9 Local Businesses Doing Cool Things in Santa Barbara

The clothing company Toad&Co makes Santa Barbara home.
The clothing company Toad&Co makes Santa Barbara home. Photo courtesy of Toad&Co/David McLain
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Sand. Surf. Sun. That’s what most people think of when they think of Santa Barbara because it’s best known as a vacation mecca on the California coast. But there’s a lot more to savor in Santa Barbara. It’s also home to innovators and entrepreneurs who add a creative dimension to the city’s outdoor vibe. Their work can give you a fresh perspective, too. Here are eight local companies doing interesting and inspiring things in Santa Barbara.

1. StandUp Paddle Sports

On a street in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, where converted warehouses now house wineries, restaurants, and more, the family-owned StandUp Paddle Sports has been making and selling SUPs since 2005. You can choose from a selection of boards, sign up for lessons, or get advice from employees eager to get you up on a board, whether it’s for the first time or the hundredth.

2 Toad&Co

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One of the best-known of Santa Barbara’s exports, Toad&Co oversees its sustainable outdoor clothing empire from its headquarters high in the hills overlooking the city and the water. You’ll see that the company set up its corporate offices in a building that’s a perfect fit. Cool. Attractive. Low impact. Now, you can find out what might be a perfect fit for you.

3. Explore Ecology

Explore Ecology features a number of environmental projects that help promote "understanding of the connections between people and their environment, and to encourage creative thinking through hands-on science education and art discovery." It was started in 1990 as Art from Scrap, which was designed to help teach art and create projects from materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. That’s still one of the organization’s core projects, but Explore Ecology has expanded to include a ReUse story, which offers second-hand materials for purchase, summer camps, art workshops, and school gardens.

4. Warbler Record & Goods

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Looking for a little Dylan or Guided by Voices? It’s a good bet that Warbler Record & Goods, located off State Street in Santa Barbara’s historic district, will have what you want in its extensive—and carefully chosen—collection of new and used vinyl. You can sort through records housed in wooden bins, gift cards, and CDs, among other things. Not sure whether you’re ready to buy? You can put on a pair of headphones and give a listen.

5. C’est Cheese

If you’re a cheese lover, this store around the corner from Warbler Records has the selection of your dreams. Hard cheeses from around the world are piled high on a counter, and soft cheeses are stacked in a refrigerated case. If you’re hungry—or even if you’re not—you’ll be tempted to order a slice of each. But first, you might want to step to the other end of the store and dive into a grilled cheese sandwich.

6. MichaelKate Interiors

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You’ll be surrounded by the smells and sights of fine furnishings from the moment you walk into MichaelKate’s airy and spacious showroom in the Funk District. If you’re looking to redecorate a room, or you’re in the market for the perfect lamp or painting, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for here. MichaelKate carries a range of modern and contemporary furnishings from around the world.

7. folio, press & paperie

You’ll likely spend more time than you expect in this shop on the edge of the historic district, as every nook and cranny beckons. You might find yourself flipping through the pages of a journal, inhaling the aroma of a scented candle, or mentally making a recipe in a beautifully illustrated cookbook. In addition to gifts—for yourself or others—folio carries greeting cards and stationery, some of which it makes itself.

8. The Blue Door

You never know what you’re going to find behind the Blue Door. That’s because the store’s inventory of vintage and modern furnishings, jewelry, and paintings is constantly evolving. You’ll want to set aside some time to explore The Blue Door’s three floors, where you might find a set of ladderback chairs with cane seats, an old Royal typewriter, or plush cushions for your couch.

9. MOXI, the Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation

The newest museum in Santa Barbara is MOXI, which is focused on STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) through creative, interactive displays. Visitors will find three floors of indoor and outdoor exhibits that encourage children to think critically and creatively as they build and experiment. Scientific concepts like magnetism, propulsion, and centripetal force are taught through creative play, and kids you can build their own model car and race them down a test track. The Sky Garden on the building’s roof features beautiful views of the city as well as water features that experiment with fluid dynamics. It’s quickly become a must-visit spot for any family visiting Santa Barbara.

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