Chaucer’s Bookstore. (October 7, 2019)


Chaucer’s Books

3321 State St.; 682-6787;

Chaucer’s is so much more than just a place to buy books and pick up a copy of your favorite local weekly paper. While many stores have come and gone, Chaucer’s has remained a thriving literary hub since 1974, in no small part due to the book-loving staffers such as events coordinator Mary Hershey, who said, “So many of our customers tell us that they are making a conscious decision to shop local. It warms and inspires us!” It’s a good thing the staff is so book-smart. Recent customer requests for the best-selling Where the Crawdad Sings include “What Are the Crawfish Singing,” “Swamp Girl,” “Where Are the Crawfish Singing and Dancing,” “Where the Mudbugs Play or Dance or Something,” and “A Mystery Set in the South with Grasshopper in the Title.”
Runner-Up: The Book Den

Musical Instrument Store

Jensen Guitar & Music Co.

2830 De la Vina St.; 687-4027;

Since 1973, Chris Jensen and his crew have been offering help to musicians of all ages. “We are honored by a musical community who appreciates our being here,” said Jensen, whose favorite part of the biz is “to see new and returning customers every day, and to be able to provide them with music lessons, on-site service, and repair of their instruments.” Musicians aren’t the only ones who make themselves at home at Jensen’s. “A big, beautiful cat walked into the shop one day and adopted us as her people,” he said. “She would lay down on her back with her feet in the air right in the middle of the store and take a nap. Someone brought in some miniature orange traffic cones and set them around her while she slept. It became a regular thing, and all who saw her there got a good laugh.”
Runner-Up: Nick Rail Music

Gift Shop

Plum Goods

909 State St.; 845-3900;

“My favorite part of the business is working with artists and helping them grow their business and connecting with customers from Santa Barbara and all over the world,” said Plum Goods owner Amy Cooper, whose store has been named our readers’ favorite gift shop year after year after year. The eco-friendly Plum Goods showcases an eclectic mix of one-of-a-kind treasures, inventively displayed to the tunes of the store’s visual director Fabian Ojeda’s ever-evolving soundtrack. “This award makes a huge difference to our business because during the slow months, visitors see that locals love us and want to come by,” said Cooper. “And personally, and for all of the staff, we take a lot of pride in being chosen.”
Runner-Up: Lewis & Clark

Art/Craft Supply Store

Art Essentials

32 E. Victoria St.; 965-5456;

Santa Barbarans love to indulge their creative spirits and stock up on supplies at Art Essentials, which has offered an impressive array of products for both beginners and professionals since 1987. The store (still owned by one of the founders, Sam Winkelmeyer) has weathered recessions, fires, and online competition from the Amazons of the world, but is still our readers’ favorite place to scratch their creative itches. It’s also home to an excellent array of books, toys, and gag gifts.
Runner-Up: Michaels

Frame Shop


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

Providing the perfect frame can make ​— ​or break ​— ​your most treasured artworks. Whether you are framing photographs, paintings, or arts and crafts creations, this big-box retailer has framing options to suit your style. The Goleta store is also part of the largest arts and crafts retail chain in North America, stocking just about everything you would ever need to unleash your inner maker. Thankfully, for those of us who have a bit of craft supply hoarding issue, there’s an app for that, delivering dozens of special deals and coupons on your phone and at your fingertips.
Runner-Up: The Frame-Up

Bank Mortgage Company

Montecito Bank & Trust

Multiple locations;

“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 George Leis, president and chief operating officer of Montecito Bank & Trust. “We also know that this community values customer service and philanthropy, and those are two things that are at the core of who we are. Because our mission is to make the communities we serve better places to live and work, those in our community who choose to do business with Montecito Bank & Trust know that by doing so, they are in turn also giving back to their community (they donated more than $1.4 million last year) ​— ​Santa Barbarans get it!”
Runner-Up (Bank): Chase Bank
Runner-Up (Mortgage Company): Guaranteed Rate Mortgage

