Goods & Services

Writers’ choice

Pay-and-display station

Pay-and-display station

Photo By Larry Dalton

Best suits for men who don’t like to wear them

Tops Men’s Fashions
Next time you’re forced to attend a formal affair—say, a corporate holiday party or your best friend’s wedding—look for a new suit at Tops in the Florin Mall. If you have to wear one, you might as well do it with style, and Tops carries a wide variety of distinctive looks: hand-tailored numbers, zoot suits, three-quarter suits, tuxedoes and even two-piece linen and cotton “outfits” in unusual colors and patterns. Think lime green, pink, electric blue, shimmery black, colorful plaids and pinstripes from Stacy Adams, John Raphael, Falcone and a number of Italian designers. And Tops has all the accessories, like cuff links, ties, hats and collar expanders. We’ve also seen the store hold big sales, with a number of suits going for $99.99 and others selling at 50-percent off (alterations are free, as well). Even better, there’s a Pacific Footwear right next-door, with a great selection of dress shoes. Seriously, once you see these threads, you’ll look forward to your next formal occasion. 5967 Florin Road, (916) 427-8444.

Best bet for a safe ride home

Designated Drivers Association of Sacramento
They don’t want to judge or lecture you about being responsible; they just want to keep you from messing yourself or somebody else up. Recognizing the limitations of our public-transit system—and the major buzz kill of going out on the town, getting nice and tanked, and then having to leave your car behind—volunteers for the Designated Drivers Association (DDA) are here to save your sodden, sorry ass. Ring them up on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and a pair of intrepid good Samaritans will come out to pick you up, ensuring that both you and your car get home in one piece. Since its inception in 2001, DDA has taken real action against drunken driving, making things easier—and safer—for more than 11,000 Sacramento-area nightlifers. Hotline at (916) 335-5555,

Best place to find relics from the past

Sacramento Antique Faire
With more than 300 vendors, the Sacramento Antique Faire has something for everyone: Fire King dishware, Bakelite poker chips, Star Wars memorabilia, vintage clothes and accessories, furniture from every decade, antique gas pumps and more. Items may have price tags, but don’t be afraid to haggle—most vendors will expect it. The fair, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, is held the second Sunday of every month from 6:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Early birds may get first pick, but vendors are more apt to barter as the hours go by. Admission is $3. 21st Street between W and X streets, (916) 600-9770,

Best reason not to make dinner (traveling to 2015)

Illustration By Leif Jones

Food To You
It may seem strange in 2015, but back in the 1980s, home delivery was reserved for meals of Chinese food or pizza. 1993 was the year that changed everything. After shattering his lower leg in a baseball accident, local entrepreneur Darren McAdams spent several months at home. During that time, he got to thinking about food delivery and eventually decided to start a service of his own: Food To You. Founded in a Citrus Heights garage, the company offered a simple service. People could order food from a number of local restaurants, and, for a small fee, Food To You would handle the pickup and delivery. People started calling. After all, they could enjoy their favorite restaurant meals without leaving the house. Gyros, sushi, fajitas, tapas, desserts, barbecue—all delivered. And the Internet meant menus were always up-to-date. By 2005, the Sacramento upstart was delivering food in 40 cities in the Western United States. By 2014, the company’s focus on lunches had made it very popular at the Capitol. Aides to actress turned Senator Alicia Silverstone say she’s responsible for the company’s new emphasis on vegan fare. And California legislators on both sides of the aisle say they’re considering the legalization of mixed-drink delivery. Will Food To You soon deliver mojitos with our burritos? After all, food’s only part of the equation. (800) 951-FOOD,

Best fish market

Seafood City
If you’re shopping for fresh fish, there’s no place in town quite like Seafood City. The small chain of Filipino supermarkets, which has three stores in Northern California, has an amazing selection. In the back of the store, you’ll find the seafood counter, which offers the items you’d find at many grocery stores: shellfish, octopus and fillets of various types. The nearby freezer and refrigerator cases are more expansive. We spotted dozens of kinds of dried and smoked fish, and the frozen offerings included Asian specialties like stuffed milkfish. But the stainless-steel display cases full of fresh fish are the real draw. Close to 50 different kinds of whole, fresh fish were on ice during our visit (think tilapia, bonita, pampano, sand goby and snapper). And a major advantage to visiting Seafood City is the store’s policy of cleaning and frying your fish for free while you shop. Just select the fish you want, make your request at the counter and wait for someone to call your name over the intercom. 6051 Mack Road, (916) 393-8900.

