Goods and services

Writers’ choice

Best day spa

Mellow Me Out
Got modern-America syndrome? Stress levels soaring … caffeine tweaks kicking in … sleep deprivation wearing you down? Doesn’t a full day at a spa sound good right now? Imagine lying back in a comfortable chair, having your nails done and your legs waxed (well, only if they give you a general anesthetic first), having a full body massage, a facial, and even an airbrushed tan (much healthier than the tan-in-the-box method). On Wednesday nights, Mellow Me Out holds its margarita night. For $40, you get margaritas, chips and salsa, a dip in the Jacuzzi and a 25-minute back and shoulder massage. The Me Tarzan, You Jane package for couples offers simultaneous attention for two, and the spa also offers the Macho Man and King of the Jungle treatments. (I sense a theme here.) 1105 Fulton Ave., (916) 482-2772,

Best psychic

Linda Schooler
Do you already know what you are about to read? There are many great folks in town who can help tune into your energy field and tell you a thing or two about your life and what is about to happen. Linda Schooler can do it by holding an object that you’ve worn or handled for at least a year. She takes a minute to get images, then she lets loose, describing people, places, and events that you’ve already experienced or will soon experience. She describes people in your life with amazing detail, and she does it with an apparent ease that makes one wonder if someone had filled her in before the visit. She is also known for her ability to communicate with animals, so if your pet is behaving strangely or is having problems adjusting to new situations, let Linda channel in an explanation. (916) 725-9463 or

Best home-improvement store

Emigh Ace Hardware
Emigh isn’t quite a big-box chain outlet, but it’s a lot bigger than your corner hardware store. What sets it apart is its aggressive approach to customer service, with salespeople who usually are quite willing to patiently walk a customer through a home-repair procedure. 3555 El Camino Ave., (916) 482-1900.

Best barbershop to get a small-town vibe

The Rocklin Barber Shop
Odds are that when you enter the Rocklin Barber Shop, you’ll hear a conversation that begs for your lazy-Saturday-afternoon-on-the-front-porch comments. It is that small-town coziness that brought generations of men and boys to William “Barber Bill” Adrian’s place for the past 30 years. Jokes, quips about politicians, hard times given to the know-it-all kids, and stories of weekend escapes to the Sierras, often come with your $15 haircut and shave. Take your number that’s carved on a wood-chip and see family photos, dozens of little league portraits of Barber Bill-sponsored teams, the 90-year-old photos of Rocklin, and the plastic “bloody ear collection.” Since the shop is often packed during the afternoons, as many visitors usually wait to be cut by Barber Bill and lots of boys demand his flat-tops, don’t be afraid to throw out any spark of conversation to the three working barbers. Every minute is better than hours at the office. 4241 Rocklin Rd., Rocklin, (916) 624-3166.

Best plant nursey

Best store for trinkets galore - Wishing Well

Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center
Talini’s wins this one, but don’t tell anybody. Not that the Folsom Avenue plant shop is a total secret—on weekends there are plenty of customers milling about the pipe-smoking garden gnomes and organic herbs. But unlike some of the bustling nursery chain stores, Talini’s maintains a certain laid-back quality. Maybe it’s the friendly staff who actually seem interested in answering your questions. Maybe it’s the absence of big crowds. Whatever it is, Talini’s is a good space to be in when you start your next garden project. Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center, 5601 Folsom Blvd., (916) 451-8150.

Best place to find a hair transplant for that old Raggedy Ann doll

If this isn’t the best yarn store on Earth, it’s certainly one of the friendliest. Walk in and see a dazzling array of colors and textures. It also has a helpful, devoted staff of genuine artisans to answer your questions. 1021 R St., in The Building, (916) 442-9225.

Best outfit for under $10

Purple Heart Thrift Store
I’ll admit, I was desperate. A day at the river with two dogs left me covered in muddy paw prints. An impromptu call from a friend to attend a movie left me with two options: go covered in mud because there was no time to get home to change clothes, or skip the premiere, and have the surprise ending ruined the next day. Driving down Folsom Boulevard I had an epiphany while almost passing the big industrial looking building by the train tracks. Within the cavernous white home of Purple Heart Thrift Store you can find everything from small appliances to tube socks. With a crisp 20 in my pocket ($10 of which went to movie and snacks) I picked up a cute Little League T-shirt and a pair of jeans, nicely broken in, I might add. And best part of it all was, after a presto-chango in my friend’s Midtown apartment, I even had a couple bucks left over for dinner. Purple Heart Thrift Store, 6790 Folsom Blvd., (916) 451-8456.

