Best of Santa Barbara®: Living Well

Chaucer’s Books
Paul Wellman


Chaucer’s Books

3321 State St., 682-6787,

Remember when it seemed certain that big monster chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders were going to stomp out each and every locally owned bookstore on the planet? Well, that didn’t really happen, at least not around here. Many of our bookstores have endured, thanks in large part to their personality and thoughtful curating, two things that Mahri Kerley’s place in Loreto Plaza has in spades. Narrow aisles snake through shelves bursting with books, and employees ​— ​people you have come to know and trust over the years due to their smiling faces, consistent knowledge, and long-serving tenure at the store ​— ​make the rounds, offering help and bringing order to the potentially chaotic collection of titles. It is nearly impossible to make a quick trip to Chaucer’s; there is simply too much magic inside to be able to make a speedy escape.

Finalist: The Book Den

Computer Repair


216 E. Gutierrez St., 965-9722,

More or less a continuation of Mike Bishop’s old MacMechanic in the exact same location, MacSuperstore came to town when Bishop retired in 2013 and passed along ownership of his beloved long-running business to his San Luis Obispo colleague, Shane Williams. No stranger to the Apple game, Williams had been running a MacSuperstore in S.L.O. since 1998. As a fully licensed but independent Apple dealer, MacSuperstore handles warranty and AppleCare issues, offers training, recycles old machines, does data recovery, takes on repairs beyond the scope of warranty, does on-site professional consulting for businesses, holds your hand through upgrades, and more. Perhaps best of all is the fact that no appointment or Genius Bar is necessary. Just pop on in.

Finalist: Apple Store

Camera Shop

Samy’s Camera

530 State St., 963-7269,

Properly settled into its new digs on State Street, Samy’s has so completely dominated the camera shop scene in Santa Barbara that no other store or retail outfit in this category received even a single vote from our readers this year. Whether it is film processing, a new lens, a complete kit, video gear, a tripod, or just some trouble-shooting advice that you are looking for, Samy’s is the place to find it and more. It’s an absolute monster of a camera hub, and clearly our readers know it.

Finalist: none

Musical Instrument Store

Jensen Guitar & Music Co.

2830 De la Vina St., 687-4027,

“We take care of people’s instruments real well. Right from the get-go when they first purchase it, on through the years and their life together, we fix them, tune them, and whatever else is needed as life happens,” says Chris Jensen about his music store and its enduring popularity with our readers. It has been 42 years since he first opened his guitar and instrument store, which serves as a critical and cultural clubhouse for musos of all ilks. Offering a variety of lessons and repairs, as well as new and used products, Jensen simply aims to meet the needs of his regulars and first-timers alike. “We are already on to our third generation of customers, maybe even the fourth,” says Jensen, “and still every day is something new. You never know who or what type of instrument is going to walk through your door. They are all different and special.”

Finalist: Guitar Bar

Gift Shop

Plum Goods

909 State St., 845-3900,

It is no small detail that Plum Goods has won this category every year the store has been eligible. And while they are marking only their fifth anniversary this month, Amy Cooper’s impossibly charming boutique has fast become a Santa Barbara staple. With an eclectic mix of one-of-a-kind merchandise, jewelry, and art, Plum Goods is the ideal place to, as Cooper puts it, “find that perfect gift that you will love to give.” She does this by focusing on handcrafted, fair-trade, and often upcycled artisan pieces. The visual presentation of the store and constantly evolving in-store soundtrack ​— ​both Plum Goods Visual Director Fabian Ojeda’s handiwork ​— ​ties it all together into a truly enjoyable place to spend your money or simply pass some time while hanging out downtown.

Finalist: Lewis & Clark

Party Supply Store

Glenda’s Party Cove

3319 State St., Ste. A, 687-4500,

The infinite shopping options of the Internet have put places like Glenda’s Party Cove out of business all over the country in recent years, but not here in Santa Barbara, where Steve Thomson’s family-owned party supply spot has been helping make all sorts of fun happen for more than three decades. Balloons, cards, gift wrap, piñatas, custom banners, and stuffed animals are just the tip of the iceberg at Glenda’s, where all the bells and whistles for weddings, kids’ birthdays, baby showers, luaus, and a holy host of other theme parties are available. “I know they have a choice, so I would really like to thank all of our customers for shopping here,” says Thomson. “We try and do our best, and this [award] means a lot to us.”

Finalist: Michaels

Art Supply Store

Art Essentials

32 E. Victoria St., 965-5456,

A trip to Art Essentials gets the creative juices flowing. You cannot help but find inspiration in this store as you make your way through a crazy-complete selection of paints, canvases, pens, pencils, deco fabrics, sketch pads, clay, printmaking supplies, and heaps more. It is a store both for and by artists. For these reasons, Art Essentials is, once again, essential to our readers.

Finalist: Michaels

Craft Supply Store


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

Have you ever wanted to make your own stamps or fabricate a custom cornucopia, or have you found yourself in search of stick-on googly eyes? Well, Michaels is well worth the pilgrimage. A big-box store for people bit by the crafting bug, Michaels is always toward the top with our readers when it comes to all things art and crafts. Be forewarned, though; while they stock massive amounts of seasonal supplies for holidays like Halloween or Christmas, they also get hit hard by customers, so make sure you plan ahead and get your supplies early.

Finalist: Art Essentials

Frame Shop

Aaron Brothers

601 State St., 966-3954,

For its annual penny sale event alone ​— ​one that allows you to buy one frame and get another of equal or lesser value for only 1 cent ​— ​Aaron Brothers has long since earned the esteem of Independent readers. However, when you consider their selection (huge) and their artistic-minded custom framing services (affordable), it becomes crystal clear why they are once again taking home top prize in the Frame Shop category.

