Our staff awards for the best in Santa Cruz County shopping and services.

Shoe Stores
Despite the overflowing pockets of our wealthy neighbors to the south and northeast, they can’t get many of the things we can get here in Santa Cruz. This is most noticeable—to those of us enamored of myriad ways to protect and adorn our feet—in the lusciousness of our shoe shops. From Bunny’s, Sockshop, Shoe Fetish, O’ My Sole and Old School Shoes in Santa Cruz to Aptos Shoes and Fleet Feet in Aptos, and Hot Feet in Capitola (just to name a few), there lies a treasure trove of supple leather, fabric and new materials in small miracles of design to wrap our feet as comfortably, stylishly, sexily or simply as we demand. Today’s modern human needs shoes for office work, driving, gardening, dancing, hiking, pavement walking, height elevation, beach combing, partying and every kind of sport. In their versatility, innovation and diversity, local shoe stores collectively represent what is so special about Santa Cruz County. Make the rounds, savor the quality craftsmanship, and take home the best Santa Cruz has to offer, by the pair. (JH)

Cosmo Factory
For those who want to feel like a Pretty Pretty Princess, but don’t have a stash of golden tiaras to pawn for spare cash, the Cosmo Factory is an excellent alternative. The youthful, friendly staff of beauty schoolers learning the trade from experienced professionals offer a multitude of feel-good options for feel-great prices. From shampoo and hair cuts ($9) to manicures ($8) to make-up application ($12) and even facials ($22), clients can walk out feeling fabulous and still have enough cash for a delicious cup of coffee next door at Firefly Café.  131 Front St., Santa Cruz. 831.621.6161. (GP)

Sure Cuts
For years, we strolled the predictable haircut routine every few months: choose between forking over a small fortune to a serious salonist; ask a grinning barber with a hacksaw to give you Natalie Portman’s V for Vendetta look, or just give up altogether and hand your money to some chain. Then we discovered Sure Cuts for just $15 on Soquel and Seabright with talented stylists who make pleasant conversation. It gets better: haircuts are $10 on Tuesdays and Thursdays for seniors. The rest of us have something to look forward to.1628 Seabright Ave, Santa Cruz. 831.458.2887. (JP)


Bargain Barn
I wonder if Macklemore has ever been to the Bargain Barn. With only $20 in his pocket, he could buy four bags of clothes! You haven’t gone thrift-shop clothes shopping until you’ve bought clothes by the pound. The Bargain Barn is located behind the Goodwill processing plant, where a good amount of the donations come through. Stuff that doesn’t make it to one of the stores ends up at the barn, which can turn into some real amazing finds. Get there when they open. There’s a line outside. When they open, it’s a frantic rush to get in and get everything as quickly as possible. 392 Pioneer Street, Santa Cruz. (AC)