Best of 2018: Bargain Babe in Getting Goods!


Barnes And Noble

894 Marsh St., SLO

A quick stroll through Barnes and Noble in downtown SLO will quickly satisfy any book nerd's word lust. "We offer great customer service and a great membership program," store manager Simon Cruz said. Members get 10 percent off all store purchases along with additional coupons. Popular reads right now include James Comey's A Higher Loyalty and Daniel Jose Older's Star Wars book, Last Shot: A Hans and Lando Novel. In need of a light but intriguing novel to keep your beach towel company? Barnes and Nobles has you covered with a plethora of books to choose from on its summer reads table.


runner-up: Phoenix Books


Boo Boo Records

978 Monterey St., SLO

In case you missed the memo, vinyl—or as us old folks call 'em, records—is hotter than Van Halen was for teacher, hotter than The Lovin' Spoonful's city summer, hotter than Hank Williams Jr. was to trot—and the place to go for all your vinyl needs is Boo Boo Records. The record (and more!) store has earned its place in the community thanks to its vast selection, fair pricing, and knowledgeable and helpful staff. When it comes to record stores, customer service is essential. Plus, Boo Boo's has super cool non-music gifts and is the go-to place for event tickets!


runner-up: Cheap Thrills

ROCK ON Central Coast Music owner Eddie Frawley takes his customers and his music personally, always on hand to chat tunes or tune up your instrument. Maybe that’s why his spot is the best place to buy musicICAL INSTRUMENTS. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • ROCK ON Central Coast Music owner Eddie Frawley takes his customers and his music personally, always on hand to chat tunes or tune up your instrument. Maybe that’s why his spot is the best place to buy musicICAL INSTRUMENTS.


Central Coast Music

365 Morro Bay Blvd., Morro Bay

In the heart of Morro Bay, there lies the heart of musical instruments and the knowledge behind them. Eddie Frawley owns the joint, Central Coast Music, and is always around to help his customers purchase the right instrument or even lend his tuning expertise. Customers say Eddie oozes a charisma that makes him easy to talk music with. It's the best place to learn about how things work or what guitar suits your musical talent. Looking to purchase a keyboard, amplifiers, or microphones? Visit your old pal Eddie, and he'll assist you with your musical needs.


runner-up: Drum Circuit


Jules D.

672 Higuera St., SLO

Six years ago, proprietor Jules D. looked around SLO Town and noticed something was missing, and that something was a cool men's clothing store. She opened a place selling high quality fashion with an edge, and she's never stopped evolving. "We're an all around men's store: fashion forward to premium denim to made-to-measure suits," Jules D. said. "We've grown into a full-service men's store. We love our peeps—that's what keep us going, that's our drive. We have a great core collection of guys who've been with us from the beginning." Wanna look like a million bucks? Visit Jules D.!


runner-up: Patrick James



737 Higuera St., SLO

Looking for an on-point and oh-so stylish outfit for the next hot summer concert or a simple garden wedding? Ambiance has you covered. And don't fret if you realize as you're perusing racks of the fashions—from Free People to Rag & Bone—for your own closet that you forgot a gift. Ambiance has your back there, too, with a wide array of accessories and jewelry that make perfect surprises. Store owner Kannyn January has made it a point to carry options for everyone, landing her retail establishment as the best women's clothing store for the second year in a row.


runner-up: Avanti


Fanny Wrappers

799 Higuera St., SLO

Bras. Panties. PJ Salvage Pajamas. And don't forget the fun wall, complete with leather whips, penis-shaped lollipops and synthetic fur-covered handcuffs in the back. Oh, my! Fanny Wrappers has it all and then some, with a wide variety of bra sizes that definitely aren't available in large chain lingerie stores decorated in black and bubble gum pink. You know the one I'm talking about. They have large stores but they don't really know much about large curves. Leave that to the ladies at Fanny Wrappers, where sexy lingerie and comfy bras with great prices go hand-in-hand, said owner Samantha Phelps, who along with her staff are excited to be named best intimate apparel. "Thanks, SLO!"


runner-up: Black Water



Paso Robles, Atascadero, Morro Bay, SLO, Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach

Stock your kitchen cutlery, appliances, dinnerware and cookware; your closet, dresser, and shoe collection; your garden; and your bathroom. Furnish your living room, your bedroom, and your dining room. Find stuff you need—and don't need but can't live without, because it's almost always under-budget. These are all the things that Goodwill is for. You can find almost anything, and it's a thrifty option for students and families on a tight budget. With nine SLO County stores to choose from, you can pick your best fit. Hint: The Halloween costume selection at the Higuera Street store in SLO is on point!


runner-up: Mission Thrift


Ruby Rose

1235 Monterey St., SLO

Stephanie Hendry had her foot in retail for about 40 years until she decided to put her own spin on things. After trying three different locations, Ruby Rose opened its storefront on Monterey Street four years ago, and it was the right spot. Hendry said the inventory is always changing, which keeps customers curious. "We try to stay in season and current vintage as well as current contemporary. A lot of times we always have 501s, vintage whites, tees, and flannels available," she said. The shop also has a great home and garden section with pieces that include baskets and ceramics with a natural feel.


runner-up: Antiques on Main

FIND IT, KEEP IT Debora Fogg has owned Finders Keepers on Garden StREET for almost 20 years. But even the best consignment store in the county is wondering when construction on GARDEN street will finally end. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FIND IT, KEEP IT Debora Fogg has owned Finders Keepers on Garden StREET for almost 20 years. But even the best consignment store in the county is wondering when construction on GARDEN street will finally end.


