Best of Harford County 2022 – Baltimore Sun

Need a roofer or dentist? Looking to join a gym? What about a recommendation for kids’ activities?
The Best of Harford County can help. More than 90,000 votes were cast in this year’s readers’ poll, culling a list of the 78 top people to know, places to go and things to do.
Editor’s note: Winners and honorable mentions were determined by popular vote. Readers were invited to nominate and vote online in October and November.
Annual festival/event
Winner: St. Margaret Fall Festival
Honorable mentions:
Bel Air Festival of the Arts
BBQ Bash
Darlington Apple Festival
Art studio/gallery
Winner: Amazing Glaze
Honorable mention:
Harford Artists Gallery
Winner: The Humane Society of Harford County
Honorable mentions:
Volun-Teen Leo
Harford Family House
SARC (tie)
Shadow Cats TNR (tie)
Kids activity
Winner: The Playroom
Honorable mentions:
The Arena Club
Anita C. Leight Estuary Center
Ripken Baseball
Winner: Eden Mill Nature Center
Honorable mentions:
Steppingstone Farm Museum
Anita C. Leight Estuary Center
Historical Society of Harford County
Park/outdoor sport
Winner: Ma & Pa Heritage Trail
Honorable mentions:
Annie’s Playground
Ripken Baseball
Millard Tydings Memorial Park
Private school
Winner: The John Carroll School
Honorable mentions:
St. Margaret School
The Highlands School
Harford Day School
Rainy-day activity
Winner: The Playroom
Honorable mentions:
Harford County Public Library: Abingdon
Jurassic Golf and Arcade
The Arena Club
Special events venue
The Liriodendron Mansion
502 W. Gordon St., Bel Air. 410-879-4424.
Downton Abbey in Bel Air? The Liriodendron Mansion, the 1898 Palladian manor built by Dr. John Kelly, one of the four founding physicians of Johns Hopkins Hospital, is a throwback to the era of great houses that served as single-family homes and were maintained by servants.
Now owned by Harford County, Liriodendron is on the National Register of Historic Places. The 100-acre property includes a barn, carriage house, corn crib, smokehouse and two ice houses. Today, the mansion makes room for a museum devoted to Native American culture and an art gallery. It is open to the public for free on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Liriondendron is also a favorite venue for weddings and upscale private events and is known for its wisteria-covered terrace.
“There’s no other place like it in Harford County,” said Leslie Dohler, the facility’s manager. “It’s a historic and architectural treasure, and it’s in virtually original condition. I feel privileged to be caring for it.”
Honorable mentions:
Rockfield Manor
Vignon Manor Farm
Cultural Center at the Opera House
Beer, wine and/or liquor store
Rocks Liquors
1514 Rock Spring Road, Forest Hill, 410-879-7964.
It’s more than a place to buy six-packs or that favorite bottle of wine. At Rocks, they help folks plan weddings, choose from 1,000 craft beers and even locate a rare, 40-year-old single malt Scotch that might cost $15,000.
“We sell service, and we treat customers like gold,” said Jay Gernand, who owns the store recently renamed Rocks. Here, in a hangar-sized 11,000-square-foot warehouse, are aisle after aisle of alcoholic libations and a staff of more than 20 to help refine your tastes.
“We’re a one-stop shop,” said Gernand, 67, who has been in the liquor business for nearly 50 years. Community-driven, the family-run store offers discounts to seniors, military personnel, firefighters and police; donates altar wines to local churches; and gifts funds to area charities.
“We get Christmas cards and thank-you notes,” said Gernand, who won’t rest on those laurels. “There’s always room for improvement.”
