eople discovering Montecito for the first time usually
comment on the lack of “chain stores,” and they are right
in doing so. The only evidence that Montecito is still part
of the greater retail world is Starbucks – and what self-
respecting upscale community does
have a Starbucks? –, along with
the much smaller Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, both on Coast Village Road
and therefore not strictly in Montecito (Coast Village Road is officially
part of the City of Santa Barbara).
We can thank not only the Montecito Association – which
successfully sued to prevent three eight-story apartment buildings from
being built behind the Biltmore back in 1969, construction of which
would have spelled the beginning of the end of Montecito’s “smallness”
– but a small number of influential individuals.
For example, the Borgatello family owns most of what is known
as Montecito’s upper village. The Montecito Shopping Center on
both sides of East Valley Road is run by Norm Borgatello. Rents
here, in the heart of one of the most affluent communities in the
world, are and have always been reasonable. And, that is because
the Borgatellos insist upon it. They also stick to a strict rental
code that simply will not allow for a chain to come in. When the
prior hardware store went out of business and its location became
available, for example, many chains, including Starbucks, salivated
over the spot, offering as much as three times the going rate. The
Borgatellos believed it was important for Montecito to have a
hardware store and held out until Doug Ruiz came along and opened
Montecito Village Hardware.
Tecolote Book Shop across from the Post Office is now owned
by a trio of individuals – Herb Simon, Len Freedman, and Marc
Winkelman, along with longtime manager Mary Sheldon. Without
the altruistic concern of Simon et al, Montecito would be without
a bookshop. Across San Ysidro Road, Pierre Lafond and his wife,
Wendy Foster, see to it that his deli and the surrounding boutiques are
locally owned and locally run – by them. Ralph Iannelli is part of a
group that purchased and now maintains the renovated old firehouse
complex on East Valley Road.
Back on Coast Village Road, Gene Montesano – co-founder of
Lucky Brand – opened Lucky’s Steakhouse and Tre Lune and runs
them as friendly, local establishments. His loyal following responds
accordingly. Judy Foreman owns the building at 1280 Coast Village
that boasts a local retailer, hair salon, and a Mexican restaurant. When
the restaurant that had been there went out of business, the chains
– including the ubiquitous Starbucks – clamored for the space. Judy
opted to keep it local.
Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s, has purchased and renovated
buildings on and around Coast Village Road and has set up shop as a
There are many more individuals, such as Richard Gunner, Ty
Warner, and others whose names many may never know, but all of
whom are responsible for keeping Montecito, well, Montecito.
Our high hats off to all of them... and welcome to small-town,
small-business friendly Montecito!
Chains Not Required