Aqua Nail Bar
3455 State St., 687-8483, aquanailbar.com
Claudia Cordova and her parents opened Aqua exactly 10 years ago, and this year marks the ninth time they have been #1 with our readers. And while all-natural manicures and pedicures are their primary draw, they also have a full menu of spa services that, starting this month, will be featuring their own line of skin-care products. “We have a philosophy where we won’t use anything that is carcinogenic to our employees or our clients, but we have had a hard time finding products that meet those standards, so we have developed our own. We are pretty excited about it,” beams Claudia.
FINALIST: ANGELS NAIL & SPA
Richie’s Barber Shop
1187 Coast Village Rd., 845-9701, richiesbarbershopsb.com
It has been five years since Richie flew the coop from Montecito Barbers and made good on a longtime dream to run his own barber shop, and things couldn’t be better. His flagship space is a slick and polished little number that oozes fine man-cave style with exposed brick walls, black leather couches, and good-looking employees and customers. More telling is the fact that he has grown from being a one-man band to a shop with four chairs and seven barbers working for him, as well as having an “annex” location in downtown S.B. inside the men’s clothing boutique Wolf’s Head. Offering straight-razor shaves and hot-towel wipe-downs in addition to their cuts and trims, Richie’s is, as the man himself says, “a classic barber shop that gives a classic haircut experience.”
FINALIST: MONTECITO BARBERS
Darin Jon Studio
1428 Chapala St., 962-1884, darinjonstudio.com
People become incredibly attached to a good hair salon when they find one. When done right, they are much more than just a place to have your hair cut, colored, or styled. They are a living, breathing social scene that cares about you, caters to you, and sends you home looking like a movie star. Darin Jon and his team have perfected this recipe and then some. His in-house “Protégé” program takes freshly minted cosmetologists and guides them through an eight- to 10-month training period, where they take their established skill sets to even higher levels while working on Darin Jon clients at a reduced rate.
FINALIST: WALTER CLAUDIO SALON SPA
Day Spa • Place To Get a Facial
Cielo Spa Boutique
1725 State St., Ste. C, 687-8979, cielospasb.com
“We never win,” exclaims owner Roxanne Zbinden, a born-and-raised S.B. native. “I know we do a great job, but this is certainly a pleasant surprise.” This coming January will mark 10 years in business for Zbinden and her crew. Located in a “cozy three-bedroom cottage,” her by-appointment-only spa boutique does massage, facials, salt scrubs, waxing, and much more, all of it with a commitment to giving clients the time, space, and pace that they need. “The most customers we will ever have here at once is four,” explains Zbinden of the spa, which features a couples room. “This allows us to give everyone the personal attention they deserve.”
FINALISTS: FLOAT LUXURY SPA (DAY SPA)
SKIN DEEP (Place to Get a FACIAL)
Evolutions Medical & Day Spa
350 Chapala St., Ste. 103, 576-7214, evolutionsmedicalspa.com
Botox, tattoo removal, platelet-rich plasma injections, and hair-loss correction are but a few of the many services Evolutions’ Dr. Terry Perkins and his staff offer. With over three decades of experience — Dr. Perkins was one of the first doctors to help get Botox approved for cosmetic use — you can rest assured that you are in good hands with Evolutions.
FINALIST: THE G SPA
Alpha Thrift Stores
Many locations, alphasb.org/thrift-stores
From couches and cutlery to clothes and computers and everything in between, any one of the three Alpha Thrift locations has what you need (albeit in a slightly used form) with a price tag you will like. Daily deals make things even sweeter for the savvy shopper. And the karma points are high when you use Alpha, either for shopping needs or to donate your used stuffs, as they are a money-making wing for the Alpha Resource Center of Santa Barbara, an agency that provides critical support and services for developmentally disabled children and adults.
Jessica’s Fine Consignment
2008 De la Vina St., 687-2755, jessicaconsignment.com
Growing up with five sisters, Jessica Cashman learned the many tricks and upsides of the secondhand clothing hustle early, a skill set that has served her well over the past 26 years of running her namesake consignment shop. “I have been in this game from the time I was a little girl,” laughs Cashman. With a self-described “super comfortable girls’ club type of feel,” Jessica’s Fine Consignment has a regularly rotating collection of assorted designer clothes, high-end shoes and handbags, casual beach styles, and a whole lot more, depending on who is looking to turn their closet contents into cash. Insider tip: The back sale rack changes every week.
