Best of Santa Barbara® 2021
By Charles Donelan
La Sumida Nursery
As a second-generation family business owner, Hilton Sumida enjoys seeing the same kind of continuity in his customers. When the grandchild of someone who once purchased a plant or tree comes in, that’s a special feeling. Established more than 50 years ago, La Sumida Nursery not only nurtures a wide range of plants but it also acts to preserve and disseminate the knowledge that will allow others to help them grow.
Runner-Up: Terra Sol Garden Center
Habitat Home and Garden
With showrooms in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, and a warehouse in Arroyo Grande, Habitat Home and Garden can claim to be one of the most responsive and versatile companies handling fine furnishings on the Central Coast. Yet despite their big footprint, the philosophy at Habitat prioritizes individual style and satisfaction over volume. They put it this way: “We pride ourselves on creating and sourcing one-of-a-kind pieces that have soul.”
Runner-Up: Italian Pottery Outlet
Interior Design Company
Given the standards set for interior design in our community, this award carries considerable clout, and Samantha Keeping, the founder and principal designer of Keeping Interiors, knows that better than anyone. She’s sincerely grateful for the recognition, calling it “the cherry on the top as I am celebrating my 20th year in business!” Not one to rest on her laurels, Keeping has big plans for the future, including “to partner with an industry brand to design my own furniture line, have a podcast talking about the design industry, and to help others forge their way through this very unusual business model, all while of course designing amazing interiors.”
Runner-Up: Shannon Scott Design
Real Estate Company
Village Properties Realtors
For Renee Grubb, broker/owner at Village Properties, winning this award in her company’s 25th anniversary year is “icing on the cake.” “Even though I have been running Village Properties for the last 25 years, I am still excited every day to wake up to whatever this business brings me,” said Grubb. “We are fortunate to have great, seasoned agents and a good number of young, newer agents who are hardworking, professional, and service-oriented, which will keep the Village legacy going for many years to come.”
Runner-Up: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Real Estate Team
The Hall Team
The Hall Team at Compass is honored to have been named the Indy readers’ choice for Best Real Estate Team for the third year in a row. “This past year has shown the continued strong desirability and demand for owning a home here in the greater Santa Barbara area,” said Kevin Hall. “We’ve been proud to help more buyers and sellers successfully navigate this fast-paced market. Whether buying or selling, our clients know that we work as a team where we steadfastly have their best outcome in mind. Thank you, Santa Barbara!”
Runner-Up: Zia Group
Real Estate Agent
It’s clear from every sentence in an Elizabeth Wagner email that the reason she has succeeded as the city’s Best Real Estate Agent is that she cares about other people. She writes that her favorite part of the job is working with first-time homebuyers because “handing them the keys on the day of closing is the best feeling.” Looking forward to the next phase of her career, she cites coaching other agents as one of her top priorities, saying, “It is very rewarding and also a way to give back and show the next generation of Realtors in our community how the business really works, which is a lot different from what is taught in real estate courses.”
Runner-Up: David Kim
Mortgage agent Austin Lampson extends her winning streak in this category to five consecutive years. For her, being the best means “always working to deliver from the heart.” Asked to offer some insight into where the highly volatile mortgage market is headed, Lampson writes that “mortgages are changing. Artificial intelligence presents efficiencies that are needed, but the soul of one’s financial plan isn’t a digital concept — it’s a human one.”
Runner-Up: Kelly Marsh
Mammoth Moving & Storage
With more than 40 years of experience moving everything from households to hotels, offices, laboratories, and machinery, Mammoth can handle any job. Based in Santa Barbara and with a second headquarters in Oxnard, Mammoth serves the entire Central Coast and beyond. In a time when moves are common and cleaning and safety protocols have grown significantly more complex, Sean Eberz and his team of professionals will make sure that your move goes smoothly.
The voters have spoken, and they say that Jeff Shelton’s idiosyncratic designs make Santa Barbara a better place. “Your notes and letters are all appreciated,” responds Shelton. “Remember that this is a fight for keeping the town alive. We only get these projects approved because of your support. If we want interesting architecture and inventive town planning, we need to support it and fight for it, or things end up without a soul.”
Runner-Up: AB Design Studio
As the demand for quality construction work remains high, Allen CEO Aaron Pick writes that winning this award again this year “means a lot.” He explains, “There are some really great builders in Santa Barbara, and we are honored to be nominated and so proud to have received the votes from the community. We strive every day to be the best we can be at what we do, and to be recognized for it is an honor.” At Allen, which is now 51 percent employee-owned, being the best is about having “clients, architects, trades, and fellow employee owners” all be “100 percent raving fans of Allen,” which is the vision they collectively hope to achieve as a company.
