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Business

Savvy on State Owner Thinks Her New Store Will Fit Right In in the Neighborhood

With roots in Boulder, Colo., fashion-forward retailer eyes a similar, college-community clientele in Santa Barbara

Erica Dahl may have studied international affairs and political science at the University of Colorado Boulder, but her store in the Rocky Mountain college town has taught her how to be business savvy.

Dahl will expand her clothing store Savvy to downtown Santa Barbara later this summer. Savvy on State will occupy the former Blue Bee location at 911½ State St.

Savvy on Pearl opened four years ago on Pearl Street, Boulder’s State Street equivalent, she said. Dahl offers men’s, woman’s and children’s clothing and shoes that will resonate well with Santa Barbara shoppers, she said.

“We sell $12 sunglasses and up to $150 dresses,” she said. “It’s not all low or high, but it isn’t a boutique.

“We cater to a many age ranges and a variety of price ranges. We focus on wearable fashion and are not into abstract ideas; runway doesn’t always translate to real life.”

TOMS shoes is a brand that Dahl said epitomizes Savvy’s fashion-forward but everyday product line. Savvy has carried TOMS since it hit the market, and it has grown similar to her business.

“TOMS hasn’t really blown up,” Dahl said. “Iit has had an extremely healthy growth pattern.”

She added that the recent addition of TOMS sunglasses was a genius move.

“I feel like I’ve grown with the company,” she said.

Dahl said her store will fit State Street well because it carries other brands new to Santa Barbara, such as BB Dakota, Chaser, Wildfox and Junk Food.

“People are often focused on what brand you are selling, but if you want to go to a store with every brand you’ve heard of, go to Tilly’s,” Dahl said. “Some are lesser-known brands that I know will do well with the demographic but may not be in Santa Barbara yet.”

Much of Savvy’s product is based on the Los Angeles climate, she said.

“I’m excited to be by the ocean,” Dahl said. “Fashion is often dictated by the beach and sunny California so I’ve always been interested in that area.”

Pearl Street was the heart of Boulder, similar to State Street. While the rent may not have been as high as Savvy on State, it won’t be much of an adjustment, Dahl said.

“If you want a great location you will have to pay for it,” she said. “It creates more business.”

To Dahl’s eye, Blue Bee spread itself too thin.

“It had six stores,” she noted. “The Gap didn’t have six stores on one block. It was over-expending its resources and needed to pick one spot.”

Dahl says it’s important to adjust the product she buys to the current market and keep the money in the store.

“I live a modest life,” she said. “I’m not opening the store as much as the store (on Pearl) is opening the store (on State).

“If you keep the store’s money in its own bank account rather than your own, you will be OK. H&M and Marshalls are heading to State Street and it seems as many stores that are closing down, others are expanding.”

The 900 block of State Street saw a spike in vacancy earlier this year with the closure of three Blue Bee locations and the Taj Café, according to Michael Martz, a partner with Hayes Commercial Group.

“It created a lot of sudden vacancy in a stretch of State Street that was already in transition with the closure of Borders and Barnes & Noble,” he said in a news release. “We have been working overtime to get the word out to quality retailers across the Western part of the U.S. about the great spaces that are available.

“With national retailers like Apple, Forever 21 and True Religion, the 900 block will have strong brand presence for the foreseeable future. Even better to also have local and regional concepts like Savvy, Plum Goods and The Closet to give the block balance and keep it unique.”

Savvy on State's sister store is the flagship Savvy on Pearl in Boulder, Colo. Owner Erica Dahl says the Santa Barbara store 'won’t be the most expensive or the cheapest but we will provide a middle ground and offer everybody something in their price range and liking.'
Savvy on State’s sister store is the flagship Savvy on Pearl in Boulder, Colo. Owner Erica Dahl says the Santa Barbara store “won’t be the most expensive or the cheapest but we will provide a middle ground and offer everybody something in their price range and liking.” (Savvy on Pearl photo)

Aside from product line and location, a store’s success hinges on the experience it has. There are more corporate stores around State Street, which may backfire because the experience at Savvy cannot be duplicated by a big-box store, Dahl said.

She described her store as a trendy, eye-catching landmark with tangerine paint highlighted by satin nickel colors and almost metallic floors.

“If Apple opened a clothing store, it would look like Savvy,” Dahl said.

But she said some stores spend too much time trying to project a certain image.

“If you know your product line and your customer, you will be fine,” Dahl said. “It definitely won’t be the most expensive or the cheapest but we will provide a middle ground and offer everybody something in their price range and liking.”

It’s important to complement stores nearby, which Savvy on Pearl did well, she said.

“Dear Diary is adorable and I’m stoked they are next to me,” Dahl said. “The product line needs to be different enough but also complement and blend in with other stores.”

Some of the current trends she has noticed are feathered hair pieces and earrings and oversized boyfriend T-shirts with throwback rock bands like the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.

“We have a lot of Southwestern influences, especially on State Street,” Dahl said. “Everyone is wearing feathers in their hair and on their earrings.”

Dahl plans to hire five to 10 people when she opens the doors of Savvy on State on Aug 1.

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. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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