La Sumida Nursery

165 S. Patterson Ave.; 964-9944;

Providing Santa Barbara with fresh plants and garden supplies requires an extraordinary range of knowledge and a deep commitment to ongoing service. La Sumida Nursery, founded in 1958 and still family owned, has loads of both. According to team member Dee Honer, 2018 “was a particularly rough year with the loss of Hilton Sumida in March, but we have carried on.” The rose field they maintain on South Patterson Avenue is one of the city’s most amazing horticultural sites. Add to that their incomparable selection of fruit trees, all grown from bare-root, plus the myriad other living things they cultivate, and you begin to understand what a tremendous effort they put into being Santa Barbara’s best nursery.

Runner-Up: Terra Sol Garden Center

Home Furnishing

Pottery Barn

110 S. Hope Ave.; 687-6707;

The staff at Pottery Barn were “humbled” to know that they had won this category in a city with so many home furnishing options. “Our home is your home,” said manager Linda Sullivan, “and no project is too small or too large, so give us a try.” She pointed out something I didn’t know about Pottery Barn, which is that they do free in-home consultations, and added that, after a “heartbreak of a year” for our community, she is grateful for the votes in Best Of and for all the great customers who have come through the doors at La Cumbre Plaza.

Runner-Up: Porch

Real Estate Company

Village Properties

Multiple locations; 969-8900;

In an amazing feat, Village Properties made a clean sweep of all three real estate categories this year in what is arguably one of the most lucrative of professions in our small seaside town with some seriously high-value properties. Village counts nearly 200 agents and brokers in its stable, tending properties from historic to nouveau, from the shores of Carpinteria to the wine country of Santa Ynez. Renee Grubb, owner of Village Properties, said: “We’re delighted to again be named the best. It really is our agents, and their personal service to our clients, that makes all the difference. We’re especially thankful this year to be named the best in all three real estate categories. We are again grateful and appreciate the trust that our clients put in us every day.”

Runner-Up: Berkshire Hathaway

Real Estate Team

Riskin Partners

1250 Coast Village Rd.; 565-8600;

Riskin Partners have been a team since the late, great Rebecca Riskin put them together 14 years ago. She found a way to provide the best service possible for their clients and a life that allowed colleagues to get to kids’ soccer games or a friend’s wedding and know their properties were covered. Managing Partner Dina Landi laughed as she recalled the Easter Sunday visits or the Fourth of July showings, necessary because buyers were only in town for a short while or were nearby and very interested. “It’s an honor to have been voted for by so many people,” she said.

Runner-Up: Epstein Partners

Real Estate Agent

Marcy Bazzani

1250 Coast Village Rd.; 717-0450;

Among the nearly 1,600 active real estate agents on the South Coast, Marcy Bazzani has won our readers’ favor, possibly for her weekday and weekend accessibility, morning, noon, and night. “There is no better feeling than seeing how happy and excited someone is when they close on a new property or get to sell a property,” she explained of the vicarious thrills of the job, which can get complicated with financing, title reports, and contracts. But her 16 years of experience enable her clients to get the best result: “I want them to feel very protected and taken care of.”

Runner-Up: Kat Hitchcock

Mortgage Company

[See Living Well: Bank]

Mortgage Agent

Austin Lampson

1332 Anacapa St., Ste. 110; 335-8200;

Austin Lampson is number one with our readers and also at her firm, On Q Financial, throwing down $110 million in mortgages made in 2017. A VP with Bank of America before she was 30, Lampson has 20 years in the industry, where she works hard to create “clients for life.” Santa Barbara lifts her spirits, she said: “We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful, caring place, and I am grateful for your readers’ support and friendship.”

Runner-Up: Kelly Marsh

Moving Company


1 N. Calle César Chávez, Ste. 130; 1 (866) 684-7336;

As the decades have passed, it’s become easier and easier to be green, and for those moving out of or around the county, Movegreen puts its muscle where its name is. From planting 10 trees for every move to using recycled boxes and biodiesel trucks, Movegreen has worked to keep carbon out of the equation since 2007. Readers, on the other hand, are most impressed with their quick and organized packing service and efficient moving crews.

Runner-Up: Mammoth Moving & Storage

Architect Jeff Shelton
Paul Wellman


Jeff Shelton

119 Fig Ave.; 965-8812;

Right out of college in the mid-1980s, architect Jeff Shelton apprenticed with the great Frank Robinson, but then left town for 10 years. When he returned in 1995 to open his own office, he began crafting a unique take on the city’s Spanish Colonial Revival roots, adding color and whimsy into such buildings as El Jardin and the Ablitt Tower. “People recognize that we address every detail of the project and that it is apparent that a lot of people took the extra time to design and build the project,” said Shelton. “Whether you like the architecture or think it is too much, I think it is clear we are trying to celebrate life.” How does he do so within the city’s strict lines? “If you fight the policies and don’t accept the purpose of the policies, I can see how they would appear to be strict,” he said. “I try to understand the purpose of the guidelines and then see if we can give life to the street. Would people who don’t like the policies want an architectural and planning free-for-all? I don’t think that would work out too well. Go visit Houston.”

