Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 4:36 pm | Fair 65º



Store Owners in Carrillo Plaza Hoping New Starbucks Helps Brew Up Business

While for many the newest Santa Barbara coffee shop is a welcome sight, some residents say problems with parking and traffic will leave a bitter taste

As Starbucks celebrates its grand opening Thursday in Santa Barbara’s Carrillo Plaza, local businesses hope it signifies a turning point for the historic shopping center.

There’s been plenty of change since Radio Square housed a radio tower on the corner of De la Vina and Carrillo streets in the 1950s.

About four years ago, the previous property owners planned a redevelopment, tearing down all of the buildings and preemptively kicking out most of the tenants, including Carrows Restaurant, according to Carrillo Plaza property manager David Hay. He said the plan was to build underground parking, construct revamped retail locations and build two stories of housing above the stores.

“It was all approved, but then the previous developer went bankrupt,” Hay said. “We worked with the bank and came and fixed it up.”

Now, Hay and the property managers are in the process of fixing up and filling the vacant space, but Monica Placencia of Esther’s Fine Jewelry said the construction has hurt some of the businesses.

“A lot of our customers thought that we had closed,” she said. “The center was like a ghost town.”

Starbucks district manager Paul Miller agreed, saying that he used to frequent Carrows.

“I don’t know if you remember what it looked like, but it was bad — it was just neglected,” Miller said.

Although business is slow at the shopping center’s liquor store, owner Rick Tain said he hopes Starbucks will help turn things around.

“It could be good business for us because it will bring a lot of people around,” he said. “I wouldn’t depend on it much, but it’s better for the area when it’s open rather than vacant.”

It will be the fourth Starbucks in downtown Santa Barbara, but it’s the only downtown Starbucks with a parking lot. Placencia is hopeful that it will revitalize the shopping center.

“Business has gone down in the last few years, but as soon as Starbucks is done and more businesses fill the vacancies, our old customers will know we are still here and we will get exposure,” she said, adding that she heard a rumor that a market would occupy some of the space. “We’re excited. It’s a great spot, and we think it will help local businesses.”

The Starbucks in Carrillo Plaza is the company's fourth location in downtown Santa Barbara.
The Starbucks in Carrillo Plaza is the company’s fourth shop in downtown Santa Barbara. (Alex Kacik / Noozhawk photo)

Hayes Commercial Real Estate broker Liam Murphy was optimistic Starbucks will improve the aesthetic appeal and draw plenty of traffic, but he said the traffic may be a problem.

“There’s not great access for that shopping center,” Murphy said. “There’s a traffic issue for people in the area. They will be slowing down Carrillo if people are trying to turn in.”

But traffic isn’t the only issue. Santa Barbara resident Teresa Turner is worried about available parking as well.

Spudnuts has been in the Carrillo Plaza as long as the liquor store — 18 years. Owner Julie Chang is also worried about Starbucks’ arrival.

“It’s not a good spot. We already have coffee and we don’t need competition,” she said. “It may take away from our business for a couple months and will hopefully go back to normal.”

But Miller said Spudnuts offers high-quality donuts and has a consistent clientele.

“They are the best donuts you can buy because of the potato flower, and we don’t sell that,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life and worked for the company for 10 years, and I don’t think we will hurt any other business. Look how many coffee shops have opened up in the past year and done well.”

Handlebar Coffee at 128 E. Canon Perdido St. and Coffee Cat’s Café Zoma at 918 State St. are doing well, and since Starbucks’ soft opening last Thursday, it has been very busy, he added.

In terms of the 1,900-square-foot Starbucks’ grand opening this Thursday, live music is planned from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., plus a coffee seminar, and healthy food and coffee pairings. Daily hours are 4:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Starbucks has begun serving beer and wine at locations in Portland and Seattle, but those aren’t available at the new Santa Barbara location.

“Starbucks tends to attract businesses, and we would like to see more local businesses coming in,” said Miller, adding that he isn’t sure what will fill the adjoining vacant building.

There’s plenty of space to fill, and Hay said he is getting calls everyday.

No matter what the outcome is, Placencia said any attention is good.

“It will be attractive,” she said. “And we need a facelift here.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik 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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