By Crystal Harrell

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for local businesses to prosper as many face the possibility of permanent closure. The Shops on San Pablo have been new additions to the Coachella Valley retail family, bringing a sense of hope that budding new businesses can still make it through this less-than-ideal economic climate.

Operator and owner of the Shops on San Pablo, Lorie Loftis, was inspired to join Palm Desert’s initiated San Pablo Pedestrian Corridor Project to create a new shopping experience for the future community core of the city.

“I knew the plight of brick and motor and the seasonal impact on small business owners in the Coachella Valley. I’ve always been a huge advocate for creative, collaborative projects, philanthropy and fun events. I had a business plan to take my store, Venus Fashion Boutique, as the anchor tenant in the 5,500-square foot space and feature a runway down the middle of the space, surrounding it with fabulous and unique small merchants, artisans and designers. I then trademarked the name and created the LLC,” explained Loftis.

There was a grand opening planned for the Shops on San Pablo, however, the city cancelled it as cases of COVID-19 surged. Loftis opened under guidelines on July 4, where the shops have been operating ever since.

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The array of shops appeals to a wide range of consumer interests. Sandra Loulakis brings in wholesale samples from the LA Mart Showroom, featuring One Essence, Furious Furs, Dilee, Modes Crystal and more. Timmy Woods of Beverly Hills houses designer bags, jewelry and masks, while Art & Nature (a COD street fair favorite) has beautiful art glass and beadwork jewelry. Maryse Nicole also features an “All about that Bling” collection that is like a treasure chest for entertainers.

To encompass the theme of Art, Fashion, and Beauty at the Shops on San Pablo, esthetician and miracle worker Cindi Webb makes Total Body Transformation a one-stop shop for a complete makeover, offering fabulous body and facial treatments.

“Originally, I invited three other popular local boutique owners to join me, and when COVID hit, they all hit the freeze button. One may still be interested if we get the street going, but then when the COD Vendors had nowhere to go this season and the LA Fashion District became a ghost town, they came to me. I like keeping it fresh and helping them out. We are all taking a chance that our local community will support us,” stated Loftis.

The original stores on the street offer a fun stroll from the corner consignment shops, to Zen Aquatics store to the Tri-A-Bike Bicycle Shop, Exotic Birds Unlimited, and Comic Asylum, along with Marc’s Golf Shop, Trims Decor & More, You Dirty Dog, and Sun Splash Screen Printing & Embroidery. These previously established shops now have a chance to benefit from a new pedestrian corridor. The nearby restaurants—The Real Italian Deli, Desert Fox Bar, El Rodeo Cafe, and Mi Cultura–have also all built patio dining to offer delicious food and beverage options for the block. Little Bar is also included in the pedestrian district, owned by former Goldenvoice CFO Skip Paige, and is temporarily closed due to the current mandates.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shops on San Pablo have guidelines and special accommodations to let customers shop safely. The shops have a website at theshopsonsanpablo.com for online orders, and they provide both curb side pick-up or local delivery (Indio to Palm Springs on orders over 75 dollars). The Shops also have a COVID-safe showroom with over five thousand square feet and an air/surface purification system in operation as a display for retail.

The Shops are open to the public with all the COVID protocols in place. Guests and staff are asked to follow state-mandated guidelines, including pre-screening shoppers with temperature checks, sanitizing hands, cleaning all frequently touched surfaces, and assisting guests in the changing room to pre and post-UV sanitize clothes and surfaces.

Private shopping appointments and fashion/makeover parties are also able to be safely accommodated, along with other special events that have taken place during the pandemic. All it takes is a phone call to schedule a private group shopping session to reserve the Shops all to yourself. Temperatures will be taken and masks will still be required, but you can shop with friends and loved ones without being exposed to the general public, with over 40 designers and artisans to choose from. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 760-834-7001.

“Honoring BB Ingle has been the most special event so far. I was assisted by Lisa Morgan and Brandon Ray Henderson to make my vision come to fruition. They superimposed a picture of BB in his wings with fireworks. It was if he was really there. BB and I, like so many, were spiritually and purposefully paired to help our friends and family in our community to express love, kindness and joy. It is an honor to give our community an opportunity to party with BB in spirit and anyone can feel it when posing for a photo op in front of the wings dedicated to him,” stated Loftis.

The Shops on San Pablo have temporarily limited hours of operation due to COVID, but Loftis has created an innovative way to keep people safe as they shop together, such as the private “Shopportunity Eventures” campaign. This is a special non-profit program available for charities to sponsor models, or host, film, and premier a fashion show live. 20 percent of online and in-store purchases are donated to raise funds with the “Shopportunity” promo code program. Six lucky charities will be selected via a lottery to win an exclusive private party Trunk Show & Viewing event at the Enchanting Bird Gardens estate. Hours of operation for the Shops on San Pablo are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. for the Farmers Market on Wednesdays. Special appointment times can be made for Sundays, early mornings, and evenings.

“We live here, spend our money here and employ people who do the same. But on a deeper level, we create the identity of our businesses from our community and serve them personally. We are a unique, diverse, creative and wonderfully expressive Valley. Local businesses are a reflection of the communities they serve. We don’t want to be impersonal ‘Big Box’ generic individuals and that is all that we will be left with if we do not support the businesses that support us,” said Loftis.