Welcome to “The Mill”

By: James Buckley-Santa Barbara Sentinel. [Excerpted].

The Haley Street corridor, bordered by East Montecito Street and Cota and stretching from Laguna to, well, perhaps all the way to Milpas, seems eminently (and imminently) poised to become the next new Santa Barbara “hot spot” for food, coffee, design, beer, wine, and community commingling.

And, Darrell and Kirsten Becker of Becker Design are likely to be the Ventura-based property management firm. He is an accomplished (and competitive) tennis player, earned his real estate broker’s license in 1983, graduated from Westmont College in 1988, became a licensed contractor in 1989, and founded Becker Construction in 1994. In 2007, Darrell and Kirsten opened Becker Studios as a full-service design/build firm.

“My dad was in advertising and a ultimate catalysts in helping to transform this section of Haley Street from what was once a hangout for hookers and the homeless, to a new and attractive anchor for what will surely become a pedestrian annex to the nearby Funk Zone.

Darrell guesses that he has either built, designed, or otherwise dealt with in some fashion “in the neighborhood of seven hundred homes.” Just since the two of them teamed up together, Kirsten suggests, they have done “at least forty homes.”

The Mill Project, however, is the biggest personal challenge they’ve ever taken on or even contemplated. The property had been for sale about three years before they made an offer on it. The Beckers had an office on Milpas, “but didn’t really have design and/or warehouse space, so we thought we’d be able to pull all our things together in one location (by buying the building),” Darrell says.

Once they bought the property (which had been the home of Tileco for 10 years, and before that, the Pine Trader) however, they realized they wouldn’t need so much space and began to consider what else should be there and settled upon the idea of a complex dedicated to businesses that dealt in manufacturing directly to consumers.

The main 100-year-old-plus building was originally a feed mill and was built after the turn of the 20th century. In 1925, the two-story building at 410 was built with 1,000 square feet of retail space at street level and a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor. The property has housed a mattress factory (in the 1930’s), a heating and air company, and a plumbing company. In the 1980’s, it was the home of Doug Margerum’s wine storage business. When Doug gave it up, it was turned into 26 band practice rooms, and because of that, insulation is thick in the walls and ceilings, making for excellent acoustics throughout.

“What was a perfect place to store wine became a perfect place to play loud music,” Darrell laughs. Other iterations on the property included an unlicensed marijuana dispensary. “It was a can of worms,” says Kirsten. But, when it’s fully converted and open, she adds, “ It’ll be lively; there will be music and it will be great.”

The 19,900 square-foot, wood-sided, and corrugated metal-roofed complex includes a second-story apartment (where Darrell’s eldest son now resides and watches over the property). The handsome exterior wood siding “comes from the Midwest,” Kirsten points out.

The Brewery

Filling up the attractively designed complex will be a 5,000-square-foot, high-end craft beer maker called Third Window Brewery, which, with its 18 stainless-steel fermentation tanks, will be the largest brewery in Santa Barbara; it is backed by a group of partners and will be managed and overseen by Christopher Parker, grandson of Fess Parker.


Potek Winery takes up another 3,500 square feet and will be headed up by David Potter, who runs Municipal Winemakers in the Funk Zone. Potek is a new label (named after David’s Romanian great-grandfather), and David says he will not only be processing and barreling the wine on the premises, but he’ll also have a wine-tasting room next to the facility. Most, if not all, the grapes will come from the Santa Ynez Valley.

Potek was Dave’s great grandfather’s last name before it was changed to Potter. His family has always been in the fabric business, beginning in New York before moving to L.A. in the 1960s. David grew up in California.

“We’re branding the space with the new Potek Winery look and feel, inspired by the old rugs and colors of Romania,” David tells me, “but we’ll be making all the wine (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sirah, Grenache, and Riesling) for our two other locations (one in the Funk Zone and the other in Los Alamos).”
Dave expects Potek Winery to open by mid-June. “The wine’s ready,” he says.

Wildwood Kitchen

Justin West, co-owner, with his wife, Emma-Claire, of Restaurant Julienne at Canon Perdido and Santa Barbara Street plan to open Wildwood Kitchen in their 1,800-square-foot space. The leases and permits haven’t been finalized, Justin says, but reveals that, “I’m going to be the restaurant guy down there.”

Wildwood Kitchen will be, according to Justin, “a take on American barbeque with a Santa Barbara kind of ranch influence. At Julienne,” he says, “we’re very ‘farm-to-fork’ with the cuisine that we do,” he adds, “and I intend on being very farm-to-fork at this new place as well.” He explains that the heavy influence will be on smoked meats and American Southern-style barbeque.

There will not only be inside seating, but Wildwood Kitchen will also be able to utilize the central outdoor patio for table service, as will the other vendors.

The Grand Plan

Other vendors include trainer Macauley Grant’s Mac Grant Fitness, which will remain there; The Beckers are currently negotiating with a bakery that will include a coffee offering. “We’re specifically looking for a bakery and coffee vendor that requires a hands-on owner,” Darrell says. In other words, it will not be a national or even regional chain. “We’re looking to partner and cross pollinate with people who are engaged in their own passion and their own business,” he says.

Darrell is also looking to launch a “grab and go” kind of eatery that will occupy what he calls, “The Shack,” a free-standing small building that fronts on Laguna Street. “It will be for those stopping for a quick lunch, will probably be barbeque based, and will probably be open from 11 am to 10 pm,” he says.

There is still 1,000 feet of retail available, but the Beckers are hanging on to that for the moment and may decide to open their own boutique there. “We make furniture and other fixtures and offerings, and people ask us why we don’t sell this stuff,” Kirsten says. “Perhaps it’s time. If not,” she says, “ a store such as that is what we’d be looking for.”

The Beckers have arranged to include nine parking spaces on the street outside, eight in back, and eight additional spaces on the property on the other side of Haley. They also have an agreement with a nearby daytime business to use its spaces in the evening.

The Neighborhood

“There’s always been some interesting cultural restaurants on Haley,” Darrell points out. “You’ve got La Tolteca, Rose Café, Lito’s, so its been historically Mexican-based cuisine. Other than that, there isn’t anything else to eat down here.” He cites employees at nearby businesses such as Home Improvement Center who ended up driving downtown to eat lunch when they don’t want Mexican. He believes they would welcome a place they could walk to.

“Muddy Waters opened about fifteen years ago, beginning the cultural change,” Darrell proffers. As for Haley becoming as popular a destination as, say, the Funk Zone, he notes that “There’s a lot of momentum on this particular block, but it’s going to take time.”

Pure Order Brewing Company is around the corner at 410 N. Quarantina Street; Carr Winery and Telegraph Brewing are nearby at 414 and 418 N. Salsipuedes, and they’re considering putting a restaurant between them.

The Haley Street Corridor

Greg Bartholomew (with Hayes Commercial Real Estate) is heading up leasing for The Mill Project, and as for other nearby opportunities, Greg’s co-worker Liam Murphy, CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member), points out there is “lots of interest in the Laguna, Haley, Gutierrez corridor. It’s poised for further growth, similar to what the Funk Zone five years ago is probably very pleased with that investment decision,” he opines.

With all this activity and interest surround the area, “There goes the neighborhood” may become a rallying cry on Haley Street.

But, that’ll be a good thing.