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Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011

Paul Wellman

Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011


Marshalls Gets Mixed Reviews

Shoppers, Nearby Businesses Split on Opening of Off-Price Retail Chain


“Good morning. Welcome to Marshalls.”

Employees of the new Marshalls store on State Street greeted people of all ages who made their way to the grand opening of the store on August 4. Within very little time, many of the curious customers, who rose early to be there by 8 a.m., had clothes hanging over one arm while using the other to carefully inspect a pair of pants, or a T-shirt, or a purse. Reusable shopping bags with “Marshalls” written on them were handed out for free and the new store manager, Cindy Choumas, was extremely satisfied with the location’s first day.

“The opening went well,” she said. “We made a $5,000 donation to Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, which I’m very happy about because some of our employees are using the program for housing.”

Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011

Though the grand opening of Marshalls wasn’t as grand as the opening in June of the Swedish clothing store H&M down the street, which, like Marshalls, replaced a space formerly occupied by a bookstore, people kept coming through the doors. For the past week, State Street visitors had been looking through the windows and pulling the doors asking workers inside, “When do you open?”

“We’re in the perfect location,” said Choumas. “Borders was out of the building on January 4 earlier this year, and we were in by January 10. We took over the building right away. A lot of restructuring needed to be done and this is one of the biggest Marshalls there is. We couldn’t have picked a better location.”

Not everyone was as excited about a Marshalls on State Street as the store manager.

Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011

“I was hoping that the area would be used for more high-end clothing,” customer Beth Harake said. “I mean it’s nice, but with three stories you could’ve done so much more.”

Gabriel Rubio, who was looking to buy “going out clothes,” was also “surprised that downtown has allowed a Marshalls on State Street. Normally they go for more high-end stores.” He was excited, though, to find some good bargains. “I think it’s pretty great. It’s big. Great use of the space. And I like saving money, so this is cool. I’m definitely going to come here on a regular basis.”

Store manager Jackie Suarez at Forever 21, right across the street from Marshalls, is sad that Borders is gone. “I’d rather have Borders. I used to go there with my kids. Seriously, Marshalls on State Street? Students used to hang out at Borders.”

Whether the new neighbor will take away any of Forever 21’s business, Suarez is pretty confident it won’t. “I don’t believe the opening of Marshalls will have any impact on Forever 21. It’s so different. Our style is different.”

Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Opening day at Marshalls in Santa Barbara Aug 4, 2011

Many have wondered if Marshalls will make use of the large patio in front of the store. “We have looked into having musicians perform on the patio, but nothing has been decided yet,” said Choumas. “We can’t make any such decisions on the store level, but we’re looking into it, talking with the city. We’re trailblazing a lot of different things.”

Negative reviews aside, the new Marshalls was well-visited from the moment it opened its doors. The store employs 102 people, and Cindy Choumas hopes to give another 15 people jobs in the near future, depending on how the business goes. Also, she is convinced that Santa Barbara shoppers will enjoy coming to the store.

“We have something for everyone,” she said. “We’ve got the best brands. We’re very competitive. Customers choose their shopping based on price, and we can offer customers what they look for.”

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