Photograph by CARLIE STATSKY
Men and Meat: Josh Woollery is one reason Shopper's Corner wins the readers' choice for best butcher.
Goods & Services
If there's another town that can even support separate categories for best acupuncturist, best holistic practitioner and best massage therapist--much less sustain heated races within those categories--we'd like to know about it so we can send it a big fat karmic kiss (unless Mercury's retrograde, in which case we'll do no such thing because who needs that kind of trouble?). And if that marvelous place also has at least three great butcher shops and a bunch of sex stores, well, we'll be a monkey's uncle, because we've found Santa Cruz's twin separated at birth.
Best BookstoreBookshop Santa Cruz
Any disposable income would be well spent at Santa Cruz's renowned local independent bookstore. Beyond just the bestsellers, Bookshop's fiction and nonfiction sections have a hand-selected array of Not Oprah's Bookclub reads, and the children's section is family-friendly and sensibly organized by age group. Check out the staff recommendations--they know their reads and this community.
1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.0900.
Best ButcherShopper's Corner
The historic independent grocery's entertaining meat/deli counter is amply staffed with knowledgeable and friendly servers all day long. You always get exactly what you want, wrapped in brown paper and delivered with a smile. The quality of the fresh meat is excellent, and the real Italian pancetta and chicken apple sausages are special favorites.
622 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.1398.
Best Children's ClothingBaby Shoppe Santa Cruz
Locally owned and operated, this children's boutique specializes in eco-friendly products that are all natural and nontoxic. Offering up the latest in stroller innovation, eco-fashion and toys, Baby Shoppe has become a fast favorite over larger chain children's stores. Personalized services like a nursing station, play area and changing table make shopping for the tykes surprisingly smooth.
1101 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.600.8406.
Celebrating 40 years as Santa Cruz's go-to gallery of fabrics of all shades, patterns and materials, local seamstresses are hard pressed to walk out empty-handed. The knowledgeable staff are happy to help their customers tackle the overwhelming stock of merchandise--everything from fashion fabrics, swimsuit material, eco-friendly cloth and all the bows and trimmings to put the finishing touch on any cloth confection.
1620 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.5434.
Best Flower ShopFlower Shack
After 20 years in a former Shopper's Corner storage shed, the always adorable Flower Shack is known for its eclectic mix of unusual blooms presented open-air market style along with the staple varieties. The Shack sources everything locally from South County and sometimes features organic fauna as well. If you're truly in the doghouse, the shop also features jewelry and other gifties.
614 S. Branciforte Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.3877.
Best Furniture StoreSC41
Though the fire that destroyed WorkSpace in January spared the spacious showroom floor of SC41 in Soquel, the 3 million gallons of water used to put it out did not. But store employees report that nearly all their high-quality, environmentally friendly furniture emerged with no damage--which is why they tout their wares as the heirlooms of the future. Their grand reopening next month will still feature dining room tables, sofas and chairs made from sustainably grown hardwood and bamboo, along with a new line of upholstered furniture, mattresses and organic linens and towels.
2647 41st Ave., Soquel. 831.464.2228.
Best Green BusinessGreenspace
A jolly green giant of home improvement, this center serves all levels of eco-concern, from the occasional conservationist (bamboo kitchenware, all natural soaps and candles) all the way up to Captain Planet. The staff can completely outfit any Planeteer pad with paint, tiles, flooring, water-saving devices, furnishings and countertops to squash that carbon footprint down to toenail trimmings.
1122 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.7200.
Best GymToadal Fitness
There are a million ways to get fit. But if modern amenities like aerobic machines, free weights, yoga and kickboxing are what you need to feel the burn, there's no better place than Toadal Fitness to turn up the heat. A gym for everyday folks, this fitness center prides itself on a relaxed atmosphere, quality equipment and a superfriendly staff.
1200 17th Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.464.3764.
113 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.3764.
Best LandscaperTerra Nova
Owned and run by the astonishingly lanky, energetic Ken Foster, Terra Nova brings the world's newest--and oldest--techniques to making home landscapes sustainable, economical and easy to maintain, with an emphasis on low power and water use and preserving the planet for future dwellers of our fragile common world.
815 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.425.3514.