Honorable mentions:
Bel Air Liquors
Hopkins Farm Brewery
Friendship Wine & Liquor
Winner: Sunny Day Cafe
Honorable mentions:
Pairings Bistro
Liberatore’s Ristorante & Catering
Basta Pasta
Farmers market/stand
Winner: Bel Air Farmers’ Market
Honorable mentions:
Brad’s Farm Market
Harman’s Farm Market
Wilson’s Farm Market
Grocery store
Winner: Wegman’s
Honorable mentions:
Winner: Harford Vineyard & Winery
Honorable mention:
Fiore Winery & Distillery
Winner: Belle Patri
Honorable mentions:
The Green Door
Bayside Antiques
Bridal shop
Winner: K&B Bridals
Honorable mention:
Edel’s Bridal Boutique
Car dealership
Winner: Jones Junction
Honorable mentions:
Boyle Buick GMC
Keene Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram
Heritage Honda Bel Air
Clothing boutique
Bray & Em Boutique
In the Harford Mall: 696 Belair Road, Bel Air. 410-838-8760.
Ashley Owings never wanted to make her living selling anything, and she couldn’t care less if her customers buy her clothes. No wonder Bray & Em Boutique — named in honor of Owings’ children, Braden, 4 and Emily, 6 — has been so successful.
Owings has a background working with people with disabilities and was determined her boutique would make all customers feel comfortable. Her clothing covers the vast range of sizes from extra-small to triple extra-curvy and there are no signs separating “petites” from “Misses” or “women.”
“We tear apart the stigmas,” Owings said.
“We don’t define our customers by their size and we don’t have signs telling them what part of the store they should shop in. We don’t put mirrors in dressing rooms. We want our customers to come onto the floor and look at themselves. Inevitably, some stranger will say, ‘Oh, you look really good. Where did you find that?’
“We help to change the inner person.”
Honorable mentions:
Stalefish Board Co.
Painted Daisy Marketplace
John’s Men’s Clothing
Consignment shop/resale shop
Winner: Belle Patri
Honorable mentions:
Painted Daisy Marketplace
The Mannequin On Main LLC
Kia’s Korner
Furniture store
Winner: Ryan Furniture Co.
Honorable mentions:
Belle Patri
Jarrettsville Furniture
Simply Grande Home Furnishings & Simply Grande Interiors
Gift shop
Winner: The Nest on Main
Honorable mentions:
Farmhouse On Main
Full Heart Soul~utions
Explorganics Plant Shop
Winner: Saxon’s Diamond Centers
Honorable mentions:
F & L Jewelers Inc.
Faye Daniel Designs Bridal Jewelry and Accessories
Flooring and carpeting
Winner: Bel Air Carpet
Honorable mentions:
Carpets By Denny Lee
Top Notch Flooring America
Bay State Carpet & Flooring
Garden center/nursery
Winner: The Mill of Bel Air
Honorable mentions:
Griers Nursery & Greenhouses
The HydroFarm Inc.
Home improvement contractor
Winner: Tar Heel Construction Group LLC
Honorable mentions:
First Impressions Contracting
T.W. Ellis LLC
American Design and Build
Winner: Taylorbilt Homes Inc.
Honorable mentions:
Bel Air Construction
Huskins Builders Inc.
Battaglia Homes LLC
Housecleaning service
Winner: Cornerstone Cleaning
Honorable mentions:
Kelsi’s Cleaning Service
The Cleaning Authority
Tru-shine Cleaning Solutions
Interior designer/decorator
Winner: Farmhouse On Main
Honorable mentions:
B and M Cabinetry Plus
Maryland Dream Kitchens & Baths LLC
Winner: Lawnscape
Honorable mentions:
Chesapeake Landscapes LLC
Ivy Hill Land Services
Turf Connection
Mortgage company
Winner: Drew Gilmartin, First Home Mortgage
Honorable mentions:
Chesapeake Bank of Maryland
MBA Mortgage Services Inc.
Sierra Pacific Mortgage
Winner: PlumbCrazy
Honorable mentions:
Newberry Plumbing
White Hall Plumbing & Hydronics
Edgar Plumbing
Tar Heel Construction Group
1212 E. Churchville Road, Bel Air, 410-638-7021.
No matter the size or shape of the dwelling, Joe Ayler can put a lid on it.
