Readers' Choice 2020

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'They're bringing us some really neat things'
Frame shop sees unique requests as residents get creative during quarantine

Elisa Spurlin, owner of Peabody Fine Art Gallery and Framing, talks about customer Christine Tugadi's framed pieces as Tugadi picks up a work of art in Menlo Park on May 27. Spurlin said besides requiring masks and other health mandates, the coronavirus hasn't impacted her business that much. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Tucked between hair salons and restaurants on Menlo Park's Santa Cruz Avenue, Peabody Gallery and Framing has fared better than many other small businesses during the pandemic.

The custom-framing and fine art gallery, which has been around for three decades, initially reopened for curbside pickup in May so customers could drop off their artwork and view samples of frame designs they had chosen online from a table set up at the front entrance.

According to owner Elisa Spurlin, there are rarely more than one or two people in the store during normal times, so keeping customers safe while transitioning back to business as usual hasn't posed too big of a challenge. Aside from masks and social distancing, "We haven't had to change much," she said.

As Peabody's neighbors have started letting customers come back, she's seen foot traffic at her store increase as well.

"We are about 80% to 85% of where we were this time last year," she said.

Although the store is uniquely situated to weather the quarantine well, the business has made a few changes. The gallery, which people can still visit in person, is now accessible online.

"We are open, so people can come in and look, but in the world of trying to minimize contact, we're trying to promote the (virtual gallery) as best as we can," she said.

When it comes to framing, Spurlin has designated two tables for customers to use as home base and no longer lets them wander the store freely.

Spurlin said that after operating the store for 30 years, "you start to notice patterns, and this isn't the first time people have been hesitant to go out. There have been other times when the economy has been in a recession and people stay home or they don't have the money to spend," she said.

Unlike the 2008 recession, when people were more hesitant to spend money on anything but necessities, the pandemic has left locals itching to improve their surroundings by making aesthetic home improvements.

"What's happened lately is people are cleaning like crazy, and they're finding things," Spurlin said.

Instead of throwing away old records or photos or even clothes that have been hidden in the attic, people are bringing them to Peabody and asking Spurlin to frame them.

"They're not traveling, so they're not getting things from vacations and stuff like that, but they are cleaning," she laughed. "They're bringing us some really neat things that have some really fun stories behind them."

She recently helped stuff and frame an old White Stag ski suit that is going on the wall of one customer's Lake Tahoe home.

Spurlin said she feels fortunate that she's still able to go to work every day and see her customers from a distance.

"Thank you to our community," she said. "It honestly seems like everybody out there is trying to do the right thing, and to me, that's what's going to keep us open."


Scroll down to find out how last year's winners have responded to the pandemic.

A Touch of Elegance Nail Care

Customers can expect quality service, a friendly staff and reasonable pricing at A Touch of Elegance Nail Care, a longtime favorite of Almanac readers. In addition to manicures and pedicures, A Touch of Elegance also offers facials and other services. The salon is open for in-person services with stations indoors that are spaced to comply with social-distancing guidelines..
1150 Crane St., Menlo Park, 650-321-0679
2019: Manicure/Pedicure

Guy Plumbing & Heating

Guy Plumbing & Heating
is a fourth-generation family-owned business that provides a wide range of services and operates a full-service showroom specializing in the sales and installation of Toto washlet bidet seats, as well as parts for Hansgrohe, Kohler and Grohe. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the company has been taking measures to confirm the health status of customers and its staff before scheduling each appointment. Plumbers are wearing protective masks, gloves and shoe covers as well as maintaining social distance while on the job.
1265 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-323-8415;
2019: Plumber

Jane Weston, MD

Dr. Jane Weston has been bringing expertise in plastic surgery to Bay Area patients since 1985. A graduate of Stanford Medical School, Weston offers plastic surgery for the face, breasts and body, as well as a range of medispa services, including Botox, fillers, laser, threads and body contouring. Weston now offers virtual consultations for those who want to limit face-to-face contact. For in-person appointments, all clients will have their temperatures taken upon entering the building, and additional safety measures are in place for patients who need to remove their face mask during an appointment.
1047 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-457-6291;
2019: Plastic Surgeon

Ladera Cleaners

Ladera Cleaners offers one-day dry cleaning, mending and reweaving services, as well as alterations for wedding dresses and other items. Check the company's website for updated service changes.
3130 Alpine Road, Portola Valley, 650-854-2291;
2019: Dry Cleaner

Menlo Park Barber Shop

The barbers at Menlo Park Barber Shop pride themselves on developing close relationships with clients, giving excellent cuts and "blending craft and tradition with a strong dose of humor." The shop has reopened for in-person indoor visits, and barbers also are making house calls. Masks are required for all appointments.
2100 Avy Ave., Menlo Park, 650-391-9008;
2019: Barber

Olive Hill Salon

Its charming setting and commitment to its clients are just a few of the reasons why readers voted Olive Hill Salon the best hair salon last year. Olive Hill specializes in hair cuts, coloring and styling. The salon is open with protective barriers between stations, enhanced sanitation measures and contactless payment options.
2920 Woodside Road, Woodside, 650-851-1150;
2019: Hair Salon

Portola Valley Garage

Portola Valley Garage's skilled technicians have been providing minor tune-ups and major overhauls since 1948. In addition to repair services, the garage offers 24-hour vehicle drop-off, online appointments and loaner cars. The shop is open for service.
4170 Alpine Road, Portola Valley, 650-851-7442;
2019: Auto Repair

Stanford Park Hotel

Stanford Park Hotel describes itself as an "oasis" that offers its guests "genuine tranquility." This luxury hotel features a luxurious pool and spa, complimentary in-room snacks and fireside spots for conversing and reading. Check the hotel's website for updated service changes.
100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-322-1234;
2019: Hotel

Studio K-Fit

Studio K-Fit offers high-intensity but low-impact workouts focused on strength, mobility and cardio through high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Class sizes are small so that instructors can focus on each individual. The studio also offers lifestyle coaching, personalized nutrition guidance and Zoom and Facebook Live workouts.
3708 Florence St., Redwood City, [email protected];
2019: Fitness Classes 2019: Gym

Studio Rincon

Studio Rincon has been our readers' choice for best yoga studio since 2012. Studio Rincon offers a variety of different yoga and fitness classes for all levels, as well as ballet and hip-hop classes for children. Adult classes include gentle, power, and vinyasa yoga, as well as Zumba and cardio hip-hop. The studio ensures small class sizes so that instructors can focus on each individual, and classes are designed to be fun while still providing a good workout. The studio is streaming yoga and fitness classes online during the shelter-in-place order.
3536 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, 650-861-0242
2019: Yoga

Watercourse Way

Inspired by the natural hot springs of Tassajara, Watercourse Way now offers concierge massages that can be booked in clients' backyards. The spa is open for outdoor gazebo massages, facials and spa treatments as well as indoor massages and limited hot tub service. All rooms are equipped with Dyson air purifiers and UV lights. Hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the building. Masks are required for clients and therapists, and all staff undergo temperature checks before each shift.
165 Channing Ave., Palo Alto, 650-462-2000;
2019: Day Span