Pretty much every downtown observer agrees the South Coast’s most visible commercial district looks a great deal different now than it did during the year that just ended.
Some observers notice more specialty women’s clothing stores appearing, while some other retailers have packed up are already replaced by something completely different. For example, the Blue-Eyed Girl boutique relocated and gave way to Rocket Fizz, a soda pop and candy store at 1021 State St. Go figure.
What Downtown Organization officials are most impressed about is the declining number of empty storefronts, which reached a critical level during the recent recession. Although few if anyone will admit it, rates for a State Street triple-net lease, which includes rent, utilities and other services, were maintained during the recession and even rose soon afterward.
Some chronically empty storefronts show some signs of re-opening, such as the long-vacant space at 915 State St. But across the street, the former GBMI shoe shop next to the Apple Store remains vacant after about seven years. Across the street, the Naartjie boutique, 933 State St. closed before the end of 2014. Another boutique, Tatiana, 807 State St., also shut down recently.
Some restaurants continue to struggle. Look at Apero, formerly Verde. Several years ago it was Zia Café. Apero was a comedy nightclub with a good menu, but the building owner kept raising the rent and the manager shuttered it during the summer.
Fortunately, some eatery bright spots popped up in 2014, such as Benchmark at the old State & A site, and Black Sheep on Ortega Street. Meanwhile, places like Joe’s Café and the off-State Sojourner (37 years old and going strong) are examples of someone doing something right.
Killer Bee sports bar left State Street a couple of months ago and found a new, larger spot around the corner at 732 De la Guerra Plaza, formerly Tony Ray’s, which sports a patio.
Last time this blog was written, seven places on and around State Street served pizza. Make that about a dozen now. Patxi’s is the biggest at 515 State St., where the Territory Ahead main retail store once was. Some off-State Italian eateries have added pizzerias as well.
One of the city’s most popular spots, the Sandbar, 514 State St., is undergoing a much-needed remodeling overhaul and will be closed through January. Meanwhile, after less than a year in business, Killer Shrimp, 416 State St., closed last month. It occupied the old Sharkeez spot. Sharkeez moved across the street from the Sandbar. And, that restaurant spot at 413 State St. is vacant again, but Franco Hospitality LLC is applying for a liquor license there
Two big additions to lower State are Samy’s Camera, 530 State St., and a Sonos office at 419 State St., where Territory Ahead once housed its corporate office. A couple years ago, Sonos, international maker of wireless sound systems, took over what used to be the Antioch University campus at De la Guerra and Garden streets and then began buying commercial space all over town, including Samy’s old spot on Chapala Street.
Meanwhile on the 1000 block, the Z Folio jewelry store opened a few of months ago at 1013 State St. Next door, a gluten-free French pastry shop, Lilac Patisserie, is getting ready to open. Nearby, the barebones Civilianaire clothing store opened in time for the holiday season.
On the 1100 block of State, the real estate firm SIMA still is trying to lease what used to be a huge rug store at 1117 State St. What most recently was a jewelry store, and Wolf’s Camera Shop before that, sits vacant on the corner of Figueroa Street.
On the 1200 block of State Street, another jewelry store shut down after about a year of operation and its place is a rug and plates shop.
What most recently was a jewelry store, and Wolf’s Camera Shop before that, sits vacant on the corner of Figueroa Street. Another jewelry store on the 1100 block of State closed and its place is a rug and plates shop.
Looking at the Funk Zone section of State Street south of Highway 101, several businesses have closed to make way for the eventual arrival of La Entrada, the long-awaited time-share condo and hotel project.
The shuttered businesses include Hot Spots coffee shop and an adjacent shirt store and bicycle rental business.