Runner-Up: Giffin & Crane
Jack Martin, owner and president of Action Roofing, wants to thank all the loyal customers who voted for his company this year. “Santa Barbara is such a great place to work because it’s beautiful, the weather is perfect year-round, and there’s no better view than from up on a roof,” he writes. Every year at the company holiday party, the roofers hold a dance-off to determine who is that year’s champion. According to Martin, the contest features “costumes, choreography, and a complete lack of shame.”
Runner-Up: Martin Roofing
Good Land Plumbing & Construction
Winning this award two years in a row hasn’t gone to Andrew Hug’s head. As owner of Good Land Plumbing, he writes that “nobody likes to call in the plumbers, but all of our staff work hard to do their part to ensure that the customer experience is as pleasant as possible.” Thanks to the way that people recommend Good Land to their friends and neighbors, Hug is happy to report that the business continues to grow.
Runner-Up: Lewis Plumbing
The crew at Mesa Painting has a great reputation for fast, affordable, detail-oriented work that satisfies even the most meticulous clients. Interior or exterior, residential and commercial, they do it all. Mesa client Emily extols the high quality and excellent value of their work with the praise that “they should be the most expensive painters in town, but they’re not.” Experts at providing ecologically sound solutions, they do extensive daily quality checks on all their jobs to make sure that the results will be stellar.
Runner-Up: Beau Brunner Painting
Mattress Mike Furniture Gallery
“We truly cannot express enough gratitude to our local community as well as our hardworking employees,” said Garret Gustason, general manager of Mattress Mike Furniture Gallery. “It’s an honor to be voted Best Mattress Store, and we hope to continue to leave a positive impression as each year passes. We will always strive to exceed the needs of each customer that walks through our door. Whether it be mattresses or furniture, their comfort has and always will be our top priority.”
Runner-Up: Santa Barbara Mattress
With drought conditions showing no signs of diminishing in the future, homeowners are looking to landscaping services for leadership when it comes to water-frugal solutions. At EcoLawn S.B., the emphasis is decidedly on artificial grass, which has grown in popularity and sophistication since the days of AstroTurf. Under the pressure of climate change, landscaping and gardens are evolving rapidly, and technology is part of that change.
Runner-Up: Kitson Landscape Management
Solar Power Company
Brighten Solar Co.
Cofounders Marine Schumann, Jeremy Favier, and Gautier Meyers run Brighten according to the principle “solar done differently.” Offering highly individualized solutions for forward-thinking clients, they strive to create aesthetically pleasing installations that make solar electricity both a responsible choice and a profitable investment.
Runner-Up: Mac’s Solar
Edward the Fix It Guy
With 10 employees and a loyal customer base, Edward has once again captured the coveted Handyman Service award. Flexibility is the name of the game when it comes to being a handyman, and Edward and his team have that covered. Whether you are installing a new water heater, floor, or something as seemingly simple as an exhaust fan, they will do the job well, efficiently, and with an eye to making the adjustment a satisfying and lasting feature of your home.
Runner-Up: Ranch Hands
House Cleaning Service
MasterCare Home Cleaning
Robert and Linda Mangione, co-owners of MasterCare, write that they love “hearing back from our clients that the service provided has met or exceeded their expectations.” MasterCare excels at addressing the entire spectrum of concerns people have about the safety and cleanliness of their homes. From their choice of green cleaning products to the equipment and training they give their employees, the entire process is organized with “wellness in mind.”
Runner-Up: Master Clean U.S.A., Inc.
Star Rug Cleaners
Star Rug Cleaners’ owner, Mike Jensen, is a fourth-generation family business owner, and an expert in the care and restoration of oriental rugs and of collectible rugs made by Indigenous people of the Southwest. This year Star Rug Cleaners is celebrating an amazing record of 100 years in operation, all at their current location on Cota Street. With that kind of track record caring for their customers and their rugs, you know they are doing something very right!
Runner-Up: All Natural Carpet Cleaning
Santa Barbara Home Improvement Center
Gary Simpson, owner of the Home Improvement Center, writes that winning this award year in and year out “means the world to us.” He loves seeing customers and staff all around town and constantly hearing things from people like, “Oh my goodness, we love your store!” Locally born, Simpson says that there is “no other place that I would rather try to run a business.”
Runner-Up: Miner’s Ace Hardware
In a city known for superior aesthetics when it comes to stone and tile work, Tileco imports and distributes the finest ceramic, porcelain, marble, travertine, and other natural stone materials. They source from the best factories all over the world, and they maintain a substantial warehouse so that no matter what tile you choose, they’re likely to have it in stock.
Runner-Up: Buena Tile + Stone
CORRECTION: Mike Jensen is the current owner of Star Rug Cleaners, not Tony and Alex Jensen.