Made In Santa Barbara, 2006

What Happens in Santa Barbara, Did Not Stay Here:
Local Ideas Everyone Enjoys

For this year’s Made In issue, we’ve decided to do something a bit different than previous years. Since it’s our 20th anniversary, we thought we’d find out what — if anything — our little hamlet had created that has broken through the county boundary and become nationally recognized. It was surprisingly easy to come up with 20 fabulous things. For example, did you know that Motel 6 was started in S.B.? And Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, Earth Day, and the Egg McMuffin, for that matter? Read on to learn of the other now commonly known national products that germinated here.

And for those who rely on this issue to help you with your shopping, don’t despair. We have also included information about the best places to buy unique gifts made by fellow Santa Barbarans, and how to think outside the Christmas gift-buying box.


Thirty-eight years old this spring, the annual celebration of Earth Day has its origins right here in Santa Barbara. Earth Day’s founder, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, was inspired not by the region’s outstanding beauty, but by the 800 square miles of slick, black crude oil that covered the Santa Barbara channel and coated South Coast shorelines when he visited the area shortly after the disastrous 1969 oil spill. Moved by the devastating environmental impact of the spill and impressed by the spontaneous grassroots response, Nelson returned to Washington, D.C., and passed a bill designating April 22 as a nationwide teach-in day for environmental issues. The following year, Santa Barbarans came out in full force to celebrate the first Earth Day, along with 20 million other Americans in thousands of cities and colleges who demonstrated peacefully in favor of environmental reform. “The Santa Barbara incident has frankly touched the conscience of the American people,” said then-president Nixon, who spoke of the spill as a wakeup call “for preserving the beauty and the natural resources that are so important to any kind of society we want for the future.”

Though the conservation and ecology movements predated Earth Day, many credit the celebration with launching the environmental movement. Within three years of Earth Day’s inauguration, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed, and amendments to the Clean Water and Clean Air acts had passed through Congress. The Santa Barbara festival lost steam during the Reagan era, but enjoyed a rebirth in 1990 with the Community Environmental Council’s official adoption of the festivities, which drew 30,000 people to hear Jackson Browne and David Crosby. Today, Earth Day is celebrated internationally; the United Nations rings the Japanese Peace bell on the vernal equinox each year in honor of the festival.

— Elizabeth Schwyzer


People come to Santa Barbara agog with heady visions of panoramic hikes, sculpted surf, and chiseled crags; you hike, you surf, you climb — you need protein! Luckily for you, Santa Barbara is the original home of Balance Bar, one of the world’s premier energy bar makers. Established in 1992, not long after Berkeley-based PowerBar, Balance Bar was the brainchild of a team of entrepreneurial outdoor enthusiasts who wanted to do two things: create a tasty, protein-rich candy bar that was actually good for you, and make mounds of money doing it. At both they succeeded. Using the popular energy-bar nutritional template of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat, the Balance Bar team constructed a chocolate fantasia of effervescent effect — it boosted your energy and didn’t taste like the bottom of your brother’s gym shoes. And, in so doing, they made the kind of scrilla that would have caused Louis XIV to gasp in envy. Unfortunately for those with scruples about consuming products created by gigantic corporations built on the strength of tobacco sales, Balance Bar was bought in 2000 by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Philip Morris, the largest cigarette maker in the country. Perhaps befitting such a grim turn of events, the company now makes its home not on the sunny shores of the South Coast, but rather the smoggy gray hinterland of New Jersey. Merde!

