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Gettin' Goods: Best of SLO County 2016 

click to enlarge BEST FARM/PRODUCE STAND: AVILA VALLEY BARN:  Apples and berries have been sold along Avila Beach Drive since 1985. What started out as a single table and umbrella evolved into a gigantic barn serving up homemade pies, jams, jellies, and fresh produce—and now goats, hayrides, homemade ice cream, and pumpkins have joined in the mix. “It was definitely a process,” Avila Valley Barn owner Debbie Smith said. Now, seven family members work alongside other employees, and the grandkids help out on the weekends. It’s an evolution that keeps on building. - DESIGN BY ALEX ZUNIGA
  • DESIGN BY ALEX ZUNIGA
  • BEST FARM/PRODUCE STAND: AVILA VALLEY BARN: Apples and berries have been sold along Avila Beach Drive since 1985. What started out as a single table and umbrella evolved into a gigantic barn serving up homemade pies, jams, jellies, and fresh produce—and now goats, hayrides, homemade ice cream, and pumpkins have joined in the mix. “It was definitely a process,” Avila Valley Barn owner Debbie Smith said. Now, seven family members work alongside other employees, and the grandkids help out on the weekends. It’s an evolution that keeps on building.

BEST BOOKSTORE

Phoenix Books

986 Monterey St., SLO

Longtime Phoenix Books Owner Bruce Miller is turning the store over to his son, Evan Miller-Donnelly, after 35 years. “It will be a great challenge but I’m up for it!” Evan said. They source many of their volumes through purchase and trade with the local community. The store offers first editions, rare books, and signed copies. “Why do people go to Yosemite when they can look at pictures? Holding a book in your hand has a very tactile and immediate appeal, like seeing an historic place,” Bruce said. “We thank our customers and I’ll still be around enjoying the new energy Evan brings to the store!”

—Ariel

Runner up: Coalesce Bookstore & Garden Wedding Chapel 

BEST PLACE TO BUY MUSIC

Boo Boo Records

978 Monterey St., SLO

There’s nothing like an afternoon spent flipping through records at the record store. Having been in business for more than 40 years, Boo Boo Records has taken this honor for the past 13 years in a row. They carry a wide range of vinyl and CDs, and also sell concert tickets for most shows happening on the Central Coast. Boo Boo Records is active in locating hard-to-find vinyl and CDs; they helped me get my now-coveted Purple Rain album. Woot woot! 

—Giselle

Runner up: Cheap Thrills

BEST PLACE TO BUY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

Central Coast Music

365 Morro Bay Blvd., Morro Bay

After 26 years in business, Eddie Frawley has finally hit the big time by winning this Best Of category two years in a row. We’re only kidding, Eddie. The truth is, Central Coast Music has devotedly served SLO County musicians for years, selling guitars, mandolins, trumpets, woodwinds, harmonicas—pretty much anything that makes noise. “Anything musical, wacky, and off the wall, I try to get in here,” he told us. What’s the secret to Frawley’s popularity in the community? It’s simple: “I love music, I love people, and I love the Central Coast.” Frawley graciously thanked New Times readers for the honor, calling it “a big deal.” No Eddie, thank you.

—Peter

Runner up: Lightning Joe’s Guitar Heaven

BEST MEN’S CLOTHING STORE

Patrick James

641 Higuera St., suite 100, SLO

When asked for something fresh to describe why Patrick James keeps winning this category, Manager Eric Danilewicz said that they continue to offer “casual elegance,” whether it’s the button-up shirt, tailored suit, or the Common Fibers carbon fiber wallets that they recently began carrying, designed by a group of Cal Poly grads. The SLO store recently brought on tuxedo rentals as part of its offerings for all your sharply dressed and super classy needs.

—Jono

Runner up: Jules D

BEST WOMEN’S CLOTHING STORE

Coverings

760 Higuera St., SLO

Style is hard to come by. Luckily for SLO we had Coverings, located in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. “From almost the beginning, we tried to create a store that could exist in NYC or Los Angeles. Bringing that approach to SLO is something our customers gravitated toward,” said Marketing Director Barry Goyette. Sadly Coverings is no more and closed its doors on April 27, 2016, a sad day for the stylish ladies of San Luis Obispo. “It’s been such an honor receiving this award four out of the last nine years; it’s says a lot about our customers and the great support they’ve given us,” Goyette said.

—Giselle

Runner up: Ambiance

BEST INTIMATE APPAREL

Fanny Wrappers

799 Higuera St., SLO

The allure of pink neon lights recently beckoned a new owner into the sexy arms of Fanny Wrappers in downtown SLO. Samantha Phelps took the lace and satin embellished reins from longtime owner Terry Trevis this spring. Why? Trevis was ready to retire, and Phelps was ready to build on a great business. Starting with men’s loungewear and a website (think of the toys!). Bottom line though: An experienced staff is priceless. “The staff is so knowledgeable,” Phelps said. “The girls will get right in there and help. They will help pick the right fit for the right body type.”

