Spectrum Athletic Clubs
“When we do surveys, the number one desire people have is a clean club,” said Ramon Adams, who is both fitness manager and general manager of this popular club. “We spend a lot of time cleaning these gyms. Remember, we use these gyms, too. Which may be another reason people like us—when they see trainers training, it’s good. We’re absolutely thrilled to win.”
FINALIST: SANTA BARBARA ATHLETIC CLUB
28 Parker Wy., 965-8811
It’s not a stretch to think of Yoga Soup as a community center. Like the pastime itself, the friendly studio at the groovy end of Chapala ranges from exercise opportunity to philosophical realm. On one recent weekend, Eddie Ellner’s dharmateria offered a new ecstatic dance class, a lecture, and a book-signing. Ellner prides himself on homey things, the drop-in-and-turn-on aspect of Yoga Soup, as they put it: “a serious and light-hearted space for self-observation and transformation to take place.”
FINALIST: COREPOWER YOGA
330 State St., 901-3440
It’s a great name, though we’re not sure that it is the Enlightened One’s body type most people think of first when contemplating getting in shape. “It’s so awesome we won,” said Marcus Kettles, who cofounded the studio with his wife, Eva Kettles. “We’re like the mom-and-pop Pilates studio, but I think people like us because we put a lot of love into everything we do.” They also offer fantastic package deals that can bring the price of a session down to $10, which is cheaper than you can get in a lot of health clubs where customers are already paying memberships. “Plus,” he said, “it is the best workout in town.”
FINALIST: IM=X PILATES
Martial Arts Studio
Martial Arts Family Fitness
122 E. Gutierrez St., 963-6233
“We love The S.B. Independent, we love the readers, and we love our customers who love us,” said Melodee Meyer, co-owner of the lower Westside dojo-cum-fitness club. The club not only teaches the martial art hapkido as a defense and fitness program but also offers kickboxing, bands resistance training, and KUT—a nine-week fitness and nutrition program—all as methods of building confidence, staying safe, and getting healthy as a family.
FINALIST: PARAGON BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU & KICKBOXING
Santa Barbara Dance Arts
531 E. Cota St., 966-5299
In the late 1990s, dancer and studio owner Steven Lovelace met Alana Tillim, a gymnast who turned to dance, trained at UCSB, and recently returned from a host of triumphs in Menlo Park. They soon began codirecting Lovelace’s studio, which by this time began to look more like a small college than a large company. They put together a program of bewildering complexity, added adult classes, and started a dance supply store. Lovelace sold the place to Tillim but stayed on as a teacher. Meanwhile, scads of people emerged from the warmth of the roost there to trip the light fantastic, and, year after year, join others in voting this place Santa Barbara’s best.
FINALIST: RHYTHM DANCE AND FITNESS
Outdoor Fitness Program
1226 Santa Barbara St., 705-5790
“We have a motto,” said Jason Baker, who cofounded this program with Kayla Johnson. “No Sweater left behind. Actually, we have a lot of bad puns that have to do with sweat. But the point of it is that we do circuit interval training, and we fit it to the individual,” he said. In other words, anyone participating in the program, from hardened athlete to out-of-shape beginner, will get a workout that will help them move ahead in their fitness goals. After three years, the program outdoors at eight locations has become a big fave with the readers, who prefer their muscle-making al fresco.
FINALIST: JENNY SCHATZLE
Two worlds intersect here. There is the state park campground, which combines the easy, affordable getaway with beachfront living; there is also another El Cap that exists across the street. That’s a privately owned campsite with luxury tents and a smorgasbord of talent playing on Saturday nights through the warmer months, with reasonably priced BBQ by the campfire. Whichever one you pick—and we can’t read the readers’ minds on this one, so we award both El Capitáns—it’s an opportunity to get all the way out of Dodge and back the next day easy.
FINALIST: REFUGIO STATE BEACH
Camping Gear Store
321 Anacapa St., 560-1938
In case you haven’t trekked the untrammeled lands lately, you should know that camping gear now looks less like army surplus and more like science-fictional apparatus. Even the names of some of the most basic items reflect this new high-tech futurity—this store sells something called a cosmic down sleeping bag, which is only a bit pricier than the radiant model. The bag liner is now a thermolite reactor. But relax: You don’t need to catch up on sci-fi writer Greg Bear’s novels to go out on a slog. Just do what S.B.’s happy wanderers have been doing since this great chain opened here. Take a hike through the wide variety and competitively priced items before your next excursion into the radiant cosmos.
