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Local business owners look to bring "public market" food hall to Santa Maria

SM public market
Posted at 4:26 PM, Feb 07, 2023

Santa Maria residents may have seen a banner advertising the Santa Maria Public Market pop up recently in front of the now-closed Moxie Cafe.

According to its signage, an Italian restaurant, a coffee shop, a winery, and several other businesses could all be setting up shop there soon.

"We have a lot of familia — wine club members from San Luis Obispo, up north, Santa Maria — and I just want to create a little piece of Esfuerzo, a little piece of home, their casa in Santa Maria," said Fidencio Flores, owner of Esfuerzo Wines of Buellton.

Flores says the Santa Maria Public Market project is a collaborative effort dreamt up by other local business owners from the city of Santa Barbara up to the Santa Ynez Valley. Inspired by the popularity of other "public market" style food halls that have opened on the Central Coast, Flores tells KSBY the city of Santa Maria is ready for that experience, too.

"You are going to be able to go in and have an option of wine, have an option of beer, and also have the option of multiple foods," Flores added. "There is going to be Mexican food, there is going to be Italian food, comfort food, a deli, a coffee shop. Truly a one-stop."

Mary Treinen, who has lived in Santa Maria all her life, says she also likes the idea of a food hall coming to Santa Maria to help give her city more of a tourist destination feel while also bringing in more cultural dining options.

"We will have more options as to where we can go, especially if it is different types of food. I like the idea of having a variety, and I think that people who come into town to visit would enjoy it," Treinen said.

However, while the banners you see driving down McCoy Lane say the Santa Maria Public Market is opening soon, officials with the City of Santa Maria say the project is in its early phases and its application is still pending city approval. City Public Information Officer Mark van de Kamp added that as of now, there is no concrete timeline for its future opening.

Meanwhile, Fidencio Flores says he cannot wait until that day comes.

"This region, the Central Coast, is truly my home. And I think us going to Santa Maria is perfect. Santa Maria is also a location of so much fusion, so much culture, so much community. But it is also such an agricultural heavy area that really represents who we are," Flores said.

Mark van de Kamp says in recent years, the industrial spot off McCoy Lane where the banners have been placed has been a difficult location for some businesses to thrive. The Moxie Cafe closed eight years after opening. Business owners involved with the Santa Maria Public Market say they will be looking to change that trend as their future food hall takes shape.

A few of the businesses that would be coming to the Santa Maria Public Market include Green Star Coffee and Casa Comal Mexican cuisine. Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company beers will also be featured on tap.