Hugh Margerum could be crowned king of community building for the food and drink artisans of Santa Barbara County.
About three years ago, while pouring wine at his family winery’s downtown tasting room in El Paseo, he noticed a preponderance of interesting purveyors in the vicinity. He got his neighbors to kick in some dough, hired a graphic designer, built a website, and launched the Presidio Neighborhood, which has since become a full-day destination for tourists and locals alike.
In 2017, Margerum got after it again, and he’s now ready to unveil his latest coalition-building effort: Industrial Way, the name of the warehouse-lined, dead-end street in Buellton that’s home to a steadily expanding number of alcohol producers and more. The road, which is the address for both the county’s largest winemaking facility, Terravant, and boutique-sized producers such as Roark and Buscador, started gaining popular steam with the opening of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company in 2010. But it was the 2014 opening of Industrial Eats, which many gourmands consider the best restaurant on the Central Coast, that really brought steady attention to the block.
“It was just like the Presidio Neighborhood,” said Margerum, whose vintner brother, Doug Margerum, moved Margerum Wine Company to the street about five years ago, but only opened his tasting room there last spring. “I started looking around and thought that this was a happening thing and needed more attention.”
So Hugh held out his hand to his neighbors once again, hired Tom Stanley to design a “groovy brochure,” and built a website that features the brewery, two distilleries, three dining options, eight (and counting) tasting rooms, and more than 20 providers of various services, from well digging and cabinetry to sign making and party rentals, that operate on Industrial Way. “They’re the heart and soul, and the original ones on the street,” said Margerum, who also threw in a California Highway Patrol badge on the map to mark its regional headquarters.
Margerum then reached out to nearby lodging hotspots such as the Sideways Inn and Flying Flags RV Park, which now features a number of cottages and Airstream trailers to rent. “They were sending people the other way toward Solvang,” he explained. “So we said, ‘Send ’em over here — we’re only like two blocks away!’” (There’s actually a well-traveled trail along the Santa Ynez River connecting the park to Industrial Way, but it may go through private property, so explore at your own risk.)
This Sunday, January 14, Industrial Way is kicking off its new coalition with special events at many of the supporting businesses, which are donating proceeds to Direct Relief as a response to the Thomas Fire. Margerum Wine Company, for example, is hosting a Pink Party to celebrate the pre-release of its super-popular Riviera Rosé, with all tasting fees and 20 percent of sales donated. “We’ll be filling up growlers straight from the tank,” said Margerum.
Given his experience in downtown Santa Barbara, Margerum recognizes that it takes time for group efforts like this to bear fruit — only recently has the three-year-old Presidio Neighborhood started showing up on official tourist maps. “These are very loose organizations,” he said. “It takes time to gain awareness.”
But with numerous new wineries lining up and both Figueroa Mountain and Terravant expanding, the future of Industrial Way appears fierce. “There’s lots of stuff happening here, and it’s still in the early stages,” explained Margerum. “There is strength in numbers, and we can all make ourselves a destination where people want to go.”
See industrialwaysbc.com for details on the Thomas Fire Relief Benefit and kickoff party on Sunday, January 14, noon-5 p.m.