The modern traveler is turning to technology to plot plans, a fact that retailers can no longer ignore, according to the new owner of Santa Barbara’s long-standing travel store.
Greg Bellowe has opted for the opposite of turning a blind eye, opening up shop in the former Travel Store of Santa Barbara location at 12 W. Anapamu St. with the aim of merging the old with the new.
The Montecito resident will offer standard travel supplies with a focus on technological and eco-minded items, along with a soon-to-be launched, cutting-edge planning application.
“What I’m trying to do is create an all-in-one travel solution,” said Bellowe, who is putting his past retail experience to good use. “Technology has become a big part of people’s trips.”
Customers have been wandering into Vita Travel Store in downtown Santa Barbara since its soft opening last month.
Bellowe had the idea for the store years ago, and decided to move forward sooner than expected when the former travel store closed up shop last June after 29 years because of financial troubles.
Michelle King, who managed the former store, is Bellowe’s business partner in the new retail venture, which is double the size. Bellowe knocked out a wall that connected the store and an adjoining space that previously was separately rented out, creating an open, inviting floor plan.
The business partners hope locals and visitors alike will pop into the shop to share which products interest them, ergo helping Vita find its niche.
Waterproof portable speakers, solar-powered battery chargers, LED solar lanterns and more goodies stock shelves in the new store’s technology section, located not too far from a high-end leather goods selection of bags, belts and wallets.
Books and maps will remain a staple of the store, which also carries a wide selection of name-brand clothes and even pickpocket-proof pants.
King, who used to work at Beverly Hills Luggage, said Vita Travel Store easily has the largest selection of luggage around — a bestselling product so far.
“We agonized for months about choices,” King said, adding that the process wasn’t over yet. “Santa Barbara travelers are not amateurs.”
Bellowe expects to host a grand opening later this winter, ideally about the same time as the launch of the new app. While he wouldn’t talk too many details, Bellowe said the app would serve as a kind of concierge service for travelers who still value some human interaction.
He said the Vita Travel Store location and high-tech upgrades would show that Santa Barbara is the right market for a travel store, even in the ever-changing digital age.
“We’re eager to hear what people want,” he said.