Santa Cruz Good Times

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Sep 01st
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Best Shops 2011

bo_shopsFor years, Camouflage took home the Best Adult Store prize, but this year, the race was heated. Did Camouflage win? Check it out.

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Adult Store

Pure Pleasure

Unabashedly assisting your sexual needs with sass and class, this small Downtown Santa Cruz shop knows how to hit the spot. Providing a full range of adult toys, books and miscellaneous products alongside informative “sexucational” workshops, Pure Pleasure espouses education as well as entertainment. Giving you a safe, clean and private atmosphere, this adult store is here to answer your questions, feed your curiosity, and give you the tools you need to construct a fully satisfying night in. And, if you’ve ever scoured the yellow pages in search of an environmentally friendly dildo, search no further.   Thing To Know: This business is owned by a mother-daughter team. 204 Church St., Santa Cruz, 466-9870, purepleasureshop.com. | Linda Koffman

Runners-up Camouflage, Frenchy’s >

Antiques Store

Mr. Goodie’s

It doesn’t take a DeLorean or flux capacitor to go back in time. Just walk into Mr. Goodie’s Antique Store to be whisked back a half-century or more in an instant. Keep your eyes open for Civil War belt buckles, antique poker chips, pocket watches, Depression era glassware, and retro eyeglasses. There’s also a fantastic collection of vintage kitchenware, which includes cast iron cookware, meat grinders, and butter churns.  Thing To Know: Can you find the life-sized sleeping princess hidden in the shop’s display window? Owner Kurt Haveman says she’s been there for 20 years, but most people don’t immediately notice her. 1541 Pacific Ave., Ste. A, Santa Cruz, 427-9997. | Jessi Hamel

Runners-up Echo Antiques, Center Street Antiques

Arts & Crafts

Palace Art and Office Supply

Palace Art and Office Supply has been around for more than 60 years, so it’s safe to call it a Santa Cruz institution. While getting the creative juices flowing, Palace also can help satisfy the inner neat freak. Palace has organizers for your pens, organizers for your papers, and even organizers for your organizers. Best of all is the selection of funky items like the Electronic Yodeling Pickle, the Inflatable Van Gogh in a Can, and collectible Japanese erasers in almost every shape imaginable.  Thing To Know: Palace sells about 500 of those Japanese erasers per month. That’s nearly 17 each day. 1407 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 427-1550; 1501-K 41st Ave., Capitola, 464-2700, gopalace.com. | JH

Runners-up Beverly’s Fabrics, Lenz Arts

Auto: New

Toyota Santa Cruz

Ah, there’s nothing like that new car smell. Beyond offering a wide range of vehicles—from powerful trucks to ultra-efficient hybrids—Toyota of Santa Cruz has been ranked the “best” multiple times because of its great customer service and weekly Internet specials. Check out its website to apply for credit online and for coupons for everything from brake inspection to cabin filter replacement.   Thing To Know: Toyota of Santa Cruz is a sponsor of Drive for Schools, which raised $384,280 for Santa Cruz County schools last year. 4200 Auto Plaza Drive, Capitola, 462-4200, santacruztoyota.com. | JH

Runners-up Ocean Honda, Suburu of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Nissan

Auto Used

Ocean Honda

Ocean Honda says its goal is to “earn your business for life,” and since they keep winning these awards, they must be succeeding. You love Ocean Honda because it has one of the best selections of used cars in town.   Thing To Know: Customers can shop for pre-owned cars online. You can narrow down your search by year, price, and even MPG. Kudos to Ocean Honda for having such a clear and helpful website—oceanhondasantacruz.com. 3801 Soquel Drive, Soquel, (866) 499-7995. | JH

Runners-up Toyota Of Santa Cruz, Specialized Auto, DeLaveaga Motors

Auto Repair

DMV Clinic

DMV Clinic will be celebrating 35 years of business this year, and it has won so many awards during its long history that we’ve pretty much lost count. How does DMV Clinic provide such excellent service? Well first of all, it can service most car makes and models—including hybrids and electric cars. It specializes in fabricating parts that are no longer available so you and your buggy can get back on the road as fast as possible. It also helps that they keep the business in the family. Jack Sparks and his son Nate run the shop, and four generations of Sparks have worked for the business. DMV Clinic is also Green Business Certified, which means they work to conserve resources, prevent pollution, and minimize waste.   Thing To Know:  Owner Jack Sparks loves to help out the local community. He has worked as a volunteer for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization for more than 20 years. 2335 Soquel Drive, Santa Cruz, 462-4436, dmvclinic.com. | JH

