Living Well

Best of 2009

Used Bookstore

Book Den

15 E. Anapamu St., 962-3321

Erik Kelley’s emporium of tomes, the oldest in the state, is one of the nicest places we can imagine to get stuck for a few hours of browsing. Since it’s a used bookstore, the volumes you might encounter are not confined to what’s on some publisher’s hot list or recommended by the New York Times for those remnant people who still love to turn a page rather than shake a Kindle. The possibilities are endless, and, since the staff is made up of bibliophiles, chance encounters are narrowed down to the range between cool and amazing.

FINALIST: Paperback Alley Used Books

Computer Repair

Mac Mechanic

216 E. Gutierrez St., 965-9722

There are several interesting aspects of this award, the chief being that a Mac-oriented shop won the sweeping category of computer repairs. “And we only work on Apples,” said the grateful-to-win owner Michael Bishop. Plus, there’s the stiff economy and the much-awaited Apple store that opened on State Street this year, which put a big dent in the retail side of Bishop’s business. Meanwhile, however, Mac Mechanic’s repair side has been extra busy. “I have great people working for me-our turnaround for a laptop is two to three days, whereas it’s a week at most other places,” he explained. Mac Mechanic workers are highly skilled at retrieving data from damaged disks. “We do what we know and try to be the best at that,” said Bishop.

FINALIST: Make it Work

Camera Shop

Samy’s Camera

614 Chapala St., 963-7269

Take a picture-it’ll last longer. Well, at least that’s the theory, though in this digital age, most of our friends are constantly taking pictures with everything from pinhole contraptions to their phones and iPods. But when the snapshots become photography, a good amount of our populace-including many professionals-wander down to Samy’s Camera, where a wide variety of image-capturing technology is available with a friendly staff there to help you snap it up.

FINALIST: Russ’ Camera

Musical Instrument Store

Jensen Guitar & Music Co.

Electric Shop: 2905 De la Vina St., 563-3200; Acoustic Shop: 2830 De la Vina St., 687-4027; 1130 E. Clark Ave., Santa Maria, 934-8687

With three different shops, Jensen Guitar could supply Radiohead if they lost their instruments during the taxi ride over. Since each store is stocked and run by musicians, there’s also a cadre of the county’s finest sung and unsung guitar heroes there to teach you that, as Thom Yorke has repeatedly said, “Anyone Can Play Guitar.” A favorite and a perennial champion of this annual poll.

FINALIST: Instrumental Music

Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Hortipharm Caregivers

3516 State St., 563-2802

Hortipharm won even though it was closed for part of last year. “This really brightens my day,” said manager Joshua Braun. “The reason they vote for us is probably because of an enduring commitment to legitimacy. We want to make this a great environment for patients, so we spent a lot of time on decor and decorum. We trail-blazed this kind of store.” Braun is also proud to offer smaller quantities of herbal relief with new scales that weigh out packages that are more affordable for patients. “We’re the cleanest, the most knowledgeable, and we have the best quality. The best,” he said.

FINALIST: Helping Hands Wellness Center

Manager Kyle Yonemura says Imagine offers lots of variety when it comes to gift options, making his shop a favorite with readers year after year.
Paul Wellman

Gift Shop


11 W. Canon Perdido St., 899-3700

“The first six months of the year were a little off,” said Imagine manager Kyle Yonemura, speaking on the economic fate of S.B.’s favorite artistically favored gift shop. “But now we’re doing great.” Yonemura credits excellent customer service, and wonderful customer loyalty. “We’re like family; we’re a familiar place after 26 years in business. And we have gifts galore.”

FINALIST: Lewis & Clark

Party Supply Store

Glenda’s Party Cove

3319-A State St., 687-4500

This commercial niche is surprisingly not huge. After all, we are a city based on joyous celebration of its year-round livability from Halloween to Fiesta, and never mind everyday stuff like birthdays and weddings. Maybe the lack of megaparty big-box stores has been negated by our annual winner, Glenda’s Party Cove. After all, it’s been here since the dawn of malls and is equipped with stationery, toys, bunting, and balloonage, plus tons more items you need for being festive. Even in these rough times, having a party cove on your side is obviously enough.

FINALIST: Pacific Co.

Art Supply Store

Art Essentials

32 E. Victoria St., 965-5456

“We are the only art supply store and certainly the biggest,” said Art Essentials’ General Manager Kurtis Hughes. It’s true: Though there are many other stores that sell art supplies mixed in with other items, for 21 years now, this has been the magnet venue for artists of all skill, age, and commitment level from Sunday painters to the avant-garde. But don’t think Hughes is smug about it. “It’s fantastic that we won,” he said.

