Best of Santa Barbara® 2021
By Charles Donelan
Chaucer’s continues to lead the field of independent booksellers here in this intensively well-read town. In business since 1974, they stock more than 150,000 titles and rely on you to keep them and the other bookshops in our region afloat by remembering to support small businesses. Since the advent of the pandemic, Chaucer’s has added a robust schedule of virtual author events that shows no signs of slowing down now that things are opening back up. Manager and book buyer Greg Feitt says that he is “always excited by seeing the kinds of books that Santa Barbarans are reading day to day. It’s especially rewarding to take a chance on stocking some of the more esoteric and off-beat titles and then watching them be discovered by the right reader.”
Runner-Up: The Book Den
From repairs to upgrades to data recovery, the team at MacMechanic does it all. With a live help phone number and remote access, they can even solve many home computer problems without leaving the shop. When what you’re dealing with does require in-person attention, rest assured that if you can’t come to them, they will come to you. Add to that the community-minded attitude they showed after the Montecito debris flow by offering free repair services to those affected, and you begin to have an idea of how MacMechanic came out on top.
Runner-Up: TechEase Computer Repair
Musical Instrument Store
Jensen Guitar & Music Co
This cozy shop on De la Vina is filled from floor to ceiling with stringed instruments, including some of the most beautiful guitars you will find anywhere. Priding themselves on how well they maintain and repair instruments, the folks at Jensen can also fix you up with an instructor. Last year, when everyone was stuck at home, Chris Jensen forecast a “reunion” of people with their instruments and their talents. Well, now it’s your reunion anniversary. And whether you play acoustic, electric, or even bass guitar, the pros at Jensen still have what you need to take your playing to the next level.
Runner-Up: Nick Rail Music
Lewis & Clark
For Lisa Reifel, co-owner of Lewis & Clark, the acknowledgment signaled by this award feels good. “I’ve never been someone who is competitive and firmly believe ‘best’ is relative,” she said. “That said, it feels wonderful to be recognized for the hard work that the entire Lewis & Clark staff puts into the shop. We just celebrated our 40th anniversary (all 40 years in downtown Santa Barbara!), so it’s especially exciting to get recognition this year.”
Runner-Up: Skin Deep
Art/Craft Supply Store
Who has not lost track of time browsing among the dazzling arrays of artistic options available at Art Essentials on East Victoria Street? From finding the exact soft pencil that unleashes your inner draftsperson to finally committing to the airbrush of your soft-focus dreams, the extensive stock and knowledgeable staff at Art Essentials will empower you to create in any medium and at any scale. Make this the year you own the Solstice Parade with the meticulous execution of your personal vision.
Runner-Up: Art From Scrap
At the Frame-Up on Calle Real in Goleta, creating beautiful and lasting framed artworks is a business and a passion. Upon acquiring it from Glenn Avolio in 2017, Alli and Brad Benson have operated this business in the hope that their craft would catch on with the community. “We are beyond thrilled to be voted the best locally owned frame shop!” she said. “After 2020, it is very important to shop local, and we are so excited to be recognized after earning runner-up to the big-box stores for so long!”
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Art Frame Co.
Bank • Mortgage Company
Montecito Bank & Trust
Montecito Bank & Trust has an exceptionally eloquent spokesperson in Chair and CEO Janet Garufis. Following a warm acknowledgment of the high standards set by MB&T founder Michael Towbes, she offered the following definitive account of why it’s good to be a local bank and mortgage company in Santa Barbara. “Customers in Santa Barbara truly appreciate ‘local’ and support local business in a way I have not seen in many other places,” writes Garufis. “Our customers tell us what we do well, and they also help us to be the best we can be by giving us honest feedback if we don’t meet their expectations. When they are happy, Santa Barbara customers tell their friends and families and are happy to make referrals based on their great experiences. Our employees live and work in their community. They are serving friends and neighbors, which makes the ‘local’ experience that much better. We know that we are helping to make the communities we serve better places to live and work.”
Runner-Up (Bank): American Riviera Bank
Runner-Up (Mortgage Company): Cornerstone Home Lending
Mullen & Henzell LLP
For more than 50 years, the attorneys at Mullen and Henzell have been providing effective legal counsel that’s distinguished not only by its depth and scope but also by “a personable, small-town approach,” according to Human Resources Manager Susan Subject. They have expertise in business, real estate, civil litigation, labor and employment law, and estate planning, all of it offered in a spirit of community building and service. Longtime sponsors of the Semana Nautica swimming events, the firm contributes to a wide range of local philanthropic organizations.
Runner-Up: Morales Law
Place to Work
University of California, Santa Barbara
For five consecutive years, UCSB has earned the title of Santa Barbara’s best place to work. “The university is a unique environment that thrives on academic exploration, cutting-edge research, and the vital exchange of ideas,” writes Andrea Estrada, director of news and media relations. “Faculty and staff members across disciplines and across campus share a commitment to the university’s three-pronged mission of teaching, research and public service, and to helping shape the next generation of national and international leaders.” The university values its strong relationship with the community, calling it “the wellspring of our workforce.”
Runner-Up: Montecito Bank & Trust
Blessed with a stunning location and distinguished architecture, Maravilla continues to provide an outstanding experience on all counts. From the excellent meals and plentiful wellness opportunities to the supportive services provided by their dedicated staff, Maravilla puts heart and soul into creating an environment in which all residents can thrive.