“We’ve roofed everything from double-wide trailers to $10 million mansions,” said Ayler, owner of Tar Heel Construction. The seven-year-old firm has covered nearly 10,000 area homes, including the Padonia residence of former Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome. Clients praise the workmanship, efficiency and follow-up service of the company that has rooted itself in the community.
Each year, Ayler and his team provide a free roof to an area nonprofit. Last year, it was Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, in Abingdon; this year, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce gets a new crown.
“The more involved in the county we are, the more trust we create,” said Ayler, who sits on the board of several local nonprofit organizations. A Bel Air native, he named the business not for the University of North Carolina mascot, but for the tar paper long used in roofing.
“It’s a play on words that helps people remember our name,” he said.
Honorable mentions:
G J Goss Contracting Inc.
American Design And Build Ltd.
TSW Roofing Solutions Inc.
Waste/recycling company
Winner: Bartenfelder Sanitation Services
Honorable mentions:
Harford County Trash Services
Denver Companies
Dance lessons
Winner: Raise The Barre, Studio of Dance
Honorable mentions:
Supernova Dance Company
The John Carroll Ballet Academy
Dance With Me School of Dance
Golf course
Geneva Farm Golf Course
217 Davis Road, Street, 410-452-8800.
Spruced-up fairways, lusher greens and low fees have resonated with duffers at this layout in Street, which opened in 1990.
“Course conditions have improved dramatically in the past three years,” manager Amy Walls said. “We’ve listened to golfers and catered to what they want. The greens are greener year-round, and we’ve trimmed a lot of trees they said were in their way, making it more pleasant for them to play.”
The pandemic has also helped business, Walls said, bringing whole families outdoors to hike the course and hack away.
“Play has increased dramatically during COVID. You see kids as young as 5 years old, tagging along with their parents,” she said. “We’re laid back. Whether you’re good at golf or just starting out, you feel comfortable here.”
Geneva Farm also boasts a driving range, putting green and restaurant with menu items such as “The Back Nine” (a tuna melt) and “The Chip Shot” (tortilla chips with cheese).
Honorable mentions:
Maryland Golf & Country Clubs
Mountain Branch Golf Club
Bulle Rock Golf Course
Gym/fitness center
Winner: Bel Air Athletic Club
Honorable mentions:
The Arena Club
GameChanger Fitness
Limitless Fitness
Martial arts classes
Winner: U.S. Taekwondo Academy
Honorable mention:
Aiki Martial Arts Institute
Music lessons
Winner: Music Land
Honorable mention:
Stone House Jam Academy
Swim club
Winner: The Arena Club
Honorable mentions:
Bel Air Athletic Club
Fountain Green Swim Club
Rock Spring Swim Club Inc.
Yoga classes
Winner: Yoga Centric
Honorable mentions:
True Yoga
Love Evolution Studio
The Arena Club
Alternative wellness center
Winner: Salt Works Spa
Honorable mentions:
Serenity Salt Spa
Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers
Lavish Salon & Spa
Winner: Bay Area Audiology
Honorable mention:
Beltone Hearing Care Center
Winner: Optimal Spine Chiropractic
Honorable mentions:
Premier Chiropractic
Robert Poane, Dr. Poane’s Chiropractic Office
Healthbridge Chiropractic and Rehabilitation
Day spa
Winner: Salt Works Spa
Honorable mentions:
Spa on The Boulevard
Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa
With Love Beauty Bar & Studios
Dental practice
Winner: Laurel Bush Family Dentistry
Honorable mentions:
Bel Air Smile Partners
Smith & Co. Dental Practitioners
Aesthetic Family Dentistry Of Bel Air
Winner: Rev Canna Dispensary
Honorable mention:
RISE Medical Marijuana Dispensary
Eye care
Winner: Seidenberg Protzko Eye Associates
Honorable mentions:
Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine Bel Air
Katzen Eye Group
Winner: Seidenberg Protzko Aesthetics
Honorable mentions:
Dr. Brent Birely, Plastic & Cosmetic Surgeon
Cannon Dermatology LLC
Chesapeake Skin Solutions
Winner: Upper Chesapeake Women’s Care
Honorable mentions:
Susquehanna OB/GYN and Nurse Midwifery
Capital Women’s Care
Winner: Bel Air Orthodontics
Honorable mentions:
Dr. Joseph Laponzina
Amanda Gallagher Orthodontics
Bel Air Smile Partners
Winner: Towson Orthopedic Associates
Honorable mentions:
Dr. John P. O’Hearn, Susquehanna Orthopedic Associates
Dr. Sean Curtin, MedStar Health at BelAir
Upper Chesapeake Orthopedic Specialty Group
Pediatric dentist
Winner: Growing Smiles
Honorable mentions:
