On Small Business Saturday, as shoppers perused the small shops and boutiques in downtown Hollister, one in particular, San Benito Bene, was the one-stop shop for everything San Benito County. Since 2011 owner Kathina Szeto has worked to showcase the best that local artists and growers have to offer, and as it turns out, there’s plenty to go around.
The name “Bene” is rooted in Latin, meaning good or blessed. Szeto is very proud to call San Benito County home, and she acts on her pride by offering a wide variety of local products. From locally produced olive oils to chocolates, pottery, jewelry, soaps, spices and books, it can be found at Szeto’s store at 615-B San Benito St. It’s a lot to pack into 700 square feet.
“I think we’re fortunate to be able to be from a place that takes care of the land. We have an incredible agrarian culture; it’s wonderful,” Szeto said
Bene offers books by several local authors, including Exit Strategy by Julie Finigan Morris, Images of America: Hollister, by Joseph M. McMahon and Peter Sonne, and Jaime the Elf by Jaime Sheridan.
The chocolate is from Marich Confectionery in Hollister; the olive oils come from Big Paw Olive Oil Company, Brigantino Olive Oil and Guerra Cellars, all Hollister companies, and Oils of Paicines on Airline Highway.
Like other businesses, small to gigantic, the holiday season can be make or break time for sales. Szeto is well aware of the importance of the Christmas season, and Bene is stocked with holiday offerings.
“The holidays are very, very important to us, about 30 percent of our business is made during holidays,” Szeto said. “We’re very lucky that people want to come in and shop local.”
To prevent their inventory from becoming stale, Bene works to rotate its offerings on hopes of attracting return customers.
“When people come in they look, they shop, and hopefully they come back and see something new and different,” Szeto said.
San Benito Bene has earned numerous awards since it opened, including Hollister Free Lance People’s Choice awards for “Best Gifts” in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, “Best Jewelry” in 2014 and 2018, a Community Spirit Award from Gavilan College in 2013, and a Retail Business of the Year Award from the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce in 2013.
The team is small at Bene, with two part-time employees, one part-time window paint artist (Venecia Prudencio), and one part-time chalkboard artist (Alikah Yniguez).
San Benito Bene was one of more than a dozen Hollister businesses to participate in Small Business Saturday, with each donating items for five gift baskets that were raffled off.
For the holidays Bene will expand its hours to 9am-7pm Monday through Friday, 10am-5pm on Saturdays and 10am-3pm on Sundays.