Discouraged by high rent, low foot traffic, and uneasy relations with building owner Marge Cafarelli, nearly half the independent vendors at Santa Barbara Public Market have shut down and moved out. Juice Well, Crazy Good Bread Co., the Pasta Shoppe, Belcampo Meat Co., and Santa Monica Seafood all vacated their stalls in recent weeks — a year and four months after opening and well before the end of their five-year leases.
The vendors declined to discuss the details of their exits, citing nondisclosure agreements with Cafarelli. The owners of the Pasta Shoppe remain embroiled in a breach of contract lawsuit with Cafarelli over rent, triple-net rates, and allegedly unkept promises about market operations. Four of the storefronts remain vacant. The fifth, previously occupied by Santa Monica Seafood, has been taken over by I’a Fish Market & Café, which is owned by Cafarelli. She also runs Wine + Beer, Foragers Pantry, and The Kitchen.
Despite the departures, the other independent merchants at the Public Market — Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar, Rori’s Artisanal Creamery, Enjoy Cupcakes, Green Star Coffee, Flagstone Pantry, and il Fustino — are doing quite well, said Cafarelli. And she said there are positive developments happening right now that will mean good things for the year ahead — The Kitchen is booked for a number of upcoming events (private dinners, cooking classes, and even a Food Network spot), Foragers Pantry in the market’s entryway has rearranged its space, and the Culture Counter Co. was recently purchased by Catherine Bodziner, a cheese purveyor from New York.
Of the closures, Cafarelli said such turnover is “a natural occurrence … particularly food businesses which fail at a rate of around 80-90 percent.” By her math, Cafarelli said the Public Market has beaten those odds, “with only four of our 15 businesses (27 percent) closing … in this very challenging retail environment.”
In an email, “What can you expect to see as we move into year 2?” Cafarelli asked. “More Hard Work and Innovation. More ongoing events. Locals night every Monday night, 1st Thursdays, Monthly Promotions across the whole market, including Pop Ups.”