Shoppers walk across the Broadway and Third Street intersection on Saturday afternoon. The downtown parking structures were filled up during the last day of April and the first day of May as people came to visit the beach and Promenade. (File photo)


In May, owners at Lorin, a boutique shoe store on the 3rd Street Promenade, taped sale signs on the widows as they prepared to permanently close. The signs were soon replaced by new ones announcing that the space would transform into the West Coast’s first Carlo’s Bakery, a Hoboken business run by Buddy Valastro and his family who star on the TLC show, “Cake Boss.”

The bakery’s arrival aligns with city efforts to encourage restaurants to open locations with outdoor seating in downtown Santa Monica. This trend isn’t just happening in Santa Monica but across the nation as consumers are shopping online instead of in-person and retail environments look to bring people out, said Jason Harris, the City’s Economic Development Manager.

“They say food is the new retail,” Harris said. “And this is a good example of that adage.”

Today, each block on the Promenade offers a mix of restaurants and stores. The balance isn’t exactly 50-50 according Jing Yeo, a city Planning Manager, and despite several retail vacancies, officials said it’s at almost an ideal ratio.

It’s been a long-term goal to balance the retail mix downtown.

Major promenade shopping began in the 60s when the city decided to bring retail to the forefront of downtown business. The area declined overtime and was substantially redesigned about 27 years ago.

The business mix has varied in recent decades with restaurants, entertainment and traditional retail.

Santa Monica is now in its third decade of controlled balance, Yeo said. City planners try not to react too quickly to changes in consumer interest; they allow things to ebb and flow. However, there is an overarching plan.

The city’s plans for maintaining the culture and history of downtown is outlined in the recently passed Downtown Community Plan and there are ongoing efforts to determine which kinds of retail, restaurant and entertainment will sustain long-term success Downtown.

Yeo says planners are looking to preserve and welcome more full service restaurants (there are currently eight on the Promenade).

“The unique brand, name recognition and grab and go product are all attributes that reflect the market and should perform well,” Harris said.

Retail and restaurants have experienced significant churn in recent months and high rents are a factor in the growing number of vacant storefronts in the city’s traditional retail zones.

However, the bakery’s desire to open a new location in Santa Monica shows downtown remains a desirable business spot, said Kevin Herrera, the Downtown Santa Monica Sr. Marketing and Communications Manager. He said brands will choose the city as their first retail location or often, their first West Coast expansion.

Santa Monica was among the first expansion locations for Dunkin’ Donuts, Steak ‘n Shake opened its first California location on the Promenade. Unnecessary Clothing, Bookmonster and Subdued have all opened outposts in Santa Monica.

The original bakery was opened in 1910 by Carlo Guastaffero, Bartolo Guastaffero purchased the bakery from Guastafferno in 1964. It has since been passed down to Buddy and his four siblings, Grace, Maddalena, Mary and Lisa. There are currently 18 U.S. locations and 1 bakery in São Paulo, Brazil.

No opening date has been announced for the Santa Monica location yet.

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