K. Frank Finds New Home in Montecito
Retailers across the world are looking for the next big thing to drive more revenue. For Kevin and Katie Frank, a new business strategy did not lie in the digital sphere, nor did it require flipping their merchandising direction. Rather, they changed addresses for their contemporary store, K. Frank.
They opened their first store in 2007 on State Street, which is the main drag of Santa Barbara, Calif. After an eight-year run in that space, the Franks thought its contemporary cachet was declining as there were fewer stores similar to K. Frank on the street.
In 2016, they moved to Montecito, which is about a 10-minute drive from their former address. The unincorporated community is well known as a place where A-list celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres maintain homes.
Montecito also is the address for three luxury hotels—The San Ysidro Ranch, The Biltmore Four Seasons Santa Barbara and The Rosewood Miramar Beach. The Rosewood opened earlier this year, after it was developed by Caruso, a Los Angeles–headquartered real- estate company that also developed and owns The Grove retail center in Los Angeles and The Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif.
The move to Montecito is a good choice for a purveyor of designer fashion, Kevin said. “Santa Barbara has always been sleepy and beachy,” he said of his old address “The [Montecito] hotels bring people more interested in designer fashion.” Some of K. Frank’s retail neighbors include independent boutique retailer Wendy Foster and the high-end-casual, Los Angeles–lifestyle brand James Perse, but there is no presence of national or global brands.
K. Frank is located at 1150 Coast Village Road. It is walking distance from The Rosewood Miramar Beach and The Biltmore. The hotels’ concierges make a point of encouraging their visitors to shop at Montecito businesses. Frank estimated that 50 percent of K. Frank’s clients are tourists and the other half are Montecito locals. A significant number of the tourists come from other places in California. There also are international tourists and out-of-state snowbirds seeking to escape cold winters.
Katie handles the women’s buying, and Kevin handles the men’s buying at the 2,500-square-foot store. Average price points range from $300 to $600 for denim and women’s tops and $1,000 to $2,000 for light, transitional outerwear. K. Frank offers more than 100 brands including Herno, Stone Island, Massimo Alba, John Elliott, Common Projects, A.P.C., Golden Goose, Moussy, Veronica Beard, Harris Wharf London, L’Agence and A.L.C.
Before starting K. Frank, Kevin served as the men’s buyer for the prominent specialty retailer Pitkin County Dry Goods in Aspen, Colo., which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The Franks started a romance in Aspen, having met years before when they were students at Miami University in Ohio. The Franks married in 2006 and later moved to Santa Barbara.
The past year has been good for business, and Montecito is considered something of a paradise. However, an exclusive address does not spare one from trouble. In December 2017, the Thomas Fire burned parts of Santa Barbara County. The next month, giant mudflows hit Montecito. Power was knocked out and roads were blocked. Local governments gave evacuation orders to residents, forcing K. Frank to close for 25 days. The store sustained no physical damage and the town recovered quickly, Kevin said, while the setbacks increased the resolve of the Franks.
“Since we opened, we experienced a major recession and two natural disasters that acutely impacted our community,” he said. “We’ve built a business together from the ground up and we still love being hands-on.”