Best Local BankBay Federal Credit Union
Government bailouts, credit crunch, Bernie Madoff? It's enough to drive you insane--or broke. Why not use a local bank? They're a safer bet these days, and Bay Federal has some of the friendliest employees around. Better than the shoebox under the mattress, right?
Best Local BusinessGraphfix
Carrying all the rage in kitschy knick-knacks and eclectic art, locally owned Graphfix is a downtown shopping hot spot. Perfect for gifts or dressing up a drab space, the selection of abstract prints and quirky jewelry never disappoints. Aside from hard-to-find pieces, Graphfix also carries a selection of original oil paintings--a far cry from the big commercial print shops.
1229 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.425.8086.
Best Nail SalonTonic
This full-service salon and spa offers pampering manicure and pedicure treatments that will satisfy even the pickiest beauty junkie. Relax with a warm cup of tea while being gently massaged, polished and beautified. For extra indulgence, add a paraffin wax treatment that will soften the skin and seal in the moisture.
765 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.426.4311.
Best Natural Food StoreNew Leaf Market
This local chain of stores doesn't sacrifice quality when it comes to your quinoa or dried apricots. Prices are relatively reasonable for the high quality, healthy choices New Leaf prides itself on.
1101 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.426.1306.
1134 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.425.1793.
1210 41st Ave., Capitola. 831.479.7987.
13159 Central Ave., Boulder Creek. 831.338.7211.
6240 Hwy. 9, Felton. 831.335.7322.
Best Naughty StoreCamouflage
The coveted back room of Pacific Avenue's charming sex shop has tantalized every kid in town under the age of 18. No a place for inhibitions, the room's extensive collection of adult trinkets includes aphrodisiac candles, boxes of booby pasta, a notable amount of pornographic videos and the frequently sold-out We-Vibe--the first ever hands-free vibrator for use during intercourse.
1329 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.1129.
Best Piercing Studio/Tattoo StudioStaircase Tattoo
Since 1992, Staircase has been inking up the masses and giving them something to regret years (or days) down the line. Owner Jim McDermott should be proud to have earned this award, with so many body art artisans in Santa Cruz. Piercing is also a huge part of the business, and is a fashionable and less permanent way to set yourself apart--or, in Santa Cruz, to fit in.
628 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.7644.
Best Record/CD StoreStreetlight Records
A mix of warehouse, loft and shrine to both mass and edge cultures, the cavernous Streetlight Records reflects most fully what popular music has always been about beneath the gloss: structure filled with barely controlled chaos, bursting at the seams and beckoning one to take a risk on something new.
939 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.421.9200.
Best Soak & SaunaWell Within
An oasis from the hustle and bustle of downtown, Well Within has been providing tubs, saunas and dry heat for relaxation and serenity for decades. After a massage and soak in the Japanese-themed space, you'll feel at peace with yourself and the world around you once you leave.
417 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.458.9355.
Best Surf ShopO'Neill Surf Shop
The O'Neill name is to surfing what salt is to seawater--you can't have one without the other. With three locations to serve the area, it's hard to compete with the legendary service and product O'Neill has been churning out since the early '50s.
1115 41st Ave., Capitola. 831.475.4151.
110 Cooper St., Santa Cruz. 831.469.4377.
400 Beach St., Santa Cruz. 831.459.9230.
Best Thrift StoreGoodwill
A direct way to recycle is to delve into all these hard-to-ignore bargains, which are either bought with practical intentions or by mere impulse. Some memorable finds of ours include the watermelon jumpsuit that made a great last-minute Halloween costume two years ago and the silk tie that gave an invigorating dash of color to that old suit previously exiled to the back of the closet.
204 Union St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.1078.
103 Whispering Pines Drive, Scotts Valley. 831.430.9029.
1550 41st Ave., Capitola. 831.462.1300.
470 Main St., Watsonville. 831.722.2376.
Best YogaVillage Yoga
The evolving Bikram yoga establishment offers classes at various levels of experience. Their fearless instructors promote self-empowerment through the practice of 26 challenging postures. Classrooms are heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit to encourage increased flexibility and blood circulation, along with a heavy downpour of sweat as the body drains of toxins. An accessible location makes taking these rewarding "fire yoga" classes a viable daily commitment.
1106 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.425.9642.
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