Every now and then, we’ll do a review of what’s been going down on Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach, what’s new with the businesses, who has opened, who has closed, the current rumors and attitudes. On this subject, however, we have been lax of late, so this will hopefully catch us up.
There are changes from one end of Newport to the other. Natch, I mean just the three blocks of merchants at the lower end of the central business street. This depressed economy is still playing a big role on our main drag.
Let’s begin with the west end – nearest the beach.
South Beach Bar & Grill has made big changes: it installed a ramp and windbreak at the front door with space for a couple outside tables. But the big news is the upstairs – an internal stairs leads up to a nicely-done couple of spacious rooms for patrons, with a complete bar – taking over the northwest corner of the huge two story building – which means wonderful views of the surf and pier.
Manager Christina told me this all happened about 4 months ago, and the changes have been “awesome!” Business has increased. she said, and it’s all to accommodate the customers. Upstairs bartender Cheryl Goulart – who’s worked there for 10 years – told me the customers really enjoy the new space and views.
Down the block eastward stands the two story pink stucco building that had been purchased about a year ago by the owner of Newport Pizza – directly across the street-. But nothing has happened over these many months. I crossed over and talked to Megan Schuster, a manager of the pizza and beer place. She told me the owner already has an architect and plans, but because business has been slow, he’s waiting. They do have permits for alcohol and for a roof-top patio. Hopefully, she said, the place will open within a year.
So, at one place, it’s booming enough to create an upstairs, but at another, it’s so slow they can’t open a new venue with an upstairs.
Yet, one place just a block south from Newport has lasted for 50 plus years. Of course, I’m talking about Nati’s at Bacon and Niagara which was the original Mexican restaurant in OB. 2010 was it’s 50th year and the banner is still up. Louisa Allen has worked there for all those years and many people know her and look forward to seeing her as their waitress. Heck, my family has been going there since the early Sixties and I remember her when I was a kid. Dennis Keer, the owner of the restaurant for some thirty years, knows he is lucky to have her.
Returning to Newport, I ran into Gary Gilmore, the Avenue’s most famous goldsmith. He had just come from a meeting of one of the sub-committees of the OB Mainstreet Association. I had to ask, “What’s new, Gary?”
Well, he said, a couple of things. First, the OBMA is thinking about promoting our village as the site for small conventions, groups of 30 to 80 people. This could make sense, with our great restaurants, the few hotels, the views, and of course the off-beat denizens. The idea is just being tossed around, Gary said. “Where could you hold these small conventions?” I asked. There’s the Masonic Center, he replied, the churches – they’re looking for money – there’s also several empty buildings around town. So, if you have suggestions, inquiries, or questions, call Gary at 619-347-9863 and leave a message.
Secondly, Gary told me, the OBMA is trying to find more parking around Newport and the village in general. For example, the red-painted curbs at 4-way stops don’t have to be as long as the red curbs at 2-way stops. Yet right now, they are. Plus, they’re thinking about making diagonal parking on other blocks of Santa Monica Avenue. More parking would definitely be a plus for the community, although it could be tough going now driving down the 4900 block of Santa Monica due to the diagonal parking. But the village certainly needs more FREE parking.
Back on Newport, inside the Ocean Beach Surf and Skate shop, a new sandwich storefront is about to open. It’s in the large store’s corner with a window to Newport. One of the clerks told me they expect it to open in about a week.
Up the block, things have been changing at Indulgence, the hair and beauty salon owned by Franz and Marie Thome, who’ve been at their place for 20 years. Just recently, they worked out a new arrangement with their agreeable landlord, John Small, who allowed them to cut down the space they rent almost in half – which they did. Franz put up a wall, worked out a new lease, and is still in the process of re-shelving and unpacking. Franz said the economy is really still hurting businesses on Newport in general, and things have not gotten better. “Overall,” he said, “the rent prices on Newport are ridiculous, although not mine.” He told me that over these two decades, he and Marie have never had to lay off an employee, and that some years they stay in business just for the workers. They currently have 3 full-time people, plus Marie.
Meanwhile, next door, the windows and door are covered, and a for rent sign dangles from the rooftop. Franz has no idea of what if anything is going in there. “I’ll be the last to know,” he said while chuckling.
Across the street, there is another boarded up store front. The old Rags place next to the arcade has had a sign up that says a new sushi restaurant is “coming soon.” Well, that sign has been up for months. What are they waiting for? Could it be a liquor license?
In the middle of that 4900 block is The Electric Chair, owned by Paul and Lynn Bolton. Paul is expanding his dream of putting together a studio for electric music for kids. It will take up the rest of that arcade and will be called Electric Lady Land – (Jimmy Hendrix – are you listening?)
In the meantime, Paul and Lynn have opened up the arcade walk-way on Wednesdays during the Farmers’ Market as a venue for local artists. They started this in early December. When I came through, local artist Conway Lundquist was just setting up his wares. He’s a gourd and wood-carving artist. And he and a half dozen other artists will be there every Wednesday, amidst the silk hangings and oriental rugs.
I also heard that the VFW Post that lost their lease has moved to the old Rancho’s store/ restaurant that used to be on Point Loma Avenue in south OB. I’ll have to check that out.
Another restaurant that is having trouble is the Village Kabob on the corner of Newport and Cable. The site of the Little Chef for decades, the Kabob unfortunately has not appeared to be swamped with patrons over the last couple of years that it has been opened.
A nearby business owner told me that the place has changed hands and that a liquor license notification had been up on the glass window under the name of “The Joint“, and that a microbrewery was going in there. The notification was not there when I went by, so this cannot be confirmed.
Across Cable from the Village Kabob is a somewhat new storefront – the Male Enhancement shop run by Dr. Joel Kaplan, at 1917 Cable. They advertise that they are into men’s health, supplements and products.
They moved in there last April, although Dr. Kaplan has had this type of mail-order business locally for nearly two decades.
Down the other side of Cable, past the OB Tire store, are two new businesses. Ocean Beach Motorcycle has opened where the old skateboard shop was. Their doors were opened last August, manager Kristina Clark, told me, and they do sales and repairs. They are new to OB but business was good she said.
Across the alley from the motorcycle shop is Maxoto Auto Services. There manager Will Lam explained that they have three full time people working, and the new place is owned by Tuan Nguyen.
On their property but closer to Cable Street is a really cool VW bus, painted with all kinds of hippie logos. Owned by Nguyen, this bus has to rival Hodad’s Mike Hardin’s mini-VW bus that he keeps in his parking lot. You gotta check it out.
Finally, at the east end of the business section of Newport, where the old Paladin stood, is the new shop, The Garage, a store front that sells leather, motorcycle apparel – plus still rents DVD’s – a holdover from the former rental place, Shane the new owner told me, although he’s not certain how much longer he will rent movies.
Well, that does it, boys and girls, this is your Newport Ave update. …
And remember … shop local and shop often. If you can, in this economy.