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Santa Barbara News-Press: New businesses are opening on State Street

November 10, 2012

New businesses are opening on State Street

(Above) Lolë is among a number of retailers opening new stores on State Street. (Below) Rachel Kim, 2, tries out the rocking horse at Little Soles, a new State Street store offering shoes for children. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
Santa Barbara, Calfornia – Published 11/10/2012
Santa Barbara News-Press
New businesses are opening on State Street Lululemon, known for its yoga apparel, will expand from its current storefront in Paseo Nuevo
By Steve Sinovic, News-Press Staff Writer

Downtown Santa Barbara will become home to a number of new retail businesses in the coming weeks and months.

The retailers’ offerings will have a decided emphasis on health, beauty and fitness, and will mostly be targeting a female clientele.

“We’re filling up a bit,” said Blake Andrews, principal of Presidio Commercial Real Estate, commenting on new businesses setting up shop, including a client of his called Benefit Cosmetics, which he represented in a transaction to lease 925 State St.

The boutique will occupy approximately 1,600 square feet and provide services such as makeup application, waxing, tanning and eyebrow threading.

“It’ll be a nice face lift to the block, if you will,” said Mr. Andrews, adding the store will open after the first of the year.

Benefit will continue to operate “a beauty bar” in a leased space at Macy’s in Paseo Nuevo, he said.

Mr. Andrews said his shaky French language skills came in handy when he helped negotiate the lease with the client, which is part of the Paris-based Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy brand of upscale companies.

“There are other national and international retailers that have their eyes on State Street,” said Mr. Andrews.

The trick is finding the right space for them.

“Things are starting to are fill up,” he said, referring to a 20 percent decrease in retail vacancies on State from a year ago.

Planning to muscle in on its share of local and tourist retail dollars, Lululemon Athletica reportedly will take over the space formerly occupied by the Peace Store at 740 State St. That was a tidbit gleaned from the recent Radius Commercial Real Estate & Economic Forecast.

Lululemon, known for its yoga apparel, will expand from its current storefront in Paseo Nuevo.

Calls to the company’s corporate headquarters in Vancouver, B.C., for details on when the store will open were not returned.

Not to be outdone, Montreal-based active wear brand Lolë has opened a pop-up shop downtown. Set to run from Nov. 10 to Dec. 28, the shop at 740 State St. (de la Guerra entrance), will serve as a prelude to the brand’s permanent retail space, planned to open spring 2013.

Nathalie Binda, vice president of marketing for the company, said opening Lolë’s first outpost on the West Coast is a no-brainer.

“California is the epicenter of health and wellness,” said Ms. Binda, adding the company had previously sold its line through specialty stores in California and online partners such as Zappos and Amazon.

She said Lolë (pronounced lo-lee) stands for “live out loud every day.”

Ms. Binda said the business emphasizes “social retailing” in its bricks-and-mortar locations.

Social retailing is hyper-personal, she explained, making it sound like the wave of the future.

For instance, cash registers are not the centerpiece of the store. Transactions are conducted with a little more subtlety, such as with iPads and iPods and a printer under a counter, said Ms. Binda, who isn’t concerned about the proximity of Lululemon.

The retailers may be targeting the same demographic — college-age women and young moms — but the merchandise mix at Lolë is more extensive.

Next step for the clothing retailer: rolling out a men’s active wear line.

Also opening up shop on the town’s busiest commercial corridor is Little Soles, a retailer that will offer fashionable and artful footwear for the small fry.

The store at 1017 State St. is the brainchild of Tomas Kim, a businessman of Korean ancestry who grew up in Brazil. Mr. Kim made his way to the South Coast when his parents immigrated to the U.S. and he eventually landed at UCSB, where he was a global studies major.

“There’s a good customer base down here for us,” Mr. Kim told the News-Press prior to the store opening. He has painted and installed colorful display shelves and tiny stools that look like something you’d find in a kid’s playroom.

The store specializes in outfitting little feet in high quality, hard-to-find shoes from Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States.

Mr. Kim said the store will sell shoes for newborns up to size four. Even with children’s feet growing by leaps and bounds, Mr. Kim said doting parents don’t necessarily want to buy cut-rate brands.

“Kids are every parent’s pride and joy. They want style and quality,” said the proud father of 20-month-old Rachel Grace, who was happily scampering around the store as her dad put together the finishing touches before opening.

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