Best clothes for the expanding and contracting figure

Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE) thrift stores
Face it: We all vary in size from time to time. For those of us who are expanding—or contracting—at a rapid clip, it’s much easier to come across those “in between” sizes at reasonable prices at a thrift store. The only problem is that the usual thrift-store styles are right out of your elderly Aunt Emma May’s closet. At the WEAVE thrift stores, clothes actually still have some style left in them. Lose a few pounds, drop a size, and get some clothes that fit both the new figure and the times without busting your wallet. As if that weren’t enough, money goes to support WEAVE’s programs to combat violence. 919 20th Street, (916) 554-2412; and 6634 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael, (916) 481-6376.

Best place for pets on parade

Dog Show Specialties
You didn’t even know you needed all this stuff, did you? Do you even know why a dog needs mousse or something called “finishing spray"? From leashes to kennels, trimming shears to pet food (kibble, canned or raw), this warehouse-style store is the one-stop shop for all things canine. It’s known as the region’s depot for dog enthusiasts who spend their weekends at American Kennel Club dog shows (you’ve seen the movie Best in Show, right?), but the store is a great resource for all pet guardians. There’s also a classroom at the store where instructors teach the finer points of obedience and conformation. The store makes up for its lack of ambience with knowledge and stock. 301 Richards Boulevard, (916) 443-8131.

Best local history-book series

Illustration By Leif Jones

Images of America’s Sacramento series, Arcadia Publishing
Arcadia Publishing has the right idea when it comes to local history: Let the locals write it. This series relies on historic photos to tell the story, and writers with expertise to provide informative captions. For example, Sacramento’s Land Park, published this year, is written by Jocelyn Munroe Isidro, history columnist for the Land Park News. Other volumes in the series have been compiled by similarly qualified local historians; the East Sacramento and Oak Park volumes were edited by Lee M.A. Simpson, a California State University, Sacramento, history professor who oversaw the work of eight contributors. Drawing from a wealth of archival material, much of it from the Sacramento Archives and Museum Collection Center, these are affordable and worthy pictorial keepsakes. In addition to Sacramento’s neighborhoods, many surrounding communities have volumes of their own, with more to come.

Best way to save your quarters (traveling to 2008)

Pay-and-display stations
On-street parking has become so easy in 2008, now that you can just head to one of the pay-and-display stations, insert your credit card or coins, and then display your receipt (with its peel-and-stick backing) on the curbside window of your car. Sure, there was the initial getting-used-to-it period after the first stations were installed in 2005, “just as there was years ago when ATMs first arrived,” explained Howard Chan, manager for the city Department of Transportation’s Parking Services Division, in an old press release. But by the end of 2005’s six-month trial period, Sacramentans proved technologically savvy enough to master the solar-powered stations. After all, the entire city was fed up with being weighed down by quarters. In 2007, the city decided to ditch all of the quarters-only meters, forking over $8,000 per station. Nowadays, the only quarters-only meter in Sacramento can be found inside the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts. City Parking Division; 921 10th Street, Suite 100; (916) 808-5354.

Best place to ease buyer’s remorse

East Sacramento Hardware
As if forking over $350,000 for a “light fixer” isn’t painful enough, now you’ve got to spend every weekend at a big-box home-repair store where seemingly nobody has the knowledge or desire to help you. Avoid home-improvement-induced anxiety at East Sacramento Hardware, a mercifully compact and orderly place that stocks many of the materials you’ll need for your painting, repair, building and gardening projects. In this age of chain-store hegemony, East Sacramento Hardware exudes such traditional mom-and-pop comfort—from the self-serve nail carousel to the friendly, one-on-one tool tutorial—that giving the cashier your credit card is almost painless. 4800 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 457-7558.

