Richie’s Barber Shop
1187 Coast Village Rd., Ste. 6; 845-9701; richiesbarbershopsb.com
The women and men barbers at this Montecito fixture take pride in making their customers look and feel good. But it’s more than just great cuts and close shaves. Richie Ramirez and his crew have also been putting together steady fundraisers for good causes and free haircuts for kids in need. No wonder Richie’s is a multiyear winner. “Winning is a reminder to my team and me that we are doing a good job and, most importantly, we are connecting with our community on many levels,” he said. “We’re not just a great haircut.”
Runner-Up: Arturo’s Barbershop
11 W. Figueroa St.; 963-7579; walterclaudio.com
Inside a pretty stucco storefront with giant picture windows on West Figueroa is the full-care salon Walter Claudio, a near-perennial winner in this category. Stylists and colorists with advanced training and friendly conversation, as well as products from Aveda, make this salon a favorite with our readers. And the team approach, which engages more than one stylist to make you beautiful again, gets the busy patron in and out or gives them a minute to enjoy a scalp massage and a relaxing cup of tea.
Runner-Up: Salon Patine
Aqua Skin & Nail Care
3455 State St.; 687-8483; aquaskinandnailcare.com
Any place offering mani-pedis can’t lose with a service called “Happy Feet.” That’s only one of the offerings at Aqua, which won for its fabulous polish application for feet and hands but also believes in health-conscious skin and body care. It also supplies those can’t-live-without rituals, such as massage and rose-scented facials. “We can’t wait to help you feel like your beautiful, best self,” said founder Claudia Rucker. “And we are beyond thrilled to win for 12 years in a row!”
Runner-Up: Modern Nails
209 W. Canon Perdido St.; 963-8300; ilovehoneys.com
It’s only appropriate that a place called Honeys should offer sugaring, a hair-removal technique that’s allegedly less painful that waxing. Or the custom airbrush Honey Tan might be what customers remember best, since Honeys can make them look like they’ve just been running on the beach or enjoying margaritas on the sand despite spending 8-to-5 in the UV-lacking indoors. The funny and friendly staff are just a bonus to the exterior beauty Honeys has perfected.
Runner-Up: Sweet Cheeks
1228 State St.; 845-5805; 805ink.com
A small but invisible struggle goes on almost daily at 805 Ink, where the tattooists revel in making art daily while looking longingly outdoors at a beautiful day, said JJ Ortiz, CEO of the State Street shop just up from The Granada Theatre. But if the latter is the hardest part of his day, the best is traveling to find inspiration for the next drawing, learning from artists in other countries, and sometimes bringing them to his clients back in the 805. His shop has its 10th birthday this year, he said, which “would have not been possible without the local support and patronage. We are honored and truly grateful!”
Runner-Up: Golden Eagle Tattoo
The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara
8301 Hollister Ave.; 571-4210; ritzcarlton.com/bacara
Boasting a eucalyptus steam room, an adult-only heated saline pool, and killer ocean views, The Spa at the Bacara is the real deal. You have to do no more than walk through the doors to be embraced by the invigorating eucalyptus steam escaping from within. With the feeling of calm in the air, the breathtaking views from their rooftop terrace, and a glass of bubbly, you don’t even have to book one of their signature spa experiences to feel like royalty.
Runner-Up: Evolutions Medical & Day Spa
Evolutions Medical & Day Spa
350 Chapala St., Ste. 103; 319-7273; evolutionsmedicalspa.com
It’s easy to see why Evolutions has won in this category every year since 2007. In addition to offering treatments using the most advanced technology, the luxury spa offers a peaceful, calming atmosphere; the front-desk staff is attentive; and the clinicians are highly skilled and caring. When asked about what treatments are most popular, spa director Carrie Vuich said, “Injectables (Botox, Dysport, dermal fillers). They smooth out wrinkles and provide a ‘lift’ to one’s overall appearance.” And why has Evolutions experienced such success year after year? “Our exceptional staff! And our loyal clientele, whom we are so grateful for.”.
Runner-Up: The G Spa
Place to Get a Facial
3405 State St.; 687-9497; skindeepsalon.com
You might walk into Skin Deep with worries on your mind, but our readers say the facials will let you leave them behind after the kind ministrations to your skin and spirit. Words like “relaxing,” “rejuvenating,” “soothing,” and “memorable” fall alongside ones like “little extras” and “self-care pampering.” What could accompany that but a hair-raisingly happy attitude? Nina Meyer and Tina Hasche, who keep the energy quietly pumping at Skin Deep, exulted over Skin Deep’s 21-year streak of winning or placing in the Best Of: “The north side rocks — and we love to win!”
