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Best of 2011: Little Creatures


Thursday, October 20, 2011
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Toy Store

Kernohan’s Toys

18 W. Anapamu St., 962-5353

5739 Calle Real, Goleta, 964-6499

Though no longer owned by the family that made a big stuffed bear on State Street as much a landmark to baby boomers growing up here as the fig tree was to hippies, the spirit of the store stays the same. Sure, there are tops and yo-yos and rubber chickens, but the real gentle educational spirit is what brings grown-ups into the store for crafts supplies, Playmobil building toys, and, yes, the big bear is still there.

Finalist

Bennett’s Educational Materials

Daycare Facility

Discoveries Learning Center

4519 Hollister Ave., 683-3001

Though begun 32 years ago by Lorraine Neenan — who is still the director—Discoveries is now part of a beneficent chain of daycare providers run by the Bright Horizons company. But it isn’t any corporate vibe that makes it popular here, said Neenan. “I think parents are just very satisfied and feel very safe leaving their children here,” she said. Without doubt this is a daycare that emphasizes preschool as education—rather than babysitting. “It’s a very good quality program,” said Neenan. “And our parents are very happy with that.”

Finalist

Rainbow School

Kids’ Summer Camp

Zoo Camp

Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Ninos Dr., 962-5339

According to our carefully conducted scientific experiment utilizing double-blind control groups and placebo lions and elephants, we have determined that, though 98 percent of all children moan and procrastinate dressing themselves before going to 99 percent of all summer camps, no children employed avoidance behaviors in anticipation of a week at the Santa Barbara Zoo. We conclude: Animals, trains, visits to the zoo infirmary, and getting licked (potentially) by a giraffe tend to provide an ameliorating effect on children’s video game-battered psyches when used in a carefully monitored program of afternoon ice cream and bedspring-bouncing exercise. The kids love the fun and unique activities — where else do you get to feed an elephant or come face-to-face with a giant tortoise?” said zoo education director Tiffany Musgrove. “Parents love the educational content of the camps. The Santa Barbara Zoo is ecstatic to win the award for Best Camp again this year!”

Finalist

YMCA

Ava Alton, 3 years old at Chicken Little
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Ava Alton, 3 years old at Chicken Little

Children’s Clothing Store

Chicken Little

1236 State St., 962-7771

Since 1979, Chicken Little folk have been furnishing the minority-aged in this town with everything from baby carriers to toys, though, mainly, they have been clothing them. Everything begins with the swaddling blanket, and they sell an amazing variety of those here. But as parents learn quickly, wardrobe shifts happen faster than Republican frontrunners. Luckily, the little tykes are cute, so it’s easy to convince friends and family to keep buying them new duds to match their enlarging frames. For over 30 years, this family-run store has been making it easier to do so.

Finalist

Peanuts Maternity & Kids

Pet Hospital/Clinic

White’s Pet Hospital

532 E. Haley St., 966-1604

White’s Pet Hospital first opened back when America’s economy was flush, in fact nine years before the Great Depression of 1929. “I think people like us because we have been here for generations,” explained White’s general manager Bob Blamire. “Now, not everybody has had parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents that came here, but just the same, the pet-owning community is small. So when your pet gets sick you ask, ‘Where do you take your dog?’ And a lot of people have heard of us. I think it’s true because we don’t do any advertising, our reputation come solely from word-of-mouth.”

Finalist

St. Francis Pet Clinic

Pet Boarding

Dioji K-9 Resort & Athletic Club

7340 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 685-6068

822 E. Yanonali St., 845-0500

Business has been so doggone good that owners Jeannie and Bryce Wendel and their partner Susan Vasquez just opened a second store on the sunny Eastside. “And it’s doing better than we hoped. We already have about 40 dogs there,” said Jeannie. “If for any reason they vote for us, I hope it’s because of our staff. We have 45 people working for us now, and everybody says that they treat the dogs as if they were their own. A lot of them are dog lovers and live in apartments where they can’t keep a dog. You know boarding can be stressful for a dog, so we try to make our place just like their home.”

Finalist

Camp Canine

Pet Store

Lemos Feed & Pet Supply

6 locations (in Santa Barbara County)

“People like us because of the customer service definitely,” said Goleta store manager Ulises Lopez. “But also because we carry great products and we guarantee them all absolutely. If we sell you food your pet doesn’t like or a toy that gets destroyed right away, we’ll give you your money back and steer you toward something that will work for the pet. And we try to shop around to give you the best prices. We have a 100 percent guarantee we will beat any price a local pet store has. So I think we have a lot going for us.”

Finalist

Petco

By Paul Wellman

Pet grooming at Little Dog House

Pet Grooming

Little Dog House

5758 Hollister Ave., 964-2446

Annabelle Hofmann began grooming dogs in her loving-free-range environment 37 years ago. “Dogs run free here, I never pen any of them up. Most of the time there are 50 to 60 dogs running around; probably 12 standard poodles at any given time,” said Hofmann, who is a renowned expert grooming unusual-needs breeds like Portuguese water dogs and bouviers. She’s good with Mr. Bitey, too. “I never have any problem with them; in fact my specialty is dogs that are supposed to be difficult.” She shrinks from the cliché Dog Whisperer nut — she’s never met a mean pooch she couldn’t bring to the bath with love, not discipline. But as with most groomers, the gold standard is the standard poodle. “Customers come from miles around, as far away as Los Angeles, with their poodles.”

Finalist

Colleen’s Pet Grooming

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