Runner-Up: Casa Dorinda
AAA — Automobile Club of Southern California
Branch Manager Chris Olvera loves “helping plan members’ dream destinations” at AAA. He credits AAA’s success as a travel agency to the close fit and the great pride they take in being a part of the Santa Barbara community. He strives to fulfill the requests made by every member, although, when asked about funny memories from work, he did say that one person came in looking for driving directions to Hawai‘i. Even with “automobile” in their name, AAA was not able to provide that answer.
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Travel
Charles Sciutto at Santa Barbara Regenerative Health Clinic
Operating continuously throughout the long pandemic, Charles Sciutto has provided untold hours of active pain relief and mitigation of fear and anxiety through his acupuncture practice. He credits his wife, Joy, and the community of his clients with helping him endure and prosper during such challenging times.
Runner-Up: Downtown Community Acupuncture
Barry Family Chiropractic
Neal and Nicole Barry, DC, the owners of Barry Family Chiropractic, report that their “favorite part of being a chiropractor in Santa Barbara is being a support for our patients as they heal, attempt crazy endeavors, or just live life.” They both “very much appreciate being part of a family’s healthcare team, and seeing those families grow and change over the years.” They love the small-town vibe of Santa Barbara and enjoy running into people they know at a child’s soccer game or the grocery store.
Runner-Up: Goodland Chiropractic
Hayashida Physical Therapy
Dr. Maury Hayashida, CEO and founder of Hayashida Physical Therapy, has put a lot of thought into what it means to be the best and to provide the best physical therapy service. He sees his primary role as hiring, training, and partnering with his team of physical therapists and says that it’s also his favorite part of the job. “Receiving an award like this and being recognized by the community we serve is encouraging,” he said. “It makes us feel we’re on the right track.” Yet he’s aware that “being the best also means that there’s always more work to do to get better.” He loves helping people “move better for longer,” and he especially appreciates it when he sees those people he’s helped out and about, being active in the community.
Runner-Up: Elite Performance & Rehabilitation Center
Dr. David Phreaner
Dr. Phreaner, a repeat winner in this category, is “so thankful to those patients and friends who voted for me.” He adds the following observation about his career: “As a native Santa Barbaran, I was thrilled to be able to come home 25 years ago and get a job at Sansum Medical Clinic. It’s been the best family doctor position I could imagine. My favorite part has been getting to know and care for my panel of about 4,000 patients.”
Runner-Up: Dr. Liana Gonzalez
Pura Luna Apothecary
Ashe Brown, founder and owner of Pura Luna, writes that winning this award for the fourth time “has allowed us to be seen in our attempt to provide access to herbal medicine to this community,” adding that “it means that this community sees the value in us, our business, and our offerings. It means that our work here is valued, needed, and wanted. It truly means the moon to us ;)”
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Regenerative Health Clinic
The Farmacy Santa Barbara
Winning this category again is something that Farmacy founder Graham Farrar is not about to take for granted. “Honestly, it means a ton!” he said. “I and a lot of the team are local Santa Barbara folks, we’ve been reading the Indy every week for decades, and we’ve seen the Best Of plaques on the walls of our favorite establishments. We know it’s a readers’ choice award, and that makes it even more special. To be recognized like that means a lot.”
Runner-Up: Coastal Dispensary
Kendall/Rohde and Associates
The five dentists who make up the team at Kendall/Rohde share a commitment to choosing a plan of care that’s custom designed for each individual patient. They were the first dental practice on the West Coast to incorporate the new Solea Dental Laser into their practice. This extraordinary new technology eliminates the need for drills and injected anesthetics, leaving you with a better smile and no residual numbing or bleeding, even after soft-tissue work. In addition, they use digital X-rays to reduce your exposure to radiation and CAD/CAM technology to speed the in-house creation of crowns, veneers, and onlays.
Runner-Up: Johnson Family Dental
White & Grube Orthodontics
Winning this year makes it 13 consecutive first-place finishes in this category for White & Grube Orthodontics. The skills of Dr. Stewart White and Dr. Brett Grube and the outstanding support of their extensive office staff have clearly registered with Santa Barbarans, who keep recommending and voting for them year in and year out.
Runner-Up: Ferris Orthodontic Group
Licensed Massage Therapist
Deep Tissue Massage Center
The satisfaction of providing effective massage therapy is something that motivates owners Jill and Colin Silverman every day. “There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing someone get relief from pain and return to the activities they love,” they write, expressing honor for receiving this distinction for the second year in a row. “Thank you so much for your continued belief in the work we do at the Deep Tissue Massage Center,” they said. “It has been a privilege to help you stay healthy and fit, and we remain committed to our community.”
Runner-Up: Kathryn Pieron
Eye & Vision Care
With six expert optometrists on staff and a majority of them graduates of the prestigious School of Optometry at the UC Berkeley, Eye & Vision care brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the tasks of caring for your eyes and correcting your vision. Over the course of more than 30 years in business in Santa Barbara, the doctors at Eye & Vision Care have earned your trust and another spot on the Best of Santa Barbara®
Runner-Up: Bream Optometry