After 15 years India House store leaving Downtown Santa Barbara

Release Date: March 21,2019

Owner says economic rebound too slow

By John Palminteri, KEYT  March 21, 2019

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A longtime downtown Santa Barbara store specializing in products from India is leaving its walkway location in the 500 block of State Street and moving out of the city.

The India House USA store has had a unique location using a full building wall display and storage concept along with occasional tables and racks of clothing on wheels around the site. That showcase of the products has been a rub with the city and the owner Krishan Gupta says he was told to discontinue that aspect of his sales.

Tapestries still hang on the outside of the awnings and a nearby storage building. Gupta says he was once cited for having the tapestries up and the one he refers to particularly features the late reggae singer Bob Marley with a 'One Love' message.

Gupta says he and his family have been selling in Santa Barbara 15 years, and including the family's time in India, they have been in the retail business over 100 years.

He sells direct from India to Santa Barbara with only one stop for his containers as they arrive in Long Beach.

Gupta says his prices are half the cost of some of the nearby chain stores and says his washable rugs are $5 each every day on his front table.   

A customer buying incense says it's the best price at $2 each and a holder is just $1.

Nathan Starkey said "Good price, the cheapest I have found so far. If you're going to get Indian incense you should get it from the India man"

A Santa Barbara shopper buying a throw rug, Laurie McDonald said to Gupta, "We have had enough closures around here. You should stay."

Some of the prices have been discounted for the closing weeks by 75 percent.

Visitors from the East Coast were browsing the dresses, scarfs, and jewelry Wednesday afternoon. 

Gupta says he has 200 different items. "Silk pillows, tapestries, cushions, whatever you get in India. It is an Indian bazaar," he said.

Daily his products are displayed until sunset and they all go back into the wall storage that has pull down doors.

The location is a worn out walkway in the middle of the block that has been challenging because it has at times been a gathering place for transients to sit or sleep. Gupta says street police and community service officers in recent months have been coming through and the situation is much better.

His sales are down however and he can no longer hang in there.  After two disasters, and an economic slump in the area, Gupta says he is going to Los Angeles with his business and will reopen in the Fashion District. 

He sizes up the current state of the shopping area he is in as only slowly rebounding.  

"Maybe 10-15 percent. It's not recovering. People are not coming to Santa Barbara," he said.

Gupta also says many landlords are not as flexible with rents during the tough times for area businesses as has been hoped for by business owners and city leaders.

He says there are many layers to the issues, for example, he says, some of the restaurant sites are paying $30,000 a month for their leases and struggling to get workers at $15 an hour.

As for his site, he says a beer-type patio will be going in after improvements are made.

Within the two block area, some new businesses have opened and are opening up soon.

Next door, Industrial Ale remodeled a building and has had a solid start with beer and food in a location with large windows and outside dining.

The Cruisery opened in the site of the old Santa Barbara Brewing Company on the corner of Haley and State St.  

In the next block, a multiple food and beverage site will open up soon along with a home furnishings store.

The city is also talking about improving lighting and activities in the area and possibly trying out street closure events on a limited basis to create an open air mall setting. 

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