First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

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By Bob Ficarra of Metro Entertainment

"January 1st Thursday Presented By Amazon" is the headline of the most recent email sent by our very own Downtown Organization. It is the headline banner on the 1st Thursday website. Isn't First Thursday an event to support local businesses? But now it is an Amazon promotion.

Our own Santa Barbara Downtown Organization is now directly contributing to the downfall of Santa Barbara businesses. The "DO" only exists to support Santa Barbara- and now, instead of doing anything to promote local retail, it is promoting the biggest online business in the world. 

How out of touch do you have to be to turn a locals-only promotion into a marketing tool for our biggest competition? Was this a pure cash grab by the "DO" for Amazon sponsorship?

Please walk down State Street and look at all the empty storefronts. There has been absolutely no improvement. What happened the $100,000.00+ spent on 2 surveys that were supposed to improve things? Why was all that money wasted with no repercussions? Why is no one being held accountable? Anyone else- with a non-government job- would be fired for such waste. Why am I paying quarterly taxes to an organization that is actively working against and hurting my local business??

I've owned Metro Entertainment for 29 years and this very well could be the biggest slap in the face I've ever seen. In that time I've gone from hoping our local government agencies will help us to hoping they don't make business harder. Will someone- anyone- with just a bit of common sense please step up?


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mesarez Jan 04, 2020 03:13 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Are you not aware that Amazon IS a local business. They have more than one location here and are doing more than delivering goods or taking orders. Alexa is Just one part of amazon which is researched and developed here. Amazon employs many people here with a good salary and exceptional benefits. I think you need to reconsider your definition of local. When I moved to Santa Barbara from another state I was given clear definitions for my status in this “pretentious” place. I would never be a “Native” as that is only for those born here. However after 7 years I could call myself a “local”. I feel pretty confident that you have heard this before. So is it possible that you are really more upset because amazon is not a Native company like yourself? Another thing to consider is that consumers go for what is easiest and cheapest and has the least hassle. I can’t tell you how many local shops in Santa Barbara have rude sales personnel, a poor knowledge base of what they are even selling and why... or Are really just In need of a complete attitude overhaul. Not to mention the return or exchange (or complete lack of) policy some stores have in place. Really? Word to the wise... you cannot stop consumer trends. If you wish to survive learn to embrace and adapt. Last thing- there is much much much more to Amazon that online shopping. Watch and learn. Thank you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUewiOZTNzM

Sagepup Jan 04, 2020 06:24 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Local means Locally owned and operated ! Amazon is national or international Corporation. Big difference. Amazon is not local , it is international Big corporation, Just like McDonalds. I would rather shop locally in a mom and pop owned store than anything corporate.

greg Jan 04, 2020 06:38 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Some of my friends buy almost everything via Amazon. One bought eyeglasses and frames online and the price was about the same at a local optical shop which provided old fashioned personal service and follow up. Same with furniture I recently bought by locally owned store. I found good quality and service at a comparable price to online vendors where you can only hope the look and quality will be good. Local stores often can provide important follow up and easier exchanges and returns. When possible look into buying locally.

EastBeach Jan 04, 2020 11:21 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

The hobby shop Bob mentions started as Atkins Hobbies on Anapamu. I spent countless hours there as a kid. They had all kinds of plastic model kits and radio control airplane stuff. Alas, those kinds of shops are on the decline as interests, technology, and manufacturing techniques have dramatically shifted that market.

mp805 Jan 04, 2020 09:23 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

This is exactly right Bob! We should all support our local favorite businesses. Really appreciate your transparency/perspective as a local business owner in our community and the issues we are dealing with downtown. Curious to get your take on the funk zone and if they are doing anything different in that area to boost business than what they are doing downtown?

bobficarra Jan 04, 2020 09:01 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

I always shop local as much as possible, For example, Lane Farms has a fantastic set-up for Halloween with a maze, tractor rides, animals and I always get my pumpkins there- not from the less expensive grocery store. I am shocked by how many people still come by looking for my hobby shop neighbor that closed almost 10 years ago and are disappointed they are gone. If you only shop there once every 10 years chances are any business will not survive. My shop- Metro Entertainment - has over 15 weekly events that bring in over 200 people of all ages and are lucky to have such fantastic support from the community. Thank you! We, as individuals, can't do much about the other big issues, but we sure can support our favorite businesses.

surfergirl69 Jan 04, 2020 03:55 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

