Best of 2021 Celebration

Join the party as ShowCase Magazine celebrates the best that Puget Sound has to offer in 2021. The Best of ShowCase Magazine Party will be held on August 13th, 5:30-8:30pm, at the Lemay- America’s Car Museum in Tacoma.

Now that we are back on a roll, we are excited to congratulate all of our nominees in fifty-one categories, from Best Schools to Best Italian Dining to Best Real Estate Agent, and everyone in between!

The excitement began in March of 2021 when readers submitted online votes for their favorite business and organizations. Votes were tabulated, and top nominees are featured in the year’s most highly read ShowCase Magazine, where we announce the 2021 honorees. 

To attend the event, purchase your tickets here:  ShowCase Magazine Best of 2021 tickets

Proudly sponsored by:

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Hardcastle AV

ShowCase Magazine’s “Best of 2021” Poll

Spotlight: South Sound success Story

Heidi Duncan of Duncan Insurance, Olympia

It could be that some superheroes come into being from a toxic spider bite, but other superheroes are just born into their roles as descendants of “do-gooders” before them. That’s the case with Heidi Duncan of Duncan and Associates Insurance Brokers, based in Olympia.

From the time she was young, little Heidi dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps and becoming an insurance agent. When other kids set their sights on becoming a doctor, professional ice skater or architect, Heidi was interested only in insurance.

Her father, Russ Duncan, founded Duncan Insurance 50 years ago. When Heidi was three and a half years old, she started going to work with her dad to give her mom a break with her newborn brother. Her first job was to pick staples out of the carpet, but that soon progressed to more complex tasks. By kindergarten she was using the office typewriter like a pro.

Heidi knows exactly when she knew that she wanted to be an insurance agent. When she was four or five, the phone rang at home in the middle of the night, awakening everyone in the Duncan household. It was a client. His house had just burned down and he was calling his insurance agent for help. Heidi’s father leapt to action. He let his client know that he was completely taken care of and that he would be there for him every step of the way.

The superhero was revealed. Russ Duncan demonstrated to his daughter how important it is to take care of people in stressful times. It should be no surprise that when Heidi turned 18, she was one of the youngest people in Washington state ever to take and pass the insurance agent licensing exam.

Since then, she has been working diligently to help her clients. “Listening to the needs of my clients and helping them understand all the options available to them is the center of all our work,” notes Heidi. “Our agency may be small, but we have a huge range of expertise and since we operate like a family, we work to provide seamless wraparound insurance coverage.”

Being available to clients for emergencies continues to be a cornerstone of Duncan and Associates Insurance Brokers. “We are like financial first responders,” says Heidi Duncan. “We provide calm and comforting expertise for people who are dealing with major issues. We want to be superheroes.”

Duncan and Associates


New Chapter in the Story of Scott Homes

Not all general contractors are created equal. Scott Homes has been designing and building locally and nationally recognized “green” homes and communities in the Puget Sound area for more than 30 years.

Seeing themselves as not just workers, but as family and community members in the South Sound, the Scott Homes team believes in doing business with the highest integrity. They work to leave their mark by building homes that help preserve valuable resources and reduce energy consumption. They are known for custom designs, “Extreme Green” homes, extensive knowledge of building science and distinctive finishing details. In short, the company says it “strives to build homes that we would be proud to live in.”

Now this well-built legacy will continue well into the future under the new leadership of longtime employee Chris Ventura. “I am very excited and blessed that we were presented the opportunity to become the new owners of Scott Homes Inc.,” she says.

After 20-plus years of hard work and dedication, Ventura was able to purchase Scott Homes from longtime owner-operators Scott and Pat Bergford. If you know and love Scott Bergford, Ventura says, fear not—he is going slowly into retirement. He remains on the team in sales and as a valued mentor.

Being a long-standing employee with the company, Ventura says, provided her the “framework to continue our focus in building excellent quality, high-performing, energy efficient, sustainable custom homes.”

She and her team at Scott Homes know that people have many choices when deciding who will build their dream home, whether it’s their first or last. Ventura says their goal is to provide the highest-quality structure and most personal service. They continue to be dedicated to building some of the most distinctive, highly energy-efficient homes in the region. And they recently nailed new recognition, as a Registered Master Builder in the National Structural Insulated Panel Association.

Call Scott Homes today to pass on a congratulations to Chris Ventura and schedule your free consultation.


Scott Homes Inc.

3016 10th Ave NE, Olympia


Linnea’s Unique Boutique Continues To Grow

Linnea Grantham dreamed of one day following in her father’s footsteps. “My father owned a European gift shop just outside of Boston and my sisters and I practically grew up in the shop,” re-calls Grantham. “I always wanted to have a gift shop of my own one day.”

Grantham’s opportunity came knocking in the fall of 2015. Capital Medical Center in Olympia was looking for a vendor to establish an independently owned gift shop at the hospital. Grantham, who also owns a successful promotional products company with her husband, enthusiastically answered. “It was one of the scariest and most exciting decisions I’ve made because it had always just been a dream,” she says. “But I knew I had to try.”

