Best of 2004



Best Bed & Breakfast:

Windsor House, Edom

Best described as "elegant," this Roseland Plantation home has rooms exquisitely furnished and detailed in restored American antiques from the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s; all rooms have queen-sized beds and private baths. Rooms go for $125-$165, including breakfast, historic plantation tour, swimming pool, nature trails, and other amenities.

Runner Up:

Shoestring Farm, Wills Point


Best Hotel/Motel:

Hallmark Inn & Suites, Canton

Formerly known as Holiday Inn Express, the 25 suites have separate sitting and sleeping rooms and are furnished with refrigerators and microwaves. The other 33 rooms each have two queen-size beds. There are vending facilities, an outdoor swimming pool, and an outdoor hot spa. Complimentary guest breakfasts include hot waffles, three kinds of bread, fresh fruit (apples, oranges, and bananas), muffins, bagels, four kinds of juice, three kinds of oatmeal, cream cheese with bagels, two kinds of tea, regular and decaf coffee, and four kinds of cereal.


Best Historic Building:

Roseland Plantation, Edom

Built in 1851 as a 3,300-acre cotton plantation, Roseland won the first Texas Restoration Award. The two-story Hambrick Plantation House, named for original owner Burwell Hambrick, is made of wood with pegged mortise and tenon construction. Fireplace and foundation bricks were made by hand on the plantation. After the Civil War, Hambrick deeded much of the property to his former slaves, and part of the plantation land became the foundation for the Red Land High School and community. In 1954 Mrs. W. C. Windsor, wife of a Tyler oilman, bought the house and 200 acres, renamed it Roseland, and restored it. One-hour tours available by reservation.

Runner Up:

 Wills Cabin, Wills Point

   Edgewood Heritage Park


Best Landscape:

Garden's Edge, Edgewood

A cornucopia of native vegetation (with a few imports) in living color threatens to overtake the walkway over the koi pond and the 1942 "recycled" house built from the wood in a 1907 railroad hotel. From persimmon trees to marigolds to a variety of mints, the grounds lure. The house is home to a bakery, tea room, B&B, garden center, and gift shop rolled into one. The interior doors, walls, ceilings, and floor all have been restored and, next, the Pyle family plans to restore an even older building next door. Inside, the shop also highlights the work of local painters and photographers. In the greenhouse, you're as likely to find a Venus Flytrap, desert succulents, or elephants' ears as you are a local plant. With the enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, it's also a good place to find answers for your plant questions.

Runner Up:

   Lakeside Baptist Church, Canton

   Caboose Park, Wills Point


Best Mural:

The Last Supper, Roseland Plantation

An exact replica of Leonardo DaVinci’s original painting, commissioned in 1959 from Greek artists Charles Goslin and Pete Christus by former Roseland owner Mrs. W.C. Windsor. The oil on canvas is 28 feet wide by 15 feet high. Tours available by reservation.

Runner Up:

  Two Senoritas, Canton

Best Public Artwork / Sculpture

The Trade, Canton

This life-sized statue of two men negotiating swapping a rifle for a hunting dog was installed in 1998 at the Highway 19 entrance to the original First Monday grounds. Sculptors SueZan Stutts of Canton and Ora Lee Small of Gilmer, who won a competitive bid for the work, modeled it after the tiny statue sold for years at First Monday. They used Dog Alley hounds and their own friends (dressed in period clothes) as models and took the final pieces to Bryant’s Fine Art foundry in Azle, Texas, to pour hot bronze into the mould.

Runner Up:

   Rose Memorial, Veteran's Memorial in Wills Point

   "My Hero" in Van Zandt County Courthouse


Best Stop Light

Intersection Highways 19 & 64, Canton

On the edge of First Monday Trade Days and close to the Canton town square, this was the city’s first stoplight. Voters said it’s "kinda fun" to sit at the light when it’s red and to watch the action, to see what’s going on and who you might know passing by. They also said the cycle is short enough that they don’t have to sit there forever waiting for it to change. More seriously, the light has cut way down the number of accidents that used to happen at the intersection.

Runner Up:

   Highways 19 & 20, Highways 19 and 80, and the Van four-way



Best Bakery

Edom Bakery and Grill

Year-old bakery, breakfast, and lunch spot with a constantly evolving menu. Husband Bud Berry likes to bake; wife Annie Berry likes to cook, so it’s a hands-on family operation. They use their own bread in all the sandwiches, and have daily luncheon and soup specials. Popular items range from the strawberry fields salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing to the half-pound burger to pulled pork. The bakery makes its own breads, cakes, pies, wedding cakes, cookies, etc. Edom Bakery and Grill also caters. Pictured is day manager Lisa Byers.

Runner Up:

   Sweet Occasions by Sherry, Ben Wheeler


Best Barbecue

Cowboy's, Wills Point

Sid Templeton is the cowboy and chef at Cowboy’s on Fourth Street in Wills Point. He formerly gained notoriety while cooking barbecue at Cousins Produce in Edgewood with a mention in Texas Highways magazine and a featured story in the Edgewood Enterprise. He offers delicious brisket, sausage, hot links, smoked ham, and pork spare ribs. Side dishes include beans, cole slaw, potato salad, mashed potatoes, and cowboy fries. Some of his specialties include the Texas Tortado, a big baked potato with butter, sour cream, cheese, chives, and a choice of sausage, chopped brisket, hot links, or ham; the Saddle Bag Burrito, a flour tortilla stuffed with chopped brisket, cheese, onions and BBQ sauce; and the Quesadilla Grande, flour tortilla stuffed with chopped brisket, cheese, grilled onions and mild green chili or jalapenos. His hamburgers also received many votes for Best of Van Zandt County. Cowboys is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Runner Up:

   Rod's, Canton

   Backwoods, Canton

   Mr. B's, Grand Saline


Best Breakfast

Jewel's, Canton

Nothing fancy here. Just consistent, un-greasy eggs, pancakes, waffles, toast (wheat, rye, white, and Texas), omelets, ham, bacon, and sausage. Also plate lunches, sandwiches, Tex-Mex, and nightly specials such as steaks and pork chops. "If it’s not on the menu, we’ll make it anyway," says co-owner Glenda Phillips. Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Always closed Mondays. Pictured is Haley Johnson enjoying her breakfast at Jewel’s.