Runners-up Specialized Auto Service, Fidelity Auto Repair, Rusty’s Honda and Mazda Repair

Beachwear

Surfboard Shop

Well, it’s pretty much a no brainer. Jack O’Neill is an institution in the town, the county, the Central Coast and, well, worldwide actually. So, you dig the clothes—we appreciate those good sales, thanks—and you dig the boards—props for all the supplies here.  Thing To Know: Major kudos for O’Neill Surf/Snow TV, an impressive mix of videos from around the globe that accentuate the rush of all “board” culture (See o’neill.com/live). Stay tuned … 110 Cooper St # D, Santa Cruz, 469-4377; 400 Beach St., Santa Cruz, 459-9230; 1071 41st Ave., Santa Cruz, 475-7500;oneill.com.  | Charlie Price

Runners-up
(Beachwear) Cowell’s, Pacific Wave, Santa Cruz Skate Shop / Nubia (Tie)
(Surfboard Shop) Freeline, Arrow Surf, Haut

Bicycle Repair / Bicycle Shop

Bicycle Trip

For its inspiring work in the world of bicycles and advocacy in the future and safety for young adults, Bike Trip was voted the best bicycle shop in Santa Cruz. Not many bicycle shops in the world improve the well-being of members in their communities while also fixing bicycles. Bike Trip provides valuable services for bike-riding enthusiasts by selling bicycles and their parts and founding programs for young adults interested in bikes. The bicycle repair shop started Project Bike Trip, a program which trains young adults for future careers in the mechanical field. Along with educating young adults in the technical skills of building and fixing bicycles, Bike Trip founded another program called Bike Smart whose main goal is to promote safe riding in the community. A variety of bikes are in stock at the shop such as vintage inspired and colorful cruisers by Electra and Norco’s dirt and BMX bikes for extreme trail riders. Thing To Know: The shop also has its own established racing team which trains all throughout town, in the mountains and by the beach. 1001 Soquel Ave., 427-2580, bicycletrip.com. | Christina Kharbertyan

Runners-up
(Repair) Epicenter Cycling, Another Bike Shop, Bike Church
(Shop) Spokesman, Epicenter Cycling, Family Cycling

Bookstore

Bookshop Santa Cruz

Remember when Borders sprang to life on Pacific Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz, and everyone worried about how the mega-store would impact local booksellers? Well, fear no more. With the Downtown Borders now out of business, it appears that our local, independent bookshops have prevailed—and at the helm of the movement (forever and always) is Santa Cruz landmark Bookshop Santa Cruz, which has been a treasure trove of all things books in Downtown Santa Cruz since 1981. In 1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake turned Bookshop’s original building into ruins—leaving the store’s wealth of books buried beneath the rubble. The city allowed the owners two days to excavate what they could, ordering that they could have only 40 people inside at one time. The owners put out a call for volunteers, not at all prepared for what would happen next: come the first day of excavation, more than 400 locals turned up, ready to sign liability wavers and go digging for books. It was, as original owner Neal Coonerty puts it, “a small town miracle.” Today, Bookshop Santa Cruz is still just as dear to Santa Cruz’s heart. Thing To Know: Bookshop has more than 14,000 members in its Frequent Buyers Club and houses more than 20,000 books in the store and can access millions in its online database. 1520 Pacific Ave., 423-0900, bookshopsantacruz.com. | Elizabeth Limbach

Runners-up Capitola Bookcafe, Logos

Car Wash

Whaler’s Car Wash

For 40 years, Whalers Car Wash has proven to be completely in sync with the values of its environmentally conscious clientele, offering eco-friendly services, recycled/ reclaimed water, water-soluble fluids, soft-cloth and hand wash systems, as well as air and towel drying. With comparably low prices—a Full Service Car Wash, which includes interior vacuuming and a wheel blast, is $14.99, and a website coupon knocks off $3—a friendly staff, attention to detail, and a waiting room that resembles a hotel lobby, more than 110,000 cars pass through every year. Thing To Know: Last year the City of Santa Cruz certified Whalers as a “Clean Ocean Business” for its pollution prevention methods. 2001 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-0676, whalerscarwash.com. | Jenna Brogan

Runners-up Cruz Car Wash, Master Car Wash, Scotts Valley Car Wash

Carpet Cleaning

Connoisseur Carpet

Spearheaded by Mike and Paula Pailliotet, the company offers myriad services to tidy up your  messes—rug cleaning, upholstery cleaning, tile and grout cleaning, and general carpet cleaning for businesses or homes. Its website is chock-full of information about everything you could ever imagine about cleaning carpets—from the methods and tools they use, to a  handy FAQ section to inform the consumer about how often to clean a  carpet, and more. Thing To Know: The company truck uses 90 percent bio diesel fuel. 2888 Estates Drive, Aptos, 95003, santacruzcarpetcleaning.com, 476-9721. | Christa Martin

