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Best of 2011: Falling in Love


Thursday, October 20, 2011
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Place to Buy Intimate Apparel

A Tropical Affair

12 E. Cota St., 730-1625

A Tropical Affair’s sales associate Rebecca Bell
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

A Tropical Affair’s sales associate Rebecca Bell

“We made it through the recession with lots of lace and frills … somehow,” said the exuberant Geneva Ives, who has managed A Tropical Affair since 2002. “We’re celebrating out 11th anniversary in business this December,” she said. “I think they vote for us because this a super cute little shop full of great stuff. We travel the world to get the best; I think there must be over 100 brands in here.” Plus, she said, it’s a place where everyone can feel comfortable. “We’ve got a big man chair for when guys come in and for women it’s always a pick-me-up.”

Finalist

Victoria’s Secret

Caterer

Pure Joy Catering

111 E. Haley St., 963-5766

It’s going on 11 years now that Pure Joy has been serving up just what it advertises to big functions in our party-addicted town. “I think people like us because everything we make is fresh,” explained Patrick Ward, Pure Joy’s operations manager. “Nothing is frozen and we do great big events all the time. We’re full service, too,” he said, describing a range of services from party rentals to delicious desserts. “And, we are the best in Santa Barbara,” laughed Ward.

Finalist

Fresco Café Catering

Florist

Victor the Florist

135 E. Anapamu St., 965-3075

It was 81 years ago that Victor Sourmany first opened the flower shop painted pink, his favorite color, and today Raeanne Alvarado, his granddaughter, still inspires Santa Barbarans to vote the shop with its beautiful nonconforming neon sign as one of the best things about our fair city. “I guess you can say that the look of the store was grandfathered in.” quipped Alvarado, who is proud of her legacy and only hopes one of her own children — she runs the store with husband Michael — will want to take it over in the future. “I think we are a tradition now, a family-run business, and people know us and trust us. I think it just comes down to that. That and great customer service.”

Finalist

Riley’s Flowers

Bridal Shop

MaryLinn’s Bridal

1315 State St., 892-4000

Apparently, the film Bridesmaids did not deter our readers from the kind of top-end couture experience of bridal gowns the movie did its best to skewer. MaryLinn’s sells designer gowns, with more than 30 houses represented, and offers occasional trunk shows at which the designers themselves will unpack their line and answer questions. Best by appointment, MaryLinn’s seemingly exclusive premises help prove the validity of their promise: individual attention to help take the strain off the big day by making you faultlessly gorgeous.

Finalist

Ana Maria’s Bridal Boutique

Wedding Cake Shop

Henning’s Cake Boutique & Café

28 W. Figueroa St., 965-6107

“I think people like us because of the way we treat our customers,” said Henning’s manager Asiri Ginige. “You see, we do custom cakes, the way the customer wants it. So I try to listen and clearly hear them, sometimes a half hour, sometimes 45 minutes, even an hour. Then I sketch the cake for them and they say, yes, that’s what I want. You have to have patience.”

Finalist

Montecito Confections

Tuxedo Rental

Mission Tuxedos

135 W. Mission St., 569-3334

The type of suit named after a country club in New York, where it first became fashionable wear, was actually a compromise down from the formal suit worn in England in Victorian times. Today it epitomizes those occasions where stilted behavior accompanies precarious ventures, like marriage, for instance, or a charitable ball. Most of us only attend one or two of the former in such a suit; and if you must constantly be seen at the latter, you might as well own one of the damned things. Renting is best, since the styles that seem so fixed actually change radically from era to era. Mission Tux has most of its rentable togs, including big fashion-house brands, on the premises, so you can try it on before you suit up for that scary fun day that will change your life

Finalist

King Tux

Place to Buy Jewelry

Bryant & Sons, Ltd.

812 State St., 966-9187

1482 East Valley Rd., #37, 565-4411

Maybe the shops inside the El Paseo have changed dramatically in the last three decades, until the whole courtyard became overrun by attorneys and money funds, but the State Street entrance to the grand old (former) shopping center has been guarded by Bryant & Sons since 1965. Many generations — well, three — of S.B. bethrothers and betrothees have bought jewelry and fine timepieces here, and the reasons are manifest: Cartier, Patek Phillipe, and Breitling among them. The store creates its own bling, but also serves as exclusive dealers here for some of the world’s most famous stone-setters. It’s another of the family-owned businesses that have lasted and that our readers clearly appreciate, voting B&S the best for the last 10 years.

Finalist

Silverhorn

Romantic Restaurant

The Stonehouse

900 San Ysidro Ln., 565-1724

Part of it is the allure of Chef Jamie West’s reputation for seasonal wine country cuisine, and, part of it is the wine. A number of other major restaurants in town have not-so-secretly declared their cellar envy. But the best part is the stone house itself, with its lounge and bar on the side and crackling fire when, baby, it’s cold outside. For the rest of the time — say from April to almost October — there’s the patio beneath, as the restaurant puts it — “the gaze of the stars.” You feel far away from the prying eyes of town, though, and, hey, if you can afford it, you can get a room.

Finalist

Bouchon

By Paul Wellman

The Upham Hotel’s James Stenger and events coordinator Marjorie Robertson enjoy a cuppa in the garden of Santa Barbara’s Best B&B.

Bed & Breakfast Inn

The Upham Hotel

1404 De la Vina St., 727-0876

“We’re just wrapping up our 140th year of hospitality,” said Upham general manager Jan Martin Winn. “In fact, we are the oldest continuing operation hotel in all of Southern California. There’s a hotel up north, the Columbia that is a little older, but it’s part of a State Park and we’re not sure that means it’s been in constant operation.” By contrast, she noted, the famous Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego is a mere 120 years old. “I think it’s just the charm and ambience; it feels like Old Santa Barbara here. I think that’s what local customers like. Maybe guests from other places appreciate more its central location. You can walk everywhere from here.”

Finalist

Simpson House Inn

Limo Service;

Taxi Service (Driving category)

Rockstar Transportation

217 W. Gutierrez St., 882-9191

Once upon a time, eight years ago when James Houseman, owner of the fleet that is Rockstar, began driving his own cab, he came before a judge, one of those occupational hazards derived from being on the road all the time. “The judge looked at the name of my company and he laughed,” said Houseman. Well, if he knew better, he wouldn’t have. Today, Houseman has 17 cars between cabs and limos, and two more on the way. In less than a decade, he’s won the Best Of for at least the last five years and he’s also seen the cab business grow, too. “There used to be five cab companies when I started, now there are 50,” he claimed. “So I guess we’re doing alright. It’s awesome that we won.”

Finalists

Limo Service:

Spencer’s Limousines & Tours

Taxi Service:

Santa Barbara Yellow Cab

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