FINALIST: THE CLOSET
By Paul Wellman
1223 State St., 770-3921, punchvintage.com
Velvet Elvis paintings, silk kimonos, decades-old fur jackets, pristine Polaroid cameras, weird cat statues, funky end tables, antique lunch boxes, and sparkly red ruby slippers: These are but a few of the sparkling gems of collectible kitsch that you will find in Punch Vintage. Wacky, colorful, and bursting with inanimate-object energy, Lynn Morrison’s store is the ideal antidote for the corporate whitewashing plaguing so much of State Street. Browsing through the carefully curated yet eclectic mash-up of bright and wonderful things from decades gone by, you feel as if you are walking through some sort of life-sized diorama of sheer wonderfulness. Walk in for a minute, and odds are that you will stay for an hour.
FINALIST: THE BLUE DOOR
Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners & Launderers
14 W. Gutierrez St., 963-6677, ablitts.com
You ever go to Burning Man and come home with a wardrobe full of freshly thrashed vintage blazers and vests with little to no hope of saving them? Well, have no fear. Ablitt’s has you covered. Whether it is the easy parking and always friendly customer service or its eco-friendly approach and free delivery service, Ablitt’s has been our readers’ first choice for dry cleaning for as long as most can remember. And, while all of the above is certainly reason to celebrate, Ablitt’s truly distinguishes itself with its ability to repair and restore and make like new the most delicate and precious of our clothes. I have trusted them with my tutus and my wife’s wedding dress, the latter covered with mud and blood and whiskey, and on both occasions, they came back so clean and fresh-looking that I questioned if they were even ours.
FINALIST: ONE HOUR MARTINIZING DRY CLEANING
4141 State St., 967-5728, leestailoringsantabarbara.com
When a business is the go-to for Santa Barbara’s Fire and Police departments, you can rest assured they are the cream of the crop. Lee Thompson is that type of tailor. As he puts it, “Anything you can name, I can do.” In business for just shy of 25 years, Thompson does indeed do it all — from custom alterations and fits to tricky repairs and leather work, and always with a fashion connoisseur’s eye. “Thank you, Santa Barbara,” says the tailor. “We would not still be here without my regulars, so thank you for your support.”
FINALIST: TONY THE TAILOR
Eyewear Selection • Sunglasses Selection
Occhiali Fine Eyewear
Two locations, 565-3415, occhialieyewear.com
To hear owner Irwin Eve tell it, Occhiali Fine Eyewear is an “optical boutique. We search out more unique brands and fashion-forward styles than most others.” Pair this with a staff full of licensed opticians, a 28-year track record in town, and a stated desire to send customers home looking good in their new glasses, and you begin to get an idea of why Occhiali is tops for both prescription and sun-protection eyewear. “Honesty is something you don’t get everywhere, but for us, it is part of our ego. We are critical with our clients because we want them looking good in their glasses when they leave,” says Eve.
FINALISTS: EYE & VISION CARE (EYEWEAR SELECTION)
SOLSTICE SUNGLASS BOUTIQUE (SUNGLASSES SELECTION)
907 State St., 966-2299, step-n-outsb.com
Quick, refreshingly affordable, and genius in their ability to solve most any shoe breakdowns imaginable, Step-N-Out is an absolute godsend when you need them most. Three times in the past couple of years, my wife or I have gone in there with a footwear emergency just hours before a formal function, and they have saved the day without even breaking a sweat. They also do digital foot scanning and custom arch-support construction because sometimes it is your feet that need the fixing, not your shoes.
FINALIST: JESSE’S SHOES & REPAIR (Closed)
By Paul Wellman
1231 State St., Ste. A, 965-4542
You have to have some serious street cred to make a go of it in clothing retail these days without a website, and by all indications, Natasha Airisto and her boutique have just such a winning reputation. In the same location since 1989, Airisto has made that name for herself with a blend of hard work, respect, and understanding of the infinite forms of the female body; a commitment to U.S.A.-made products; and a focus on catering to “the real women of Santa Barbara.” “This isn’t for teenagers,” says Airisto. “We serve real women with real bodies for what is happening in this town right now, not what is in season everywhere else. These are clothes for real life. It is stuff that works and makes you feel good.”
The shoe scene at Nordstrom is pretty darn mind-boggling. In fact, walking into the showroom, it becomes instantly obvious why they are Numero Uno with Indy readers. Simply put, they have everything, no matter the season or your taste. What’s more, they have it at a variety of price points, from the super-affordable to the “I may need a new credit card” end of the spectrum. The trick, however, is getting out of there without smelling like whatever perfume they have on sale.