Despite its recent move, Santa Barbara Motorsports might be hunting for another home in the near future.
The high-performance vehicle dealership was forced to move last month as Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market took over its former location at 5955 Calle Real. It might be facing a similar situation if the public authorizes Target’s development plan at its 20,000-square-foot space at 6466 Hollister Ave. in Goleta.
“We’re on the run and trying our best,” Santa Barbara Motorsports owner Randy Hudspeth said. “We love what we do, and we do it because it’s our passion.”
There aren’t many vacant large commercial spaces, and the ones that are available require rezoning.
Santa Barbara Motorsports tried to move to the former Timbers Restaurant location on Winchester Canyon, but the city said it would have to do $100,000 of studies and go through plenty of red tape.
“That’s not something a small-business owner can do; we’re not like Target,” Hudspeth said.
Target’s development application seeks three changes to the Goleta General Plan, including a land-use designation switch.
“With us little guys, we take what’s available and can’t afford to rezone anything,” Hudspeth said.
Dougal House started the business 47 years ago as a Goleta-based Honda dealership. By the early 2000s, the next two owners added Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM and KYMCO. Hudspeth was set on running a business with his family, so he took advantage of a weak economy in March 2010 and purchased Santa Barbara Motorsports.
He said families and riders haven’t had the discretionary income to purchase new off-road vehicles since the economy turned, so Hudspeth wanted his business to focus on customer service.
“March 2010 was one of the worst months the dealership has had in terms of sales,” Hudspeth said. “Everybody said I was crazy, but it was my entry point, it was the bottom of market and I thought it couldn’t go anywhere else but up from there.”
So far this year, the business has done better than the past three years. In 2008, the Santa Barbara Motorsports customer’s average was 36 and now it’s 44; the dealership sells more high-end vehicles such as KTM and caters to middle-age professionals and empty-nesters, Hudspeth said, adding that the vineyard industry expansion has helped ATV sales while high gas prices have helped move motorcycles.
“It’s a sad thing because it’s a great family sport, especially off-roading,” said Hudspeth, who takes his sons to Pismo Beach and Zaca Station to ride. “You meet great people.”
In terms of its former location, Fresh & Easy plans to start construction in the next few months, according to Radius Commercial Group agent Brad Frohling, who helped Santa Barbara Motorsports look for a space for a year and a half. FedEx previously occupied the 6466 Hollister Ave. building and relocated near the Santa Barbara Airport. Another Fresh & Easy is opening in June on Milpas Street.
“If you look at commercial zoning maps in the South Coast and look at the undeveloped commercial land, nearly everything is built out,” Frohling said. “Santa Barbara Motorsports is a great local company, but it’s extremely challenging with the larger spaces; there’s a very short list of options to place those businesses.”
Looking ahead to Target’s development, the Goleta City Council voted unanimously in November to authorize a public planning process that could take more than two years. Although most members advocated an expedited process, it all depends on the site.
“I want to see this move forward, and I hope staff won’t take two years to get it done,” Councilman Roger Acevez said at the November meeting. “This is one of those projects that needs to get done sooner than later because of the benefit it provides to us.”
When it comes to off-road vehicle sales, Hudspeth is confident the industry will continue to rebound and that Santa Barbara Motorsports will grow — no matter where in Goleta it ends up.
“We still have a long way to go, but things definitely have improved,” he said.