- DESIGN BY ALEX ZUNIGA
- BEST BOARD SHOP: CENTRAL COAST SURFBOARDS: Central Coast Surfboards owner Mike Chaney said he still remembers the look on his parents’ faces when he told them he was quitting school to open a surf shop with two of his buddies. Three kids selling surfboards and skateboards out of their Cal Poly dorm rooms 40 years ago gradually grew into and out of four separate store locations, finally settling into the 6,000 square feet that currently house Central Coast Surfboards on Marsh Street. CCS has won Best Surf Shop/Board Shop for 28 of the last 30 years.
BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY IN SLO COUNTY
Cambria Pines Lodge
2905 Burton Drive, Cambria
Need a break from the week-to-week grind? Book a stay at Cambria Pines Lodge and let the tranquility of SLO County’s North Coast reinvigorate you. Whether your vacay is spent at the beach with the elephant seals, dining and shopping in town, or touring Hearst Castle, our readers recommend staying at Cambria Pines Lodge. “We love welcoming our friends and neighbors from SLO County to our garden-themed corner of paradise,” said Becky Evans, director of sales and marketing. “With 152 rooms and suites, heated outdoor pool, spa, and restaurant, the Lodge is a perfect home base for adventures on the North Coast—or for total relaxation.”
Runner up: Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa
BEST PLACE TO GET SWIMWEAR
795 Higuera St., SLO
Shelley Filit’s been hawking swimwear for the last three decades, with the majority of that time spent at her store, SLO Swim. Filit specializes in large sizes, and those loyal customers sustain the shop. “I’m the only one that can fit them,” she said. “That customer has such a hard time finding a cute suit that fits them that’s not going to fall apart.” With 60 vendors to choose from, she’s got almost anything a girl would want. And if she doesn’t have it in stock, she knows where she can get it. “We can find things that other stores can’t.”
Runner up: Pancho’s Surf Shop
BEST BOARD SHOP
Central Coast Surfboards
855 Marsh St., SLO
Spend $1 or spend $1,000, the folks at Central Coast Surfboards won’t judge you. “Whether they’re buying a bar of wax or a board, they’re getting treated the same,” said founder and owner Mike Chaney. One of his favorite things is when a parent who bought his or her first surf or skateboard from the shop brings their child in to do the same. An attitude like that means customers keep coming back, and they have for 40 years. “I feel fortunate every day that people still embrace us,” Chaney said. “Customer loyalty is a big deal.”
Runner up: Pancho’s Surf Shop
BEST COMPANY TO GET YOU OUT ON THE WATER
Avila Beach Paddlesports
3915 Avila Beach Drive, Avila Beach
Rent a paddleboard or kayak and get a free lesson at Avila Beach Paddlesports. “It’s always a free lesson, and we watch them, and we retrieve them if they have a problem,” said owner Vincent Shay, who runs the company with his wife, Emily. Paddle boarders beware: “Sometimes the wind gets them.” Shay said they also like to give their customers a list of where to go and what to see in addition to a safety lesson. “We really pride ourselves on making sure people know what they’re doing before they get out on the water.”
Runner up: Central Coast Kayaks
BEST GOLF COURSE
Avila Beach Golf Resort
6464 Ana Bay Road, Avila Beach
Golf can be a frustrating game—even for players with well-honed swings and unshakable poise. Avila Beach Golf Resort offers some relief for all those shanked tee shots (damn you, ninth hole!) with calming views of the Pacific Ocean and a short-distance stroll to Avila’s shops and restaurants. Avila’s golf course won over our readers this year, thanks in large part to the idyllic setting. “It’s a unique view,” said Jay Farrior, the head golf professional at Avila Beach Golf Resort. Avila golfers also enjoyed the attentiveness and friendliness of the pro shop staff, who Farrior said pride themselves on providing the best customer service around.
Runner up: Morro Bay Golf Course
Bishop Peak Trail
Highland Drive, Patricia Drive, and Foothill Boulevard, SLO
This trail has become so popular that the city of SLO is now trying to convince people not to hike it. All those feet scurrying to the top in search of the best selfie bring a lot of wear and tear to the trail, including litter, erosion, side trails, dog poop, and parking problems. That prompted the city to launch the #PixOnPeaks challenge, encouraging hikers to take selfies on seven other trails. Hashtag them all and you’ll get a T-shirt! If Bishop’s what you want, know this—new rules require dogs to be on-leash and ban hiking after dark, with big fines for violators.