Best place to turn a haircut into a guilty pleasure

Felicité Aveda Concept Salon
Yes, he’s a wizard with the scissors, but Felicité's owner, Neal Hagerty, starts his haircuts with a luxurious neck and scalp lavender-oil treatment—worth the price of admission itself and guaranteed to make you feel like the queen you are. The salon also offers a variety of spa treatments and a host of other talented stylists. Walk-ins are accepted, but appointments are highly recommended. 3401 Freeport Boulevard, Suite 5; (916) 442-4247.

Best place to rekindle your inner rebel

Illustration By Leif Jones

Health care for all! Down with nukes! These days, there are plenty of issues to draw a citizen’s attention. But, hey, we’ve all got busy lives, and there are only so many marches one can attend or letters one can write. So, whether you’re loud and proud, snarky or irate, the question remains: “How do I best get my personal opinion across to the masses with the least amount of effort?” The answer is found at Choice’s, where owner Denise Evangelista has been providing all manner of bumper stickers, T-shirts, magnets and buttons for years, for just about any cause you’d care to name. While there, also check out the swell array of fine jewelry by artists like Holly Yashi, Far Fetched and Patricia Locke, in addition to other unique gift items. 2231 J Street, (916) 448-6742.

Best maternity shop

Kismet Maternity
When you first get pregnant, you can’t wait to start showing for real. After all, a true pregnant belly is a lot better than having acquaintances wonder if you’re just getting chunky. But soon you realize you have a logistical problem that low-rise jeans can only go so far toward solving. The chain stores are OK for inexpensive basics, but you need a few super-cute options for those dispiriting days when you feel like you’ll be pregnant forever. Avoid months of frump by checking out Kismet Maternity, which stocks stylish brands like Australia’s Ripe. Its offerings ain’t cheap, but there’s not a tent-like empire waist in sight, and the clothes are hip enough that you might want to wear them even if you weren’t pregnant—which you won’t be, someday, no matter what it seems like now. 5704 Elvas Avenue, (916) 451-0600,

Best bargain drugstore

Price Less Drug Stores
The locally owned Price Less Drug Stores love to brag that their everyday prices match or beat the sale prices at the national corporate chains, like Rite Aid, Longs and Walgreens. To prove it, the staff cuts out its competitors’ ads and tapes them to the shelves throughout the store. Price Less offers better deals than the big boys on almost every item a drugstore carries—toothpaste, shampoo, pain relievers and cosmetics. The store also offers 40 percent off all greeting-card and stationery items every day and office-supply prices that shame Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax. And if you’re a teacher, Price Less will give you an extra 10 percent off if you’re buying school supplies for your class. It also has the ultimate selection of travel-size products. 7223 Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael, (916) 483-0213, Also in Rancho Cordova and Roseville.

Best combination of art and literature

The Jack London mural at Beers Book Center
It’s all too easy to miss this intersection of literary and visual arts unless you happen to approach the new Beers Book Center from the east on S Street. The eastern wall of the building has been painted with a portrait of Jack London, one of the literary giants of California history, and includes passages from his work in a style that mimics his own handwriting. Die-hard fans of Beers don’t really need a reason to visit, but a few moments spent contemplating the mural certainly set an appropriate mood for those of us who are on the lookout for something a little different from the typical commercial fodder on best-seller lists. Beers has an eclectic inventory of new books, a handful of rarities and a selection of reasonably priced used books, and the store will special-order anything you want. Welcome to bookstores the way they ought to be, complete with a lazy cat. Beers Book Center, 915 S Street, (916) 442-9475.

