Credit: Michael Montenegro

Ray Gusman of Ray’s Liquor is retiring after 34 years as a business owner in Santa Barbara. I’m writing to share the story of Ray’s legacy and the community of lifelong customers at his store.

Ray is a lifetime local with a smile you can’t forget. Born in Santa Barbara in 1961, he was part of the generation when public schools got desegregated after the Civil Rights Movement. He attended Roosevelt Elementary and graduated from Santa Barbara Junior High, contributing with his MEChA classmates to the 1975 Cinco de Mayo mural on the corner of Quarantina Street and De la Guerra. He’s also a Don from S.B. High School when it was like something from a coming-of-age movie like Corvette Summer or Stand and Deliver or Valley Girl.

 Raymond Gusman on his second birthday — the boy center right in the “cool blue thing” — with David Renoso and cousins Cindy, Netti Romero, and Ginger. | Credit: Courtesy

In 1989, he bought the liquor store with the help of his family, and it came with the iconic neighborhood popcorn machine that always served warm, delicious popped maize, a scent that you can smell more than six feet from the door. The orange building in the middle of the 1400 block of San Andres Street has always been a liquor store and dates back to the 1930s.

Ray Gusman attending the 2014 S.B. International Film Festival, Ray said, “What a great night at the Kirk Douglas award show. Thanks, Roger, and my wonderful date, Karen.” | Credit: Courtesy

Ray made it official a day before his birthday.

“Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I want to let you know that after 34 years, I’ve decided to sell Ray’s Liquor. My last day will be January 30, 2022. I want to thank my drivers, my vendors, and my salespeople for keeping my store stocked, my friends, and my family for their support over the years. My mother and father, Frank and Virginia Gusman, for giving me an incredible opportunity, but most of all, I want to thank my customers. I will miss you most of all. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’m very excited to find out; again, thank you all very, very much.”

Read what his beloved friends and longtime community have to say about him:

I met Ray while ushering at the S.B. Bowl. Ray was a season ticket holder in section K. Super friendly and nice guy. —John Beardsmore

I grew up on San Andres a block away from Ray’s. Ray is a personal friend of mine, and even though I live in Texas now, I still visit Ray’s every year when I visit my family in S.B. —Luis Trujillo

Merry Christmas, Ray, and thank you for all ways being an honest businessman on the Westside. Congratulations and enjoy the ride. — Rob Bob Carrillo

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Wow! The end of an era and the start of something new. Happy early birthday! Xoxo. —Nancy Breese

My old classmate, thank you for your friendship through the years, and may God bless your future. —Joe Granger

I said, “You worked hard for more than two decades, and you saw generations grow; you deserve to retire, Ray; you deserve to be happy. I’m going to miss you in the neighborhood and doing the routine of visiting you like it was yesterday.”

There’s just something special about Ray. He is always smiling and shines with a youthful spirit of joy. To me, he deserves a lifetime achievement award of being a Santa Barbara merchant and businessman, gentleman, and a great friend too.

Lastly, I’m not sure what the future holds for Ray. I hope he gets to travel our country and the world, too, in his golden years like a sitcom full of adventures and friends — whatever his soul desires. I just want to see Ray happy. But I’m sure I’ll be asking Ray about his future plans over a shot of tequila this Sunday at the Tully.

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