Best place to learn underwater basketweaving

The Learning Exchange
OK, there really is no underwater basketweaving class, but if there were, it would be available through the Learning Exchange. Through this source of educational classes, you can learn how to get started in the lucrative career of a private investigator; how to buy foreclosed property; how to make anywhere in Europe your second home; how to cook a week’s worth of meals in one night; how to change your emotions in an instant (with neuro-linguistic programming); how to juice your way to good health; how to win the lottery with probable math (bring a calculator and lottery tickets); and anti-aging strategies, day hike adventures, digital photography, opera 101, romance writing, channeling, golf, fly fishing, bridge, weight management and permanent smoking cessation. (916) 929-9200.

Best store for trinkets galore

Best place to wash your big dog - Launder Dog

Wishing Well
Ring pops, pencil tops, Sheriff’s stars for fake cops, fright wigs, plastic pigs, scented candles (small or big), goodie bags, U.S. flags, self-adhesive gift tags, sea shells, wedding bells, novelty stink powder smells, still more, second floor, scary Halloween décor, gift wrap, Bottle Caps, where will I fit all this … er, great stuff? 1880 9th St., (916) 446-4841.

Best cheap family-night out

Davis Farmers Market
Good food, free (sometimes good) music, a foot powered carousel and other diversions for the kids, all set in the shady and lushly green Central Park in downtown Davis. The market is usually jam-packed, even on the hottest summer afternoons, with every kind of person imaginable from every place imaginable, hawking their wares, their politics and their art to endless streams of passersby. But despite the bustle it’s a remarkably mellow scene, and a great place for the family to unwind, mid-week, on the cheap. Davis Farmers Market, Central Park, 4th and C sts. Wednesdays from 2-6 p.m. (Oct-March) or 4:30-8:30 pm (April-Sept), Saturdays 8-noon (year round).

Best way to avoid road rage on the way to a River Cats game

River City Rickshaw and Pedicab
The word “rickshaw” may not conjure up the most PC images. You might think of fin de guerre Saigon, with a desperately scrawny rickshaw driver groaning under the weight of a corpulent, sweaty colonialist. Well, not in wholesome Sacramento. We have our very own version, thanks to River City Rickshaw and Pedicab. Former dot-commer John Latiolais took his hefty severance package and his love for cycling and turned them into a fleet of modified rickshaw vehicles—mini-carriages perched on three-wheeled bikes. John has hired a bunch of fellow cycling enthusiasts to run folks all over the downtown area—including Raley Field—for less than it costs to take a cab. (916) 717-3449,

Best hotel with a naughty past

The National Hotel
Calling itself the oldest continually operating hotel in California, the National in Nevada City has preserved as much as possible of its original glory. The glossy banister lists to one side, the red chintz wallpaper is peeling and water stained in places, and sometimes the old velvet settees rest unevenly on their well-used springs. But the grand old beds are comfortable, the bartenders downstairs are friendly, the ceilings are high, and the balcony that looks over Broad Street is blessed by the ghosts of Victorian prostitutes who used to hail their customers standing on its wooden planks. It is, in spite of its age, one of the most charming, historical, and interesting places to disappear into for the weekend. And it’s surrounded by a downtown so quaint and cozy, the whole damn thing has been established as a national landmark. 211 Broad St., Nevada City, (530) 265-4551.

Best place to wash your big dog

Launder Dog
Ever try to wash your big dog in the shower? Sure, it’s the cheapest way to go, but when poochie loses patience and starts shaking water off and rubbing fur all over the rugs and walls of your bathroom, is it worth it? Not when $15 or so will get Fido clean as a new Teddy bear at Launder Dog, just off Fulton Ave. Launder Dog provides the tub, the shampoo (many to choose from), towels, a blow drier and brushes for you to clean and comb your dog; it also offers on-site grooming and sells lots of doggy necessities. And it provides a great place to interact with other dog owners and their dogs. 2600 Alta Arden, (916) 979-9274,

Best magazine stand - Newsbeat

Best place to look like a cop

Sacramento Uniforms
Tired of living in a society that always seems to be riding the thin line between manners-minding order and sheer chaos? How about a little escape with a khaki California Correctional Facility shirt, green cap, wide-lens sunglasses and a nightstick to boot? Such civil-chic apparel is offered at Sacramento Uniforms, a longtime source of clothing and leather goods for law enforcers, firefighters and mail carriers. It is a treat to browse the rows upon rows of merchandise that our civil servants have to buy. The shop also sells city-specific patches and uniforms, and provides a dry-cleaning service. There are five dressing rooms to live out your embarrassing, private fantasies or Halloween costume tryouts. There’s plenty of accessories available, see the basket of polished batons ($40), and the “anti-ballistic jackets” (on sale for $400). Warning: Do not even think about buying a full uniform to patrol the streets as a would-be peace officer. While only the police departments issue badges, using some sheriff’s threads to scare kids away from your front yard is a violation of CA Penal Code 538d, and can cost you a $2,000 fine and a year in a county jail. You’ve been warned. 2344 Arden Way, (916) 567-7877.