Place to Work

University of California, Santa Barbara


“UC Santa Barbara is proud to be recognized for the third year in a row as Santa Barbara’s best place to work,” said University spokesperson Andrea Estrada. “Celebrating its 75th anniversary as part of the UC system, the university is a unique environment that thrives on academic exploration, cutting-edge research, and the vital exchange of ideas. We value being part of the community ​— ​the wellspring of our workforce ​— ​whether it’s through our partnerships with local industry, Arts & Lectures performances at the Granada and Arlington theaters, our relationship with Harding University Partnership School, or the thousands of locals, of all ages, that we welcome to campus each year for educational programs and public events. We are gratified to call Santa Barbara home.”
Runner-Up: Cottage Health

Computer Repair

The Apple Store

928 State St.; 560-1500;

The Genius Bar is a pretty genius idea: providing hands-on hardware support for any and all Apple products. It’s better ​— ​and faster ​— ​if you make an appointment in advance, but coming in and waiting your turn for help is certainly better than watching that annoying rainbow pinwheel of frustration twirl round and round on your device. Plus, rumor has it that this store’s ever-patient tech support staff also gets bonus points for saving a few marriages and parent-child relationships.
Runner-Up: MacMechanic

Retirement Residence

Casa Dorinda

300 Hot Springs Rd.; 969-8011;

Sometimes all of Santa Barbara feels like a luxury retirement community, so it’s no surprise that one of the highest-rated facilities in the U.S. is in Montecito. Our readers also give Casa Dorinda top props. “What I enjoy most about working at Casa Dorinda is the opportunity to meet and engage with the residents that join our community. It’s a collection of people with multiple professional and educational accomplishments; many are well-traveled and have fascinating stories to share,” said Brian McCague, president and CEO. The facility is in the process of expanding its Personal Care and Memory Care services, adding a new casual dining venue, 22 new apartments, and two bocce courts. “The residents can’t wait for those to be installed,” said McCague.
Runner-Up: Maraville


Healing Heart Herbs and Acupuncture

2425 Bath St.; 450-4891

“I enjoy waking up each day knowing I can help solve problems that patients have suffered for months or years. Whether it is nagging pain or emotional imbalance, the satisfaction of bringing relief to a patient is boundless. I love my patients and constantly learn from them,” said Charles Sciutto, LAc BSN, of Healing Heart Herbs and Acupuncture. As for being “the best,” to Sciutto, this “means never being satisfied with my present knowledge base. I strive to constantly learn new modalities to enhance my patients’ experience. This year, that has meant adding functional medicine along with regenerative healthcare to our services. If I want the best for my patients, I need to constantly grow.”
Runner-Up: Anthony Kar


Craviotto Family Chiropractic

2922 De la Vina St.; 563-0007;

“Thank you to all of my past and current patients over the last 32 years. I can’t tell you how honored I have felt that you would allow me to take care of you and your families,” said Dr. John Craviotto. His favorite part of the job? “Helping people who are in pain to feel better and to get their lives back. It means a lot to me that my patients think enough of me to vote for me. I value their loyalty.” He added, “To win means that many of my patients cared and took the time to vote. It also means a lot to my business, as many locals seek out a service using the Independent’s Best Of list.”
Runner-Up: O’Hara Chiropractic

General Practitioner

Dr. Mara Sweeney

1509 State St.; 560-6675;

Our readers’ top choice for general practitioner for the third year running, Dr. Mara Sweeney was born and raised in Santa Barbara, and she consistently received high praise from her hometown clientele. She stated that she believes “the doctor-patient relationship is built on trust … and trust is earned by doctors who take the time to listen to their patients as well as explain to their patients what options they have in every health-related situation.” As a patient testimonial on her website reads, “In the fast-paced world we live in today it’s refreshing to find a doctor that actually cares about my well-being, takes her time, and gives you 100% of her attention.”
Runner-Up: Dr. David Phreaner

