Results of the 2005 Best Of Monterey County ™ Readers Poll.

Best Of: Shopping & Services:

Best Wine Market


1170 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove  656-0180

It’s a beautiful thing when supply and demand conspire and the outcome actually proves beneficial to the consumer. Trader Joe’s buys excess product in large volume, direct from manufacturers, pays in cash, stocks their stores full of these goodies, and sells them at good prices. It’s this formula that keeps the place packed, but it’s the wine that put this place on the map. From their (in)famous $1.99-a-bottle Charles Shaw (“Two Buck Chuck”) to the $120-a-bottle Joseph Phelps Insignia Cabernet, there is truly a wine for every tax bracket. Average wine price at Joe’s is a whopping seven bucks. A bonne santé! [CJ]

Best Bookstore—New


Edgewater Center, Sand City  899-6643

Border’s in Sand City is a booklovers’ paradise. They have an encyclopedic selection of reading materials, cozy places to camp out, a helpful staff, and an easy-to-navigate, albeit sprawling one-level setup. What makes this particular store so great is the calm, comfortable atmosphere of the space itself. Even during early afternoon, when the café is packed and hurried lunch-break shoppers fill the aisles, Border’s is never all that noisy. Plus, they host readings, rally behind local authors and sponsor book clubs. [CP]

Best Bookstore—Used


639A Lighthouse Ave, Monterey  375-2665

RIP Old Capitol. Although it has been chosen in Monterey County, several times as Best Used Bookstore, Old Capitol closed its doors about three weeks ago. The store, once crammed to the ceiling with a wide range of books, was a favorite for browsing during wet and foggy days. History and fiction were its strong areas, but it has now become history. Staff packing up on closing day lamented the popularity of the Internet (“it’s good for some things, just not browsing books”) and urged customers to still support local used bookstores, while they’re around. [CC]

Best Car Dealership


5 Heitzinger Plaza, Seaside  393-3020

When Toyota opened its first stateside dealership in 1957, they only sold 287 Toyota Crowns and one Land Cruiser the entire year. Those days are long gone. During 2003, sales topped two million in North America alone. Camrys and Sequoias and Tundras, oh my! In part, that’s because of the service…customer service, that is. Victory’s customer service is second to none, and the same goes for their impressive selection of new and pre-owned vehicles which is sure to have you scrambling for your latest credit report. Victory’s parts and service department and their convenient online dealership seal the deal. [CJ]

Best Car Repair Shop


1123 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove  372-6575

Bringing an automobile to a repair shop can be an agonizing process full of unanswered questions, unexpectedly large fees, and wasted time. The employees of Forest Hill Auto Service are not only friendly and helpful, they are also responsive to their customer’s budget and time; it is of utmost importance to try to get cars out on the same day they come in. The Forest Hill staff care about their customers as people and empathize with the difficulty of having to be without a car. [AJ]

Best Place You Can’t Take Your Parents


2116 Fremont St, Monterey  372-9430

Whether you’re in search of that perfect gag gift for a coworker or a special love toy to help spice up an old or new romance, the Nu-Art is the place that will end your listless search. The staff is friendly and willing to help a customer find that special item. Adult videos, books, magazines, toys, and novelties—obviously, do not bring your parents anywhere near the place. [AJ]

Best Place to Rent Videos/DVDS


1130 Fremont Blvd, Seaside  393-9093

To prevent the customers from slipping into a psychedelic trance of purple walls and shiny black floors, Hollywood Video keeps their lights dim. The ambiance is soothing as the quest for a night of entertainment begins. Don’t fret if there are no more copies of the new SpongeBob Squarepants movie available. Many new releases are guaranteed in stock, which entitles the customer to a rain check and a free rental if the movie’s out. [AJ]

Best Spa


229 Main St, Salinas  422-2500

From tension relief massages to mud wraps to salt glows, Aquablue Spa offers treatments that can relax and beautify even the most desperately uptight of us—within a reasonable price range. Owner Frank Savino focuses on training his friendly staff to provide amazing service on all the spa treatments—including a popular “take 10 years off” facial. Pampering goes with socializing: nearby Hullaballoo Restaurant provides lunch catering for spa parties, while couples and friends can enjoy a suite for two. [BW]

