De la Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara is now a centerpiece of the new Twilight Holiday Market, a pop-up displaying indie goods, local artisans and other handmade items.
The area nestled off De la Guerra Street between State and Anacapa streets has everything from jewelry, items made using upcycled leather, arts and crafts, fashion, home decor and more.
In addition to artisan vendors, the market offers live music, food and refreshments, as well as an outdoor beer and wine garden.
The Twilight Holiday Market opened on Friday, and it will be open Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The market closes on Dec. 23.
The market, spearheaded by Santa Barbara Trading Post, is inspired by European-style holiday markets, said Vashti Wilson, founder and owner of Santa Barbara Trading Post.
The indoor-outdoor market allows people to shop for unique handcrafted, locally made products.
“When it was completed, it was joy and relief, and I had gratitude for everyone that helped pitch in the make this happen,” Wilson said of the market.
Wilson, an Air Force veteran and mother, moved to the Santa Barbara area four months ago, she said.
The local entrepreneur owns Dino Explorerz, a company selling authentic replicas of real dinosaur egg fossils since 2017. She set up at the Santa Barbara Night Market last year.
The Twilight Holiday Market was created as a new spot for the displaced vendors who were preparing to participate in the Santa Barbara Night Market in Paseo Nuevo, which abruptly canceled in October.
The downtown Santa Barbara Night Market opened inside the vacant former Macy’s building for the holiday season in 2018
Wilson was the sales and marketing director for the Santa Barbara Night Market. She wanted to help vendors that had relied on the closed market.
“What I’ve learned is that if you give your word on something, you have to follow through,” Wilson said. “Something had to be done for them (the vendors).”
The market inside has a cozy feeling of the holidays, with the rows of tiny white lights hanging from the ceiling, a 4,000-square-foot heated tent, and people enjoying coffee and conversation.
On Sunday afternoon, customers were browsing the 40 permanent vendors set up in the tent for the duration of the market.
Thirty other daytime vendors are operating in Casa de la Guerra, located at 17 E. De La Guerra St. The outdoor merchants will rotate every day.
“The vendors went above and beyond,” Wilson said. “They have quality products.”
The market is an effort driven by the community, and it’s now up to the community to shop small and support the sellers, she said.
“We are waiting for the community to come in, step up and say, ‘We are going to support these vendors,’ and make it great for them,” Wilson said.
Wilson plans to assist area vendors relying on the holiday shopping season and markets.
When the Twilight Holiday Market wraps up in late December, entrepreneurs can sell their items at SantaBarbaraTradingPost.com. The online marketplace for handmade goods will be available in a few months, she said.
“The bigger idea is that we are creating an Etsy for Santa Barbara County,” Wilson said. “These local vendors will be able to have essentially their own store on the Santa Barbara Trading Post website.”
The Twilight Holiday Market may generate foot traffic and increase sales for nearby businesses.
Jamie Slone Wines, located at 23 E. De La Guerra St., is the closest business to the market’s entrance and directly across the street. The tasting room is staying open later each night to accommodate and support the community, said Jamie Slone.
The wine tasting experience at historic El Paseo is mostly tourists, Slone said, mentioning that Jamie Slone Wines has been at its location for five years, and “any events taking place next door have never increased revenues.”
Slone said it’s too early to conclude, but there is no impact on the business due to the market as of Sunday afternoon.
“Unfortunately, not one single person yet, and we track every transaction,” Slone said. “To be fair, it’s been raining cats and dogs both nights, so too early to tell. Again, we are staying open to support the event and guests if they would like to come over and have a relaxing experience during the holidays.”
De la Guerra Plaza next to Santa Barbara’s City Hall has long been viewed by many as a place for large-scale festivities and the site of the multi-day Mercado De la Guerra during the annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta.
The city is considering a new design for De la Guerra Plaza in the heart of downtown, and sought public input on renovation plans for a makeover of the plaza. Santa Barbara also is looking for ways to bring more people to the downtown area.
The Twilight Holiday Market is the longest-running event to occupy the plaza and the first-ever outdoor holiday market, said Nina Johnson, senior assistant to the city administrator.
“An outdoor holiday market is a great way to test out new activities on the plaza, and bring more shoppers downtown for a festive atmosphere and stroll through the neighboring shops,” Johnson said. “The larger spaces like Macy’s and others will be repurposed and redeveloped for more permanent uses, so transitioning to an outdoor market is a great idea.”
After spending a month looking for an indoor space, Johnson said, the outdoor concept was put together in three weeks.
Roadways aren’t closing because of the Twilight Holiday Market opening, allowing the vehicles to keep flowing and off-street parking.
There are plans to survey market attendees and nearby businesses to gauge their reactions and grasp if the market is attracting customers to the downtown corridor, Johnson said.
“We want to learn from this experiment,” she said.