Runner Up:

   Stoney's Dinner Bell, Van

   The Shed, Edom

   Lone Star Grill, Wills Point

   Dairy Palace, Sister's Cafe, Circle E: Canton


Best Catfish

The Shed, Edom

No, it doesn’t come from the creek, but folks who eat at The Shed call this fried catfish the best in Van Zandt County. It’s available on Friday and Saturday nights as a four-piece single order, as a nine-piece dinner order, or "all you can eat." It comes with baked potatoes or fries, salad or cole slaw, pinto beans, and all the trimmings.

Runner Up:

   Sister's Cafe, Dairy Palace: Canton

   Rocky's, Grand Saline


Best Cheap Dinner

TIE: Lone Star Grill, Wills Point AND The Farmhouse, Van

Successfully combining "best" with "cheap," price with value, isn’t easy. Voters said these two places do it well.

The Lone Star Grill is approaching its fifth year in Wills Point and consistently offers good food at a fair price. On Friday nights they have an 8-ounce rib eye special for $8.99 that includes a choice of potato and trip to their award-winning salad bar.

The Farmhouse, which opened a little more than a year ago, makes most of its meals from scratch and offers the same portions in its all-day specials at both lunch and dinner. The Farmhouse’s bakery provides the pies for Sister’s Cafe, Jewel’s, and the Trade Days Pavilion restaurant.

Runner Up:

   Sister's Cafe, Two Senoritas: Canton

   The Shed, Edom


Best Chicken-Fried Steak

The Shed, Edom

As a lunch or dinner special, The Shed’s chicken-fried steak – with or without gravy – is a favorite. The meat comes from Mineola Packing; the batter applied by hand before the whole thing is deep fried. What’s the batter made of? Well, we can’t tell you because The Shed won’t tell us. You can order a single serving, a 1.5-piece dinner serving, or all you can eat. Like the catfish, it comes with baked potatoes or fries, salad or cole slaw, pinto beans, and all the trimmings.

Runner Up:

   Sister's Cafe, Dairy Palace: Canton

   Lone Star Grill

   The Farmhouse, Van


Best Coffee

Jewels, Canton

What can you say about people’s favorite coffee? It smells good. It’s hot but not too hot. With good service, refills are always timely. The brand? Cain’s. The varieties? Caf and decaf; no double chocolate latte with lemon and whipped cream slow roasted on a bed of eucalyptus leaves, or anything like that.

Runner Up:

   The Shed, Edom

   Dairy Palace: Canton


Best Donuts

Donut Palace, Canton

Open from 5 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. daily, Donut Palace, with its sinful mix of offerings, is where a lot of people begin their mornings. The offerings include glazed, chocolate, strawberry, and cake donuts as well as lemon- and cream-filled pastries, cinnamon rolls, apple fritters, pig-in-blanket, and croissants. Drinks include coffee, milk, juices, and colas.

Runner Up:

   Edgewood Donuts

   Wills Point Donut Shop


Best Enchiladas

Two Senoritas, Canton

Senior "senorita" Ann Schmidt, who runs Two Senoritas with her daughter, Mary Gideon, says 15 years of experience blended consistently into the big menu’s hand-made dishes is the key to all of the food, including the enchiladas. Two Senoritas also offers low-point, low-carb items including baked tortillas made more with wheat and soy flour than white flour. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed on Mondays.

Runner Up:

   Ochoa's, Canton

   Robles, Canton

   Le Predera, Wills Point


Best Food:

Sister's Cafe, Canton

All three sisters worked in restaurants since they were in high school, and first opened their own place in February 1998. They’ve been at the current location for a year. It’s "honest-to-goodness home cooking like we were raised on," says one sister, Kris Fincher. Diner favorites include burgers, fries, onion rings, catfish, grilled tilapia, meatloaf, and chicken-fried steak. Here’s a secret: if for some reason you don’t like the regular fries, you can ask for hand-cut fresh ones. Sister’s is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and for dinner on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. It seats 185; occasionally, it’s standing room only. (The sisters have a smaller restaurant in Blooming Grove and will open another big one—which will also have a drive-in window—in February in Gun Barrel City.) Pictured from left to right are sisters Leigh Ann Jaquez, Kris Fincher, and Marcie Darrell.

Runner Up:

   Two Senoritas, Canton

   Circle E, Canton

   Dairy Palace, Canton


Best French Fries:

McDonald's, Canton

What’s the secret to these hot, crisp, salty, popular fries? How does McDonald’s make them? The man who answered the phone said, "We just drop them in the fryer." Elaborating a little, he allowed that the oil in the fryer is vegetable oil.


Best Hamburger:

Dairy Palace, Canton

So, what makes the Dairy Palace hamburgers world famous? It’s simple. People come to First Monday Trade Days from all over the world. Some of them have been buying Dairy Palace burgers since the place opened in 1984. Just about everybody—folks from Germany, France, Mexico, Canada, all over the United States—likes them. So do local voters, who can have one 24 hours a day. The old-fashioned burgers come in six sizes—fifth-pound, third-pound, and half-pound, with double meat available on each —and the main ingredient is fresh (not frozen) ground beef chuck, processed on site.

