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The circumference of a pumpkin can be math and art at Discoveries Learning Center, as Kelsey Row, age 41⁄2, demonstrates.

Paul Wellman

The circumference of a pumpkin can be math and art at Discoveries Learning Center, as Kelsey Row, age 41⁄2, demonstrates.


Best of Santa Barbara 2012: Little Creatures


Toy Store

Kernohan’s Toys

Two locations

If you are like us, you are tired of the word “iconic” referring to everything from Orthodox saints to hot dog labels. However, the big bear in front of Kernohan’s is an iconic part of growing up in Santa Barbara and has been since back in the heart of the baby boom 58 years ago. Mrs. Kernohan might be gone, but her spirit still seems to gently hold a mood over the stores, which lean toward the educational and the artistic, yet have a sense of kid fun all over them. It’s the perfect place to equip a young life; let’s hope our kids’ kids feel comforted by a big bear outside a store, too.

FINALIST: CHICKEN LITTLE

Daycare Facility

Discoveries Learning Center

4519 Hollister Ave., 683-3001

For 33 years, Discoveries has provided care with education for toddlers, preschool, and kindergarten kids. “I think people vote for us because it is such high-quality education,” explained director Lorraine Neenan, who has been at the school since it first opened. “We believe in developmentally appropriate play and learning. And this is one of the few independent schools of its kind to be credentialed.”

FINALIST: RAINBOW SCHOOL

Kids’ Summer Camp

Zoo Camp

Santa Barbara Zoo, 500 Niños Dr., 962-5339

“The main reason Zoo Camp is so popular is that the staff is so dedicated to having everything go well,” said director of education Katie Holder, who does allow that having cute animals and impressive animals might make a difference as well. “A few of the counselors attended the camp,” she said, “including the camp coordinator,” so there is something almost instinctually great about the way kids get to go ape, monkey around, and even roar with pleasure as they learn about the life around us.

FINALISTYMCA

Children’s Clothing Store

Peanuts Maternity & Kids

9 E. Figueroa St., 618-1640

“I think it’s a combination of service, warmth, and great products,” said Nicki Horne, owner of the two-and-a-half-year-old business that’s had a growth spurt in reader votes this year. The business also sells maternity clothes on consignment, so people can come in and trade their baby clothes and mommy clothes as the big changes roll. “Everybody who works here is thrilled we won.”

FINALIST: CHICKEN LITTLE

Pet Hospital/Clinic

White’s Pet Hospital

532 E. Haley St., 966-1604

“We feel ourselves very fortunate to have won,” said Dr. Daniel Casaus, who is also proud to work in the veterinary center that first opened in the early 1920s. “There have been very few owners; I think only four in all that time. But what makes people vote for us, I think, is the dedicated staff’s willingness to try their best to help.”

FINALIST: ST. FRANCIS PET CLINIC

Pet Boarding

Dioji K-9 Resort & Athletic Club

Two locations

“This is our first year at the new location, and we just cracked our fifth year at the first,” explained the always-exuberant Jeannie Wendel, proud to be winning this category again with a business that offers reasonably priced lavish attention for your pet either by day or overnight. “This is something we thought up for ourselves, something we thought would be great for our own dog. And then we thought we’d try to make it work. It’s very nice to see that other people think so too.”

FINALIST: CAMP CANINE

By Paul Wellman

Independent dog Tubbs approves of Lemos Feed & Pet Supply, too.

Pet Store

Lemos Feed & Pet Supply

Six locations

“Customer service is the most important thing,” said Goleta store manager Geoff Shea. “We have a friendly staff and everything for pets … well, mostly dogs and cats. We don’t actually sell animals, but we have stuff for chickens and horses, too.” Shea says there is a wide variety of odd products in the store, but his current favorite is the Churpi Chew. “It’s made entirely of yak milk,” he swore.

FINALISTPETCO

Pet Grooming

Little Dog House

5758 Hollister Ave., Goleta, 964-2446

Another one of our winners with decades of experience, Little Dog House has been coiffing cuddly chows and bobbing boxers for 35 years. “I think people vote for us because dogs are my life,” said owner Annabelle Hofmann. “We let the dogs run loose. It’s great. We may not be perfect, but we’re the best.”

FINALIST: FOR PAWS SALON

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