Best of Santa Barbara® 2017: Little Creatures

Paul Wellman

Toy Store
Children’s Clothing Store

Chicken Little

1236 State St., 962-7771,

You don’t have to be a child ​— ​or a parent ​— ​to delight in what Chicken Little has to offer. From the plushest of stuffed animals to the latest educational toys to the coolest tot togs, this shop has been the go-to place for fare both essential (e.g., bottles, car seats, strollers, onesies) and unique (e.g., a baby grand piano for budding Mozarts) since Jennifer and Gregory Bouma opened it in 1979. Originally calling their store Chicken Lips (hee hee hee), the Boumas changed its name when they moved to their current location in 1981. This year the shop won in two categories ​— ​Toy Store and Children’s Clothing Store. What keeps them going? “Our love of people, especially helping first-time parents,” according to their website.

Finalist (Toy Store): Bennett’s Educational Materials

Finalist (Children’s Clothing Store): Peanuts Maternity & Kids

Daycare Facility


Multiple locations,

One of the many major decisions facing parents is where to leave your child when you must go to work, run essential errands, or even get in a good workout. Fortunately for Santa Barbarans, there is the YMCA. Voted best daycare facility year after year, the Y offers high-quality, competitively priced programs to ensure your kid is learning, having fun, and being watched over. With a branch in Santa Barbara since 1887, the YMCA has had more than a century of catering to our community, revamping programs for kids as the times dictate. Its core mission remains the same, however: providing a nurturing atmosphere for the youth of Santa Barbara.

Finalist: Little Angels

Paul Wellman

Kids’ Summer Camp

Santa Barbara Zoo Camp

500 Niños Dr., 962-5339,

“We work to provide a safe place for kids to connect with nature and to discover how their actions, sometimes very simple actions, can help the planet,” said Aaron Marshall, the zoo’s director of education, of what being “the best” means to him. Kids ages 3-12 learn about critters with whom we share the planet through hands-on science activities, games, and crafts. Campers can also get the opportunity for some nose-to-snout time feeding a wild beasty. “One of the most exciting moments for me this summer was watching the ‘Jr. Veterinarian’ campers practice giving stitches on oranges, bananas, and hot dogs,” said Marshall. “Thank you to the generations of campers who continue to make every day of every week special at the zoo.”

Finalist: Martial Arts Family Fitness


After School Languages


Learning a foreign language as a teenager or an adult can seem insurmountable at times. That’s why it’s better to learn a second (or third) tongue as a child ​— ​preferably before the age of 11, studies show. With that in mind, linguist Aurélie Rose McKaig started her popular after-school tutoring program to help children develop strong foreign language skills. “Language and cultural education has proven to be helpful in the development of children, and it is very special for us to know that we are making a difference in the lives of our students and community,” said Rose. The program offers instruction in French, Spanish, ESL, Russian, Chinese, and sign language. “Having translated for companies around the world on everything from cancer research for the World Health Organization to technical documentation for major corporations, I have learned that there is no greater pleasure for a linguist than helping children explore new cultures and languages,” said Rose.

Finalist: Santa Barbara City College Cartwright Learning Resources Center


Dr. David Abbott

15 E. Arrellaga St., Stes. 1 and 2, 965-1095,

One of the most important decisions parents must make is whom to entrust with their child’s physiological well-being, hence choosing a pediatrician can be a heady task. To help narrow down the field, the Independent puts the question to readers in our annual Best Of issue, and for the second year in a row, Dr. David Abbott has been deemed the best children’s doctor by voters. A graduate of Pennsylvania’s Drexel University College of Medicine, Abbott is affiliated with Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez and has been in practice for more than two decades, making sure your offspring ​— ​from infants to teens ​— ​are as healthy as can be.

