I demand hard work from my feet — I stuff them into unventilated shoes, force them to hang out high heels, fling them unshod at kickboxing bags. So when I was invited for some pampering at TropiCali salon (22 Anacapa St.,  729-7393), I jumped at the chance to thank my hooves with a pedicure.
TropiCali is a full-service salon in the Funk Zone, owned by esthetician Michelle Davis, who does facials, waxing, and tanning; she rents space to nail expert Tammy Garcia and hairstylist Taryn Bazzell. It’s a simpatico trio, each bringing their specialty — and humor — to the place.
For Davis, the salon’s location is also key — she’d long envisioned owning a shop on Cabrillo Boulevard, which epitomizes Santa Barbara’s get-away-from-it-all atmosphere. TropiCali shares a building with Municipal Winery and is a stone’s throw from sand and surf. “I’m a California native, a beach girl,” said Davis. “I wanted people to feel like every time they come in it’s kind of like being on vacation. The surf vibe, the skater vibe, it just makes me feel at peace and happy, and that’s what I wanted my everyday environment to relate to other people, as well.”
With a nod to equatorial décor — think an enclosed lanai atmosphere with high ceilings and an airy feel — TropiCali succeeds in creating a relaxing environment. Davis opened the business three years ago with longtime Santa Barbara fashionista Jill Johnson. However, six months into the venture, Johnson chose to leave. “[She] decided she didn’t want to be in Santa Barbara anymore and ended up moving to Hawai‘i,” Davis explained. “That was traumatic for me…but I ended up turning it around.”
With no foot traffic to speak of, TropiCali succeeds by word-of-mouth recommendation. “I’ve been in town for about 12 or 13 years doing my esthetician work,” said Davis. “Customer service is my main concern.” So when she decided to start her own shop — she worked previously at Camille’s, Mira Bella, and 19 Blue — her clients followed her. “They said we love you, we don’t care where you go, we know you are going to be a success,” she said. Three years in, and TropiCali is going strong, which isn’t surprising considering the charming atmosphere and expert treatments. But don’t take my word for it: Go see for yourself — your feet will thank you.