Monday, June 18 , 2018, 9:49 pm | Fair 62º


Judy Foreman: Montecito Country Mart Gives Shoppers a Taste of Summer and Style

Dodging downtown’s Summer Solstice, The 93108 instead puts on an old-fashioned country fair, but with plenty of free food

Montecito Country Mart owner Jim Rosenfield stops by newest tenant Merci to Go, which served up delicious gourmet items during Saturday’s country fair. Click to view larger
Montecito Country Mart owner Jim Rosenfield stops by newest tenant Merci to Go, which served up delicious gourmet items during Saturday’s country fair. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo via iPhone)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Buzz is an important word in the restaurant and retail business. It means good things are happening, and there is action!

For those who didn’t want to brave the Summer Solstice crowd parading through downtown Santa Barbara on Saturday, the Montecito Country Mart held a celebration of its own: A good old-fashioned country fair.

There was plenty of buzz. And free food.

The shopping center — at the roundabout intersection of Coast Village and Hot Springs roads — was in full swing, with its courtyard staged with balloons and beach balls, and tables and chairs filled with young families. A ping-pong table added to the fun, along with a photo booth, pony rides and music by DJ Scott Topper.

Complimentary summer classic orange freezes were provided by Rori’s Artisanal Creamery, bites and nibbles were served by hit pop-up restaurant Corazon Cocina, and delicious samples were shared by the center’s newest tenant, gourmet Merci to Go.

Upscale leather designer Kendall Conrad held a book signing at her boutique for Priscilla Woolworth’s new book, Lola. The other tenants — Calypso St. Barth, George, Hudson | Grace, Intermix, James Perse, Little Alex’s, Malia Mills, Mate Gallery, Rori’s, Montecito Barbers, Montecito Natural Foods, One-Hour Martinizing, Pressed Juicery, Read ‘n Post, Space NK ApothecaryPanino and Toy Crazy — were open for business as usual, with some increased traffic from the event and summer visitors.

Up from Los Angeles and his iconic Brentwood Country Mart was owner, developer and self-proclaimed preservationist Jim Rosenfield, who took over the Montecito property’s master leases more than three years ago.

Slowly and steadily, he has cleaned up and repainted, renovated, landscaped and lured in and leased to many new businesses, stores that he hoped would complement his existing tenants.

There have been some challenges, like finding a replacement for Xanadu Bakery across from Vons (there are rumors that the Shake Shack burger joint is a possibility) and the long-vacant corner restaurant space next to Montecito Natural Foods.

Friends who are merchants — and often my best sources for shopping and schmoozing info — tell me they’d really like to see some kind of food service, like a wine or coffee bar, just not another high-end gourmet food spot.

Several tenants of Montecito Country Mart also have stores in high-density, robust retail communities (Los Angeles, San Francisco and Marin, for instance), so the Montecito experience is decidedly more laid-back.

Many rely on the weekend L.A. visitors who often are familiar with their stores and already devotees. Parking also is a challenge, especially on the Panino side facing Coast Village Road.

Vons, in some ways the elephant in the ... center, can have a significant impact on parking availability. The corner facing the roundabout — once home to a Shell gas station — has been abandoned for years. There are hopes that it will someday be converted for parking but, for now, it remains fenced off.

But those details took a back seat Saturday at the Montecito Country Mart fair, which also took advantage of the fabulous weather and the absence of June gloom to welcome summer in style.

I had a great time seeing some old friends, as well as trying out some great food from Merci to Go, Corazon, Space NK Apothecary, toffee samples (don’t tell my dentist) at Hudson | Grace and Rori’s orange freeze. I enjoyed the buzz that was going on, and hope it continues through the summer and beyond.

— Noozhawk columnist Judy Foreman is a longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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