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Money and Business

Small retail stores looking for same COVID survival attention restaurants have been seeing for months

Salt Boutique
Small businesses like the Salt Boutique in Santa Barbara are hoping to get the same attention as restaurants and the promenade have been getting in recent months during the COVID crisis. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Salt Boutique
Small businesses like the Salt Boutique in Santa Barbara are hoping to get the same attention as restaurants and the promenade have been getting in recent months during the COVID crisis. (Photo: John Palminteri)
Salt Boutique
Small businesses like the Salt Boutique in Santa Barbara are hoping to get the same attention as restaurants and the promenade have been getting in recent months during the COVID crisis. (Photo: John Palminteri)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The small retail stores on the Central Coast are in the same challenging economic position as many of the small restaurants, hoping to see a steady stream of customers returning after a massive fall off of business during the pandemic.

In Santa Barbara, the State Street promenade and all of its attention-grabbing messages has put the emphasis on a 10 block area, mainly focused at food and bar establishments.

Elsewhere, retail stores, especially those that are smaller and locally owned, are also hoping for the same spotlight.

They have an increasing capacity now and expect that to grow if the county goes from the red tier to the orange tier, but the rebound is not expected to be as swift as restaurants that were given approvals for parklets and patios to serve guests.

Many retail store owners say doing that for their business would require extra workers outside to help customers and prevent theft.

Many solutions to stimulate the smaller businesses and move foot traffic around are being suggested. They include more marketing, signage and events.

Salt Boutique Owner Robin Baron said, "there's not too many of us left so  you know I am not ready to throw in the towel yet."

For 40 years Robin Baron has been finding unique clothing and keeping the boutique shopping spirit alive in Santa Barbara.

She previously owned Swept Away.

The small stores are just what the public often tells city leaders it wants to see .

 Salt Boutique is on Canon Perdido Street. Several stores including the Nordstrom department store nearby, are now closed. A few businesses including the Blue Owl restaurant remain open.

Baron says, "I have such good connections over the years.  I can just get things that are unique that other people don't have." She has traveled the world to find certain products.


 In the last year, the State Street promenade has had more focused attention than any other area of town,  especially the restaurants. Just a short walk away,  there's been a dynamic change in the flow of customers.


"Even before the pandemic it's been hard," said Baron.  " Especially because I am on a side street, we don't get the traffic."

Clothing retailers are quick to tell you the shopping experience is much better in person than by clicking a computer image and ordering on line.

Inside Salt Boutique Grace Pauletto who has worked there more than a year said, "people like to feel the product before they buy it. It is very different that shopping on line."

She also said there is a collaboration with other local vendors. "We also have a lot of locally made jewelry," said Pauletto.     

The sunglasses carried in the store are from Blue Planet out of Carpinteria.

Some popular shoes once sold down the street at the now closed Nordstroms, Ilse Jacobsen are in stock and have already become a mini stimulus with their popularity. The shoes are made of recycled materials and Baron says she is ordering more colors than what she has in stock.


Baron said "we have some great loyal customers and that keeps us going and we need the tourists back too"

Weekends have been busy lately and Spring break brought about three weeks of increased business. With that there's  been a sign of a comeback.

"It did seem like there are more tourists coming in and also more people wanting to travel so they are buying their travel clothes," said Baron.

For here area, "I really want to see my block filled up   around the corner filled up that would just  really be helpful."


New customers, those looking for unique gifts,  or buying gift cards as presents often give these retailers a boost. 

She is also going to be working with the Downtown Organization on efforts to do more outreach.

   
Baron said, "I am pretty positive.   I am a positive person and until I can't do it anymore, I'll keep going."

Watch tonight on NewsChannel 3-12, an KKFX Fox 11.

(More details, video and photos will be added later today.)

Community / Economy / Lifestyle / Santa Barbara - South County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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