Aqua Nail Bar
3455 State St., 687-8483
“I’m really super happy we won,” said Aqua owner Claudia Cordova. “Partly because we have so much added competition there are at least three other new places that seem to have the same business model as us. But I think people like us because we’ve established relationships in the last eight years. We’re different than a lot of salons; we’re professional and organized. Somebody greets you when you walk in. I think if you’ve never been in here before, that’s what would surprised you. This place is like a cross between a salon and a spa, and all of the changes we’ve made have been because of customer feedback.”
FINALIST: ANGELS NAIL & SPA
FLOAT Luxury Spa
18 E. Canon Perdido, 845-7777
“I think we’ve won this category because we have the best massage therapists and the best aestheticians in town,” said owner Natalie Rowe. “I think over the years the word of mouth has been good, and this is a word-of-mouth town. But most of all, I think people are surprised when they come in and see how big we are. From the street it looks like there’s only one room, but [people] don’t know about the salons, the lounge and even an outdoor patio. We’re thrilled that they voted for us again this year,” she said.
FINALIST: BACARA RESORT & SPA
Evolutions Medical & Day Spa
350 Chapala St., 687-0212
Whether it’s a back rub or a fractional CO2 resurfacing, Brian Perkins is grateful that his medical spa was reader-considered to be the best. He is the son of Dr. Terry Perkins, who began the business initially concentrated on the kind of medical rejuvenations and therapies that doctoring had to supply from sandings to serious cosmetic surgery. In the meantime, however, Perkins’s popular spa decided to move next door to Avia, also a frequent Best Of winner for more traditional rejuvenation practices, but they sadly went out of business. “Most people don’t know that we now have the day spa where Avia used to be,” said Perkins. Evolutions still offers medical treatments but now has massage tables, Vichy showers, locker rooms, and most of the other amenities of a real spa. It’s a healing place now and a nice escape, like Switzerland on Chapala Street.
FINALIST: THE G SPA
Women’s Clothing; Men’s Clothing; Shoes
17 W. Canon Perdido, 5564-8770
It must be good. The anchor store of Paseo Nuevo has always coexisted with another famed major department, yet. Nordstrom almost always wins these three categories. It’s maybe easy to figure the men’s fashions, which have always been sketchily represented in town — where else should you go for so many designer lines under one roof? Shoes are also an easy call. Nobody collects such a range of fashion and price in one place, and the store’s vaunted return policy makes shopping easy. What the store ought to be proud of is its annual landing of the women’s category in a town where couture and sportswear have always mattered — a town of elegance — and Nordstrom’s, a department store, keeps winning the prize that keeps it that way.
410 E. Haley, 962-1413
“I would say that people like us because we have a fun store,” said Cominichi’s assistant manager TKValentina. “We have old stuff, we have new stuff, we have wacky stuff. The thing that always surprises people is how big the store is. From the outside it looks like a small store. Then it’s really exciting for them because they anticipated a lot less.”
FINALIST: PUNCH INTÉRIEURS
2008 De la Vina, 687-2755
“I know what our secret is,” said Jessica Cashman, owner of Jessica’s. “Longevity. Come this January we’ll be open for 25 years. That and the good sources we have and a good system to rotate the clothes, with a backroom for marked-down items. We sell high-end clothes, nice-quality clothes, and Santa Barbara is the kind of place where you can mix your wardrobe. A nice outfit with a $1,200 bag that you paid $500 for. But I think people also like us because it’s nice here — easy with a fun atmosphere.”
FINALIST: THE CLOSET
14 W. Gutierrez, 963-6677
Being taken to the cleaners is not usually a pleasant experience. But our readers seem to enjoy Ablitt’s year after year. Maybe because it’s a family business in its third generation — wasn’t always Ablitt’s or always here — or maybe it’s the fact that you don’t have to take anything to the cleaners; their trucks come to you, if you prefer, for free. An S.B. favorite for decades, it’s one of those chores that a small town makes easy and almost pleasant through neighborly traditions.
