Santa Barbara’s Back-Lot Bargains
In the soap-opera world of Santa Barbara, no one in the Capwell or Lockridge families would ever look at the price tag on a dress or pair of shoes, much less hunt down a discount. But their real-life neighbors, some of whom are just as wealthy as the TV characters, love to look for bargains in Santa Barbara’s factory outlets.
Yes, factory outlets, in the playground for the rich and famous.
Discount shopping, Santa Barbara-style, takes you away from the pricey boutiques and department stores and into the city’s light industrial and warehouse districts.
One such district, referred to by some manufacturers as “Little Soho” for its funky mix of art galleries, converted warehouses, bars and eateries, is just steps from historic Stearns Wharf.
Although the outlets may be on streets where tourists never go--and the visitor’s bureau wouldn’t send them--they are clean, give some personal service and, above all, offer great discounts on a wide variety of products.
The most visible and popular outlet in town is Big Dogs, the sportswear company with a penchant for puns (“The paws that refresh”).
The outlet offers current and past-season styles at various discounts. A polar fleece pullover originally priced at $70 is $32; kids’ T-shirts are $8, down from $15; aloha shirts at $20 from $36; assorted T-shirts can be found for $5 and shorts for $10 in bargain bins.
Big Dogs Sportswear Factory Outlet, 136 State St.; open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily; (805) 963-8727.
At California Proline, the teeny bikinis, tank suits, sun dresses, bicycle shorts and halter tops are styled strictly for athletic juniors. Discounts begin at 25% off retail for first-quality in-season wear. Some items, primarily overstock, are sold at cost or just a few dollars above wholesale.
Bathing suit tops and bottoms ($18 each) are sold separately to mix and match styles and patterns--and for juniors whose size may vary widely from bottom to top. Pick up a wildflower print, scoop-neck sun dress for $35, a pair of cotton jersey shorts for $20.
California Proline, 4 E. Yanonali St.; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday through Sunday; (805) 962-5134.
Bohemian-on-a-budget? The brightly colored batiks and free-spirited ethnic clothing designed at Carmen’s Veranda and manufactured in Bali may suit your tastes. Specialties include flowing long skirts at $30 from $55 retail, soft jackets at $36 from $75, scarves $3 to $5 and long shirts at $30 from $50. All are fashioned from easy-care rayon. Certain clothing groups are an extra 10% off, and there’s always a box of damaged goods ranging in price from $1 to $10.
Part of the fun here is the setting: The shop is in a former garage with huge roll-up doors, vintage glass bricks on one side wall, island artifacts and hand-tinted photos of Carmen Miranda. Richly colored umbrellas shade the sale racks outdoors.
Carmen’s Veranda , 100 State St.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in winter; (805) 965-4797.
The name of the Territory Ahead mail-order catalogue company comes from the next-to-last line in “Huckleberry Finn”: “Well I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and civilize me and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”
The smartly styled men’s clothing is “American in spirit designed with a European flair,” says president Bruce Willard, who honed his manufacturing skills during an eight-year stint at L.L. Bean.
The outlet shop is an extension of the catalogue. Half the items on display are featured in the current catalogue and sold here at full price; the other half are discontinued or last season’s styles and colors. Discounts range from 30% to 50% on first-quality goods.
Pick up a 100% cotton sweater for $49, down from $62; corduroy trousers for $39, down from $65; brightly colored boxer shorts for $5 and a wool sweater for $39, down from $78.
Territory Ahead, 27 E. Mason St.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; (805) 963-7633.
The leather goods for sale at the snazzy Firenze Factory Outlet range from somber jackets to jeweled hot-pink hot pants. Firenze (women’s wear) and M. Julian (menswear) designs are carried in department stores, boutiques and specialty catalogues. The selection here includes seconds, overruns, seasonal merchandise and samples.
Pick up a classic short black leather 19-inch skirt for $49 from $104; a holiday-perfect suede mini-dress with rhinestone straps for $96, or a fantasy-come-true leather bra top for $20. The M. Julian line includes a suede baseball jacket for $69 from $137, a butter-soft lambskin jacket for $440, and a line of vintage-looking letterman’s jackets for $210.
The time to really stock up is during Firenze’s twice-yearly (spring and fall) half-price sales. Part of the fun of shopping here is knowing that the racks may roll in at any minute, swinging with new merchandise, New York-style.
Firenze Factory Outlet, 419 State St.; 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday; (805) 965-5723.
If your idea of a workout is a little more physically demanding than a marathon shopping session, Manufacturer’s Sports Outlet (MSO) may be worth the trip. Runners, cyclists, triathletes and swimmers are among the clientele.
