Pam Peterson of Hair Lounge of Montecito

Pam Peterson of Hair Lounge of Montecito

by Nicholas Schou

It was mid-March when Pam Peterson, owner of the Hair Lounge of Montecito, realized she was going to have to close her popular salon. It was a more delicate decision than for many local employers, because all eight stylists who work at the shop are independent contractors, and on top of that, although California didn’t specifically list hair salons as essential businesses, it didn’t expressly order them to shut down either.

“I couldn’t just shut the doors on them because they have to make money,” Peterson, who first opened her salon on Cabrillo Boulevard near the Andree Clark Bird Refuge eight years ago, says of her stylists. “But after we weren’t declared an essential business, I was the first person to say, ‘I am not coming back to work on Monday and I suggest you don’t come to work.'”

After temporarily closing shop, Peterson immediately realized that, while her clients might be able to wait several weeks before coming back in for a haircut, many of them were going to still want to do something about all that gray hair that would be growing in during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I knew that our clients would want to have their gray hair covered so they can look and feel better when they look at themselves in the mirror during this unprecedented time in this world,” Peterson explains. “Typically, clients color their gray hair every four to six weeks and I knew the salon might not be opened in time for them, so I started to think of ways to help them color their own hair at home without going to the drugstore and using a color out of a box, which is a nightmare to fix when we see our clients in the future.”

Fortunately, Peterson, a certified master color expert and veteran of Vidal Sassoon, had a friend in New York City who had been written up in USA Today because of his do-it-yourself hair-coloring kits. “In order to color gray hair,” she explains, “you need color creme or liquid and a creme or liquid developer. When the two products are mixed together and then applied to the hair the coloring process begins and needs to be on the hair for ten to forty-five minutes depending on the type of color used.”

In order to work at home, the kits have two reservoirs in them that keep the liquids separate until they are ready to be mixed into the correct color for the client, Peterson says. “The kits hold a small amount of hair color in one side and developer in the other side. It has a nozzle that the client attaches, then squeezes the product of the two reservoirs out and onto their roots and around their hairline.”

Having been closed for weeks following the 1/9 debris flow, Peterson says she knows how much it means for her clients to feel good and look good during times of crisis, so she is glad to be able to offer this service until she’s able to reopen.

Each kit she sells includes a handy glove so her clients can blend the color onto their hair with their fingers. “After the processing time has passed, they simply wash their hair,” she says, “being careful to not get the color into their eyes but washing their hair clean of all hair color product. Viola! Their gray hair is now colored!”

Hair Lounge of Montecito is located at 1807 East Cabrillo, Suite A. Peterson’s hair coloring kits sell for $45. Text Peterson at 805-220-8669 for any questions or to schedule a pickup.

Montecito Natural Foods

by Nicholas Schou

 

During the disastrous Thomas Fire and debris flows two years ago, the entire Montecito Country Mart was closed for business with the exception of Montecito Natural Foods. That turned out to be a good thing for the town’s first responders, particularly the Montecito Fire Department, because emergency workers were laboring under high stress in unsanitary conditions with weakened immune systems.

“There were fire trucks and emergency trucks and all that out there,” recalls Slim Gomez, who has owned the store for the past 28 years. “We stayed open for them.” Gomez says that the store provided responders with healthy drinks as well as a natural immunity-boost liquid shot, which is applied by directly spraying onto the throat. “One of the firefighters tried the immunity shot because he was getting sick and they were all compromised,” she adds. “In two hours, he was better and he told all the firemen. So now all the Fire Department takes these on a regular basis.”

Fortunately for Montecito residents, the store remains open during the forced closures that have come about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When we had the mudflow, we stayed open as a staging area, and we are staying open now, too,” says Matt Mosby, who has worked at Montecito Natural Foods for the past 10 years. “Right now, I think we are the only business right here who are doing well,” he added. “People are worried and we are able to supply them with products that will keep them healthy. The staff has well more than one hundred years of combined experience in nutrition and supplements.”

According to Gomez, the store has been around ever since the shopping center opened in 1963. It used to be larger, until a new owner reduced their square footage to put in public restrooms. Gomez estimates that 75 percent of the shop’s sales are health supplements. “We’re very focused on providing knowledge to our customers,” she says. “Most of our demand is for zinc lozenges, Vitamin C, and probiotics,” the latter of which the shop offers under its own label. “We sell more of it than anything else and have been for the past fifteen years,” she says. “People come by and buy four or five bottles at a time.”

Another product that’s been high in demand lately are the shop’s line of propyl alcohol-based hand sanitizing spray bottles. “We’re very fortunate because one of our skin care suppliers lives here in Montecito and she made these hand sanitizers for us, and it’s great; we’re selling a lot of them.”

For those who haven’t dropped by to pick up their favorite natural supplements or immunity boosting products, be forewarned that you must come equipped with a sense of humor, Gomez warns, referring to the fact that Mosby loves to tease long-term customers. “Oh, that’s number one,” confirms employee Caroline Geddes. “If people don’t have a good sense of humor they won’t come back, but they do, because we have wonderful customers.” (She’s not kidding: When I interviewed Mosby for this story over the telephone, he put down the receiver so he could banter with one such visitor. “Thanks for visiting Montecito Natural Foods, where you are our favorite customer,” he said by way of farewell to the shopper, who left in a fit of laughter.)

Humor, much like a virus, is contagious: Both Mosby and Gomez laughed aloud when I shared this anecdote with her after she issued her facetious customer service disclaimer. “Right now we have the best crew we’ve ever had,” Gomez says, referring to Mosby, Geddes, and Jorge Bernabe, who wasn’t there when I stopped by but who handles ordering and stocking as well as working with customers. “And we are very lucky to have a very loyal following in the community.”

Montecito Natural Foods is open from 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday, and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. 1014 Coast Village Rd # B. For delivery or pickup orders, call 805-969-1411.

Tecolote Book Shop’s Mary Sheldon

by Nicholas Schou

Don’t even try to tell Mary Sheldon about how COVID-19 is hurting local businesses.

After all, the owner of Tecolote Book Shop in Montecito’s Upper Village has been a bookseller for 30 years, the last 20 of which had the misfortune of taking place after the unprecedented rise of online shopping spearheaded by Amazon. Technically, Tecolote has been open almost four times as long as the internet has existed: since 1925 to be exact, although not at its current location on East Valley Road. The bookstore’s first iteration was in downtown Santa Barbara’s El Paseo. “There were Tecolotes in a few spots and then it ended up at what is now the De La Guerra House Museum,” Sheldon explains. “They moved out here in the early 1960s when this shopping center was built. Then in 1975, they closed the other store in Santa Barbara, leaving this as the only one.”

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Debbie Ousey, Montecito Coffee Shop

Montecito Coffee Shopowner and waitress Debbie Ousey

by Nick Schou

If you’ve ever had breakfast or lunch at the Montecito Coffee Shop – it’s the restaurant next to the San Ysidro Pharmacy at the intersection of East Valley and San Ysidro roads – then you may have been waited on by a petite and unassuming woman who seems to know her way around the establishment. As it happens, Debbie Ousey, the waitress in question, is also the owner of the coffee shop and has been for the past 17 years. Before that, Ousey worked at the restaurant for 19 years as a waitress, so some habits just die hard.

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