Runners-up: Peachy Clean, Quality Carpet Care, Victor’s Carpet Care

Chocolatier

Donnelly’s

Donnelly's is famous locally and internationally. Oh, the goodies you can find here—gift boxes, chocolate bars, and so much more that’s better experienced than described. And at the helm? Richard Donnelly, who makes these creations by hand from the finest French and Belgian ingredients. Donnelly learned from master chocolatiers in Paris and Brussels before launching his own line of chocolates. focusing on simple yet sophisticated flavors. Thing To Know: Bless Donnelly’s—it has a “chocolate of the month.” 1509 Mission St., Santa Cruz, (888) 685-1871, donnellychocolates.com. | CP

Runners-up Mackenzies, Marini / Ashby Confections (Tie)

Clothing: Children

Baby Shoppe Santa Cruz

It doesn’t get much better than this. Grab a pair of cute socks, or some cozy shoes, maybe a new outfit, or a charming, unique book or toy before heading off to a baby shower or birthday party for a young one. And for the nursing mothers, there are plenty of must haves as well. Thing To Know: Think of it as a one-stop-shop—find a gift for mom, and her baby. Items are contemporary, stylish, vibrant and creative. 1101 B Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 600-8406, babyshoppesc.com. | CM

Runners-up Jelli Beanz, Hopscotch, Outside In Kids

Clothing: Lingerie

Camouflage

What started in 1980 as a small, downtown T-shirt shop slowly grew and evolved into a treasure chest of adult fun. Now 31 years old, the store offers lingerie for all occasions and styles—from more traditional bras, panties and camisoles to corsets, cinchers and pasties. Not to mention a selection of hosiery that can help complete any getup. Camouflage is also the best place to find seasonal costumes or themed lingerie (if, say, you’re looking for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift or the makings for a racy Halloween costume). Thing To Know: Their lingerie is tantalizing, but their best selling items are vibrators. 1329 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-7613, shopcamouflage.com. | EL

Runners-up Amoureuse, Pure Pleasure

Clothing: Men

Patrick James

Not only does Patrick James carry men’s clothes, but also stocks accessories for every outfit. Cufflinks, fedoras, belts, and handkerchiefs can transform a simple suit for a wedding or dress it down for a first date. The active male can find what he needs with the vast array of sportswear from sweatshirts to bottoms to T-shirts. Patrick James carries all the major clothing brands for men such as Hugo Boss, Tommy Bahama, and Cole Haan. The store has many events centered around clothes for men such as the Custom Clothing event which tailors clothes especially for customers, Custom Shirting event where customers can design their own shirts, and the After-Father’s Day Sale. Thing To Know: If you prefer to do your shopping online, sign up for PJ rewards which grants its members free domestic ground shipping for all orders, free shipping for returns, and advance notice of specials and sales. 7538 Soquel Dr. Aptos, 688-2105, patrickjames.com. | CK

Runners-up Men’s Wearhouse, TAC Apparel Clothing

Clothing: Women

Pacific Trading Company

This is a dangerous place—in a really good way. If you take the bait when you walk by  the gorgeously decorated mannequins and walk in, be prepared that you will walk out with something in hand. One of my favorite all-time purses was purchased here. Likewise, my deep red, sexy dress was found here, too. Thing To Know: From designer jeans to a dazzling array of jewelry items, Pacific Trading Company, in both its downtown and Capitola locations, is a gem in this town.  1224 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-3349. | CM

Runners-up Shimmy Bag, Stripe, Pretty Mama’s

Comic Book Store

Atlantis Fantasyworld

Along with a wide array of comic books for the choosing, Atlantis Fantasy World has many unique events year-round for the comic lover in you. In honor of its 35th anniversary, Snoopy will appear at the store and sign books such as “Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown.” Snoopy’s appearance will be on Worldwide Free Comic Book Day (May 7) when Atlantis will be giving away a free comic to every visitor. Atlantis will also play host to the creators of the new Peanuts DVD and the aforementioned graphic novel. International guests from Edizioni Plemme Studio in Milan, Italy will sign copies of the graphic novel, “Geronimo Stilton.” Whoever attends the countless events for the shop’s 35th anniversary will be entered into a drawing for a free trip. Thing To Know: On Thursday nights, Atlantis Fantasyworld sponsors Flashback Films at Santa Cruz Cinema 9 which such classics as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Armageddon. 1020 Cedar St., Santa Cruz,  426-0158, atlantisfantasyworld.com. | CK