Runner-Up: AB Design Studios


Allen Construction

Two locations; 884-8777;

Allen Construction started off back in 1983 as an aggressively innovative outlier in the almost nonexistent field of sustainable construction. Since then, the world has caught up with Allen, and Allen has all but taken over the world. This year, Allen Construction won the construction equivalent of an Oscar for best company. Nationally. In years past, it had won such accolades regionally with monotonous regularity. The company was started by Dennis Allen, a green-talking, eco-groovy entrepreneurial Obi-Wan Kenobi who knew how to put into practice what he preached. For people seeking opulence infused with environmental intelligence, Allen is the company of choice. Rustic elegance with state-of-the art passive energy tucked in discreetly, coupled with mouth-watering landscapes that require little to no water? Look no further. Allen has since stepped down, selling the company to its employees, no less, making Allen Construction one of the few employee-owned businesses in Santa Barbara.

Runner-Up: Jed Hirsch

Roofing Service

Action Roofing

534 E. Ortega St.; 966-3696;

Few people wake up in the morning dreaming of getting themselves a new roof. Or even repairing the one that they’ve got. Typically, it’s more a matter of urgency and necessity coupled with a healthy dose of desperation. In this context, you want action, and action is what Action Roofing delivers in spades. The company got off the ground in 1985 due to the exertions of Jack Martin, who moonlights on the side as an online weather forecaster. (No matter what’s on the horizon, chances are your roof could use a little help girding for it.) I can’t vouch for the accuracy of Martin’s weather prognostications, but our readers are clearly impressed by the speed and competence of his work crews, equally ambidextrous when it comes to residential or commercial jobs.

Runner-Up: Vazquez Roofing


Carroll Plumbing & Maintenance

2825 De la Vina St.; 687-2677;

What lurks below is always a scary proposition for anyone whose pipes have become balky or seem to be weeping uncontrollably, but the wrenchmen at Carroll Plumbing fearlessly tackle leaky issues, concerned customers, the messy job of fix-it, and the always-delicate billing process. For nearly a half decade, Carroll’s ever-present red trucks have been patrolling Santa Barbara city streets at new construction sites and old, battered homes.

Runner-Up: Anacapa Plumbing

Painting Contractor

Mesa Painting


When a bunch of guys are hanging around all day hoisting ladders and paint cans, a householder might worry a bit about drips, drops, or other paint plops. But not with Mesa Painting laying down the acrylic. Our readers found them the best for greater-than-surface reasons, most having to do with a cheerful attitude, clean work, and extensive time spent on the all-important prep work before laying down a single coat.

Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Painting

Antique Store • Vintage Store

The Blue Door

4 E. Yanonali St.; 364-5144;

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has visited the Funk Zone’s most absorbing shopping experience that The Blue Door picked up not one, but two coveted awards this year. Yes, it’s a great vintage store, full of wonderful eclectic decorative objects at very reasonable prices, so that one is a lock. But for the serious antique hunter, the place is also a mecca. Whether it’s a gorgeous Danish Modern teak desk set that you fancy or a magnificent torch-cut brass chandelier by artist Tom Greene in his distinctive “Brutalist” style, they’ve got it, and much more. Whatever your budget and taste, you are sure to find something at The Blue Door that will turn your living room into a living museum.

Runner-Up (Antique Store): Antique Alley

Runner-Up (Vintage Store): Punch Vintage

Place to Buy Carpet/Rugs


5610 Hollister Ave., Goleta; 284-0269;

Start to finish, the customer service from this established brand is focused on offering a wide variety of selections at competitive pricing and at the same time trying to simplify the decision-making process so that home improvement can move from idea to reality with the least amount of stress. Carpet, area rugs, hardwood, laminate, vinyl, tile, and more — it’s all sourced far and wide from major manufacturers to showcase traditional samples and the very latest in flooring. That’s why customers show up and keep coming back.       