Runner up: Cerro San Luis
BEST BIKE TRAIL
Bob Jones Trail
Ontario Road to Avila Beach
Someday the Bob Jones Trail will connect Avila Beach to San Luis Obispo—at least that’s the plan put forth by the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County. Luckily, until that day comes, you can still hit the paved trail from a parking lot on Ontario Road, cruise along San Luis Obispo Creek for 2.5 miles, over the bridge, and straight into downtown Avila Beach for wine tasting and food, maybe a little quality beach time. Personally, I like to hit the trail after work and cycle down to the San Luis Pier and back for a nice 6-mile ride before dinner.
Runner up: Johnson Ranch Loop
BEST OUTDOOR STORE
The Mountain Air
667 Marsh St., SLO
If you want quality outdoor gear (or everyday wear), this is the place to go. The store is packed full of merchandise geared to provide for any outdoor adventure, hiking, or camping needs, and the staff knows everything about it. They’re the real deal—they get outside often and get firsthand experience with the products they sell. That firsthand experience will set you up with something that isn’t going to give out while you’re miles away from civilization (or on the top of Cerro San Luis). They’re ready to make sure you’re suited for all seasons.
Runner up: SLO Camp ‘n’ Pack
BEST BIKE SHOP
181 Suburban Road, SLO
Arts Cyclery is right next to all those places that remind community residents that SLO really does have a presence in the world, especially when it comes to shopping online for sporting gear. Even as one of the top cyber bike shops, shipping to countless worldwide locations daily, they still treasure the in-store customer adventure. “From ownership down [we] focus on customer experience and value,” owner and partner Scott Smith said. “The people matter to us. … We’re trying to keep people happy.” Mountain bikes, road bikes, cruisers, racing bikes, and even Leg Salsa. Honestly, what else do you need?
Runner up: Flanders Bicycle
BEST NURSERY/GARDEN STORE
Miner’s Ace Hardware
1056 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach
Are your poppies pooped? Is your lettuce wilted? Head over to Miner’s in Grover Beach where friendly staff will help realize your secret garden vision. The store has an ever-changing selection of seasonal veggies, fruit trees, and even berry bushes for planting; flowers, herbs, and succulents; and planters, pots, garden art, and everything to maintain soil and plant health! Knowledgeable garden staff share water conservation tips and suggest drought-tolerant plants. Store manager Kurtis Carnes said, “We believe that our customers come first. We work really hard and appreciate being voted the best.” Their great prices and customer rewards program also means you won’t get hosed!
Runner up: Sage Ecological Landscapes & Nursery
BEST TACK SHOP
Arroyo Grande, SLO, and Paso Robles
Farm Supply’s owners don’t just own the business, they are the business—2,600 local farmers and ranchers own the cooperative that’s been part of the community for 66 years. Cara Crye, the vice president of communication who has been with the company for 20 years, said, “We’re happy to be able to serve the community with any of their needs and offer education on various topics through our clinics every Saturday from March to June.” She added, “We are honored to be voted the best tack shop, and we pride ourselves on quality service and products!”
Runner up: Riding Warehouse
BEST PET SITTER OR BOARDING
Thousand Hills Pet Resort
173 Buckley Road, SLO
At Thousand Hills Pet Resort, pooches get superb day care, boarding (in cottages and suites with private patios), grooming, and training. Indoor and outdoor areas allow dogs to socialize with each other during the day, based on temperament, energy, and size. “People say their dog gets to stay in a nicer place than they do,” manager Johnny Benton said, laughing. He added, “We are a pay-it-forward organization.” Profits help fund the Alpha Academy, a mentorship program for young men ages 18 to 24 who live on site and work at the resort; and New Life Canines, which provides service therapy for dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD.
Runners up: Kennels of Springdale, Stenner Creek
Orfalea Family & ASI Children’s Center
Building 133, Cal Poly
The ASI Children’s Center on Cal Poly’s campus has been going strong for 40 years, offering a unique and secure environment and social settings for kids to learn with their peers. Director Tonya Iversen has been with the center for 25 years. “I have the most amazing group of teachers who challenge themselves to grow professionally and that’s what makes our program great.” Enrollment spans ages 4 months to 6 years, and the center takes advantage of campus as an extended classroom. “Children visit the biology lab, martial arts room, and more,” Iverson said. “Last week we had a group of children listen to the Cal Poly orchestra rehearse.”
Runner up: United Methodist Children’s Center
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