Mission Tuxedos owner John Murray is looking sharp.
Paul Wellman

Tuxedo Rental

Mission Tuxedos 135 W. Mission St., 569-3334

John Murray is one of three owners of this business, which also has stores in Oxnard and Ventura. “We’ve been in business since 1984,” he said, noting that generations as well as second marriages have passed before their eyes. “Our best-renting tux is the Joseph Abboud, which is roughly comparable to Armani-which you can’t rent. It’s nice and light, a fact that most guys appreciate; they’re afraid they’re going to be roasting out there.”

Finalist- King Tux Formal Wear

Place to Buy Intimate Apparel

Victoria’s Secret 651 Paseo Nuevo, 962-1023; 130 S. Hope Ave., Ste. 17-A, 569-7111

Here are some ad slogans to enjoy from this fine establishment: “Hello cleavage, goodbye wires” (the Infinity-Edge Push-Up Bra); “A treasure chest of bras for weekdays, weekends, whenever” (the Pink Bra Guide); and “Dress up for bedtime in sultry silhouettes” (New Baby Dolls $34.50). Maybe it’s the heat or maybe the magic association with England in the late 1890s (who knows?), but year after year, Independent readers endorse the one chain store that men and women love visiting together.

Finalist- Tropical Affair Lingerie & Bikinis

Fess Parker

Fess Parker, Actor and hotelier.

Favorite hotel?

“Not the DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara or Wine Country Inn & Spa in Los Olivos. It’s the much-praised Hotel Bel-Air in Beverly Hills, always a top-rated resort in such publications as Conde Nast Traveller and Travel & Leisure.”

Wedding Cake Shop

Henning’s Cake Boutique 28 W. Figueroa St., 965-6107

It’s the same and yet different, explained baker Kim Kjar, who is the son of the original owner who started this bakery back when Happy Days was the number-one show. “We have the same recipes we had back in the ’70s,” he said. “People like the consistency. At the same time, this business is changing all the time and we’re always doing our best to keep up.”

Finalist- Montecito Confections

Sunset Cruise Boat

Whale-Watching Tour

Ocean Charter Boat

Condor Express 301 W. Cabrillo Blvd., 882-0088

It’s been Captain Fred Benko’s domain for more than 30 years, according to their promotional materials, and, even though they’ve gone up against lots of sporty competition, the Condor wins frequently in all the categories of ocean-going adventures. Right now, humpbacked whales frequent the channel, though the news has been flush with blue whales meeting misfortune-so who knows what you might see. Benko also hosts pelagic bird-sighting outings and just plain gorgeous cruises into the Channel’s often nearly melodramatic sunsets.

Finalists- Sunset Cruise Boat and Whale-Watching Tour: Double Dolphin Cruises; Ocean Charter Boat: Channel Cat Charters

Place to Buy Jewelry

Bryant & Sons, Ltd. 812 State St., 966-9187; 1482 E. Valley Rd., 565-4411

Mike Bryant is the “& Son,” and he believes the business is great because of the superior stock, the licensed professionals on staff, and one more series of ineffable qualities: “We’ve been here since 1965; we’re a local institution. Plus, we have the great location downtown, so we have our longtime loyal customers plus the tourist trade. It’s really the best of both worlds.”

Finalist- Fibula Daniel Gibbings Jewelry

Place for a Wedding Reception

Kid’s Summer Camp

Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens 500 Ni±os Dr., 962-5339

There are two very different reasons to celebrate the place that used to be called A Child’s Estate (one of the best unintentional puns in the city, since it was named after Mrs. Child and still is a haven for children). “After 32 years, what makes Zoo Camp the best summer camp experience in town?” asked Christopher Horrigan, the zoo’s assistant director of education. “The 1,400 campers who come together to share their love of animals and the zoo! Thank you for letting our campers know how important they are.” And the weddings? “We are absolutely delighted to be recognized by Independent readers as the best place to have a wedding reception,” added zoo CEO Rich Block. “About 50 times each year we celebrate some of the region’s most beautiful weddings in one of Santa Barbara’s most gorgeous settings. We’re proud to offer this service to the community.”

Finalists- Place for a Wedding Reception: Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel; Kid’s Summer Camp: YMCA

Romantic Restaurant

El Encanto Hotel & Garden Villas 1900 Lasuen Rd., 687-5000

It has a powerful romantic mojo, no doubt. The El Encanto restaurant voted for by the readers has been closed for remodeling for the entire year since the last polling, and will remain closed until construction’s done in late 2009. But the view lingers in romantic hearts, and few can wait ’til they can share it again.

Finalist- Cold Spring Tavern

Bed and Breakfast

Upham Hotel 1404 De la Vina St., 962-0058

“The Upham is older than Stearns Wharf by one year,” said the hotel’s events coordinator Marjorie Robertson, and it may be the longest-operating hotel in Southern California. It was home to Aldous Huxley and a refuge for George Clooney. Who knows what other secret stories this 136-year-old building could tell? “It’s certainly the last remaining historic hotel: Its comfort and hominess reflect the charm of a bygone era,” said Robertson.

Finalist- Simpson House Inn

Limo Service


Rockstar Taxi & Limousine 882-9191

Most people learned to love this cab and fancy ride business because they were taken home late one night and dug the music. With a fleet of about 10 cabs and four limousines, the Rockstar folks have rocketed to the top of the easy-rider reader list. The bottom line seems to be that the drivers treat everybody like they’re rock stars.

Finalists- Limo Service: Spencer’s Limousine & Tours; Cab: Blue Dolphin Cab

Bridal Shop

Santa Barbara Bridal 15 W. Figueroa St., 730-7300

Talk about success stories: Two years in business and two years of first-place awards from the readers. Owner Kielle Lindsey is ecstatic. “We love being in Santa Barbara; we love our customers and we’re so grateful they’ve shown their love back.”

Finalist- Ana-Maria-Bridal Boutique

Wedding Planner

Percy Sales Events 451-8647

Percy Sales hales from Manila, Philippines, via Texas, and worked in the rarified world of corporate events before moving to SoCal. Though his headquarters are in that other Hollywood bedroom community, Ojai, the bulk of his work happens here, and enough of our people have worked with his people to elicit a big voter response from The Independent readers.

Finalist- Jill La Fleur

Wedding Photographer

Jose Villa Wedding Photography 1470 Aarhus Dr., Solvang, 688-8654

He’s perhaps more surprised than anyone that he won. “I’m very happy, but I’m not sure how it happened. I’ve posted a lot of my photographs and I’ve done a lot of high-end weddings,” Jose Villa said. “But no matter what, it sure is great.”

Finalist- Dia Rao Photography


Please note this login is to submit events or press releases. Use this page here to login for your Independent subscription

Not a member? Sign up here.