17 W. Canon Perdido St., 564-8770
Great department stores make you feel like you’ve been transported. They sweep us would-be posh consumers into a world of utter luxury and yet make us comfortable there-somewhere a grand piano ought to be playing, and when we come down the escalator, there ought to be displays that make product lust easily outweigh paycheck considerations. Nordstrom, on the once humble corner of Canon Perdido and Chapala streets, does all those things. Since it opened, it’s been the center of fine shoe shopping, men’s suit purchases-great annual sales-and for women, one of a very few places where coltish youth and elegant age can be draped finely at a reasonable price.
FINALISTS: Women’s Clothing: Blue Bee; Men’s Clothing: Blue Bee; Shoes: Macy’s
Danny’s Custom Styling
3337 State St., 687-7915
Maybe it seems retro for some to visit a classic three-chair barber shop-more suitable to Norman Rockwell memories than contemporary practices. But you should know that Danny’s Custom Styling, first opened in 1960, is going strong, and whether you’re looking for a neatening-up trim, a flat top with fenders, or a complete razor-cut restyling, the barbers at Danny’s have the shear power of real experience behind them-combined, almost 100 years. That kind of nostalgia is why the readers have voted them a cut above for more than a decade now.
FINALIST: Montecito Barbers
Aqua Nail Bar
3455 State St., 964-0282
Not even nail salons are recession-proof, though the smart money at Aqua is surviving the economic downturn by closing one store and consolidating the shop into one easily accessible venue. “We’re doing great now,” said manager Claudia Papa, who firmly believes that the real story of their success lay with their fine personnel. “The girls who work here are passionate about doing a great job,” she explained. “We have the best manicurists and the best aestheticians, and we’re all so excited about winning. This is great,” said Papa.
FINALIST: Tina’s Nail Salon
350 Chapala St., Stes. 101 and 102, 730-7303
They have tanning salons with herbal-lined beds and mud baths. They have a gorgeous, large set of facilities down near Lilly’s Tacos at the best-kept secret corner of the city. But most of all, they know how to make you glow, said spa director Barbara Echols. “It’s our signature salt stone treatment that really brings people in,” she said, describing an exfoliation process that makes the phrase “pampered body” seem inadequate. “We’re ecstatic that we won,” said Echols, who, on the face of it, understands the implications of ecstasy.
FINALIST: Float Luxury Spa
Evolutions Medical Spa
1309 State St., 687-0212
“We are extremely flattered and excited that we won,” said spa manager Carrie Vuich. It was a tough year, but Evolutions prides itself in not only surviving-two other medical spas folded, she said-but actually adding three staff members. “We provide high-quality care and we have the most advanced laser equipment. We’re also the only other medical spa that has a physician, Dr. Terry Perkins.” But the bottom line goes beyond technology, Vuich said. “Our staff is genuinely friendly.”
FINALIST: Spa Medicus
Place to Get a Facial
Float Luxury Spa
18 E. Canon Perdido St., 845-7777
“We’re so excited,” said Natalie Rowe, who co-owns Float with her sister Stephanie Phelan. “And a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve only been open since April 20. We have the best aestheticians, the best product lines, and we’re very proud of our service. We look forward to serving more of the town of Santa Barbara,” she said.
FINALIST: Skin Deep
Green & Yellow Basket Shop
911 State St., 965-7722
Did you ever stop to consider that the onset of global warming strangely coincided with the sudden abandonment of the hat as a major American fashion object? Since about 1956, when greenhouse gases began proliferating, the seasonal women’s chapeau (like the Easter bonnet) and the men’s fedora suddenly fell out of fashion, turning into knit caps, weird half-visors, and, eventually, backward baseball hats. Or, worse, bare, reflecting heads. Coincidence? I doubt it. The solution, then, would be more shopping at the Green & Yellow Basket Shop, a State Street store that’s lasted though hippies, yuppies, and that grunge stuff from Seattle. In short, the planet might be more chill if people protected their heads at Green & Yellow Basket. Think about it.
Yellowstone Clothing Inc.
