Painting
  • Jim Baldwin of City Painting

FAVORITE LANDSCAPER

That great idea you had about putting in a putting green in the backyard along with some batting cages didn’t do much for the ambiance. When a professional landscaper came by and showed you what the yard could look like with some well-managed pathways, flower beds, gazebos and water features, you said goodbye to the athletic equipment, and hello serenity.

Where to go when you want the yard to look like Butchart Gardens? Our readers were all over the place on this one, but in the end they settled on Seth Barnard’s Solid Ground Landscape.

Also receiving a lot of votes were:

  • Eric Simpson Landscaping
  • Sage Hill Landscape
  • Kencairn Landscape Architecture
  • Banyan Tree Landscaping
  • George Clark

FAVORITE STORE DOWNTOWN

Every morning, before even brushing our teeth, we should all ask ourselves: “What can we do to stop Amazon from destroying the economy of small-town America?” Sure, it’s great for their corporate headquarters in Seattle and wherever they place their sweatshops where people package all that stuff, but all of the money that we locals spend on the convenience of online shopping goes flying out of the local economy. What can you do to stop all that? For starters, shop locally as much as possible, and that can start with a strong, vibrant downtown, where our readers were able to name 25 different favorites.

Taking down the top spot was perennial favorite the Paddington Family of Stores, including Paddington Station (125 E. Main); Inspired by Oregon (next door at 131 E. Main); Paddington Jewel Box (next to the Varsity Theatre); and The Paddington Express at 300 E. Main.

They were followed by:

  • Bloomsbury Books
  • Papaya
  • Culinarium
  • American Trails
  • NW Nature Shop
  • Outback in the Temple of Venus
  • Prize
  • Crown Jewel
  • Gold & Gems

FAVORITE STORE OUTSIDE DOWNTOWN

Variety, I suppose, is the spice of life, and while downtown Ashland is always an adventure, our readers sometimes like to get out and see the rest of town. Landing at the top this year was another 2-way tie between neighbors Deja Vu, a clothing consignment store, and Ashland Artisan Emporium, a gift store featuring 160 vendors. Both are located in the Ashland Shopping Center, right across from Wendy’s.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Bi-Mart
  • Ashland Recycled Furniture in the Railroad District
  • Ace Hardware in the Railroad District
  • Rare Earth in the Railroad District
  • Get n Gear in the Railroad District
  • The Dollar Store in the Shopping Center
  • Revive in the Railroad District
  • Bestow & Bloom on Ashland Street next to ReMix
  • Earth Friendly Kids in the Shopping Center

BEST GIFT STORE 

Just in case you didn’t get the memo, January 2nd is Science Fiction Day, January 3rd is Fruitcake Toss Day, January 4th is Trivia Day, and January 9th is Static Electricity Day. Now, get out and buy gifts for your friends and loved ones!

Where to go? Our readers most often recommended Paddington Station downtown, located at 125 E. Main

The Top Ten included:

  • NW Nature Shop
  • Papaya
  • Prize
  • Paddington Jewel Box
  • Crown Jewel
  • Three Penny Mercantile
  • Outback in the Temple of Venus
  • Ashland Artisan Emporium
  • Paddington Express

BEST PLACE TO BUY CHILDREN’S CLOTHES/TOYS  

I just got back from a birthday party for my 3-year-old granddaughter, and what exactly do you get 3-year-old girls as gifts? I went to the store and wandered the aisles like a rat in a maze until I finally latched onto a crafty-type thing she could work with her mom. She loved it. I guess I can still get into the mind of a 3-year-old.

Where to go when you want to buy clothes, toys, and ammunition for kids? This category was dominated by Bug-a-Boo of Ashland, located at 40 N. Main, followed by:

  • NW Nature Shop
  • Tree House Books
  • Earth Friendly Kids
  • Bi-Mart

FAVORITE BICYCLE SHOP

You just got a text message from your cousin Francoise in Paris and he wants you to join his Tour de France team next year. “It’ll be a blast,” he said. “Only 2,200 miles over 23 days, and I’ll provide all the wine and cheese.” So you trudge down to the local bike shop and get yourself outfitted. Where to go? Many of our readers chose both Piccadilly Cycles (525 A Street) and Ashland Cycle Sport (191 Oak Street), which tied in this category.

