New eatery shows reisilience of State Street business

After starting three restaurants — Santa Barbara Shellfish Co., The Santa Barbara FisHouse and the Boat House at Hendry’s Beach — co-owners Tom and Adam White will launch a fourth business in the spring of 2011 at 330 State St., a prominent location with parking at the corner of Gutierrez Street.
Locating the new business next to the future REI store, the Whites will take over a space formerly occupied by One World Imports, a furniture store that closed last year. The as-yet-unnamed fourth restaurant will be the father-son team’s first foray into the State Street retail corridor.

Michael Martz, Kristopher Roth and Steve Hayes of Hayes Commercial Group represented all the parties in the transaction, including the building’s owners Ray Hicks and Georgette Topakas. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

These two leases show the resilience of downtown Santa Barbara, even at a time when most cities are struggling with high retail vacancies, said Mr. Martz. Here we have a national retailer and a local restaurant family both investing in the commercial potential of Santa Barbara. It’s a positive sign.

It’s going to be a great addition to the block, predicted Adam White, hinting that the new eatery is going to be a departure from the company’s seafood orientation, but he’s keeping details close to the vest.

We are developing a new concept that we believe has the potential to become a Santa Barbara classic. Given the location outside the prime tourist zone, locals are key to the concept, and we are creating a place that Santa Barbarans will love.

The Whites will be extensively remodeling the space. Their crew includes engineer Ken Dixon of Windward Engineering , contractor Skye McGinnes and they are also talking to architect Jeff Shelton about creating a unique look for the interior.

In terms of price points, Mr. White said the menu will include both low- and moderately-priced dishes at lunch and dinner. The Whites, who opened the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company on Stearns Wharf in 1980, are hoping that a decided upswing in the economy will be underway once the new place opens.

It’s a bit scary out there now with the economy … and restaurateurs of all kinds have to really compete for the expendable income of diners, both locals and visitors, said Adam White, who sounds up to the challenge. While the Whites’ investment is a vote of confidence in the future of lower State Street, there’s another plus: adding to hospitality industry payrolls.

I would imagine the staffing level at about 60 people, said Mr. White, who explained that employment at the other three restaurant properties now numbers 200.

According to the Hayes Commercial Group, the 330 State St. location and the adjacent building leased by REI, have a long and varied history. The complex at 316 -330 State Street was originally built from 1911-1917 by Henry Ernest Bothin, a coffee and spice merchant based in San Francisco.

At that time, Gutierrez Street was part of the old Highway 101, and the buildings hosted various automotive businesses on the ground floor, such as the El Camino Real Motor Car Company, and the El Camino Hotel on the second floor. The buildings survived the 1925 earthquake, but the fa0x8dades were lost and replaced with a Moorish-style arcade and fa0x8dade, which is still largely intact.