— Sam Kornell


Few men have put a Stanford engineering degree to more creative use than George Powell, founder of Powell Corporation, a Goleta-based manufacturer of skateboards that are sold throughout the world. While working as an aerospace sales engineer in the early 1970s, Powell made skateboards in his free time, experimenting with different materials for decks and baking urethane wheels in his oven. Though these boards were initially intended for his son, the Los Angeles native soon realized he had developed a first-rate board that couldn’t be found anywhere else. So in 1976, he moved to Santa Barbara to market his creation. Powell’s name became well-known among skaters just one year later, when he launched his unique wheel formulation under the brand Bones Wheels, which has since come to dominate the industry. In addition to Powell’s scientific contributions to the skate world, he was also instrumental in popularizing the sport in the early 1980s, when he teamed up with legendary skateboarder Stacy Peralta to produce documentary films about skateboarding. And at a time when very few skate parks existed, Powell Skate Zone — part of the Goleta facility — served as a haven for amateur and professional skaters alike.

Now, 30 years after Powell sold his first board, all Powell original brands are still manufactured and tested in the factory on La Patera Lane — and George Powell remains the mad scientist and design genius behind it all. Unlike competitors who lower their costs by relying on cheaper overseas materials and labor, Powell Corporation leads the industry by using quality materials to produce boards that are tested again and again onsite before being shipped to stores.

— Hannah Tennant-Moore


Not too long ago wave riders took to the sea atop massive single-fin surfboards devoid of leashes or wet suits. The standard-issue shortboard — with its lightweight design and three-fin setup — that now clogs surf breaks was but a twinkle in the eye of surfers during the sport’s early years. As recently as 1967, the average size of a board came in at 9ʹ6ʺ long, 22ʺ wide, and weighed 26 pounds, with surfing styles reflecting the mass, bulk, and scale of the boards being ridden: turns were slow and infrequent, lines drawn across a wave face were gradual and soft, and nose-riding was the penultimate display of skill. However, by 1970, surf equipment transformed to an average size of about 6ʹ6ʺ long, 20ʺ across, and a weight of 10 pounds. With this came a vastly different approach in wave-riding style — surfers could now carve easily, race fast sections, slice in and out of the curl, and get barreled more than ever before. High-performance surfing was born.

While debate still exists, most surf historians trace the creation of the shortboard to the design innovation and wave-riding style of a certain “barefoot genius” from Montecito, George Greenough. Honing his skills at Hammonds, Rincon, and various haunts up Hollister Ranch way, Greenough’s homemade kneeboards, narrow-base fin design, and unique style of surfing was the stimulus for the shortboard revolution, inspiring Australian board maker and surfer Bob McTavish to develop shorter boards for stand-up surfers. With design shots being called by McTavish and Greenough, world champion Nat Young introduced these new boards to the world on the North Shore of Hawai‘i in December 1967 and the results set the surfing world on fire. Within a matter of months, the innovations of a born-and-raised 805 surfer had spread around the globe and surfing would never be the same.

— Ethan Stewart


Though these days the chain promises to “leave the light on for you,” it was in Santa Barbara where Motel 6’s light was actually first switched on. In 1962, the first-ever Motel 6 opened a block off Cabrillo Street, at the exact location where it still sits, nearly 45 years later.

So why’d it catch on? Well, rooms were a mere $6 and less than a city block from the beach (imagine that these days). Today, Motel 6 is the largest company-owned and -operated lodging chain in the United States, according to Eric Studer, the senior VP of marketing from Accor, the company that bought the Motel 6 business in 1990. Currently, there are 869 Motel 6s in the United States and Canada with more than 88,600 rooms for hire each night.

But the real reason that Motel 6, which has inspired plenty of copycats throughout the years, is ingrained in the American fabric is thanks to the advertising campaign of the last 20 years. That’s how we’ve all come to know that on-air voice Tom Bodett will “leave the light on” for us. And we’ve got Santa Barbara to thank for making the lamp.

— Matt Kettmann


Kirby Morgan Commercial Air Helmet from 1965

It is certainly true that Kirby Morgan diving helmets and face masks are synonymous with quality worldwide, as their literature states. However, it is also true that the long road from KMAH-1, the company’s first heavy-metal gear helmet, to the popular new Kirby Morgan-37 has not been entirely smooth. Bev Morgan founded the company more than 40 years ago with Bob Kirby. Though Kirby left some time during the 1980s, Morgan is still designing and testing at his Santa Barbara “stinkworks,” while the helmets themselves are manufactured in Santa Maria.