Best Yoga Center


170 Central Ave, Pacific Grove  333-1007

Bikram yoga promises a lot. Benefits may include the flushing out of cholesterol, enhanced sexual function, the release of negative emotions, lubricated joints, weight loss and hormone regulation—a “body and life overhaul.” The cost? One and half hours of sweaty posturing in a super-toasty room. At the Yoga Sanctuary in PG, now under new ownership, the chance for blissful hot health awaits. [BW]

Best Shoe Store


3630 The Barnyard, Carmel  625-2055

Ocean near Mission, Carmel  624-5580

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “addiction” as a “persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.” So hogwash to ubiquitous man-terms like “shoe addiction.” It’s practically an oxymoron. After all, what harm could a sweet little shoe ever do? Fine and supple leather uppers, undulating soles, delicate but firm heels. Why, those terms conjure up nothing but pure pedal nirvana. Hedi’s must agree, considering they shop the entire world for designers just to make sure every little foot’s whim is comfortably covered. It’s their credo. Seems really the only harm to be done when it comes to shoes is not finding the perfect shoe. But at Hedi’s? Nonsense, dahling. [MC]

Best Bike Store


486 Washington St, Monterey  375-2144

If they had degrees in bicycle theory, the staff at Aquarian Bicycles would have earned their Ph.D.s years ago. The Aquarian offers adequate floor space to house an extensive selection of over 100 bikes available for sale. And these bicycle doctors can fix almost any problem your ailing bike may have. Always the first to carry the hottest frames, gear and accessories, it’s easy to see why the Aquarian reigns as top dog. [CJ]

Best Car Wash


590 Fremont St, Monterey  373-1801

Whether you own a 20-year-old classic Ford or a brand new Lamborghini, an El Estero car wash will take your automobile on a journey to the Land of Clean. Different from most car washes, El Estero is operated by real people rather than automated robots. This human touch really gives the wash an overall better quality, impossible with drive-thru washes. Several different packages are offered. The most basic includes a full-service wash, interior vacuum, polish, clear coat protection, and a pretty-smellin’ fragrance, for $15. For those needing a deep, meticulous clean, El Estero offers complete hand detailing service. [AJ]

Best Place to Buy a Cell Phone


836 Playa Ave, Sand City  393-8290

Given the camera, video, Internet and text-messaging technologies available on cell phones today, the process of landing the phone to fit your needs can be daunting. And trying to understanding the rate structures—forget about it. But Verizon’s customer service can make the process of getting a new phone fun again. With three new models just in, choose from 14 phones and a handful of monthly plans that will keep you gabbing in all of the most inappropriate places. [CJ]

Best Massage Therapist


229 Main St, Salinas  422-2500

Is there anything worse than a meek massage, the kind where the massage therapist can barely penetrate a muscle? That won’t even come close to describing 80 minutes in Frank’s hands. You won’t want to budge an inch during this Reiki Master’s deep-tissue rub. “It’s all about stretching and long Swedish strokes,” he says. Add heated beds, candlelight, scented oils and down comforters, and there’s plenty of extra “mmmmm” in his mix. “When I meet with my clients afterward, they go ‘Wow,’ and that makes me feel great,” he says. Obviously, the feeling great part is mutual. [MC]

Best Plumber


307 Grand Ave, Pacific Grove  375-4591

For seven years running, Weekly readers have declared Wilson’s Plumbing and Heating the finest plumbing service in Monterey County. From nasty drainage problems to air-conditioning to new construction projects to solar panels—Wilson’s does it all and stands behind their work. A showroom in Pacific Grove and 24/7 emergency services ensure efficient and quick plumbing and heating services. Though it’s not confirmed, we’d imagine suspenders have also contributed to customer satisfaction. [NP]

Best Place to Buy CDs/Tapes


26135 Carmel Rancho Blvd, Carmel  625-1229

With a tremendous selection of CDs, tapes, videos, and DVDs to choose from, even the pickiest customers at Do Re Mi are almost certain to find what they’re looking for. Also, the store prides itself in allowing you to walk in, pick up a CD and give it a listen before you make your purchase, preventing any tragic confusions with what album you really want to purchase. Music lovers know these qualities are what makes Do Re Mi the best place to shop for music in Monterey County. [NP]

