Experiencing exellence

Excellence is often difficult to define, but easy to recognize. Sometimes it’s found in the ambiance of a restaurant or gift shop or in the presentation of a colorful and delicious meal. Excellence can be demonstrated in the positive, friendly attitude of a sales person. It’s the graciousness and hospitality that make you glad you visited a store or stopped to browse the merchandise selection. It’s a deliciously brewed cup of coffee or a piece of chocolate that simply leaves you craving more. Not to be confused with extravagance, excellence is fine quality in food, beverages, entertainment, and a picnic in the park.

We often wait until vacations before we begin our quest for excellence. We confuse exotic destinations with great surroundings. But excellence can be found in the pub down the street as easily as in London. French food can be superb in Paris or in the bistro two blocks south.

Part of the pleasure of any good find is in the sharing. Pleasures are always enhanced when shared with good friends or family. We’d like to share some of the excellence in our community with you, our readers. Some places we’ll feature may be familiar to you. Others you might have heard of but haven’t visited. We’re not trying to impress, but to acquaint you with places, services, and experiences we think you’ll enjoy. We’ll feature the fancy, basic, and in between. And we invite your input.

Here’s to service, smiles, and that something extra we’ll call excellence!

A connoisseur is defined as “a discerning judge of the best in any field.” I am a connoisseur of donuts and those delicacies called bismarks or breakfast rolls or long johns. The names vary depending on the establishment selling them. I’m old enough to remember Don’s Donuts on Spring Street and I’d pay a hefty price to sample one of their delicacies. But I’ve recently discovered, through friends’ recommendations, a place that produces heavenly donuts and the like. Spudnut Donuts on Derby Street in Pekin isn’t big on atmosphere or design. Who cares? Superlatives are not adequate to describe their donuts and breakfast rolls. Just a word of advice, rise and shine early as they open at 4:00 a.m. and close at 10:30 a.m. Yes, they are worth missing out on sleep. Enjoy the deliciousness! And the excellence!

Sugar does magical things to my mood so a few donuts later, I’m mellow and ready to take on the day. With my recycling items in my car’s trunk, I’m feeling virtuous as I drive to lower Bradley Park to put my plastics in the recycling bin. As I’m leaving the park, Pink Sugar is on my right and I turn in to the place where tenderloins overlapping the bun once reigned supreme. Now the only food connected with Pink Sugar might linger in the shell of the building that was once home to Hunt’s restaurant. The name Hunt’s invites sweet memories as folks who grew up here in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s recall the culinary delights of the place. The location is familiar to many, but the restaurant itself is just a memory.

Viola! Pink Sugar is now in that location and the interior and business have changed dramatically. “We still have people come in and reminisce,” says co-owner of the boutique Kristin Kern. “You’ll hear them say, ‘I met my husband here’ or a man will come in the door and call out, ‘I want a tenderloin and chocolate soda.’”

Soon to celebrate their fourth anniversary, Pink Sugar owners Kristin and Cory Crusen Cripe are proud of their boutique and the merchandise for sale. “I think people want to see what it looks like now,” says Kristin. Tastefully decorated, the store features fashion items including clothing, scarves, and jewelry. “Definitely one of a kind, fashion forward items that you’re not going to find anywhere else in Peoria,” she says.

The boutique also features a sitting area with a television, videos, magazines, and coffeemaker to entertain non-shopping companions. My days of “shop till you drop” are fading fast and I’m appreciative of creature comforts. Kristin must be reading my mind as she offers me a bottle of water. How nice!

The consummate sales person, she explains that shopping at Pink Sugar is different than walking into a department store. “This is a shopping experience!” she says. I concur. It’s an atmosphere of fine fashion that’s fun and interesting from the unique hooks in the dressing room to handcrafted jewelry attractively arranged on colorful ceramic dishes.

I spot a pair of silver heels behind the counter and comment on the heel height. Kristin smiles and explains there’s another pair not quite so high. The shoes aren’t for sale, but shoppers can borrow them while they’re trying on clothing. “A woman can’t get a full feel for what the dress will look like if she’s wearing tennis shoes or socks,” explains Kristin.

Pink Sugar is about the feel and effect of fashion with just the right twist of nostalgia in the surroundings. The personal service is excellent and makes shopping how it used to be, and many would say, how it should be evermore.

Sandra Dempsey Post

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