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Best of Sacramento 2011

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Life can feel a bit unpredictable these days, but one thing we know for sure: Our region is full of innovative and intriguing people, places and things that make it a great place to live, work and play—always giving us fabulous fodder for our annual Best of Sacramento feature. This year, the editors have taken over, naming 41 of their favorites around town. But your voices also were heard: In our online survey at sacmag.com, everyone was invited to vote for local businesses in categories including media, retail and the arts. So enjoy the read and join us in saluting the region’s best.

 

STYLE + SHOPPING + BEAUTY

Best Blowout
Can you imagine anything more heavenly than a weekly professional blowout? Inspired by the blowout-only salons that cater to well-groomed Manhattanites, Folsom esthetician Carmen Gammon opened REPUBLIC BLOW OUT BAR n August 2010. Her blowout menu includes The Dirty Girl (a blowout with loads of volume), The Trophy Wife (sleek and smooth) and The Girl Next Door (lots of curls). Cost for a wash, scalp massage and blowout: $35. The blowout bar is attached to Gammon’s full-service Republic Salon and can handle individual drop-ins; appointments are recommended for groups such as bachelorette parties and high school promsters. “When you leave here,” says Gammon, “you’re ready for whatever the night holds.” 302 S. Lexington Drive, Folsom; (916) 984-4444; republicsalon.net

Best Adult Toy Store
Get your mind out of the gutter—we’re not talking about X-rated toys. DRAGATOMI in midtown sells collectible art toys (aka urban vinyl) with price tags that run as high as $1,200. Owner Joanne Suavillo was already collecting the cartoonish action figures when she decided to start an online store about three years ago. She was so successful (with customers from all over the world) that she followed up with a bricks-and-mortar shop on J Street in 2009. The shop’s designer toys are produced in limited quantities by artists who put their own 3-D spin on characters such as Badtz-Maru, Android and The Simpsons. Dragatomi carries all the big industry names: Kidrobot, Tokidoki, threeA Toys and Kuso Vinyl. And while the designer figures are awfully cute, they’re definitely for adults. “This is not for kids,” says Suavillo, “although we do have kids who buy our stuff.”  2317 J St., Sacramento; (916) 706-0535; dragatomi.com

Best Discount Denim
Designer jeans can cost an arm and a leg. Not at RENEW DENIM in downtown Davis. Founded by Davis residents Samantha and Barth Ballard (both of whom have extensive experience in the retail denim industry), the store carries designer jeans at 40 to 70 percent off their original prices. Brands include Joe Jeans, J Brand, Kunna and Denim by Victoria Beckham. 222 D St., Davis; (530) 297-5326; renewdenim.com

Best Designer Vintage
When Stefan Bloom and Erin Boyle opened Scout Living, their new midtown design collective, they invited Hector Lopez to set up shop in a small alcove of the store. An avid collector, Lopez scours estate sales, flea markets, thrift stores and antiques fairs from here to Southern California for high-end vintage women’s wear. His tiny shop-within-a-shop, MADEMOISELLE, is filled with his fashionable finds. He carries tons of Chanel apparel and accessories (purses, sunglasses, shoes and jewelry), plus a who’s who of other big designer names: Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, YSL, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stella McCartney, Dior and more. Clients come from as far away as San Francisco and L.A. for special pieces, such as a 1920s opera coat from Emporium Capwell and a Chanel 2.55 handbag (the iconic quilted one) that retails for $3,200. “It’s simply the best designer collection in the city,” says Bloom. 1215 18th St., Sacramento; (916) 594-7971; scoutliving.com

Best Sunless Tan
Esthetician Meri Thresher ran a conventional tanning salon for five years before deciding she no longer wanted to subject her clients to the UV radiation of tanning beds. So last
year, she opened the city’s first sunless-only tanning salon, EYECANDY SUNLESS SPA. While you stand in front of a screen, she applies a sun-free tanning solution to your body, using a high-pressure, low-volume spray gun. For $40, you get a gorgeous golden glow that lasts up to seven days. And no UV rays! 2011 P St., Sacramento; (916) 977-3737; eyecandytanning.com

