Best of 2013: Living Well
3321 State St., 682-6787
“Who would’ve thought it,” said Mahri Kerley from her commanding post in the back room of what is certainly the best-stocked bookstore between Los Angeles and San Francisco. “We’re going into our 39th year. How many generations is that? We’re seeing the grandchildren of people who first came in here, all these great people, our customers. I think the reason we’ve done so well is that we have this great staff. People come in and ask for a book, and they don’t know the title or the author but they know it had a green cover. We bend over backward, and people appreciate it. What surprises most people, though, is how big we are. They come in expecting a little independent store, and I’m sure we have more titles than Borders did when they were still here.”
FINALIST: GRANADA BOOKS
216 E. Gutierrez St., 965-9722
People love the Apple stores, except a lot of people don’t. Inasmuch as there are people who want help with their computer getting started or getting over some logistical bump, or (we know it sounds unlikely) their computer needs a repair, a lot of them have been going to MacMechanic for long enough that the advent of the sparkling corporate store downtown hardly ruffles their business.
FINALIST: APPLE STORE
614 Chapala St., 963-7269
Maybe there’s no such thing as film anymore, virtually, but the world of cameras seems to be exploding outward. There are digital cameras you could throw away as well as thousand-dollar extra-loaded bodies; there are even special lenses you can slip on your smart phone to improve its pixelated depths. Best thing about Samy’s, though, is its long and complicated relationship with real photographers in this town. They have to keep up, and they even provide hobbyists with classes to stay abreast of the world where film may seem quaint, but great photography gets more possible all the time.
FINALIST: BEST BUY
Musical Instrument Store
Jensen Guitar & Music Co.
2830 De la Vina St., 687-4027
Exactly four decades ago, Chris Jensen opened his music store. It’s grown, shrunk, spread north, and ended up nearly in the same room where he started, but it’s never not been an important part of being a string musician in this town. Guitars, banjos, mandolins, and autoharps are just some of the few varieties of strummable truth that Jensen has sold, repaired, and taught to the melody-challenged youth of this town — who have ended up entertaining us in clubs, bars, and concert stages. Year after year, the readers pretend like there are no other instruments in the world than those with frets and picks and consistently vote this rocker palace number one on the charts.
FINALIST: NICK RAIL MUSIC
909 State St., 845-3900
“I was jumping up and down like a crazy person when I heard the news,” said Plum Goods owner Amy Cooper. “You think I’m joking, but it makes a difference. The other day I heard a customer walk in and say, ‘This place won a Best Of award; let’s go in.’” Yet all credit for Plum’s success has to go to Cooper, who took a food concept — buy locally — and made it work for treasures with things like custom-collage license plates and Santa Barbara Soaps. “I created this store to represent Santa Barbara proudly,” said Cooper. “I wanted people to know what I know; I did it to do my part to honor the city.”
FINALIST: LEWIS AND CLARK
Party Supply Store
Glenda’s Party Cove
3319 State St., 687-4500
It’s safe to say that for 37 years, this has been a place where you can go to outfit almost everything you need for a party, short of food and drink. Invites, place mats, wrapping paper, decorations, goody bags, games, and even thank you notes — if you were merely attending the soirees — are all here. Steve Thomson’s store is something more than that, too. Feeling a little glum, chum, un petit bored? Just take a walk through his busy celebrative Loreto Plaza emporium (Excuse me? Cove.) and you’ll likely find some fine obscure raison de party.
Art Supply Store
32 E. Victoria St., 965-5456
“I think it’s our staff. We have the widest selection of supplies, but we also have a knowledgeable staff, a beautiful staff.” (We think some of his staff might have been standing near the phone during the interview, BTW.) “What most people don’t know, though, is that beside the art supplies, we have a humongous frame shop, and we’re expanding it. So you can get supplies to make the work and then finish it here, too.”
Craft Supply Store
187 N. Fairview Ave., 967-7119
All across the country, there are crafts stores where people go to buy felt, Styrofoam, sparkly paint, and scrapbooking stuff. Most of the time, these stores are mom-and-pops and a little eccentric with picked-over goods that seem to have been in the store since the Roosevelt years. That’s part of their charm. Michaels, however, is the idea of a crafts store with an eccentric corporate personality attached, so that stuff turns over and the faddishness of newfangled stuff gets introduced into the massive mix. They have classes and wish lists, too. And since they set down in Goleta, the readers have been playfully engaged.
