3321 State St.; 682-6787; chaucersbooks.com
Much more than just a place to buy books, this whimsically packed shop has a huge hold on everyone’s hearts. Chaucer’s regularly books (pun intended) authors for talks and signings, helps raise money for area schools, and houses more than 150,000 books. Chaucer’s, which has been around since 1974, is a community center and a safe haven where everyone is welcome.
Runner-Up: Paradise Found
3433 State St., Ste. E; 965-9722; macmechanic.com
Is there any worse feeling than helplessly watching the rainbow pinwheel of death twirl, almost mockingly, on your computer screen? The answer is no, there’s not. Luckily, the kindly folks at Mac Mechanic offer as much emotional support as they do technical expertise, having been the go-to repair shop for Apple products for many moons now. Stop struggling and cursing and bring your broken-down equipment there ASAP. Your heart and mind will thank you.
530 State St.; 963-7269; samys.com
Lenses, lighting, and drones, oh my! Samy’s Camera is the complete grab bag of photography goodies for the first-time shutterbug all the way up to the pro-level visual artist. Bring all the questions you want — the staff is incredibly well versed on every item in the store. And if for some reason they don’t have an answer, you can be sure they’ll find it for you among their colleagues, whose experience and friendliness run deep and wide. Store manager John Brainerd said, “We would like to thank the entire community for supporting us in Santa Barbara for over 25 years. And a special thank-you for shopping local.”
Musical Instrument Store
Jensen Guitar & Music Co.
2830 De la Vina St.; 687-4027; jensenguitar.com
When Chris Jensen founded his store in 1973, Santa Barbara was already brimming over with great musicians, and that meant it had to have a cool place to buy guitars and amps. Decades later, after selling and repairing countless guitars and hosting thousands of music lessons in every conceivable style, the Jensen store retains its classic, old-school vibe, and its employees still live and breathe music. “Passion, love, and discipline” are what being the best means for employee Jonathan. “This whole town is a music town,” he said, “and we appreciate the people who voted for us and all our customers for keeping this true mom-and-pop operation alive.”
Runner-Up: Nick Rail Music
909 State St.; 845-3900; plumgoodsstore.com
Anyone who wonders how to make retail work on State Street needs to pay attention to what’s happening at Plum Goods. Owner Amy Cooper has developed a formula that involves providing quirky, beautiful, and unique goods in a welcoming environment that keeps people coming back. Cooper described the response of her team to the Best Gift Shop award as “thrilled and honored,” adding that “every year we are holding our breath until we find out!” Specializing in locally made, one-of-a-kind items has given Plum Goods an edge even against the growth of online shopping. For Cooper, the store represents “the natural beauty of Santa Barbara and the gratitude we all feel living here.”
Runner-Up: Skin Deep
Art/Craft Supply Store
32 E. Victoria St.; 965-5456; sbartessentials.com
There’s something wonderful, warm, and conspiratorial about Art Essentials, a cozy yet cavernous mom-and-pop operation that’s managed to weather the stormy vicissitudes of downtown commerce for 30 years now. Art Essentials offers a ridiculously wide array of supplies for both beginners and professionals. The staff is smart and friendly but nonintrusive. Many are artists themselves and are happy to steer customers in the right direction. “They’re our friends as well as our customers,” said store manager Martin Diaz, who’s worked there nearly 10 years. (Don’t tell anyone, but they offer actual artists a discount.) Art Essentials was started in 1987 by Sam Winkelmeyer and Cary Dixon. While Dixon has moved on, Winkelmeyer very much remains. Art Essentials is a place where artists can connect with the tools of their dreams and nonartists are seduced to dream of alternative maybes.
187 N. Fairview Ave., Goleta; 967-7119; michaels.com
Michaels is a parent’s best friend. The go-to craft store in the city is a one-stop shop for sewing supplies, frames, and children’s school projects. Its wide range of arts-and-crafts supplies allows people of all ages to let their imaginations run wild and bring their creative visions to life. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out their clearance section for some fun and cheap finds to decorate your home or get started on your next craft project!