Bel Air Pediatric Dentistry
Main Street Children’s Dentistry and Orthodontics
Chesapeake Pediatric Dental Group
Pediatric practice
Bright Oaks Pediatric Center
2111 Laurel Bush Road, Bel Air, 410-569-3300.
Got a kid who’s sick at 3 a.m.? Bright Oaks will take your call. Need a same-day appointment for a feverish toddler? This is the place that can work you in.
“People love our accessibility,” said David Sulkowski, 42, the doctor who heads the Bel Air practice. Staff is available 24/7 for the nearly 6,000 patients who cherish their care. Some drive an hour or more, said Sulkowski, a retired Army pediatrician who, for four years, served the dependents of active-duty soldiers, mostly at a military base in South Korea.
“It was great training,” said Sulkowski, who retired a major and settled in his hometown “to take care of the children of people I grew up with.” Still, clients come from as far away as Baltimore City and are prone to stick with “Dr. Dave” and his staff until they turn 21.
Honorable mentions:
Bear Pediatrics
Pediatric Partners
MedStar Medical Group at Bel Air Medical Campus
Physical therapist
Winner: Agape Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation
Honorable mentions:
MedStar Health Physical Therapy at Bel Air
Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers
Drayer Physical Therapy Institute (tie)
Smith & Prothero Physical and Occupational Therapy (tie)
Speech therapist
Winner: Maggie James, The Maryland Therapy Network
Honorable mention:
Three Little Birds Therapy
Urgent care
Winner: Patient First Primary and Urgent Care
Honorable mentions:
MedStar Health Urgent Care in Bel Air
Express Care
University of Maryland Urgent Care
Winner: DiNatale Accounting & Tax Services LLC
Honorable mentions:
James Rainwater CPA LLC
Jones Advisory LLC
Animal hospital
Winner: Chadwell Animal Hospital
Honorable mentions:
Jarrettsville Veterinary Center
Hickory Veterinary Hospital
Pleasantville Animal Hospital of Fallston
Auto repair
Winner: Jones Junction
Honorable mentions:
Del Haven Services Station
Forest Hill Automotive
Faby’s Auto Repair
Bank/credit union
Winner: Freedom Federal Credit Union
Honorable mentions:
Har-co Credit Union
APG Federal Credit Union
M&T Bank
Winner: Old Line Barbers
Honorable mentions:
Work of Art Barbershop
Brian Bunce Barbers
Axels Barbershop
Child care
Winner: Dee’s Little Learners
Honorable mentions:
The Arena Club
The Goddard School
HCC Early Learning Center
Doggie day care
Winner: Best Friends Fur Ever
Honorable mentions:
Barton Manor Kennels
Dry cleaner
Winner: ZIPS Dry Cleaners
Honorable mentions:
Kroh’s Cleaners
Amyclae Cleaners
Financial adviser
Winner: Harford Financial Group
Honorable mentions:
Kelly Financial Group LLC
James Rainwater CPA LLC
Akers Financial Group (tie)
Town Capital, Bel Air Financial Adviser (tie)
Winner: Richardson’s Flowers and Gifts
Honorable mentions:
Stacy Bowen Floral Design
Blush Floral Design Studio
Rosemary and Rue Florist
Hair salon
Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa
Two locations: 6 Bel Air S. Pkwy, Bel Air, and 1202C Agora Drive, Bel Air. 443-371-3600 or 443-567-7600.