FINALIST: ART ESSENTIALS
601 State St., 966-3954
The lasting appeal of this perennial winner has to do with its work measured against the cost. Always running some sort of sale, Aaron Brothers manages to take out the boring part of putting something up on the wall and demystifying it both as an activity and an expense. In other words, that cool drawing you bought won’t be out-priced by the mat and glass that encases it. No wonder the appeal.
Montecito Bank & Trust
“I would hope to think we won because the bank is very visible in the community. Not just the owner Michael Towbes but in a number of ways we give back,” explained Montecito Bank Marketing Director Carolyn Tulloh. “But we couldn’t do anything without our loyal customers. We are major believers in relationship banking; we will be there to help them not only in their financial cycle but life cycle, too. We’re the largest and oldest community bank in town,” she said.
FINALIST: WELLS FARGO
FedEx Office (aka Kinko’s)
Now officially known as FedEx Office, this business began in Isla Vista by Paul Orfalea but has been owned by FedEx for the last nine years. Default loyalties aside, the city is always proud of its business successes; the appeal of the place that has remained unbroken is a clean environment open 24 hours with reasonable prices on good machines. After that, it all seems like a pale imitation.
FINALIST: BILL’S COPY SHOP
5486 Calle Real, 308-9585
Maravilla is far from the madding crowd behind the Calle Real shopping center in Nouveau Goleta. You wouldn’t think of it as a nature preserve, but it reviews very well for the natural setting — eucalyptus trees — and high-windowed apartments. Activities abound, and the owners pride themselves for providing a lot of freedom as well as a lot of care when it’s called for. Perennial winners for the last five years.
FINALIST: VALLE VERDE
Santa Barbara Travel Bureau
“Ecstatic,” said David de L’Arbre, who is a member of the second generation of his family to own this business first begun in 1947, presumably a time when the world became visitable again after long strife. Today, the issues are personal service over computer efficiency slash indifference. “We do this all the time, and we are not hobbyists,” said de L’Arbre. “There used to be 80 travel agencies in this town, and now we’re down to nine. The people left, like us, are dedicated to the duty of care. That’s our job, and we do it very well.”
Points of Health
1805 E. Cabrillo Blvd., Ste. E, 687-7775
“The entire Points of Health team is very grateful to win for the third consecutive year,” said POH acupuncturist Erik Smith, coming right to the point. “We want to thank all of our wonderful patients for their support and trust. Words cannot describe the amazing feeling of helping someone to heal. This is our passion!”
FINALIST: ANTHONY KAR
Dr. Lori Sender-O’Hara
25 Carlo Dr., Ste. B, 964-0222
“I want to express my gratitude to all my patients who voted for me,” said Dr. Lori Sender-O’Hara. “I am elated to have won again this year. It really has been a gift to me to serve this community for over 26 years. There is no greater joy than to help people live pain-free, healthy, and fulfilling lives. My staff is the very best, and we will continue to strive for excellence.”
FINALIST: DR. CHARLES BISSELL
Johnson Family Dental
This 50-year-old business is well known for the quality of care and the gentle way pain is dealt with. But Johnson Family business manager Frank Hovey believes that other reasons make the family popular. For two days a year, they do free dentistry, or as they call it, Dentistry with Love. The doctors clean, examine, fill, and extract for people who cannot afford to tend to their teeth in these expensive times. “We also open our doors to kids in August,” said Hovey. Consider the Best Of award the community is giving back to the business.
FINALIST: DR. J. DAVID DART
Licensed Massage Therapist
1126 & 1128 Coast Village Cir., Montecito, 453-2333
“The talented staff of Marlo’s Therapeutic & Sports Massage thrive on improving the lives of professional and amateur athletes, as well our local and out-of-town clients,” said Marlo Tell. “Our new location in Montecito has made for an amazing year. With many contributions around lifestyle, health, nutrition, and fitness information, our social network presence continues to grow as a community resource. Thank you to everyone who voted us Best Massage a fifth year in a row!”
FINALIST: MARY ELLIOTT
Dr. Taka Nomura Eye & Vision Care of Santa Barbara
5300 Hollister Ave., 692-6977
For 30 years, Dr. Nomura’s Eye & Vision Care has set its sights high and earned praise for thoroughness and a whole-body approach to healthy eye care. Beyond check-ups, eyeglass fittings, and even emergency care, Nomura and the other optometrists who work at the corner of Hollister and Patterson believe in education as well as professional therapies.
FINALIST: DR. CORY BREAM