You may not be transformed into a sea-roughened pirate for your starring role in "Pirates of the Caribbean" every morning. But if you were, Peninsula Beauty Supply would probably be your go-to beauty store for making yourself gorgeous again after the cameras stop rolling. Hair products, cosmetics and a salon are among the offerings here. 250 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-327-1454.
Resolved: Lose 10 pounds. Solution: Bike to work. But where to begin? Mike's Bikes doesn't offer just your Mom's Schwinn. Today there's a "comfort/hybrid/commute" number, along with road, mountain, cyclocross and cruiser options. With the bikes come all the accoutrements: helmets, car racks, bells and whistles (OK, horns), chains, cranksets, tires and tubes -- and of course, the proper attire. 3001 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-858-7700.
Kepler's Books and Magazines is a perennial favorite of Weekly voters -- and the community at large -- due to its author events, knowledgeable staff, and its books, magazines and gifts. Founded in 1955, the store is a local institution. When it comes to hiring, Kepler's takes a special approach. "We don't hire cashiers. We hire readers," staff leader Nancy Salmon said. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-324-4321.
This welcoming downtown boutique is a goldmine for gift shoppers and jewelry collectors. Shady Lane has been dazzling Palo Altans for more than three decades with its Native American necklaces, hand-carved figurines and charming treasures. Most of the merchandise here has been crafted by local artists. Weekly readers also favor Leaf and Petal, giving it the second-most number of votes in the Boutique category. 441 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-1099.
Carpet & Floor
There's plenty of space to roll out scrumptious carpet samples in the ample, hushed chamber of Interiors & Textiles. Once you've chosen a few, you can check them out and take them home to try out on your floor. With a huge selection, the store has done business locally for 55 years. Weekly readers awarded Stanford Carpet a close second place. 1400 Shoreline Blvd., Suite B-1, Mountain View; 650-493-1700.
Whether your style is nerd or femme fatale, nothing changes one's appearance faster than eyewear. Retro and modern glam collections at Lux Eyewear offer opportunities to be an instant new you, sans surgery. The 800 style choices include sports lens by Rudy Project, sunglasses by Maui Jim, rimless by Kazuo Kawasaki or just plain chic by Chanel or Judith Leiber. Readers were also clearly pleased that Lux specializes in non-chain-store fashionware, with on-site service and repairs. 1805 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-324-3937.
Any business that's been around for more than 100 years must be doing something right. Mills the Florist -- in its quaint, brick downtown building -- has been offering fresh flowers, gifts and many other things bright and blooming since 1903. Readers voted Nature's Alley a close second place. 235 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-326-3443.
Hall of Fame: First Year
Whether you're adding a splash of color to four weddings or a funeral, Michaela's Flower Shop has flora galore. The longtime downtown floral spot has played its role in making nervous Paly and Gunn teens shine at prom, couples' anniversaries sing and stays at Stanford Hospital feel cheerier. Hate to see the fresh-flower power wilt? Pick a Michaela's dried floral arrangement. 453 Waverley St., Palo Alto; 650-321-5390.
The Palo Alto Art Center hosts a lot more than glass pumpkins and the Clay & Glass Festival. Exhibitions encompassing a wide array of artists and media make regular appearances. Works on display have recently included prints by Diego Rivera and other 20th-century Mexican artists; a contemporary tapestry featuring images of cloned sheep; and huge papier-mache sculptures by local students. Current summer shows explore Surrealism. A close Best Of second place was the Nature Gallery. 1313 Newell Road, Palo Alto; 650-329-2366.
Shady Lane also won for Best Boutique; see the full listing in that category.
See the Hardware Store category for a description of Palo Alto Hardware, which was honored by readers in both categories.
In an era of big-box retailing, Palo Alto Hardware radiates the feel of days gone by. Though the store is part of the national Ace Hardware chain, many customers here are greeted by name and all are served by a knowledgeable staff. The crowded aisles are a bit of heaven for the homeowner in search of just the right light bulb. For every transaction without a bag, the store donates a nickel to Palo Alto Partners in Education, a foundation that supports Palo Alto's public schools. 875 Alma St., Palo Alto; 650-327-7222.
