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Best of 2010: Living Well


Thursday, October 21, 2010

BOOKSTORE

Chaucer’s Books

3321 State St., 682-6787

Since 1974, Mahri Kerley’s store has been one of the 12 wonders of the Santa Barbara world. (Most of the others are food-related.) It’s survived well into an era when other great independent bookstores—remember Osborne’s, Earthling, and Andromeda?—have become distant memories. It’s always superbly stocked; Kerley never believed in bean-counting methods of inventory buying, she brings in the books she thinks are interesting. And, it’s a place to go hang out, hear authors read, and meetcha smart friends in a city that’s increasingly chain-mediocred to near death—as in national stores that don’t care about much more than bottom lines. Kerley always set the bar high, and, and always proved the joys of literacy and enchantment, or as Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

FINALIST: Borders

USED BOOKSTORE

The Book Den

15 E. Anapamu St., 962-3321

It’s California’s oldest living bookstore, a constantly running establishment that began in the early years of the 20th Century and is still more than viable in the beginning of the 21st. It’s changed hands a few times, but it’s safely nurtured today by Eric Kelley, a man smart enough to know that one can do business on the Internet, yet still have a cozy place where people can find the odd out-of-print, vintage, or maybe even rare book in the stacks, though the emphasis here is much more on something lovely to read rather than a volume to collect. Kelley’s weathered a number of storms both real and caused by construction in the neighborhood, but our bet is that people riding jet packs will someday stop in to buy that cool old paperback copy of Trout Fishing in America. Wondering the whole time what an e-book is.

FINALIST: Paperback Exchange

COMPUTER REPAIR

MacMechanic

216 E. Gutierrez St., 965-9722

Every year since they opened in 1998, they’ve won some kind of computer repair award, said general manager Jimmy Dessert. “But in the old days, they used to split it in two, for PC repairs and Mac. Now they’ve combined the two and we won,” he said exultantly, with just a smidgen of smug joy for good measure. “I think most of all people like us because they know they can bring something in here and we’ll fix it without an appointment. Before they know it, they’re out the door. The people here love Macs and it shows, and their knowledge is out the roof,” said Dessert.

FINALIST: Make It Work

CAMERA SHOP

Samy’s Camera

614 Chapala St., 963-7269

One cynical way to look at this is that they’re the only ones in town, laughed Richard Pinnock, general manager of the spacious Chapala Street store, citing the departure of well-loved businesses like Tony Rose and Russ’ Camera. Fact is, however, Samy’s has been winning this category for more than a decade, with a combo of huge inventory, knowledgeable clerks, and an atmosphere that invites photographers to hang out. “We are very grateful to win,” said Pinnock.

FINALIST: Best Buy

MUSICAL INSTRUMENT STORE

Folk Mote Music folks: Laurie Rasmussen, Nadine Bunn, and Cherie Chako (left to right).
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Folk Mote Music folks: Laurie Rasmussen, Nadine Bunn, and Cherie Chako (left to right).

Folk Mote Music

1034 Santa Barbara St., 962-0830

“I think we win because this is such an exciting store, we are constantly titillating people’s senses,” laughed Nadine Bunn, who co-owns the eclectic folk music instrument store with Cherie Chako. People as diverse as Jack Johnson and Nick (Angry Poodle) Welsh regularly frequent the store, particularly when they are seeking bouzoukis, cello banjos, or marimbulas. “I’m in total shock we won, but happy,” said Chako.

FINALIST: Jensen Guitar & Music Co.

GIFT SHOP

Imagine

11 W. Canon Perdido St., 899-3700

1470 E. Valley Rd., #V, Montecito, 695-0220

Manager Kyle Yonemura isn’t just happy that Imagine won, “I would be worried if we didn’t,” he laughed. With its 20 years of providing everything from three-dollar Peruvian dolls to $1,000 art pieces, Imagine still offers an intangible quality that sets it apart, he said. “It’s the one-stop shop. But it’s a combination of great customer service and a great clientele that really makes us work,” he said.

