SLO County gyms, retail, entertainment businesses open in 2021

Andrew M. Santos

It’s been a challenging year for businesses in San Luis Obispo County, as the local economy struggles to recover from a supply chain crisis and pandemic-related shortages and closures.

That hasn’t stopped some intrepid entrepreneurs from opening their doors for the first time.

Here are some of the businesses that opened in the county in 2021, from beauty salons and gyms to a mission-driven boutique and discount stores.

Entertainment businesses that opened in 2021

Battle Axe, San Luis Obispo

LEAD Battle Axe
Shelley Stuckey is one of the owners of Battle Axe, a target axe throwing business that opened on Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo. David Middlecamp [email protected]

Wake up your inner lumberjack at Battle Axe, a new indoor axe throwing company that opened in downtown San Luis Obispo in June.

The Stuckey family, who owns Battle Axe, said they planned on opening the entertainment spot before the pandemic, but COVID-19 stalled their plans, according to a previous Tribune article.

Battle Axe is one of three locations in the county that offers axe throwing and is located at 691 Higuera St.

Flippo’s Batting Cages and Cafe, Morro Bay

Flippo’s Batting Cages and Cafe, located at 220 Atascadero Road, features six batting cages for baseball and fast-pitch softball practice, with slow-pitch softball expected to come later.

Once a rollerskating rink, Flippo’s reopened with a new business concept in June.

The cafe offers SLO Roasted Coffee as well as Doc Burnstein’s ice cream, hot dogs, personal pizzas, candy and chips with more food options to come, like doughnuts and beer.

The Great Escape, Atascadero

Puzzle lovers and gamers can rejoice because there is a “spicy” new entertainment option for North County residents at The Great Escape in Atascadero.

Bill Murrieta opened The Great Escape in September to give friends, families and businesses some more options for local fun, he told the Tribune in December.

Located at 8115 El Camino Real, The Great Escape offers two escape rooms with rotating puzzles and a virtual reality game, as well as beer, wine and small bites.

Beauty, health and wellness businesses that opened in 2021

Central Coast Hair Co., San Luis Obispo

Sammi-Jo Smith is the owner of Central Coast Hair Co., which opened in SLO Public Market during the fall. Courtesy photo

A high-end hair salon that specializes in “all things color” and serves complimentary Champagne to clients opened at San Luis Obispo Public Market at Bonetti Ranch on Dec. 22, said Sammi-Jo Smith, the salon owner.

The salon offers blonding, balayage, a full-service brow bar and more, and can host birthday, bridal and bachelorette parties.

Grace and Raven Company, Cambria

A quirky blend of a beauty salon, boutique and photo studio, Grace and Raven Company was started by two local sisters in September and is a blend of their various talents and careers.

The Cambria store is located at 784 Main St., Suite E., where Montello Olive Oil used to be. It opened in September.

In it, co-owner Rachel Meredith’s serves her cosmetology clients while her sister, Jessica Avila, can showcase her photography. They both also curate and sell products ranging from clothing and beauty accessories, to candles and mugs out of the Cambria spot.

Nexus: Ballroom Dance Community, San Luis Obispo

Alicia Aragon opened the Nexus: Ballroom Dance Community in mid-2021 to share her love of dance and 15 years of experience with the community.

The dance school offers private and group lessons, social events and dance fitness classes at the 3,000-square-foot space located at the San Luis Obispo Public Market at Bonetti Ranch complex.

Orangetheory Fitness, San Luis Obispo

Orangetheory Fitness opened in the new SLO Public Market in San Luis Obispo in 2021. Courtesy photo

The owners of the Orangetheory Fitness location in San Luis Obispo said they tried for four years to find the right location, before finding a space in the San Luis Obispo Public Market at Bonetti Ranch.

The gym opened in June.

Orangetheory Fitness uses a workout model that combines science, coaching and technology to create unique workouts that never repeat, according the owners, Lesley Robertson and Audra Weinstein, told the Tribune.

Fitness classes can be booked in advance online and the first class is free.

Retail shops that opened in 2021

Anthropologie, San Luis Obispo

The women’s apparel and lifestyle good store, Anthropologie, opened in downtown San Luis Obispo in September. Nick Wilson [email protected]

Anthropologie, a national chain that sells women’s clothing, accessories and home goods, opened a location at 887 Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo in September.

The retailer took over a 5,000-square-foot space that was previously occupied by Express.