Finders Keepers

1124 Garden St., SLO

We recycle everything, from our empty wine bottles to the motor oil our cars use to get us from point A to B, so it seems only natural that we also recycle what we wear, and, apparently, Californians are really into reusing someone else's threads. That works just fine for Debra Fogg, the nearly 20-year owner of Finders Keepers, where treasures like Tory Burch bags and Frye boots to Ella Moss dresses can be found. "We give tribute back to the people who consign, recycle, and shop," Fogg said. "Not only that, but who would put up with this construction project?" Agreed! Open Garden Street, already.


runner-up: Grateful Threads


Tails Pet Boutique

745 Higuera St., SLO

There's the old song that starts out, "How much is that doggie in the window?" But if you're a young'un, you probably don't know it. Anyway, it's a cute one, but it really has nothing to do with Tails winning best place to pamper your pet, other than the storefront has great windows, and puppies in them would be cute. That's all. Owners Neal and Shelley Stuckey said it's an honor to win, and when they took the store over nearly two years ago, they aimed to heighten animals' and owners' experience.


runner-up: Golden Paw


Miner's Ace Hardware

SLO, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Grover Beach, Los Osos, Morro Bay, Nipomo

Way back in 1956, brothers Lee and Glen Miner decided to go into the family business. Their parents, Abe and Bee Miner, owned a hardware store in Culver City, so the brothers decided to open their own store in Grover Beach. Now, 62 years later, their local chain of stores has grown throughout SLO County. "With the help of their first employee who can still be found working at the Grover Beach store, the Miners embarked on a journey that would ultimately become an eight-store Ace Hardware chain," according to their website. Get great service and selection at Miner's!


runner-up: Home Depot


Rutiz Family Farms

1075 The Pike, Arroyo Grande

Since 1981, Maureen Reilly and her husband, Jerald Rutiz, have been delivering their farm-fresh produce to SLO County from their farm stand. "We use sustainable, organic practices," Reilly said. They also bring in local bread, meat, fish, honey, and more from other vendors. And their weekly harvest box allows locals to get a variety of seasonal produce for just $18. They also sell their goods to local restaurants like Ember, Spoon Trade, and Big Sky. Right now the farm is open for U-Pick strawberry season. Starting in May, they hope to have the farm stand open five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday.


runner-up: Talley Farms


California Fresh

SLO, Pismo Beach

For healthy food that caters to all dietary needs, stop by California Fresh, with locations in SLO and Pismo Beach. "We're locally owned, extremely flexible, and willing to make changes that customers are asking for. It's a pleasant shopping experience," SLO store General Manager DJ Deutsch said. Both stores feature a service deli with ready-to-eat items like sandwiches, salads, burritos, and hamburgers along with fresh juices, smoothies, and sushi. California Fresh also boasts a great offering of local seafood and local craft beer.


runner-up: Trader Joe's


Albert's Florist

1357 Monterey St., SLO

Albert's Florist hits you with floral aromas and beautiful pops of color the moment you step inside. Tzolig Abadjian and her husband have owned the shop since the '80s. Abadjian said that their shop differs from the rest because although you can certainly buy flowers from Vons or Trader Joe's, you can't buy a specific arrangement or have the flowers delivered to your special event. "Our business is something that makes people smile, even if you give someone a little vase, it makes them happy. The idea of having a beautiful space, making people happy, and giving them something to smile about," she said.


runner-up: Open Air

GEEK OUT! Captain Nemo Manager Raymond Hanson said there are more than 8,000 comic books to choose from in the two-story building on Higuera. So go geek out at the best. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • GEEK OUT! Captain Nemo Manager Raymond Hanson said there are more than 8,000 comic books to choose from in the two-story building on Higuera. So go geek out at the best.


