Montecito Treasures, a “new-concept” furniture consignment shop on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside, combines the effort of garage sales, the convenience of online resale shopping sites, and the variety of consignment stores and antique malls all under one roof.
Owned and operated by Lori Frisbie, a Montecito resident since 2001, the store is located in a mostly industrial neighborhood at 619 E. Gutierrez St.
Frisbie has pursued many passions in her life, none outwardly related to each other, but with this latest venture, she says, “It’s all starting to make sense.”
“My journey in life is about creating new experiences utilizing the skills developed in my prior experiences,” she said.
Born in New York City, Frisbie started her adult life as a graduate student in economic development in France. She worked on Wall Street (Broad street, to be exact), then moved to San Francisco in the mid-1980s with her then husband. There, she took part in the financial tech bubble where the money was flowing like champagne.
While living in Northern California, the mother of four worked at an art gallery and antique shop, where she learned about art and home furnishings. During this period, Frisbie bought, renovated and sold several houses, and learned how to refinish antique furniture.
Her academic background with its emphasis on research and her love of art and antiques prepared her for what would become Montecito Treasures. In the early 2000s, Frisbie moved to the 93108, where her four children attended Montecito Union School and Crane Country Day School.
The idea for Montecito Treasures was conceived in 2013 while Frisbie was taking a leave of absence for several quarters from her global and international studies academic post at UC Santa Barbara. During the break, she had the time to change and redecorate some of the rooms in her current home. She looked into consigning some of her unwanted furniture locally, but wasn’t comfortable with the return offered. Instead, she started selling her things out of her home and found success. Word spread, and Frisbie was soon contacted by a few friends who asked her to sell their items, too.
Researching other consignment businesses, she discovered that the traditional business model (50/50 split, four-month commitment with a declining percentage in price monthly, ending with the decision to pick up your unsold item or leave it) had been the standard practice in the industry since 1917!
With eBay, Craigslist and other online marketplace options, it occurred to Frisbie that the consignment concept was outdated and unattractive. After her “aha” moment, she decided to put her skill set to use and introduce a new business model — one that significantly minimized her compensation but relied on volume, turnover and lower overhead.
Within two months of her launch in mid-2013, she moved her fledgling business into a storage space on East Haley Street. Every weekend, with the help of family and friends, she would hold parking lot sales at the site. Thanks to the great response to her “new concept,” she quickly gained more selling clients while increasing her buyer base.
In response to increased business demands, Frisbie leased a 2,400-square-foot, two-level warehouse/showroom space on Gutierrez near the Santa Barbara Design Center, with neighbors that include Kanaloa Seafood Market, Louise Gerber’s Closets Etc. and Robyn Loves Cakes.
While Frisbie’s clientele ranges from the die-hard “consignment ladies” to interior designers, many of her customers are my daughter’s age who grew up with nice furniture and would like to incorporate some of those pieces in their starter homes. These young adult professionals with families are straddling IKEA and Hayward’s.
Frisbie's pricing varies from $425 for a desk/bookshelf to $4,000 for a black lacquer sofa, but she has lamps, decorative items and maritime accessories for $15 and up.
“Whenever I take in furniture by notable manufactures such as Baker, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Design Within Reach, or woven area rugs in perfect condition, the dust never settles on them before the pieces are scooped up,” she said.
And name brands still count.
“Out of trend” at the moment is anything Asian and pine. Much sought-after items are armoires that are now needed for storage but at one time had been retrofitted for TVs that no longer fit the flat-screen age. (I have a few of those in my garage.)
In addition to taking in furniture, Montecito Treasures has notable artwork, rugs, lighting and decorative pieces. She recently sold to a collector all of her consigned Santa Barbara artists’ pieces, including John Comer and Ralph Waterhouse originals.
“I have recently enjoyed watching someone find a unique hanging light fixture that was perfect for their new home,” Frisbie said. “And I worked with another young woman looking for a distressed, brown leather sofa, because she wanted that look and had a new 6-week-old puppy.”
In a stroke of serendipity, Frisbie had exactly that.
Her treasures now include stories and experiences shared by consigners and buyers. Her new blog, Tales from the Chaise, is inspired by a love of furniture, its history and emotional connections.
“Sharing these stories with my clients and friends puts a highlight on the real face of the wonderful community in which we live,” she explained.
Frisbie can multitask with the best of them, and it was a challenge to finish a conversation with her on one recent afternoon as new chairs and tables were being brought in.
“I absolutely love what I am doing,” she said. “My business is about passion, interpersonal connectivity, and life-enriching experiences that money alone cannot provide.
“Being a part of the transfer of cherished goods is the ultimate culmination of my life’s journey to this point.”
Montecito Treasures, 619 E. Gutierrez St. in Santa Barbara, is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Saturday, or by appointment. Click here for more information, or call 805.698.3420.