I’m put on hold for a brief moment as SOAP owner Daniel Case greets a customer by name. Case welcomes about 90% of his patrons this way – which makes sense, considering he has run the business for twenty-three years with a loyal following. 

The coastal boutique, located at 910 Linden Avenue in Carpinteria, boasts the exact same high-end fragrances and fabrics for a significantly lower price than other upscale coastal shops in Montecito, Summerland and Santa Barbara. It is this secret that has kept Case in business all these years, along with this motto: always offer your customers a fair price. 

“I’ve always loved Carpinteria and I wanted to do something here.” Case said, noting that the shop’s previous owner, Frances Puccinelli, already had an established clientele. After purchasing the business from Puccinelli, Case expanded on the bath and body footprint to include more textiles, jewelry, art and home decor. 

“Since I got out of the Air Force in 1974, I’ve been in retail my whole work career,” Case said, noting that working all areas of retail – from management to merchandising to marketing – gave him the needed experience to one day run his own business. 

The majority of Case’s business comes from word of mouth, rather than social media, although its website teases new customers to venture into it. Case describes SOAP as an “eclectic gift boutique,” under the umbrella of bath and body products. 

But some of Case’s biggest business advice? Always listen to your customers. 

 “(Customers) will tell you what they want, even when they may not realize they’re telling you what they want,” Case said. He noted he has to watch what sells fast, to know what to order for the future. 

“I think that’s a recipe for success is listening to your customer, hearing what they’re saying, and answering their interests with products they’d enjoy.” 

Case also travels to different boutiques in other parts of the county, and even the world, to see what might work on California’s end of the coast. 

 “It’s nice to see what your competitors are doing, though they may not be direct competitors,” Case said. “It’s funny how forthcoming they all are, too, when you ask them. It’s really nice to be able to talk to other shopkeepers about that.”

What keeps SOAP different from other shops – besides the personal attention to customers’ wants and needs – is that SOAP always giftwraps for free. 

“I’ve never taken the fact that we giftwrap for free lightly because people can come in, knowing they can be (straight) on their way to the venue. They can come in, buy the gift, get it wrapped, and be on their way,” he said. 

After two-plus decades of running retail, the best advice Case would tell his younger self is to be careful with trends. “They come and go quickly,” Case said. “Don’t stock your store with the trendiest items because you’ll be stuck with them once the trend changes.”

Case said he is thankful for the shop’s loyal clientele. 

“I just really want my clients to know that how much I appreciate them,” he emphasized. 

 

 

Megan Waldrep is a columnist and freelance writer, currently living on a 34-foot sailboat. To learn more about Megan, visit meganwaldrep.com.

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