Best Tanning Salon


234 Monterey St, Salinas  753-1400

Whether you like it standing up or on your back, Janika is the place to come strip and sun. When Jason and Nika Legan opened the doors to their 5,000-square-foot Salinas tanning salon one year ago, the local couple outdid themselves in their efforts to cater to the beauty demands of discriminating sun worshippers. With 10 European tanning beds, a UV-free spray machine, a leg tanner, a stand-up booth, and an extensive product line, including Designer Skin, the Legans feed the Vitamin D fix for the county’s bronzed and beautiful. [CP]

Best Antique Shop


301 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove  373-3505

There’s something fascinating about a piece of furniture that has lived longer than you. Whether it’s an 18th century New England corner cabinet or an elegant English Rosewood footstool, it’s more exciting when a history lesson tags along. Sipping cocktails out of tinted ‘60s stemware or dining under a Tiffany light fixture is all the more stylish. If age adds character and drama, than Mrs. Trotter’s 40 years in business and countless hard-to-find treasures make shopping at her jam-packed shop A Midsummer Night’s Dream of antiquing. [CP]  

Best Ethnic Market


580 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey  375-9451

It’s hard to miss at the International Market. Half Lebanese sisters, Vickii DiBartolomeo and Subrina Haidar serve up super tasty Middle Eastern fare—gyros, Greek salad, spanikopita and tsaziki. But what earns International Market its faithful clientele are its colorful aisles of Russian, Turkish, Indian, and Lebanese specialty items, like locally made Russian dumplings, six varieties of feta, teas, fruit syrups and exotic spices. And if they don’t carry an item, Vickii will scour the markets from here to San Francisco to find it. [CP]

Best Seafood Market


598 Foam St, Monterey  646-0547

100 The Crossroads, Carmel  626-3626

We all know that the freshest fish doesn’t smell “fishy.” It’s no shock, then, that at Sea Harvest, where they have every kind of seafood laying pristinely in their displays, the only smell is Peninsula air. It’s not by mistake: Owners Richard, Daniel and David Deyerle go to great lengths to make sure their endless selection of salmon, sea bass, petrole sole, snapper, rock cod, catfish, Mexican prawns, ahi tuna, Mahi Mahi, you-name-it-and-they-will-find-it-fresh, smells good: whether their fish is from their own boats, from local fisherman they meet on the docks at Moss Landing, or flown in on special refrigerated planes, it is universally on ice minutes after catch time, expertly filleted and on display faster than you can say “halibut.” [MCA]

Best Esthetician


229 Main St, Salinas  422-2500

Beauty is a luxury reserved for supermodels, fresh-faced high school girls, and fairy tale princesses. Right? Not so, says wax mistress and savvy skin expert Jessica Knecht, who works at the Old Town Salinas pampering powerhouse, Aquablue. Facial lovers flock to Knecht to supercharge their dry, tired, wrinkled, blemished, and stressed-out skin and get a healthy, rosy glow. Knecht, who specializes in result-oriented facials—like acne treatments and anti-aging glycolic peels—helps clients put their best face forward. Her take-home targeted product regimens help keep pores looking perfect. [CP]

Best Toy Store


7th and San Carlos, Carmel  624-0441

480 Del Monte Center, Monterey  643-0907

Usually 15 minutes before a youngster’s birthday party, my kids and I pile frantically into the car in search of a gift. Over and over, we hit Thinker Toys—located both in Carmel and Monterey. The larger Carmel store lures kids with a mesmerizing window display of a toy Ferris wheel, oinking stuffed pigs at the entrance, and an overhead train track with an electric choo choo. Toys are mostly non-plastic, and include dolls, games, stuffed animals, pedal cars, books and puzzles. Despite the lack of sugary plastic glitz, the toys really appeal to kids. In fact, the worst part about the last minute rush to the shop isn’t picking out the toys, it’s keeping my kids away from them while the store employees efficiently wrap our purchases. [BW]

Best Computer Store


534 Abrego St, Monterey  649-5900

In the late ’80s, John Blankfort was toiling in the stodgy business of journalism when the silicon gleam of a new computer age caught his eye. Figuring he “couldn’t make any less money,” Blankfort opened PC People on Abrego in Monterey, and has been fixing computers in the area ever since. “It’s all about customer service,” he explains. “We believe the business is about more than just computers. It’s the people that really count.” [RM]

Best Dive Shop


2040 Del Monte Ave, Monterey  375-1933

Since 1970, Aquarius has been gearing up divers and instructing them to explore the wonders of the Monterey Bay safely. The staff is very cool, very approachable and knowledgeable, and their gear is always top of the line and affordable too. I bought my Bare 7mm wetsuit from them a while ago and the whole process was as pleasant and painless as a deco stop at 30 feet. [RM]

