Blondstone vs OB Farmers Market, Part Three – Just Grow Up!

by on February 24, 2009 · 25 comments

in Economy, Media, Ocean Beach

Editor’s Note: Since the publication of our last article on the conflict between the owners of Blondstone and the OB Farmers Market (and the related articles about the closure of Rock Paper & Scissors) there has been a groundswell of interest on the topic. Dozens of people have felt motivated or passionate enough about the subject to add their views by leaving comments. Daily visitors to the blog have reached record setting levels. And while the Rag is very happy about all this community involvement, we are concerned about the tone and nature of some remarks that have been posted. Passionate discourse we feel great about—the name calling and vitriol is, frankly, childish and counter-productive.

To re-cap:

Flyers were passed out at the OB Farmers Market suggesting that the owners of Blondstone were seeking to have the market shut down by way of a letter writing campaign to various governmental agencies that resulted in increased scrutiny.

We met with Blondstone owner Shane Smith who asserted that his objective was never to shut down the Farmers Market. He did feel that the number of crafters at the OB Farmers Market represented unfair competition; his wish was for the market to reduce the percentage of crafters. He seemed distraught over the fact that the agency sponsoring the Farmers Market, the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association (OBMA), was (to his way of thinking) hurting storefront businesses.

This week I met with OBMA Executive Director Denny Knox, who has been associated with the organization since its inception in 1978. We had a wide-ranging discussion about many issues facing Ocean Beach that included the Farmers Market and Shane Smith’s assertion that the street vendors were bad for business.

Additionally, the “Community Crops” (i.e., the people who staff and actually run the market) have posted a response to the various allegations that are flying about that is reprinted below:

As the operators of the OB Farmers’ Market since 2000, we are grateful to be associated with a farmers’ market that has the kind of community support indicated by many of the postings in the OB Rag. As we continue to respond to the “concerns” raised by Blondestone, I just want to respond to, and clarify, a few things.

1. It is true that the market has changed over the years yet our true soul and commitment is still to the certified farmer. Depending upon the season, the market is represented by 25 to 40 farms. Certified farmers comprise 25% (winter) to 40% (spring and summer) of our vendor make-up.

The Blondstone store in La Jolla, on Girard Avenue.

2. We never recommend moving a farmers’ market, particularly one as well-established as OB. Location changes are very hard on farmers, and no market that I’m aware of has moved and regained its original level of success. Although, I appreciate the creativity and suggestion. We would love to expand the market to the next block…if people would support that idea!!

3. We work very hard to try and create balance in the representation of the vendors by providing opportunities for a variety of products to be introduced into the market. The market has grown significantly under our management, which we largely believe to be a positive indication of the success of the market. Our understanding has always been that any local OB business interested in having a booth at the OB market is welcome. This has always been our policy.

4. Based upon Blondestone’s “concerns” the OBMA created an artisan application and review committee and now requires some verification that items are handcrafted and significantly reduced the number of jewelers in the market. We will continue to follow the direction set forth by the OBMA and will try to address ALL concerns submitted to us.

5. I prepare all permit applications and work closely with all permitting authorities to obtain the necessary permits for the OB market. As one of the oldest markets in San Diego we were around before certain regulations were in place, and there were some areas where we were allowed to operate differently than new regulations may have dictated. However, we have always worked cooperatively with local officials and worked diligently to ensure that the market is being run properly and in accordance with local and state regulations.

Given that various representations (both good and bad) have been made about the OB Mainstreet Association (OBMA), let’s define exactly who they are and what they do.

Founded as the Ocean Beach Merchants Association in 1978, OBMA is a non-profit association consisting of 425 businesses and professionals who call OB home. (By the way, according to OBMA, over 75% of the businesses in our community are owned and operated by people who live in OB.) In 1989 the group received national and state recognition as a “Main Street” organization. Founded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the late 1970’s, the Main Street program centers on a holistic approach to renewal in distressed areas, using “4-point” approach of design, promotions, economic restructuring, and organization.

