Carpinteria locals look out for business
Linden Avenue in Carpinteria was dotted with groups of two or three wandering from store to store Sunday afternoon. The street is lined with many local businesses, some of which just reopened.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused Wayne Babcock and Zelda Prune to temporarily close one shop and open another one two doors down. They, like many other Carpinteria business owners, were forced to make tough decisions during a summer that should’ve been abuzz with tourist business.
Mr. Babcock opened Angel’s Antiques in 1986 after getting laid off in a recession. He piles antiques up in and around his Victorian house, and locals and tourists alike dig through his finds. Much of Carpinteria’s youth got their first surfboards from Angel’s.
But he didn’t feel safe allowing swaths of people from who-knows-where to bring germs into his home, so he closed the shop temporarily. Many people have wanted to come shop there again, so he’s trying to rearrange the yard as an outdoor-only store.
Meanwhile, his partner Ms. Prune, who sells their high-end finds at antique shows, had to put that side of the business on pause as well. They packed her expensive furnishings in a storage unit and waited.
Mr. Babcock owns his house, so he felt lucky he didn’t have to pay a landlord during his time without revenue. But they didn’t like spending hundreds for storage.
When the storefront a few steps away became available to rent, they decided to open a luxurious furniture and accessories store over Labor Day weekend called Space.
The first month was extremely busy, but many customers were tourists. They worry about the lull in tourism in colder months for not just them, but all the business owners.
Manny Sarabia and Karen Briody own Maatson Trucking School in Ventura, but drove to Carpinteria, Mr. Sarabia’s hometown, to support local businesses.
They love frequenting local restaurants but try to stay local for everyday goods others may buy from Amazon.
“Even if it’s just buying a $20 hat, just do something for local businesses,” Ms. Briody said.
She made sure to tip the musicians when they heard live music at The Red Piano in Santa Barbara. The musicians were behind a curtain, so she thought people might forget to tip.
They’re excited to get out more to their favorite spots as businesses open up, but for now, they focus on supporting restaurants and grabbing necessities locally.
Jill Beaver supports her community, though she doesn’t like to eat out. Many of her friends are old and nervous about catching germs in restaurants, so she has been hosting dinner parties for small groups of friends during the pandemic.
She tries to spread her shopping among local businesses as well and knows many of the owners. She knows many struggled to stay open.
“You see ‘for rent’ signs and hear people talking about how difficult it is to pay rent. I think it’s affecting everybody, whether they’re working or not,” she said.
She says she’s seen the economy rebound many times over the years, but she still worries for people. She wishes she knew a large-scale solution but tries to make a positive impact in her day-to-day interactions with people.
“Because we’re a smallish community, lots of us know each other very well. And so the challenges of people we know are very personal,” she said.
Mr. Sarabia also feels a connection among Carpinteria locals and says he feels blessed to be from a small town.
“I get to talk to a lot of people that come from Los Angeles or San Diego and have been in bigger communities. It’s like you got more chances to, you know, catch that pandemic,” he said.
He pointed at the slow foot traffic along Linden Avenue and acknowledged the lack of crowding.
Ms. Beaver said locals quickly became accustomed to masks. There’s more accountability, she says, when you know and recognize the people around.
“One advantage of living in a little smaller town is that you know lots of people and they know you and apparently, it makes it easier for people to sometimes be more authentic. Even if you don’t agree with them, maybe they’re more authentic about what matters to them,” she said.
She’s frustrated with how people interact and especially dislikes hate speech, she said. She hopes the pandemic will bring more compassion.
Chalk murals with encouraging messages line Linden Avenue’s sidewalk. They all promote wearing masks, alongside pictures of famous figures or cute animals. It’s a fun atmosphere as though the street is cheering on Carpinteria’s locals.