Also receiving their fair share of votes were:

  • Ashland Electric Bike
  • Get N Gear
  • Bear Creek Bicycle
  • Siskiyou Cyclery
  • Flywheel in Talent
  • The Bike Swap

BEST SELECTION OF WOMEN’S CLOTHES

I grew up with six sisters, but we were all sent to Catholic schools in Evansville, Indiana, and the schools required uniforms for girls. While I didn’t go sneaking around my sisters’ closets (well, maybe a little), I can only imagine how boring it was for them to go to school wearing the same thing every day. But then again, they didn’t have to worry about impressing anyone, and they could save their money on other things, like buying presents for their brothers.

Anyway, whenever my sisters visit Ashland, they love to splurge on new clothes, and according to our readers, they most often visited Thread Hysteria (on the Plaza) and Outback in the Temple of Venus, located at 275 E. Main.

The Top Five were extremely close, however, and they included:

  • Patina Soul
  • Kixx
  • Deja Vu

Others receiving votes were:

  • Paddington Station
  • Paddington Jewel Box
  • Earthly Goods
  • Avant Garb
  • Three Penny Mercantile

FAVORITE JEWELER/JEWELRY STORE

The allure of jewelry goes back to prehistoric days, as archaeologists are constantly unearthing rings, necklaces, and earrings from 20,000 years ago. Of course, the mastery of gold and silver, and the discovery of diamonds, brought the quality up a few notches. Today’s jewelry stores are a marvel of beautiful things.

Here in Ashland, perennial favorite Gold & Gems, owned and operated on the Plaza by the Hansen family, topped the voting for 2020.

It was close, however, at the top as Art Fx has its supporters, followed by:

  • Crown Jewel
  • Paddington Jewel Box
  • American Trails
  • Heart & Hands
  • Papaya

BEST PLACE TO BY CDs/VINYL RECORDS

When I got sent to Germany in the Army back in 1970, I decided to bring my 300 albums with me in two big boxes all taped up. I got to JFK with them, and the sergeant checking us in said, “You ain’t taking those with you, private. You’re allowed one duffel bag.” I looked him right in the eye and said, “Those are all my albums in the world. I can’t just leave them here. If I can’t get them on the plane, I’m not going.” He could envisage three days of paperwork staring him in the face, and he told me to get on the plane while he tagged the boxes. I don’t think he was happy with me.

Where would Sarge go if he wanted to supplement his album and/or CD collection? Many of our readers chose long-time favorite Music Coop, operated by John and Trina Brenes at 268 E. Main.

Also receiving its share of votes were:

  • Diana’s Records
  • Biscuits & Vinyl in Talent
  • Bi-Mart

FAVORITE FOOD TRUCK

Well, I wasn’t sure exactly how many people were going to answer this question because I personally have never seen a food truck in Ashland outside of the Growers’ Market. I was proved wrong as FIFTEEN different food trucks were mentioned by our readers, almost all of them based out of Medford. Taking down the top spot was Peruvian Point, where Christian and his crew serve up authentic Peruvian food.

Others high on the list were:

  • Daddy Ramen
  • Word on the Street
  • Jose’s Tacos
  • Northwest Pine Apple 

GROCERY STORE WITH BEST SELECTION OF VEGETABLE 

If you’ve ever studied the prehistoric conditions of our ancestors, you would know that the human digestive system was designed to efficiently process meat. But when the guys brought back a side of mastodon, the last thing they wanted to do was just sit around the campfire and chew on meat. They needed something to accompany the meal, which is where a good supply of vegetables came in handy.

Where would our hungry ancestors go if they wanted to shop for vegetables in Ashland? Most of our readers steered them to the friendly confines of the Ashland Food Co-op, located at 237 N. First Street, followed by:

  • Shop N Kart
  • Market of Choice
  • Safeway
  • Albertson’s

BEST PLACE TO BUY HOME DECOR

I lived with four other bachelors in Denver back in the mid 1970s, and the decor in our living room consisted of a couch, a coffee table, a TV set, and a round table that served as both a place to eat dinner and also where Monopoly and/or drinking games could be played, and a nerf ball hoop. It had its unique genre now known worldwide as Basic Bachelor. I wouldn’t recommend it.