The partners made their first air-helmet in 1965 with two sheets of copper and an important innovation: one-inch Plexiglas viewing ports, instead of glass ports that had to be protected by view-obscuring metal grills. Then they tried to get really fancy, designing a series of fiberglass clamshell helmet prototypes, each one leakier than the last until finally, as a joke, they came up with the Bucket Hat. The Bucket Hat appears in the product photograph to be made from an actual steel bucket such as might be used to mop the floor or feed the horses, and, according to the copy, “dives quite well and is surprisingly comfortable.” It is no longer in production. The company also went through several name changes — from Kirby Morgan Corporation to Deep Water Development to Diving Systems International, and now full circle back to Kirby Morgan Dive Systems. Call it what you want to, it still fearlessly leads the pack with evermore sophisticated innovations in diving helmet design.

— Martha Sadler


Made in Carpinteria and invented in Goleta by Nate Skinner, Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax dates from 1972, when Charles Frederick Herzog III accepted his life’s mission to bring good wax to the sticks. What began with Zog and Nate pouring Sex Wax into discarded tuna cans and Zog driving up and down the coast of California with stacks in the back of his car has now become a worldwide phenomenon. Sex Wax comes in four varieties for surfing: Sex Wax, Quick Humps, Really Tacky, and Navel Wax (a body-boarding wax). Sex Wax now also manufactures snowboard waxes, and continues to be at the forefront of the surf T-shirt business.

Santa Barbara landscape painter Hank Pitcher gets the credit for the name and the logo, both of which reflect a timeless sense of the absurd that nevertheless seems most at home in the “Have a Nice Day!” decade of the 1970s. Sex Wax laid down that first sweet coat of tacky irony on the gleaming fiberglass of modern board culture, and in the process did a lot for surfing, Southern California, sex, and, um, wax. The cultural climate has changed since the early days of Zog’s empire, and his old newsletter, which was like a more idiosyncratic version of The Onion, has given way to a great sponsorship program that helps some of the hottest young surfers in the area. Check out the full story of Sex Wax and video clips of the Sex Wax team in action at

— Charles Donelan


Original Sansum Clinic in 1932 (now a parking lot for the new facility).
Click to enlarge photo

Original Sansum Clinic in 1932 (now a parking lot for the new facility).

When a doctor tells someone he/she has diabetes, the doctor can’t just hand over a prescription and strongly suggest the patient take it. That patient has to adapt his/her entire lifestyle to a system of vigilant self-care or risk a slew of nasty complications. One-and-a-half million Americans confront this nightmare annually, contracting either juvenile or adult-onset diabetes (known respectively as Type 1 and Type 2). Seven percent of the American population has it and 54 million have its precursor — insulin resistance.

But Santa Barbara is proud to be part of the solution. The late William Sansum, MD, founded Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI) in 1944. By then he’d already made medical history, having injected the first human being ever with insulin in 1922. It came from the pancreases of animals at that time, crude by today’s standards, but it did the trick: The 51-year-old patient who got that famous shot lived to the ripe old age of 90.

SDRI is still a heavy hitter in the extremely competitive world of diabetes research. It’s smaller than most research centers but packs a wallop. Rochelle Rose, SDRI’s development director, said it is the only organization in America testing implanted insulin pumps. It’s also part of the prestigious Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s artificial pancreas project, working to develop technologies in which glucose monitors and insulin pumps work together in a closed loop system. As the monitor keeps tabs on blood sugar levels and communicates to the pump how much insulin to give the individual, it will mimic a real pancreas.

According to Matt Petersen of the American Diabetes Association, Lois Jovanovic, MD, SDRI’s chief scientific officer, is considered one of the most prominent clinical researchers in the field of diabetes today.

Not bad for a home team.