That "you're an idiot "comment directed to CURMUDGEON....yeah, just keep blaming everything on the homeless, when they are the victims of unbridled capitalism. I just feel like name-calling people who are just so lazy or whatever to not realize or just LIE about what's happening. ......TRUTH = First people got "homeless" and then their life is basically "out-of-business", then our "Mom and Pop" stores on State St can't afford the rent either. GENTRIFICATION = loss of cheap places to live for MANY, while a FEW get rich rich richer.......Meanwhile, Amazon and real estate tycoons are getting richer.....wake up people !! Here's one way to make a difference : buy locally in neighborhood stores and craigslist etc = supporting your community instead of China and Amazon . Fix things, or pay people to fix things instead of throwing them away and buying new junky stuff. Meet people instead of staring at a phone.....and QUIT picking on the homeless, in general. (yes, I know all homeless are not angels)

Alexblue Jan 04, 2020 03:49 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Curmudgeon--your position is fatally flawed for the following reason; if unbridled capitalism contributes to creating a larger homeless population, the fact that some who benefit from capitalism give money to help the homeless does not cure the problem that creates homelessness in the first place. You get that, right?

Curmudgeon Jan 04, 2020 09:01 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

You might be surprised to learn just how much good 'unbridled capitalism' does for the community of homeless. One simple example at the local level is to look at the financial statement of a charitable organization like Unity Shoppe. For the 2018 fiscal year contributions, gifts, grants and fundraising took in more than $3.5 million to help thousands of area needy. Looking at a donor's list reads like a 'Who's Who' of American capitalism. Without capitalism through charitable giving, property tax revenue, state and local tax revenue, etc. most meaningful programs that do much social good would not exist to the extent they do.

Curmudgeon Jan 04, 2020 08:27 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

SURFERGIRL - Wasn't picking on homeless, just vagrants, vagabonds and bums. BIG difference. Tourists and locals can't all be wrong when they tell you it is vastly more unpleasant to walk downtown now than in a gentler age past.

Luvaduck Jan 04, 2020 07:42 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Your reply --the second one--was rational, but your first, an insult, poisoned the effectiveness of the second. So did the capitalization "shouts". You are passionate about homelessness & the increasing corporate on-line take-over of consumer purchases and accompanying degradation of our society into the old model aristocracy or peasants and should be. Anyone with a knowledge of history and economics knows how this ends. Better not to negate the impact of your very relevant concerns.

Curmudgeon Jan 03, 2020 08:49 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

With the gradual surrender of our once-vibrant, beautiful downtown to vagrants, vagabonds and bums, I now think of brick-and-mortar as "brick-and-MORDOR."

EastBeach Jan 03, 2020 07:46 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

I've been a supporter of Metro Comics over the years (at least as much as any Magic The Gathering fan can be). That said, I don't see as much incongruity as Bob does with Amazon being the main financial supporter of 1st Thursday. After all, 1st Thursday generates foot traffic downtown - isn't that a goal? Plus many downtown merchants will benefit directly and indirectly as can be seen in January's lineup .... https://www.downtownsb.org/_files/docs/final-passport-january-2020-for-website.pdf

bobficarra Jan 06, 2020 09:06 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

1st Thursday is only once a month, for 2 hours, and attendees have to pay EXTRA to participate, even with sponsorship. It only focuses on the local art galleries, maybe 2% of the businesses here. I've been asking for an event focusing on local retailers- the heart of downtown- for years.

EastBeach Jan 03, 2020 08:37 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

I'll acknowledge though that Amazon is indeed a competitor of Metro as they are both retailers. And retail has been in decline throughout the U.S. while restaurants, breweries, galleries, etc. have done better (note: they are a large percentage of the SB 1st Thursday participating venues). This is evident by the recent trend across the country where a larger percentage of mall tenants are now in food service and other non-retail businesses. It should also be said that Amazon's sponsorship of our 1st Thursday is as a local employer (as stated in the 1st Thursday passport link) which I believe is OK. A poll of other downtown merchants would be interesting but my guess is it might be split between retailer and non-retailer businesses.

a-1582580101 Jan 03, 2020 03:49 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

All of you disparaging Amazon are pissing into the wind. Santa Barbara shop owners and the Downtown Organization need to grasp the fact that Amazon is not going to fizzle out anytime soon and act accordingly. Rethink your business plans and factor in the realization that Amazon is providing what people want. Do what is necessary to stay competitive.

pstarSR Jan 03, 2020 05:29 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

No ones disparaging amazon, I use them. But there is a place for a brick and mortor store where you can actually talk to someone about an item before buying it. And by talking i mean actually having a conversation with someone that knows about the product. Selling online isnt the issue, its cookie cutter cities with all the same “big” business and no local. If we continue this direction there will be no small business, no local business. Ever watch Wall-E?

bobficarra Jan 03, 2020 05:19 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

I am certainly not disparaging Amazon. You're not getting the message. The Santa Barbara Downtown Organization's mission is to support and assist local business. It is now branded with our biggest, non-local competition.