Runner-Up: Evolutions Medical & Day Spa
Lovebird Boutique and Jewelry
Two locations; lovebirdsb.com
The two Lovebird shops on and just off State Street have succeeded where so many have failed, sustaining a thriving store with style, jewelry, accessories, and gift items for a cadre of happy customers both local and distant. Lovebirdsb.com posts a healthy selection of Lovebird’s offerings, but the in-store experience of silks, cashmeres, lace, and leather is an invigorating plunge into Santa Barbara fashion.
Runner-Up: Wendy Foster
Alpha Thrift Stores
Multiple locations; 964-1123; alphasb.org
In its mission to help community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the founders of Alpha Resource Center, which recently celebrated its 65th birthday, had a bright idea: raise money through thrift stores. Everybody likes a good deal, and most also treasure the mystery and discovery of a bargain hunt. Alpha Thrift checks those boxes, showcasing shoes, clothes, jewelry, and Halloween costumes, plus electronics, tools, books, and LPs, to name just a few of the lightly used goods and wares ready for a second life under new ownership. Plus, you’re reducing demand on raw resources by not buying brand-new stuff. How many wins is that?
The Closet Trading Co.
920 State St.; 963-8083; theclosetsb.net
Leather moto jackets, designer sneakers, leather backpacks, and floral wrap dresses are the must-haves of the season, said Rebecca Fraser of The Closet. And she should know. Accepting a carefully curated collection of women’s contemporary and luxury brands from some of the more expensive closets around, The Closet has been outfitting us for 15 years. The past winter wrought with natural disasters was enough to make any retailer on State Street weep, and Fraser said her entire team was especially grateful to their loyal customers who supported them and other local businesses through the year.
Runner-Up: Renaissance Fine Consignment
Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners & Launderers
14 W. Gutierrez St.; 963-6677; ablitts.com
Judging by the quantity of Best Of plaques mounted on its walls, Ablitt’s has indeed been a fine cleaner and launderer since the competition began. Ongoing training is part of the recipe for success, owner Sasha Ablitt said, such as hearing from experts in coworker harmony and overnight shipping. “Whether it’s by making our alterations more convenient, free pickup and delivery on any order, or sparking conversation with clients with our Spanish Word of the Week, everyone at Ablitt’s loves making people happy!”
Runner-Up: Eco Friendly Cleaners
4141 State St., Ste. E-4; 910-1065; leestailoringca.com
If needle and thread can fix it, the tailors at Lee’s will give it a shot, no matter how big or small the job. Their specialty is bridesmaid dress tailoring, but they’ll even take on kids’ clothing and uniforms, no matter the rough-and-tumble treatment they’ve been through. The folks at Lee’s Tailoring say they can give your clothes a new lease on life, and that extends to those pesky sticky zippers, even on leather jackets.
Runner-Up: Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners & Launderers
Eyewear Selection • Sunglasses Selection
Occhiali Fine Eyewear
Two locations, occhialieyewear.com
Irwin Eve of Occhiali Fine Eyewear exemplifies everything that makes a business handling something as important and as personal as eyewear the best. He and his staff are extraordinarily patient, incredibly well-informed, and consistently able to steer customers toward superlative solutions. In acknowledgment of Occhiali’s double-category win, Eve wrote, “After all that has happened this past year, we recognize the true meaning of being a ‘neighborhood’ store,” adding that in 2018, “there were a million stories, and our hearts have been touched daily. All of us at Occhiali recognize how blessed we are to be part of this community, and we continue to strive for excellence in service and our eyewear. We thank you.”
Runner-Up (Eyewear Selection): Costco
Runner-Up (Sunglasses Selection): Nordstrom
Paseo Nuevo, 17 W. Canon Perdido St.; 564-8770; nordstrom.com
Look out, Zappos. Nordstrom is online, too, and Santa Barbarans can return all the wrong sizes they ordered to the store over on West Canon Perdido Street in the Paseo Nuevo mall. There, four basement levels of shoes await the old-schoolers who like to try on what they’re buying before they buy it. Comfort and fashion are what they stock, said store manager Tim Elliott — more than 10,000 pairs’ worth for men and women, with the most Paul Green styles of any SoCal store. “The amount of smiles that leave our doors are countless,” Elliott said with a touch of modesty.
Runner-Up: The Walking Company
Bryant & Sons
Two locations; bryantandsons.com
These days, with more than 50 years in business — at the same downtown State Street location, plus a second shop in Montecito since 2001 — Bryant & Sons employs a couple handfuls of jewelry professionals dedicated to precious ores, gemstones, and timepieces. And when discerning clientele inquire about custom-made jewelry, they’re greeted by a simple motto: “If you can dream it, we can make it.” Then the pros go to work, drafting computer-animated imagery of special requests — to get it just right — before a single stone is set. Said shop son Mike Bryant: “Thank you, Santa Barbara Independent readers, for voting us the Best Of once again!”
Runner-Up: 33 Jewels