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Holiday business in Santa Barbara is completely different this year without a disaster burning

Holiday sales in Santa Barbara and surrounding areas appear to be stronger this year without a disaster like the massive two county Thomas fire.

That destructive event sent tons of ash into the air and customers either left town or curtailed their shopping tremendously.

The mood this year is far more upbeat.

There’s clean air, no localized emergency and out of town shoppers have made trips to experience Santa Barbara for the holidays.

Diane Garmendia at 33 Jewels recalls how slow the days were 12 months ago. Now customers are coming through at a steady pace at her State Street store for rings, necklaces, watches, and bracelets. “It’s like night and day,” she said.

A group of downtown workers remember wearing N-95 masks last year to protect them from the soot when they went out for lunch. Chris Morgan at LogicMonitor said, “everybody was wearing masks all over actually our business handed them out. Everything was closed downtown It was a ghost town.”

He says State Street is starting to return to normal in his eyes instead of the quieter scene that occurred earlier this year in the mudflow crisis and during the fire. Morgan was walking with coworkers ready to dine at a downtown restaurant for lunch.

Alicia Vito works at a clothing store and said, “there’s a lot more people out on the street and they are shopping for Christmas. At my job we are getting a lot more customers every single day. It’s crazy busy so many people that are shopping for their relatives for themselves.”

Garmendia said, “I feel like this year people are much more into the Christmas spirit making up for last year. They are celebrating more, they are more festive, they want to shop. Definitely shopping is up.”

Many shoppers had multiple bags as they went in and out of stores. “It’s nice to see. I love this time of year,” said Vito.

When it comes to the ultimate connection between the holiday shopping excitement for many people and gift giving, Garmendia said she sees “women getting these little boxes on Christmas morning , that’s because of us. That just warms my heart. I am just one of Santa’s little helpers.”

Downtown Santa Barbara will have several events during the remaining days of the holiday season including snow cannons at the Paseo Nuevo Mall and many choirs. Saturday brass musicians come out at noon for “A Tuba Christmas,” in Storke Placita.

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