FINALIST: Michaels

Craft Supply Store


187 N. Fairview Ave., Goleta, 967-7119

Michaels wins year after year partly based on its sheer convenience. With more than 40,000 products, Michaels offers supplies for scrapbooking, knitting, beading, floral arrangements, and wall decor, not to mention picture frames and seasonal merchandise. Add in regular craft classes and demonstrations, combined with good prices-most crafty folk have at least a smidgen of desire to get something great for not so much dough-and it’s easy to understand why downtown people don’t mind driving to Goleta for Michaels. It’s one of those massive chains based on decent, funky principles, and the readers made a hobby of loving it.

FINALIST: Art Essentials

Frame Shop

Aaron Brothers Art & Framing

601 State St., 966-3954

Sometimes you get a cool poster or snapshot or thrift store art piece and you want to preserve it and make it nice on your wall but don’t feel like paying more for the frame than the casually acquired objet d’art. We all know where to go in these circumstances. Aaron Brothers sells art supplies including canvasses, but its long suit is the reasonably priced frame-often on sale, sometimes two-for-one. If your Ed Ruscha etching needs a good setting, you probably want to go to a nice custom house. But that cool, battered postcard of New York World’s Fair, all art deco and stuff? It belongs in an Aaron Brothers frame.

FINALIST: Michaels


Santa Barbara Bank & Trust

Various locations, (888) 400-7228

According to the news, hard times have befallen our city’s eponymous bank, though no one seems anywhere close to declaring it one of the number (94 at this writing) of banks that the U.S. ordered closed. Au contraire: The readers of this newspaper yet again have claimed a certain solidarity with a bank that has been holding our dough and lending us theirs since 1960. With 49 branches across the state, it’s got some substance and we all hope it stays that way.

FINALIST: Wells Fargo

Copy Shop

FedEx Office Print & Ship Center (formerly FedEx Kinko’s)

1030 State St., 966-1114; 23 S. Hope Ave., 569-5100; 5749 Calle Real, Goleta, 964-3522

Give us a break; it’s, like, the biggest success story ever out of Isla Vista-Paul Orfalea first one opened there in the early 1970s (and yes, we’re even including Jack Johnson in that assessment). We like to go to Kinko’s because sometimes we can’t sleep, so we go down to the all-night Hope Avenue store at 3:30 a.m. and see what people are copying. Seriously, it’s convenient, multifaceted for a multitasking era, the prices are right, and the quality too, whether you need to run off some party invites or a big fancy report for your anal-retentive supervisor.

FINALIST: Bill’s Copy Shop

Personnel/Temp Agency

AppleOne Employment Services

1636 State St., 569-9024

You might think any signs of an economic downturn would be very legible in a town like this. Not quite so, said AppleOne’s Branch Manager Sheri Griffiths. “We had a moderate increase in job-seekers,” she said. “It was more like a controlled storm.” Griffiths believes the citywide popularity of this agency derives from the measured approach it’s taken since landing here in 1997. “We hope to have clients for life, so we tend to try and help people throughout the longer stretch of their career path. And yes, we’re ecstatic that we won.”

FINALIST: OfficeTeam

Retirement Residence

Valle Verde Retirement Community

900 Calle de los Amigos, 687-1571

“Our location may be the most important reason that people vote for us,” said Alexa Steadman, executive administrative assistant at the Hidden Valley retirement community that the readers voted best. “We’re very proud of our gardens, landscaping, and grounds. But I think the more important reason is how flexible the lifestyle here can be. People can live here and exercise a lot of choice,” she said, further explaining that Valle Verde offers a full continuum of support for its residents. “And we are very thrilled to be picked.”

FINALIST: Maravilla Senior Living

Travel Agency

Santa Barbara Travel Bureau

1028 State St., 966-3116; 1127 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, 969-7746

Talk about signature city businesses-Santa Barbara Travel Bureau has been helping area wayfarers since 1947. It’s owned by Charles and David de L’Arbre, whose expert staff has learned a few tricks. Whether it’s a luxury trip, a business shortie out into the land of gnashing teeth, or a tramp on the cheap, they want you to get around, and safely, too.