Best Bet for the Full-Figured Bride
As many full-figured brides discover, it’s hard to find larger-size sample wedding gowns at most bridal salons. Recognizing this untapped market, Sandra Gonzalez opened SPARKLE, a bridal salon for women sizes 14 to 30, this past July. “A bride shouldn’t have to sacrifice style just because she’s a size 14,” Gonzalez argues. The salon carries about 150 gowns designed specifically for larger brides, with clever construction and special boning to flatter a curvy woman’s figure. The dresses (many of them strapless) are sexy and body-conscious—not, as Gonzalez puts it, “frumpy-dumpy”—at prices from $900 to $3,000. In addition to wedding gowns, the East Sac salon sells a small collection of LBDs (Little Black Dresses) in larger sizes. 3200 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento; (916) 538-6615; sparklebridalcouture.com

Best Place To Buy a Car
Buying a car can be stressful. So one automaker had a brilliant idea: Why not let consumers buy cars the same way they purchase sunglasses and blue jeans? Last November, The HYUNDAI STORE opened in Downtown Plaza. Located on the mall’s ground floor, the 7,000-square-foot showroom has cars that you can test-drive as easily as trying on a sweater at nearby Macy’s. Salespeople are paid a salary rather than a commission, and there’s a no-haggle, fixed-price policy. “You can purchase a car in about an hour without getting beat up,” says sales manager Tim Langston. “Nobody’s trying to ram stuff down your throat.” The first store of its kind in the country, it’s a five-year pilot program; if the concept works, Hyundai plans to roll it out in other markets. 545 L St., Sacramento; (916) 444-1101; hyundaistore.com

Best Product for an Expectant Mom
Being pregnant can take a toll on your body. With this in mind, Paige Birge Smith and Jill Birge Brewer (cousins who are both mothers) created PURE BELLY WRAP. Made of bamboo, it helps keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. And, when used with creams and lotions, it may help minimize stretch marks. It’s adjustable, so you can use it throughout your pregnancy. You can buy it at Goore’s, Whole Foods Market in Roseville and on Pure Belly’s website. purebelly.com

Best Thrift Store
Thrift stores are a dime a dozen. But one stands out from the crowd: GOODWILL'S MIDTOWN BOUTIQUE. Open since May, the 6,400-square-foot store specializes in vintage and designer-name clothing: Donna Karan New York, Dana Buchman, Calvin Klein, Ralph by Ralph Lauren, Adrienne Vittadini, Armani Collezioni, St. John and others. “We pick the best of the best,” store manager Aidan MacAllister explains. “It has to be almost brand new: no holes, no stains, only garments in the greatest condition.” Prices are wallet-friendly: $8 to $10 for a sweater (even cashmere), $25 to $30 for a suit. Proceeds help people with disabilities. Isn’t it nice to know the dough you drop on a Burberry blazer is going to someone in need? 1621 L St., Sacramento; (916) 441-4407; goodwillsacto.org

Best Old-Fashioned Barbershop
Barbershops are a place where men come for a cut, maybe a shave, and 30 to 45 minutes of fellowship. UNLCLE JED'S CUT HUT  in Oak Park is just such a place. Outside, men shoot the breeze. Inside, a row of chairs and washbasins are at the ready, and there’s a big-screen TV and memorabilia on the wall. We hear the mayor even pops in on occasion to get his hair cut. 3432 Third Ave., Sacramento; (916) 452-3222

 

Next page: Food + Drink

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CIVIC LIFE

Best New Infrastructure
“Bringing the outside in” was the central theme for the newly opened TERMINAL B at Sacramento International Airport. Through a well-thought-out mix of design elements, artwork and concessions, the masterminds behind Terminal B’s development have achieved their thematic goal. Designed by Corgan Associates, the new $1 billion terminal is divided into two parts: landside, where travelers check in, claim baggage and reunite with loved ones; and the airside concourse, where planes await at 19 gates to whisk people away for business or pleasure. A two-car “people mover” train transports up to 62 travelers between concourse and landside, with less than a minute between trains. Terminal B uses less energy, thanks to airy ceilings and large glass panels, filling the airside terminal with natural light during the day. Other eco-friendly elements include low-flush fixtures in the restrooms and trims made of recycled wood. The majority of the artwork commissioned for the terminal comes from Northern California artists, with pieces from Gregory Kondos, Joan Moment and Suzanne Adan representing Sacramento. But executing the theme didn’t stop with the building’s design: Travelers can nosh at locally based concessions that include Old Soul, Esquire Grill and Cafeteria 15L, while “Good Day Sacramento” and The Sacramento Bee host retail shops. Seating areas at each gate are comfortable and come equipped with USB ports and outlets for business travelers. With a terminal like this, it’s almost worth a security pat-down.

