Photograph by Jenn Ireland
Cornering the Market: El Patio Grocery in La Selva wins our vote for best corner store
Goods & Services
Best Accessible Health CareSanta Cruz Women's Health Center
The friendly and knowledgeable staff at this nonprofit, solar-paneled health clinic for women and children provides quality medical services on a sliding scale. Equipped with MDs, a naturopathic doctor, a chiropractor, a nurse practitioner and the superb acupuncturist Kristina Hanley, SCWHC is the epitome of socially just professionals serving the greater public good. (MZ)
250 Locust St., Santa Cruz. 831.427.3500.
Best Antidote to Peak OilThe Green Station
The successor to Pacific Biofuel, the Green Station sells B99 biodiesel made from recycled fryer oil gathered from San Francisco and Monterey Bay area restaurants. Doesn't get much greener than that. (TH)
433 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.9100.
Best Bulk DepartmentStaff of Life
Plastic bins and scoops have never had it so good. Selling everything from agar agar to goji berries to loose leaf Ceylon tea by the ounce or pound, the bulk offerings at Staff allow curious customers to try just a pinch of that interesting sounding herb, or stock up on 10 pounds of quinoa. (MZ)
1305 Water St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.8632.
Best Cheap Family FunBoardwalk Bowl
This place is pretty much unbeatable, with live music on weekends, everything you need for kid birthday parties and 26 lanes for all the bowling you could dream of. Plus, karaoke happens five nights a week, so you can get your kids onstage and have them sing the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus. While you go get a beer. (CG)
115 Cliff St., Santa Cruz. 831.426.3324.
Best Comic Book ShopAtlantis Fantasyworld
Local comic experts still rely on owner Joe Ferrara for their most up-to-date graphic novel news, and for access to the intimidating backlog stored in his noggin. With a full range of merchandise from hip-to-be-square indie books to tried and true costumed chaos, Atlantis is definitely just geek enough to be chic. (JL)
1020 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.426.0158.
Best CobblerKim's Cleaners & Shoe Repair
In this throwaway world, it's difficult finding businesses that will repair a favorite ripped jacket or a treasured pair of worn-out shoes without pushing their own products. Not so at Kim's, where stains come to die and broken heels are resurrected. Same-day service promises "in by 9:30am out by 4pm," and expertise in delicate wedding gowns, bulky draperies and tired old soles means happy customers. (JN)
115 River St., South, Santa Cruz. 831.423.6459.
Best Corner StoreEl Patio Grocery in La Selva Beach
The same kids have been working behind the wooden counter at El Patio since they started high school, checking through the locals' wine, coffee and pastries and the tourists' sunscreen and magazines. The sandwich shop in the back makes simple, fresh, epic picnic fare to order, and for cheap. The ultimate in friendly neighborhood stops, El Patio is an institution in this sleepy seaside village that takes you back to the old Santa Cruz, even if you weren't there in the first place. (TH)
312 Playa Blvd., La Selva Beach. 831.688.7667.
Best DIY StoreSeven Bridges Co-op
If you're going to go to all the fuss of making something yourself that you could buy in a store with a lot less hassle, it might as well be beer. Seven Bridges Coop has everything necessary for the enterprise--hops, malt, yeast, flavorings--and it's all organic, right down to the maltodextrin. Groovy. (TH)
325A River St., Santa Cruz. 831.454.9665.
Best Eco-Friendly ClothingScout
Just because you're a hippie doesn't mean you have to dress like one. Scout stocks cozy and fashion-forward organic dresses, T-shirts and pants from labels like Prana, Rebe and Stewart + Brown. They've also skimmed the cream off the vintage world, including restored leather boots and '60s shifts. (JL)
1517 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.427.3425.
Best Farmers MarketWestside
Every Saturday from 9am to 1pm, Westsiders gather in a parking lot. The reason, of course, is for the weekly farmers market, featuring many of our favorite vendors' offerings of produce, flowers, meat, fish, bread, coffee and breakfast galore. The circular format adds a palpable friendliness to this market in particular. (AT)
2801 Mission St., Santa Cruz.
Best Indoor Kids ActivitySanta Cruz Roller Palladium
Santa Cruz is all about outdoor activities, but come on--sometimes you need a break from the gorgeous weather and slathering on the sunscreen. Roller Palladium is the place to bring the kids, watch them hurtle around on the floor (with proper protection, of course) and take a break. You've had enough vitamin D anyway. (CG)
1606 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.0844.