What came first -- the crate or the barrel? No matter: Those folksy home furnishings have been overtaken by modern walnut tables, sleek walnut-and-chrome bentwood chairs and a newlywed's nirvana of kitchenware. That's Crate & Barrel today, a purveyor of style and comfort. Weekly readers are also fans of Sur La Table, which took a close second place. 530 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-321-7800.
Hall of Fame: Second Year
From your basic Framsta line to Smaskas, Bjurstas and Ektorps, IKEA has got home-decorating needs covered, with its popular, affordable furniture and accessories, which include the streamlined, minimalist, whimsical and bright, all in ready-to-put-together packages. 1700 E. Bayshore Road, East Palo Alto, 650-323-4532.
Three-time winner Shady Lane also won in the Gift/Novelty Shop and Boutique areas; see the full listing in the latter category.
If you're going to play hooky from work and lounge around all day eating bonbons, you want to look good while doing it. For delicate indoor wear, readers often choose Victoria's Secret. There's plenty of lace and silk, polka dots and leopard prints to go around, not to mention many options for push-up, demi-cup, strapless, racerback and... Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-328-0574.
Movie stars have Academy Award-winning costume designers like Edith Head and Colleen Atwood to give them impeccable style. Palo Altans have Nordstrom. With its wide selection of brands and styles to mix and match, you might not even need a personal stylist to pick out the right mohair suit or waffle-knit sweater. 550 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-323-5111.
New Retail Business
If you thought Vans was just a shoe store, think again. The new shop in downtown Palo Alto carries backpacks, purses, dresses, belts, T-shirts and more -- and, oh yes, shoes too. The window of the store, which opened May 7, displays a giant green-and-orange Crayola box with cute checkered kids' shoes sprouting from the top. 222 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-330-0520.
Nursery and Garden Supplies
SummerWinds Nursery is a favorite for all things horticultural, whether shoppers are seeking teak garden furniture or Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew. Of course, there are plenty of growing things: flowering plants, grasses, shrubs and trees to create one's own Bali Ha'i or Shangri-La. The store will also custom-create container gardens of colorful flowers. 725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto; 650-493-5136.
If Dorothy's tornado had landed her in Palo Alto instead of Oz, she might have headed for Pet Food Express to stock up for her terrier sidekick. After choosing from hundreds of brands of pet necessities, Toto could have stuck around for a vaccination clinic or pet wash. And if Dorothy decided he needed a playmate, she could check out regular mobile adoption events hosted by local animal societies. Weekly readers also gave The Pet Place enough votes for a close second place. 3910 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-856-6666.
In addition to cosmetics, first-aid products and a photo lab, Walgreens offers flu-shot clinics, gift cards, and medication management -- and will text customers when their prescriptions are ready. It also offers shopping for a late-night snack or quart of milk. The downtown Palo Alto location has risen from the ashes of a 2007 fire; it reopened in April. 300 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-326-3404. 2605 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; 650-566-9720. 4170 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-858-2007. 643 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-321-1530.
Shoe Store/Women's Apparel
Three-time winner Nordstrom also took the top reader prize in Men's Apparel; see the full listing in that category. Anthropologie was a close second in Women's Apparel.
The Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World provides a million inducements for Palo Altans to get off the couch and play, including Nerf balls, soccer cleats and bathing suits. The perennial Best Of winner has an inventory that always seems to capture the latest trends, as well as a generous toy collection and a wide selection of youth-sports gear and swimwear. 526 Waverley St., Palo Alto; 650-328-8561.
Hall of Fame: First Year
Dear Ms. Hollywood: When did you reach your breaking point with the paparazzi? Was it when you tiptoed to the pharmacy to buy a remedy for an embarrassing personal condition, and you weren't wearing any eyeliner? It may be time for a backcountry getaway. Stop by REI first. Weekly readers are fans of its outdoors clothing and gear, and at the Mountain View store you can also rent tents, camping stoves, sleeping bags and backpacks. And, if you're really looking to hide far away, snowshoes. 2450 Charleston Road, Mountain View; 650-969-1938.
The Letter Perfect experience begins before one even sets foot in the door: the refined archways, picture-perfect white window and the crisply serifed font above the doorway. Indeed, paper aficionados say they drool over the stationery, cards, party invitations, and unusual Post-It notes that shop owner Gwen Gasque has selected. Meanwhile, Best Of voters bestowed a close second place on Paper Source. 384 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-3700.
Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World also won in the Sporting Goods category; see the full listing there.