Best Golf Shop


2040 Fremont Blvd, Monterey  583-1000

Some feel Golfmart’s inventory—including thousands of clubs from a dozen manufacturers—is the number one attraction for local duffers. They could be right. Then again, it might be their 800-square-foot putting green. Or their full swing simulator and NASA-esque launch monitor (with tiny hyperquick cameras to help golfers find the right driver by calculating the spin and trajectory off the face of their club). Quite possibly, it’s their 90-day satisfaction guarantee, which virtually invites customers to buy a driver and let the big dog eat for a while before “finally” deciding to keep it. [MCA]

Best Photo Store


472 Alvarado St, Monterey  655-1840

213 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove  373-3686

350 Main St, Salinas  424-5247

In the same way that hyperbolic TV commentators have drained the words “absolutely unbelievable” of meaning, marketers have destroyed the phrase “friendly customer service.” Thankfully, Chuck Karno of Green’s Camera World in Salinas doesn’t need to tell customers he cares. They know it because despite being well into typical retirement age, Karno keeps outfitting folks with the right gear to immortalize their favorite moments: He’s been doing so for over 30 years. But Karno is by no means unique at Green’s; the staff averages more than 15 years experience. And if their expertise in digital and film photography and developing isn’t enough, they offer free classes for customers led by factory-trained representatives from the camera manufacturers themselves. [MCA]

Best Retirement Community


200 Glenwood Circle, Monterey  373-6126

Nestled in the forest behind Monterey Peninsula College lies a community where about 250 folks spend their days attending on-site heath seminars and book lectures by visiting authors, taking yoga classes, playing billiards or just gazing out over Monterey from their garden-cradled apartments. By night, they take in on-site theater productions and concerts. As 77-year-old Fritzie Millard says, “We’re not assisted living, not a retirement home—we have lots of fun on our terms.” Ready to move in? You may be out of luck. You have to be at least 62 years young to bunk up at Park Lane. [MCA]

Best Salon


Mission and 7th, Carmel  626-1223

From its light, airy interior to the sunny, outdoor fountain area, Mantra takes its guests to a place of pure peacefulness and relaxation. An Aveda concepts salon, Mantra offers a full service spa with everything from hair color and design to facials and other skin services. Every service uses natural or organic pure plant and flower essences, and with each one, guests enjoy six complimentary sensory experiences including Aveda comforting tea, a hand relief treatment, foot bath, essential oil scalp massage, style and make-up finishing touch. Leave feeling pampered and rejuvenated. [JL]

Best Secondhand Clothing Store

LUNABLU (formerly Blue Moon Trading Company)

176 Bonifacio Plaza, Monterey  641-0616

Spring’s new looks range from boho to tribal to gypsy-chic. It’s an eclectic look—what better place to find a unique take on the runways looks than Lunablu, formerly Blue Moon, with its unique collection of vintage and second-hand clothing and accessories. Shop for animal prints, embroidery, metallics, tunics, big handbags, and rest assured that your friends can’t run right out and score the same piece. Chances are, at Lunablu, it’s one of a kind. Which does lead to one shopping dilemma. If shopping with girlfriends, be prepared to throw an elbow, pull hair, or point up in the sky to create some distraction. In other words, be prepared to muscle your way through to get the goods, or leave the shopping buddies at home. [JL]

Best Thrift Store


571 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey  649-6056

729 Broadway, Seaside  394-1212

1258 N. Main St, Salinas  449-6361

708 E. Alisal St, Salinas  424-5346

The heavily accented senior citizen in front of me in line calls the Goodwill “the bess placess to buys literrratures.” The hipster behind me in the “Christian Rap is the Sh*t” T-shirt swears it’s the place for cheap clothes. The mousy lady behind her shakes her head intensely. “The picture frames,” she squeaks, holding up a nice wooden 8x10. “One dollar.” At the end of the line, a man with a barstool rolls his eyes. Apparently, none of them saw the large stuffed animal under my arm, or they’d know the Goodwill’s actually the best place to get day-glo orange orangutans with fuzzy backs, pliable belly-buttons and stitched tattoos that say “I Love You.”  (Two bucks even.) [MCA]

Best Women’s Clothing Boutique (Tie)