Runner-Up: The Frame-Up
Mortgage Company ● Bank
Montecito Bank & Trust
Multiple locations; montecito.bank
“Santa Barbarans have a deep love and loyalty for supporting their local businesses, and, as a locally owned community bank, we feel their love!” said Megan Orloff, EVP/chief strategy officer of Montecito Bank & Trust, regarding the institution’s win for Best Bank. Founded in 1975 by Michael Towbes, it now includes 11 branches around the Central Coast and two satellite offices in retirement homes. As for being voted Best Mortgage Company, bank vice president Ryan Plowe was a little taken aback and very grateful that Montecito Bank’s mortgage division got the lion’s share of votes in this category. “Our residential lending program is only two years old, so it’s amazing to see how receptive the market and our clients have been,” the bank vice president said. He praised the hard work and dedication of his team, as well as the bank’s local roots, great flexibility, and competitive pricing. They are looking at $90 million in volume by the end of this year, he said, over about 100 mortgages, all a part of the bank’s goal to make Santa Barbara a better place to live and work.
Runner-Up (Mortgage Company): On Q Financial
Runner-Up (Bank): American Riviera Bank
Place to Work
University of California, Santa Barbara
Thanks to its “three-pronged mission of teaching, research, and public service and [its dedication] to helping shape the next generation of national and international leaders,” as campus spokesperson Andrea Estrada described, UCSB continues to climb in the rankings of the world’s top universities. Its number one contribution to life in Santa Barbara is the extraordinary talent it attracts and supports here. From the coaches to the chancellor and from the tenured faculty to the work-study students staffing the concessions at the Thunderdome, every Gaucho employee takes home more than a paycheck. The greatest benefit employees at UCSB receive comes from knowing they are integral to the progress of “academic exploration, cutting-edge research, and the vital exchange of ideas.”
Runner-Up: Cottage Health
5486 Calle Real; 308-9585; srgseniorliving.com
This architecturally gorgeous retirement residence is loved by our readers and its residents, who are offered countless activities, including enrolling in City College courses and outings to explore restaurants and the arts. The facility has beauticians and barbers on-site to keep its members looking and feeling young. Residents rave about the delicious food and the many options offered. To help keep them healthy, Maravilla has a heated swimming pool and spa, a fully equipped fitness center with group classes, and plenty of walking paths along beautiful, landscaped gardens.
Runner-Up: Casa Dorinda
AAA — Automobile Club of Southern California
3712 State St.; 682-5811; calif.aaa.com
Anybody who spends a lot of time behind the wheel likely knows the exemplary — and fairly priced — jumping, towing, and DMV services offered by this longtime attraction of the American roadside. Less conspicuous, but no less stellar, is AAA’s travel help, also a longstanding and diverse spectrum of services, from transportation via land and sky to lodging options ranging from a quick overnighter to five-star, multiday luxury. And, of course, there are plenty of perks for members.
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Travel Bureau
Healing Heart Herbs and Acupuncture
2425 Bath St.; 450-2891
Like all residents in the fast lane of a big little city, Santa Barbarans can suffer, despite the beauty that surrounds them, the aches and ills that age, injury, or life can bestow. Our readers say Healing Heart Herbs and Acupuncture put them back in touch with their healthy selves through skilled acupuncture treatments and Chinese herbs, dispensed with wisdom and care.
Runner-Up: Lori Guynes
Craviotto Family Chiropractic
2922 De la Vina St.; 563-0007; craviottochiropractic.com
Though Craviotto Family Chiropractic has been around for 30 years, they have a way to go, said adjustor in chief John Craviotto. (He started the biz with his wife, Lori, but she has turned her hand to her family’s avocado ranch in Moorpark.) His grandfather Dan started Craviotto Bros. Iron Works in 1916 on the corner of Anacapa and Ortega. “Three generations of brothers worked there, including my brother Dan, an orthopedic surgeon, and me,” he said. The doc keeps going by doing what he tells his patients to do: “Exercise daily, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, get regular chiropractic adjustments, and have lots of fun.”