Captain Nemo

1563 Higuera St., SLO

"It's a great place to geek out because we have lots of color. There are comic books, statuaries, DVDs, and all kinds of stuff in the store to come and look at," Captain Nemo manager Raymond Hanson said. On the first and second floors of the gray brick building, there are more than 8,000 comic books to look over. Hanson said there's also a dollar rack that is stocked with the origin stories of comic series. Raymond thanked the community for voting Captain Nemo as No. 1, "because without them letting us know, we wouldn't, because we're so busy working in here."


runner-up: Cheap Thrills


Urban Optics

1001 Higuera St., SLO

It's rare to walk into a doctor's office and think, "Man, this place is cool," but that's exactly what happens at Urban Optics. Manager Hanna Schultz says, "We are not only a doctor's office, but also a high-end retail store with extremely unique, sought-after eyewear in a very relaxed and friendly environment. I just feel it's such a unique experience that makes everyone want to come back." Cool kids do wear glasses! Urban Optics carries around 20 different brands they trust, and around 1,000 unique frames are sold straight off the display case, ensuring their clients a custom look when they leave.


runner-up: Costco


Kevin Main Jewelry Design & Studio

720 Higuera St., SLO

After not placing first last year, as the business had done for previous years, Kathi Main laughingly said that it was a bit of a wake-up call to step up their game and get back on top. "It feeds your ego, but it's also gratifying," Main said of winning New Times' Best of Poll and knowing people in the community take the time to vote for the jewelry store. Her husband, Kevin Main, has been designing jewelry for 45 years, and fellow jewelry designer, Elton Graf, has 40 years under his belt.


runner-up: The Gold Concept


Tom's Toys

682 Higuera St., SLO

Every superhero is a kid first. Actually, that's not true, but the point is, every human is a kid at least once. It's impossible not to feel extremely nostalgic upon entering Tom's Toys. In the era of the Toys "R" Us demise, it's rare to find a neighborhood toy store of any kind, but it's even rarer to find one quite like Tom's. "We're a classic toy shop, and you just don't see those around anymore." Manager Neal Smith said. "At this point, don't we own that award?" Smith said upon hearing the store won Best Toy Store for the trillionth time.


runner-up: Whiz Kids


Charles Shoes

867 Higuera St., SLO

It's really hard to save the world with bare feet—unless you're the Incredible Hulk, maybe. But when Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner and realizes his giant green feet tore right through his Clarks, where do you think he goes? If his latest outburst happens to be in downtown SLO, the answer is probably Charles Shoes, which has been family owned and operated since it opened in 1952. "It's because of our customers that we've been around for so long. They've made us a landmark," manager Jason Ashley said.


runner-up: Mike's Shoes


The Tire Store

252 Higuera St., SLO

Getting a surprise flat tire won't ever put you in the best of moods. That's why The Tire Store, run by owners Joe Beckwith and Kevin Conlan, prides itself on friendly customer service, knowledgeable certified technicians, and competitive prices to get customers back on the road. "We take an old-school approach to customer service," Beckwith said. "We are honest and fair." The family-owned store has been providing that service since 1989. The shop offers tire installation, balancing and alignments, as well as fluid checks, preventive maintenance, and lift kits.


runner-up: Big Brand Tire

DOUBLE TAKE Yes, everyone, TESLA is now in the SolarCity business. From left to right: Tyson Maulhardt, Chris Bechtel, William Townsley, Dog, and Gina Armstrong are all pretty happy to work at the best solar company in the county. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • DOUBLE TAKE Yes, everyone, TESLA is now in the SolarCity business. From left to right: Tyson Maulhardt, Chris Bechtel, William Townsley, Dog, and Gina Armstrong are all pretty happy to work at the best solar company in the county.



1237 Archer St., SLO

We know what you're thinking. Tesla? A solar company? Yes! The cutting-edge electric carmaker recently bought SolarCity, your favorite local installer of home and commercial solar panels. Tesla's Central Coast regional operations manager, Dog, said that the Silicon Valley-based innovator "is not just about the cars. Our mission is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy." Tesla is fully staffed with local employees fulfilling CEO Elon Musk's brand of customer service, described as bringing the "perfect" experience. "Our company puts a lot of focus on making sure the customers aren't just pleased on the product but are completely stoked," Dog said.


runner-up: SunRun


The Mortgage House

SLO, Atascadero

The Mortgage House likes to develop long-term relationships with its customers. Its loan officers can be creative and make things happen that other companies often can't. There are a couple of reasons for that: It's a direct lender and mortgage banker, so everything is done in-house (the underwriting, processing, and funding), and it simply follows the guidelines outlined by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (with no added rules). "That's where we have kind of an edge," VP Division Manager Mary Trudeau said. "We've created an environment that the loan officers we have, that we've brought on, they really care about their customers."


runner-up: Central Coast Lending


Glenn Burdette, CPA

Paso Robles, SLO

"We're creative, innovative, and forward-thinking," explained Glenn Burdette Managing Director Daniel O'Hare. For instance, the firm quickly jumped on getting people prepared for provisions in the recently passed federal tax bill that go into effect in 2018. "We developed a tool to help business structures take advantage of it," he said. "This new provision goes into effect in 2018, but clients needed to start planning as soon as the bill was passed." The CPA firm serves businesses, individuals, municipalities, and nonprofits. "We won't let the readers down," O'Hare said of winning Best CPA firm. "We're honored to have that distinction."


runner-up: Marlin Peterson, CPA

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