— Isabelle T. Walker


There is perhaps no more controversial county debate than where tri-tip first originated. Santa Maria does all it can to lay claim to the cut, but there’s plenty of evidence that it might have been first marketed here in Santa Barbara sometime in the 1950s.

The debate is alive and well for such longtime butchers as Dave Whitefoot from Whitefoot Meat Market & Deli and John Shalhoob from Shalhoob Deli. But everyone in town bows to John’s dad Jerry as the official voice on the history of meat in Santa Barbara.

According to Jerry, the ball-tip and the tri-tip were what was left over after the wholesale meat choppers took away the more desirable cuts. While the ball-tip was popular, the tri was usually ground up or made into stew. But right around the time Jerry remembers thinking that the tri-tip “was the most under-priced piece of meat on the animal,” someone barbecued it and found butchery gold.

“Throughout the years, it became more popular on the Central Coast, then it moved to Southern California,” Jerry said, “and now it’s popular throughout the state. I have a house on Maui and I’ve even seen it over in Hawai‘i.” Due to the popularity, which extends also to Washington and Texas, it’s now a more expensive piece of meat. That’s supply and demand for ya, but there wouldn’t be any tri-tip supply if it weren’t for our county’s butchers.

— Matt Kettmann


The original Force Fin

Santa Barbara, land of watery pursuits, by its very nature invites innovation in all fields marine. Thus, we have Force Fin, the internationally renowned dive fin-maker, which got its start here and continues to occupy the same building it bought on Kimball Street 10 years ago. Force Fin is the brainchild of Bob Evans, an outdoorsy type who, as an underwater photographer in the 1970s, was nonplussed by the state of diving fins. Instead of carping, he did something; specifically, he started designing his own dive fins, and was soon fielding requests from friends for personal pairs.

Evans started Force Fin 1985 and went international in 1990. Today the company is widely recognized as one of — if not the — premier fin manufacturers in the world. Among other products, they produce top-quality fins for SCUBA diving, free diving, body and boogie boarding, and even fly fishing. Evans’s efforts have not gone un-lauded: This year he was the recipient of the most prestigious award doled out by the Academy of Underwater Sciences. And any plan to slow down is mute since Force Fin recently began designing fins for Jean-Michel Cousteau, the famed underwater-man and son of the even more famed underwater-man Jacques Cousteau. Force Fin can be reached at 966-9628, or online at

— Sam Kornell


The Original Sambo's.
Click to enlarge photo


The Original Sambo’s.

Snuck in among the posh hotels and fancy eateries on Cabrillo Boulevard is the original — and only remaining — Sambo’s diner. Each weekend, scads of hungry people mill around on the sidewalk awaiting a table at which to eat pancakes and gaze out the windows at the sand and sea.

Despite its idyllic location, Sambo’s has a rocky and controversial history. Built in 1957, the restaurant’s moniker was derived from the names of its founders Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett. Soon after its birth, however, Sambo’s became associated with the 1899 book The Story of Little Black Sambo, by Scottish writer Helen Bannerman, which told of a boy in India who outwits hungry tigers. Although the U.S. version of the book had illustrations that were re-interpreted in the demeaning “blackface” iconography, Battistone and Bohnett capitalized on the mistaken identity and decorated their establishments with images of the book including a dark-skinned boy and tigers. Throughout the years, however, the word “sambo” morphed into a racial slur against African-Americans.

Although the diner had a good 20-year run — in 1979 it had 1,200 outlets in 47 states — by 1981 the company was bankrupt and being sued by Dr. Pepper (for allegedly plagiarizing the soda pop’s TV ad) and by non-white employees and applicants who claimed discrimination in the diner’s hiring and advancement. By the end of 1982 all Sambo’s had closed their doors except for the one on Cabrillo Boulevard.

— Michelle Drown


The original Big Dogs logo

It all started with a group of friends, a river-rafting trip, a set of colorful, oversized shorts, and the phrase, “Man, these puppies are big!” That’s how Big Dogs, the sportswear brand with that familiar canine logo, was born — and right here in Santa Barbara. In fact, the brand’s first store opened on State Street in October 1984. Now, more than two decades later, Big Dogs has retail outlets in more than 150 locations, spreading its California-inspired style across the country.