When Terry McGill opened her first hair salon in 1998 in a north Baltimore storefront no larger than a closet, she had no idea she was founding an empire.
Nearly a quarter of a century later, Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa operates in two locations and has stations for 20 stylists. In addition to standard cuts and blow drying, Jordan Thomas now offers services typically found at spas. You can get a facial, a chemical peel, a hot stone massage and a new hair highlighting technique known as balayage.
McGill is proud that Jordan Thomas keeps up with current beauty trends and trains its own stylists.
“Customers seem to like the culture here,” she said. “It’s upscale but approachable. It’s kind of like the atmosphere in [the former NBC sitcom] “Cheers” where everyone says hello when you walk in, and everyone knows your name.”
Honorable mentions:
Hair Network
Bella Vita Salon
NVS Salon & Spa
Pet groomer
Winner: Home Sweet Home Dog Grooming
Honorable mentions:
To Wag For
4 Paws Spa and Training Center
Burlane Cat & Dog Boutique
Real estate agent
Winner: CMD Home Group of Exp Realty
Honorable mentions:
Compass Home Group Real Estate
Amy Shertzer, American Premier Realty
Mary Jones of The Mary Jones Team
Senior care
Winner: Katherine’s Keepers
Honorable mentions:
Brightview Avondell, Senior Independent Living & Assisted Living
Bel Air Assisted Living | Senior Living & Memory Care
Broad Creek Manor Assisted Living
Tattoo parlor
Winner: Flesh Tattoo Company
Honorable mentions:
Dark Arts Tattoo Studio
Tattoo Dynasty
Instant History Tattoo & Art Gallery
Travel agency
Winner: Brenda Tackett, Marvelous Mouse Travels
Honorable mentions:
Travel Makers
Hurley World Travel
Winner: Greenbrier Veterinary Clinic
Honorable mentions:
Chadwell Animal Hospital
Jarrettsville Veterinary Center
Churchville Veterinary Clinic (tie)
Hickory Veterinary Hospital (tie)
Winner: Msgr. Kevin Schenning, St. Margaret
Honorable mentions:
Rev. Wade Haskins, Freedom Church
Rev. Byron Brought, Bel Air United Methodist Church
Deacon Marty Perry, St. Mark Parish
Elected official
Winner: Tony Giangiordano, County Council
Honorable mentions:
Jeffrey Gahler, Harford County Sheriff
Chad Shrodes, County Council
Andre Johnson, County Council
Personal trainer
Winner: Cory Bielatowicz, Game Changer Fitness
Honorable mentions:
Tim Cain, The Arena Club
Markese Hayden, Y in Abingdon
Heather Rockhill, Snap Fitness Fallston
Police officer
Winner: Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, Harford County Sheriff
Honorable mentions:
Lt. Will Reiber, Aberdeen Police Department
Cpl. Daniel Petz, Havre de Grace Police Department
Trooper First Class Nicholas Urbano, Maryland State Police-Bel Air
Anna Shanahan, St. Margaret School
Elementary school, 205 N. Hickory Ave., Bel Air, 410-879-1113. Middle school 1716 E. Churchville Road, Bel Air, 410-877-9660.
Anna Shanahan jokes a bit ruefully that she is a “COVID principal.”
Just six months after landing the top job at St. Margaret School in Bel Air, the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools statewide. The school’s staff and 640 pupils from pre-kindergarten through the 8th grade were thrust virtually overnight into remote learning.
“It was certainly a challenge,” Shanahan said.
“I haven’t had a non-COVID principal experience yet. But our teachers did an incredible job. The principals know how difficult their job is because we’ve done it ourselves. We made it to the end of the year, and that is a huge accomplishment.”
Once in-person learning resumed in September, the new principal looked for creative ways to express her appreciation for her staff, from hosting breakfasts and lunches to jeans days at school.
“We have a large faculty and a large student population, but we really do run this school like a family,” she said.
Honorable mentions:
Karen L. Jankowiak, Prospect Mill Elementary
Melissa Williams, Edgewood Middle School
Tara Dedeaux, Bakerfield Elementary School


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