Blue Harvest Apparel, San Luis Obispo

Blue Harvest041
McKenzie Murray opened Blue Harvest Apparel in downtown San Luis Obispo at the corner of Higuera and Chorro streets. Laura Dickinson [email protected]

In November, Templeton High graduate McKenzie Murray (then McKenzie Hoffman) opened Blue Harvest Apparel at the corner of Chorro and Higuera Streets in downtown San Luis Obispo.

The store at 799 Higuera St. sells casual clothing, apothecary products and home accessories and is Murray’s second location.

She opened the first Blue Harvest Apparel in 2014 in Fort Collins, Colo., but opened her new location after relocating back to the Central Coast.

Five Below, Paso Robles

Five Below STORE_Exterior-1.jpg
A Five Below store opened in a Paso Robles location that was previously occupied by a Pier 1. Five Below

The discount chain opened a Paso Robles location at 2169 Theater Drive in April, replacing Pier 1 Imports which closed in 2020.

Five Below sells clothing, accessories and and other “high-quality products loved by tweens, teens and more,” according to the chain’s website. Most items range between $1 and $5.

The Paso Robles opening is part of the retailer’s California expansion, the retailer told the Tribune.

Harbor Freight Tools, Paso Robles

The hardware store chain opened in the Wal-Mart shopping center at 160 Niblick Road in May. The Paso Robles storefront had been recently renovated, and was previously occupied by a Staples.

Harbor Freight has one other location in the county, located in San Luis Obispo. The chain also has Central Coast stores in Santa Maria and Lompoc.

Irish Oaks Ranch Mercantile, Atascadero

Irish Oaks Ranch Mercantile in Atascadero is owned by the Garrett family: Melissa, left, Garrett, 15-year-old Aiden, 13-year-old Emma and 10-year-old Owen. David Middlecamp [email protected]

Business owners Matthew and Melissa Garrett opened a brick-and-mortar store at 7425 El Camino Real in April to sell local handmade soaps, lotions, olive oil, meat and more — including items made by their children with ingredients produced on the family’s farm.

The business started five years ago when when 15-year-old Aidan and 13-year-old Emma started making their own goat’s milk soaps and lotions as part of a fundraiser to pay for feed and other supplies for their 4-H projects, according to reporting by the Tribune.

Today, the children make about 1,500 bars of soap a week in between school and other activities.

Mercantile By Haley & Co., Paso Robles

Bill and Lisa Haley opened the food and home goods retailer at the Paso Market Walk on Spring Street in March.

The gift boutique sells items ranging from fresh bread and olive oil to coffee mugs, leather aprons and more.

This is the second local business for the Haley family. The women’s clothing store, Haley & Co., is located on Park Street in Paso Robles.

Monarch Gallery, Cambria

09-21-21 MONARCH GALLERY.jpg
Daughter and mother, Natalie and Leslie Marks, created a new joint venture: the Monarch Gallery in Cambria. The latter (who is holding their pet, Tiny) is perhaps best known in the area for the children’s shop she launched and owned for years, Froggies. Courtesy photo

The new North Coast gallery, located at 755 Main St., Unit B, has deep roots to the community.

The mother-daughter team behind the gallery is Natalie Marks and Leslie Marks, who opened the children’s store Froggie’s in 2009.

Monarch Gallery sells hats, scarves, quilts, jewelry, ceramics, wall art, handmade cards and local stones, with Natalie managing the business and artist relationships while Leslie mentors her daughter and contributes her own art.

Parker Clay, San Luis Obispo

The 1,000-square-foot store held its grand opening at the San Luis Obispo Public Market at Bonetti Ranch in November.

Parker Clay, which is based in Santa Barbara, sells leather bags, totes, wallets, backpacks and more.

More than 100 Ethiopian employees — many of them formerly at-risk women — produce items that are imported to California for sale using sustainable and fair trade practices, according to the company’s website.

Stellar + Sun Co., Atascadero

Stellar + Sun Hat Co. owner Sabreena Urness said her hatmaking hobby “snowballed” into a business. Urness creates custom hats made out of American rabbit and beaver felt. Stephanie Zappelli [email protected]

A Cayucos company that sells handcrafted hats opened its first brick-and-mortar location in a converted shipping container at 6090 El Camino Real in Atascadero in July.

The bespoke hats, made from American rabbit and beaver felt, are handmade by Sabreena Urness and are built to last a lifetime, she said in a previous Tribune article.

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