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Business by the beach – New merchants bud in Carpinteria

By   /   Friday, February 27th, 2009  /   Comments Off on Business by the beach – New merchants bud in Carpinteria

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Put Carpinteria down as one city that’s not tossing in the towel.

The city of 16,000 boasts one of the oldest assets in the history of real estate — a prime location. Situated roughly halfway between Santa Barbara and Ventura — and in close proximity to office parks in Goleta, Oxnard and Camarillo — it is a beach community with an appeal to business that stretches beyond its borders.

Carpinteria also boasts its own share of company headquarters, in large part because entrepreneurs like its low-key style and the quaint seaside ambiance. Heavyweights such as NuSil, Venoco, Clipper Windpower and CKE Restaurants all call Carpinteria home.

Carpinteria’s response to the recession has been a so-far successful “buy local” campaign aimed at keeping residents shopping at local stores. But it also counts on patronage from wealthy shoppers from Santa Barbara, Ventura and, gasp, even Los Angeles, to keep its restaurants full and its cash registers ringing.

“Carpinteria is not immune to the current economic crisis, but we like to view current challenges optimistically, as an opportunity to come together — united as a community, supporting our local businesses, finding solutions,” said Lynda Lang, Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer. “As one can see, there’s lots happening in the Carpinteria Valley. Plenty of new businesses with lots of enthusiasm and lots to offer.”

Corktree Cellars, a restaurant-wine bar that opened just last year, is already popular among locals and tourists, while new health club Carpinteria Athletics is scheduled to open March 1. Lang cited these as great examples of newcomers, along with Carpinteria Toy Company on the corner of Carpinteria and Palm avenues.

The new stores “bring a fresh look to the eclectic mix of Linden Avenue,” Lang said about the five-block-long shopping district that runs from Carpinteria Avenue toward the beach. Other improvements include façade improvements at furnishings retailer Punch Interieur and a storefront upgrade at The Spot, a five-decades-old hamburger joint that was a favorite of the late Julia Child.

The success of the city’s restaurants and other food-related ventures is no coincidence. “Carpinterians savor backyard barbecues, but usually schedule a night out on the town to be ‘waited on’ in support of their most loved local restaurants,” said Pat Kistler, government relations director at the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Jim and Annie Sly just opened Sly’s, a new restaurant on Linden Avenue that is quickly becoming one of those local favorites. Lang said the dining hotspot has already found its niche, carving out a following from neighboring Montecito restaurants’ clientele.

The Barbecue Co., opened by former Carpinteria mayor Gary Nielsen on Valentine’s Day, hopes to be able to draw crowds as quickly as Sly’s.

The Barbecue Co. is very Carpinteria-focused, and “local and unique art hangs on the walls, and soon local musical talent will fill the evenings,” Nielsen said.

The desire to keep business within the community is exactly what city and chamber of commerce officials are counting on to make their joint “buy Carpinteria” campaign work.

The campaign is part of a three-pronged approach to help businesses in Carpinteria; it includes a “buy local” marketing campaign, a governmental buy-local policy and some changes in development impact fees. The plan was conceptually approved by the city council on Feb. 23.

“Carpinteria’s strength is that this loyal community supports one another,” Kistler said. “To say the least, the chamber is thrilled that our city is really looking at ways to help bring in new businesses, sustain current businesses and encourage the locals to ‘buy Carpinteria’ when they can.”

Kistler wasn’t the only one excited about the measure. During the council meeting, Ian Cluderay, vice president of Clipper Windpower, spoke in favor of the measure, adding that the city’s current purchasing program could include a “buy local” policy.

The buy local initiative “is important for people who own businesses here to participate or we can’t survive,” said Jessica Pintard, owner of Corkwood Cellars. “People who are born and raised here sometimes go to Santa Barbara and Ventura for things they could get in Carpinteria, but they should be staying here.”

Lang, Kistler and the chamber consider any weakness an opportunity, and said there would be plenty of it to go around in the next year.

“There will most likely be challenges in our beautiful valley, but we Carpinterians can’t think of a better place to live or be doing business, where we truly are a community in every sense of the word,” Lang said.

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