But the company’s roots are still firmly grounded in the 805. Not only are corporate headquarters and a retail store — complete with its famous graphic T-shirt wall — still here, but Santa Barbara is also ground zero for the Big Dog Parade, the largest dog event in the country. It started as a simple block party between Big Dogs employees and some friends, and has grown into a spectacle capable of shutting down the entire city for an entire weekend.

For 12 years, Big Dogs has been attracting more than 1,200 canines and 16,000 humans to downtown Santa Barbara for contests, revelry, and good old-fashioned parade fun.

And in case you think the parade is just a clever marketing ploy to advertise the company’s parody T-shirts and multi-generational active wear, keep in mind that 100 percent of the proceeds from the parade go to the Big Dog Foundation, a nonprofit charity benefiting dogs, children, and dogs that help people.

— Molly Freedenberg


The most successful business ever to come out of Isla Vista, Kinko’s represents the fiscal fruition of a maverick entrepreneur’s lifelong faith in the earning power of meeting ordinary people’s desperate needs 24 hours a day. Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea’s extraordinary story is now well-known thanks to his recent best-selling autobiography, Copy This! Orfalea struggled with dyslexia all the way through his undergraduate career at USC, but came into his own when he opened his first copy shop on Pardall Road in the fall of 1970 with just one Xerox machine. Thirty-six years later, the price of a single black-and-white copy at Kinko’s has risen 100 percent, from 4 cents in 1970 to 8 cents in 2006 (or 9 cents if you are in what Kinko’s calls the “metro zone”). Not bad if you think about it, especially in relation to say, the increased price of Santa Barbara real estate during the same period.

Orfalea left Kinko’s in 2000 after a struggle with some new part-owners — the investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Inc. While the new management team may have botched aspects of Kinko’s initial public offering, the long-term fortunes of the company have been truly astounding, with their acquisition by Federal Express in 2004 yielding a price of $2.4 billion. For a company that began by selling 4-cent photocopies to hippies in I.V., that’s a long way, baby.

— Charles Donelan


The Tail Devil.

The X Games — the Olympics for extreme sports — coupled with the mainstream success of the films Dogtown and Z-Boys and Lords of Dogtown in recent years, have helped to commercialize the sport of skateboarding. And skateboarding’s burgeoning popularity has given birth to a huge market for skate fashion and accessories. But it’s not just about stickers, wheels, and hoodies anymore — Santa Barbaran Scott Starr has invented a lightweight plastic doohickey that skaters attach to the nose and/or tail of their board, and when the device makes contact with anything, sparks fly — literally. Starr has dubbed his creation the TailDevil.

Since Starr introduced the TailDevil to the market two years ago, it has sold like crazy, “without any real marketing at all,” Starr claimed. The TailDevil’s popularity is likely due in large part to the fact that it sticks discreetly to the bottom of any skateboard deck, and it is very affordable.

Another reason the TailDevil has been so successful is Starr’s familiarity with the world of skateboarding. The longtime Santa Barbaran has lived and breathed the sport for the better part of his life. Starr was Thrasher magazine’s main man behind the camera in the 1980s when the skateboarding rag was just hitting the shelves. He photographed the last three surf/skate posters for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and he even shot the cover image of this newspaper’s feature on skateboarding in 1999.