Best Volunteer Idea
Caring for public parks throughout Sacramento has been low on the city government’s priority list for several years, with budgets being slashed dramatically and maintenance crews dwindling. But that doesn’t mean the parks have been forgotten: In neighborhoods throughout the city, residents are establishing volunteer corps to ensure their parks stay well-groomed and clean. One group, LAND PARK VOLUNTEER CORPS , keeps the area’s busiest public park looking good, with monthly volunteer crews coming through William Land Park to perform tasks once handled by park employees: planting, trimming, pond cleanup, etc. Another group, FRIENDS OF FREMONT PARK, reclaimed its park from drug dealers and prostitutes by convincing the city to lock the public restrooms. These cleanup crews are doing a great job—and they’re happy to do it. As Land Park Volunteer Corps founder Craig Powell says, “It’s fun, it’s healthy, and it helps our community.”

Best Urban Revival Project
It’s been a heckuva year for K STREET MALL. The opening of Pizza Rock, Dive Bar and District 30 made K Street Mall a new hotspot for eats, drinks and dancing. New hanging planters, benches and other landscaping features have added to K Street’s beauty quotient. But this month, the return of cars to the previously pedestrian-only mall may take the area to a whole new level of hustle. While the area has seen more foot traffic in the past year, the addition of cars opens up the space to many more people, according to Lisa Martinez, director of marketing and outreach for Downtown Sacramento Partnership. “It’s part of our long-term vision,” says Martinez. Next up: developing the 700-800 block of K Street, where a mixed-use project includes the addition of 100-plus residential units with ground-floor retailers and a live music venue.

Best Green Idea
Thanks to a federal grant, Priority Parking president Aaron Zeff was able to install ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING STATIONS charging stations in two publicly accessible locations in Sacramento last year. The stations are part of the ChargePoint Network, which uses mobile apps to help EV owners find free or low-cost charging anywhere in the country. EV drivers visiting downtown can juice up at Harv’s Car Wash at 19th and L streets or at the Priority Parking garage at Ninth and L. Business was slow at first, says Zeff, but now there’s someone charging his or her car every day. One user is Stockton resident Catherine Kearney, who frequently charges her Nissan Leaf at Harv’s while she attends meetings nearby. When her car is fully charged, the ChargePoint system notifies her with a text message, so she can move her vehicle and allow another EV driver to “refuel.” “Sacramento is on the verge of taking the next step and really contributing to the planet,” says Kearney. “I’d love to see it become the green city it could be.” Expect to see more EV charging stations installed throughout the city in the coming year.

Best Civic-Minded Blog
Sometimes, the best ideas come under duress. In 2008, when business reporter Jon Ortiz was approached by his editor at The Sacramento Bee to come up with a blog concept focused on state workers, he resisted. “I thought it would beso narrow, and I wasn’t a big believer in blogs,” he admits. By choosing to focus on how state politics affects state employees, Ortiz laid the groundwork for The Bee’s STATE WORKER BLOG. A little over three years later, the blog has established itself as an information resource for the 220,000-plus state workers it serves. “It consistently is one of our best-read blogs,” says Bee executive editor Joyce Terhaar. Ortiz’s e-mail overflows with messages ranging from complaints about stinky colleagues to tip-offs on fraud. When he’s on vacation, his readers use the comments section as a virtual town square where they can share information, which is just fine with Ortiz. “I view myself as a conductor, and the people using the blog are the ones who drive it.” blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/

Best Idea To Get Sacramento Reading
Anyone who wants to quickly launch a project can learn a thing or two from the Sacramento Public Library. At the end of February, the library received a grant from the California State Library to purchase and circulate E-READERS to library patrons. By April 10, the e-readers were loaded with content and ready to be checked out. Early response was staggering, with hold queues surpassing 200 requests within a couple of weeks of the program’s launch. Currently there are 300 e-readers in circulation, all of them dedicated to a specific genre or interest, such as Best-sellers, Biography, Teen and Science Fiction. Each e-reader is preloaded with 20 books, though the Best-sellers e-readers include more than 40 titles to account for new releases. When a second batch of e-readers was added, the library system set aside 60 of the devices to serve as “Lucky Day” items, giving patrons visiting a branch the opportunity to check out an e-reader without having to place a hold. The program’s success has made the Sacramento Public Library a leader among libraries nationwide: The team behind the project is now educating other library systems on how to implement e-reader lending programs of their own. Sacramentans wanting to request an e-reader can stop by their local branch or visit the website and search for Nook. saclibrary.org

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