Linnea’s Unique Boutique, opened in December 2015, quickly garnered rave reviews from hospital staff and the general public. The shop’s 300-square-foot space is filled wall-to-wall with fun and eclectic gifts, a little sarcastic humor and plush animals. “I only stock things that I would personally buy,” the owner explains. “I love everything in here.”

About a year after opening, the shop’s popularity got the attention of Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue. Grantham was invited to open a second shop. “I’ve always said that Linnea’s is not your typical ‘hospital gift shop,’ but a gift shop that happens to be in a hospital.”

The Overlake space is more than twice the size of the Olympia location. Their distance apart of nearly 70 miles, with a lot of freeway traffic, makes running the two locations geographically challenging. But, says Grantham, “I have a wonderful, supportive staff at both shops, who I can’t say enough good about. They make it all possible.”

Linnea’s recently opened its third location, in the Lacey/Hawks Prairie area. Customers will be delighted at the new shop, says Grantham. They will find items that are offered only in the Lacey shop.


Linnea’s Unique Boutique Locations

3900 Capital Mall Dr SW, Olympia

1035 116th Ave NE, Bellevue

6715 Martin Way East, Lacey

Little Black Dress: A Culture Conversation Via Fashion

How does fashion reflect social and cultural values? The Washington State History Museum creatively connects clothing and social constructs through the story of the quintessential “little black dress.”

“LBD: Little Black Dress, A Fashion Evolution” fills a large gallery with a timeline of deeply hued garments from the mid-1800s through the early 21st century. Each dress is shown with other material culture of its time, such as a work of art, a clock, a vase, or a chair.

The exhibit begins with black dressing as socially conscripted mourning attire. Moving into the mid-1920s, American Vogue revealed Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s first iconic illustration of the little black dress. It was described as “the Ford,” playing on Henry Ford’s statement about the Model T: “available in any color—so long as it’s black.”

Toward the end are 1990s minimalist styles led by designers such as Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and Nicole Miller. Of course there’s also a nod to Washington state’s famous contribution to the fashion world: grunge, which popularized thrift-store shopping.

You’ll see that dress styles and construction often mirrored social standards and perceived norms for women. As ideas about women’s roles changed, so did style, fabric and function in fashion. The results could either reinforce cultural norms or work to define countercultural movements.

How women dress has also been influenced by historical events and key individuals. Prohibition ushered in the first known cocktail dresses. Pants became more commonplace as women entered the workforce during World War II. Celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Madonna were fashion trendsetters.

In 2019 the little black dress remains as versatile as ever. Today’s evolution is not in what we wear as much as how we shop. Online options can result in a personalized, accessorized ensemble delivered to your front door. Indeed, the internet offers more shopping options than ever.

Now that is a fashion revolution.

Don’t miss the Little Black Dress exhibition at the Washington State History Museum, Aug. 31 through Dec. 1, 2019.

Washington State History Museum

Turning the Page to a New Chapter of Life

Moving into a new chapter of life can be difficult. A successful transition often depends on a helping hand giving you the opportunity to overcome the inevitable hurdles. That’s exactly what NW Furniture Bank does for its clients—and for many of its employees.

Joe Goree was encouraged by a friend to apply at NW Furniture Bank when he was at Progress House, a work release program run by Washington State Department of Corrections. After being incarcerated for more than 18 years, Goree was uncertain of his next chapter. Fast-forward a year and a half and you can find him working hard in the warehouse—keeping it organized, accepting donations and loading truckloads of furniture for clients.

“The way this organization is run puts a smile on my face,” says Goree. “It feels good to give back and to see people leave with a smile on their faces.” He knows that the opportunity to work at NW Furniture Bank is important for his new beginning and he’s committed to sticking with it.

Goree’s story is one of many similar accounts among employees at NW Furniture Bank. The Tacoma-based nonprofit’s primary mission is to help provide basic furnishings for people starting a new chapter. These might be survivors of domestic abuse, people suffering loss from fire and natural disasters, foster children, and especially families coming from transitional housing who are trying to re-build their lives. At minimum, each client family receives a sofa, dining set and a bed for each person.

NW Furniture Bank also has gone a step further by employing individuals who may be overlooked because of their past. Executive Director Bill Lemke is proud that the organization has been able to evolve since he founded it 10 years ago. “Helping improve the lives of our 34 employees is as important to me as helping our clients, ”he says. “It’s good stuff!” JULIE LEYDELMEYER

NW Furniture Bank

117 Puyallup Ave, Tacoma


960 Degrees of Cool

Cocktails are making their mark in the South Sound. The craft cock-tail scene is enjoying quick-pour growth, both in quantity and quality. Matriarch, En Rama and Devil’s Reef are just a few of the first-class, cocktail-first bars that have opened in the past year-plus. The latest addition to this superior party pack is Bar 960.

