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Local organizations push for pop-up shops to fill vacant Santa Barbara Downtown storefronts

While State Street in downtown Santa Barbara still sees plenty of cars, bikers, and pedestrians, there are plenty of vacant storefronts dotting the street.

The city and other organizations are trying to help local entrepreneurs fill those spaces with pop-up shops or temporary businesses that can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.

Those groups held a workshop Wednesday night to inform potential pop-up owners what they need to know to set up their business downtown.

“We thought [starting a pop-up shop] could be a really great way to become more visible in the community, in a way that’s more affordable for us as a small business,” said Anna Lopez-Carr, who runs a small business with her sister, Donatella Lopez.

The sisters’ business, Le Sorelle, sells imported foods and olive oil from Italy, primarily online.

Because many of the available spaces on state street are large, the sisters are even considering sharing a space with other pop-ups.

“We would love to partner with other small businesses and share a space,” Lopez-Carr said. “If we can find those partnerships that work really well together then I think we can really move forward with this type of model.”

Nicki Parr of Women’s Economic Ventures says sharing a space is just one of the exciting ideas for potential pop-ups to consider. She said Wednesday’s workshop was packed and full of positive energy.

“Very encouraging,” Parr said. “People were very interested in what we had to say. There were a lot of people with some great ideas.”

Kate Schwab from the Downtown Santa Barbara Organization says that these pop-ups can give the whole community a much-needed economic boost.

“We’ve never had to be this proactive,” Schwab said. “People were fighting to get on this street, and have their business on this street. This breaks my heart now and we’re just trying to revitalize and reinvigorate downtown doing anything we can.”

Anna and Donatella hope their business can do exactly that with a pop-up location.

“We love the idea of being a part of the community and having a presence here and having fellow Santa Barbarans come out and shop and get to know local business owners,” Lopez said.

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