Lori Sender-O’Hara

25 Carlo Dr., Goleta, 964-0222

There has been a big shakeout in chiropractic circles, according to Lori Sender-O’Hara, who has been practicing here for 20 years, and sadly, it was mostly younger doctors who didn’t make it through the downturn. Sender-O’Hara feels fortunate not only to still be in business, but to have won the approval of the readers. “I just can’t believe I won,” she said. Sender-O’Hara believes a lot of her effectiveness springs from the Gonstead technique she employs (“It’s the gold standard of chiropractic techniques,” she said). “It feels so good to get this recognition,” Sender-O’Hara said. “I want to say thank you, particularly to all my patients.”

FINALIST: John Craviotto


Erik S. Wipf, DDS

1819 State St., Ste. C, 569-0716

First off, let’s say the readers’ choice should probably go to the entire office in which Dr. Erik Wipf does dentistry alongside his father, Dr. Vaughan Wipf, who, though still treating patients, is in semi-retirement. “After dental school, he lured me back home to Santa Barbara, saying he was going to retire and just sell the business. So I came, and that was 12 years ago,” laughed Dr. Erik, who actually works quite closely with his father as colleague, adviser, and dad. “This honor should be shared with my whole office,” he said, “because that’s how we tend to treat our patients. From check-in to check-out, we all pitch in to do everything they need.”

FINALIST: Brian D. Frederick, DDS

Licensed Massage Therapist

Marlo Tell, Marlo’s Therapeutic & Sports Massage

1211 Coast Village Rd., Ste. 10, Montecito, 453-2333

She admits that her technique is unique. “I’m very strong and I have big hands,” said Marlo Tell, who runs a very seriously busy Montecito sports massage business. “I’m kind of like a machine,” she added, explaining that her method synthesizes five different massage disciplines, and that she has built a strong reputation for treating the seriously tweaked. “They call me Doctor Pain,” she said, quickly stressing that it was the relief thereof for which her patients like her. “And I like treating people,” she said.

FINALIST: Maggie Lang


Thomas F. Burke, OD

Milpas Optometric Center: 800 N. Milpas St., #C, 963-2020; Hollister Optometric Center: 6831 Hollister Ave., #F, Goleta, 968-3937

If there is a more genial practitioner of any sort of medicine in this town, we haven’t met him or her. “This is such a nice surprise. My staff rarely interrupts me for anything, but they just did and this is such good news,” he said as an understanding patient could be heard in the background yelling a hearty congratulations. “I give all the credit to my staff,” he said. “They’re so great that I think it’s fun to come to work, to go into the office.” He does own up to some credit for the win, though. “I think it’s because I like to narrate my treatments to my patients, I try to keep the communication open. Maybe that’s what they appreciate. But this is so nice. I really appreciate this.”

FINALIST: Wendy Santizo, OD


Community Centered Oriental Medicine

1900 State St., #C, 687-7328

“I’m so happy, so excited we won,” said Nikki Doner, the director of the Community Centered Oriental Medicine (CCOM) organization, a group effort that tries its level best to extend healing to all. “What we are trying here is very different-to make Chinese medicine and acupuncture available to anyone who needs it,” she said. The group works on a sliding scale based on personal income, though Doner stressed that they do not spend a lot of time verifying people’s own assessments of what they can pay. “There is a sense of everybody contributing here. It really generates a good feeling,” she said.

FINALIST: Anthony Kar


Chaucer’s Books

3321 State St., 682-6787

Mahri Kerley is a kind of triumphal figure in this town, owning and actively running a store that for many of us epitomizes what’s great about S.B. culturally. You see, there are excellent colleges-three of them-in the immediate vicinity, producing that rare contemporary creature, homo literalis. Besides that, there are scads of great writers, from crack journalists to poets, children’s book authors to cultural essayists. Sooner or later all of the above end up at Chaucer’s, either buying literature or presenting their own to friends in readings and signings that stretch out through the whole year. Behind it all, Kerley stocks a mighty massive supply, and her staff, believe it or not, knows where to find most of the books that help define what it means to live here.

FINALIST: Borders Books

Office Supply Store


410 State St., 965-9577; 7015 Marketplace Dr., Goleta, 961-8093; 615 N. H St., Lompoc, 740-0192; 2170 S. Bradley Rd., Santa Maria, 928-9090

There’s no use waxing romantic over printer cartridges, legal pads of paper, or gummed reinforcements. These are things we need to conduct the business end of our daily struggle to keep body and soul attached at certain points. (Well, maybe for some, work’s the fun part. Whatever.) But no one seems to have mourned the passing of little Mom & Pop stationery stores when there’s the megalithic and monumental Staples, a place where the service is excellent, prices are even better, and, as its many catchy ad phases often reiterate, they’ve got the cartridge, pad, and even gummed reinforcements when your business is getting all up on you.



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