Best Late Night GroceryFood Bin/Herb Room
A late-night favorite with students, swing-shift employees and workaholics, the tiny, intimate Food Bin and Herb Room are open until midnight seven days a week, which means that if it's 11:15pm and you're out of soy cheese, Fig Newmans and dong quai, you need not panic. (TH)
1130 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.5526.
It has to be the Seabright Laundromat ($2.25 per wash, 25 cents per five minutes to dry), near some of the best budget dining spots in the city. Breakfast at Linda's or grab a takeout burger from Betty's or pizza from Engfer's and walk a few steps down to Seabright Beach to eat and enjoy the view while the Hawaiian shirts and shorts tumble in the dryer. (JVZ)
419 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.458.3352.
Best Light StoreIlluminee
Radiating from the Westside, this locus of contemporary lighting design makes it easy to avoid homogeneity in the home. The imaginative furniture and décor showcase a blend of traditional elegance with functional modernism. Some decorative gems include trendy "bubble" lamps and woven wood hanging lights. In-home color consultations and delivery are part of an oath to personal service. (JN)
402 Ingalls St. #23, Santa Cruz. 831.423.1121.
Best Neighborhood Wine ShopDeer Park Wine & Spirits
A consistently hefty selection of hard-to-find California wines and rare imports distinguishes this full-service liquor emporium. In addition to the nifty tasting bar, this neighborhood pit-stop stocks those glamorous labels--at appealing prices--you've just read about in the glossy trade mags. (CW)
783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Rio Del Mar. 831.688.1228.
Best Outdoor FurniturePatio Shop
You can't miss the giant white letters on Water Street, beckoning you in. But have you actually ever gone in? You might be missing one of the best-kept secrets in the area, with tons of options, styles and prices for your outdoor needs. Whether you have the beach as your back yard or the redwoods, Patio Shop will hook you up. (CG)
420 Water St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.3143.
Best PotsSanta Cruz Pottery
Sturdy, functional, beautiful ceramics at reasonable prices are Santa Cruz Pottery's stock in trade. From place settings to casseroles and toothbrush holders to vases, this charming nook on Mission Street reminds us of the soul of Santa Cruz. (TH)
1642 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 831.426.8711.
This sweet-smelling den in downtown Santa Cruz features artwork underfoot, with sumptuous, hand-woven rugs from all over the rug-making world, including India, Morocco, Iran, Pakistan, Nepal and Turkey. Whether you invest in a traditional pattern or something more contemporary, rest assured that each was constructed by the experts--never by child labor. (JL)
111 Cooper St., Santa Cruz. 831.427.2667.
Best SecondHand FurnitureSaffron & Genevieve
Filled with hand-picked antique chairs, tables, desks and armoires from antique fairs all over the country, Saffron & Genevieve ain't exactly thrift, but owner Colleen Hickey is an expert at repurposing, refinishing and reupholstering, with an eye for whimsy. The selection of accents and artwork is the most fun, with overlooked bits and bobs like old sheet music, wooden cogs and doll's heads transformed from trash to treasure. (JL)
910B Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.462.4506.
Best Skateboard ShopSanta Cruz Skate Shop Skateboarders can sometimes be an intimidating bunch; but not so with Santa Cruz Skate Shop. With a huge selection of boards and gear, customizable accessories and the friendliest staff in the county, the local boarders at this first class skate house have been rolling out happy customers since 2003. (CC)
912 41st Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.462.3120.
Best Specialty Car RepairFolks Café
For 20 years this humble shop on Soquel (formerly known as Volks Café) has been repairing the official vehicle of Santa Cruz at a fraction of the price charged by the dealer down the street. The mechanics are kind, honest and stand by their work. What more could you want? (TH)
1823 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.426.1244.
Best Way to Get Your Craft OnThe Crafter's Studio
Screen-printing, metalsmithing and custom candlemaking are among the 30 different offerings at this serious craft lover's heaven on Earth. Everything needed for making soap from scratch in just three to four hours is included in a workshop fee. Gift certificates are a stealthy way to help someone discover his or her latent passion for Polaroid transfers or glass bead making. (JN)
504b Front St., Santa Cruz. 831.421.9605.
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