Best of Santa Barbara 2012: Looking Good

Food connoisseurs, like <i>Indy</i> reporter Ethan Stewart, clean up at Ablitt’s.
Paul Wellman

Barber Shop

Richie’s Barber Shop

1187 Coast Village Rd., 845-9701

He insists his name is Richie the Barber. “That’s how people know me,” said the owner of the two-year-old shop that’s swayed the readers to a strong vote for the new guy in a world long-dominated by old businesses. “We’re very happy we won. We just have a simple, clean concept. We’re consistent. That’s what people like; that’s what men like,” said Mr. the Barber.


Hair Salon

Walter Claudio

11 W. Figueroa St., 963-7579

“It’s been a year, already?” mused Walter Claudio, and then changed gears happily. “It goes fast when you’re having fun, I guess. It’s really great to get this honor so many years in a row. I want to thank the community; they’ve been so supportive. I always feel we’re only as good as our last service, so we try very hard. We are always training our people, we’re a training salon, and that instills in us a sense of pride; we’re always trying to be polished in our work. We are very grateful.”


Nail Salon

Aqua Nail Bar

3455 State St., 687-8483

Nailed it: This salon has topped the readers’ list for three years now, offering a clean environment for manis, pedis, and even opening the establishment for after-hour nail parties. With a multicultural staff featuring 68 years of combined experience, that, my friends, cuts to the quick of their success story.


Day Spa

Float Luxury Spa

18 E. Canon Perdido St., 845-7777

Sisters Stephanie Phelan and Natalie Rowe opened their poetically named spa next door to Madame Rosinka, the palm reader, in 2009 in a building that seems deceptively small from the front yet opens up to a 3,500-square-foot complex of seven rooms once inside (one room just for facials) with a little garden, too. “We started winning this category from the very beginning,” said Phelan. “It was a thrill right out of the gate, but I think a lot of the credit has to go to our staff. Mostly, though, I just want to thank Santa Barbara. We’re so excited to be the number-one day spa.”


Medical Spa

Evolutions Medical Spa

1309 State St., 687-0212

Spa director Carrie Vuich credits at least part of the success they have had to the beautiful environment of Evolutions. That being said, she can’t wait to leave. “On October 31, we finally get to move into our new building,” she explained, which has been going up on Chapala Street for some time now, and, as a lot of Santa Barbarans know, took some time to get through all the codes and variances. “But it’s all ready now, and it’s almost twice as big, so we can’t wait.” But Vuich said most of the credit for their success is due to their excellent staff and the very professional training one would have every right to expect from a medical spa, including a renowned owner and cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Terry Perkins. “It’s awesome to win this; we are very flattered,” said Vuich.


Place to Get a Facial

Skin Deep Salon

3405 State St., 687-9497

Speaking on behalf of her family, co-owner Tina Hasche wants to accept the honor: “I am incredibly honored, especially for my staff, because after 32 years, the thrill of winning has not diminished! I still have my Best Of Independent T-shirt from the ’90s! It feels good to win, just as good as after a visit to Skin Deep, and obviously our customers feel the same way!” she said. “Thank you, Santa Barbara, for honoring our salon and store; our staff loves their work and the amazing results it brings; it’s all about passion and knowledge, the power of success! Of course the skin and hair care, jewelry, bath items, gifts, and bounty of beauty Skin Deep offers is a major plus in making us number one, too!” Skin Deep is still in its original home in San Roque Plaza, and winning makes the Hasche family business happy. “Nina, Gina, and myself, along with our 20 staff associates, are here to serve. It’s what we love to do!”


Women’s Clothing; Men’s Clothing;Shoes


17 W. Canon Perdido St., 564-8770

Nordy’s has topped our readers’ list every year since it first opened here, centralizing access to designer clothes for men and women who used to either shop at Robinsons-May in La Cumbre Plaza or make a long drive down to Los Angeles. It’s a no-brainer for men’s fashions, which have been sparsely marketed here for decades now, but a bigger tribute that women, who have access to boutiques galore, still like it, too. And the shoes? Well, it was Nordstrom’s original purpose since the first store in the billion-dollar chain opened in 1901. The prices are reasonable, and the selection varies from sensible Rockports to Italian loafers — a great feat of marketing with soul.