Best magazine stand

Whatever dirty little vice you can’t live without, that’s bound between two glossy covers, Newsbeat’s got it. And even if your tastes run to obscure academic literary journals, or magazines dedicated to various dog breeds, or super glossed-up glamour zines in a variety of European languages, a publication freak can find it here. You don’t even have to pretend you’re just buying them for the articles. In here, it’s okay to look at the pictures. Sacramento: 1005 L St., (916) 448-2874; Davis: 514 Third St., (530) 756-6247.

Best place to buy Christmas ornaments in July

The Mixed Bag
Do you buy birthday presents for your grandchildren years before they’re born? Are you so together that you have all your Christmas shopping done days before Thanksgiving? Do you take showers even before you get dirty? Well, you don’t have to be as anal as that, but, if you like the idea of buying your Christmas decorations in the middle of summer, then I have news for you: Get help now. Or, you can give in to your compulsions and go to The Mixed Bag any time of the year and get what you need for your holiday décor. The store sells stuff for all occasions—cards, baskets and wind socks, for example—but what you’ll notice when you walk in is the odd feeling of stepping into a time warp. You’re looking at things that make you think of snow and turtlenecks, and it’s 100 degrees outside. 2405 K St., (916) 447-6123.

Best banking convenience

Wells Fargo
Geez, every time I seem to get a stockpile of stamps, the U.S. Postal Service jacks us up for another rate hike. And since I go to a Post Office, like, once a year around Christmas, this stamp buying is a pain. But who of us doesn’t go to an ATM three times a week? So those people who used to run the stagecoaches have figured out that selling stamps at a profit through an ATM machine could add to their bottom line. But hey, my bottom line is all about saving time. Now, if they could figure out a way to get rid of some of those fees and dispense some beer. Various locations.

Best place to replace that old Strawberry Alarm Clock LP you lent to your deadbeat ex-roommate and never got back - Records

Best bookstore to buy best sellers by the armload

The Almost Perfect Bookstore
Set among the soccer-mom boutiques of Roseville’s Target Shopping Center is a bookstore that no modern merchandisers can touch. Saturated with used hardbacks and paperbacks—it seems like 100 books per square foot—The Almost Perfect Bookstore is a prime spot for stocking up for those lazy summer afternoons, or long, caffeine-addled nights. Inside, grocery bags of donated books form a minefield through which to walk, but you should think of them as buried gold because the usual prices range from $5 to $15 for best sellers. Expect to find huge stacks that include The Great Gatsby, Catch-22 and other classics made more affordable by the store credit given to book donors. Best-selling authors or series often get special treatment; Anne Rice and Stephen King books en masse are common sights as are books in the Star Trek and Sweet Valley High series. The store also donates surplus books to local animal shelters and charities. What’s most remarkable, though, is the staff’s uncanny ability to find every damned title in the store. 1911 Douglas Blvd., Roseville, (916) 781-7935.

Best refuge for the Nintendo generation

Video Game Swappers
Tucked in one of the dozens of shopping centers that adorn Sunrise Boulevard, this decade-old shop has been a trading post for aged gamers who either outgrew their youthful indulgences or just wanted that extra moola for a Microsoft Xbox. But, while looking at the racks of used games, you may wonder about the broken dreams of the games’ developers, who believed they were the vanguard of the interactive revolution and enticed affluent kids to shell out their allowances for eye-straining stimulation. Just remember that the more technology advances, the faster its revolutionary products become obsolete, or worse, retro. Aw, to hell with the existentialism. A $7 copy of Super Mario Bros. 2 and cheap beer will make any night right. Video Game Swappers offers a plethora of games for the late, great consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Genesis, and even Atari’s ill-fated Jaguar. Feel free to chat with the teen employees, who will give you a hard time from the bottom of their hearts. Extra bonus points for those who get nostalgic about the bitchin’ hot pinks and neon greens that are splashed on the store’s white walls and that scream late-1980s Americana. 7601 Sunrise Blvd., (916) 721-6330.

