Get out on the road quick. Palo Alto Bicycles offers solutions to all biking needs. Want a classy beach cruiser for that quick run to the grocery store? They've got it. Or a serious road bike for a real adventure? No problem. Complete with bike servicing and plenty of bike-ready clothing, this shop is the fix to any bike-related problem. Mike's Bikes raced in to a close second place. 171 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-7411. paloaltobicycles.com
Kepler's Books and Magazines made a big change recently to its popular author-talks program. No longer able to offer free admission to the talks, Kepler's began requiring audience members who are not store members to buy the event book or a gift card. Owner Clark Kepler said this change hasn't hurt attendance. "Anecdotally, we have heard comments from customers like: 'It makes sense; people ought to be willing to pay something,' and 'That's a fair amount to ask,'" he said. And Kepler's remains well-liked with Palo Alto readers, who once again voted it the best local bookstore. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 324-4321. keplers.com
This charming downtown shop remains a treasured alcove for tasteful and eclectic gifts, may from local designers and artisans. Its dazzling collection of hand-carved Zuni figurines, beads, necklaces, gemstones and bracelets makes it a popular destination for both art lovers and residents searching for the perfect anniversary gift. Shady Lane racked up three awards this year, with readers voting it the city's best boutique, jewelry store and gift shop. 441 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-1099. shadylanegallery.com
You won't be sorry you need glasses if you stumble upon Lux Eyewear, voted best eyewear for the third year in a row. The light-filled, upscale shop on El Camino Real stocks friendly service and unusually stylish brands that aren't available everywhere, including the French brands Lafont and Face a Face, ic! Berlin and Oliver Peoples. 1805 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-324-3937. luxpaloalto.com
If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear flowers in your hair from Stanford Floral Design. The shop was founded in 1994 by Werner Rogmans, a sixth-generation florist who started his career in his native Germany, where he received a master's degree in floristry. Today, his store is a Hamilton Avenue staple. Regular customers rave about Werner's artistry and creativity -- and his ever-present canine companion, appropriately named Stanford. Voters picked Stanford Florist a close second place. 433 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-462-8230. stanfordfloraldesign.net
Hall of Fame: Second Year
Whether you choose from the array of brightly-colored flora, dried flower arrangements or even gifts, you'll notice there's something special about Michaela's Flower Shop, a downtown Palo Alto mainstay for more than 40 years. Perhaps it's the history -- the shop was formerly named Stapleton Florist and run by a beloved couple of the same name. Maybe it's the magic of brightly colored peonies, roses and carnations that have delighted many a newlywed and countless prom-bound teenagers. Can you guess the secret? 453 Waverley St., Palo Alto; 650-321-5390. michaelasflowershop.com
Palo Alto gem Shady Lane was also named the top boutique in town. See the complete listing in the Boutique category.
Environmental responsibility is standard practice for Palo Alto Hardware, which also hammered the competition for hardware. See the complete listing in the Hardware Store category.
Whether you're looking to replace a light bulb, discover composting or get down to the nuts and bolts for a major home-improvement project, Palo Alto Hardware is the perfect place to start. The downtown store isn't just the city's top destination for hardware, it is also an eco-friendly rock star with solar panels on its roof, fluorescent lights on its ceilings and a wide range of green gadgets on its shelves. No wonder our readers voted it both the city's top hardware store and its best green business. 875 Alma St., Palo Alto; 650-327-7222. paloaltohardware.com
Home Furnishings and Décor
English pop band Madness sings about "Our house, in the middle of our street." But the British rockers would be wise to journey out to Palo Alto to decorate said house. Crate & Barrel has everything a home hungers for -- comfy couches, soft throw pillows, sturdy tables, vibrant lights. Whether simply stocking your kitchen with new dishware or adding new design elements to the entire home, Crate & Barrel can help. #530 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-321-7800. crateandbarrel.com
Hall of Fame: Third Year
Ever since it opened in East Palo Alto in 2003, IKEA has been a haven for everything a home needs. The multi-level store sports such a wealth of house-related offerings that directional arrows on the floor are required to help shoppers find their way. Beds, chairs, tables, desks, cabinets -- even small household items and children's furniture are available in abundance, all with that unique IKEA touch. 1700 E. Bayshore Road, East Palo Alto; 650-323-4532. ikea.com
Downtown retailer Shady Lane also shined for boutique and gift shop. See the complete listing in the Boutique category.