Runner Up:

   Cowboy's, Wills Point

   Sister's Cafe, Canton

   Whataburger, Canton


Best Hot Sauce / Salsa:

Two Senoritas, Canton

It’s made with fresh ingredients, it’s spicy but never overwhelmingly hot. Good hot sauce and salsa are about the taste, not the heat. And the chips have to be crisp, fresh, and complementary.

Runner Up:

   Ochoa's, Canton

Best Lunch Deal:

Lone Star Grill, Wills Point

For just $4.99 ($4.29 for seniors) diners get the daily entree special, a choice from six or more vegetables and a trip to the salad bar.

Runner Up:

   The Shed, Edom

   Saline Soda Shop, Grand Saline

   Sister's Cafe, Canton


Best Malt / Shake:

Dairy Palace, Canton

Blue Bell ice cream, real milk, any flavor you want up to 36 or so. (There are ice cream flavors in the display case; look behind the counter for more.) Available 24 hours a day—lunch, dinner, late-night snack or, for the really needy and unselfconscious, breakfast.

Runner Up:


   Saline Soda Shop, Grand Saline


Best Pie:

The Shed, Edom

Pie must be the national dish of the Free State. The folks in the kitchen at The Shed make fresh pies every day: chocolate, coconut, lemon, pecan, pineapple, buttermilk, egg custard, peanut butter, chocolate chip, caramel, key lime, and a house concoction layered with chocolate, cream cheese, and pecans, with whipped cream and chocolate chips on top. That’s not where the dessert menu stops. They offer cheesecake, peach cobbler, Hershey chocolate cobbler with ice cream, Italian cream cake, and carrot cake. Then there’s what’s jokingly referred to as the Weight Watcher’s special—a slammin’ brownie with all the calories you can count. Pictured above: Kathy Dunson serves a piece of chocolate pie to Stan Watson, who regularly drives from Tyler to The Shed after church on Sundays.

Runner Up:

   The Farmhouse, Van

   Jewel's, Canton

   Ochoa's, Canton

   The Tea Room on the Square, Canton


Best Pizza:

Jerry's Pizza, Canton

Fresh ingredients and a familiar variety of toppings add up to the voters' clear favorite. The food is consistently good, the dining room is clean and romantically lit, and the location is easy to find whether you're a teenager on a date, a family having a meal together, or if you're just hanging out with your buds. There's a salad bar, too, and a big-screen TV and recorded music.


Best Place to Eat Alone:

Tea Room on the Square, Canton

Why is this the best place to eat alone? Because at any moment somebody you know is likely to walk in and you won’t be alone any more. Voters say this is a good lunch place to run into your friends and have a good meal. If you don’t, you’ve still got the friendly staff to greet you and talk with you. Staff pictured above from left to right, Ramona Wheeler, Shara Weeks, Chuck Sherwood, Mildred Savage, and Mama Lou Brown.

Runner Up:

   The Shed, Edom

   Dairy Palace, Canton


Best Place for a Business Lunch:

Karen's Cuisine, Wills Point

Karen serves delicious salads, sandwiches, homemade soups, baked potatoes, a variety of "melt-in-your- mouth" desserts baked fresh daily, and assorted flavored coffees. The pleasant atmosphere in the cafe in Citizen’s Plaza on Fourth Street make it a favorite place to get a little business done while enjoying a great meal. Karen’s is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Runner Up:

   Dairy Palace, Canton

   The Shed, Edom


Best Produce:

Edom Marketplace

Walker Farms has been selling wholesale at farmers’ markets in Dallas and Houston since 1988. Last June, it opened a retail spot that doubles as a small grocery store and deli with some of the usual stuff alongside specialty items such as cookbooks, relishes, and Watkins flavorings and soup kits. In the spring, it plans to add homemade gourmet ice cream.

Runner Up:

   Graham's, Edgewood


Best Queso:

Two Senoritas, Canton

Good cheese, of course. Always start with the base. Creamy, not runny. Closer to hot than to cold. A little bit spicy. Tasty chips that don’t break in the bowl.

Runner Up:

   Ochoa’s, Canton

   La Predera, Wills Point


Best Restaurant:

The Shed, Edom

A sprawling old place with three dining rooms where people feel like they’re eating at home. The cooking is home-style and consistent; lunch and dinner favorites include catfish and chicken-fried steak. And the pie is always popular. The Shed first opened in 1964 next door to its current location, and settled into its current spot in 1984. Donna Dean, born and raised in Edom, bought the place in 2000 with her husband David. The Shed is open seven days and six nights a week (closed on Sunday nights).

Runner Up:

   Two Senoritas, Canton

   Sister's, Canton


Best Restaurant for Kids:

Dairy Palace, Canton

No special playground equipment, but a favorite place for kids’ parties. There are kid-sized servings in a family-friendly atmosphere, a video game area, and a rainbow of Blue Bell ice cream flavors.

Runner Up:

   Burger King


Best Romantic Restaurant:

Tea Room on the Square, Canton

Special events like the annual Valentine’s dinner coming up in February help set the Tea Room apart from the competition in this category. Open daily for lunch, with nice table cloths, an attentive staff, and quality food in an elegant atmosphere.

Runner Up:

   Van Zandt Country Club


Best Salad Bar:

Lone Star Grill, Wills Point

Diners can and often do make a meal out of the extensive salad bar at Lone Star Grill. They offer crisp mixed iceberg and green leaf lettuce, always fresh and a variety of additions including black olives, cucumber, tomatoes, pickles, pickled okra, cheese, onion, beets, English pea salad, and potato salad. Toppings included boiled eggs, bacon, and six dressings plus two fat-free dressings. Salad bar also includes fruit and cottage cheese.


