Cover Story

Cooperative Living Readers' Choice Awards

And the winners are ...

 by Jeb Hockman, Contributing Writer

For the fifth consecutive year, Cooperative Living readers have weighed in on their favorites for our annual Best in Virginia readers’ choice awards.

This year’s picks include reader-recommended places around the Old Dominion to shop, eat, play a round of golf, or hear some great live music. Our categories also included three in which there were no clear winners. For Favorite Teacher, Favorite Local Doctor, and Best Local Newspaper, we had several nominees that received the same number of votes. Here are the top nominees, in alphabetical order, in those categories, and our 2007 Best in Virginia winners ...

Favorite Teacher

Ms. Lisa Cooper, Highland School, Warrenton; Ms. Andrea Ferment, J.M. Gandy Elementary School, Ashland; Dr. Gail Lee, Nandua High School, Onley; Dr. James I. “Bud” Robertson, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg.

Favorite Local Doctor

Dr. Ryan Anderson, Fredericksburg; Dr. Jack Baumgartner, Rocky Mount; Dr. William Bridgforth, Victoria; Dr. William Harper, Harrison­burg; Dr. Marilyn Kellam, Nassawaddox; Dr. Eric Maybach, Warren­ton; Dr. Alexander McCausland, Roanoke; Dr. Staige Miller (retired), Mt. Jackson; Dr. James Priest, Vernon Hill; Dr. James Redington, Hot Springs; Dr. Stuart Solan, Richmond; Dr. Nicholas Tavani, Manassas; Dr. Leonard Touchette, Woodbridge; Dr. Lawrence Varner, Farmville.

Best Local Newspaper

The Central Virginian, Louisa; The Courier-Record, Blackstone; The Farmville Herald, Farmville; The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg; The Free Press, Woodstock; The Potomac News, Woodbridge; The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond; The Rockbridge Advocate, Lexington; The South Hill Enterprise, South Hill.

Prettiest college campus: Mary Washington

Virginia is blessed with some of the most scenic college campuses in the United States , so it is a real honor for the University of Mary Washington (UMW) to be deemed prettiest by Cooperative Living readers.

The Fredericksburg campus is dotted with Jeffersonian architecture, brick pathways, and several open grassy areas for studying, tossing a Frisbee, or

For many years, the university has been committed to preserving the look and feel of the campus as new buildings have been added. A dedicated landscape-and-grounds crew ensures that plants flourish, lampposts and benches look like new, and that the campus continues to live up to its beautiful reputation.

UMW is celebrating its 100th anniversary during the 2007-’08 academic year. Founded as a State Normal and Industrial School for Women, today the coeducational university enrolls about 4,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students. For more information and directions, visit

Best country store: laurel mills store (castleton)

Laurel Mills Store in the tiny Rappahannock County village of Castle­ton is “way back in the boonies,” says co-owner Mary Frances Fannon.

It may be off the beaten path, but if it wasn’t there, area residents would have to drive the 20 miles to Culpeper to pick up a quart of milk, a loaf of bread or gas up their cars. Mary Frances and her husband Bill joke that the store is “so far off the beaten path that they have a captive audience.”

The original brick structure was built in 1877 and has been operated as a country store for almost that long. Bill and Mary Frances owned the farm across the Rappahannock River from the store. In 1988 they discovered the store was for sale. “They were going to turn it into apartments,” Mary Frances says. “Bill and I made an overnight decision to buy the store and keep it running.”

The Fannons are pleased that Laurel Mills was voted “Best Country Store,”  but modestly say it’s really nothing extraordinary. What makes it special is that it’s the center of this beautiful rural community and as much a place to meet neighbors and swap gossip as to buy groceries.

 The store is on Route 618 ( Laurel Mills Road ) about five miles off Route 211 between Sperryville and Culpeper. The Fannons invite you to stop by.

Best live music venue: Ashland Coffee & Tea ( ashland )

Residents of Ashland say their community is the “Center of the Universe.” Cooperative Living readers have voted Ashland Coffee & Tea the “Center of the Music Lover’s Universe” in Virginia .

Partners Jim and Mary Leffler and Kay Landry opened the gourmet coffee shop and restaurant in 1996 and began featuring live performers a year later.  As Kay Landry says, “We wanted to provide really quality music in a concert-like environment. Our music is diverse — lots of Americana and folk, blues, jazz and little bit of pop.”

Some of the better-known artists who have performed at Ashland Coffee & Tea include Rodney Crowell, Tim O’Brien, Janis Ian, and Marshall Crenshaw.

