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It’s easy to lose track of time when you step inside Sample House & Candle Shop in Preston Oaks shopping center (10720 Preston). Aromatic candles and intoxicating soaps waft in the air, luring you further into the store like a cartoon character. But this Preston Hollow shop boasts more than holiday decor, children’s gifts, and sassy stationery neatly arranged on antique-y tables. Manager Bridget Allen says that it’s the warm and friendly customers that make her job a blast. “We end up becoming friends,” she says. Allen has worked for Sample House for 26 years, long before her Preston Oaks shop — one of seven outposts for the long-standing Texas-based chain — opened in 2006. Today, she often runs into regulars. “I have second and third generation customers that come back again and again.” She says that the store is popular because it constantly offers new, seasonal goodies, so there is something fun and different to see every time you go. Advocate readers agree — you voted Sample House & Candle Shop the best in the neighborhood.

Runner up: The Toy Maven

Third Place: Swoozie’s

Next up for Advocate 2014 Best of Contest: Best pet services. Go here to vote.

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