Runner-Up: Barry Family Chiropractic
Dr. Mara Sweeney
1509 State St.; 560-6675; marasweeneymd.com
Dr. Sweeney has taken over the former Caldwell Pharmacist building at State and Micheltorena, but otherwise, every excellent thing she does remains the same, according to our readers. Born and raised in Montecito, Dr. Sweeney has had a tough year, but she said she’s heartened by her work with the S.B. Bucket Brigade. Reactions to stress and trauma have been part of her load this year, too, along with the usual viruses and bacteria. “My hope and goal with my patients is to prevent illness with good screening and lots of education on lifestyle habits,” she said, so her patients can “live their best lives.”
Runner-Up: Dr. Rachel Kernoff
Pura Luna Women’s Apothecary
2009 Chapala St.; 450-2484; puralunaapothecary.lunabellamakeupart.com
Pura Luna specializes in women’s health and wellness, owner Ashe Kelly-Brown advised, but they cater to any and all genders seeking greater wholeness. While herbal remedies, feminine-care products, self-care items, and home goods are their mainstay, what makes the place rock are the moon gatherings, a ritual of women of all ages and stages of life coming together on the full and new moon. “Together we laugh, dance, sometimes cry, and genuinely hold space for one another as a community.” Where do we sign up?
Runner-Up: Charles Sciutto, Healing Heart Herbs and Acupuncture
Montecito Dental Group
1165 Coast Village Rd.; 565-9837; montecitodentalgroup.com
Manager Julie Miller gave heartfelt thanks to everyone who voted Montecito Dental Group the best. It was an extremely tough year, she said, with Coast Village Road closed or impassable for such a long time. But their patients worked with them to get back onto a regular dental routine, and they were even able to recruit an excellent young dentist, she said. She attributes part of their patient loyalty to a beautiful facility with the latest technology, thorough conversations about options, and careful estimates of costs.
Runner-Up: Kendall / Rohde and Associates
White & Grube Orthodontics
Two locations; whiteandgrube.com
As you step through the door at the upper State ortho office, it’s instantly apparent that the White & Grube crew have their customers’ care and comfort in mind. They’re friendly, attentive, and professional, and the place is clean, well-appointed — yes, that’s an espresso machine — and comfortable, everything to put parents and young minds at ease as they face the discomforts common to sporting a mouthful of hardware for a year or two. And in the end, as promised, it’s all smiles. “We are thrilled to have won the Independent’s Best of Santa Barbara® award for best orthodontists for yet another year!” Dr. Brett Grube remarked. “We are truly blessed to work and live in the town we grew up in, and this award is a wonderful reminder of how supportive our patients (and community) are of what we do. Thank you, Santa Barbara!”
Runner-Up: Kubisch and Ferris Orthodontics
Licensed Massage Therapist
Marlo’s Therapeutic & Sports Massage
1206 Coast Village Cir., Ste. D; 453-2333; marlosmassage.com
Marlo Tell’s patients have been telling the Best Of about her wondrous massage techniques for a decade now, in part because Tell keeps up with the newest in science and therapies for stress, muscle pain, and other bodily ailments. And many of her clients come from the workout world of sports, athletes who strive just beyond the breaking point. But Tell’s magic lies in her ability to bring them — and just about everyone from any walk of life — back to compete another day.
Runner-Up: Scott Crawford, Soma Get Fit
Eye & Vision Care
5300 Hollister Ave.; 692-6977; eyenvision.com
From initial exam to final frame choice, our readers voted Eye & Vision Care, at the corner of Hollister and Patterson, as the best. With five optometrists on staff and a caring group of opticians and supportive assistants, the group’s work extends beyond lens prescriptions to eye care and surgery support. We can’t help but say that for Eye & Vision Care, the eyes have it.
Runner-Up: Bream Optometry