Best of Honolulu – Services

photo: Jimmy Forrest

Best Pet Groomer: PETS IN THE CITY

Anyone who has a pet knows how much nicer Fluffy looks when she’s, well, fluffy. The easiest way to spruce her up is at Pets in the City, where owner Starr Sutherland runs a one-stop shop for animal luxury.

Your pet can come in for day care, get its teeth cleaned, get groomed and even go home wearing a new outfit. A pet taxi will pick up and drop off your pet, too (the area covered is from downtown to Kailua).

Look for specialty dips, scrubs and masks, such as oatmeal or avocado masks or a cinnamon-sugar rub. And, “Every Saturday, we have the only pet dentist on the island who can clean teeth without putting the animal under anesthesia,” adds Sutherland. She also plans to have revolving services, including a psychic, acupuncturist, trainer and a massage therapist. Not for you, silly–for your pet. 1232 Young St. 593-1505.



So you want to learn how to play the guitar, but there’s a distinct possibility that this could be a fleeting urge. What to do? Get a great deal on a quality, pre-owned guitar (in case you really do end up sticking to it) from Good Guys Music and Sound. You can pick up a used Franciscan nylon classical guitar for $50 (a new one will run you about $120). This little Kapahulu store carries new and used instruments, equipment and supplies–an assortment impressive enough to bring in local talents such as Jake Shimabukuro on a regular basis.

Bryan Aoyagi and Clay Nakasone, co-owners of Good Guys Music and Sound. photo: Jimmy Forrest

Beginners, don’t worry about getting lost inside, the good guys are here to help. Browse the rows of guitars and ‘ukuleles, strum a chord or two and even get a mini course in Guitar 101. So what makes these guys the best? It’s the “homey feel” of the store, says local music producer Kenneth Makuakane, citing this store as a musical-must. “You feel like you can just talk story with them.” 619 Kapahulu Ave. 732-4663.

Best Place to Try on a Toque: KAPI’OLANI COMMUNITY COLLEGE

There are plenty of cooking classes on O’ahu, but most focus on watching a chef. If you’re looking for something more hands-on, try Kapi’olani Community College. Its Culinary Institute of the Pacific has many non-credit programs open to the public.

“The classes are based on KCC’s regular credit format,” says Frank Gonzales, the non-credit culinary arts program coordinator. You’ll listen to a lecture, then watch as the chef demonstrates techniques and lastly, head into the kitchen to cook three or four recipes. Don’t worry; you don’t have to sign up for a whole semester–classes are a la carte and start at $45 for a four-hour segment.

Gonzales took over the program two years ago and has been adding new flavors, with classes in Persian cuisine, vegetarian dishes and Southern food, for example. Or try the popular “fundamentals series,” which offers classes on knife skills, soups, sauté and pan sauces, roasting, poaching and braising.

A new class catalog comes out three times a year; call the registar’s office at 734-9211 or e-mail Gonzales at KCC, 4303 Diamond Head ROAD.

Best Wedding Cakes: CAKE COUTURE

After trying unsuccessfully to find her dream wedding cake for her aisle walk 10 years ago, Carmen Emerson-Bass, who was born and raised on O’ahu, enrolled at the California Culinary Academy. In 1999, she started Cake Couture, and has been up to her elbows in dough ever since.

“My style is out of the ordinary,” she says, which explains her more intricate designs, including a mosaic-tile cake. “I get a lot of my inspiration from magazines. My husband is an architect, and he has a magazine about ironwork. I saw a copper finial on a gate, and mosaic blocks and tile.” She recently made her tallest cake to date–an elaborate, 5-foot-tall, flowered work of art for the upcoming comedy, You, Me and Dupree, which stars Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson.

Her menu features eight flavors, including a sinfully rich chocolate truffle raspberry cake and a lemon-zested buttermilk cake filled with a thin layer of fresh seedless raspberry preserves and creamy white chocolate lemon buttercream. Prices start at $5 per person. 373-9750,

photo: David Miyamoto/courtesy of Pacific Rim Weddings



If Rover is treating your Manolos like Milk Bones as payback for being left home alone all day, perhaps it’s time for dog day care.

‘Ohana Doggie Care and Spa offers overnight, cage-free boarding and grooming services, but it’s the canine day care that has Honolulu dog owners excited. They’re attracted by the supervised, spacious outdoor and indoor (air-conditioned) play areas. Dogs enjoy walks and snacks, and lounge on kiddie beds. Nervous parents can even spy on their pooch via remote dog-cams.

Anna Doell, who co-owns the business with Michele Jim, says that pet owners enjoy the peace of mind day care offers, but adds that dogs benefit, too. “They learn to socialize, and to share people, affection and toys. They make friends and take naps together.”