Starting with small town commercial districts, the program has grown over the years to include neighborhoods in larger urban areas like San Diego. These programs have gained international recognition for their contributions towards saving distressed and dying shopping districts around the US. Twenty seven communities in the State of California have ongoing main street programs. Locally, there are programs in North Park, Coronado, Encinitas, Oceanside and El Cajon. In addition to providing guidance for revitalization programs, designation as a Main Street program includes 10 “performance standards” that are designed to insure transparency and accountability.

Right now the OBMA is primarily concerned with finding avenues to assist local businesses that are threatened by the national economic downturn. They are seeking non-traditional avenues for small business capitalization (Banks aren’t making loans, since they’ve suffered huge losses with the collapse of the financial markets—but that’s another story.) and working directly with merchants to provide marketing and technical assistance. A forthcoming association with marketing students at San Diego State promises to provide new and diverse avenues for OBMA to provide leadership in marketing for the benefit of the community.

Much of what the OBMA actually does on a daily basis is focused on their role as management organization for the Newport Ave. Landscape Maintenance District. It’s not very sexy stuff: picking up the trash, taking care of the planters and cleaning up behind a gang of apparently very determined graffiti taggers. The group publishes a monthly newsletter, a bi-annual business directory and maintains a website that lists meeting times for all the dozen-plus volunteer committees focusing on promotions, design issues, crime prevention, etc.

My recent conversations with OBMA staff and other business people about Blondstone’s concerns all pointed towards one inescapable conclusion:

That, while not all businesses benefit directly from the weekly Farmers Market, the sentiments (and particularly the vitriolic tone) that owners Shane and Heidi have expressed include almost no support in the business community.

They (Blondstone) are certainly entitled to their opinions. And it would appear that the OBMA is making attempts to address their concerns. So, for all you pundits who chosen the OBRag’s pages to “flame” and “defame”, we have two words for you:

“Grow Up.”

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kevin in Hillcrest February 24, 2009 at 2:02 pm

It’s obvious that OB doesn’t want blondestone and blondestone doesn’t want OB to be OB. I understand that a whole sale change in the competition structure is of concern to both blondstone and OBMA. When blondstone incorrectly came out swinging, instead of deflating the issues, members of OB fought back, i think both sides should share some blame. i still get the vibe of character assassination on part of the OB community (on the lines of that they are bad people so their concerns are pointless) which makes it hard for me to fully understand and support their stance.


avatar ghandi girl February 24, 2009 at 8:25 pm

Kevin in Hillcrest makes a badly overdue point- the character assassination of the owners of Blondstone IS questionable and makes the OB community and the OBMA- who is without a doubt the producer of the propaganda, suspect. (This propaganda campaign has included… fliers about Blondstone and their supposed “anti-farmers market” message distributed to the public, harassing phone calls from members of the OBMA, signage stuck to her store-front window, people appearing in her store yelling, threatening letters, and middle-of-the-night alarm set-offs, to name a few.)

As someone who has known Heidi for many, many years (15 to be exact), I feel obligated to give you a small glimpse at who Heidi is.

Heidi is from a small town in the mid-west where life is simple and one’s personal ethics matter greatly. She grew up surrounded by open land, animals, and gardens and was taught to respect all life in all ways. Her father, a talented artist himself, taught Heidi his multitude of trades and this is where her hard-working nature and extraordinary talent as a jeweler comes from.

My space here is limited so I must be brief about how divine a person she is. I will say I cannot forget one year when Heidi’s place had a mice issue- she caught them in small, safe traps, scooped them up in her hand, and gently let them go just outside her door. I tried to tell her that they would come back in, but it was of no use. She would hear nothing of it.

The simple fact is this: the owners of Blondstone have ONLY EVER asked for a cap on jewelry vendors (remember they are only VENDORS, not artisans) at the market. The number of people selling foreign, cheap jewelry at the market is excessive. They ARE NOT anti-farmers market. They ARE NOT anti-parade. They ARE NOT anti-craft fair. Also, I think Heidi would like to see the Farmer’s Market remain just that- a place where LOCAL farmers and LOCAL artists can display their product to the public at a market, not a swap meet.