Best Sandwich:

Tea Room on the Square, Canton

The lunch menu includes 18 sandwiches, so there are plenty of options. The bestseller is the grilled Alamo with turkey, avocado, tomato, and provolone cheese served on parmesan bread baked in the kitchen. Other popular choices, among many, are the chicken-salad sandwich (with pineapple and curry) on wheat bread, and the turkey-avocado melt with sprouts, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato on a croissant. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

Runner Up:

   Karen's Cuisine, Wills Point

   Saline Soda Shop (with it's Fried Bologna Sandwich), Grand Saline

   Subway, Canton


Best Steak:

Circle E, Canton

Like good steakhouses anywhere, Circle E keeps it simple—meat cooked over an open flame, baked potato, one more vegetable, and rolls. The steaks are strip, sirloin, and rib eye weighing in at 12 to 14 ounces, and filet at 8 ounces. Fast, friendly service in a clean, no-smoking atmosphere. With breakfast on the menu now, too, hours are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. During the prime weekend hours, you might have a short wait for a table if you’re not one of the first hundred or so people through the doors.

Runner Up:

   Van Zandt Country Club


Best Flour Tortillas:

Robles, Canton

The best flour tortillas in Canton, according to voters, come from Dallas, and are made by a Houston-based company named La Mejor (which translates to "the best"). They are the soft, tasty six-inch flour tortillas at Robles, which is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. If you want butter with the tortillas, just ask one of the friendly waitresses or waiters for it.

Runner Up:

   Juanitas, Canton


Best Wait Staff:

The Shed, Edom

What defines good service? It’s prompt, professional, and friendly. Waiters and waitresses get the orders right and deliver meals from the kitchen quickly. With a hectic pace to take care of a lot of diners at the same time, staff training is emphasized by owner Donna Dean at The Shed. New waitresses get three days of on-the-job, side-by-side-with-a-veteran training, observation, and "suggestions."

Runner Up:

   Sister's, Canton

   Two Senoritas, Canton




Best Auto Repair:

Taylor Automotive, Canton

Computer diagnostics combined with lots of experienced mechanics, five repair bays, and a reputation for honesty add up to a clear best-of-Van Zandt County selection for the family owned and operated Taylor Automotive. Owner Rod Taylor has 23 years experience; he and his staff do all kinds of auto repair from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Taylor plans to move the whole operation into a new, bigger location in the spring.


Best Candles:

Mary Ellen's, Edom

See if you can guess what all of these smell like: angel’s whisper, cinnamon vanilla, crème Brule, hot apple pie, mulled cider, pumpkin spice, raisin rum, silent night, strawberry kiwi, and vanilla bean. If you know more than half of them, you’re probably either a cook or a genuine candle connoisseur. You can sniff all of these Candle In The Woods candles, and more, at Mary Ellen’s in Edom from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. If the name’s not familiar yet, the place was known as It’s the Berries until last November. Same owners, new name. The diverse shop also offers women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, antique furniture, and more.


Best Feed Store:

The Feed Store / Ron's Trading Post, Jackson

Talk about your combination of operations. Ron, 5 miles west of Canton on Highway 243, offers seven major lines of feed as well as tack, animal health products, and farm supplies. He sells gas (Citgo) and has a convenience store and deli all on the same property. He says he sells world-famous hamburgers too, with a nod to Dairy Palace. "If I don’t eat mine, I eat theirs," he said. Feed store hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays. Convenience store hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Runner Up:

  Circle E, Ben Wheeler


Best "Free State" Business:

Free State Abstract, Canton

Van Zandt County has long been called the Free State of Van Zandt. The story is that citizens once declared the county a free and independent state of the State of Texas, Southern Confederacy, and the United States of America. Free State Abstract picked its name in 1995 to identify with the history. The company searches titles for purchase, refinancing, or home equity loans. The "abstracts" part of its name is almost historic, too; an abstract is a seldom-used-anymore collection of all documents filed in a county affecting that land.


Best Car Wash:

Gaston's Van

If you’ve got a dirty car, you can wash it yourself for a few quarters or you can choose the drive-through for a selection of hands-free machine washes. Located on 314.


Best Dry Cleaner:

Chandler's, Canton

If you bring your dry cleaning in by 9 a.m. you can pick it up by 5 p.m. the same day. Other services include laundry, pressing of both clothes and drapes, cleaning wedding dresses, and even renting tuxedos. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Chandler’s also has full-service facilities in Athens and Gun Barrel City, and a drop-off space in Edom.


Best First Monday Shop:

The Shrimp Guy

Harold Hubbell sets up his trailer every First Monday Trade Days along Highway 19 a mile or so south of Interstate 20. Well, he’s missed two of the events in the past three years—once during an ice storm and once when he couldn’t get enough fresh shrimp to sell. He drives the 400 or so miles from Aransas Pass on the Texas Gulf Coast, and on a good weekend he’ll sell as much as 400 to 500 pounds of jumbo and large shrimp to people who stop by on the way home from their bargain hunting.


Best Florist:

All Canton Floral, Canton

This is a full-service florist which also has a broad selection of gifts, ranging from Aromatique home fragrances (just like the White House uses) to Circle E candles to cookbooks and notepads to jewelry to wooden angel carvings by Willow Treet to Fenton American-made decorative glass vases, collectible eggs, and lamps. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Runner Up:

   Flowers by TOT, Van

   The Greenhouse, Wills Point


Best Gift Shop:

Mary Ellen's, Edom

If the name’s not familiar yet, the shop is. Mary Ellen’s was known as It’s the Berries until last November. Same owners, new name. Same hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. This diverse shop in the middle of the Edom arts community also offers women’s men’s, and children’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, antique furniture, candles, and more.

