September 29, 2023
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2013 Family Business & Closely Held Companies honorees announced



Brothers Charles (left) and David de L’Arbre run Santa Barbara Travel Bureau, a business their father started in 1947. The company is the Family Business award winner in the Small Business category for Santa Barbara County. (Alex Drysdale photo).

Congratulations to the 2013 Family Business & Closely Held Companies award winners. The section published Friday, Feb. 22 and is available with the print edition of the Business Times.

This year’s winners are:

Family Business Titan: Gills Onions, an Oxnard-based onion processing company owned by brothers Steve and David Gill.

Legacy Family Businesses

• Green Business: Harrison Industries, owned by Ralph, Jim and Myron Harrison, a team of brothers who took over the Ventura-based trash-hauling business from their parents. The company celebrated its 80th year in business last year.

• Business Services: TWIW, a Ventura-based insurance services company with a long history of family ownership. The firm turned 90 last year.

Ventura County

• Large: Steve Thomas BMW, a Camarillo-based dealership owned by Steve Thomas and managed by his daughter Stephanie Fournell and son Steve Jr. They also own a Mini Cooper dealership next door.

• Medium: Sea Fresh restaurant in Ojai and Oxnard. Owners Bill and Mayra Sutton, along with Mayra’s brother, Gus Garcia, own the Ojai location. The Suttons own the Oxnard location with their son and his wife.

• Small: Freska Produce International, an Oxnard-based mango distributor owned by co-founders Jesus “Chuy” Loza and Gary Clevenger.

Santa Barbara County

• Large:, the fast-growing Carpinteria-based online education firm founded by husband and wife duo Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman.

• Medium: Los Olivos Café, a restaurant with a love story. Owner Sam Marmorstein met his wife, Shawnda when she was a waitress at the café.

• Small: Santa Barbara Travel Bureau, owned by brothers Charles and David L’Arbre. Their father started the business in 1947.

Central Coast

• Large: Madonna Inn and Madonna Enterprises, founded by legendary developer Alex Madonna. The pink inn is a landmark in San Luis Obispo and managed today by Alex Madonna’s wife Phyllis, his daughter, Connie Pearce, and Connie’s husband, Clint. They also continue to develop commercial properties along the Central Coast through Madonna Enterprises.

• Small: Sharp’s Hill Vineyards located in Paso Robles, owned by husband and wife pair Rob and Pam Sharp, who are teaching their two children business skills at an early age.


— For a copy of the section with profiles and photos of all the winners, pick up the Feb. 22-28 print edition of the Business Times. [Newsstand locations are here, or call (805) 560-6950 to subscribe or order copies].

— To purchase tickets to the March 14 Family Business & Closely Held Companies awards luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach, click here.