Runner-up Comicopolis

Computer Service

Dave’s Computer Services

For all of us who cannot tell the difference between spyware, daughter boards and logic boards, Dave’s Computer Services come to the rescue time and time again. In addition to computers, Dave’s also fixes printers. The backstory: In 1990, Dave’s Computers was founded by Dave and his friend Phil, and 10 years later became authorized to repair Apple products. Dave’s Computers can be considered a family business as his son Dan helps with repairs and his daughters Emily and Sara work the counter. Thing To Know: Service calls in Santa Cruz County are free. Dave also offers student and teacher discounts for repairs.  740 Front St., 458-1131, davescomputer.net. | CK

Runners-up Cruzio, User Friendly Computing, Santa Cruz Electronics

Dry Cleaners

Vapor

Taking its name from the “new” steam method of dry cleaning near the turn of the 20th century, Vapor, is a piece of Santa Cruz history. The shop first opened in 1911 and has garnered generations of loyal customers in the Santa Cruz community. For extremely convenient customer service, Vapor offers free pick up and delivery. Thing To Know: Owner Chris Peoples brought his sense of environmental friendliness with him when he took over Vapor. Installing solar panels in 2008 made Vapor Cleaners the most energy-efficient dry cleaning service in the Monterey Bay area. They pride themselves on setting the benchmarks for a better, greener tomorrow. 285 Water St., Santa Cruz, 423-4646,
Dry cleaning, linens, leather, suade, rugs, in Santa Cruz at vaporcleaners.biz.  | Dana Burd

Runners-up Classic Cleaners, Pacific Dry Cleaners, Scotts Valley Cleaners

Eyewear

Eye Q

Eye Qers Daniel Shen, Stephanie Kaye Krok, and Noel Krok all graduated from UC Berkeley with doctorate degrees in optometry. After graduating, all three doctors volunteered their time to provide free eyecare to the needy. Dr. Shen traveled to the Dominican Republic to help care for the eyes of the underprivileged. Stephanie Krok volunteered her eyecare services in Guatemala and Zimbabwe. She was also the first woman co-owned eyecare provider in Santa Cruz. Many hours of Noel Krok’s time were donated to the Suitcase Clinic, which is a homeless vision screening program. Thing To Know: What makes Eye Q unique in addition to its humanitarian doctors are that they give complimentary frame adjustments and repairs, they are open seven days a week for those with busy work schedules, and they use the latest equipment and technology so patients know they are getting the best treatment possible. 1101 Pacific Ave. Suite E, 466-3937, eyeqsantacruz.com. | CK

Runners-up Plaza Lane Optometry, Site For Sore Eyes

Electronics Store

Santa Cruz Electronics

For computer parts, electronic components, audio video connectors, cables and tools, few locals look further than Santa Cruz Electronics. A pleasant escape from the Best Buy crowds, the store serves as a tech hub for businesses, independent and computer contractors and PC users, as well as a friendly place where the technologically challenged can seek assistance. Thing To Know: Sorry, you won’t find the latest iPhone or BlackBerry here. 2808 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 479-5444. | JB

Runners-up Best Buy, Costco

Financial Institution

Bay Federal Credit Union

Unlike most banks in Santa Cruz, Bay Federal Credit Union is a nonprofit financial cooperative. The board of directors is comprised of volunteers, who have served California in capacities including the mayor of Watsonville, civil engineers, teachers, and director of rehabilitation services for Dominican Hospital. Anybody who lives, worships, or attends school in the Tri-County area has access to the many services the bank offers to its members. These services include loans, checking and savings accounts, and direct deposits. Members can also take advantage of discounted prices on admission to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Regal movie theater, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Great America, and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. That’s plenty of perks for a place that holds onto your money. Thing To Know: The bank offers free financial education courses to teach adults and children alike how to be wise with their spending and savings. 479-6000 bayfed.com. | CK

Runners-up Santa Cruz Community Credit Union, Santa Cruz County Bank, Lighthouse Bank