And lastly, as I hinted at yesterday, I beg you to ponder the possibility of corruption in a seemingly unsuspected place- the OBMA itself. STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED. (Now I’d like to see if the moderators of this blog leave this post up…)


avatar doug porter February 24, 2009 at 8:27 pm

you can pull yourself off the cross, ghandi girl.
we have no interest in silencing you. your facts are in error in several areas (ie, the flyer you reference was part of the OB Town Council agenda; they are not the same as OBMA) and there have been incidents on both sides where things have been said that might have been better unsaid. but, by all means, if portraying blondstone as being persecuted makes you happy, by all means continue.


avatar Community Crops February 24, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Often actions speak louder than words…..and particularly when the words spoken are contradictory it makes one wonder. One might say he/she is not “anti-farmers’ market” but if that same person has not reasonably approached those that he/she considers to be creating or aggravating a negative situation, and instead, calls every possible person in the City citing a variety of supposed infractions that the market is breaking and causes countless hours (and taxpayer dollars) to investigate alleged infractions, writes six pages of allegations regarding the farmers’ market, and on a weekly basis creates a scene at the farmers’ market, well, one wonders if in fact that individual may not be just a little bit “anti-farmers’ market” or perhaps just unreasonably has decided that it couldn’t possibly be the sagging economy that might be affecting one’s business.

Those are my opinions and not meant to be reflective of the OBMA opinions. In the past year and a half of dealing with the Blondstone “concerns” we have found the OBMA has been professional and responsive on all fronts. We felt the need to respond to some of the comments simply because we have very much felt the effect of all the negativity that has surrounded the market recently. Having managed the OB Farmers’ Market over the last 9 years we feel strongly connected to it and the community. We are very saddened by what has occurred.

Perhaps its been a while since some folks visited the market. All the jewelery IS hand-crafted, and if one finds it to be cheap, please don’t tell the the vendor. It may hurt his/her feelings.

And finally, the OB Farmers’ Market has consistenly been voted by the SD Reader as the best FARMERS’ MARKET in San Diego and was recognized by Sunset Magazine and several other publications as well. I don’t believe we’ve ever competed in the swap meet category.


avatar Molly February 24, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Doug P, very good summary of the issue that’s been boiling here these last couple of weeks. I appreciate you and the OB Rag for letting us have our say in response.

Now we can get past Blondstone, let them simmer in their own stew. Let’s move on.

I want to talk about another time, another era, when empty stores sat vacate on Newport Avenue.

This was way before Denny Knox was head, and it goes so far back that it was before the name was changed to “Mainstreet Association” when it was the Merchants.

There was a decision by the Merchants to change Newport Ave and make it ‘Antique Row’. So a concerted campaign happened to attract antique businesses, like recruiting businesses from Adams Ave in Normal Heights. So the antique stores moved in. One antique owner owned half a dozen storefronts himself.

What happened in the years to follow was that the landowners decided they could get more rent from the antique stores than they could from the other local businesses, and so started raising the rents on Newport. A lot of businesses had to close.

Newport lost 2 pharmacies, a paint and glass store, a book-card novelty shop (Paras), clothing stores, a camera shop, – in other words, businesses that served the communities of OB and Point Loma.

Who do the antique stores serve?

WE lost a 30-year family owed pet store on the corner of Newport and Cable. We lost our ONLY book store – even tho it was a used book store.

…. thanx OB Rag for letting me rant. talk later


avatar Seana February 25, 2009 at 2:45 am

I just want to reiterate that Blondestone was NOT interested in protecting the local OB merchants when we were trying to keep corporate coffee out. They told me, personally, that they believed the monster would be good for OB…. I accepted their perspective- how could I not respect their position as local business owners? But why are they now asking for protection from what could at worst be a weekly irritation to their business. If they are really threatened by what they describe as cheap goods, maybe they should re-evaluate their own wares. If they had supported the local coffee shops, I’d be a lot more likely to support them…


avatar Mary Soderstrom February 25, 2009 at 6:03 am

As someone who grew up in OB/Pt. Loma (Alicia Drive, Loma Portal, Dana, PLHS) I was pleased to hear that a farmers’ market had been established in OB. Sorry to see that it has caused such controversy. Providing a real walkable shopping district is something devoutly to be wished in cities today, and it’s too bad that Newport is no longer a place where you can buy almost everything (I remember the Strand Theatre for Saturday matinees, ice cream at a place up the street that made its own, several clothing stores, a family restaurant, a grocery etc…)