Runner Up:

   Sweethearts, Wills Point

   The Greenhouse, Wills Point

   All Canton Floral, Canton

   The Very Thing, Canton


Best Hair Salon:

The Cutting Company, Wills Point

In a fun-filled atmosphere owner Cathy McCormick and stylists Cimmi Tallas and Dale Hutchens keep customers coming back again and again for great haircuts and color. They also do nails, facials, and dermabrasion and recently began offering permanent make up. Cathy started her business 18 years ago and moved to her current location on Highway 80 three years ago. Pictured from left to right are Cimmi Tallas, Dale Hutchens, and Cathy McCormick.

Runner Up:

   Vernell Owen, Edom

   Artistic Design, Canton


Best Hardware Shop:

Canton Ace Hardware, Canton

That still-new building on Highway 243 aside, Ace Hardware has been around in one guise or another for a relatively long time. Beginning as Burns Brothers Hardware in the mid 1960s, the store affiliated with Ace in 1990 and got the new building about five years ago. It’s a 24,000-square-foot facility with a large product selection and an emphasis on customer service. Experienced journeymen staff most of the departments including electrical, paint, and plumbing. There’s also a rental center for such on-job specialty needs as trenchers, backhoes, bulldozers, tile saws, and more.


Best Ladies Apparel:

Zacki's Unique Boutique, Canton

Zacki’s Unique Boutique is an upscale women’s clothing store with fun and colorful designer labels from all over the world, that draws the Neiman-Marcus and Foley’s crowd to the Canton square. Zacki Gutzke opened the store six years ago next April, and doubled her space about four years ago.

Runner Up:

   Mary Ellen's, Edom


Best One-Hour Film Developing:

Wal-Mart, Canton

One-hour services include converting slides and negatives to CD, making 8x10 and 5x7 greeting cards, removing redeye, adding holiday and seasonal borders, and plain old-fashioned film developing (except for the 110 size). Machine prints have a lustre finish (between glossy and matte). Or you can make your own prints from digital cameras or by scanning old photos. For just about everything else, send-out services to Terrell include developing 110 film, older types of film, slide film, and putting photographs on gift items such as 12-month flip calendars and other ornaments and gifts. Hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. six days a week (closing at 6 p.m. on Sunday); if you come in by 8 p.m., you can get your pictures by 9 p.m.


Best Overalls:

Tractor Supply Company, Canton

If you’re looking for overalls, voters say, without a doubt, the best place to go is Tractor Supply Company. You can buy a pair from size 30 all the way up to size 60 for anywhere from 30 bucks to 70 bucks or so. From four different manufacturers (Car Hartt, Liberty, Walls, and store brand C.E. Schmidt), you can get the traditional dark blue or blue-and-white striped denim, and you can get inflated or uninsulated overalls in black or brown woven duck fabric. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.


Best Party Supplies:

Wal-Mart, Canton

Lots of matching and themed plates, napkins, etc. for kids parties as well as adults. Party favors too!


Best Pharmacy:

Bruce & Human Drug Co., Wills Point

Bruce & Human Drug Co. has been in operation since 1879 and in its current location on the corner of Fourth and James Streets on the downtown brick streets of Wills Point since 1895. They are the oldest family-owned pharmacy in Texas. Although the pharmacy has modernized with the times, customers still have the opportunity to see treasures from their past displayed in the store like old prescription bottles, framed pharmacy certificates, a 1940s label dispenser, and a sales book dating back to October 31, 1892. Adele Monning, a grandchild of the store’s founder B.W. Bruce, now owns the pharmacy and continues to give customers excellent family-oriented service. She’s attracted long-term employees like Kathy Wood and Janice Strutton who’ve both been with Bruce & Human for 22 years. Pharmacist Michael Green has been with them for nine years and says their popularity is based on the one-on-one relationship they have with their customers. Pictured above from left to right are Adele Monning, Michael Green, Kathy Wood, Scott Baker, Ladonna Yelverton, Freda Malone and Janice Strutton.

Runner Up:

   Peace Pharmacy, Canton


Best Place to get a new Pick Up Truck:

Lewis Chevrolet, Canton

One of the benefits of having the best slogan and the best radio ad is that people know your name. Inventory is good, prices are low, and eager sales folks want to sell you a car. And, yes, folks have showed up at 2 o’clock in the morning from time to time. Probably just to see if the slogan is true.


Best Place to Exercise:

Curves, Canton & Van

The way in which this exercise program works makes it a fun 30 minutes for ladies only. Participants rotate from one machine to the next in a circle and enjoy music and talking and the time just flies by!


Best Plant Nursery:

Blue Moon Gardens, Edom

Surrounded by two acres of display gardens and 13 greenhouses filled with fragrant herbs and blooming flowers, the herb and gift shop is housed in an 85-year-old farmhouse. Shop for a wide selection of herbs, cottage garden flowers and unusual gifts. Owners Mary Wilhite and Sharon Lee Smith began wholesaling herbs in 1985 and opened the retail shop in 1993. Herbs remain a specialty. Selections also contain a mixture of native plants and a lot of "old-fashioned" flowers like poppies and larkspur that look kinda big and wild in the gardens and do well in this climate. There also is a selection of garden art, books, wind chimes, and other gifts. Open daily all year.


Best Public Place to Visit with Neighbors:

Wal-Mart, Canton

Everybody goes to Wal-Mart, it seems. Voters said they can’t go to Wal-Mart any time of day or night without running into somebody they know among the shoppers and workers. And, as they point out, Van Zandters like to talk.