510 Lighthouse Ave, Suite 4, Pacific Grove  649-8866


Ocean and Dolores, Carmel  626-2773

Ladies, let your innermost glamour girl run—and spend—freely, and chalk it up to retail therapy. For Monterey County fashionistas, The Clothing Store and Paloosh are must-shop-at destinations. While the styles may be what brings shoppers through the doors, it’s the friendly service that keeps ‘em coming back. In PG, The Clothing Store, “home to the most sophisticated, stylish, and fashionable women” for 25 years, features high-end designers including Babette, Joseph Ribkoff, Nicola Berti Leathers, Sorelli and Hanky Panky. In Carmel, Paloosh is a mecca of chic couture, with racks of BCBG, Juicy Couture, Ella Moss, Lacoste and Diane von Furstenberg. [JL]

Best Shopping District/Center


1410 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey 373-2705

There is a ring in retail heaven devoted to malls, just as there is a corresponding ring in hell. The Del Monte Center—with its pretty garden walkways, fine department stores and boutiques, with its restaurants, coffee shops and theaters—is clearly a mall of the heavenly variety. And it would be possible to spend an eternity at the Del Monte Center, walking from Mervyn’s to Macy’s to Uptown Jeans, listening to musical performances in the courtyard, and polishing off treats at eateries like Chipotle, Pizza My Heart, and California Pizza Kitchen. [EJ]

Best Grocery Store


800 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey  333-1600

A natural foods supermarket. What a concept. Whole Foods wins our readers’ hearts (and votes) with local organic produce, a first-rate butcher shop and seafood counter, aisle upon aisle of preservative-free prepared foods, a well-stocked deli, a good wine selection, fair-trade coffee, friendly service—Whole Foods even offers classes, in its Salud! storefront next door, in imaginative ways to use everything inside. As a bonus, the store also seems to attract the most attractive people on the Peninsula—proof that eating health food pays off in good looks? [EJ]

Best Selection of Liquor


1112 Forest Ave, Pacific Grove  372-6091

2210 N. Fremont St., Monterey  372-8246

606 E. Alisal St., Salinas  424-5244

Once upon a time there was a local liquor store dynasty. The king of this enterprise was Ron Pollacci, owner of Ron’s Liquors in Carmel and Pacific Grove, as well as three stores all called Cork ‘n’ Bottle. Sometime during this history, the Cork ‘n’ Bottle stores began winning the Weekly’s reader poll. And that tradition continues this year. Now, the PG store is owned by Ron’s son and daughter in law, David and Brenda Pollacci, the Monterey store is owned by Jay Lee, and the Salinas store is owned by Viney Syal. They continue to keep the shelves stocked, and they keep on winning. [EJ]

Best Organic Produce Market


800 Del Monte Shopping Center, Monterey 333-1600

Let’s review: Organic produce cuts down on the use of pesticides and fertilizers so it’s better for the planet. Organic produce—especially when it’s local (a Whole Foods specialty) is good for the best part of the ag economy—the small, family-sized farm. Buying organic produce supports an ancient skill and industry that has kept our species alive for millenia. Also important: Organic produce tastes better. Whole Foods is the biggest seller of organic produce in the world—so the company is good at it; in our readers’ eyes,  they’re the best. [EJ]

Best Surf Shop


693 Lighthouse, Monterey  646-9283

The day after Thanksgiving, On the Beach Surf Shop finally moved into their redesigned huge 6,000 square foot store. Laid out like a tropical village, there seems to be a little bit of everything for anyone that is interested in surf culture. In addition to the merchandise, there is a classic surfboard museum for old-timers wanting to relive the glory days in their mind, a lounge with X Box for teenaged surfers, and an aquarium—which will soon have every fish featured in the movie Finding Nemo—for the smallest grommets. [ST]

Best Florist


431 Alvarado St, Monterey  375-2725

110 John St, Salinas  424-2725

684 E Boronda Rd, Salinas  442-2725

The petal-pushing geniuses at Swenson&Silacci have been in the flower biz for 60 years. More than just a neighborhood florist, they have a knack for coupling their customer’s ideas with their fresh, exotic flowers to create arrangements that are nothing short of earthly delights. Their under-$10 “Blooming Bunches” are sure to get any guy out of the doghouse, and their stunning selection of Tuscan-inspired gifts are perfect for impromptu Get Well, Birthday and Anniversary giving. Bonus: S&S delivers all over the Peninsula. [CP]

