SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Not waiting for an economic rebound after the coronavirus crisis, the new Viva! Santa Barbara store has opened up in the Paseo Nuevo mall.
Owner Rafa Martel who, with his mother, owns the very tightly packed and much smaller store, Mely's on the Westside, says the new site is very spacious.
"There's a lot of color. There's a lot to choose from. That's really important for the people," said Martel. "There's more walking room, more dressing rooms."
He says customers coming out of dressing rooms with Fiesta-style dresses have energetic responses. "They twirl around, they put a flower in their hair, they get a on a shawl and they have fun," said Martel.
In a fragile economy with some stores ranging from Nordstrom to Sur La Table closing nearby, Martel says he's built up years of customer loyalty.
"We have a very big following, a lot of local customers. It was a time to do it. A really good time to do it right now," said Martel.
The store is just in from State St. near the corner of Ortega St. on the side of the Paseo Nuevo Mall adjacent to the former Macy's store.
It has 3100 square feet of clothing for women, men, children and many accessories. The displays also have shoes, purses, wallets, jewelry and hats.
It's one of the largest new stores to open in recent weeks in this area.
Foot traffic is also starting to pick up again, after a big COVID 19 slow down starting in mid-March.
"They are coming out, you know they are being safe, they are wearing their masks," said Martel who has sanitation stations throughout the store, and wipes the racks and dressing rooms down all day.
Going with the trends, he said, "masks, they are my top sellers right now, and they are within 4- 6 dollars."
The Covid-19 protection is fashionable with embroidered, prints, adult and kid masks.
This year's Old Spanish Days poster and pin will also be sold at the store, just a few steps in from where next months Fiesta would normally be celebrated, if it wasn't for the virus crisis.
All this is happening as the Paseo Nuevo Mall is going through a multi-million dollar renovation.
One customer said to her, buying local was very important .
"I love this store, it's amazing. I like him as a person him and his family are very nice and caring," said Jessica Garcia who has shopped at Mely's for years and knew the Martel family.
Aside from festive wear, there's casual clothing for summer and later this year there will be seasonal items during Dia de los Muertos, winter season and Christmas.