Montecito Country Mart may be a traditional, all-purpose community shopping center, but the complex has the look and feel of a rambling “retail village.”
The unique design is all part of the appeal, and just as intentional.
Jim Rosenfield, principal of J.S. Rosenfield & Co., the owner of the shopping center, has long been drawn to Santa Barbara County and to the rural, understated ambiance exemplified by the San Ysidro Ranch in the Montecito foothills.
“I think people would rather have unique offerings that are reflective of their unique communities,” said Rosenfield, who acquired the property at 1000 Coast Village Road in 2007.
Unlike many other shopping centers in California, Montecito Country Mart proudly sports a retro, 1960s style. A lot of effort went into preserving the original architecture of the buildings, many of which were built in 1948.
“Preserving the property and bringing it back to what it was is very important to me,” Rosenfield said. “It’s the continuity that keeps me coming back.
“I tend to look back at history and use that as a roadmap for the future. I fall in love with businesses that are not as popular, such as independent book stores, barber shops or post offices.”
Montecito Country Mart offers its visitors a diverse merchandising mix that includes services like a post office, a barber shop, a hair salon, a dry cleaners, a grocery store and a coffee shop, along with retail gems such as a bookstore, a toy store and numerous fashion-forward boutiques.
“I believe people still appreciate the ability to shop in a nice, old-fashioned environment that has the immediacy of being able to talk to someone about which products to buy,” Rosenfield said.
“We tend to like boutique shops that are independently owned and operated,” Rosenfield said.
The property encompasses a beautiful courtyard, which was designed to be a venue for people to connect with others in a comfortable, warm, charming environment.
“A funny thing happens when you put this mix of stores together,” Rosenfield said. “It attracts a magical group of people.”
Children especially love coming to the Montecito Country Mart because of the free pony rides on Saturdays and — always — the chance to receive one of the center’s signature big red balloons!
“Although our primary customer base is families, everybody finds something they are happy with,,” Rosenfield said.