Best Annual Event:

Edom Festival of the Arts

This popular two-day event takes place annually in September in beautiful downtown Edom where artists display their talents in pottery, painting, ironwork, woodwork, and more. A full line of music fills the air throughout the weekend and festival food completes the occasion.

Runner Up:

   Bluebird Festival, Wills Point


Best Art Gallery:

Limited Editions Art Studio & Gallery, Wills Point

SueZan Stutts works in a variety of media, including stained and blown glass, watercolor and acrylic painting, clay board etching, and bronze sculpture. She displays and sells her own work and that of other artists including Ora Lee Small of Gilmer (sculpture, stained glass, portraiture), Lee James of Tyler (watercolor), Terry McIlvain of Mesquite (abstracts and western painting), and Don Wallace of Gilmer (woodcarving). Stutts and Small did The Trade sculpture at the entrance to the original First Monday grounds. Open Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment.


Best Cow Tipping Pasture:

Nobody who’s involved with – or victimized by – this practice wants to admit where it happens. Especially the cows. It does, though, happen. In at least two pastures. Most often involving teenage boys who might, in their enthusiasm, forget that Santa’s always watching.


Best Day Trip:

Roseland Plantation, Edom arts community, and the Chief Bowles historical markers all are in the same area, and add up to a full day of historic and contemporary adventures. The Roseland tour of five plantation buildings and the reproduction of The Last Supper costs eight bucks and takes about an hour. Just down the road (follow the signs carefully to the quiet, remote spot) is the site of the 1839 Battle of the Neches where the Texas military killed Cherokee Chief Bowles and hundreds of other native Americans. The official historical marker tells the story one way; the American Indian Cultural Society’s marker tells the story another way. Round out the day with the community of potters, jewelers, wood crafters and other artists in nearby Edom


Best Exotic Wildlife Ranch:

Wiley's, West of Canton

Wiley’s has operated for 33 years now for what Cash Wiley calls the joy of exotic game. It’s behind and around Wiley’s Gun Shop and firing range, but there’s no shooting of animals here (except with a camera). "Residents" include camels, deer and antelope (some of them on the endangered species list), Longhorns, burros, peacocks, and miscellaneous African game. Nearby, the friendly baying of bloodhounds signals the home of the Van Zandt County Blood Hounds, searchers for the rare missing child or fugitive. Wiley’s is open to the public by appointment.


Best Fishing Lake:

Lake Tawakoni, Wills Point

Tawakoni’s 200-mile shoreline provides water-oriented recreation for much of central northeast Texas. There are hosts of marinas, camps, and parks along wooded shores with boat ramps, weather reporting station, and designated water ski areas. Fishing guides, and bait and tackle are available. Lake Tawakoni State Park is a 376.3-acre park with 5.2 miles of shoreline along the south central shore. It offers hiking trails, campsites, beaches, boat docks, picnic areas, and cabins.


Best Golf Course:

Twin Lakes, Canton

Chosen by The Dallas Morning News as one of the top 10 new courses in Texas, Twin Lakes offers one of the most challenging layouts in the Piney Woods region. Facilities include a championship 18-hole course, a complete teaching and practice area, pro shop, PGA professional staff, and a state-of-the-art fitness facility. With rolling, tree-lined fairways, Tif Eagle Bermuda greens, and two sparkling lakes, Twin Lakes also hosts the Texas Junior College Championship.

Runner Up:

   Van Zandt Country Club


Best Historical Marker:

Chief Bowles / Battle of the Neches, Edom

Site of the last battle between the Cherokees and the Texas military. Chief Bowles was killed along with hundreds of others in the Battle of the Neches in 1839. Follow the signs carefully off Highway 64, then it’s a short walk through cared-for woods to the official historical marker, which tells one side of the story, and the alternate marker put up by the American Indian Cultural Society, which tells another side of the story. It’s easy for your imagination to come to life in the seemingly remote spot.


Best Indoor Play Area for Kids:

Burger King, Canton

The maze of tunnels and tubes with a winding slide, climbing nets, and rolling bars is home to a kids’ party or two just about every weekend. Although not many kids will be at either end of the schedule, the play area is available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 6 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday nights.


Best Looking Cattle:

Belted Galloway, Canton

The Scottish ‘Belties,’ sometimes known as "Oreo cows," still aren’t a common site. Black in the front and back, with a white vertical belt around the middle, the breed was noted as early as the start of the 19th century. They are medium- to small-framed cattle with a broad flat head, deep torso, and short, clean legs. The breed is known as hardy, undemanding, adaptable, good natured, and easily controlled. The meat quality is considered to be outstanding.

Runner Up:

   Texas Longhorns


Best Museum:

Salt Palace, Grand Saline

It’s the only building in North America made of pure rock salt. And it’s in the hometown of one of the largest, purest salt domes in the nation with a supply estimated to last 20,000 years. It was built in 1936. Again in 1975. And again in 1995. The museum features both the salt industry and history of Grand Saline and its citizens. Displays include salt mining memorabilia and photographs, a videotape of the Morton Salt mining operations 750 feet underground, and turn-of-the-century community life. Open Tuesday through Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Best Outing with the Kids / Best Playground:

Canton City Park

A mile or so east of the town square, there’s a nice pocket-park-sized lake with ducks that might let you pet them if you bring along some food. There’s the Anderson Field baseball field, an outdoor volleyball court, a roomy kids’ play area (with things to crawl and climb on, to slide down, and to bounce up and down on), picnic tables and grills, benches for tired parents or kids, and on-site bathrooms.


Best People Watching Spot:

First Monday Trade Days, Canton

With upwards of 250,000 people to watch on some First Monday weekends, with its collection of gypsies and tourists and other bargain hunters, this is a natural choice. Listen, too, for the accents from Tyler to Timbuktu, from Dallas to Damascus, from Athens (Texas) to Athens (Greece). It’s a Mecca for photographers and for people curious about the rest of the world.