—Camillia

Runner up: Diamond Adult World

BEST THRIFT STORE

Goodwill Industries

15 South Higuera St., SLO

Thrift store shopping is not for everyone. It’s for the adventurous spirits, the environmentalists, the low budget fashionistas, the high fashion homeless people, and, yes, the penny pinchers. It’s basically the public bus of shopping experiences—curtain rods mingling with kimonos and some slightly used sneakers, while needs are met and the planet is saved. Goodwill is your bus driver, bringing the goods together with the diverse public for a mutually beneficial experience. At Goodwill, thrifters get low prices and the thrill of the hunt, while Goodwill creates jobs, job training, and diverts everyday items from the landfill. 

—Kylie 

Runner up: Fred & Betty’s

BEST ANTIQUE SHOP

Ruby Rose

1235 Monterey St., SLO

Ruby Rose Owner Stephanie Henry has been fascinated by antiques for more than 20 years. “I was a road-trip girl and scoured souvenir shops,” she said. “Dad threw us in the Range Rover and we traveled all over the Western United States.” Ruby Rose reflects her passion for collectibles with its travel theme. Henry loves the 1970s, and customers love vintage clothing—especially the fringe jackets. “People come in for things that give them that feeling they had when they first owned these items,” Henry commented. “Everybody brings a story to share, and Ruby Rose is as much a community place as a business.”

—Ariel

Runner up: Brooks Woodcraft

BEST CONSIGNMENT BUSINESS

Zoey’s Home Consignment

3583 S. Higuera St., SLO

Zoey’s recently moved across South Higuera to its new location. “We offer upscale, beautiful furniture at great deals,” Owner Marie Moore said. “We take pride in carrying quality items.” Zoey’s also provides excellent consignment service and makes furniture shopping satisfying and fun. The Moores also give back to the community and helped replace furnishings for a woman who lost her home in the Cuesta fire last year. “We love our local community,” Moore said. “Come check out what’s ‘old’ at Zoey’s. … From retro to recycled and modern to vintage, we’re never the same store twice!” 

—Ariel

Runner up: Finders Keepers

BEST PLACE TO PAMPER YOUR PET 

The Golden Paw

2314 Broad St., SLO

Pets. They’re fuzzy little bundles of joy that we love and would do almost anything for. But, as any pet owner will tell you, our dear fur babies don’t care much for staying clean. Thankfully, there’s the The Golden Paw, something of an institution when it comes to pet grooming in SLO. The business’s current owner, John Salmeron, has a degree in animal science and has been in the grooming business for more than 16 years.

From the smallest chihuahua to the largest lumbering, slobbery Great Dane, The Golden Paw will take in your shaggy buddy and deliver them back in style.

—Chris McGuinness

Runner up: Tails

BEST HARDWARE STORE

Miner’s Ace Hardware

1056 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach; locations county-wide

Our readers’ favorite spot for spotting great deals on home and garden supplies is Miner’s Ace Hardware in Grover Beach. Once a small hardware store owned by brothers Lee and Glenn Miner in 1964, Miner’s has long been a community fixture for fixer-uppers and do-it-yourselfers. Store manager Kurtis Carnes said, “We aim to provide great customer service to our locals and people who come over from the Valley.” The helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable staff will help you find everything you need for your home project, from lumber to paint, tools to plumbing supplies, and more. 

—Ariel 

Runner up: Hewitt Hardware

BEST FARM/PRODUCE STAND

Avila Valley Barn

560 Avila Beach Drive, SLO

It’s a great spot to buy the fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables, and it’s so much more. You can pick your own fresh berries and fruit or harvest the perfect pumpkin. Owned by Bruce and Debbie Smith, the Avila Valley Barn is a family affair that’s is 30 years old. “Our team of bakers, orchard workers, animal caretakers, and employees are wonderful,” Debbie said. “Jake and Raven Smith maintain our orchards and Jesse Smith runs our deli and sweet shop!” Go for the healthy produce, but pick up a fresh baked pie for dessert. “Every person who walks in our door
is a blessing!” she said.