According to our readers, if you want to take your decorating skills to the next level, they recommend you first visit Ashland Recycled Furniture, located at 258 A Street.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Ashland Artisan Emporium
  • Papaya
  • Prize
  • Revive
  • Manzanita
  • Goodwill
  • Alice in Marrakech 

FAVORITE GAS STATIO 

For better or worse, the internal combustion engine, powered by fossil fuels laid down in the ground over the last billion or so years, is with us until further notice. And when you need to have that vehicle powered up, our readers most often chose the ARCO station at Exit-14, followed by:

  • The Mobil station at Exit 14
  • The Valley View 76 station at Exit 19
  • The Mobil station at Siskiyou and Walker
  • The Astro station across from the library
  • The Chevron station at Exit 14

POLITICS

FAVORITE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER

They put in long hours at low pay, and you can’t get any more community-oriented than that. Then again, it’s politics, and they have to sometimes make painful decisions that will upset 49% of the people. But like Senator Foghorn said in that old comic strip: “You don’t have to fool all of the people all of the time; or some of the people some of the time; just 51% every six years.”

Taking down the number one spot in this survey was Dennis Slattery, who also doubles as a professor business at S.O.U.

The top four included:

  • Tonya Graham
  • Steffi Seffinger
  • Julie Akins

BEST LOCAL EFFORT TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change should be on everyone’s minds, unless you’re one of those ostriches that likes to stick his or her head in the sand. Every little bit that could possibly make a difference is greatly appreciated these days, from buying electric cars to turning down the thermostat. According to our readers, they most appreciated the efforts by public and private groups to install and maintain as many solar panels as possible in the city of Ashland.

Others high on the list featured:

  • The efforts by SOCAN: Confronting Climate Change
  • Putting a stop to the Jordan Cove LNG pipeline
  • The bicycles available to rent around town
  • Free Electrical Vehicle charging 

A VERY UNSCIENTIFIC POLITICAL POLL

Each year we ask our readers to answer four political questions just to gauge the mood of the community. These answers are “relatively” accurate since very few people stuff the ballot for them.

1. Should the City Council let us vote on the County Jail? Well, when I wrote this question, the Council had still not voted on whether or not to include Ashland on the county-wide ballot measure for a new jail. In the interim, they indeed voted to allow Ashland residents a chance to become part of the jail district and to vote on it.  They were apparently reading the minds of the citizenry, as quite a few of them at least wanted the chance to vote.

Yes, let us vote: 85%

No, we don’t want anything to do with it: 15%

1. Should we do more prescribed burns and thinning in the forest? The Sneak Preview actually did two articles on this topic in the last 14 months. In November 2018 we wrote about the success of prescribed burns and thinning to slow down fires and give crews a chance to stop them before they got out of control. Then we got a letter from someone quoting numerous forest scientists who questioned that strategy. A followup article in July 2019 put the matter to rest: the strategy had been proven to be effective. So … should we continue with the policy of prescribed burns and thinning in the forest? Our readers heartily agreed.

Yes, continue with the strategy: 95%

No, discontinue it: 5%

3. Should the T.I.D.’s Ashland Canal be covered up and piped? First of all, the Ashland Canal is part of the T.I.D. water delivery system, but it is owned and maintained by the City of Ashland to ensure an adequate supply of water at the end of each season. The City argues that if they piped the water instead of exposing it to the elements and/or a leaky canal, they could save 62 million gallons of water a year. It’s going to be expensive, but over time it will be worth it. The opponents, mainly the neighbors, would rather go with a less expensive version and also retain the park-like setting that the canal provides. This issue is fairly controversial, and our readers couldn’t make up their minds.

Yes, cover it up and save the water: 48%

No, fix the canal and leave it as is: 52%

4. Should the Senate vote yes for impeachment on President Trump? I don’t know … someone who won’t turn over pertinent documents and allow his people to testify on his behalf is probably hiding something. It’s pretty obvious that he’s guilty, but I’m not sitting on the jury. It will be left up to Republican senators to demand that all the evidence be presented. If he’s innocent, what does he have to hide? Anyway, if our readers sat on the jury, the President would be long gone.

Yes, vote to get rid of him: 84%

No, keep him in office: 16%

* * * * *

Okay, I was promised a big bottle of bourbon if I finished this on time, and I just squeaked in under the deadline. Old Granddad and I will see you in February for Part II.