Flooring

San Lorenzo Floors Abbey Carpet

It’s time to switch things up. Try a stylish hard wood floor, or maybe a bedroom with lush, thick carpet. Whatever your design  aesthetic, San Lorenzo Valley Floors Abbey Carpet will create the  perfect floor design for you—your feet will thank you. Who knew that  there were so many options—a Honey Butter colored floor, or maybe  Peppercorn, or even hardwood called Tigerwood Brazilia Taupe. With  carpet in every color and style, this store is a designer’s haven. Check out the website to design your own space. Thing To Know: Lifetime warranties are offered.San Lorenzo Valley Floors Abbey Carpet, 3113 Scotts Valley Drive, Scotts Valley, 361-1300, scottsvalley.abbeycarpet.com. | CM

Runners-up Bay Area Floors, Floors Etc., Drummers Hardwood

Florist

Flower Shack

This local florist understands flower power like no other. Manned by a welcoming staff peddling a rainbow’s array of flowers, the Flower Shack is a simple, open-air vendor that treats its customers like its original flower arrangements—with care. Located just around the corner from The Buttery and across from Shopper’s Corner, the Shack houses a bevy of fragrant and colorful flowers and plants harvested from surrounding areas. Whether you’re looking for small, chilled gardenias, gargantuan sunflowers, potted greenery or perky roses, the Flower Shack has you covered. No matter what season, something is always in full bloom at your favorite place to pick petals. Thing To Know: This year’s Valentine’s Day bestsellers were Watsonville roses from California Pajarosa farms and tulips from Soquel’s Rich Thomsen. 614 S. Branciforte Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-3877. | Linda Koffman

Runners-up Ferrari’s, Boulder Creek Flowers, Seascape Flowers

Furniture

Natural Selection Furniture

The best part of Natural Selection Furniture is that even those on a budget can fill their homes with designer quality and stylish pieces without the added extravagant price tag. That may be one reason why the store won top honors. Thing To Know: The buyer here apparently has a rare gift for offering customers unique options they wouldn’t normally find in big retail stores. 607 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-4711. | CK

Runners-up SC41, Sweet’s In The Nude, Saffron And Genevieve

Garden Supply

The Garden Company

Gift shop, garden center and more, this hotspot wins top honors this year. We think some of that has to do with stellar customer service. Last time we checked the crew here is extremely knowledgeable. So, buy that flower pot, those flowers, those seeds—and more. Thing To Know: Its e-newsletter is actually pretty informative and you can discover great deals. 2218 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 429-8424, thegardenco.com. | CK

Runners-up Dig, Scarborough Garden Center

Hair Salon

bo_shop_laltierHair Salon: l’Atelier L'Altier

Winning for a third year in a row, the brilliant and knowledgeable staff offers a slew of services and will even give clients a free bangs trim. It’s adorable. It’s chic. And it’s one the best things in Downtown Santa Cruz’s Pearl Alley. (Downtown employees: take note of a special discount just for you.) Thing to know: Fo fans of the salon, you’re in for a treat when L’Atelier opens its new day spa just down the street from its Pearl Alley locale. We’ve peeked inside and it looks adorable, and to top things off, they will offer a host of divine spa services including natural, pretty nails, which can be a really difficult service to find in this town.  114 Pearl Alley, Santa Cruz, 423-4247, lateliersalon.com. | CM

Runners-up Elements Salon, Lavish, Katwalk / Faust (Tie)

Home Decorating

Saffron and Genevieve

This adorable store, run by owner Scarlett Reed, is just steps away from The Buttery, you can grab a cup of coffee and spend a good hour browsing through the store. Full of antiques and country charm, you can find an adorable journal, bubble bath by Tokyo, soaps and lotions, jewelry and much more. For a shabby chic, French country, or antique lover, this is your new home, and your new paradise. Swing by to grab the best in home decorating goods. Thing To Know: Recently, Saffron and Genevieve opened up a pop-up shop with Oak&Co., an online clothing company. 910 Soquel Ave., #B, Santa Cruz, 462-4506, saffronandgenevieve.com. | CM

Runners-up: Stripe, Outside In, Warmth Company

Jewelry

bo_shops_DellWilliamsJewelry: Dell Williams Photo: Kelly VaillancourtDell Williams

Whether you’re on the hunt for diamonds, colored stone jewelry, pearls, gold, platinum, watches, fine china or silver tabletop items, this local, family-owned institution has been supplying locals with classy bling since 1927. Conveniently located on Pacific Avenue in Downtown Santa Cruz, luxury is always just around the corner. Plus: The store also has a jewelry repair department, just in case. Thing To Know: Ask for Emily and she can tell you what’s popular right now in the jewelry world.  1320 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-4100, dellwilliams.com. | JB