Best Place for a Kid's Party:

TIE: Family Fun Park, Canton AND and Jerry's Pizza, Canton

What kid can resist a pizza party? And a kid-size pizza, whether that’s a mini for one or a huge for the whole party at Jerry’s? And, if they’re tall enough, a chance to poke a pool ball with a stick in a family friendly atmosphere.

The Family Fun Park has both miniature golf and golf practice ranges, with expansion plans for full-blown miniature golf, an arcade, a go-kart track (with go-karts), and meeting facilities. It’s also a place for family and corporate gatherings, birthday parties, hayrides, horseshoes, sand volleyball, and a prayer garden.


Best Place to Meet your Friends:

Country Junction Quilt Store, Wills Point

Country Junction Quilt Store in Wills Point got the most votes for best place to meet your friends. That’s because they have a warm and inviting atmosphere where women, and men, like to get together to quilt and sew and chat away the hours. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and until 7 p.m. on Thursdays), visitors come and go and enjoy good friends throughout the week. Closed Sunday and Monday. Pictured above hanging out in the store from left to right are Alice Wilson, Darla Hopson, Carroll Moore, Naomi Caldwell, and Pat Combs.


Best Play:

"Steel Magnolias", Edom

A two-act play performed by the Edom Civic Theatre, Steel Magnolias was directed by Mary Scott. Actors included Linda Parker, Whitney Wilson, Ann Lewis, Brandie Young, Lois Arneson, and Sherry Gasper. Other participants included Ruth Dickson, assistant director; Mary Ann Garrett, production assistant; Max Scott, stage construction and setting designer; and Justin Velnosky, light and sound manager.


Best Pool Tables:

VFW, Canton

With three tables, the Canton VFW hosts a pool tournament for both members and guests beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Club hours are 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and noon to 1 a.m. Saturday. It’s closed on Sundays. Guests are welcome.

Runner Up:

   Jerry's Pizza, Canton:  With it's 1 table, is a family friendly setting for playing pool


Best Scenic Drive:

Almost as many choices here as there were voters. What does "scenic" mean to folks? Here are some possibilities: green, water, peace, something a little different from the day-to-day grind, a place to get lost for a while without actually getting lost. With those possibilities in mind, let’s settle this one on the "backroads of Van Zandt County." Pick one of those little county roads, turn off and drive (slowly and carefully) until you come out at the other end. Do it again if you’ve got time. And again. Pay attention to what’s around you. Get out and take a few photos.


Best Small Town Dance:

Edgewood Senior Citizens Dance

Held every Thursday night from 7 to 9:30 p.m. this toe-tapping time isn’t just for seniors. They just hold it at the senior citizens center in downtown Edgewood but all are invited to enjoy the country music of Dean Rogers and the Country Capers and take a swing on the dance floor.


Best Swimming Pool:

Van Zandt Country Club, Canton

It’s open only to members and guests, but during the summer you can buy a pool membership to cool off under the sun. It’s a big pool, 12 feet deep at the diving board and 3 feet deep at the opposite end. Three lifeguards cover each shift. Hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8:30 p.m. Sunday.




Best Billboard:

Dairy Palace, Canton

"World famous" is a cool marketing tool, even when applied to something as ordinary as a hamburger. Why is it a cool marketing tool? Because of the truth in it—First Monday Trade Days visitors from all over the world have stopped by and enjoyed a Dairy Palace hamburger. Because of its simplicity and because, in however small a way, the idea rubs off on local folks, too. We all like to be part of something bigger


Best Radio DJ:

Tom Perryman, KKUS

Every weekday morning from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tom Perryman fans are tuned in to The Ranch 104.1 for some good old-fashioned music and Tom’s colorful personality. Tom plays the music of legendary performers like Tex Ritter, Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Hank Thompson, and Ray Price, and he tells stories about them—not from something he heard from somewhere else, but from his own time he spent with them throughout his long and successful career. His down-to-earth approach makes him a favorite for East Texas listeners.


Best Slogan / Best Local Radio Ad:

Lewis Chevrolet, Canton

No surprise, because the slogan is known far and wide: "I’ll meet you at two in the morning if I know you’re coming." It’s happened, too, more than once. Although, according to an eager salesman, not often enough for somebody who wants to sell a lot of trucks. The radio ads also put in a plug for First Monday Trade Days.

Runner Up:

   East Texas Radiator, Canton  -  "Best Place in Town to Take a Leak"


Best Sign:

Old Mill Marketplace, Canton

The colorful sign outside Old Mill Marketplace on Highway 64 brought a new, modern, professional look to the neighborhood. Old Mill Marketplace offers more than 800 shops in their 100 acres of shopping and convenient parking for First Monday Trade Days. Their facilities are also available for other events throughout the month.


Best TV News Coverage:

WFAA, Channel 8, Dallas

Channel 8 gets the most votes because of its ability to keep local residents in touch with the world and because of its familiar, experienced staff.

Runner Up:

Channels 4 and 7


Best WebSite:

Canton Chamber of Commerce with listings for general area information, attractions, chamber info, events calendar, county history, shopping, business directory, jobs, lodging, restaurant guide, and "fun stuff" like message boards.

Runner Up:

   Van Zandt County Line,




Best Artist:

Jerry Hollister, Wills Point

A retired banker and cattleman, Jerry returned to painting in 1999. He uses watercolor, acrylic, oils, pen, and other media on his paintings which range from traditional Southwestern and Western landscapes to historical Civil War pieces. He sells out of his home right now, and was in the Three Rivers Gallery on The Mountain until it shut down.