Best Jewelry Store


447 Alvarado St, Monterey  375-5332

510 Lighthouse Ave, Suite 3, Pacific Grove  648-1550

From bejeweled bracelets to flirty gold earrings to sparkly diamond rings, there are plenty of rocks and baubles at Gasper’s Jewelry for any woman to play real-life dress-up. Specializing in quality stones, settings, necklaces and several Swiss watch lines, Gasper Spadaro prides himself for cherry picking stylish designs that will still be in en vogue beyond next season. And if you don’t find a twinkly delight from the old school display cases, rest assured the long-time jeweler will custom create a design just for you. [CP]

Best Nursery


9220 Carmel Valley Rd, Carmel  626-0680

1020 David Ave, Pacific Grove  373-449

Griggs springs up like a lush sanctuary as you drive down Carmel Valley Road. An idyllic stroll through a garden that meanders through a symphony of scents will have you imagining yourself twirling amongst a colorful orchestra of plantings. Griggs carries all of the standard flowers, plants, shrubbery, succulents, and trees, as well as exotic varieties. And their knowledgeable staff will give even serial plant killers a fighting chance at cultivating a green thumb. [CP]

Best Gourmet Shop


465 Canyon Del Rey Blvd, Del Rey Oaks  392-1494

Named for the late Clementine (RIP, lil’ doggie), Clementine’s Kitchen offers all the basics and more for true cooking enthusiasts. You’ll find tried-and-true kitchen necessities—whisks, graters, and every imaginable baking accessory, as well as hard-to-find tools and the latest gadgets. There are shelves of spreads, jellies and sauces, sea salts and olive oils, as well as a serious cheese selection. Easy on-site parking, indoor and outdoor café tables, and in-store demonstrations and classes make shopping oh-so enjoyable. [CP]

Best Bank


13 Locations  800-869-3557

Twenty three million customers in 23 states can’t be wrong—and you know it’s not just because they’re suckers for the Wild West ad schtick. Nah, we love that Wells Fargo has 31 ATM machines throughout the county—so chances are, when the clock is creeping towards last call and you haven’t quite finished playing, that a money machine will be within walking distance. Wells Fargo is voted among the 100 Best Companies for professional moms by Working Mother and ranked one of top 50 safest banks worldwide by Global Finance. [CP]

Best Pet Store


2020 California Ave, Sand City  392-0150

1265 N Davis Rd, Salinas  775-0318

With its maze of stocked-to-the-sky aisles displaying every imaginable item you need to pamper your canines, kitties, feathered and finned friends, Petsmart makes for a fun family outing. Heck, you can even bring your furry friend along to test out cushy doggie beds or pick out a new toy to tear apart. Petsmart also provides an outstanding range of services, including veterinary care, grooming, training classes and pet adoption. Whether your companion has two legs or four, it’s love and licks all around at Petsmart. [CP]

Best Dry Cleaners


222 Grand Ave, Pacific Grove  375-2494

The Uchida family has been rescuing PG residents from fashion emergencies since 1926. Need a red wine stain removed from your Dolce&Gabbana gown? Sequins re-stitched? A hemline put back in its place? No problem. The skilled staff can fix your most heinous laundry faux pas, and still dry clean, starch and press your everyday shirts and trousers in a snap. They offer pick-up and delivery services for locals, and in addition to having one heckuva sense of humor, they have the prettiest counter staff in all of PG. [CP]

Best Neighborhood Market


59 Junipero Ave, Carmel  624-3821

Bruno’s has become more than a fixture in the Carmel community. Folks chat in the aisles, the cashiers know your name, and everyone gets a friendly smile. They understand their customers’ demand for fresh, healthy products. For a family-owned neighborhood store, Bruno’s seems to carry everything: high-quality fresh produce, a full service meat department, Oakwood barbecue, and fresh pressed juices. For quick and easy meals, check out their homemade sandwiches and salads. And they deliver locally. [CP]

Best Furniture Store


7th Ave&Dolores, Carmel  624-6499

Homescapes Carmel is such a find. With its handpicked imports from Asia, Africa, Russia and the Americas, it’s a happy hunting ground for the eclectic set. And owners/brothers Thompson and Beau Lange travel the globe to stock plenty of stylish things that are surprisingly affordable. Service is friendly, helpful and never pretentious. [CP]