No more than 150 tickets are sold to each performance in the intimate “listening room,” where no talking and no smoking are allowed. “The performers love the energy of the audience,” Landry says, “plus we’ve got one of the best sound systems in the state. It’s perfectly tuned to the room.”

Located downtown on Railroad Avenue, there is live music most every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. For a schedule of upcoming performers, visit or call 804-798-1702.

greatest virginia-born athlete: arthur ashe

Growing up in then-segregated Richmond, he was “skinny as a straw.” But the first time he picked up a tennis racket, it was obvious Arthur Ashe, Jr., had a talent for the game.

His youth was filled with hardship as his beloved mother passed away

suddenly when he was only six years old. But Arthur had an inner strength that would sustain him throughout his tragically short life. He was taken under the tutelage of mentors on Richmond’s public courts, where he honed his talents and earned a scholarship to UCLA. Turning pro after graduation, Ashe won nearly every major event in his 10-year career and was ranked #1 among the best players in the world. He was admired not only for his tennis skills, but for his quiet fight against segregation. His untimely death after contracting AIDS from a contaminated blood transfusion was mourned by millions of admirers worldwide.

Never one to ask for pity, Ashe said, “If  I were to say ‘God, why me?’ about the bad things, then I should have said, ‘God, why me?’ about the good things that have happened in my life.” Says Johnnie Ashe of his late brother, “Arthur Ashe is a true Virginia hero. He met the challenges of life with dignity, poise and grace.” The readers of Cooperative Living agree.

Best golf course: The homestead (hot Springs)

The Homestead Resort, located in the beautiful Allegheny Mountains in Bath County, is home to three breathtaking championship golf courses.

Golf has been played at The Homestead since 1892 when the The Old Course was opened. The Old Course boasts the oldest first tee in continuous use in the United States.

The premier course at the Homestead is the famed Cascades. Designed in 1923 and later restored to its original layout, it consistently ranks among the world’s best. Playing a round at The Cascades is an unforgettable experience for any golfer. The third and newest course, Lower Cascades, was designed by Robert Trent Jones and offers unique challenges to seasoned golfers.

Some say the spirit of legendary golfer Sam Snead, who began his career there and called The Homestead home, can still be felt looking over these renowned courses that have challenged everyone from weekend hackers to top professionals to presidents.

The Homestead is truly one of Virginia’s favorite destinations for golfers of all skill levels. For more information, visit or call 866-354-4655.

Best Fried Chicken: Tammy & Johnny’s (Melfa)

When Ronnie and Shirley Edwards decided to open a restaurant in Melfa in 1967, they named it for their young daughter and son, Tammy and Johnny.  Forty years later, Tammy & Johnny’s is an institution on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and is still run by the Edwards family.

A beacon for locals and hungry travelers alike, Tammy & Johnny’s offers a com­plete menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes. But their claim to fame is the de­lectable fried chicken, still served in the familiar orange-and-brown-striped bucket.

What makes Tammy & Johnny’s fried chicken so special?  Ronnie Edwards says it’s “a combination of the things we do … and the things we don’t do.” They do marinate fresh chicken overnight in a secret blend of spices. They don’t cook at low temperatures. The chicken is cooked in pure cottonseed oil, so “it’s never greasy,” Edwards insists. If they run out of properly marinated poultry, they don’t fry anymore until the next batch has been seasoned overnight.

It’s hard to miss the big Tammy & Johnny’s sign at 27352 Langford Highway (U.S. Route 13), but if you get lost, just call 757-787-1122; or better yet, just ask anyone you see how to get there.

best local Bakery: Knakal’s (culpeper)

To paraphrase a line from the movie Field of Dreams, “Bake it and they will come.”

And the hungry folks do come — from miles around —  to enjoy the sweet smells and wonderful array of cakes, pies, cookies, donuts, bread and biscuits baked fresh every day at Knakal’s Bakery in downtown Culpeper.

An institution in the same location since 1935, it was run by the Knakal family for 42 years. In 1977, Ken Whitt bought the bakery. He and his staff of 10 full-time and two part-time employees, including wife Linda, son Dwayne and daughter-in-law Beth, have been keeping the mixing bowls full ever since.

Last June, the Knakal’s crew turned out 230 graduation cakes, complete with photos of the graduates reproduced in the icing, eight wedding cakes, plus the regular daily amount of donuts, cookies and pastries, all in a 48-hour period. Around the Christmas holidays, the pace really picks up as everyone wants Knakal’s famous light-and-fluffy biscuits to serve with ham. It’s not unusual for the bakery to sell over 120,000 of them.

Cooperative Living readers say it’s worth the trip from wherever you live to visit Knakal’s at 146 East Davis Street in downtown Culpeper.  


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