Catherine Bodziner has taken over ownership of the Culture Counter Co. in the Santa Barbara Public Market. The East Coast native has a breadth of cheese-focused experience, having founded and sold two Lucy’s Whey cheese shops.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Catherine Bodziner must have walked by the Culture Counter Co. inside the Santa Barbara Public Market dozens of times, dreaming up what “magic” she could bring into the cheese and sandwich shop.

The East Coast native is no stranger to cheese or charcuterie, having just sold her two Lucy’s Whey cheese shops in New York before moving to Santa Barbara two years ago.

So when the opportunity came to buy the business earlier this month, she took it.


Bodziner is the newest proprietor at the public market, purchasing Culture Counter from Marge Cafarelli, president of Urban Developments, the real estate investment company that owns the market and accompanying Alma del Pueblo residential complex.

Bodziner liked the name, so she kept it and settled into a space at 38 W. Victoria St. — a market 12 other handpicked purveyors call home.

Santa Barbara Public Market reminds her a lot of New York City’s Chelsea Market, where her Lucy’s Whey shop touting all American-made cheese and products found popular footing among a host of other vendors.

“It’s just more fun,” Bodziner told Noozhawk. “You get more foot traffic.”

Culture Counter is across the way from the always busy Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar and a stone’s throw from the now-empty Pasta Shoppe, which closed about a week before Bodziner took over.

JuiceWell and Santa Monica Seafood were also part of recent turnover at the market, which opened in April 2014 to much fanfare.

JuiceWell and Pasta Shoppe owners don’t have any immediate plans to reopen elsewhere — no word on what’s taking their places — but I’a Fish Market & Café has already moved into the former Santa Monica Seafood space.

With the Culture Counter sale, Cafarelli owns I’a Fish Market, Wine + Beer and Foragers Pantry.

Bodziner said it seems businesses selling dine-in meals might have a leg up over those offering items to take home. That’s why she hopes to soon apply for permits to build a counter for people to sit and eat gourmet sandwiches or to try boutique cheeses.

“I’m just noticing…people are coming here to eat,” she said.

Some merchants might have left, but Cafarelli is confident in the market’s mission and in Bodziner’s skills.

“While the Pasta Shoppe and JuiceWell have closed their stores in the Public Market, we’re looking forward to what’s to come, and eager to add some great new merchants to the market collection,” she said in a statement.

“We recently welcomed I`a Fish Market & Café, the new, locally owned and operated fish market that offers one of the largest selections of fresh, high-quality seafood and shellfish in Santa Barbara. 

“Also, to celebrate and embrace our local Santa Barbara community, the Public Market just launched ‘Locals Night’ every Monday night.

“All Santa Barbara locals are invited to the Public Market to enjoy ‘locals night’ merchant specials, play games like Boggle and Yahtzee, and have the chance to win prizes. We’re always hosting fun, dynamic events at the market for the community to enjoy, and continue to see more and more visitors every day.”

Bodziner has spruced up the Culture Counter with some red paint, new signage and a revamped sandwich menu to be posted Wednesday.

She sees Santa Barbara Public Market as a destination, one where she hopes to convince locals to try cheese they’ve never seen before. Partnering with local wineries was also in the works.

“People love cheese,” she said. “Everyone has been so supportive and so nice. We are like a family. I think we all believe in the concept.”

Click here for more details on “Locals Night.” 

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at gpotthoff@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.