Mandana Navi (center left) makes small batches of shampoos, conditioners and skin creams in a lab in the back of her Palo Alto beauty supply store Essentique. Courtesy of Mandana Navi

Featured: Beauty Supply

Mandana Navi got her start in the beauty business in her own kitchen, testing out recipes for skin products and sharing her results with friends before opening Essentique on California Avenue in 2016. She makes small batches of the shop's shampoos, conditioners and skin creams formulated from natural — mostly plant-based — ingredients in a lab in the back of her shop. Her line of hair, skin and body care products sport playful names like Brazilliant (leave-in conditioner with Brazil flower) and Stud Suds (shampoo with beer). This year, she unveiled two new products: Clair, a sea whip extract formulated for teens battling acne flare-ups and Delicat, an essential oil blend to relax the mind. Born and raised in Tehran, Navi worked as a biologist in Iranian hospitals and moved to Vancouver to earn an MBA before opening her Palo Alto shop.
2417 Park Blvd., Palo Alto, 650-800-7375;
Runner-up: Parasol Beauty Atelier

Bike Shop

Founded in 1964, independent bike chain Mike's Bikes has a singular purpose — to get as many people on bikes as possible. The shop features a big selection of brands and types, plus a skilled staff to offer tune-ups.
4233 W. Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-858-7700;
Runner-up: Palo Alto Bicycles

Book Store

Kepler's Books has been a mainstay of the Peninsula's literary scene for more than six decades. Besides offering books, it's also the site of hundreds of free and ticketed events hosted by the nonprofit Kepler's Literary Foundation.
1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-324-4321;
Runners-up: Bell's Books

Best Boutique, Gift Shop, Jewelry Store: Shady Lane


Shady Lane See Jewelry Store

Runner-up: Leaf & Petal


Lux Eyewear is a one-stop shop for all things vision-related — from eye checkups to lens replacement. Opticians are available on site to assist customers, and Lux's in-house optical lab can process prescriptions in as little as two hours.
1805 El Camino Real #100, Palo Alto, 650-324-3937;
Runner-up: Wilby Optical

Flower Shop

Since opening in 1903, Mills Florist has provided fresh flower arrangements for special events spanning the past 100 years. The longtime florist also offers balloon bouquets, fine crystal, stuffed animals, dried swags and wreaths, and chocolates and other sweets.
235 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-3443;
Runner-up: Village Flower Shop

Gift shop

Shady Lane See Jewelry Store

Runner-up: Letter Perfect

Hardware Store

From hardware, tools, key cutting and knife sharpening to phone repair, garden supplies and barbecues, Hassett ACE Hardware in Palo Alto has it all. Family-owned since 1957, Hassett is a Palo Alto institution known for its focus on customer service.
875 Alma St., Palo Alto, 650-327-7222;
Runner-up: Los Altos Hardware

Best Stationery store: Village Stationers

Jewelry store

From luminescent art glass to locally inspired jewelry creations, Shady Lane has been offering one-of-a-kind pieces ever since artist Alice Deutscher opened the boutique more than four decades ago. 325 Sharon Park Drive, Sharon Heights Shopping Center, Menlo Park, 650-321-1099;
Runner-up: Gleim the Jeweler

Nursery/Garden Supplies

SummerWinds has everything you'll need to make your garden pop, including compost, potting mix, outdoor decor and tools (like trowels and gloves), bare-root fruit trees, native grasses, veggie plants and flower hats. The center also offers free gardening-related classes.
725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, 650-493-5136;
Runner-up: Ladera Garden & Gifts

Pet Store

Pet Food Express features everything almost every pet needs: a line of high-quality food, toys, grooming tools, bedding, a self-service bath facility and veterinary services. The California-based chain also facilitates adoption and rescue events.
3910 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-856-6666;
Runner-up: The Pet Place

Best Shoe Store: Footwear Etc.

Shoe Store

Footwear Etc. has been helping customers find comfortable yet stylish shoes since 1986. The shop features Vionic, a podiatrist-created brand for men and women that features built-in arch supports in all of its shoes.
463 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-1122;
Runner-up: The Cobblery

Stationery store

For 53 years, Village Stationers has helped Peninsula residents find gifts, cards, office supplies and more at its family-run stationery shops. (The beloved family business is set to close its doors at the end of this summer when owner Kerry Hoctor retires.)
719 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 650-321-6920 | 222 Main St., Los Altos, 650-941-9600;
Runner-up: Letter Perfect

Cheeky Monkey Toys Courtesy Cheeky Monkey Toys

Featured: Toy Store
Cheeky Monkey Toys

—Cheeky Monkey Toys is a family-owned shop that specializes in finding "just the right toy" for each customer.
—Since opening its doors in Menlo Park in 1999, the shop has provided interactive toys designed to stimulate children's minds to generations of local families.
— In 2016, the shop was chosen as Retailer of the Year by the Western Toy and Hobby Representatives Association from among 1,000-plus stores in the 13 states.
— Owners Anna and Dexter Chow were expecting their first child when they decided to change careers and buy a toy store.
640 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 650-328-7975;
Runner-up: Ambassador Toys

Women's Apparel

With high-quality brand-name clothing, artisan jewelry and modern shoes, Leaf & Petal has been helping customers find outfits and accessories that express their style since 1976.
439 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-8070;
Runner-up: Gitane