Money and Business

Businesses leaving Santa Barbara causes concern among owners

Cooper: "We are at a high level of vacancies"

Businesses leaving Santa Barbara causes concern among owners

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A business woman in Santa Barbara is asking the city to be more proactive by providing more incentives to local businesses to stay in the area after she says she's being recruited by out of town developers.

Amy Cooper is the owner of Plum Goods Store. Cooper sells clothing, jewelry and home decorative products. 

Cooper spoke in front of a joint session at Santa Barbara City Council meeting last week.  

"The state of State Street is not good, and we are at a high level of vacancies," said Amy Cooper. 

We met up with Cooper on Tuesday to ask her what made her speak that day and her thoughts on so many empty storefronts up and down State Street. 

“It’s heartbreaking. Just as a 22-year resident of Santa Barbara it’s heartbreaking," said Cooper.

She started her business on State Street 6 years ago with just one store. This year, she expanded to two store neighboring each other. 

“I’m seeing the effect of vacancies on State Street. It definitely lowers my business to have all these empty store fronts. People are wondering about the viability of State Street," said Cooper.

She's doing well compared to many of the stores Downtown and she says retail developers are noticing.

“Other cities and developers and property developers to bring Plum Goods to their development and their towns because they’ve seen that we’ve been successful here," said Cooper. 

She can't tell us which cities are interested, but Cooper says she's been offered cheaper rent prices for bigger spaces. However, she wants to stay in Santa Barbara because she loves the city and has roots in town. So she's asking the city to provide some incentives for new fresh businesses to come to town while helping those who are loyal to the community. 

We reached out to the Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara which represents 1500 businesses to find out what its executive director thinks about the abrupt closures and what it means for the local retail industry.

“We know what’s happening here is part of a bigger national shift. We know malls are in trouble," said Maggie Campbell, Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara.

Campbell believes the retail industry will thrive again, but in a different way. She says building urban housing in the downtown corridor could be a solution.

“We already have a walkable vibrant area and it’s beautiful and the buildings are beautiful so residential uses can help us sustain businesses on the ground floor," said Campbell. 

The organization hired a consultant team to look into the situation downtown. The results of their analysis report should be released this summer.


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