Herbalist/Holistic Practitioner

Pura Luna Women’s Apothecary

2009 Chapala St.; 450-2484;

“With a truly humbled heart, we extend our utmost gratitude for those that took the time to nominate and vote for us,” said Ashe Kelly-Brown, owner of Pura Luna Apothecary, the Best Of pick for the second year in a row. “This win symbolizes the changing tide of what it means to support black-women-owned alternative holistic health businesses.” Her favorite part of the job? “The ability to help women heal themselves with herbal remedies, earth-based practices, and community. Nothing brings us more joy than to help a woman in need and give her the power to heal herself. We also love hosting workshops and classes that help educate and inspire women.”
Runner-Up: Healing Heart Herbs and Acupuncture

AAA gets the 2019 best travel agency.


Montecito Dental Group

1165 Coast Village Rd.; 565-9837;

It seems like there’s another research study every other week about the importance of keeping your mouth healthy. Luckily, Independent readers have Montecito Dental Group in their corner. “Being voted the best means that our patients appreciate what we do! And this award recognizes the effort our team makes every day to be their best,” said Dr. Lynda J. Benedetto, one of the three dentists (along with Dr. Gregory Scarcello and Dr. Cris Shepard) who make up Montecito Dental Group. One of the funniest things that’s ever happened was asking a patient how often he flossed, shared Benedetto. The response: “Twice a year ​— ​you do it!” Those checkups really are so important!
Runner-Up: Kendall, Rohde & Associates


White & Grube Orthodontics

Two locations;

The year-round sunshine gets a lot of credit for Santa Barbara’s smiles, but as our readers’ pick for best orthodontist for the fourth year in a row, White & Grube Orthodontics should probably also receive some kudos. A favorite part of the job? “The day our patients finish their orthodontic treatment is very satisfying. Knowing they can look forward to a lifetime with a healthy and beautiful smile is perhaps the best part of our profession,” said Dr. Brett Grube. “This honor is a nice reminder to our office that we are appreciated by the people of our town that expect the highest level of care and experience.”
Runner-Up: Kubisch & Ferris Orthodontics

Licensed Massage Therapist

Cindy Gutierrez at Skin Deep

3405 State St.; 687-9497;

There’s nothing like a massage to melt away muscle tension and promote relaxation and recovery. “I would like to thank all of my clients at Skin Deep for this wonderful recognition,” said Cindy Gutierrez, whom Indy readers voted as the best licensed massage therapist. “While practicing massage therapy for over 20 years, I have enjoyed mastering many modalities ​— ​Swedish, deep-tissue, hot-stone, and trigger-point therapy. My treatments bring relaxation and rejuvenation. I think of myself as a stress buster!”
Runner-Up: Sheena Lopez

Travel Agency 

AAA ​— ​Automobile Club of Southern California

3712 State St.; 682-5811;

While they’re probably best known for roadside assistance, AAA ​— ​Automobile Club of Southern California offers a huge variety of travel services, everything from booking a cruise to scheduling a flight to landing luxury hotel deals and budget-minded B&Bs. The favorite part of the job for Indy readers’ top Travel Agency: “Making people’s dreams become reality,” said Branch Manager Chris Olvera. “The award is validation that what we are doing resonates with the community.” As for the funniest thing that’s ever happened? “So many stories, but I think it’s funny when people ask questions like, ‘Do I need different money when I travel to Hawai‘i?’ not realizing Hawai‘i is part of the U.S.,” Olvera said.
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Travel Bureau


Eye & Vision Care

5300 Hollister Ave.; 692-6977;

All eyes ​— ​and all of our readers’ ayes ​— ​were on Eye & Vision Care, which has been providing services to the Santa Barbara community for the past 30 years. “Our favorite part of the job is getting to see the patients back over time, getting to know them, becoming part of their lives, and being able to watch some grow from children to adults,” said optometrist Dr. Luke Werkhoven, a co-owner. “We always want our patients to feel comfortable and well taken care of from the moment they walk into our office. We are always grateful for your continued confidence in our office and ongoing support throughout the years.”
Runner-Up: Bream Optometry