Runners-up: April Martin Designs, The Vault, Artisan’s Gallery

Kitchen Store

Chefworks

Your favorite kitchen store—again—continues to win major points for selection and atmosphere. You can find the basics here, but we love some of the unique, hard-to-find culinary supplies, cookware, bakeware, mixers, knives, espresso machines, tools, kitchen accessories,  glassware, wine accessories, decorative items and small appliances. And, goodness knows, so much more. Thing To Know: From the outside this shop might appear to be on the smaller side, but in reality, this little store in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz has 18,000 items to choose from. 1527 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz,  426-1351, chefworks-santacruz.com. | DB

Runners-up: Outside In, Le Chef

Laundromat

Seabright Laundromat

This little laundromat is clean, and that’s downright refreshing. It’s one of the reasons that make it the “best.” Located in a friendly neighborhood with lots of windows to let the sunshine in, its genuinely friendly atmosphere makes all the difference. Take note of the large front-loading washing machines that seem to be the most popular, but the laundromat also has top-loading machines and plenty of dryers. And, free Wi-Fi to boot. Thing To Know: The laundromat has an on-site attendant weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and free coffee is served for the early morning crowd from 8-11 a.m. Monday-Friday.  419 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz, 458-3352. | DB

Runners-up: Ultramat, Teddy Bear, Surf City Suds

Musical Instruments

Sylvan Music

A staple instrument shop boasting a mural on Mission Street, Sylvan Music makes musicians’ hearts flutter and notes fly. With Ernie the security dog lingering in the string department, the family feel of this local favorite is emphasized by the warm customer service. With the walls of his business adorned with high-end guitars and gear, luthier Al Markasky has established a place where you shop to perfect your personal sounds of music. Surprisingly, people come in to inquire about and purchase ukuleles more than anything else, but with ample expertise, instruments, and even classes, Sylvan caters to all your musical needs. Thing To Know: Last year Paul Simon came into the shop and admired a vintage Martin guitar. 1521 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 427-1917, sylvanmusic.com. | LK

Runners-up: Union Grove, More Music, Ukuleles of Felton

New Business

bo_shop_pennyNew business: Penny Ice CreameryPenny Ice Creamery

There’s a reason why the owners of Penny Ice Creamery were invited to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address. Two words: Banana Toffee. At least, in this writer’s mind that’s why. Organic crystallized goodness made from local ingredients, a scoop of homemade Banana Toffee ice cream from the Downtown Santa Cruz joint made me a believer in all the Penny hoopla. It’s a natural, tongue-tingling mix of creamy toffee and fragrant fruit bits that will make anyone go ape. And that’s just one of the many flavors getting locals proudly holding stuffed waffle cones like an Olympic Torch; try Tahitian Vanilla Bean, Chocolate and Sea Salt, Honey Lavender, Burnt Cinnamon and more. Owners Kendra L. Baker and Zachary E. Davis have constructed a self-described “artisan ice cream shop” with a wide window and open layout that gives the public a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to make premium dessert nightcaps. You can even call in for the daily update on the ever-rotating menu of flavors. Thing To Know: To keep up with demand, the folks at Penny crack open more than 2,000 eggs each week to make organic ice cream. 913 Cedar St., Santa Cruz, 204-2523. | LK
Delicious ice cream completely from scratch in Downtown Santa Cruz at thepennyicecreamery.com.

Runners-up Covewater Paddle, Hero Designated Drivers, Epicenter Cycling

Pet Store

Pet Pals

Voted best Pet Store by Good Times readers six years running, this locally owned community shop has all of the supplies you could possibly need for your furry or feathered friends. Reasonably priced, it delivers more than 17,000 square feet of pet supplies—from well known brands like Nutro, Iams, Nature’s Variety, Eagle and Natural Balance to Solid Gold, Wellness, Innova, Evo and others. Thing To Know: When you don’t have time to visit the Soquel shop in person they all offer the same wide selection and great prices online at westcoastpetsupply.com. 3660 Soquel Drive, Soquel, 464-8775, epetpals.com. | DB

Runners-up Aptos Feed, Scotts Valley Feed

Pharmacy

Horsnyder’s

At most drug stores, pharmaceuticals and medical supplies occupy a small portion of the store. But this entire locally owned shop has an extensive selection of medical supplies, equipment and a fully stocked pharmacy for prescription drop off all packed into one old-school pharmacy. Thing To Know: Horsnyder’s medical equipment includes: hospital beds, wheelchairs, back cushions, wrist braces, knee braces, crutches, orthopedic shoes and many other products (some equipment available for rentals). 1226 Soquel Ave. # A, Santa Cruz,  458-1400. | DB