MSO stocks first-quality Hind running shorts, tights, bathing suits and swimming trunks, along with seconds, factory blemishes and close-outs. Some women’s swimsuits are priced at $12 from as much as $45; men’s swimsuits $7 to $10, from $11 to $21. Cycling shorts, regularly $50, sell for $16 to $22. Accessories from swim goggles to water bottles are also below retail.
Manufacturers Sports Outlet, 1134 Chapala St.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday; (805) 965-6652. Industrial Areas
As you drive through many Santa Barbara neighborhoods, you’ll notice the distinctive address plaques hung on many of the homes. The residents have apparently discovered the same factory outlet.
The hand-painted, nature-oriented ceramic designs produced at Santa Barbara Ceramic Design are featured on an array of gift ware and home accessories. The address plaques, clocks, picture frames, sundials and the like are sold in a number of department stores and nationally distributed catalogues.
Items sold as seconds in the outlet may contain flaws such as an extra splash of paint or an off color, or they may be discontinued styles or prototypes.
Gifts for gardeners are $18 plaques with appropriate sentiments--"A garden is a lovesome thing,” sundials (ranging from $16 to $28) and a tiled and wrought-iron table for $75. Ever-popular address plaques ($25) come complete with numbers and grout.
Also at the outlet is a selection of first-quality craft items: jewelry, rugs, glassware and the like at half off the original price.
Santa Barbara Ceramic Design Studio Outlet, 428 E. Haley St . ; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday; (805) 966-3883. Watch artisans create hand-crafted cement garden sculpture at Isabel Bloom, then pick up a few first-quality pieces to take home. Items range from whimsical California critters--quail, pelicans and sea lions--to cheerful cherubs and elaborate fountains (recirculating, of course). Items for sale at showroom prices, 5%-10% below retail, from under $10 to about $350.
Isabel Bloom of Santa Barbara, 216 E. Gutierrez St.; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, sometimes open Sunday, call ahead; (805) 962-0904.
The fancy cars outside the Romika Factory Outlet are a tip-off to the quality of shoes shipped from this warehouse. Romikas feature long-wearing molded soles and are available here in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes at discounts from 30%-50%.
The selection includes close-outs, samples, cosmetic defects and overstock. Children’s colorful boots for $15, a pair of men’s fleece-lined boots for $60, and women’s sling-back black leather sandals for $30.
Romika Factory Outlet, 1 N. Salsipuedes St. 102; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday; (805) 963-5971.
Arte D’Italia is the sole U.S. distributor of the Parrucca collection of handmade ceramic ware imported from Palermo, Sicily.
The pieces are created by a process called “Majolica”: red clay items are dipped in white glaze and fired, then carefully hand-painted and fired again. The result is brilliantly colored one-of-a-kind art featuring distinctive Mediterranean folk-art designs.
Motifs include pizza makers, grape stompers and orange pickers, along with whimsical fish, birds and dancers. A stunning three-dimensional peacock cachepot with relief head and feather display sells here for $80, down from $123.
Other pieces include platters, plates, serving dishes, vases and the like. First-quality items, seen in gift and gourmet shops nationwide, here sell for 35% below retail, seconds at 20% below wholesale.
Arte D’Italia, 109 S. Quarantina St.; 8 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday (call ahead for an appointment); (805) 564-7655.
Peaches & Cream is a no-frills outlet shop for women’s and and junior casual wear. All items in the Thin Air collection--loose-fitting rayon dresses, blouses, shorts and skirt--sell here at half-price.
Other bargains include Blue Pacific bathing suits for $20 from $50; back-room racks are loaded with cotton pants and crop tops for $7, a black-and-white-checked mini-dress for $10, and baskets full of bathing-suit tops and bottoms for $1 each.
Peaches & Cream, 536 N. Milpas St.; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; (805) 568-1990.
The shelves of Equestrians Designs Factory Outlet are stacked with contemporary sportswear designed by self-described “barn bum” Lou Ann Fox and dancer Cia Pierpont. The line is a hybrid of traditional equestrian garb and dance wear.
The Galop Fou designs feature coordinated leggings, tank tops, T-shirts and stirrup pants fashioned from high-grade cotton Lycra. Available in classic black and colors, the line is sized for women, children and toddlers. Many garments feature Ultrasuede accents, some in racy leopard and tiger prints.
The line is designed, cut, sewn and shipped from Santa Barbara. First-quality merchandise is 30% below retail, seconds and discontinued styles and colors priced below cost. Popular Equi Tights retail for $85 to $95, coordinating Equi Tops for about $72.
Equestrian Designs Factory Outlet, 535 E. Montecito St.; 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, weekend hours vary so call ahead; (805) 564-3126.