527 State St., 963-9609
Their secret? For 33 years, Yellowstone Clothing has kept current with the past. “We know what the vintage trends are with our customers,” said Stephanie Haugen, who co-owns the store with hubbie Paul. “What’s in right now are the ’80s and early ’90s,” she said, although vintage cowboy shirts and T-shirts from classic rock concerts-say, the Rolling Stones-always seem to be in nostalgia vogue. So, if you want to be up to the moment and dress like Pat Benatar used to, the place for you is Yellowstone-that is, until some new old decade becomes cool. And they’ll have those clothes, too.
1213 State St., Ste. L, 963-8083
“It’s so exciting that we won,” said Closet owner Johanna Melamed, who was a little out of breath over the phone, in the midst of the store’s anniversary sale. Times might be a little rough, she admitted, “but we’ve been fine. I would hope the readers voted for us because our prices are so good,” she said, offering previously owned haute couture at well below what it costs off fashion racks. “And because we do everything with great warmth for our customers.”
Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners
14 W. Gutierrez St., 963-6677
Taking clothes to the dry cleaner is one of those aspects of self-maintenance we approach as a chore. (As opposed to getting the hair done or the wardrobe updated.) Much of what makes Ablitt’s so popular is its easy access and pick-up and delivery services, meaning you don’t have to squeeze a drive, park, and drop-off into an already hectic life here in our greater metropolitan beach town. But you can bring it downtown if you want: A family-run business that prides itself on customer service, the just-off-lower State Street store is friendly, popular (just ask our readers), and a great way to avoid the old ironing board, too.
FINALIST: One-Hour Martinizing
4141 State St., #E4, 967-5728
“I’m just about the second-oldest tailor in town; I’ve been in business here since 1991,” said Lee Thompson, who is very happy to have taken the readers’ choice award. Thompson gets a lot of business, but he wants his customers to know he’s working alongside his employees on every piece. “Our work is just about perfect, because we do the work the way it’s requested. We have the right machines and the right threads, but the bottom line is the work speaks for itself.”
FINALIST: Tony the Tailor
Occhiali Fine Eyewear
7 W. Canon Perdido St., 963-5760; 1046 Coast Village Rd., Montecito, 565-3415
Irwin Eve annually wins our readers’ poll for best eyewear store, for which he is volubly grateful. But this year he’s even happier. “It’s so cool we won the sunglasses selection prize; it’s been a couple of years,” he said. “We’re holding up really well in this economy. After all, it’s been 21 years, and each year we feel blessed to be part of this community.” Eve is proudest of his staff of licensed opticians, and he ought to be proud of his unerring fashion sense-the glasses he puts on sale every year are cooler than most other stores offer as the premier lines. “The best part is, I never feel like I’m going to work in the morning,” said Eve. “I really love my customers.”
FINALISTS: Eyewear Selection: Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory; Sunglasses Selection: Solstice Sunglass Boutique
Walter Claudio Salon Spa
11 W. Figueroa St., 963-7579
Walter Claudio invented HeadMapping, which he claims is about to do for coloring what Sassoon did for haircutting. This mysterious process must be more than just a trendy combination of geography and beautification, though, because our readers have never failed to vote Claudio’s raw brick studio as their favorite place to find their heads and put them stylishly back together.
FINALIST: Cheri Bibi Salon
Jesse’s Shoes & Repair
5915 Calle Real, Ste. D, Goleta, 964-3414
Jesse Holder is into leather. But he’s not particularly bound to the concept; he can fix any kind of shoe, from canvas to blue suede, which, it turns out, is a kind of leather. For half a century, Barbarenos-who were once renowned for their cowhides, you know-have brought their favorite broughams, saddles, Mary Janes, and mukluks to Jesse for the simple reason that a nicely wrought pair of loafers deserves a second chance, and life is too short to be shoddily shod.
FINALIST: Step-N-Out Instant Shoe Repair
Alpha Thrift Store
5624 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 964-1123; 5949 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 964-1123
The two outposts of Alpha Thrift in Goleta have swept the category again this year. Goleta and Santa Barbara residents appreciate the good deals and variety as well as the opportunity to support an excellent organization. The tip for this year from the employees is: “look on the outside racks.” Later in the day, things get rotated, and sometimes you can find the amazing deal for just a few dollars. Anytime is worth a walk through, though. Both stores still accept large donations and are two of the few places left where you can look on the floor for large furniture items as well as search the jewelry case for that perfect small accessory. Happy hunting.
FINALIST: Goodwill Industries