In the (many) years since I left San Diego, I’ve become a writer, and would like to call upon your readers to help me out in remembering a bit about a grocery store near the corner of Voltaire and Catalina. It was called Raul’s, and belonged to a family named (I think) Fernandes. For my next project (a book tentatively called The Portuguese Adventure: The Large Legacy of a Small Country on the Edge of the ‘Known World’) I’d like to make contact with them to learn more about their story. Any help out there?


Mary Soderstrom

Who was Mary McGowan until she married some guy from Fresno

The Walkable City: From Haussmann’s Boulevards to Jane Jacobs’ Streets
and Beyond (Véhicule Press) has started its journey: look for it at
better book stores.

Mary Soderstrom

5475 Durocher

Montreal QC

Canada H2V 3X9

514 276-9257

For comments and observations on the urban affairs, politics, books and

nature see Recreating Eden: Mary Soderstrom’s Blog


avatar Shawn Conrad February 25, 2009 at 7:16 am

Blondstone could acquire a large percentage of booths at the market and take over the crafters majority like a good capitalistic business should. Learn to compete better.

I buy all my gifts at Blondstone, and I love their jewelry. This is just another California couple crying because business isn’t handed to them 7 days a week. If you can’t compete, close the store.


avatar Frank Gormlie February 25, 2009 at 7:51 am

Seana – thanks for the reminder. What are ya up to these days?

Mary – welcome back to yur old haunts! I remember Rauls Market. A horrible murder occurred not too long ago. Of course, it closed a few years later, and made into two restaurants. Blueberry Hamburger moved in, and now it’s closed too. How were the burgers, anyone? But Mary, check out the restaurant/ club on Newport Ave called Portugalia – they might remember Raul’s as well.

Shawn – sounds like you have yur feet n both camps,eh?


avatar Kila February 25, 2009 at 8:04 am

I am ashamed and embarrassed to wear my jewelry from Blondstone….don’t they realize that this is actually hurting their business??? Plenty of people have come to OB for the farmer’s market and left with merchandise from Blondstone…some of which I know personally. They are definitely not a store I would recommend any longer.


avatar Gary Gilmore February 25, 2009 at 8:55 am

ghandi girl: I feel the need to respond to the portion of your comment where you write that those who sell jewelry at the Farmers Market are vendors – not artisans. Please be aware that the artisan committee is making a concerted effort to accept only jewelers who produce their own product. If you see mass produced jewelry at the farmers market it is most likely to be that of a local merchant who has rented a booth. Members of the OBMA can rent a booth and display their merchandise without review (within reason). You go on to beg the reader to ponder the possibility of corruption in the OBMA but you offer no specifies. As a member of the OBMA and chair of the Artisan Committee I take offense at your insinuation and ask you to be specific or to retract you words. Lastly, you write that Heidi is a talented jeweler. I agree and hope to one day see her participation in the farmers market. I believe her designs & propensity for tasteful display would be an asset to the perception that OB is a place where quality artisans can be found.


avatar Gary Gilmore February 25, 2009 at 9:11 am

Molly: In your comment you ask the question “Who do the antique stores serve?” Please be aware that many of the antique stores are comprised of booths that are rented by individuals who have a passion for buying, selling and collecting antiques. Many of them are from the neighborhood and use the antique shops as a way to indulge their hobby and make a little money also. You lament and itemize the loss of businesses that served the community of Ocean Beach and Point Loma but you didn’t mention the more recent additions to the business community. We now have a Bakery (Acucar) that is extraordinary and is rapidly becoming known throughout the entire city. There is a pet store (Bone Appetite) whose owner works with the Humane Society to find homes for cats. A new clothing store opened recently (The Closet) as well as a yogurt shop and a new costume jewelry shop (Blue Whale). There are many more but, the point I’m trying to make is that shopping areas change. They evolve with the neighborhood. When one fades away eventually another steps in and, if all goes in their favor, the new ones become familiar icons. I admire your passion for this community and hope to one day have you in my shop. It would be nice to meet you in person.