LCP112233 Jan 03, 2020 04:16 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

@3:49. I will add to that by stating that any one of those businesses downtown can also sell on Amazon, and a plethora of other websites.

SantaBarbaraObserver Jan 03, 2020 03:20 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Fully understandable for a long time, small business. Unfortunately yours is the kind that is too easily beaten by e-commerce. Its not your fault, its the evolution of business. You can blame certain people or the Internet at large, but its not going to change things. Use the Internet to bolster your business and your niche and make the whole world your customer and you wont be at the whim of the DO or the city's inept management and leadership. FYI Amazon is putting an engineering office in SB, not a retail store. They are bringing very high paying jobs into the city proper. Many of the young geeks who will fill the cubicles and offices at Amazon, will want your kind of stuff Bob. If I were you I'd start thinking about how to take advantage of the situation.

pstarSR Jan 03, 2020 05:36 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

We dont need engineering amazon jobs we need jobs that stay here, pay here, and provide a live-able enviroment for everyone. San fransico doing well with all the tech? Seattle? People are leaving ( just like here ) in droves because they cant afford it. And dont say “well get a better job” the people leaving san fransico/ seattle. Worked at google/ amazon etc.

bobficarra Jan 03, 2020 01:30 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Why does the DO need more funds?? Me and every other business pay huge quarterly taxes to the DO. Yet they promote the biggest retailer killer more than they've ever promoted my shop, or any other retailers. And still no one stands up for us.

Alexblue Jan 04, 2020 03:51 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Your name calling is doing nothing for the discussion. A local business owner brings up a complaint about how the DO runs. Their money funds the DO. The guy's point is entirely worth of discussion.

bobficarra Jan 04, 2020 09:39 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Fees are mandatory. And I am not "whining", I am bringing an issue to light. There are no other honest voices like mine defending us in our corner, just the spin fed to us by people in charge.

oceandrew Jan 04, 2020 09:27 AM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Why do you continue to pay the SBDO's fees if they don't do anything for your business? As a businessman shouldn't be watching your bottom line and figuring which expenditures jigger them upwards and which just drag on them? Whining about it on social media isn't making you a more astute businessman it just follows the bane of reality TV's drama drama drama as a substitute.

a-1582580101 Jan 03, 2020 01:49 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Good point Bob, now I understand it more from the small biz POV. Yes, the Downtown Org should do more with local businesses, isn't that their main function?

Factotum Jan 03, 2020 01:39 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Vacant properties do not pay this DO tax surcharge - only businesses. Empty storefronts and office space do not generate financial support for the DO -which actually has done a very good job in the past and is worthy of more support. Say thank you to Amazon. It will be the only thing that can start to save this downtown business district. Glad they had the confidence to come here - the potential for them and us is great. Thank you Amazon.

Factotum Jan 03, 2020 01:29 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Despite constant warnings, past and present city councils allowed downtown to become very unsavory, as well as ringing it with the bulk of their low-income to very low income public housing units. Nothing like stacking up those who "can't afford to live in Santa Barbara, smack in the middle of your down town retail sales commercial district. But that is the face of politically correct Santa Barbara.

a-1582580101 Jan 03, 2020 12:32 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

I understand a local business owner's POV, but also... the downtown organization needs funds and Amazon is setting up shop here. Would it make more of a difference if Nordstrom's purchased this ad space?

a-1582580101 Jan 03, 2020 01:20 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

They need funds, sure... But what is there to show for these funds? Look around downtown...it is a husk. Bob makes great points. Amazon is no Nordstroms. Amazon is the business killer of business killers, it is on a level of its own.

mp805 Jan 03, 2020 12:21 PM
First Thursday Should Be for Local Businesses

Thankyou for this write up Bob. This situation is slap in the face to all the SB businesses, Everyone in Santa Barbara should be extremely concern with the current downtown situation. I have taken your advice... and its disturbing walking down state street and count all the open spaces...The consultation fees the city paid out for the study and recommendations was an absolute joke!

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