Sunday, January 21 , 2018, 3:57 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 

Business

BizHawk: Forget Amazon, Thomas Fire Brings Apocalyptic Business Conditions to Downtown

Smoke, fire serve punishing blow to Santa Barbara business during normally busy holiday season

Many businesses in Santa Barbara have closed this week due to a lack of foot traffic and poor air quality caused by the Thomas Fire. Click to view larger
Many businesses in Santa Barbara have closed this week due to a lack of foot traffic and poor air quality caused by the Thomas Fire. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

BizHawk is published weekly, and includes items of interest to the business community. Share your business news, including employee announcements and personnel moves, by emailing [email protected].

For the past several months, business owners, politicians and property owners have spoken of the pending doom on State Street because of the rise of Amazon.com and the presence of homeless persons.

It turns out a more serious threat to their businesses was lurking

The Thomas Fire has damaged State Street far worse than a bricks-and-mortar demise. The retail apocalypse has hit, but in the form of unhealthy and sometimes hazardous air quality from the plumes of smoke hovering over the city.

State Street has been like a ghost town for the past week.

Many retailers, restaurants and private office buildings have closed their doors because of a lack of foot traffic and to protect their employees from poor air quality.

“I know a lot of businesses didn’t want to force their employees to come in,” said Ken Oplinger, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Santa Barbara Region. “A lot of managers and owners made a decision that could affect their profits, but wanted to protect their employees’ health.

"They are making decisions not based on profit, but what is best for their staff.”

During the busiest time of the year, when businesses typically make much of their sales, shoppers have fled town or stayed away.

December is typically a make-or-break time of year for restaurants and retailers.

Many companies have canceled their holiday parties altogether, events that are also big revenue drivers for businesses. Businesses are hoping to get at least one weekend in of smoke-free shopping before Christmas, which falls this year on a Monday.

McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams closed its doors on Sunday due to the Thomas Fire, but since has reopened. Owner Robert Palmer says foot traffic and business have been very slow. Click to view larger
McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams closed its doors on Sunday due to the Thomas Fire, but since has reopened. Owner Robert Palmer says foot traffic and business have been very slow. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The fire and smoke have delivered a significant blow, unlike any that the business owners have ever seen.

“This fire has the ability to completely transform the complexion of the South Coast,” said Robert Palmer, owner of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams. “It’s dramatic. It’s scary. It’s not a good thing.”

Palmer closed his doors to the public on Sunday, but then re-opened the shop for a few hours on Thursday. Lines that sometimes snaked out the door and down State Street have vanished and Palmer’s inventory is expanding; that’s not a good thing, when it comes to food distribution.

This is the second time a South Coast fire has hit Palmer hard.

He lost his house in the Tea Fire, and now he lives in Toro Canyon, and was forced to evacuate. He’s staying at a local hotel.

He’s one of the hundreds of evacuees displaced by the fire and staying at a local hotel. Oplinger said the hospitality industry has seen “a pretty significant drop-off.”

Neal Poisson, general manager at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, said his hotel is housing about 75 to 80 evacuees a day, but it hasn’t made the situation equal.

“A lot of our guests travel in for leisure,” Poisson said. “We have had some cancellations.”

Sonny Boyden, sales manager at Samy’s Camera, said the store has definitely felt the impact.

“Foot traffic is super slow,” Boyden said. “It’s bad. Right now is when we are going to start paying attention to the numbers.”

Boyden, like other retailers, said he’s hoping for a crush of customers once the smoke dissipates, whenever that is.

“It’s definitely slower,” Boyden said. “We are all hoping it will clear up before Christmas.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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.

BizHawk is published weekly, and includes items of interest to the business community. Share your business news, including employee announcements and personnel moves, by emailing [email protected].

For the past several months, business owners, politicians and property owners have spoken of the pending doom on State Street because of the rise of Amazon.com and the presence of homeless persons.

It turns out a more serious threat to their businesses was lurking

The Thomas Fire has damaged State Street far worse than a bricks-and-mortar demise. The retail apocalypse has hit, but in the form of unhealthy and sometimes hazardous air quality from the plumes of smoke hovering over the city.

State Street has been like a ghost town for the past week.

Many retailers, restaurants and private office buildings have closed their doors because of a lack of foot traffic and to protect their employees from poor air quality.

“I know a lot of businesses didn’t want to force their employees to come in,” said Ken Oplinger, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Santa Barbara Region. “A lot of managers and owners made a decision that could affect their profits, but wanted to protect their employees’ health.

"They are making decisions not based on profit, but what is best for their staff.”

During the busiest time of the year, when businesses typically make much of their sales, shoppers have fled town or stayed away.

December is typically a make-or-break time of year for restaurants and retailers.

Many companies have canceled their holiday parties altogether, events that are also big revenue drivers for businesses. Businesses are hoping to get at least one weekend in of smoke-free shopping before Christmas, which falls this year on a Monday.

The fire and smoke have delivered a significant blow, unlike any that the business owners have ever seen.

“This fire has the ability to completely transform the complexion of the South Coast,” said Robert Palmer, owner of McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams. “It’s dramatic. It’s scary. It’s not a good thing.”

Palmer closed his doors to the public on Sunday, but then re-opened the shop for a few hours on Thursday. Lines that sometimes snaked out the door and down State Street have vanished and Palmer’s inventory is expanding; that’s not a good thing, when it comes to food distribution.

This is the second time a South Coast fire has hit Palmer hard.

He lost his house in the Tea Fire, and now he lives in Toro Canyon, and was forced to evacuate. He’s staying at a local hotel.

He’s one of the hundreds of evacuees displaced by the fire and staying at a local hotel. Oplinger said the hospitality industry has seen “a pretty significant drop-off.”

Neal Poisson, general manager at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort, said his hotel is housing about 75 to 80 evacuees a day, but it hasn’t made the situation equal.

“A lot of our guests travel in for leisure,” Poisson said. “We have had some cancellations.”

Sonny Boyden, sales manager at Samy’s Camera, said the store has definitely felt the impact.

“Foot traffic is super slow,” Boyden said. “It’s bad. Right now is when we are going to start paying attention to the numbers.”

Boyden, like other retailers, said he’s hoping for a crush of customers once the smoke dissipates, whenever that is.

“It’s definitely slower,” Boyden said. “We are all hoping it will clear up before Christmas.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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