—Ariel

Runner up: Rutiz Family Farms

BEST GROCERY STORE

California Fresh Market

555 5 Cities Drive, Pismo Beach

You know the jingle. “California Fresh is best. Your Five Cities grocery store.” It’s too damn catchy. But it’s also pretty damn accurate. “If you take the top 150 items in the store, 50 of them are items we make,” said one of the owners, Greg King. They prepare food like fresh sushi, potato salad, and sourdough—and none of it tastes like it’s from the grocery store. They even roast their own coffee, and if you ask King, that’s as close to heavenly as you can get. The trio of partners is taking their duo of stores to the next level and opening a new one in SLO. Get excited!

—Camillia

Runner up: Trader Joe’s

BEST FLOWER SHOP

Open Air Flowers

1055 Osos St., SLO

Vance and Leslie Weber have been running their flower shop for more than 30 years, 10 at their current location. They offer premium fresh-cut flowers for all occasions at their fragrant open-air stand. “We are involved in the day-to-day life events of our customers,” Leslie said. “We have really lovely flowers, long-lasting flowers and are proud of what we do.” She said employees are a big part of that. Open Air Flowers offers small nosegays to large bouquets to suit each customer’s needs and budget. “I feel very honored to have such lovely customers and such a nice reputation.” 

—Ariel

Runner up: Wilder Floral Co.

BEST PLACE TO GEEK OUT

Captain Nemo Games & Comics

563 Higuera St., SLO

The store was once part of the now lost Sub. Branching off in 1980, it took the name of the first submarine commander, Capt. Nemo of the Nautilus. “The best thing about my job is the long-term relationship I have with regulars,” Manager Ray Hanson said. “I get to see people over long periods of time and now I’m selling comics to the grandkids of people I sold comics to in the 1980s!” Captain Nemo has comics for everyone, from crime noir to history comics, and every superhero imagined. Plus, there are board games and card games, including for Magic the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon.

—Ariel

Runner up: MacSuperstore

BEST EYEWEAR STORE

Urban Optics

1001 Higuera St., SLO

You won’t find Ray Bans at Urban Optics, but you can definitely find Vinylize: a maker out of Budapest, Hungary, handcrafting vinyl records into glasses frames. Each pair is a one-of-a-kind. It’s pretty niche, and that’s exactly what optometrist Dr. David Schultz is going for—glasses you can’t find anywhere near SLO. “I’m always seeking out different lines,” Schultz said. And the benefit of working with small independent frame makers and distributors is that he knows how and why the glasses are made. “We pretty much know the owners and the designers of every product we bring in,” Schultz said. 

—Camillia

Runner up: Michael’s Optical

BEST JEWELRY STORE

Kevin Main Jewelry Design & Studio

720 Higuera St., SLO

Since 1973, Kevin Main Jewelry has been a gem on the Central Coast. “We make sure our customers have the best experience and make the best choice,” Manager Jennifer White said. Kevin Main specializes in design and custom work as well as international designers and pieces. “We shop for jewelry and gemstones that meet our quality standards, including Forevermark’s beautiful, rare, and responsibly sourced diamonds,” White said. “We are so honored to have been voted best of SLO for 13 years running and thank all of our wonderful supporters and friends!”

—Ariel

Runner up: The Gold Concept

BEST TOY STORE

Tom’s Toys

682 Higuera St., SLO

Having toys to play with is really for everybody, but especially for the little ones. Tom’s Toys has provided them with fun for the last 50 years. With every toy comes joy and free gift-wrapping. It’s a real-life independent toy store, not like all that box store mumbo jumbo—and that’s something SLO County residents seem to appreciate. Get your train tooting or your scooter scooting, and head in for something furry, colorful, or made of real wood! It’ll add a little pep in your step that Toys“R”Us can only dream about.

—Olivia 

Runner up: Whiz Kids

BEST SHOE STORE

Charles Shoes

867 Higuera St., SLO

In February of this year, the current owners of Charles Shoes celebrated 50 years of ownership. Asked how things have been during that time, and how they’ve survived in an era where even strip malls struggle and commerce has moved to the internet, Jason Ashley, who manages his family’s business, said that it is all about the personal, custom service that helps people find the right fit. “So much has changed, the customers have appreciated the continued level of service that they don’t get anymore.”

—Jono

Runner up: Mike’s Shoes

BEST TIRE STORE

The Tire Store (SLO)

252 Higuera St., SLO

The guys at The Tire Store stock tires from Goodyear to Firestone and more. They also do brakes and front end alignments to keep your vehicle running safe and smooth. Manager Joe Beckwith has been with The Tire Store for 20 years. “We’re seeing second- and third-generation customers now,” he laughed. “It makes me feel good and old!” The store is a local independent business that offers quality products and fast service. “We are reliable and honest with our customers because we value their trust,” he said. “This is always a fun award because the recognition comes from our customers and we appreciate it!” 

—Ariel

Runner up: Wayne’s Tire & Auto Repair

indicates a category created by reader request!

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