It’s no secret that the past year has seen quite a few well-known stores closing their doors. Add one more to the list: Santa Barbara Scrapbooks, which will begin the process of closing its location at 918 Chapala Street on August 1. Barbara Bartolome - who founded the shop six years ago and won the Women’s Economic Ventures 2004 Business Woman of the Year award - is now being forced to close her store as a result of what she says said was not enough business to pay the store’s rent.
The harsh reality for such area stores is that the California economy, rising rents in Santa Barbara, and an apparent shift in consumer store choices has made it difficult for many to come up with the money needed to maintain a business. Rent increases are a rising source of small business closures. As small businesses shut down, chain corporate stores can often take the newly available spaces. And as chain stores spread throughout Santa Barbara, the number of shoppers who spend money at small, locally owned shops is decreasing. “By not shopping at local stores,” said Bartolome of Santa Barbara residents, “they’re going to lose all of them, and all that will be left is chain stores.”
These changes could also hit the Santa Barbara economy - and hard. According to the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, the tourism industry is a major source of strength for the state’s economy. Tourism is the fourth largest employer and fifth largest contributor to the gross state product. This information is especially significant in Santa Barbara, which is well-known for its tourism appeal. Changing the face of Santa Barbara’s commercial district, Bartolome said, could slowly but surely divert tourists away, along with their very substantial financial contributions.
Bartolome said she hopes that the closing of businesses like her own might serve as a “wake-up call for Santa Barbara.” If people want to preserve the unique style of Santa Barbara, she said, the community needs to be aware where they spend money, and how it affects the city in the long run.
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Susannah Lopez is an Independent intern.