Best place to replace that old Strawberry Alarm Clock LP you lent to your deadbeat ex-roommate and never got back

Ed and the gang have been a downtown fixture since Richard Nixon was president, and Ed’s recycled-record store has seen a lot of changes through the years. You’ll find quite an assortment of things that didn’t even exist 30 years ago, such as CDs, videocassettes, laserdiscs and DVDs. The stock in trade, however, remains what it’s always been: vinyl—hundreds of thousands of records of all speeds and sizes, stuffed into every dusty nook and cranny of the store, with a filing system just this side of chaos. 710 K St., (916) 446-3973.

Best way to entertain your memories

The Beat
If you go chasing rabbits through your past, then this is the place to do it. Rummage through scores of used records, tapes and CDs, and you’re sure to uncover those long-forgotten memories of your old lady or old man passing the pipe around in the back of the Volkswagen bus. Come hear Uncle John’s Band, and get by with a little help from these friends. Yeah, isn’t it funny, this feeling inside? But be on guard! Some memories can come rushing back and blindside you: Take a little piece of my heart now, baby—sometimes it doesn’t feel good! The Beat has every known record and tape ever made (well, it seems like it).You can make great discoveries at good prices and sell some of your own collection to the store if you’re in the mood. Then later, when you regret getting rid of that loved-then-hated-then-loved-again record, you can come right back and buy another memory … or someone else’s. 1700 J St., (916) 446-4402.

Best bar for breathing room

The Oxygen Bar
Looking to get high? No, I can’t tell you who deals the weed, but sometimes all you need is a vibrating leather recliner and an oxygen generator to take the edge off. For what amounts to $1.00 a minute, patrons of The Oxygen Bar can relax and inhale 95 percent pure oxygen, humidified and scented with balsam, cranberry, eucalyptus, lemon and rosemary in mixes with names like “Chillin” and “Serenity.” But it’s the opposite of a marijuana high that blocks oxygen flow to your brain. It’s the kind of rush an athlete would get during a long run. It’s a bar from which advocates say you emerge more relaxed, more refreshed, and more virtuous than when you came in. It’s better than breathing in that purple haze hanging over the Valley, and there’s no bong water. 7732 Fair Oaks Blvd., (916) 944-4544.

Best place to get clubbed

Haggin Oaks Golf Super Shop
You really couldn’t ask for more. (Well, you could, but that comes later.) A duffer can purchase equipment, get lessons from a pro, practice and play golf on two courses, all at one location. It’s golf nirvana. Haggin Oaks Golf Super Shop is smart about the marketing, too. When you’re shopping for equipment, you talk to the pro in the store and he or she recommends the club for your game. Then, you walk out to the outdoor range right behind the store, get practice balls for free and try the demo clubs that are undoubtedly better than your old set. The pro comes out to the range for a little mini-lesson, while you drool over the new and expensive technology. The pro then sells you on lessons to improve your pitiful swing. Then, you tee up at one of the courses, all the while thinking how nice those new clubs are. We only ask that Haggin Oaks gets rid of the plastic driving-range mats and gets a real bar for the 19th hole. 3645 Fulton Ave., (916) 575-2526.

Best place for women’s clothes

When girls are about 13 or so, they consult with their friends each night about what they will wear the next day at school. The height of this mass-induced hysteria is manifest in “all-dresses Fridays,” when suddenly 25 out of 30 girls in the eighth grade, many of them tomboys, all show up on the same Friday morning looking prim in Laura Ashley florals and a demure, insinuating smile. Well, that phenomenon dies fairly quickly. By the time a woman reaches college age, she and her friends run screaming in opposite directions when they notice somebody else in the room sporting the same frock. That’s a sentiment that persists, even as it mellows, as a woman gets older. But who can afford E! Network haute couture, seemingly the only way to ensure you don’t look like everyone else? The answer is Riki’s, a charming Midtown boutique with a range of smart-casual to dressy clothes for women. All the clothes are designed by the owner, German-born Ursula Labermeir. She brings her stylish, European flair and a bit of a scientist’s balanced, harmonious approach (she was a biochemist) to her clothing line. The clothes are elegant and clean-lined, with an evergreen shelflife. And the colors (lots of rich, earth tones, and basic blacks and reds) and styles are all mix-and-match. It’s like walking into the closest of a lady with great fashion sense. But the most striking details are the Italian and French fabrics she uses. They are bold in design and always tactile. You’re compelled to touch them. And she employs them in unpredictable ways, like using fuzzy sweater material to make a skirt. The prices are a little higher than in some department stores, but are lower than in most comparable boutiques. 2317 J St., (916) 448-7130.