Economic hard times have forced Santa Barbara City councilmember Grant House to close up the sewing machine shop he’s run for the last 34 years. One of the rare business owners to serve on the council for the past 20 years, House said his shop has been struggling since the recession hit in 2008, and that when his revenues began to flat line this April—after just breaking even last year—he decided to pull the plug. House said he will continue to service industrial and residential sewing machines and said he’s now exploring locations.
House has operated his business out of seven different locations—most recently on Canon Perdido Street by the downtown post office. But it was while ensconsed in digs on Milpas Street in the 1990s that House first got involved in local politics as part of the East Side Study Group, a grass-roots and ground-up effort by East Side residents and business owners to address the needs of a neighborhood long ignored at City Hall. It was during that period that House would establish connections with many Latino community activists that have stuck with him throughout his political career.
It’s been a tough year for House. A staunch liberal and alternative transportation advocate, House has a hard time accommodating the new conservative majority, and can occasionally be seen bristling during council deliberations. Making matters worse, it was House himself who gave the conservatives that majority when he broke with the council’s liberal bloc and voted to appoint Randy Rowse to fill the vacancy created when Das Williams—the council’s longtime liberal firebrand—was elected to the State Assembly. House said he voted for Rowse under the misapprehension that Rowse would not seek to be elected this November based on comments made by councilmember Dale Francisco. Rowse, however, had never made such a promise and upon being sworn in and said as much.