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Business

East Coast-Influenced Isabella Gourmet Foods Opens with Focus on Local Products

Amy Chalker of Cape Cod says the niche of her downtown Santa Barbara store is quality rather than quantity

Delicacies from the East and West coasts have come together at Isabella Gourmet Foods, now open for business in downtown Santa Barbara.

In support of local products and inspired by childhood memories, East Coaster Amy Chalker finally opened up the business she had dreamed about since she moved to California.

“I’ve always known I would open this shop,” she told Noozhawk. “I hope it’s an experience, not just a shop.”

The store, which opened May 8, is located off State Street in La Arcada at 5 E. Figueroa St.

Inspired by the New York-based, high-end grocery store chain Dean & DeLuca, and with only a small supply of each product, Chalker said her niche is quality rather than quantity.

“We’re carrying 80 percent local and small batch,” she said, adding that many of the products are relatively new on the market and still unknown. “This is a good place to get them highlighted, to really introduce them to the community … and at the same time offer a little bit of my roots.”

Chalker named the store after her middle name, Isabella. Born and raised on Cape Cod, Mass., she moved across country eight years ago for an internship as a dietitian. Sh said food has been a passion of hers since “forever ago.”

“I’ve always enjoyed it, I’ve always loved it,” Chalker said.

The store offers a variety of foods, from fresh goodies to pickles and vinegars — many made from home-based recipes.

The Tiffany-blue walls and large mirror with a bold gold, Renaissance-inspired frame makes the store appear larger than it is, and differentiates it from Spanish Santa Barbara.

“I grew up around these small, corner grocery stores,” Chalker said. “Here, we can give every customer one-on-one attention. You get that small, intimate feel.”

Many of the products come with a twist and a story. Orange peel- and plum-infused vinegar as well as habanero jelly and tomato jams are a few examples.

Chalker said her close relationship with her customers will allow her to share the stories with them.

“We can tell the customers about the guy whose Moroccan mom made the cookies, and that’s why they started in the first place,” she said.

Many products are gluten-free and vegan. Pistachio flour from the Santa Barbara Pistachio Co., Handsome Carver’s cashew butter, bars from 18 Rabbits, and granolas from Ocean Ranch Organics can be found at Isabella Gourmet Foods.

Fruits and veggies are put in baskets spread out in corners of the small boutique, and some are cooled in the fridge to keep their freshness. Chalker said she gets all of the fresh produce from the Farmers Market.

Vegan fudge, ginger-apricot chocolates, cupcakes, pies and other pastries are all brought in from private vendors such as Kelsey’s Anytime Fudge in Ventura, Sugar Cat Studio and Recipes Bakery in Santa Barbara. A jar filled with saltwater taffies offers customers a taste of the opposite coast and of Chalker’s childhood memory.

“This particular brand of taffy is what I grew up eating,” she said.

Chalker said she has applied for a permit to distribute alcohol, and plans to start offering wines in about one month.

“We have a lot more coming in,” Chalker said. “We’re just getting started.”

Noozhawk intern Gabriella Slabiak 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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