Runner Up:

   Jamie Hardy, Edgewood

   Paige Bridges, Wills Point


Best Author/Poet:

TIE: Jackie Stroud AND Tom Geddie, Van Zandt County Line

Jackie’s readers enjoy her stories on area people and historical places, and the uplifting way in which she tells them. She urges readers to keep calling and giving her story ideas. Tom has written numerous stories for the Van Zandt County Line over the years and he received many compliments on his recent feature on Johnny Bush.


Best Auto Mechanic:

Greg Wilson, Van

Greg runs Van Automotive with one other mechanic, Tommy Herb, for the past seven years. Before that, for just about as long as he can remember, he worked on cars with his dad. The shop does bumper-to-bumper mechanical repair. It’s open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Best Barber:

Jerry Raney, Canton

Jerry and his son, Mark, have been at the same location since 1996. He’s been cutting hair in Canton for 17 years and was in the Dallas area for 21 years before that. He claims there’s no way he’s the best barber in Van Zandt County, although he got more than twice as many votes as anyone else. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


Best Bull Rider / Cowgirl:

Dee Dee Crawford, Ben Wheeler

Professional Women's Rodeo Association 2000 world champion. Dee Dee Crawford calls Ben Wheeler, Texas, home and rode for the Jack Daniels Express. She has been featured on a 30-minute Women’s Entertainment segment. Stay tuned to the Van Zandt County for future updates on this world champion cowgirl.


Best Caterer:

Karen's Cuisine, Wills Point

Karen has been in the food service for more than 30 years and catering about 10 years. She moved to her current location in Citizen’s Plaza on Fourth Street two years ago. She caters to groups of all sizes for weddings, anniversary parties, banquets, and business luncheons to name a few. She recently served breakfast to 350 people three days in a row. Some of her favorite meals to prepare include ham, prime rib, meatball stroganoff, and chicken spaghetti. .


Best Handyman:

TIE: Jeff Licha, Ben Wheeler AND and Terry Maher, Canton

Jeff, with his architectural knowledge, has done much of the recent interior restoration work at historic Roseland Plantation, including an old-style, morticed addition to the mansion and completely redoing the stairway. With 26 years experience in and around Van Zandt County, he specializes in remodeling.

Terry has worked in Van Zandt County for at least 20 years. Although he specializes in interior finish outs (including work on the historic Bruce and Human Drugstore in Wills Point), he’s also experienced at exterior work. Of both winners, customers repeat, "He’s just wonderful."


Best Chef:

Todd Kivett, Van

Todd has been the executive chef at Sky Ranch since July 2000. While spending many years cooking in elegant spots like the Anatole Hotel, the Melrose, and the Crescent Hotels in Dallas, Todd says he prefers the feeding of about 500 kids during camp season that allows him to work close to home in Van Zandt County.


Best Cowboy:

Roper Myers, Jackson

Myers (yep, Rope's his first name, got it from his rodeo parents) was 2001 world champion steer wrestler. He's qualified for National Finals Rodeo in that event every years since 1995. In 2002, he was gold medalist at the Olympic Command Performance Rodeo. He and wife Candice also operate White Riata ministry.


Best Doctor:

Dr. John Turner, Canton

Among more than 50 other physicians in the area, one of the longest-standing family medicine practices belongs to Turner Clinic, dating back to 1936 when the first Dr. John Turner opened his practice. Since 1976, his son, Dr. John Turner II, has carried on his father’s original practice and spends time seeing patients in both Canton nursing homes and at similar facilities in other area towns.


Best Theater Actor / Actress:

Lois Arneson, Edom

Bette Midler, Anthony Hopkins, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, all of whom got votes, don’t live in Van Zandt County and we don’t see them in our local plays. Lois Arneson got the most local votes. She played M’Lynn, Shelby’s mother, in the 2004 Edom Community Theater production of "Steel Magnolias." She moved here from Glyndon, Minnesota in 1990, and has acted in at least one play a year for the past eight years, since the theater group got its start. Lois claims to be "mostly a housewife," but she did a little bit of modeling and TV work in the early 1980s.


Best Veterinarian:

Canton Veterinary Clinic

Dr. Elton Ray Davis bought this clinic, established back in the 1950s, in 1977. He's run it with Dr. Tim Eberhart since 1989, taking care of all kinds of dogs, cats, cows, horses, and other animals including exotics like lions, tigers, elephants, and monkeys. One of their more unusual patients was a rare pygmy hippo who gave birth at Caruth Byrd's Wildlife Refuge in Van. There have only been 12 to 15 pygmy hippos ever born in captivity. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, with a 24-hour paging system.

Runner Up:

  Van Zandt Animal Care Center, Wills Point


Best Waiter / Waitress:

Carlos Zarate, Dairy Palace, Canton

With seven years of experience at Dairy Palace, Carlos Zarate knows just about everybody by face, if not name. He’s a friendly, efficient, good-natured young man who helps create a pleasant dining experience.


Best Wal-Mart Greeter:

Arletta Downey

She’s not always been working the past couple of months, but she’s always got a smile on her face and a pleasant greeting for everybody whether she feels good or not. Arletta and her husband, Bubba (who’s one of the local Santas), put on a free play day every Easter season at the Whitton Community Center and a Christmas party of Canton Residential Center residents.


Readers added a few categories of their own including:


Best Pet Groomer: 

Jennifer Williams

Van Zandt Animal Care Center, Wills Point


Best Newspaper:

Van Zandt County Line


Best Musician:

Brother Jonathan Smith, pastor

Grace Family Church, Canton


Best Photographer:

Larry Brown


Best Movie Theater:

The Majestic, Wills Point


Best Potato Salad:

Wild Flour, Edgewood


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