Runners-up Frank’s Pharmacy, Tom’s Pharmacy

Photo Developing

Bay Photo Lab

Along with its shipping capabilities Bay Photo Lab offers full printing services from both digital and non-digital originals. They use the finest photo processing equipment to get your images processed brilliantly, and quickly. Cool services that caught our attention: proofing, prints services, mounting, finishing, canvas prints, thinwraps, metalprints, framed and matted prints, collages, cards, albums, press printed books and more. Thing To Know: Bay Photo Lab has gone green and boasts a Green Business Certification Award for “Exceeding Environmental Regulatory Requirements, Preventing Pollution, and Conserving Natural Resources” from the Monterey Bay Area Green Business Program. 2161 Delaware Ave., Santa Cruz; 715 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-1100; 2959 Park Ave., Soquel, 475-6090; 235 Mt. Hermon Rd., Scotts Valley, 438-3989; 1601 41st Ave., Capitola, 462-5464. bayphoto.com.

Runners-up Costco

Record Store

Streetlight Records

Audiophiles have long been filing through the aisles of this classic Downtown Santa Cruz music mecca. With an authentic all-beats and no-bull sensibility, Streetlight preserves the pre-digital age appreciation for the sights and touches that go along with the sounds of every genre. Brimming with CDs, records, DVDs, video games, posters, and an endless array of music merchandise, this is a one-stop auditory shop. A ticket hub for local concerts, and a place to sell your cache of old albums that used to make up your playlist but now enable the procreation of dust bunnies at an exponential rate, Streetlight understands the give-and-take relationship. Simply put, this is your favorite locale to find music peddled by music addicts for music addicts. Thing To Know: For the past decade, the Streetlight Santa Cruz staff has been compiling all sorts of Kenny G merchandise locked in a safe in the office. 939 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 888-648-9201, streetlightrecords.com. | LK

Runners-up Logos, Meta Vinyl

Second-hand Selling

Crossroads

Fashion recycled, Crossroads is unique and vintage fashion store at its best. The chain retailer has 29 locations across California, Oregon, Washington and Illinois, including nine Bay Area locations.  While it specializes in high-quality name brand fashions such as Marc Jacobs, Coach and Banana Republic, at a fraction of original retail prices, trade-in and sales of merchandise from the community makes each store location unique to the local market. Thing To Know: As a chain, this trendy, environmentally friendly trading company has won more than 75 “Best Of” awards, including favorites like “Best Place to Get $200 Denim for $20” and “Best Way to Profit From Your Giveaways.” 811 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 458-2555, crossroadstrading.com. | DB

Runners-up Goodwill, Twist, Jelli Beanz

Shoe Shop

Bunny’s

Bunny’s has been pedaling shoes in Santa Cruz since 1980. The shop moved to its current location in the Palomar building after its original store was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. And while the current location may be small, it’s packed to the brim with cute women’s shoes, including Nine West, Steve Madden, Miz Mooz, Fergie, Ugg Australia, and many other brands. Thing To Know: According to Bunny herself, wedges are big this season and nude is the new black. 1350 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-3824. | EL

Runners-up: Sockshop Santa Cruz, Aptos Shoes & Apparel, Old School Shoes

Skateboard Shop

Bill’s Wheels

Owner Bill Ackerman launched Bill’s Wheels back in 1977 with only about $500 in inventory. Things have certainly bloomed since then. Now the “100 percent” skateboard portal continues to draw attention and maintain its loyal clientele. Nice to know, too, Bill’s sponsors avid skateboarders/pros, so check into that. Thing To Know: “Bill” also digs fishing, as is evident on his “Bill’s Reels” page on the portal’s website. 1240 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 469-0904. | CP

Runners-up Skateworks, Santa Cruz Skateshop, Boardroom

Smoke Shop

PipeLine

All Slugs, past and present, know PipeLine smoke shop is a UC Santa Cruz rite of passage. For many, the Santa Cruz institution is considered the go-to spot for water pipes, hookahs, papers, bubblers, bongs, tobacco products, and everything your parents back home in Montana advised against. Reasonable prices, a variety of tobacco flavors, high-end vaporizers, a kind hipster staff, plus dormroom-ready posters and T-shirts of Tupac, Scarface and the like, make PipeLine a college kid’s home away from home. Thing To Know: Most of the glassware is blown locally, some even in-store. 818 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, 425-7473, pipesinthecity.com. | JB
Runners-up Home Blown Glass, Ron and Bridgette’s, Glassroots