FINALIST: MOUNTAIN AIR SPORTS
Channel Islands Surfboards
36 Anacapa St., 966-7213
This store was for a long time owned and run by the legendary surfboard shaper Al Merrick and is always a readers’ pick. “It’s awesome that we won,” said manager Zack Kelly. “It’s been a great year. You know surfers just take what they get and make the most of it, and we’ve had a lot of traffic in the store. I think people like us because we are community-based. We listen to people and do our best at supplying what they are demanding. And we stand behind the store, trying to do our best to live up to what the Merricks were trying to be.”
FINALIST: SURF N’ WEAR’S BEACH HOUSE
2275 Ortega Hill Rd., Summerland, 969-2887
Sally Yater, who passed away last year, began this constant-winning store back when the Beatles were a novelty act. “I still find little reminders of her all over the store,” said Linda Meyer, who has been running the place for a long while herself. “Business has been good this year. It was a good beach summer, but when I talk to all my friends in the business, they say their business has picked up, too. I think people are finally coming back to brick-and-mortar stores, at least in swimwear. They’re tired of doing business over the Internet.” On the other hand, Meyer is pretty sure that her Instagram account has helped increase biz, too—pretty good for a person so skeptical about virtual shopping. “Are you kidding me? I have a bunch of 20-year-olds working for me. They’re the ones who keep that going.”
FINALIST: SURF N’ WEAR’S BEACH HOUSE
Snowboard/Ski Gear Store
Mountain Air Sports
14 State St., 962-0049
“We hope the reason we keep winning is because we have such knowledgeable staff,” said Ken Duddridge, who has been in the business of snowy diversions since 1979 and collected this Best Of category every year since its inception. He has to admit, however, that last year wasn’t the greatest sales experience; the drought in California seriously curbed winter sports. “We go into survival mode in years like that. But it’s not just us; we know everybody’s hurting,” he acknowledged. “We count on the loyalty of our good customers, and we just hope this next winter will be better for all of us.”
320 S. Kellogg Ave., Goleta, 682-4699
Despite two monumental changes, Bicycle Bob’s is still number one with the readers. Around since 1983, the venerable all-purpose shop prided itself for having two locations and offering the two major bike brands, Specialized and Trek. However, in April they moved to one central Old Town Goleta headquarters and decided to represent only Trek, which helped the BB folks put together the show-worthy new shop. “We still get calls from people every day, wondering where we are,” said sales manager Nicole Bochenek. “But people have stayed with us, I think because we offer something for every rider, from fitness to family and all the way to the high end.”
FINALIST: VELO PRO CYCLERY
Church of Skatan
26 E. Gutierrez St., 899-1586
You may think this shop is all about chill. “But I was a little worried this year,” confessed the Church’s buyer and manager Kyle Fournier. “We have a lot of really strong competition all of a sudden with good products, and I wasn’t sure we would win.” But he credits the faithfulness of his followers for their continued life. “We rely on a local group of kids who come in nearly every day. It’s a place to meet up, hang out, and get the word out of what’s happening.” And for that and the votes, the Church is thankful.
Place to Get Athletic Shoes
Santa Barbara Running
“I think we win because we have the best selection of the most innovative shoes on the market,” said Monica DeVreese, who started this store with her husband, Joe, back in 2003. “I feel like the service matches that selection,” she added, explaining that her staff takes time to really make sure the shoe fits the runner using complex calculations. They even do a gait analysis to get you out on the road equipped. “We’re footwear nerds and we’re passionate users, too,” said DeVreese.
FINALIST: BIG 5 SPORTING GOODS
Glen Annie Golf Club
405 Glen Annie Rd., 968-6400
Maybe it sounds like Scottish golf’s birthplace, but this sparkling green golf course sits on lands that memorialize the tawdry years of a true American plutocrat, W.W. Hollister and his wife, Hannah Annie James Hollister, whose early California story makes the protagonists of Edna Ferber’s Giant look like a scout troop. Meanwhile, back in the present green day, this club offers challenging play at rates only a little higher than the Municipal Courts, but much cheaper than all the big clubs stretching from Montecito to Santa Ynez (about $62 with sizeable breaks for locals and during twilight hours). You don’t have to be a land baron to play on a course that sounds like Caledonia but looks like pure Golden State.
By Paul Wellman