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A customer trying to exchange a purchase tries calling the Crispin Leather store on the phone upon seeing the doors closed for business.

Paul Wellman

A customer trying to exchange a purchase tries calling the Crispin Leather store on the phone upon seeing the doors closed for business.


Crispin Leather Closes

Shoe Store Had Catered to Discerning Hippies Since 1965


A handwritten note on the door of Crispin Leather, 18, W. Anapamu Street, reads, “Due to the hard times, we will no longer be able to open our doors. LONG LIVE VINYL.” Established in 1965 as a handmade leather and pottery store, Crispin Leather continued that tradition until 1973 when it was purchased by Alex Nordholm, who actually bought shoes to resell-especially Birkenstocks. In 2005, the store was purchased by Bryan and Michelle Thompson and family, who added yet more brands, though they still specialized in leather shoes made for active wear like walking and dancing. The Thompsons were soon thereafter approached by and arranged to purchase two other Santa Barbara businesses, the Leather Guild of Isla Vista, established in 1962, and Shoetown on outer State Street, established 1948. According to Mae Morris, an employee of nearby Farmer Boy restaurant, Shoetown also has a handwritten note on the door reading simply, “Closed, no longer in business.”

Mary Martin, visiting from Santa Fe, stopped by Crispin Leather where she bought her first pair of Birkenstocks 30 years ago.
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Mary Martin, visiting from Santa Fe, stopped by Crispin Leather where she bought her first pair of Birkenstocks 30 years ago.

On Saturday, a woman arriving at Crispin Leather with a $200 gift certificate, left over from Christmas, could only peer in at the racks visible inside the store, which were chock full of shoes under a 50 percent off sign.

The block in general seems to be thriving, its gallery and its trendy tapas bar Milk & Honey getting along well with such Santa Barbara classics as comic book shop Metro Entertainment. According to Pacific Travelers Supply owner Jan Koch and Hobby Center owner Dave Wyckoff, landlord Charles “Tod” Eland, who owns the land beneath Crispin and numerous other businesses on the block, supports Santa Barbara homegrown enterprises. Koch said the Thompsons may have gone because they didn’t market aggressively enough.

The Thompsons have not yet responded to inquiries about the stores’ closing. The Crispin Leather phone message, in a woman’s voice, reiterates the point that times have been hard and adds, “We will miss Santa Barbara. Have a nice life.”

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