SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After years of concerns from shoppers who want more local stores in downtown, one center has filled it with just that formula.
In the heart of Downtown Santa Barbara there’s a well kept secret known as the “Local Zone” of SB. Tucked a half-block off State St. at Gutierrez you’ll find there’s a rebranding underway to create a welcoming entrance to visitors wiling to venture up front the beach and under the highway where they can take the stairs up to Sevilla Square.
Bordered by Gutierrez Street, Chapala, Parker Way and Motor Way, it is one block to the West of State Street.
"People are looking for more individual businesses and here we are," said Maya Schoop-Rutten from the Chocolate Maya store.
"You have everything from juice over at the Juice Ranch, Chocolate Maya and you have SB Roco that's been here forever," Albert Dipadova, the co-founder of the Riviera Towel Company said. "There's a lot of other little known shops."
He is one of the coordinators of the new look and marketing.
Looking into the past DiPadova pulled out a map from about 80 years ago and said, "this was called the Rollercade back in 1942 right there. We are thinking about doing a roller skating party for the block party this year."
It's now home to about 20 merchants.
Inside the Le Reve organic Spa and Boutique that floor still exists from the rollercade days. Owner Bridgette O'Neill says she likes the new attention to the area. On Wednesday evenings she hosts a special "Ladies Night." The spa store has many health and beauty items along with unique gifts for sale.
Kristin Mitchell was shopping and getting a bite with a hungry group of children. "We go to the Santa Barbara Roasting Company, my kids love the Acai place (Backyard Bowls), the towel company is awesome." She says they also go to businesses nearby when they are done in the Sevilla stores.
Inside Wu Shu martial arts, the owner of 40 years says there's a lot of synergy with the businesses.
Chris Wiedman says, "after martial arts you may want to do some yoga, massage, that kind of thing." He also said the juice bar, coffee and some of the other businesses are the right fit as neighbors. Wiedman was formerly up at Victoria Court.
Schoop-Rutten agreed saying she gets her hair done nearby and visits other shops as well on a regular basis.
“I get my hair cut at Carlyle I have my printing at Folio Press and my scarves from Riviera Towel.”
DiPadova is quick to pull out his Turkish beach towels to show the designs, fabric and how many uses they have. He says the material is particularly made to dry quickly after time at the beach or a pool. Some designs can be used as scarfs too.
The store has gifts, outdoor accessories, fashion items and locally made sea glass jewelry.
The area's footprint also has home furnishings, a print store, larger art and nearby there's Haywards patio and outdoor furniture, Lily's Tacqeria and a fitness workout site for pole dancing. Some of those businesses are technically part of the Parker Way building project but in the area that's looking to gain a unified identity for visitors.
"It's a beautiful little block all around you can literally walk around. It has independent little businesses, Mom & Pop -- very special," said Schoop-Rutten.
Her chocolate store is stocked for Easter with special bunny and chick designs next to hard to find custom or gourmet chocolates. The shelves have many fine chocolate bars and gift boxes. She also has a vegan selection.
While customers are coming and going in this quaint district, often they can smell the coffee from the Santa Barbara Roasting Company. For 30 years it has been serving coffee at the site and has a roaster right next to the serving areas. That has been a feature for the business and for coffee lovers to see the process as they consumer the product.