Finalist: Michaels


Montecito Bank & Trust

Many locations,

The largest and longest-running locally owned bank in the tri-county, Montecito Bank & Trust has ridden folks’ surging interest in keeping money in Santa Barbara to three Best Of wins in a row. Beloved for its generous annual displays of philanthropy to area nonprofits and particularly popular with S.B.-based businesses, the bank that Michael Towbes built has earned a reputation for being a customer-first type of operation. “As a part of this thriving community, your support is what makes it possible for us to continue our commitment to making a lasting local impact,” says Janet Garufis, president and CEO. “Thank you again to all of our hardworking associates, our loyal customers, and this vibrant community for making this wonderful recognition possible.”

Finalist: Wells Fargo

Retirement Residence


5486 Calle Real, 308-9585,

“This is a senior living community. Not a senior retirement community,” says Maravilla Executive Director Brian McCague with an audible emphasis on “living.” With a mission statement aimed directly at improving the quality of life for residents after they move in, Maravilla has been popular since it opened its doors 12 years ago. In fact, many of the original residents still call it home. The facility offers assisted living, independent living, and a special Memory Care wing to go with an on-site dining hall that is run as a stand-alone restaurant (it is actually open daily to the public for lunch and has a head chef with a résumé that includes stints in the kitchen at the Wine Cask and the Harbor Restaurant). There is also an activities programming that includes tai chi and yoga. “We like to think we set a very high standard,” says McCague.

Finalist: Valle Verde

Travel Agency


3712 State St., 682-5811,

Travel agency services are yet another business sector that has been forever changed by the evolution of the Internet age. However, should you manage to pull yourself away from your keyboard when planning your next adventure and walk on into the AAA offices for some good, old-fashioned, hands-on travel advice, you will find out real quick what our voters already know ​— ​AAA takes care of you in ways the Internet simply cannot match. If it is air travel or a cruise, a road trip or a run to Disneyland that you are after, a session with a AAA agent will help you get there a little easier.

Finalist: santa barbara travel Bureau


Anthony Kar

1725 State St., 563-9977

A regular runner-up in this category, licensed acupuncturist Anthony Kar was a bit thrown off when hearing of his victory. “Can I defer it?” he asked humbly. “I never win. I’d like whoever is second to get it.” But then, after giving it some more thought, he decided to accept. The son of the long-celebrated Santa Barbara–based acupuncturist and healer Lonnie Wu, Kar explained, “I am accepting in honor of my mom.” With a deeply grounded, caring, and knowledgeable bedside manner (I should know since he helped nurse me back to health after a run-in with pancreatic cancer), Kar is very much carrying on the family tradition in the hearts and minds of our readers.

Finalist: Downtown Community Acupuncture


Dr. Lori Sender-O’Hara

25 Carlo Dr., Ste. B, Goleta, 964-0222,

Since 1988, Dr. Lori Sender-O’Hara has been, in her words, “helping my patients express their full health potential.” With an expertise in the Gonstead technique, O’Hara combines advanced diagnostics (think X-rays and heat-sensing instruments) with hyper-specific hands-on adjustments of the spine to treat patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. “Chiropractic allows people to function at their best and eliminate pain at the same time,” says the multiyear Best Of winner. “My expertise in the Gonstead technique is what makes me unique in Santa Barbara. I really want to thank my community for voting for me each year!”

Finalist: crystal chiropractic

Marlo’s Therapeutic & Sports Massage
Paul Wellman

Licensed Massage Therapist

Marlo’s Therapeutic & Sports Massage

1126 and 1128 Coast Village Cir., Montecito,


Massage and body work are a major part of the quintessential Santa Barbara lifestyle, and as such, we have no shortage of world-class practitioners calling the American Riviera home for their operations. Given this, it becomes all the more impressive that this year marks Marlo Tell’s seventh win in a row in this always close category. Combining deep-tissue work with trigger-point therapy and myofascial release, Tell and her crew of masseuses are able to treat patients afflicted by everything from chronic pain and acute muscle tightness to poor circulation and injury recovery. And in the year ahead, she is planning to add a corporate wellness program and special massage for your furry, tail-wagging friends. “Thank you to all of our clients who vote for us year after year,” says Tell enthusiastically

Finalist: colin silverman


Johnson Family Dental

Many locations,

There was a time when Johnson Family Dental was known as La Cumbre Family Dental, but that was more than 50 years ago when Dr. Steve Johnson’s father, Gary, was in charge. Nowadays, the practice has locations peppered throughout Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, and “Dr. Steve” and his team continue the family’s brand of detail-minded, smile-focused dentistry. Even better, they do it all with a focus on community. Annual events like the Dentistry with Love (cleanings, extractions, and fillings won’t cost you a dime); the Little Hearts, Big Smiles (free cleanings and fluoride treatments for kids ages 1-13); and the Halloween-time Cash for Candy program are but a few of the ways Johnson Family Dental gives back to its patients and neighbors.

Finalist: Dr. fred hepp


Dr. Cory Bream (Costco)

7095 Market Place Dr., Goleta, 562-1300,

Found in a recently remodeled corner of Costco, Dr. Cory Bream’s office may be a bit oddly located, but that doesn’t impact her popularity with our readership in the least. Touted for her ability to handle walk-ins and regulars alike without missing a beat or sacrificing a smile, Bream and her team are open seven days a week and take appointments until 6 p.m. most days, the latter being a huge bonus for us working folk.

Finalist: Eye & Vision Care


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