May 22, 2024
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Wendy Foster’s State Street location closing


State Street icon Wendy Foster is becoming the latest casualty of Santa Barbara’s retail apocalypse.

The trend-forward fashion retailer said May 14 that it was closing its location at 1220 State Street after a nearly 40-year run that featured some of the most iconic apparel on the Central Coast.

Although technically a “pause,” according to a statement, the store will close when its lease runs out June 30. 

The statement cited “the ever-changing climate of Santa Barbara’s downtown shopping location” and real estate sources said it was highly unlikely the store would reopen in that location.

Part of the Pierre La Fond — Wendy Foster family, the store was not the only apparel offering for the company on the Central Coast. 

Its three locations in Montecito, a stand-alone Wendy Foster store, a Wendy Foster sportswear store and a location above the Pierre LaFond in Montecito’s upper village will remain open.

A fourth Wendy Foster location in Los Olivos also will serve Central Coast residents and visitors.

The migration of shops from Santa Barbara to Montecito has been an ongoing trend as State Street has suffered from major store closings, the fading fortunes of Paseo Nuevo and an inability to manage a burgeoning homeless population. 

One of the more prominent departures was luxury home goods store Rooms and Gardens on the 900 block of State Street, which left several years ago and shifted its offerings to an existing Montecito location.

Most recently, the 99 Cents Only Store located in the 400 block of State Street has begun the process of shutting down as the company announced it would be closing all storefronts in April, which includes 10 locations throughout the Central Coast.

There still appears to be some action. In late April, Nick the Greek, a popular Greek food restaurant, expanded its Southern California presence by adding a 500-block State Street location.

Still, overall, the picture seems grim.

More housing is desperately needed throughout the county, as evidenced by the fact the county’s board of supervisors’ green-lit 36 sites on May 3.

Located at State Street between Ortega and Canon Perdido Streets is the iconic Paseo Nuevo Shopping Mall, which has recently been considered for possible redevelopment to add more housing to the area.

Paseo Nuevo has seen its fair share of big exits, with Macy’s and Nordstrom, two large clothing retailers, shuttering their doors in the past decade along with many other smaller storefronts.

As such, the idea of redeveloping the land for housing could be key to reconfiguring Santa Barbara’s State Street.

In 2022, the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) for Santa Barbara County determined that the City of Santa Barbara would need to add 8,001 units and the County would need to add 24,856 units to its housing supply by 2031 to meet the local demand. 

The proposal for the Paseo Nuevo Mall details the construction of at least 450 housing units and incorporates retail and housing spaces into one project. 

City administrator Rebecca Bjork said that the project would include a mix of low-income, middle-income and market-rate housing.