Free Times “Best of Columbia” gives out table tents as advertisements for businesses.

The annual Free Times “Best of Columbia” polls are open online, and voting is underway.

Voting started June 6 and will end just before midnight June 30.

What is it?

 Twelve categories with additional sub-categories are listed online where voters can select their favorite Columbia businesses.

Although voting opened June 6, nominations started in April when Columbia residents submitted nominations in the various categories. The businesses with the most nominations were then listed on a ballot for the main competition.

Advertising director and Free Times publisher, Chase Heatherly, said  the hope is to top last year’s record of 500,000 votes.

How it works?  

Winners of this competition are given stickers and framed awards to display in their businesses showing locals that they voted them the best in their category.

Along with bragging rights, winners also get a wave of community recognition and business.

Natural Vibrations owner Jahson Wilde says that the award does help business especially when people from out of town see the “Best of Columbia” logo on the door. “They really feel like they’re more confident and they feel like the shop is more a quality shop that they can trust.”

Wilde’s smoke shop has won first place or runner up for the past six years that the store has had a category.

“It certainly can’t hurt [business], said Sean McCrossin of Drip in Five Points. I think anytime you get recognized for something, you know, people always want to know why you’re recognized for it so hopefully we can live up to their expectation when they come in,”

Heatherly said the “New Restaurant” category benefits these new businessesby getting people voting to potentially try out these places for themselves.


Winners of each category will receive two tickets to Free Time’s Annual “Best of Columbia” party.Results will be published in the Free Times on August 22.