Finalist: Dr. Saida Hamdani

Pet Hospital/Clinic

La Cumbre Animal Hospital

110 S. La Cumbre Rd., 967-0121,

For folks who have furry family members, nothing beats a reliable, trusted veterinary. With a mission statement that reads, “Our purpose is to provide the highest level of medical care and compassion for our patients and our clients,” it’s no wonder that Indy readers once again voted La Cumbre Animal Hospital the best pet hospital in town. Owned and operated by Dr. Beverly Holmes, who specializes in internal medicine, surgery, and critical care, and Dr. Eve Kuesis, a graduate of the prestigious UC Davis vet program, La Cumbre offers myriad services, including diagnostics, endocrinology, dermatology, geriatric medicine, pain management, oral surgery, and laser therapy. Holmes and Kuesis are carrying on a tradition of animal care at La Cumbre that began when the clinic was founded in the 1950s.

Finalist: St. Francis Pet Clinic

Pet Boarding

Dioji K-9 Resort & Athletic Club

Two locations,

Dioji’s no ordinary doggie day care but a resort and athletic club for beings who just happen to have four legs and fur. It says so right in its name. Owners Jeannie and Bryce Wendel and Susan Vasquez opened their first site in Goleta in 2007 and blew doggies’ minds with the bone-shaped swimming pool and 10,000 square feet of open indoor/outdoor space in which to play and run free. In the past 10 years, Dioji has expanded its presence ​— ​there is a location in downtown S.B. and one in Agoura Hills ​— ​and kept pooches pampered with amenities that include massage, aqua fitness, and baths. As for working at Dioji, Vasquez said one of her favorite things is “seeing the excitement of the dogs as they get out of the car. Tails are wagging, bodies wiggling, and owners are being pulled toward the door. It’s great knowing they truly love coming to play and swim with us while their owners are away!”

Finalist: Camp Canine

Pet Store

Lemos Feed & Pet Supply

Multiple locations,

Just as a healthy diet and lifestyle are good for humans, so are they for our four-legged and feathered friends. Luckily, Lemos has all you need to make sure your critter is getting the nutrition they need and staying physically active thanks to the myriad chew toys, fetching balls, and top-of-the-line food choices. The Central Coast–based business has been a staple in the Best Of winners’ circle for years thanks to its community commitment. “Helping customers make healthy choices for their pets” is what it’s all about for Crystal Stutzman, Santa Barbara store manager. And what does being the best mean to Lemos? “Giving 100 percent,” said Stutzman.

Finalist: Petco

Pet Grooming

The Little Dog House

5758 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 964-2446,

Annabelle Hofmann knows her business: Since 1975, she has tended to the grooming needs of thousands of the area’s furry critters. The secret to her success? The laid-back, free-range atmosphere. Those getting their toes and tails done are allowed to pad around the facility, socializing with humans and other four-leggeds. Of course, the staff’s attention to pampering doesn’t hurt. They can take in a mutt with greasy, matted fur and send them home looking ready for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. A longtime winner in this category, Hoffmann attributes The Little Dog House’s success to her love of canines. “I’m not so good with people, but I am great with dogs.”

Finalist: For Paws Salon

Dog Park

[See Out & About]

Paul Wellman

Dog Trainer

K-Nine Solutions

126 E. Haley St., Ste. A-8, 451-2458,

Turning your precocious puppy or undisciplined rescue into a well-mannered pooch can be challenging. It takes patience, understanding, and knowledge of how dogs communicate to get much past “sit.” Fortunately, the folks at K-Nine Solutions can help. Founded in 2014 by owners Eric Smith and Justin Davanzo, K-Nine Solutions uses a technique called “Balanced Training,” which focuses on leadership skills (for the humans) and positive reward and reinforcement (for the dogs). “Our favorite part of the job is watching someone with a dog who was very challenging for them succeed in ways through our training that they couldn’t have imagined,” said Davanzo. As for K-Nine Solutions winning Best Trainer, Davanzo said: “Best Of means that we have succeeded in providing an excellent community-based service that has reached a huge portion of Santa Barbara. It is a huge boost and compliment in this town to be recognized by the locals!”

Finalist: Elite Pup Training


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