FINALIST: Hallmark

PARTY SUPPLY STORE

Glenda’s Party Cove

3319-A State St., 687-4500

Believe it or not, kids, there are parties that require more planning and matériel than dry ice, a metal bucket, and red plastic cups. Some even demand hand-written invitations delivered snail mail with written responses requested via that supposedly outmoded media. Decorations, too! For all party perquisites plus gifts and ridiculously cool geegaws, Glenda’s has been the store forever now. Number one for those who think beer pong is a place in the South Sea Islands, but soon to be cool with you growing a little older and a more respectable party person, too.

FINALIST: Pacific Co.

ART SUPPLY STORE

Art Essentials

32 E. Victoria St., 965-5456

It’s a big store on Figueroa Street in a part of town that invites leisurely attention to detail. And the store has even more items than its cool, lofty interior seems to promise. Inside, the clerks are unhurried but thorough, making awkward beginners feel as comfortable as the established Santa Barbara artists who regularly shop there, too. Everything from airbrush hoses and tips to empty ink bottles used to blend custom colors fill the shelves and walls. The store and its extensive online offerings are there to help you transform your life in paradise into artworks that might hang around forever.

FINALIST: Michaels

CRAFT SUPPLY STORE

Michaels

187 N. Fairview Ave., Goleta, 967-7119

Paintbrushes, canvas, chisels, rock, scissors, paper, glue, rubber, rulers, cardboard, Styrofoam, reference books, and best yet, Michaels has people working it to help you figure out what to do with all this cool material. Maybe you want to finish a project or just look and see what they have while inspirations coil to strike, this is the store where both Aunt Minnie’s Christmas doilies and the Santa Barbara Art Association’s assemblage artistes can be said to have begun their processes, and all at bargain prices.

FINALIST: Craft Essentials

FRAME SHOP

Aaron Brothers

601 State St., 966-3954

Though its misty origins were in Los Angeles in the postwar years when Philip Marlowe walked the mean streets—the store was then known as “framers to the stars” and that didn’t mean blackmail—most of us remember furnishing our first homes with discounted frames sold at one-cent sale prices, and even if we did splurge for the custom framing that they did, it was a bargain and a half compared to the smaller stores and galleries. Today only the styles have changed, and there are more than 100 stores from sea to shining sea. A readers’ favorite for many years, Aaron Brothers is a great place to classy up your crib without spending yourself out of the picture.

FINALIST: Michaels

BANK

Santa Barbara Bank & Trust

Various locations

It’s been a tough year for the bank that wears our city’s name. On the one hand, the bank celebrated 50 years in business, on the other hand its woes were well-chronicled and the recent friendly cash rescue of the bank is yet to be a proven solution, though many indications are guardedly good. If reader polls are any kind of bank confidence measure, then SBB&T has nothing to worry about. Perennial winners, this fraught year was no different, and may it thrive for 50 more.

FINALIST: Wells Fargo

COPY SHOP

FedEx Office aka Kinko’s

1030 State St., 966-1114

23 S. Hope Ave., 569-5100

5749 Calle Real, Goleta, 964-3522

The little store that opened across from the old—vanished—Taco Bell in Isla Vista has come a long way. The man who started the copy shop is now as much a philanthropist as he is an entrepreneur, and the chain he developed now belongs to the mega-corporation that delivers packages around the world. Its chief virtues now have to do with the apparently needed 24-hour copying service, just in case you want to make posters for your band’s next gig right after the last one ended. Or maybe it has something to do with business, who knows? Year after year, our readers pick this giant over the little shops that dot the town, and we sort of doubt it has much to do with I.V. and nostalgia.

FINALIST: Bill’s Copy Shop

PERSONNEL/TEMP AGENCY

Select Staffing

1919 State St., 687-1200

“We are absolutely glad to win,” said branch manager Shelby Sim, who promises that Select’s view of the local economy sees a little improvement, too. “We’re doing a little better. Of course summer is almost always an improvement, with a lot of event people hiring: caterers, the County Bowl, and people covering for people on vacation. So we’ll see how winter is,” he said. “The reason people like us? Because we do a little extra to build our relationships with employers and employees,” he added.

