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At Home on the Ranch with Diane Powers and Brent Gilman

The power couple welcomes Ranch & Coast to their sprawling East County ranch

The ranch reflects Powers’ love of Latin American culture, color, and folk art
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Diane Powers, the entrepreneur, restaurateur, and designer, welcomes Ranch & Coast to the rambling property in East County that she shares with her husband, Brent Gilman, a commercial real estate broker. The ranch includes grassy pastures, meadows, oaks, and pines, and has a “great open, country feeling,” says Powers. “We wanted something that could accommodate our horses and provide enough riding room. When you’re here, you don’t even feel like you’re still in San Diego. It feels more like Montana.”

Their ranch-style house, which now features 18 rooms and six fireplaces, was built in 1930 by influential San Diego architect Richard Requa. The couple renovated and expanded the property after they bought it in the mid-1980s, but were respectful of its roots. “The ranch has a lot of historical significance and while we were remodeling it, we tried to keep most of the original style that Richard Requa designed,” says Powers. 

Diane Powers and Brent Gilman pose with their prized Arabian horses, ET and Primo, at their rural East County ranch. The retired show horses still enjoy an occasional trail ride
Diane Powers and Brent Gilman pose with their prized Arabian horses, ET and Primo, at their rural East County ranch. The retired show horses still enjoy an occasional trail ride

Her favorite space is the living room with its high ceiling and redwood walls. “It has a beautiful view of the mountains, our horses grazing in the fields, and it’s where Brent and I spend most of our time. The room is a great reflection of our travels and holds a lot of our art collection and memorabilia. But overall, I love all the rooms and the natural materials inside the house,” says Powers. The home is filled with authentic folk and southwestern art, and awards from showing the couple’s prized Arabians.

The colorful living room is filled with the couple’s collection of authentic folk art acquired on their extensive travels
The colorful living room is filled with the couple’s collection of authentic folk art acquired on their extensive travels

This month, Powers is celebrating 50 years in business. She is well-known for launching Bazaar Del Mundo, a colorful, festive collection of Mexican-inspired restaurants and shops that entertained visitors and locals alike for 35 years at Old Town Historic Park, becoming a top tourist destination. She also conceived and for many years produced the park’s popular Cinco de Mayo festival, which celebrates Mexican history and culture. Bazaar del Mundo attracted so many visitors to the park — an estimated six million annually — that in 2001, Powers was inducted into the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (CONVIS) Hall of Fame. Many more awards would follow from travel, business, and women’s groups.

A festive table, ready to welcome family and friends, is set with an embroidered table runner and handwoven napkins from Guatemala, a vintage serape and glassware from Mexico, and dishes from Bazaar Del Mundo
A festive table, ready to welcome family and friends, is set with an embroidered table runner and handwoven napkins from Guatemala, a vintage serape and glassware from Mexico, and dishes from Bazaar Del Mundo

After Powers lost her lease in 2005, she went on to establish four restaurants and shops throughout San Diego County: Casa Guadalajara and the adjacent Bazaar Del Mundo Shops at the entrance to Old Town, Casa de Pico in La Mesa’s Grossmont Center, Casa de Bandini in Carlsbad’s The Forum, and a (now-closed) restaurant in Del Mar Highlands. Designed in Powers’ signature style, the restaurants and shops feature bright hues, outdoor patios, and strolling mariachis. And don’t miss those gigante margaritas filled to the brim of the bird bath-sized glasses they are served in.

Powers’ ranch, just like her restaurants and retail shops, reflects her love of Latin American culture, color, and folk art, honed during extensive travels after graduating with honors from San Diego State University. “I traveled all throughout the Southwest 

Bold tile, textiles, and pottery predominate in the vibrant kitchen and adjoining dining room
Bold tile, textiles, and pottery predominate in the vibrant kitchen and adjoining dining room

and then ventured off to other countries,” she says. “I spent a lot of time in Mexico, Central America, India, Morocco, China, and most of Europe. Seeing and experiencing all those countries had an amazing influence on my style at such a young age. I was really interested in all the beautiful textiles, furniture, and fashion found around the world. I got to meet a ton of different people and appreciated the art and culture wherever I went. The more I traveled, the more I got to experience and learn about different cultures, architecture, and food.” 

One might assume that someone in the restaurant business would have a large Thanksgiving gathering. Not so. “Our gathering is anywhere between two to 12 people,” Powers says. “We don’t have a huge Thanksgiving. We like to keep it intimate with a few friends and family.” This year, the couple will welcome family from Utah. And guess who’s doing the cooking? “Most of my recipes have been passed down from my mom and grandmother,” says Powers. “Over the years, my niece and nephew have learned the recipes and now they do all the cooking!” Even a restaurateur gets a night off once in a while.

The couple loves to ride and show their horses, as evidenced by the numerous ribbons and awards on display
The couple loves to ride and show their horses, as evidenced by the numerous ribbons and awards on display

Powers tallied all she has to give thanks for this holiday. “I am thankful for many things including good health, wonderful friends, and employees. I am very thankful for all the support I have gained from the community throughout the years and for those who support my shops and restaurants. I am thankful I have developed a profession that I love so much,” she says.  

Does this accomplished businesswoman have any new projects in the works? “My biggest project right now is to build all of my businesses back up and overcome all the challenges we were faced with over the last year,” she says. “During the pandemic, I took the time to expand and upgrade parts of my restaurants and am continuing to do that. I also plan on creating a more balanced work schedule for myself so I can take more time to relax — on my ranch.”

Featured Photo The ranch reflects Powers’ love of Latin American culture, color, and folk art
Image Credits Photography by Vincent Knakal

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