Best Place to Buy Art/Craft Supplies


639 Lighthouse Ave, Monterey  373-3900

It’s organized, well-lit and well-stocked. Helpful people—who obviously have an artistic bent, staff it. But unlike a lot of art school grads, these folks know how to deliver service. Searle carries the usual classy fine art stuff, as well as an extensive array of commercial art supplies, kid stuff and craft materials you can’t find at the other stores. The local artist exhibits are another reason why this place is so special. [CP]

Best Internet Provider


712 Hawthorne St, Monterey  655-8710

For the technology-challenged or for when things get glitchy (and with all things tech—they do), Redshift is there to hold your hand and make things better. With 20-plus dedicated employees and high ratings from SBC, the Central Coast trusts Redshift for all their dial-up, DSL, ISDN, T-1, domain registration, Web hosting and design needs. Call them 24/7 and you’ll get to talk with a real live person who knows what they are talking about. Swing by their Monterey location and say “hi”—the crew would love to meet you. [CP]

Best Men’s Clothing Store


3744 The Barnyard, Carmel  625-8106

For most men, shopping for clothes can be quite painful. Many succumb to the unrelenting help and wisdom of a girlfriend, wife or even mother. Save a little pride and employ the help of professionals that can design a wardrobe just for you. These personal consultants can order hard-to-find designs and offer expert tailoring. It’s their job to make you look good. Surrounded by brands like Robert Talbott, Ermengeldo Zenga, Luciano Barberra and Etro might intimidate some. But don’t be bashful, try it on! You don’t need a million bucks to walk out looking like it. [CJ]

Best Store for Musical Instruments


425 Alvarado St, Monterey  372-5893

This full-line music store offers anything and everything from guitars to amps to keyboards to drums to saxophones—this store rocks, literally. Music Unlimited beats all competitor Internet prices, says Manager John Prock. Dust off that hot pink Flying-V that’s been sitting in the closet since 1989 and take it in, because Music Unlimited buys used musical equipment too. Open seven days a week, with a knowledgeable staff that can repair damaged instruments or provide private lessons on your new instrument. [CJ]

Best Hardware Store


800 Playa Ave, Seaside  899-5144

1067 N Davis Rd, Salinas  422-9652

One cool thing about Orchard Supply is that it’s the right size. It’s about as big as a hardware store can be and still be a real hardware store—not a big-box mega-retailer that happens to sell hammers and shovels. So Orchard has lots of stuff—all the basic home maintenance gear, plus fancy grills, a nursery and garden supply department, and on and on—and it’s staffed by guys and gals who know a little bit about it all. Plus Orchard is almost local—it’s flagship is just up the highway in San Jose, which may account for the neighborly vibe. And there’s not a lot more neighborly than hardware shopping. [EJ]

Best Shoe Repair Shop


542 Abrego St, Monterey  649-3322

She was new in town, and she’d gotten a whirlwind tour of the city’s essentials: beach, hospital, boutique, coffeehouse, shoe repair. Federico’s. “You can drive through and have your shoe fixed while you wait,” she was told. “Never, ever take your shoes anywhere else,” was the warning. And she hasn’t. Hollywould, Giuseppe, Manolo, Stuart, DSquared2, Jimmy—every last sole is in the best of hands at Federico’s posh little downtown shoe resort. They primp, buff, shine, and polish better than any shoe could ever dream. She doesn’t trust many for much, but in Federico’s hands, she knows her shoes are loved as much as she could ever love them. [MC]

Best Pharmacy


Ten locations

There is a great tradition among American drug stores to carry “sundries”—a little bit of everything. Longs has expanded that tradition vastly over the store’s 67-year history; it’s become something like a super supermarket—with everything from gourmet food products, to wine, to fancy beauty supplies, to an in-house film processing center. But our readers still pick it for their favorite place to get their prescriptions filled. [EJ]

Best Outdoor Store


2222 N Fremont, Monterey  373-3615

If your pleasure in fishing, camping, canoeing and hunting has waned a bit, you should have no problem reviving it with a visit to Outdoor World. Fully stocked with everything from first aid kits to four-person tents, they have every essential to take even the most hardcore outdoor enthusiasts to places far off the beaten path—in style, comfort and safety. And with summer right around the corner, their beach, pool and barbecue gear ensure lots of fun in the sun. [CP]

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