La Sumida Nursery

165 S. Patterson Ave., 964-9944

“People love La Sumida because it has been serving generations; its name is familiar,” said Dee Honer, one of the people who manages this classic nursery for the Sumida family. “And now that all the smaller nurseries have been concentrated into one locale, it somehow seems easier for people to come here,” she said. “Right now, people are here for planting trees and shrubs, though fall vegetables are big, too. What most people don’t know is that we grow a lot of the plants we sell, especially our hanging baskets and roses.”


Home Furnishings Store

Cost Plus World Market

610 State St., 899-8311

In the absence of a nearby Ikea store, we have the folk music triumph of Cost Plus. Far more attractive to younger shoppers who are finally out to convert their apartments from orange crates and Isla Vista rescue couches to the first level of respectability, Cost Plus has a surprisingly adventurous combination of modern-looking furniture and classic stuff. You can get a sleek leatherette couch for about $300 or a plump plaid ottoman for about $60. It’s warm décor at easy-to-afford prices. And you can pronounce the names.


Real Estate Firm

Village Properties

Many locations

Ed Edick and Renee Grubb’s company is as well known around town for its stable of agents — many of them lifelong Santa Barbarians — but also as a place that goes out of its way to do good in the town they represent for sales. Last year, they turned their eyes on the world of education and started a fund that raises and specifically grants money to classrooms. The company believes in developing and sustaining long-term relationships, and the readers seem to feel they have.


Real Estate Agent

Steve Epstein

It was a very good year for Steve Epstein, realtor deluxe. “It just so happens I had a perfect storm. Last June, I reached a milestone of 25 years in the business, and coincidentally, I hit 1,000 closed sales,” he said. To celebrate, Epstein rented the Condor and hired Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan to play. Epstein believes this has something to do with the number of votes he got, though he wasn’t out to rig any election at the time. The Santa Barbara boy, whose office looks down on the Alameda Park playground where he hung out as a kid, thinks it helps being so in touch with a town. “And winning this is icing on my cake,” he said.


Moving Company


1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 130, 845-6600

“Absolutely we’re thrilled to win,” said Erik Haney, who thinks the company’s popularity began because of their environmental sensitivity but gets better because Movegreen involves itself in the community. And that includes a charitable golf tournament they host, which Haney was sharpening his cleats for as we spoke. “We’re also moving into a brand new storage facility at 1 North Calle Real, with 17,000 square feet. We’re very happy the readers voted for us.”


Electronics Stores

Best Buy

7090 Market Place Dr., 571-3999

Some people are good at shopping online. They know what they want, and they know how to navigate the morass of dealers to get a good deal. Then there are the rest of us who like to watch the TV, play with the keyboard, heft the video camera before plunking down. Best Buy is for us. Oh yeah, and you don’t have to wait for the mailman; you can play with the toys today.


Antique Store

Antique Alley

706 State St., 962-3944

“It’s entertainment when they come in here,” claimed Antique Alley owner Alan Howard. “It’s a trip down memory lane.” Indeed it is a long swim through nostalgia with almost 20 different merchants setting up artistically festooned cubbies of bric-a-brac, clothing, art pieces, books, records, and tchotchkes that have somehow evaded the dustbin of history and become history itself on parade. There is clearly a trippiness factor. “Even I get completely lost in here,” said Howard. “People ought to know it’s not just classic antiques; there’s a lot of pulp culture, too. We’re breathing air into the dusty world of the antique,” he said.


Place to Buy Carpet/Rugs


5610 Hollister Ave., 964-3551

This longtime winner of this category is one of our few chains that readers feel annually indebted to. Carpet, hardwood, vinyl, and tile with astoundingly wide selections, great process, credit arrangements, and installation. Philosophers speak of the “ground of being” this place makes walking in it nicer.


Gardening/Landscaping Service

Kitson Landscape Management

5787 Thornwood Dr., 681-7010

Gardening has been the family business since 1969, when Brent and Sally Kitson first opened an avocado orchard and gardening service. Today, their daughter Sarah looks over a business that has expanded immensely yet maintained ties with customers for almost four decades. The company primarily cares for big commercial landscapes but somehow wins the readers’ laurels year after year.


Handyman Service

A Jack of all Trades


Jim Beltran (aka Jack) is the man to call, our readers say, when the house repairs exceed your own handy inclinations yet don’t warrant hiring a construction crew. (That’s anything more than a lightbulb in our house.) In business now “for nearly a decade,” he claims to “have built a great empire in the handyman-company community.” Seems maybe a bit grandiose for the door we need hung, but the readers keep voting for the man who would be king.


Paul Wellman

Housecleaning Service

Karen’s Kleaning


“I don’t know how we won,” said Karen Laurie, owner of the alliterative housecleaning service. “We had a hard year, and we even had to raise our rates, but we’re assuming that the readers voted for us because we work really hard and have always been dedicated to quality. We don’t really have an interest in making a lot of money. Mostly we want to make sure we do the job the best we can. So even if it was a hard year, we’re happy we won.”


Carpet Cleaning

Coleman Carpet Cleaners

275 Orange Ave., 683-2305

“I think that our greatest asset is our great eye for detail,” explained Teresa Thornburgh, Coleman Carpet’s office manager. “I would say our prices are competitive, but we custom-make our work to every job. If it’s an I.V. student who wants a two-bedroom apartment cleaned for $40, well that’s not us. We made our name by catering to the higher end of business, and once people have used us, they usually come back.”


Hardware Store

Home Improvement Center

415 E. Gutierrez St., 963-7825

Since 1967, Santa Barbarans with project manias have flocked to Home Improvement Center for enablement. Mike Owens, operations manager and an employee for the last 28 years there, said that business has a funny relationship to the economy. If there’s a lot of building going on in a good economy, they do well. If times are tough and people are not building but repairing, they do alright. A few years back, things were pretty dismal, but Owens is happy HIC was there and kept a lot of staff on the floor (their turnover for workers is very low), helping those who came in. And he’s very happy that the readers continue to vote for them. “We’ve worked hard continually, and I think we’ve always given amazing service to our customers. We’re happy to win.”


Tile Shop


619 Olive St., 564-1868

This spacious place is chock-full of ideas, with tiles samples and bits to entice and satisfy the wackiest design ideas. Or the largest. Better yet, though, it’s staffed by people who know a lot about the craft of the business and bend over backward to find what you need to do the job.



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