Bizerk, a vintage clothing and costume store, will close at the end of January, becoming the next area retailer to bend to the pressures of increasing rents on State Street.
After six years of selling old movie props and costumes, unique vintage items, wigs, and jewelry, co-owners David Sampanis and Michelle Dalton said they were blindsided when the property owner told them last Saturday that they have 30 days to vacate their storefront.
“It’s really quite a shock,” said Sampanis, who has owned retail stores in Santa Barbara for more than 20 years. “There’s no time to feel anything, because moving everything in only two weeks will be a huge task.”
The store had a month-to-month rent agreement with the building’s owner and property manager, LYNX Management Inc., but Sampanis said he was told the space was not on the market and that he would be given 60 days’ notice if Bizerk was ever to be pushed out.
Matt LaBrie, president and managing broker for LYNX, which owns more than 20 buildings in Santa Barbara, said in a text message that LYNX wishes the Bizerk owners well. “They have been a wonderful tenant and I’m sure they will be successful wherever they reopen,” stated LaBrie, who declined to comment further.
But Sampanis and Dalton said they are unsure if they will be able to reopen because rents everywhere else are so high. Sampanis said they were paying $4,200 a month, but every property of comparable size on State Street he has looked at costs two to four times as much.
Sampanis said he believes LYNX has rented the storefront for at least twice as much as he was paying, partially because chain stores that are willing to pay higher rent for the ability to say they have a Santa Barbara location are driving up lease costs.
“At the rates that are being charged on State Street, I think it’s very possible that a lot of chain store business might be taking a loss,” Sampanis said. “I know someone who is a manager at Abercrombie & Fitch on State Street who said they lose $200,000 a year and they’re okay with it.”
However, when Bizerk was pushed out of the first half of its two-door storefront last November, the merchant that took their place was an area business willing to pay higher rent. And that business, Wolf’s Head — a quality menswear store owned by brothers Cristian and Ruben Sagastume, who were raised in Santa Barbara — has reportedly been doing quite well.
“We got a good deal on the rent,” said Cristian. “I thought [Bizerk] was already moving, so I didn’t ask too many questions.” Cristian said every place he looked at on State Street had a monthly rent of about $8,000 to $10,000, but he declined to comment on how much he pays now for the Wolf’s Head location. It’s not clear what business will take over Bizerk’s remaining space.
Dalton said Bizerk was only 75 percent of the way through consolidating into a one-door storefront when he was informed they would have to leave by the end of January. “It’s frustrating because we’re a local company and we’ve been supporting the community since our beginning,” said Dalton. “We’re a family. We get people coming back from all over the world because they say, ‘Wow, I wish there was something like this where I live.’”
One of Bizerk’s regular customers, Stephany Galvan, 24, said she was heartbroken to hear about the store’s closing. “My friends and I are all local cosplayers, and we come here all the time,” said Galvan, who added she splurged on an old Roman shield because of the store’s liquidation sale. “Because of this store, we don’t have to drive to L.A. and deal with traffic to shop,” she said. “The staff is always so nice, and the owners are so nice. It’s unbelievable how they find all the stuff they have.”