Winding your way through the recently opened Kim’s Service Department on lower State Street is something of a sensory overload — from the clanking of colorful cocktails at Shaker Mill to the seductive aromas from Cubaneo to the dazzling array of noms and brews at Modern Times. When the time comes to leave, you almost want to take a little slice of the retro-themed multi-use venue with you.
Now you can. Tucked between Cubaneo and Modern Times is Gear, Kim’s Service Department’s retail vendor offering a selection of original gifts and goods. Along with the latest in barware and books, the open-plan space offers up locally screen-printed shirts and hats, handcrafted jewelry, candles, games, sunglasses and an innovative selection of desk lamps.
“I really wanted Gear to represent the building,” said Amy Cooper, designer and curator of the industrial chic retail outlet. “I have things that reflect all of the tenants in here as well as Santa Barbara itself. We have Santa Barbara maker Loveworn that hand makes their own screen-printed T-shirts and then we have everything from Cuban cookbooks to cocktail mixers. The idea is to come in here and have a great culinary experience and then take a little inspiration from the place home with you.”
The driving force behind Plum Goods gift shop, also on State Street, Ms. Cooper said the opportunity to become involved in setting up Gear came about through her work with Downtown Santa Barbara, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of downtown Santa Barbara.
“After opening Plum Goods, I opened a clothing store, which has since closed, but when I did that, I was asked to be on the board of Downtown Santa Barbara and started meeting a lot more people,” Ms. Cooper said. “Through that, opportunities like this have come along. I don’t own this store. I was hired to design it and buy for it, which is really exciting for me because I get to do all the things I really love to do.”
Prior to opening Plum Goods in 2010, Ms. Cooper, a Santa Barbara resident, worked as a brand manager in marketing and public affairs for various companies, the last of which was Toad & Co. Wanting to branch out on her own, Ms. Cooper’s passion for eco-friendly fair trade goods combined with her experience and skills in buying, branding and selling gave rise to Plum Goods, her own artisan-focused goods and gifts store.
The same eye for the unique that has served her own store so well for almost a decade is now informing the selection at Gear.
“I wanted to find interesting and unique goods and not compete with what other stores are carrying,” Ms. Cooper said.
By offering a variety of goods and gifts themed to the three food and beverage vendors, Gear is to Kim’s Service Department what a gift store is to a museum. Like any good gift store, there are, of course, custom items branded specifically for the complex, like the drinking glasses, T-shirts and hats designed and printed in Santa Barbara for Kim’s Service Department, but the range of items extends well beyond that.
With Kim’s Service Department occupying the old service center for Santa Barbara Motor Sales, one of the most appropriate items at Gear is Shoppe 815’s line of American-made soy candles. With an 80-hour burn time, the 13-ounce candles that come in a tin can are available in a variety of scents, including Gasoline, Motor Oil, Leather and Tobacco.
For those who have taken a liking to Cubaneo’s Cubano sandwiches, arroz con pollo, mojo-marinated chicken and Mima’s frijoles negros, Gear carries Ana Sofia Pelaez’s “The Cuban Table,” a comprehensive, contemporary overview of Cuban food, recipes and culture as recounted by a selection of home cooks and professional chefs, restaurateurs and food writers. Anyone inspired the vegan options at Modern Times can grab a copy of Nikki Dinki’s “Meat on the Side,” which offers a selection of everyday vegetable-focused recipes.
The glow of Modern Times’ ornate neon sign also inspired the inclusion of a selection of Amped & Co’s neon table lamps, while the bevy of original cocktails at Shaker Mill stirred Ms. Cooper into bringing in Teroforma’s range of 1pt Infusion Kits and infusion blends for alcohol and spirits along with David Hurst’s bible to botanical beverages, “From Garden to Glass.”
There are also board games, surfing books, a range of Loveworn apparel, sunglasses and more.
Kim’s Service Department is the brainchild of Santa Barbara-based Miramar Group, which is behind the Funk Zone’s mixed-use retail and eatery space Waterline. For Ms. Cooper, the multi-faceted commercial approach helps everyone come out a winner.
“That’s what both locals and tourists want,” Ms. Cooper said. “There are all these big buildings around town because that’s how retail used to be, but there’s no demand for a huge space for one tenant anymore. So this mixed-used idea is where I think the future is. It also serves as an incubator for start-ups because they can afford a 500-square-foot spot but not a 2,000-square-foot place.
“It is a great place for good things to grow.”
Gear is located inside Kim’s Service Department at 418 State St. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.