And your hound is in good company; dogs must pass a four-hour temperament evaluation before being admitted. A five-day day care package costs $105. 611 Cooke St., 791-DOGS.

photo: courtesy of Philpotts and Associates

Best Interior Designer: MARY PHILPOTTS

Finding an interior designer is a subjective process, of course, but if you need a place to start, Mary Philpotts has won more American Society of Interior Designers awards in the past five years than any other local designer–six in all. No surprise–she’s been designing for almost 50 years, and has become an institution in Hawai’i architecture circles. (Last year, Philpotts wrote the book on Island interior design, literally, with Hawai’i: A Sense of Place). “I try to practice timeless design, which means not going overboard with trends. Our work is centered more on arts and artisans,” she says.

Philpotts now heads the prestigious design firm Philpotts and Associates, but has never stopped creating interiors herself. “I’ve taken on more of a mentorship role, but with my residential clients, I’m very hands-on.” 925 Bethel Street, #200, 523-6771.

Best Way to Make the Medicine Go Down: CENTURY SQUARE PHARMACY

It hasn’t been open for even a year, but Century Square Pharmacy is already making life a little easier for the sick and suffering. The pharmacy specializes in compounding, which provides patients more options when it comes to taking their medicine, says pharmacist and owner Victor Ung.

For patients who are allergic to preservatives or dyes, for instance, Ung, with a physician’s consent, can remove potentially allergenic, nonactive ingredients. He can also combine multiple drugs into one dose; add flavorings, such as tutti frutti and piña colada, to disguise bitter-tasting medications; and place prescriptions in lollipops, lozenges and creams. Hospice Hawai’i relies on Century Square to prepare pain medications as transdermal gels that are applied on wrists, which can be much easier for patients than pills or suppositories.

“I want to give patients more alternatives,” Ung says. 1188 Bishop St., #2303; 536-0260.

Best Place to Cut your Own Record: EXCLUSIVE MUSIC STUDIOS

Jason Miller, owner of Hawaiian Express Records, has been working with indie and punk bands (read: not exactly rolling in dough) for more than a decade. His recommendation for a quality recording studio that won’t break the bank? Exclusive Music Studios, in Pearl City. He cites its bargain recording rates and its array of professional equipment, which includes full drum sets, microphones, monitors, effects pedals and amps. The starting rate is $55 per hour, which includes the services of veteran sound engineer Dean Wakatsuki, but proprietor Garrett Lee says he’s open to negotiation for longer recording projects. “A lot of the people we deal with are high school or college kids, so I try to help them out as much as I can. I kind of have a soft spot for up-and-coming bands who are trying to make it on their own.” And if your neighbors don’t cotton to the nightly rock shows you’ve been putting on in your garage, EMS’s three studio rooms also double as rehearsal space. 98-1234 Ka’ahumanu St., 488-7534,

Best Party Supplies: FLORADEC

Whenever HONOLULU Magazine throws a shindig, it’s the enviable job of marketing and promotions director Gwen Trowbridge to plan it and make sure everything goes off without a hitch. Her favorite place to pick up party supplies? FloraDec. On our last visit, we found: piñatas, pinwheels, sombreros, maracas, noisemakers, flags, plastic and kukui nut leis, ribbons, crepe, tulle, sisal, themed cake picks, candles, a 36-inch “natural tiki dude,” inflatable palm trees, banners, centerpieces, fake persimmons, mushrooms, peppers, pineapples and starfruit, origami paper, a garden of silk flowers, a jungle of fake potted plants, a galaxy of rubber and mylar balloons, mardi gras beads, party favors, award ribbons, paper lanterns, a huge martini glass and a real (but preserved) blowfish. It was a hell of a party. 373 N. Nimitz Hwy., 537-6194.


In the land of sandals and slippahs, a pedicure is less of a treat than it is a basic necessity. We asked several local modeling agencies where they send their models before photo shoots. We then tested those salons, comparing them by getting the same service, at the same time of day. The winner is Honolulu Nails Salon, where perks include free, easy parking; nail colors by OPI and Essie; and a simple, airy décor with live orchids.

We selected the Special Spa Pedicure, which included a five-step application of scrubs, rubs, masks and cooling gels. The cooling gel is particularly nice, refreshing the lower legs for almost an hour after the treatment. The nail technician wore surgical gloves and kept checking to see if she was being too rough.

The whole procedure took 55 minutes, but the results have lasted a week and a half and are still going strong. Our bill came to $32, with tax and tip. 2570 S. Beretania St, #101. 949-1600.


We once named Neiman Marcus the king of bathrooms on O’ahu, but the time has come for us to pass the crown to its successor. Luckily, Ala Moana patrons don’t have to go far. Near the Mai Tai Bar, they’ll find the Ho’okipa Terrace, home to a handful of new restaurants and the new best bathroom in town. It’s not fancy. It’s not all automatic, either. But it’s exactly what customers, especially those with families, have always wished for in a restroom: 14 stalls large enough to lug in a stroller (or three), each with a built-in shelf that can hold a day’s worth of shopping bags. Parents will also appreciate the semi-private diaper-changing area with two stations and its own sink. Other impressive amenities: a comfy lounge area, a digital scale; and a vending machine that dispenses lip balm, perfume and feminine products. Ho’okipa Terrace, Ala Moana Center, 4th Floor.