Inside Hotel Murano, this newest highlight opened in March. Bar960 is a glowing, glass-art-themed bar to complement the Murano’s unique, colorful hotel experience. The newly designed bar was in-spired by the tones and inflections of Murano glass. (The Venetian island of Murano has been an expert artisan glassmaking center for more than 700 years.) The bar is aptly named for the temperature of glass-cooling ovens.

Bar 960 opens to the hotel lobby’s expansive windows, giving guests a view of the radiant space as it shimmers and reflects onto the sidewalk outside. Inside, custom wall sconces and warm tones are complemented by a cozy fireplace. A leathered granite-top bar is the heart of the space. It is surrounded by upholstered leather sectionals to sink into with your favorite (or new favorite) cocktail and good conversation. Custom geometric wool rugs soften underfoot.

The menu features light-fare, must-try shareable plates. These include freshly shucked oysters and the 960 Burger made with wagyu beef. Top these off with a refreshing selection of microbrews and creative cocktails. The chai-infused Spiced Sidecar, for one, is a perfect partner for a craft cocktail adventure.

Hotel Murano is Tacoma’s most artistic lodging. It pairs comfortable guest rooms with a collection of glass art from around the world worthy of exhibition. The vibrant downtown location is close to museums, fine and family dining, and the waterfront. Relax after along day of meetings or kick off a big night on the town with a stop at Bar 960. EMILY HAPPY

Hotel Murano


Spend the Day in Awe: Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Hop aboard a tram and take a narrated tour through forests and meadows teeming with American bison, Roosevelt elk, moose, bighorn sheep, deer and other animals. Stroll along forested and paved pathways past natural exhibits that are home to two growing grizzly bear cubs, two American black bears, a cougar, Canada lynx, bobcats, wolves and foxes. Marvel at the antics of beavers, river otters and other wetlands animals as they splash and explore a wetlands area.

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park near Eatonville is a place to see native Northwest animals and enjoy nature. And all of these experiences are open to every guest with paid admission or membership.

Plus, there’s Kids’ Trek, the half-acre, nature-inspired wonderland for kids, from toddlers through tweens. This playground includes a replica of a hollow tree with nets inside for climbing, a net staircase and three fabulous slides. A toddler zone comes complete with a sand play area and a meandering stream. A “construction zone” enables bigger kids to build forts and other imaginative structures. Kids’ Trek encourages kids to explore nature and learn more about the world around them as they play. Admission to the playground is included in each ticket to the wildlife park.

But Northwest Trek also offers a very wildside for humans who want a bit more adventure. For an extra charge, you can test your mental and physical agility on the Zip Wild complex of thrilling zip line/challenge courses. Or you can climb into a specially equipped Jeep for a premium off-road tour of the 435-acre free-roaming area. This will get you closer than you ever thought possible to bison, elk, mountain goats, moose, bighorn sheep and other animals. Reservations for the Zip Wild courses and Keeper Adventure Tours are available.

For more than four decades, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park has been a leader in the care and conservation of Northwest animals. The animals, adventure and natural setting make the park a must-visit day trip. It’s an easy drive from anywhere in the Puget Sound area. When you enter the tree-lined drive, you just want to say “ahhhh,” slow down a bit and enjoy a day in nature. KRIS SHERMAN

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

11610 Trek Dr East, Eatonville


Spicing Up Puget Sound Since 1979 – El Sarape

There’s a good reason that El Sarape has four restaurant locations. The food is authentic and delicious, and the service is consistently inviting.

When the Mexican restaurant first opened in Olympia in 1979, its owners believed that local and fresh foods shouldn’t be hard to come by. With that philosophy in mind, they have since opened in Tumwater, Lacey and Shelton as well. The chefs and team at each location are dedicated to providing customers with tasty food and quality service. El Sarape uses locally sourced grass-fed beef and free-range chickens.

The menu is extensive, from appetizers to quesadillas to sizzling fajitas. Diners will recognize most items on the menu, but they’ll also see a few special traditional dishes and dishes that present new flavors to a well-known cuisine. Chile a la Tinga is a traditional dish with a chicken- and olive-stuffed poblano pepper served with fresh salsa and jalapeño dressing. Baked Avocado Fries are spiced up with seasonings and lime juice and dipped in panko batter before baking to deliver a perfect crunch to each bite.

The street tacos are another part of the menu that can’t be ignored. Each one is topped with fresh onion, cilantro and cotija cheese. The Tinga street tacos are filled with shredded chicken cooked in a chipotle pepper salsa. The owners suggest pairing these tacos with a Cabernet Sauvignon from the wine menu.

Each restaurant location can accommodate families and large groups, even up to 50 people. Secluded booths are ideal for dates, though bar seating is also an option.

Besides bringing the authentic and bold flavors of Mexican cuisine to the community, the restaurants host several events a month. Enjoy live music, trivia nights and tequila tastings, among other happenings. JORDAN MARIE MCCAW

El Sarape