Business owners struggle during stay-at-home order
Small businesses in Carpinteria are clinging to customers during the regional stay-at-home order. Each business is impacted differently, as health officer orders are not a one-size-fits-all.
“The community has been wonderful about coming out as far as shopping for the holidays, but we’re moving into January and February, which are usually the two worst sales months of the entire year. And the slowest month of the entire year,” said Kristin Fraser, owner of Seaside Makers Collective at 961 Linden Ave. in Carpinteria, and the Grapeseed Company.
“It’s hard enough to keep a business open, but keeping staff during this is extremely hard as well, just with business not being what it normally is,” she said.
Because hotels and vacation rentals are closed to tourism, businesses get most of their customers locally, though they also see visitors from nearby cities coming to spend a day in Carpinteria.
Paul Wright, owner of Island Brewing Company at 5049 6th St., has noticed people driving to Carpinteria from Los Angeles. He describes his tasting room as a place for community members to gather and hang out.
“We get a lot of calls saying, ‘Are you open? Are you guys open for the patio?’ And of course we’re not. We should know that by now. Good grief, nobody’s open,” he said.
“We still encourage them to come in and get some beer to-go, but that’s all we can do right now.”
He sells six-packs, growlers and kegs to-go, but he’s still had to furlough staff.
“It’s tough all around,” he said.”You drive down the street, and there’s a number of places that are shut and closed. And you don’t know if they’re just closed for the short term or whether it’s going to be a major change for them and not be able to open again; you don’t know.”
He is thankful for opportunities to sell in Trader Joe’s, mini marts and other grocery stores. But his tasting room is around 60% of his income, he estimates.
When the county was in the purple tier, he had to serve food alongside the drinks. He bought and sold local food and even brought in food trucks.
Ms. Fraser has adapted too. She is currently converting a trailer into a mobile retail space.
She is also creating baskets that customers can order to have delivered — a perfect match for Valentine’s Day.
“We’re doing the best we can with that kind of stuff, but quite frankly, no matter what we do with that kind of stuff it’s not going to measure up to having a retail store open every day in a tourist town, when there’s no tourism happening,” she said.
She also has a location in the Funk Zone in Santa Barbara. That storefront has been hit worse.
“I’d say Carp has not been hit as hard as the Funk Zone has, quite frankly. That store has seen a lot less foot traffic since the shutdown than the Carp store,” she said. “But I personally think that’s because people come to the Funk Zone to eat and drink primarily, you know, that’s their main focus or going to the gym. Whereas Carp, people come to park for other reasons.”
Ms. Fraser is glad, though, that she can operate her storefronts during the stay-at-home order. Retail was discouraged in the first lockdown.
Sal Lucido noticed a change in sales, but not as drastically as he expected.
“We only seemed to take about a 10 or 15% hit during those initial months before we were completely shut down,” he said.
He and his wife recently closed Island Outfitters on Linden, a retirement he planned before the pandemic.
“So I mean, I think Carpenteria is somewhat depressed there’s no tourists,” he said. “So that affected us and then I think the campground closed down; that affected us. So, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was gonna be, but it was still bad.”
In contrast, Giovanni’s, a pizza restaurant at 5003 Carpinteria Ave., has been doing fairly well.
Manager Julio Resendiz says business has been all local, and about half of the orders are delivery.
During the first shutdown, people weren’t sure if Giovanni’s was open. But now, pickup and delivery orders fill the day.
An additional layer to the struggles of business owners, Ms. Fraser has noticed an increase in break-ins and vandalism along Linden Ave.
“I wish our community leaders, police, all of that were out patrolling and supporting and seeing what’s going on more,” she said. “We need more help supporting our community and our businesses because they’re all going to be gone by the summer if we don’t get that.”
She is applying for small business assistance from the latest relief package, but she is not optimistic about the result.
“It’s going to be a tough winter to get through for sure. I mean, we know that,” she said. “We’re just committed to trying to stay as positive as we can and being here for the community.”