Best local honey

Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies

Photo By Larry Dalton

Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies
As its name suggests, this family-run store offers the tools of the beekeeping trade: queen bees, raw building materials, beginner’s kits and the like. But that’s only the start. The store sells (and purchases) locally made honey—a bargain at around $2.50 a pound when you bring your own container. The orange blossom is the store’s most popular, but they’re all tempting. (Try the Davis area wildflower or the Grass Valley dark amber. And the blackberry is delicious.) The store also sells plush bumblebee toys, beeswax crayons and candles, Burt’s Bees products, books and other gifts related to honeybees. And if you’re new to the beekeeping business, talk to the informative staff or check the bulletin board. Notices advertise live beehives for sale and give information about occasional bee-related events, such as tours of the UC Davis bee lab. 2110 X Street, (916) 451-2337.

Best free computer advice

CompUSA service-department geeks
Getting frustrated looking for honest advice on buying a new computer, or upgrading your two-year-old model, which is almost obsolete? Do you get a sinking feeling that the computer-store salesperson doesn’t have a clue what he or she is talking about when you ask questions about that graphics card, hard drive or DVD burner? Then get off the sales floor and head to the service department, tucked in the corner of the CompUSA store on Alta Arden Expressway. The real geeks toil away in obscurity here on the backroom workbench installing components and software, and they know what the best products and most reliable brands are. At no charge, Beau Richins and his team of computer gurus will reveal the skinny on which products are designed to self-destruct in six months and which ones will last. 2040 Alta Arden Expressway, (916) 565-6075,

Best old-school custom leather work

De Santis Leather Gallery
Is your favorite, one-of-a-kind leather purse, wallet or belt worn or damaged, seemingly beyond repair? Fear not; local leather craftsman Paolo De Santis will fix it—or make a brand-new one exactly like your original. Born in Italy 50 years ago, the artisan has more than 35 years of experience in the manufacture and design of leather goods. De Santis now works out of his small one-man shop on El Camino Avenue, doing custom leather work for divas, cowboys, carpenters, bikers and even magicians. If you can dream it, De Santis probably can make it. Check out his small showroom or Web site for samples of jackets, vests, horse and Harley saddlebags, briefcases and tool belts, all made in a variety of hides. The quality takes time, so don’t expect a quick turnaround, but the end result will be worth the wait. 3013 El Camino Avenue, (916) 482-5004,

Best way to soothe a loved one who is ill

Poet Healer: Contemporary Poems for Health and Healing
For his Ph.D. dissertation in creative writing, Chip Spann, director of Sutter Medical Center’s Literature, Arts and Medicine Program (LAMP), compiled 234 poems for a book he hoped would “be a comfort for the sick and rabble-rouser for those who work at getting well.” The poems, by luminaries like Raymond Carver, Lucille Clifton, Emily Dickinson, Muriel Rukeyser, Rumi and William Stafford, provide a patient’s perspective on illness. One review called Poet Healer “a welcome addition to the field of literature and medicine.” The limited-edition anthologies are made to order by hospital volunteers. Spann facilitates writing groups for medical patients, caregivers and health professionals and currently is compiling an anthology of their work. Sutter Resource Library; 2800 L Street, Suite 600; (916) 454-6802.

Best place to buy flowers

Your nearest farmers’ market
It’s nothing against those franchise florists, but much of what they sell has started to seem so overcultivated, so processed. And, yes, so expensive. Getting your flowers from a farmers’ market has the great advantage of rustic, affordable charm. Not only will you find the freshest of the fresh-cut (usually picked within a day), but you’ll also find some things you can actually plant in your own garden. As a bonus, you’ll likely meet the person who actually grew them in the first place. Bringing in more and more growers, from such far-flung fields as Lodi, Woodland and Half Moon Bay, the organizers of Sacramento’s Sunday markets increasingly have made flowers a vivid marketplace centerpiece. Davis’ market, in Central Park, and Denio’s, in Roseville, take place year-round, rain or shine, on Saturdays—allowing you to get a jump on your weekend. Got a wedding coming up? Make plans to tour a vendor’s farm and pick out what you like. Then recruit your craftiest friends to help with the arrangements, and voilà! Full bloom without a busted budget.,,

Best feminist bookstore (traveling to 1989)

Lioness Books
Visiting Sacramento in 1989, the time-traveler can walk right off J Street, up a set of wide and graceful stairs into a cozy bungalow of labyrinthian rooms full of the best women-centered fiction, lesbian erotica, bumper stickers and lapel pins equating women without men to fish without bicycles. One half of the building is devoted to books, including women’s history, advice on coming out and lesbian comic strips that never appear in Sacramento newspapers. The other side of the building is full of rooms devoted primarily to meetings, to bulletin boards and to the raising of resident cats. In my time travels, I’ve occasionally arrived in the spring, when there were kittens. 2224 J Street.