avatar Molly February 25, 2009 at 11:17 am

Gary: thanks for reminding me of all the new additions, and you’re right, shopping areas do change and evolve. And I realized that many of the antique stores are actually malls with many different booths. In fact, increasingly, they are the only ones who can survive, as they are the only ones that can pay the increasingly exorbitant rents on Newport Ave.

Gary, could you address one of my main points: how merchant groups make decisions and sometimes they’re not good decisions. Like the decision, very express decision, to change Newport into an antique row. What if the current merchants’ association decides to change Newport into something else that doesn’t sit well with the rest of the community, “the shoppers” to use your root word? Is it simply that ‘the market’ will decide who stays and who goes? Are there any social aspects to these type of decisions?

Long live the Farmers’ Market. Long live independent craftspeople and artisans.


avatar Laci Laplant February 25, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Ghandi Girl, I was touched by your biography of Heidi Holman/Smith and your tender recollection of her treatment of mice. Unfortunately, I have known Heidi nearly as long as you have, and have witnessed her failure to show the same compassion for human beings. I have seen her berate her employees in front of customers. I know many of the “apprentices” to whom Heidi paid low wages to mass-produce Blondstone’s simpler “signature” pendants. I remember the partner who helped Heidi open the store, who was promptly bought/pushed out as soon as it was financially viable for Heidi to do so. Heidi’s harassment of other artisans/merchants attempting to ply their trades at the farmer’s market and crafts fairs has been well documented here. I think many of the people Heidi’s hurt or made miserable over the years wish she’d treated them as well as rodents.


avatar dennis29 February 25, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Blondstone owners aren’t these great people as portrayed by one or two bloggers. Driven by greed they single handedly harrassed, complained, and griped to anyone and everyone who would listen and even those who did not want to listen but had to because they worked for the city, county or various other organizations. They did this for one reason and one reason only. “To stifle competition, and increase their bottom line.” That’s it, they didn’t care about the community and they didn’t care about OB residents. They want only farmers selling produce and nothing that even remotely resembles anything that they have for sale. Let’s not get wishy washy about a couple of self-centered, manipulative store owners. They need to come clean and apologize, “BOTH” of them. If they aren’t big enough to do that, then I’ll go out of my way to remind anybody I know of their way of doing business, and recommend alternative locations in OB to buy their type of merchandise. Let this be a warning to other business types who don’t have a clue about community relations.


avatar Gary Gilmore February 25, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Molly: Knowing how the board works I can say the there is no current mechanism in place that would intentionally change the entire feel of the street. When vacancies occur the OBMA is aware and keeps an eye out and an ear to the ground to find a suitable tenant but, it is not the OBMA’s job to fill vacancies. It is the responsibility the owner of the building or his/her agent to fill the vacancies. If the OBMA is contacted by an interested party we will give them contact information. That being said it still leaves the question: How did the antique district (primarily the 4800 block of Newport) become what it is? My answer…. I don’t know….. but, it’s a good question and I’m curious myself. Let me ask some of my neighbors and friends in the antique business and I’ll answer your question soon. Until then…


avatar Denny Knox, Executive Director of OBMA February 25, 2009 at 2:08 pm

This is for Molly. The merchants have never, ever made a “decision” to make an antique row. Back in the beginning, we had a couple of small antique and collectible stores. Eventually a few more came in when some of the Antique Stores left the Adams Ave. area because Ocean Beach was doing better financially than many other areas. The commercial properties on Newport Ave are all owned by different individuals and/or trusts. Each property has their own way of finding tenants. The OBMA (and I have been involved since the very first meeting at Little Chef back in 1978) has never dictated what will go into the empty storefronts. We don’t own them or control them in any way and never have. We were saddened when many businesses closed back in the 70’s and 80’s. Most of them closed because those businesses either couldn’t compete with the larger retail chains that were starting to thrive in Southern California strip malls and shopping centers or the owners were burned out and moved on. We had alot of square footage that was empty back then and most of us were happy that the antique stores took over much of that space because no one else wanted those large spaces. The Antiques Stores have been active members of the Association and have really done their part to help us improve Newport Avenue (holiday decorations,clean ups, new trash can lids,etc). Years ago I did a little research about why some of the stores closed. If I can find the paper I wrote, I will send it over to the OBRag and they can decide if it is of interest to anyone. Thanks for the opportunity to put my 2 cents worth into the discussion.