Runner-Up: Michael Renga Flooring

Mattress Store

Mattress Mike Furniture Gallery

7320 Hollister Ave., Ste. 5, Goleta; 685-4998;

All busy retail outlets invariably thrive on a foundational component of business success: outstanding customer service. Mattress Mike is no exception. From humble beginnings back in 1994, when the company featured just a handful of bed types, this Goleta storefront has grown considerably, now showcasing dozens of bedroom and furniture lines, including futons, recliners, sofas, sectionals, and more. “Good customer service is hard to find, and you won’t be disappointed here,” said Ashley P. via Yelp. “They are friendly, helpful, and go out of their way to make sure you’re happy.”

Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Mattress

Gardening/Landscaping Services

EcoLawn S.B.

103 N. Nopal St.; 270-2960;

This homegrown company specializes in installing waterwise synthetic grass, which goes over well in a region currently in the throes of extended drought. But there’s more to EcoLawn than that. The team also does French drains, hardscaping, retaining walls, rain and gray water catchment, and decorative landscaping, among other services. “We are extremely grateful to be recognized for the hard work and dedication we have put forth into the community,” said partner Chloe Kirk, adding that a big perk of the work is “seeing our clients’ faces after transforming their yard into a water-efficient and beautiful landscape.”

Runner-Up: Kitson Landscape Management

Brighten Solar
Paul Wellman

Solar Power Company

Brighten Solar Co.

5380 Overpass Rd., Ste. B; 708-3654;

Home and business solar systems do well in our warm, semiarid climate and south-facing geography. Combine those physical realities with the steady cultural shift away from the dirty traditions of energy consumption, and solar is positioned as a seamless go-to. But making the change can seem complicated. Brighten Solar Co. is here to help, headed up in part by a team of businesspeople and engineers with successful experience in highly regulated European markets to maximize energy needs and financial returns with a system that minimizes visual impact.

Runner-Up: Sunrun

Handyman Service

Edward the Fix It Guy

610 Alameda Padre Serra; 962-1798

Last year’s winner has defended his title. Must have something to do with that pillar of running a small business: customer service. A quick skim of reviews reveals that Edward Laflamme and his small crew have garnered the sort of feedback — “wonderful to work with,” “great work,” “affordable,” “would use them again in a heartbeat” — that creates return customers and lasting referrals. Plus, he can do it all, from drywall to plumbing emergencies.

Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Handyman

House Cleaning Service  



Anybody familiar with the chore knows that housecleaning can range from a superficial tidy up to a full-blown cracks-and-corners, weekend-long endeavour. MasterCare does both and most everything in between, plus specialty treatments, such as post-wildfire smoke and odor remediation, duct and furnace cleaning, exterior power washing, chimney sweeping, windows, and construction cleanup. The list goes on. Their range of services is easy to explore online, where you can also get a quote based on what you’re looking for, the size of the house, and how many people call it home.

Runner-Up: Rosie’s Cleaning

Carpet Cleaning

Santa Barbara Carpet Cleaning


When you do good work, word gets around. That explains why, since 1980, Santa Barbara Carpet Cleaning has earned and maintained most of its steady business through glowing customer reviews and recommendations. Carpeting can be an expensive portion of home investment, according to owner Tom Conklin, whose services include full-service carpet and upholstery cleaning — residential and commercial — from ongoing maintenance to emergency cleanup. More word-of-mouth praise, via Yelp: “If you’re looking for a solid small business to support — Tom is your guy.”

Runner-Up: Coleman Carpet Cleaners

Hardware Store

Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center

415 E. Gutierrez St.; 963-7825;

The first thing that hits you upon entering Home Improvement Center — now entering its 51st year of operation — are all the red-shirted store employees. They’re everywhere, and they seemingly know everything about what flowers to plant when, handyman home-plumbing projects, and all the shades of paint from sea-goddess green to midnight foam. They’re helpful, fun, and briskly efficient. Opened in 1967 by Kenneth Simpson, HIC is still going strong. No doubt it helped that Simpson’s son, Gary, hitched the store’s wagon to the Ace Hardware comet, allowing the procurement of some 65,000 different products at competitive prices. In light of industry trends toward increased automation, Home Improvement Center has seemed hell-bent on defying the conventional wisdom of cost-cutting experts. “We still think we’re in a people industry,” explained operations manager Mike Owens. Owens has been at the store for “one-third of a century,” having started out in the garden supply department. “I like the atmosphere,” he explained, “and I still learn something new each day.”

Runner-Up: Orchard Supply Hardware

Tile Shop


Two locations;

With showrooms in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo, Tileco has the tri counties covered, connecting with suppliers worldwide to import and distribute the finest ceramic, porcelain, marble, travertine, and natural stone — plus all setting materials — to make any project look good, from kitchen and bathroom remodels to all-new fountains and pool decks. Since 1977, the company has prided itself on keeping the very latest designs and technologies in stock, for a variety of tastes.  

Runner-Up: La Calenda


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