As Southern California natives, Brent and Suzi Freitas are no strangers to floods. Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria saw 2018 come in with a roar, proving us stronger and more resilient than we could have possibly imagined. For the Freitases though it was the El Niño of 1998 that drowned the business they’d built.

The Freitas family started Eye of the Day Garden Design Center in 1995, five years after relocating from Los Angeles, where both Suzi and Brent were born and raised.

They came north in search of a better place to raise their daughter, Daisy, and a place to call home. The Freitases settled in the Santa Ynez Valley and initially opened a successful garden center on Mission Drive in Solvang. Three years later, an El Niño storm slammed the shop with mud and water. The business suffered a complete loss.

What was a tragedy for the Freitas family turned out to be good fortune for Carpinteria. In the spring of 1998, the expansive space at 4620 Carpinteria Ave. became available, and Brent and Suzi brought Eye of the Day to Carpinteria.

Prior to his work in the garden pottery business, Brent was a commercial real estate developer. He grew up in the bowels of commercial Los Angeles, where he adopted hard work as a way of life. “It’s really the work ethic (Suzi and I) share that has driven us and enabled us to grow to the extent that we have,” he said. Eye of the Day’s many clients—including several celebrities—have benefited from Brent’s discerning eye and willingness to get his hands dirty.

With his ruggedly handsome, weathered look and brusque demeanor, Brent appears to devour hard work for breakfast and deliver perfection by afternoon tea. Make no mistake, he expects the same from the people who work for Eye of the Day. When I visited the showroom and office, I got to see his passion firsthand, and meet his workers who were engaged, enlivened and clearly focused with a grounded sense of joy and purpose.

Don’t let Brent’s surly exterior fool you. If you stop by and meet him, you will discover a genteel, highly educated, seasoned, worldly and cultured man. He smiled, as he proudly boasted, “I spent the early years driving over 250,000 miles through southern France, Italy and Greece researching.”

A walk though his showroom is a lesson in Artisan Terracotta Pottery, which has made Eye of the Day world famous. Brent’s epic European sojourn was not just about understanding craftsmanship and product, it was also about building relationships. Brent and Suzi have brought the stately and historical soul of outdoor design from the Mediterranean environs of southern Europe to our own local rolling hills and meadows.

But what drives the Freitas family is their sense of home and family. Nowhere is that clearer than in the choice of the name of the business itself. Suzi said, “When Brent and I began daydreaming about a name for our business, our daughter Daisy was 7 and our lives revolved around her—that hasn’t changed! We wanted to incorporate Daisy into the name and decided to go for the old English meaning, Day’s Eye, for the resemblance of the flower to a stylized sun. And as Daisy was the eye of our lives, Eye of the Day was born.”

Brent noted that longtime employee Juan LeDezmas and banker Joanne Finari have been crucial to the business’ success. Oh, and he expressed his gratitude to Shorty, the Freitas family dog.

Eye of the Day is located at 4620 Carpinteria Ave., and is open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can be reached at 566-6500. You can check out their wares at eyeofthedaygdc.com.

Shane Bruce is a recent transplant from Los Angeles. He has been contributing to area publications for nearly 20 years, including the Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley News. He is grateful to be living in Carpinteria, a place he calls paradise. His column focuses on the heroics of overcoming challenges that small business owners face. Shane believes that small business owners are the true American heroes.

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