By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

For the past five years, Peach Living Magazine has polled local residents to highlight their favorites in the annual Best of the Best contest.

A handful of local businesses have the unique distinction of having been named the winner in the same category for as long as the Peach Living contest has existed.

These businesses with loyal followings shed some light on just why they think they have been successful.

They include:

Peach Park for Best Ice Cream

Adding ice cream to the menu at Peach Park was initially a way to make something delicious out of a bad situation.

“We originally opened to sell peaches because that is what our family did was raise peaches, then … God gave us a bad year and we had hail damage we were trying to figure out what to. do with the peaches that had hail spots on them and that’s how we started making ice cream,”  co-owner Mark Gray said.

The recipe was created by Frances Gray, who still comes in to help make it.

“A lot of people have told us it is momma’s old recipe and momma still makes it, so I think that is what still makes it so great is that we have had this same old recipe since we opened up,” Gray said.

To this day, peach remains the most popular flavor. Peach cheesecake and peach caramel are also popular flavors of their ice cream. Vanilla is made a lot as a topping for the company’s baked goods. Gray’s personal favorites are banana and the new caramel praline pecan ice cream.

During the summer, ice cream is being made at least five days a week with 18 flavors available.

Peach Park was established in 1984.

Cox Veterinary Hospital for Best Veterinarian

Office Manager Marilyn Vaughn said customer service is the main reason the business has been a community favorite in the contest.

Specialized equipment also plays a role in their success.

“We have a couple of other things that other clinics here in town don’t have,” Vaughn said.

These include tools to see the interior of an animal’s ear projected on a screen, a laser for surgeries and a full-service lab on-site.

Dr. Michael Cox of Cox Veterinary Hospital has been a veterinarian in Chilton County for the past 36 years.

Cox said his interest in becoming a veterinarian started on his family’s cattle farm.

“I was always right beside our veterinarian when he came out to tend to our animals,” Cox said. “I began working with our veterinarian then and realized I had an instinct for understanding the science of veterinary medicine. My interest peaked when I realized that there is always something different and unique that I got see every day. This fact made going to work enjoyable, and I still enjoy going every day.”

He said he also enjoys the “family” feel that Chilton County has

“Whether you were born here or move in it feels like home,” Cox said. “We have cultivated many lasting relationships with our clients over the years and many have become true friends today. That is what I have enjoyed the most about being a veterinarian here. We have a wonderful family atmosphere at Cox Veterinary Hospital with a friendly, knowledgeable staff that all have a heart for your pets.”


Dr. Tony Hughes, Hughes Chiropractic for Best Chiropractor

Location is the main reason Dr. Tony Hughes thinks his chiropractor office is a local favorite.

“I am in close proximity to the (Clanton) schools so the location helps a lot,” Hughes said, commenting that the location gives good visibility for school traffic on Temple Road.

In the past, Hughes has worked with the athletic program at Chilton County High School, which he said helped him be known in the community.

He thinks being in business for 27 years is also a factor.

Hughes said he enjoys being a chiropractor because it gives him a chance to help people and give them a possible option that does not include medication or surgery.

Hughes moved to Clanton in 1994 at the recommendation of his father. Previously, he had worked in Virginia and West Virginia.

Having grown up in Selma, Chilton County was close to the areas of Alabama he was familiar with.

Pinedale Gardens for Best Florist

Owner Becky Patterson said “keeping are customers first and foremost” and the “quality of the flowers” are the reasons behind the business’s success.

“We always buy high end flowers,” Patterson said.

The business has been in the same location since it was founded in 1957. Patterson said this has also contributed to the success of the business.

Patterson has owned the business for the past 20 years, but she worked there for 17 years before that.

“The owner retired back in 2000, … and I purchased it,” Patterson said.

She said she enjoys every aspect of being a florist, even if it does get “hectic at times,” especially near Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

The vast majority of their arrangements are custom.

Russell Do-it Center for Best Hardware Store

Store Manager Jimmy Smith said the staff of the store are why the business is a community favorite.

“Being able to keep a lot of things in stock that a lot of other places are running out of” throughout the last 12 months likely made a favorable impression this year, according to Smith.

He said supply chain issues related to the pandemic have created shortages and challenges to keeping some things in stock.

Smith came to the Chilton County location in October 2020. Prior to that, Mickey Atkins had been the store manager for several years.

“I think he did a good job of keeping things rolling and keeping a good staff in,” Smith said.

The business opened in Chilton County in 1997 and has a mixture of homeowners and contractors among its customers.

Plans for the future include adding new product lines.

River Bank and Trust (formerly People’s Southern) for Best Bank

Britt Culpepper, vice president / relationship manager, for River Bank and Trust said knowing customers and providing consistent friendly service are some of the reasons the bank is a community favorite.

“We go above and beyond for our customers and their needs,” Culpepper said. “We are your hometown community bank that truly cares about our customers, potential customers and our community in which we live. We are honored to be Best of the Best for 2021 and for five years in a row.”


Holiday Inn Express for Best Hotel

Holiday Inn Express run by the Patel family remains a community favorite to recommend to those coming through town.

According to the hotel website, “we take hospitality seriously and do our very best to welcome you and make you feel at home.”

The hotel has special amenities for business travelers thorough its Business Center and space for company meetings. Guest can also enjoy a yummy start to each day with food from the complimentary Express Start Breakfast Bar. Other amenities include free high-speed, wireless Internet access, Business and Fitness Center and indoor pool.