Tuesday, May 24 , 2016, 5:15 am | Mostly Cloudy 54º

BizHawk: The Fresh Market to Bolster Milpas Corridor

East Coast-based grocer will join Fresh & Easy and Trader Joe's as Eastside Santa Barbara retailer

By Zac Estrada, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | @zacestrada |

The old Scolari’s grocery store at 222 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara looks kind of derelict right now, but the ball is already rolling to transform it into a new shopping center of sorts.

News of The Fresh Market’s move into the Santa Barbara market broke last month.

Clarice Clarke of Lee & Associates represented the East Coast grocer in the deal, which is part of a big plan to expand operations throughout California.

But the market, dealing in organic and higher-quality products than other Milpas stores such as Fresh & Easy and Trader Joe’s, won’t occupy the whole Scolari’s shell. Think of it like Gelson’s, but more specialized and intimate.

“The Fresh Market will sublease about 8,000 square feet of the space, because their store will be about 22,000 square feet,” Clarke said. “That’s almost double the size of the typical Trader Joe’s, but still smaller than most supermarkets.”

She said the deal was signed shortly after Scolari’s went out of business earlier this year, when the Nevada-based grocery chain announced it would shut all Central Coast locations.

Clarke said the other tenant probably will not be another market or a business that would conflict with The Fresh Market. She also said Lee & Associates hopes to list the sublease space soon.

At first, The Fresh Market moving into the Milpas corridor sounds ill-fitting. But Clarke said the company was attracted to the property’s proximity to the Riviera, Montecito and the downtown area. Plus, she said, there aren’t many places left in Santa Barbara that are about 30,000 square feet and have ample parking.

The bigger question is going to be whether Santa Barbara can afford another upscale grocery market.

Fresh & Easy arguably caters to the same customers Scolari’s did, looking for well-priced, name-brand groceries. But it’s far smaller and deals largely in pre-assembled food. And most people on the Eastside and Riviera have already been doing shopping at the Ralphs on Carrillo Street or Vons on Coast Village Road for years.

The bigger implication from The Fresh Market project is the massive facelift it could bring to Milpas, and the prospect of two businesses standing where just one was before.

Permits haven’t been filed for the project, and The Fresh Market is just starting its California roll-out, so don’t expect to see a new market on Milpas until 2013.

Law Firms Join Forces

A law firm more than a half-century old and a 7-year-old upstart announced Monday that they would be merging to form a legal powerhouse based in Santa Barbara County.

The combined Buynak, Fauver, Archbald & Spray LLP will have offices in downtown Santa Barbara and in Santa Ynez, the firm announced in a news release. Members of the firm say the merger “joins a historical litigation practice with a younger and vibrant leader in transactional and business-law matters.”

Young guy teaming up with a seasoned veteran in the business? Change the location and cast William Shatner and this could almost be a Santa Barbara version of Boston Legal. Hey, if we can’t have a Real Housewives spin-off ...

Regardless of any similarities to TV shows from last decade, Buynak, Fauver, Archbald & Spray has the power to pack a punch among firms in the county. The combined group represents more than 200 companies, including a number of Fortune 500 firms — so it’s going to be a force felt far beyond Santa Barbara.

“This law firm merger is a perfect example of the principle that, sometimes, 1 plus 1 can equal 3,” said partner Douglas Large. “Together, our combined legal talents will be more useful to and effective for our clients than either firm could be without the other.”

Those talents include representing clients in litigation, energy, tax, environmental and real estate cases, to name a few.

Buynak, Fauver, Archbald & Spray is located in downtown Santa Barbara on the fourth floor of the El Paseo Building, 800 State St, and in Solvang at 433 Alisal Road.

Coquelicot Announces New Winemaker

Santa Ynez Valley winemaker Michael Larner has joined winery Coquelicot, the company announced Wednesday.

Larner has lived in the area for 15 years and been a regular at wine events both in California and in Italy. That experience, coupled with his multilingual skills, are what Coquelicot’s representatives say will allow Larner to add “Old World techniques with modern winemaking expressions.”

Larner is a member of the Santa Barbara Vintners’ Association and behind the proposed Ballard AVA.

Isla Vista Bookstore Packs Up

If there’s one kind of business the South Coast can’t afford to lose any more of, it’s bookstores. Even the big chains packed up and left the area.

Count the Isla Vista Bookstore among the casualties. After 47 years on Pardall Road, owner Dennis Tokumaru said this week he was closing up the business after he was unable to sell it.

Independent bookstores have it rough nationally, even in college towns, because of the cost advantages enjoyed by online distributors. College students, especially, like to save money on books.

Still, the news of this is a double blow. A storied business like this in the Santa Barbara area is getting rarer by the day, thanks to ever-inflating rents and the South Coast’s changing clientele.

During my sit-down with commercial real estate broker Jason Jaeger of Jaeger Partners a few weeks ago, he lamented there were few places to take his young children to learn about books. The days of the big bookstore on State Street are long gone, and unlikely to return if prices stay high and space stays scarce.

Even in Goleta and near UCSB, the willingness to pay more for brand-new books at an independent shop just isn’t there.

BizHawk is published each Friday and includes items of interest to the business community. Share your news by emailing items to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Noozhawk contributing writer Zac Estrada can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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