At $7.95, the TailDevil — which comes in black and red — makes a perfect stocking-stuffer for the skateboarder in your family. Find out more about the spark-tastic skate accessory at

— Josh Brayer


Often there are competing claims as to who actually invented something. Take the light bulb, for example. Who invented it? Thomas Edison? Joseph Swan? Alexander Nikolayavich Lodygin? A strong case can be made for each of them. The same is true of the robotic arm; Yulan Wang is an inventor — if not the only inventor — of the arm-sized robots now commonly used in surgery. Emerging from UCSB’s robotics research institute in the 1980s, Wang formed a company called Computer Motion, which three years ago merged with its chief rival for the patent on the surgical arm, Huntington Beach-based Intuitive Surgical. Wang did not merge with the company. Instead, he took two of the electrical engineers from his original team and went on to found a new Santa Barbara company, InTouch Health. The company is now making five-foot-tall self-propelled robots reminiscent of the lines of Star Wars’ R2D2, only these ones are called RP-7 and their function is to roll around the hospital visiting patients and taking their readings. RP-7 robotically reads charts, looks at and listens to the patient, and can display the physician’s face in real time. The helpful robot is already making itself useful in more than a dozen hospitals, though not yet in this county.

— Martha Sadler


A 24’ Radon from 1977 (from the scrapbook).

Crossing the Santa Barbara Channel is no easy business. Still, every day, in the name of adventure or business or both, fishers, scuba divers, and surfers leave the safety of S.B. Harbor for the unpredictable waters of the channel. It is the treacherous nature of this crossing that gave birth to some of the most trustworthy, functional, and distinctive custom fiberglass skiffs the world has known. Currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, Radon Boats was born during the golden age of Santa Barbara’s commercial abalone and sea urchin industry, its trademark spoon-billed hull design and high-speed planning capabilities forged in the harsh north winds and wicked seas of the channel.

The story of Radon begins in the early 1960s, when a construction worker from Washington named Ron Radon Sr. relocated his family to Santa Barbara. Shortly thereafter, Radon began a career in abalone diving and thusly required a boat. After working a few seasons on various boats and looking to remedy the shortcomings of his previous boats, he set about designing his own. With the help of his three sons, Don, Mike, and Ron Jr., the elder Radon built a custom 24-foot diving/fishing boat that was unlike any other being made at that time. His vessel became the talk of the harbor and the envy of many a channel crosser. People started offering to buy his boats and hence the custom boat company was born.

Though it has gone through a series of splits, mergers, international franchise efforts, and changes of ownership throughout the years, the distinctive Radon hull design and unparalleled open ocean stability are now once again being custom built in the 805 for customers the world over by Don Radon in a boatyard on Depot Road in Goleta.

— Ethan Stewart


Make a salad with the healthiest greens and veggies you can find. Now, if you’re like the majority of Americans, you’ll opt to drown it in the cool, creamy flavor of ranch dressing. The topping — which doubles as a dipping sauce for all manner of finger food — has been the most popular in the United States since 1992, according to the Association for Dressings and Sauces. It’s hard to even picture a salad bar without a small reservoir of ranch at the end of it, but the dressing did not exist until 1954, when Steve and Gayle Henson bought a plot of land in rural Santa Barbara County and named it the Hidden Valley Ranch.

A hotspot for students, travelers, and company picnics, Hidden Valley Ranch quickly became known for its salad dressing, which Steve Henson had created while working as a plumbing contractor in Alaska. The mixture of buttermilk, mayonnaise, and herbs made greens more palatable for his workers, so he figured it would taste just as good to those in sunnier climates.

It did, and soon demand for Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing had the Hensons realizing their marketing opportunity. As the story goes, Henson approached Cold Spring Tavern owner Audrey Ovington with his concoction, which she tasted, loved, and promptly added to the menu, making the restaurant the first to serve ranch dressing. Soon, markets and eateries throughout Santa Barbara were clamoring for this alternative to vinegar-based dressings. Today, a slightly modified, non-refrigerated version of Henson’s recipe is sold in stores by the Clorox Company, which purchased the brand for $8 million in 1973. Ranch, now also common as a potato chip flavor and as a pizza condiment, has become an American mainstay.

— Drew Mackie


Ask any average music fan about Seymour Duncan guitar pickups and they may shrug and mutter, “Seymour who?” But even average music fans — those who need their daily dose but aren’t obsessive about the details or the background technology — have been directly and indirectly influenced by the work done out at the Goleta plant, where Seymour Duncan and company are based.

