Local businesses are what towns are built on, and as part of the community, it is our responsibility to support them. While that is easier said than done, here is an article dedicated to ways of how to be a better member of the Santa Barbara community by buying local.
While it feels like online shopping is the way of the future and the safest way to shop this season, online shopping is not exclusive to big brand names. Because of the pandemic, locally owned businesses have opened their own online stores so that customers can continue to shop in a safe way. So when you sit down in front of our computer to do your holiday shopping, do not immediately open Amazon. Instead, look at local businesses that have worked hard to stay open during these times and have worked even harder to bring you an online shop to explore.
If in-person shopping is truly not available to you (which is entirely understandable and encouraged) shop at local businesses’ websites. If you see something on Amazon that you want to buy, there is a 99% chance that the same exact item can be found on a smaller business’s website. While it may not be local, it is always better to support small businesses.
Another way to support locals is to share about your favorite places on social media. Spreading the word about their business and what you like about them helps them know that others in the community value their store, and it can bring them more business.
For Santa Barbarians, I have a couple of locally owned businesses for you to check out. To find our first one, we must take a trip down State Street to Renaissance Fine Consignments.
Renaissance Fine Consignments has remained a locally owned business since 2005, selling vintage clothing pieces. The recent trend in “thrifting” has sent teens flocking to thrift stores; while traditional thrift stores are nice stores, Renaissance Fine Consignments prides themselves on having a specially curated collection of attire. This makes holiday shopping, and regular shopping, enjoyable but it still has the unique items thrifters love.
“All of our merchandise is on consignment,” said owner Kendra Young. “We have consignors all over the world send us boxes of things. Our furthest is Belgium. Many of our items are new, with tags, that have never been worn. A lot of our pieces are pre-owned by celebrities in the area.”
Pre-owned by celebrities! I don’t know about you, but to me that fact alone is enough to get me off my couch and into their store. While knowing that is motivation to shop there, there is also motivation in remembering that local businesses are aching for business because of the pandemic.
“Business is down 40% since the pandemic started,” said owner of Renaissance fine consignment Kendra Young. “Although we continue with business as usual, the traffic in Santa Barbara has greatly slowed down. People are not visiting the area as much as they did prior to the pandemic.”
Keeping that in mind, it now seems more important for us to shop local so that our favorite boutiques, salons, and stores will still be there when we get out of this.
Moving right along, another shop that has been very safe through all of quarantine but has maintained happy customers is Old Town Coffee. Old Town Coffee is located in old town Goleta, nestled next to Velcro Pro Cyclery (another great local business that would love your support) with a large inside area and beautiful back patio that has been key in their ability to stay open and safe for customers.
Old Town Coffee is a beloved shop by all in the community. Their perseverance to stay safely open has set a high bar for other coffee shops in the community. Not to mention this is only their second year in business.
“We pretty much started the coffee shop two years ago in July. We’ve been going good since then,” said Old Town employee and owner’s daughter, Madison Ward. “We’ve just gotten into roasting as well. We’ve kind of been stepping it up within the first two years, which is kind of surprising too, especially during this time.”
Clearly their blooming business is a loved part of our community. Their expansions in their products have rewarded their business but also brought in new customers.
“I would say most of our customers are younger,” said Ward. “We used to have a business that was just down the street from our shop, Yardy, and when they were open and at their offices that was our main clientele. I would say 80% of our customers were from Yardy’s, so when they started having to work from home we did lose a lot of them. But because we’ve stayed open, we’ve been able to gain a whole new group of people which has been really nice. We do get a lot of support from our USCB students and other regulars.”
Madison even said that their regular customers have become family to the shop. Also, at the shop, they sell a coffee-lover’s dream gifts for the holidays: Old Town Coffee T Shirts, mugs and teacups, and pourover sets. They also have new festive drinks which are perfect to pick up before a family car ride to look at holiday lights, or a fun but slightly awkward Christmas Eve zoom with the extended family.
Our next and final shop is a staple in the Santa Barbara community that is adored by all book lovers and has an online website anyone could operate. Chaucer’s bookstore is located in the Loreto Plaza in Santa Barbara with over 150,000 titles.
Because of quarantine, the majority of teens have stopped reading books, but it is time to change that. Usually receiving a book as a present for teens can be worse than receiving coal, but receiving a book can be the best gift gotten if you know what books to give. Chaucer staff happily recommends books for all ages. And for students, you can never go wrong with buying a coffee table book with stunning pictures for your parents.
I personally have used Chaucer’s online order and pick up system and can vouch for them by saying that it is very efficient and safe. They also sell calendars, cards, and other fun items perfect for stocking stuffers.
While holiday shopping will be very different this year, local businesses have been going above and beyond to make this month feel as festive and jolly as possible. Make sure to check out the other businesses in our community because everyone is needing an extra little holiday magic in their life. Have a safe, festive holiday season and remember to shop local.