FINALIST: MARTINIZING DRY CLEANING
4141 State St., 967-5728
Lee Thompson knows the secret. “Here we never stop trying,” said the owner of the 22-year-old business that routinely tops our charts. He’s tailored everything imaginable, even put a zipper into a pair of shoes once. “We keep doing things a little bit better; we try to make it always better. We’re very happy that they vote for us.”
FINALIST: TONY THE TAILOR
Eyewear Selection; Sunglasses Selection
Occhiali has numerous fine recommending factors: great customer service, a comprehensive and tastefully fashionable array of frames and optical accoutrements, and friendly stores. But its chief asset is owner Irwin Eve, who would object to such adulations. Blessed with grace and taste, Eve also has an uncanny memory for customers who feel like friends, even though visits stretch between months and years. Eve insists his staff be noted for their passion about eyewear and making customer fits, which is an easy call. He also prizes his long association with photographer Kim Reierson, who provided “many years of creative ad designs and awesome work.” But the best part of Occhiali is its dependable quality overall — and the readers have never missed a chance to vote on that.
FINALIST: EYEGLASS FACTORY (EYEWEAR SELECTION); SUNGLASS HUT (SUNGLASSES SELECTION)
Jesse’s Shoes & Repair
5915 Calle Real, 964-3414
“You bet I’m happy we won,” said Jesse Holder, Jr., who has been elegantly retreading footwear for 42 years in the Goleta territories. “I’m happy we won every year since you started this thing. I think people like us because we do good work at a good price,” he said. Holder said that the strangest thing he ever had to repair was a woman’s favorite bra. He did it and she was happy, and that most people don’t know that his business hinges on precision orthopedic work — prescription footwear. “Some people come to me for their orthopedic shoes and then move away. A lot of them come back to me to get work done even if they live somewhere else,” he said.
Richie’s Barber Shop
1187 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, 845-9701
This is the second year in a row that this new Montecito shave-and-a-haircut place has won the number one spot in a town where at least three dynasty shops have long held up despite the many revolutions — from unisex to boutique barbers — at the male bastion hangout. The man who prefers to be known as Richie the Barber said the whole isn’t difficult to understand. “We’re very, very happy to win. We have just a few things: regular haircuts, trims, and shaves. It’s a pretty simple concept, and guys are pretty simple creatures,” said the Barber.
FINALIST: ARTURO’S BARBERSHOP
Walter Claudio Salon Spa
11 W. Figueroa St., 963-7579
Perennial winners, Walter Claudio prides itself on pampering your gestalt, even if they’re only whittling away at your split ends. Actually, Claudio’s staff, whose talents are continually honed at conferences and other classes, are most encouraged to listen to their clients and then take the concept to a place where bad-hair days are hard to remember.
FINALIST: DARIN JON STUDIO
Place to Get a Facial
Skin Deep Salon
3405 State St., 687-9497
“I won’t lie; it feels great to win again and again, year after year!” exclaimed owner Tina Hasche. At the Deep, they obviously strive to stay on the cutting edge of skin and hair care, while never forgetting it’s the personal touch that makes a visit to Skin Deep worth repeating — 33 years to be exact! They have a committed staff and faithful clientele — it’s like a great big Santa Barbara neighborhood filled with familiar faces. “Faces we are glad to see and even happier to offer the best facial possible. Thank you to Santa Barbara and The Independent. We can’t wait to show them off!”
FINALIST: FLOAT LUXURY SPA
Alpha Thrift Store
Alpha has become synonymous with Thrift Store here in Santa Barbara. It’s the go-to store for Halloween costumes (they save them for the season), as well as being a great place to treasure hunt the rest of the year. They rotate the stock, have colored-tag sales, and the $2 rack outside should never be missed. The staff is courteous, helpful, and with the addition of the third store on Milpas Street, they were able to widen aisles and make it all more organized and pleasant to shop. Books, toys, clothing, electronics, and shoes — something for everyone, you just have to look.