Best new place to find a job

IKEA, a brand that is known for its sleek home furnishings and affordable prices, has started construction on its 265,000-square-foot West Sacramento store. In addition to providing 1,150 parking spaces, 250 seats in its Swedish restaurant and 50 different room displays, the new IKEA will bring about 300 retail jobs to the Sacramento area—along with the 500 construction positions required to build the Swedish retailer’s new store. Oh, and did we mention that the company ranked No. 62 in Fortune’s eighth annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” issue?

Best place to get a sari and more

Khalsa Fabrics Plus
Tucked among a strip of industrial-looking buildings on West Capitol Avenue, the exterior of Khalsa Fabrics Plus doesn’t do justice to the feast for the senses served inside. Upon entering, one is greeted with the rich smells of curry and other Indian spices floating from the grocery and baked-goods aisles located in the back—an unusual offering for a clothing store. Owners Balbir and Karmgit Dhanota take pride in offering Indian, Pakistani and Fijian grocery items their customers cannot find easily elsewhere, including their own milled flour. In business since 1983, Khalsa is best known for its authentic saris—two- and three-piece Punjabi suits—and the colorful array of fabrics used to make them. Dressy or casual, in silk, chiffon, rayon or other materials, there’s no way a woman can wear any of these airy designs without feeling feminine. Uninitiated in the way of the sari? No worries—Balbir Dhanota and her staff will be happy to help you select the one that best complements you. Teen and children’s apparel is also available. 2021 West Capitol Avenue in West Sacramento, (916) 372-4643.

Best resource for parents with autistic children

The UC Davis MIND Institute
One child in 166 has some form of autism. No one knows why. But in 1997, five fathers with autistic sons imagined a world that understood what caused neurodevelopmental disorders and could offer a cure. In collaboration with UC Davis, they founded the Music Intelligence Neural Development (MIND) Institute, where experts from every discipline related to the brain work together toward the goal of curing autism, followed by the ultimate goal of curing other neurodevelopmental disorders. The MIND experts actually have created a research map that they believe will lead them to that cure, so institute staff is now passionately raising the necessary funds. 2825 50th Street, (916) 703-0280,

Best source of healing for hospice patients

Healing Hands, Healing Hearts
After serving as the primary caregiver for a beloved aunt dying of pancreatic cancer, Jo Williams felt the undeniable pull of a new calling. Williams left her career as an elementary-school teacher, completed massage school and created the nonprofit Healing Hands, Healing Hearts (HHHH). Just four years later, her team of 12 massage therapists provides unlimited free massage to hospice patients and three free massages to the critically ill not living in hospice, with additional massages available at reduced rates. On a yearly budget of $10,000, HHHH pays its professional massage therapists, each of whom has completed advanced training that includes hospice care. All administrative work is handled by volunteers. Williams’ dream is to have the first nonprofit in the nation to offer body work to all who are chronically ill or dying, regardless of their ability to pay. (916) 442-5735,

Best radio journalism

KVMR’s News Hour
In some radio circles, KVMR is considered a sort of throwback. Everywhere, managers of noncommercial stations are abandoning the old model of eclectic blocks of programming produced by local community members, in favor of wall-to-wall National Public Radio. But as KVMR station manger Steve Baker once told SN&R, his station is really a “throw-forward.” With Internet and satellite radio becoming more prevalent, Baker figures the future of radio stations depends on their localism. And that’s exactly what’s best about KVMR’s News Hour. The station actually sends reporters to cover local government, news and community issues every day and then fills a nightly broadcast with those reporters’ stories and interviews. We’d almost forgotten you could do that with radio. 89.5 FM from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.