Beguiling Southern California beaches, neighborly spirit, and a relaxed pace appeal to anyone in search of the small-town good ol' days.

By Paige Porter
August 16, 2004
Fran Gealer

On Carpinteria's abundant sunny afternoons, locals stroll LindenAvenue, usually in flip-flops, and stop for a burger at The Spot.Guarded by palm trees and lined with galleries, cafès, andclothing stores, the avenue is the heartbeat of "Carp," asresidents refer to Santa Barbara County's southernmost town.(Spanish explorers named the area La Carpinteria―thecarpenter's shop―when, in 1769, they saw Chumash Indianssplitting redwood logs for seagoing canoes.)

Proud of its safe shores and year-round mild weather,Carpinteria is known for being family friendly, says TamiRobitaille, co-owner of acclaimed Robitaille's Fine Candies. After12 years in another location, in 1989 she moved her shop to Linden,where, Tami says, "We've experienced the avenue's renaissance.Stores moved in, cafés opened, and people started spendingtime―and money―here. Kids ride their bikes up and downthe street, people leave their cars unlocked, parents stop forcoffee-talk while their children play together."

At Zookers Cafe, farmers sit alongside real estate agents,gardeners next to artists. "There is no 'other side of the tracks'here," says Mary Nabi, of Coastal Properties. "Wealthy retirees may[buy] a cottage next door to an avocado farm worker [whose familyhas lived there 20 years]."

"Our town is eclectic and artsy, one of the surviving Californiabeach communities," says Fran Puccinelli, owner of a collectiblesand gifts store, SOAP. "I came here 26 years ago, because I saw itspotential for revitalization. I practically grew up on Linden. Ihad The Coffee Grinder, then a deli, and now this store. As I'veevolved with my business, Carp has grown up, but it hasn't lost itsoriginal flavor."

Surfers have flocked to Carpinteria's Rincon Point for decades.One of them, Rob Holcombe, opened A-Frame Surf to attract businessto the area and point surfers to the beach. "[Some] landownerswanted to restrict access to what had long been a kind oflocals-only beach," Rob says. "But we distributed petitions andworked with the Coastal Commission to keep this beautiful spot opento everyone." Rob's store occupies a spot on Santa Claus Lane,which has experienced a renaissance reminiscent of LindenAvenue's.

"Our shop's motto is to have a conscience about the area, toenjoy the lifestyle, and to be a watchdog for our beaches," saysRob. "I like to think we're working to keep people from taking thisplace we call home for granted."

For a free copy of the Chamber of Commerce destination guide,Carpinteria Valley Magazine, call 805/684-5479.

published 2004