FINALISTS: Women’s Clothing: ANTHROPOLOGIE; Men’s Clothing; Shoes: MACY’S

Thrift Store

Alpha Thrift Stores

Three locations

Alpha has become synonymous with thrift store bargains in Santa Barbara. While they are not the only thrift store in town, they continue to be the most popular. With the expansion to the third store on Milpas, they have marketed themselves from Santa Barbara to Goleta. The Alpha stores support a great organization, providing work and activities within the community for a variety of individuals as well as a venue to “recycle” items for a good cause. Always a favorite for Halloween costumes, interesting things, and useful items, Alpha is your discovery store.


Vintage Store

Yellowstone Vintage Clothing

527 State St., 963-9609

Stephanie and Paul Haugen have run this store since the Bicentennial Year, which is more than long enough to see current clothes become vintage. “I think people like us because we stick to the vintage clothes and maintain a high quality of those clothes — which is a lot of work,” said Stephanie. The staples continue to be vintage dresses, cowboy shirts, and old band T-shirts, but that’s just the big sellers. “We have very nice customers; I’m very lucky to be here,” she added.


Looking good was never so easy for author D.J. Palladino as at The Closet.
Paul Wellman

Consignment Store

The Closet

920 State St., 963-8083

“We really had a great year, and this tops it off,” said regional manager Tiana Menelli. “We just opened our third store, in Santa Monica. But the best part is how much fun we have, all of us, doing our jobs. The other day, someone brought in a bag of vintage Dior, and we totally geeked out. That’s why we are in this business, because we love fashion, and that was a piece of history. People who come in here understand. Since we’ve opened, we have had some customers who come in every week to see what we’ve gotten, and we appreciate everything that people bring in.”


Dry Cleaner

Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners

14 W. Gutierrez St., 963-6677

As you might guess, the flagging economy took its toll on the dry-cleaning business, according to Sasha Ablitt, who is the third generation of her family working this same turf. “At least 80 percent of what we do is cleaning things that people could clean on their own,” said Ablitt, who calls this a “value proposition” and therefore one of the first things to go when folks have to economize. But it’s coming back (the biz), and throughout the lull, Ablitt’s has maintained its number-one-with-the-readers status. “We’re very grateful, and we never take the honor for granted,” said Ablitt.


Sew who’s the best in town? Our readers say it’s Mr. Thompson of Lee’s Tailoring. If it rips, he’ll keep you in stitches
Paul Wellman


Lee’s Tailoring

4141 State St., 967-5728

“Well now, I think the key to our success is that we have the right equipment, and if we don’t, we try really hard,” joked Lee Thompson, who has been measuring up the best on the Best Of chart for the entire 26 years he’s been in business. Thompson insists that the details of his work are where the proof can be found; he’ll make the changes needed to make the garment fit and still look like it just came out of the factory where it was made. “I want to thank Santa Barbara, and especially some of those customers who’ve been coming to me for 25 years. I’ll bend over backward for them; I’ll go an extra mile. I’ll never give up.”


Eyewear Selection; Sunglasses Selection

Occhiali Fine Eyewear

Two locations

This family-run business is proud to be part of this wonderful community, wrapping up its 25th year in Santa Barbara and Montecito, and owner Irwin Eve doesn’t mind bragging a bit after all this time. “It’s handcrafted, highly exclusive eyewear offered with the utmost degree of personal attention. The opticians are highly trained in both eye care and fashion, providing a personalized service to every individual that walks through the doors. Our first and foremost goal is to provide the freshest eyewear styles available, the finest lens materials in existence and present each and every individual the clearest vision possible.”


Shoe Repair

Jesse’s Shoes & Repair

5915 Calle Real, 964-3414

“Great,” said Jesse Holder, who prefers to keep his reasoning as clear and straight as his stitches. “You see, I’m the best. We have the best service, and we get it done right away, and we’re here when they want to get it. We’ve been at the same place for 41 years, and I open at 7:30 in the morning so people can drop off their shoes and pick them up before they go to work. I’m very happy to win.”



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