Santa Barbara Sales Are ‘Way, Way Down’ During Retail’s Biggest Month

Small Businesses Band Together with Specials to Fight Thomas Fire's Economic 'Armageddon'

Folio Paper & Press is among the small businesses in Santa Barbara suffering an economic armageddon from the Thomas Fire, despite its incredible collection of children's toys — employee Christa Clark Jones holds a furry reindeer — letterpress cards, housewares, and more.
Jean Yamamura

“We need help,” Marlene Bucy said. With Hanukkah midway through and Christmas less than two weeks away, what should be a bustling stationer’s shop is way too quiet. “We’d normally be full and busy, gift wrapping and helping people,” she said. “I invested about $35,000 just for product for December.” Bucy’s Folio Press & Paperie is part of The Hub on Motor Way, home to legendary Santa Barbara outposts like the Roasting Company next door and Lilly’s Tacos around the corner. Everyone’s feeling the pain from the Thomas Fire, with Santa Barbarans staying indoors and tourists going elsewhere.

A few doors down, at the Elizabeth Gordon Gallery, a note posted on the door indicates it’ll reopen on Friday and then comments, “Jeez this sucks!” Further down Gutierrez Street, D’Angelo’s Bakery was only selling bread and coffee by around noon. “We’ve been closing early because it’s been so slow,” Manny Garcia explained. “We open for breakfast at 7 a.m., and we’re expecting the big Christmas weekend rush, but we’re taking it one day at a time.”

The scent of chocolate is as heady as ever inside Chocolate Maya, but the store is empty. Maya Schoop-Rutten said the slowdown in trade is “dramatic and very, very scary.” She has online customers, which helps, but the people who normally walk in are absent. Her worry extends to other small business owners. “We’ve been going out to eat to help the restaurants. Even Brophy Brothers isn’t as busy as usual. All the Christmas parties have been cancelled.” Schoop-Rutten held out a ray of hope: “Valentine’s Day is a light in the tunnel for us.”

During past disasters, of which Santa Barbara has experienced plenty, once a full presidential disaster declaration is made, Small Business Administration loans become available for economic losses, explained Yolanda Stokes of the SBA office in Sacramento. “It takes a request from the governor to the president to declare a large-scale presidential declaration” — Santa Barbara’s disaster declaration has not yet reached that scale, though Stokes said FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) managers were making preliminary damage assessments this week. If such a declaration is made, “Working capital loans can be made at low rates, currently 3.3 percent, up to $2 million,” she said.

Isabella Gourmet Foods, a pop-up store that can be found in other storefronts, is fighting to get its customers back with special events. Tonight’s takes place at the Santa Barbara Wine Collective at 131 Anacapa Street. “Typically, 30-40 percent of our sales come from this time of year,” said Amy Chalker, who owns Isabella’s. “Next week, we’re having special events with goodies and people on the street to greet people” at her other pop-up location, AMA Sea Beauty at 506 State Street.

Dave Potter at Municipal Winemakers, which has hosted pop-ups for years, worried about his children breathing smoke, so he took them out of town and closed his entire tasting room down for five days: “I didn’t feel right making one of my employees sit there and choke all day.” His losses are significant, but “everybody’s getting slaughtered right now,” he said, from closed hotels to the restaurants and caterers who’ve seen private events and Christmas parties cancelled. They’re banding together at the French Press’s mobile Instagram Story, he said. “It’s pretty cool. A group of us small-business people are going around town, visiting each other’s places, and posting that they’re open.” He’s also holding a “big ole party” next Thursday, which is listed below with other special events to rev up the holiday spirit.

Friday, December 15, 4-7 p.m. — Santa Barbara Wine Collective is where Isabella Gourmet Foods and many other Santa Barbara food, arts, and producers of ingenious items — like S.B. Innovations’ “Circculents,” an air plant (or catnip) holder — can be found. 131 Anacapa Street, Suite C

Saturday, December 16, noon-7 p.m. — The Guilded Table in the Funk Zone’s Waterline Building hosts an all-day party with food samples, wine pours, and special sales among its 15-20 artisan stalls. 120 Santa Barbara Street

Saturday, December 16, noon-6 p.m. — Home Santa Barbara features a show by painter Rachel Brown from noon-5 p.m., wine tasting, and samples of Ojai Jelly made by Santa Barbara’s own Susie Mcclellan (flavors include jalapeño and apricot habañero). 14 Parker Way

All Week — AMA Sea Beauty, which hosts an eco-friendly pop-up with jewelers, parasol makers, and about a dozen other Santa Barbara artisans, will have a week full of special events and treats. 506 State Street

Thursday, December 21, 7-10 p.m. — Municipal Winemakers holds an ‘Ultra’ Mega Mall with lots of art, crafts, vendors of towels, bags, chairs, and shoes, and quite a quantity of food. 22 Anacapa Street


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