Duncan is a New Jersey-born and longtime Santa Barbara-based guitar player and inventor who befriended Les Paul and Roy Buchanan early on, and whose own obsession with how things work led him to create coveted, customized electric guitar pickups. Countless important musicians have relied on Duncan pickups and he has officially left his mark on the sonic landscape of popular music — just below the surface, but very much in the DNA of the music we hear. When legendary guitarists like Jeff Beck (Duncan has worked on Beck’s pickups since his earliest albums) and Steve Miller pass through town, they stop to pay respects, onstage and off.

In business for 30 years now, going back to a humble shop on the Eastside, Duncan’s reputation grew quickly — with the logistical help of business partner and ex-wife Cathy Duncan — and they expanded into the current large HQ in Goleta. Every year at the sprawling NAMM show in Anaheim Convention Center, the Seymour Duncan booth is a magnet for aspiring and established musicians, soaking up the latest from a company that has also expanded into amplifiers and a new specialty in acoustic guitar pickup systems. The research and development continues, and the sonic fruits are coming soon to a radio or iPod near you. Visit

— Josef Woodard


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re likely familiar with UGG Boots, Teva Sandals, and Simple Shoes. But did you know they’re produced and distributed by a local company? In 1973, UCSB student Doug Otto began making sandals, which he marketed under the name Deckers. Since then, Deckers Outdoor Corporation has grown into an international, publicly traded company. The original Deckers sandals were manufactured for more than 20 years, but in 1985, when the company landed a license to produce and distribute Teva sandals — originally designed for river rafting by Grand Canyon river guide Mark Thatcher — Deckers was launched on a tremendous growth trajectory.

In 1992, Deckers was awarded Company of the Year by Footwear News; in 1993, Deckers acquired Simple Shoes, created by Eric Meyer as a link between athletic and outdoor shoes. That same year, Deckers completed its IPO, trading on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol “DECK.” Two years later, Deckers acquired UGG Holdings, Inc., founded by Brian Smith in order to import sheepskin boots from Australia to the U.S. and made wildly popular by People magazine mainstays like Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson. In 2002, Deckers acquired the worldwide Teva patents, trademarks, and assets, and now has complete ownership of all-things Teva. The common thread between the three lines is how well they’re suited for Santa Barbara’s distinctively casual, outdoor-loving lifestyle: Emphasizing function, comfort, and technical performance, they’re perfect for the mountains, the beach, and everything in between.

— Shannon Kelley Gould


Sometimes the best stories don’t turn out to be true. For instance, there’s a legend that Herb Peterson, owner of the South Coast McDonald’s restaurants, invented the Egg McMuffin because he found himself hungry one morning before his eateries opened. “Not true,” Peterson told me when I found him lunching at his favorite spot, the Santa Barbara Club. But it is true that Peterson came up with the novel finger food right here in Santa Barbara. Not only did the fast-food world rush to snap up Egg McMuffin, but it transformed a burger chain into a place to go for a fast, tasty breakfast, too.

According to the book McDonald’s: Behind the Arches, Peterson wanted to launch “an entirely new food line.” By Christmas 1971, according to the book, “Peterson had been working on the product for months.” By using Teflon-coated metal rings, he could grill eggs in a rounded shape to go on a muffin, topped with Canadian bacon. McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc happened to be celebrating the holidays at his Santa Ynez Valley ranch, and Peterson invited him to stop by the store and taste the new creation. Kroc had just finished lunch but devoured two of the egg-bacon-muffin sandwiches. They were a hit. “At Kroc’s request, Peterson two weeks later packed the Teflon rings in a briefcase and flew to Chicago to prepare his new breakfast for the rest of McDonald’s senior managers, all of whom responded as positively as Kroc had,” the book reads. The rest is history, Santa Barbara-style.

— Barney Brantingham

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