Sporting Goods

bo_shops_jerrySporting Goods: Jerry’s SportsJerry’s Sports

Jerry’s still grabs your attention. Your favorite sporting goods place caters to seasoned pros, little leaguers, golfers and so many other kinds of sports enthusiasts. (Nice selection of shades here, by the way.) Family-owned, locals seem to also appreciate Jerry’s batting cages, which always lure folks in.  Thing To Know: Truly steeped in the community, Jerry’s supports a wide array of local athletics here. It recently sponsored the NorCal High School Cycling team. 1148 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 465-1400, Sporting goods, baseball, shoes, batting cages, athletics, sports equipment, running, sports apparel, basketball, fitness, santa cruz. shopjerryssports.com. | CP
Runners-up Outdoor World, Play It Again Sports, Big 5

Tanning Salon

Paradise Tanning & Spa

The perfect location in Capitola’s Brown Ranch Marketplace, you can’t beat some of the nice offers Paradise has. Its friendly staff always seem to stand out as do some of the fine skin products offered here—well, that, and the tanning options, of course.Thing To Know: This hotspot often has many deals,so check for coupons or ask them about special packages. 3355 Clares St., Ste. MM, Capitola, 464-7985. | CP
Runners-up Tanner’s Cove, Tradewinds,
Tan Line

Tattoo Parlor

Staircase

Still one of the most popular havens to get your ink on—literally. We noted its impressive array of art to work with and some of the area’s best artists—James Da Boss, Teresa, Doug, Gio, Tim, Aaron and Ron among them. Also great—piercings can happen here, too. Thing To Know: There’s a new studio down by the Boardwalk. 628 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. 425-7644; 52 Front St. Santa Cruz. 454-0644; staircasetattoo.com. | CP
Runners-up FU Tattoo, Chimera Tattoo, Eights & Aces

Toys & Games

kaleidoscope

Locally owned by Sheryl Guidera for the past 20 years, this shop has become an educational toy super store packed with thousands of games, toys, books and teaching supplies. Guidera carries more than 50,000 quality toys, games, books, art supplies, and educational materials by top name brand toy manufacturers including: Playmobil, Melissa & Doug, Thomas, K’NEX, Plan Toys, Trend, CTP and Carson Dellosa. Thing To Know: A great place to find birthday gifts, as well as school supplies, with a wide selection of toys and supplies catering to teachers of all grade levels preschool to high school, including special needs classes.  828 Bay Ave., Capitola, 475-0210, kaleidoscopetoystore.com. | DB
Runners-up Game A Lot, Lolly Tree , Toys R Us

Unique Gifts

Stripe

A charm necklace, a lightweight scarf, a makeup bag, gardening tools, the list is endless for unique gifts. Stripe, a Downtown Santa Cruz retail store selling clothing, housewares and gifts, is both unique, and a gift to residents of our town. Run by storeowner Suna Lock and manager Dana Norrell, this adorable, warm, stylish space is a visual treat. But that’s just the beginning. While you might stop by there to buy a birthday gift for a friend, you’ll be tempted to buy yourself a unique gift as well. The choices are unlimited and the gift options are available for all ages. Thing To Know: Lock also runs an interior design business. 107 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz, 421-952. | CM
Runners-up Artisans Gallery, Saffron & Genevieve,Paper Vision

Vintage Clothes Store

Moon Zoom

Moon Zoom continues to offer the best vintage clothing in the county. Need a hat? Go there. How about some retro high heels? Yep, Moon Zoom will have them in stock. Be prepared to spend some time here, as the store is chockfull of classic clothes from eras that are long gone. You’ll walk out feeling like a million bucks, but you’ll have spent much less. Thing To Know: Look to the very back of the store and you’ll find what’s almost like a giant closet with even more treasures. 813 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 423-8500. | CM
Runners-up Cognito,  Crossroads, Stripe

Best Shops of Santa Cruz County 2011 Photo Captions:
Hair Salon: l’Atelier
New business: Penny Ice Creamery
Jewelry: Dell Williams Photo: Kelly Vaillancourt
Sporting Goods: Jerry’s Sports

Best of Santa Cruz County 2011 index:bo_2011_star
- Best Shops in Santa Cruz >
- Best Food and Drink in Santa Cruz >
- Best Arts & Entertainment & Nightlife in Santa Cruz >
- Best Health and Fitness in Santa Cruz >
- Best Professionals in Santa Cruz >
- Best of the Rest in Santa Cruz >
- Critics Picks in Santa Cruz >
Feature: James Durbin >

Other Good Times items of interest:
- Music in Santa Cruz >
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- Dining in Santa Cruz >
- Community Calendar Santa Cruz >
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