FINALIST: AppleOne

RETIREMENT RESIDENCE

Maravilla

5486 Calle Real, 967-1965

This deep Goleta retirement community is split into four levels of varying independence. Though, according to executive director Brian McCague, more than two thirds of the residents are very independent: attending classes, driving to events and stores, and some even still working. “We put a lot of emphasis on residential services and hospitality,” said McCague, “and the setting is physically beautiful, too.”

FINALIST: Valle Verde

TRAVEL AGENCY

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau

1028 State St., 966-3116

1485 E. Valley Rd., #9, 969-7746

Since 1947, the de L’Arbre family has been making arrangements for people traveling from our little town to anywhere in the great big world. Some of its business today comes from corporate travel, which is often a high-ticket affair, but getting deals for families who need to fly, boat, or chug into the distance is an equal obsession for the offices that serve this town. It’s hard to believe anyone would want to depart these hallowed grounds, but when you need to leave paradise, the readers suggest you start here.

FINALIST: AAA/Auto Club

ACUPUNCTURIST

Community Centered Oriental Medicine

1900 State St., 687-7328

Mark Sherwood and Nikki Doner Sherwood run a healing center that is widely trusted in this town, but it’s surprisingly humanistic about how much it charges, too. “We have a sliding scale,” explained Doner Sherwood, “We charge depending on what you report as your income—nobody checks up on you. So I think that helps build up a lot of good will, too. Besides that, Mark is a very experienced and skilled herbalist, and I think a lot of people know that.”

FINALIST: Points of Health

CHIROPRACTOR

Aaron Austin, DC

306 E. Cota St., 966-7771

Whether it’s routine adjustment time or deeper issues like chronic pain, Aaron Austin is respected both for his abilities, 10 years of experience in our town, and his easygoing back-cracking manner. He’s a funny guy, too. “I’m totally stoked to win,” said Austin. “I think they like me, I do my best to serve ‘em, to love ‘em, and take care of ‘em.”

FINALIST: Barry Family Chiropractic

DENTIST

David Dart, DDS

1819 State St., #A, 687-2400

Dr. Dart insists that his reputation has been actually made by the team of doctors in his office, which includes Kelly Kendall, Jeff Rohde, and Karen Yoon. “We sink and float as a team,” said Dart, who kiddingly refers to himself as the Kmart greeter of the office. “But seriously we are honored to win,” he said.

FINALIST: Brian D. Frederick, DDS

LICENSED MASSAGE THERAPIST

Marlo Tell

1211 Coast Village Rd., Ste. 10, Montecito, 453-2333

16 W. Mission St., Ste. N, 453-2333

She combines the stress-easing of therapeutic massage with the heavy-duty tried and true world of sports massage in a practice that has taken over this award as it has, seemingly, the city of Montecito. Drawing from more than seven techniques or combinations thereof depending on the need, Tell’s office also offers hot rock massage, and anti-cellulite and foot-moisturizing treatments. Whether your neck is kinked or you need to rehab after the big wave spill, Tell is the therapist who has the touch, the rub, and the way back home to your body after stress has led you astray.

FINALIST: Maggie Lang

OPTOMETRIST

Thomas Burke, OD

800 N. Milpas St., #C, 963-2020

6831 F Hollister Ave., 968-3937

It may be the happiest kingdom in Santa Barbara. We mean, of course, the optometry offices of Dr. Burke, where the front desk staff fight over who gets to tell Dr. Burke that he won The Indy readers’ poll this year. “My whole office is giddy,” he correctly noted, but the mood seemed to include the patients who waited patiently while he took the congratulatory call. “I really have to thank my loyal customers,” said Burke, “every one of them. Every time one of them comes back, it’s like a little reunion here. I think that’s it. I think that says it,” he laughed.

FINALIST: Jerry Neel, OD

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