After attending the recent grand opening of Whiskey + Leather, Coast Village Road’s latest lifestyle boutique, I think we can safely retire the old adage that Santa Barbara is for the newly wed and nearly dead.
If you’ve been following my columns over the past 15 years, you may have noticed my soft spot and passion for young entrepreneurs. It’s a challenge to start a business at any age, and I salute those who try — especially at a younger age.
Zee Chew and Ariel Hujar, the 25-year-old co-owners of Whiskey + Leather, certainly fill the bill. Their youthful exuberance and enthusiasm is delightful, infectious and hopeful.
Those strengths were all clearly on display at their official coming-out party on a recent Tuesday evening at their store, which is located at 1101-A Coast Village Road in the heart of Montecito’s fashion corridor.
The place was buzzing with friends, young children, family of the co-owners, the curious and neighboring merchants.
Among those hanging out were Jan Oostdijk-Rutgers and George Rutgers-Oostdijk, the interior design team behind the new JANGEORGe boutique next door; Rebecca McKinney of Whistle Club; and T.J. Breidenstein of Allora by Laura.
When Chew and Hujar first put up their Whiskey + Leather sign, the name stumped many passersby who weren’t sure if it was a bar or an equestrian shop.
It most definitely is a men’s and women’s clothing and accessories boutique, however.
“Our store encapsulates a variety of masculine and feminine pieces that make your outfit special,” the co-owners told Noozhawk.
Lovers of clothes for men and women, they wanted to create a store for both sexes “where you feel you are visiting a friend’s apartment.”
The 850-square-foot store, situated on the corner of Coast Village Road and Coast Village Circle, was the old home of Hayward’s Furniture. It has been collecting dust for some time, just waiting for the brokers at Radius Group Commercial Real Estate to find a Cinderella with the perfect fit.
While Chew and Hujar may be young, they’re rich in their combined experience from their former jobs in retail and visual merchandising, as well as backgrounds in communications, marketing and statistics.
After realizing they shared a common love of fashion, they determined “to collaborate and open a lifestyle clothing boutique where the environment and experience is just as important as the clothing and goods.”
The store is also filled with antiques and, accessories, such as candles, sunglasses, books, jewelry, tables, lights and lamps. Every single thing inside is for sale!
Santa Barbara is high on the list of great places to live, but making a living here is a more challenging task. Perhaps that’s why the more than 150 people attending the Whiskey + Leather event appreciated a store that catered to their demographic, taste, price point and, if the shoe fits, their hip parents.
The big hum of the evening seemed to be in the men’s section, which usually gets short shrift for shopping. Judging by the action of the cash register, there are many stylish men who appreciate comfort and cool fashion, and aren’t just wearing flip-flops, T-shirts and board shorts.
The food was attractively presented by two other talented and young local entrepreneurs, Sierra and Richie Maxwell, whose company, The Bending Fork, specializes in weekly meal preparation, private dinner parties, large group catering and restricted diet meals.
At the event party — or when shopping any time — guests over 21 are welcomed with complimentary adult beverages, including whiskey, bourbon, beer and champagne of their choice.
“We feel fortunate to be part of this community on Coast Village Road and Santa Barbara,” Chew and Hujar said. “It’s a town where people support each other’s ventures, and we look forward to taking this journey together.”
To this baby boomer, it’s an encouraging sign of the good things to come when the millennial generation is making its dreams come true. Whether those dreams are of owning your own retail business, salon, restaurant, software company or winery, Santa Barbara benefits when it happens here.
Whiskey + Leather, 1101-A Coast Village Road in Montecito, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Click here for more information, or call 805.770.5155.
— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.