avatar Debbie February 25, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Merchants….it all goes back to how you treat people. Of course, have the right goods to sell sure does help alot along with some business savy! At first I was sad to see the pet store on Newport leave. Afterall, it had been there forever, and the prices were cheap and the bars on the windows were so attractive. But now that I reflect I can recall the owner owner was kind of miserable. After being in OB all those years he wasn’t interested in finding a new location to carry on. He wasn’t interested turning the business over to anyone else either so the community could be served. I know that because I asked him. So you see, you can be local or loco or whatever but if you don’t treat people right it doesn’t mean much and greed will also do you in.


avatar ... February 25, 2009 at 9:11 pm

blondestone sucks poo.
I mean, I understand their concern, but I think they will get along just fine on their own. Also, I know my own opinion of Blondestone has diminished during this little quarrel… before, I might have considered buying there, but now there’s no way. Have they considered that maybe the negative publicity here might hurt their sales more than the Farmer’s Market itself?


avatar Gary Gilmore February 25, 2009 at 10:30 pm

OK Everybody. Enough already. Let’s drop the Blondstone issue once and for all. We’ve flogged this issue to death. Let’s move on. Frank has given us a terrific forum which we can use to communicate issues local and global and we would be wise to use it. Every morning I now A) Check my email (a guy from Nigeria wants to give me 25 million dollars). B) Check my bank account (Oh crap! I gotta make a deposit!) and C) Go to the OBRag and see what’s going on. Lets’ use this forum to expand our awareness of Ocean Beach, knock around some viable ideas for a better neighborhood and a better world. Did anyone see the small headline announcing that we’re going to be sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan? Does anyone else think we might be going from the frying pan to the fire? Who makes these decisions the president or the military? How about the sea wall between the pier and the corner of Abbott & Newport… right now it’s a long grey slab of concrete. I’d like to see a long, low horizontal sculpture built around that wall. Does Abbott really have two b’s and two t’s or have I been misspelling it for the last 37 years? Hey! Frank Gormlie…’re doing a good thing. Thank you.


avatar j.stone February 26, 2009 at 9:05 am

Azucar, now there’s a business that treats its customers great, has new offerings frequently, fair pricing, and is into becoming a real part of the community. I have nothing at all to do with them, but with all the conversation here about local businesses I thought I’d give ’em a plug, and man I do love the choc cupcakes they make;))


avatar jon February 26, 2009 at 8:47 am

I couldn’t agree with you more Gary. It’s like everyone completely glazed over the point of Doug’s most recent posting and went straight back to the character assassinations and vitriol. One of the things I have enjoyed about the rag is the quality of comments left by others. Let’s keep it positive and driven by new ideas and community activities. I don’t care about the petty personal disagreements.

That being said, Gary mentioned Azucar the other day! Yum! I got my girlfriend a cake from there for her birthday last night. Sooooo good! Very nice couple too. Stop in and support them.


avatar Dog Beach Dude February 26, 2009 at 9:01 am

“Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding” ~ Mohandas Gandhi


avatar Gary Gilmore February 26, 2009 at 9:50 am

RE: Azucar……The soup… Oh my goodness…The soup. Jon, thanks for planting an idea in my head. Wife’s birthday is Saturday. I hadn’t an idea what to give her until you mentioned Azucar. Phew! I’m off the hook!


avatar Janet March 14, 2009 at 11:21 am

It makes me sad to see people so angry in this little corner of paradise that we get to live in. But, Gary Gilmore? You are awesome.


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