Tour de Cappies, 2019 edition – checking in on some of this year’s big winners

The Red Blazer won the Cappies award for Best Restaurant, so we went and ordered a grilled salmon lunch. JON BODELL / Insider staff
The Red Blazer won the Cappies award for Best Restaurant, so we went and ordered a grilled salmon lunch. JON BODELL / Insider staff
In light of Arnie's Place winning the Cappies award for Best Ice Cream, we had to stop by and order a sundae to see what all the fuss was about.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
In light of Arnie's Place winning the Cappies award for Best Ice Cream, we had to stop by and order a sundae to see what all the fuss was about. JON BODELL / Insider staff
Chelsea Olivera gives Roma the goldendoodle a little makeover at Pawtopia, winner of the Cappies award for Best Dog Groomer.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
Chelsea Olivera gives Roma the goldendoodle a little makeover at Pawtopia, winner of the Cappies award for Best Dog Groomer. JON BODELL / Insider staff
We had to check out Squid Flip, winner of the Cappies award for Best Home Decor. At just 12, owner Owen Simoes may very well be the youngest Cappies winner in the history of the world. His shop features furniture and decorative pieces for the house that he has restored and/or customized on his own.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
We had to check out Squid Flip, winner of the Cappies award for Best Home Decor. At just 12, owner Owen Simoes may very well be the youngest Cappies winner in the history of the world. His shop features furniture and decorative pieces for the house that he has restored and/or customized on his own. JON BODELL / Insider staff
We had to check out Squid Flip, winner of the Cappies award for Best Home Decor. At just 12, owner Owen Simoes may very well be the youngest Cappies winner in the history of the world. His shop features furniture and decorative pieces for the house that he has restored and/or customized on his own.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
We had to check out Squid Flip, winner of the Cappies award for Best Home Decor. At just 12, owner Owen Simoes may very well be the youngest Cappies winner in the history of the world. His shop features furniture and decorative pieces for the house that he has restored and/or customized on his own. JON BODELL / Insider staff
We had to check out Squid Flip, winner of the Cappies award for Best Home Decor. At just 12, owner Owen Simoes may very well be the youngest Cappies winner in the history of the world. His shop features furniture and decorative pieces for the house that he has restored and/or customized on his own.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
We had to check out Squid Flip, winner of the Cappies award for Best Home Decor. At just 12, owner Owen Simoes may very well be the youngest Cappies winner in the history of the world. His shop features furniture and decorative pieces for the house that he has restored and/or customized on his own. JON BODELL / Insider staff
Concord Antiques Gallery won the Cappies award for Best Antique Store, and since they just opened a second location right down the street on April 1, we had to stop in and check out the new digs.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
Concord Antiques Gallery won the Cappies award for Best Antique Store, and since they just opened a second location right down the street on April 1, we had to stop in and check out the new digs. JON BODELL / Insider staff
Concord Antiques Gallery won the Cappies award for Best Antique Store, and since they just opened a second location right down the street on April 1, we had to stop in and check out the new digs.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
Concord Antiques Gallery won the Cappies award for Best Antique Store, and since they just opened a second location right down the street on April 1, we had to stop in and check out the new digs. JON BODELL / Insider staff
Concord Antiques Gallery won the Cappies award for Best Antique Store, and since they just opened a second location right down the street on April 1, we had to stop in and check out the new digs.  JON BODELL / Insider staff
Concord Antiques Gallery won the Cappies award for Best Antique Store, and since they just opened a second location right down the street on April 1, we had to stop in and check out the new digs. JON BODELL / Insider staff

After a whole year of hand-wringing, nail-biting and general anxiety, the winners of the 2019 Cappies awards were finally announced last week. For many businesses – and patrons – the Cappies release date is the biggest day of the year, and for good reason.

The Cappies are, of course, chosen by you, the readers. More than 2,000 votes were cast, deciding who was the best in fields ranging from ice cream to dog grooming to performance venues. Inevitably, there are always some surprises, as well as some businesses that the Insider has never been to or, in some cases, even heard of.

That’s why we set out last week, fresh Cappies issue in hand, to track down some of the winners and find out what makes them the best. We wanted to cover a variety of categories, and also to check out some places we’d never been to before. We gave preference to businesses that lend themselves nicely to photos, which explains why you won’t see any visits to financial advisors or law firms here (sorry!).

So, without further ado, we will now start the Tour de Cappies – 2019 edition.

Squid Flip

There aren’t too many legitimate businesses run by kids who haven’t even hit their teens yet, and the number of award-winning businesses run by pre-teens is probably infinitesimally small. However, we happen to have one such business right here in Concord, and it’s called Squid Flip, winner of the Cappies award for Best Home Decor.

You may have heard of Squid Flip by now – the business has been featured in the Concord Monitor, the Boston Globe, Good Morning America and even your trusty Insider here, just to name a few. The shop at 31 Warren St. in Concord is owned and operated by 12-year-old Owen Simoes, a sixth-grader at Beech Hill School in Hopkinton, and it features his own original pieces of furniture and home décor items.

Owen finds old, often discarded items such as chairs, desks, crates, suitcases or anything else he thinks he can work with, and brings them back to life with paint, new fabric or, in many cases, a completely new and different purpose. The shop is run out of the basement of Louis Karno & Co., a public relations firm owned by his father, Jayme Simoes, and it is full of wildly different items, all handmade or restored by Owen himself.

