Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 8:08 pm | Fair 62º



Montecito Country Mart on Coast Village Road Transforming to Small-Store Layout

Landlord plans to split some existing units to double the shops and attract more high-end retailers

Montecito shoppers can expect to see some new faces coming to a store near them.

Montecito Country Mart landlord Jim Rosenfield is bringing in small, independently owned chain stores to the shopping center at the intersection of Coast Village and Hot Springs roads in the next year, even as Montecito’s commercial sector continues to walk off the hit it took in the economic downturn.

The shopping center, adjacent to the Montecito Vons at 1040 Coast Village Road, will split some of its existing units to expand to 25 small shops and boutiques from 12.

Rosenfield said his goal is to create a focal point in Montecito where tourists from San Ysidro Ranch and the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara will want to visit.

“I’m sort of a champion of the mom-and-pop shops,” he said.

Rosenfield also built the Brentwood County Mart in Santa Monica around small businesses. He said he prefers such tenants because they have a lot of experience and passion for what they do.

“Unfortunately, a lot of communities have been taken over by (large chain) stores,” Rosenfield said.

He said chains such as Costco are great for those who want to serve themselves, but customers get personalized service when they walk into a boutique.

The last few shops that have opened at the shopping center may be small independents, but they aren’t locally owned, said Leslie Ryan, owner of Letter Perfect, 1150 Coast Village Road.

Among the new additions are children’s toy boutique Toy Crazy and clothing retailers Malia Mills and James Perse, and they all have locations at Rosenfield’s shopping center in Santa Monica.

It represents a shift in the makeup of the shopping center from the collection of locally owned businesses, including Montecito Barbers, Little Alex’s, Xanadu French Bakery, Panino, Montecito Natural Foods and River Blue Salon Spa.

Ryan said she believes Rosenfield is trying to establish a luxury market similar to the Brentwood Country Mart he created in Santa Monica.

“As long as you have a Vons there, it will never be a country mart,” she said.

Ryan said that with a small retail space, the new merchants will have to sell high-end items such as jewelry to stay in business.

“Certain people don’t need to make a business out of it,” Ryan said. “It’s more of an advertisement for their Los Angeles stores.”

One-Hour Martinizing Dry Cleaning has remained at its location in the shopping center since it was built in the 1960s and will continue to do so through the coming changes, franchise owner Diane Honaker told Noozhawk in an email.

“I believe that more businesses here will be better for everyone — customers and business alike, as well as adding value to the shopping experience of the Montecito resident,” she wrote.

Rosenfield said his goal is to attract more shoppers to the courtyard area by bringing in new shops and new landscaping.

The site of the former gas station will be used for additional parking, which Honaker says is good news for the shopping center, where parking has been a major concern.

With only the Upper Village and Coast Village Road zoned for commercial use, the shopping center has a captive audience, said Gina Meyers, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Commercial.

“It’s such a small area that any change would have an impact,” she said.

By expanding business on Coast Village Road, Meyers said Rosenfield is giving Montecito residents a choice between paying a little more for local service and driving into Santa Barbara.

Rosenfield said Montecito residents’ wealth is what allows them to pay more for this personal touch from local businesses.

But Coast Village is still recovering from the effects of the recession.

The sales tax for Coast Village Road has recovered incrementally the past couple years but was still down 17 percent in March from the year before, according to the city of Santa Barbara Finance Department.

Although Montecito residents are generally wealthy, Ryan says they are not the same market as Malibu or Beverley Hills.

“Montecito does not want to feel like they are being taking advantage of,” Ryan said.

Noozhawk intern Daniel Langhorne 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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