Suit up your inner rock star. Need classy ties and a snazzy suit or a casual shirt and comfortable shoes? Name it and they probably have it at Nordstrom. And with so many brands to mix, match and choose from, this store is a clear winner in men's apparel. Nordstrom also swept home awards for shoes and women's apparel. #550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-323-5111. nordstrom.com
New Retail Business
A new kid is on the block. Acme Party Box offers sustainable solutions for any event. Whether it is a child's birthday bash or a happening picnic, Acme sells the raw materials you need. And true to its sustainability pledge, everything can be washed, reused or recycled. No trash always makes for a rocking good time. #102 Town & Country, Palo Alto; 650-618-4682. acmepartybox.com
With the motto "we guarantee success," it is no wonder SummerWinds is a winner in the best nursery category. Even its name evokes a golden afternoon spent basking under the sun in a blooming garden. A wide variety of plants, including California natives, are available, and the knowledgeable staff is on hand to help even the most hapless would-be gardener find his or her green thumb. 805 Yuba Drive, Mountain View; 650-967-3154; also 725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto; 650-493-5136. summerwindsca.com
When Scooby-Doo is out of Scooby Snacks, Shaggy's best option is to head over to Palo Alto's best pet-supply store. Serving the Midpeninsula since 1986, Pet Food Depot is known for its large variety of pet food and supplies, as well as taking special orders. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will make sure to answer any question in order to make your visit quick and convenient. Once Shaggy makes a visit, Scooby Snacks will not be Scooby's only favorite snack anymore. 3127 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-852-1277. petfooddepot.com
Whether sneaking in for a late-night snack run or stopping by the pharmacy, Walgreens offers the remedy for many household situations. Recently rebuilt following a 2007 fire, the new-and-improved Walgreens is stocked with myriad health needs, from cough syrup to calamine lotion and much more. As a winner of multiple "Best Of" awards, the drug store proves itself to be a Palo Alto staple. 300 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-566-9723. walgreens.com
Longtime retail haven Nordstrom also earned the top prize for men's wear. See the complete listing in the Men' Apparel category.
Sporting Goods and Apparel
Need to find another way to enjoy summer? Well, Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World has got it. With a huge range of toys and sporting equipment, children and adults alike can find something that will fit the bill. A family-owned business since its founding in 1930, the store remains a fixture of downtown Palo Alto. Not surprisingly, the shop also scored for Best Toy Store. 526 Waverley St., Palo Alto; 650-328-8555. toyandsport.com
Hall of Fame: Second Year
Some people hear "rock and roll" and think "rockclimbing and cycling." And Best Of Hall of Famer REI is the ultimate go-to place for all sorts of athletic goodies. Whether snowboarding, hiking, kayaking or simply going for a quiet bike ride, REI has it all. REI features an array of products from some of the sporting world's best manufacturers, including Burton, Patagonia and Under Armour, among others. Need clothes for that upcoming camping trip? REI has shirts, boots, socks, pants and more for men, women and kids. And if you get lost in the massive store, fear not. REI sells GPS devices, too. 2450 Charleston Road, Mountain View; 650-969-1938. rei.com
Palo Alto boasts so many top-tier stationery stores that readers had a hard time picking a clear winner. This year, Village Stationers on California Avenue and Paper Source at Town & Country Village are sharing the trophy. Each won our readers' hearts with a vast selection of post cards, elegant knickknacks, stylish gift wrap and, of course, rocking stationery. Village Stationers: 310 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-7970. Paper Source: #63 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto; 650-324-9700. paper-source.com
Playtime is par for the course for Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World, which also won for sports goodies. See the complete listing in the Sporting Goods and Apparel category.
Three-category champ Nordstrom also earned applause for shoes and men's apparel. See the complete listing in the Men's Apparel category.
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