Best of Santa Barbara® 2021
by Charles Donelan
Toy Store • Children’s Clothing Store
How fitting that the legacy of Chicken Little founder Paula Bouma has been carried on so successfully by her children, Jennifer and Gregory. With its iconic State Street corner location and “kid in a toy store” atmosphere, visiting Chicken Little in person is always its own little bundle of joy. Thanks to a comprehensive digital store on their website, you can also shop for strollers and car seats from brands like UPPAbaby and Chicco from home during nap time.
Runner-Up (Toy Store): Bennett’s Toys & Educational Materials
Runner-Up (Children’s Clothing Store): Happy Little Hippo
Little Angels Preschool
Little Angels Director Mary Lopez and her faculty would like to “thank all those who voted for us!” adding that “we’ve had the best and most involved parents, grandparents, and community partners over the past 20 years!” The school employs many outstanding educators coming out of Santa Barbara City College’s Early Childhood Education Program. Their shared background gives the school’s play-based philosophy coherence and integrity. Lopez writes that Santa Barbara is an ideal place for a preschool “because the children can be outside year-round. There is so much beauty and nature around us for the children to explore.”
Runner-Up: Rainbow School
Kids Summer Camp
Zoo Camp at Santa Barbara Zoo
What child between the ages of 3 and 12 does not belong in a zoo? For zoo camp! This hands-on approach to learning about animals and the environment is science-based and includes games, crafts, and close-up encounters with all kinds of animals. In addition to summer, zoo camp runs during the fall and winter school holiday weeks, meaning that your children won’t have to wait until June to walkabout with the wallabies. G’day!
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara County Junior Lifeguards
Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara
What began in 1958 as a first step toward gender equity in Santa Barbara youth programs has grown over the following decades into an invaluable service with a mission to inspire “all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.” With evidence-based after-school and summer programs for girls grades transitional K-12, Girls Inc. is a place where “girls learn to value their whole selves, discover and develop their inherent strengths, and receive the support they need to navigate the challenges they face.”
Runner-Up: Wilderness Youth Project
Santa Barbara Tutoring
At Santa Barbara Tutoring, students find the support they need to get the scores they deserve. Executive Director Steven Efada holds a degree in mathematics from UCSB, and he hires other UCSB scientists to ensure that the training his students receive compares favorably with the best universities in the world. Efada says that his favorite thing about tutoring is “making a difference. Nothing compares to the feeling of knowing you’ve helped someone reach their goal.”
Runner-Up: California Learning Center
Dr. Saida Hamdani
With 30 years of experience and an impeccable bedside manner, Dr. Hamdani was a clear winner in the pediatrician category. Working out of Sansum Clinic’s Hitchcock location, Dr. Hamdani sees children and adolescents, so your child can keep her as their doctor until they go away to college.
Runner-Up: Dr. Jerold Black
La Cumbre Animal Hospital
La Cumbre Animal Hospital has a storied 60-year history serving people and their pets in Santa Barbara. Founded by Dr. Francis Knoop in 1959 as a single-person practice, today LCAH employs five full-time veterinarians and is owned by Dr. Beverly Holmes and Dr. Eve Kuesis, who came aboard in 2004 and 2005 and purchased LCAH in 2012. Relocated from La Cumbre Road to a new building nearby on State Street, LCAH promises that “as the technology of veterinary medicine has advanced, we continue to keep pace, striving to provide the most comprehensive care for your furry family members in Santa Barbara.”
Runner-Up: St. Francis Pet Clinic
Dioji Canine Resort & Athletic Club
At Dioji K-9 Resort & Athletic Club, they take care of your dogs as if they were their own pets. Susan Vasquez writes that, with 14 consecutive wins in this category, she and her team remain “honored that our cage-free boarding with 24-hour canine care is appreciated by the community.” She notes that at Dioji, they “set out to create a different kind of boarding experience for family dogs: a home away from home where pups can run, play, and swim all day and snuggle up with a human at night— never being caged or secluded.”
Runner-Up: Camp Canine
Lemos Feed & Pet Supply
Raymond Padilla, store manager at Lemos Feed & Pet Supply, clearly enjoys his job. He writes that this award means that he and his team “have been able to reach our community, even in these difficult times, and have hopefully made it easier to cope with all the craziness around us.” Sometimes the craziness comes with laughter, as on the day when a customer brought his goat into the store to be fitted for a harness.
Runner-Up: Pet House
The Little Dog House
There’s nothing in the pet world quite like the impact of a good grooming service. Anyone who owns a dog (or sometimes even a cat) knows how adorably that freshly groomed animal behaves during the first few hours home after a visit to the groomer. At The Little Dog House, they go out of their way to make sure your pet returns looking good and ready to roll in something before you can stop them.
Runner-Up: S.B. Paws and Claws
Remember when you were little and wanted a puppy and your parents told you that taking care of a dog was a lot of responsibility? At K-Nine Solutions, the trainers know that there’s more than just personal responsibility involved in developing the kinds of behavior that make your pet a reliable asset in every situation. That’s why they offer multiple programs, with each solution designed to address the specific needs of your individual family and unique pet. Don’t give up on Fido yet. He may just need to spend some time with the professionals at K-Nine Solutions. Let them help the dog you have become the dog you dream of owning.
Runner-Up: The Ruff Ranch