“I try to think of something that’s actually possible,” Owen said when asked how he chooses which items to buy (or pick for free off the side of the road, as he has done before) and restore. His uncle, an electrician, taught him how to make lamps, so he’s been picking items that he can make lamps out of lately, such as an old camera that he just sold last week or an old lobster pot, which hangs from the ceiling in the shop.

He also has his own line of paint called Squid Ink. This is chalked paint, which has a finish that, well, kind of feels and looks like chalk. He uses this paint, which he makes himself, on many of his items, but he also sells it to the public. Making the paint, he has found, is much cheaper than buying it in the store. It’s a little more interesting, too.

“It’s way more fun to make it,” he said.

Since Owen is still in school – and will be for quite while longer – the shop’s hours are fairly limited. He knows he can be there on Tuesday afternoons after 5, but beyond that, the best way to go about checking the place out is to make an appointment. His website is squidflip.com, and you can contact him to make an appointment or inquire about an item through there. He also sells his products through the website, and Lilise Designer Resale, another Cappies winner (Best Consignment Store – Second Place), carries his Squid Ink paint.

For even more info or to set up an appointment right away, call 224-5566.

Concord Antiques Gallery

Concord Antiques Gallery again took home the crown of Best Antique Shop – they’ve won that award every year since 2005, according to their website. While we have been there before, the shop just opened a second location just down the street at 137 Storrs St. on April 1, and we figured this was a perfect time to check out the new digs.

While still part of the same company, the new location is known as just Concord Antiques, and this space has a much different feel from the other one at 97 Storrs St. The new space, which once housed a mechanic station for the long-gone Boston and Maine Railroad, has high ceiling and exposed wooden beams, creating a very open, airy feel in there. The aisles are also wider than those at the original location, and the merchandise is a bit higher end. Basically, since Concord Antiques is newer, most of the buzz surrounds that location. As a result, the folks in charge of determining whether to take items from dealers and where to display them have been more selective when determining which items will be sold out of the new location.

While there is not as much volume at the new spot, the focus is more on quality than quantity. The hope is that as time goes on and the shelves fill up more and more, the process will become more and more selective, leading to higher and higher quality items in the shop.

To be clear, the original location was a Cappies winner too – these two locations are the same business, just with slightly different names. That means you might find products from the same dealers at both locations. You might also find some dealers who are only in one location. The point is that it’s one big business in two close-together spots right downtown. They even have the same website – concordantiquesgallery.com – and hours – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Next time you’re on Storrs Street, drop into both locations and see what kinds of treasures you can find.

Pawtopia

Pawtopia is one of the businesses we’d never heard of before reading in the Cappies that they won the award for Best Dog Groomer. That called for a visit.

Since getting a wash or a trim can be stressful for animals, the staff at Pawtopia works hard to make sure the pets are always as happy and comfortable as can be.

“We want the dogs to feel comfortable and happy,” said co-owner Deanna Neal. “Customer service is huge for us.”

Apart from being a full-service groomer, the store also sells many locally made pet products such as treats, leashes, collars and other accessories. They take all breeds, sizes and ages of dogs and cats, and appointments should be made about two weeks in advance, Neal said. They’re also big into charity, offering pet pictures with Santa every year with the proceeds going to a charity – last year the charity was 4 Paws 4 Vets, a Manchester Animal Shelter program.

For more info, visit the shop at 244 Sheep Davis Road, call 227-6140 or go to pawtopiapets.com.

The Red Blazer

Obviously, we weren’t about to do this whole thing without grabbing some food, so what better place to visit than The Red Blazer, winner of the coveted Best Restaurant award.

Cutting right to the chase, we ordered the Grilled Salmon off the entrée menu, and it came out quickly, looking pretty good. The filet was smaller than we imagined, but for 12 bucks it’s hard to complain.

The salmon was nicely seasoned, although it lacked any noticeable cajun flavor, which we did order. The outside had some nice charring to it, which added a touch of texture. The mashed potatoes were light on seasoning, but the veggies were plenty flavorful and cooked just right – not too soft and mushy, but certainly not raw either.

By the end, we were wishing we had gotten a bigger piece of salmon, and that it was cooked a tiny bit longer, but all in all it was a very satisfying meal, especially for lunch.

The Red Blazer is at 72 Manchester St. For more info, go to theredblazer.com or call 224-4101.

Arnie’s Place

Last but certainly not least, we had to end the tour with some dessert, so we hit up Arnie’s Place, winner of the Best Ice Cream award. Arnie’s makes its own ice cream, and it’s a popular spot on the Heights.

We ordered a Luv My Heath Bar sundae, and man was this thing potent. Coffee Heath bar ice cream topped with Kahlua fudge, Heath pieces, whipped cream and nuts – what more is there to say? This was an incredibly rich sundae with a smorgasbord of textures going on – the hard crunch of the Heath, the soft crunch of the walnuts, the gooey hot fudge and airy whipped cream. If you love a good chocolate-toffee flavored sundae, this is the only one you’ll ever need.

Go to arniesplace.com for more info, or visit the shop at 164 Loudon Road.

Author: Jon Bodell

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