Every now and then, I take pen and pad and camera in hand and travel the business streets of OB, looking for news and changes, openings and closings of new commercial offerings to the village. Last Friday, the 29th of March was one of those times, so follow me along as I traipse across the community.
Let’s begin with what’s new on Voltaire Street – the lesser known of our two main business avenues. (For larger images, click on the photos.)
What better place to get to know what’s new on Voltaire is to venture into the Voltaire Trading Company at 4852 Voltaire. Owned and run by Lola Lint and her man, Matt, the collectibles and nostalgic thrift store is having a Grand Opening. They first opened their place up Voltaire next to ABC Liquor in early May 2011. Lola and Matt then moved into their present location in August of 2012.
Lola told me why they moved from the original site:
Business was good. We rocked. But Matt, who does furniture and surfboards, needed a bigger space. That other place didn’t have a bathroom, and was only 350 square feet. But when this place became available – we took it. We ran both businesses for 3 months.”
Matt – who rebuilds furniture that Lola then sells in the store – told me their “mission statement” is “Reduce, Re-use and Renew”. I got a quick tour of the place, while their 9 year old son, Micah, played outside in the front. Store hours are 11 to 7 Wednesdays through Saturday, and Sundays 12 to 5, and closed on Mondays.
Almost exactly a block away and closer to the beach on Voltaire is a brand new coffeehouse and cafe: TeMana Cafe, at 4956 Voltaire. Owned by Marguerite and Jason Cruz, they just opened in mid-February and have their whole family working there. Daughter Venezia was working the cash register when I walked in. I noticed the place was fairly busy, plus was very dog-friendly, with water bowls and leash hooks.
They serve all kinds of bagels, acai bowls, pulled pork sandwiches, hummus – Jason told me they’re still developing the menu and plan to have more kinds of sandwiches and plates. They will be hiring more people and are planning a grand opening before the end of this month, April.
Jason is an OB local, having graduated from Point Loma High in 1985, and his dad still lives on Narragansett. Jason still holds down his other job, a part-time one with Costco.
Marguerite is from PB, and she has worked in the hospitality industry, and ran the cafeteria at the Veterans’ Hospital. She told me the name of the cafe derives from the Polynesian concept of “the driving force of your soul”.
The amazing thing is that the family lived in this place, this great house for 4 to 5 years, before they totally refurbished it into the cafe it is today, with new landscaping, new interior and tables outside. The house itself is an historical one, built in 1924. Jason pointed out that they kept the pine tree in the side yard when they redid the place.
They’re open Monday through Thursdays 7 to 3, and Friday, Sat, and Sundays 7am to 6pm.
We’re still on Voltaire and see next to the famous restaurant O’Bistro’s, a somewhat newish Italian deli, Hungry Lu’s. The deli which also has many desserts is at 4920 Voltaire.
I met Charlie, who is the manager, years ago as he is the younger brother of a set of sisters who run and own “Grab and Go”s all over town. When I worked downtown, I went into the next door Grab and Go probably three times a day for coffee and sandwiches.
Hungry Lu’s first opened on Voltaire a few years ago as a Grab and Go; they have a large kitchen where they make the rolls for all the delis the family runs. It closed as a deli for awhile but has reopened with new products, new name, and some noticeably great desserts.
Charlies wasn’t there when I dropped by but Maria was and she told me that they’re open 11 to 9pm on Mondays thru Saturdays, and on Sundays 11 to 6.
Way up Voltaire and right next to People’s was an empty storefront (the old home of the smoke shop called 420). But driving by I noticed it had been taken over by a cell phone company.
Once over on OB’s main business street, Newport Avenue, I immediately noticed some changes, and set out to investigate. There seemed to be a bunch of news worthy items on that “first” block – the first commercial block of Newport. I checked on some reliable sources, including the woman with a ‘fishing’ cup looking for coins.
There’s brown paper in the windows of the old OB Hardware store. I was told by more than one source that it is to be a sports bar and hooka lounge. Somebody else said it was to be another craft beer establishment. I asked the friendly folks at the current OB Hardware and they were fairly certain it was to be a sports bar with hooka.
Also noticeable was the closed former check cashing store at 4884 Newport. “For Lease” signs were still in the window, so we can speculate that no new business is about to move in.
Cohn Family Restaurant Group and Portugalia
What I didn’t see were any changes to the front or rear of the old Portugalia restaurant. No new signs or paint, or anything to indicate something was going on inside the two-story building. I did ask around – including at the small restaurant, the vintage antique store, and even the bank next door, but no one knew anything. There had been more than rumors that the Cohn Family Group had acquired it and were planning a new restaurant upstairs. Rumors had it being a beer and burger joint but also a high-end food place.
Not much activity can be seen from the alley either, even though I tried to get a closer look. (That one photo is shot through the hole in the curtain covering the chain-link fence in the back.)
Finally I called the Cohn group PR person, Kelly Brown, who stated that there wasn’t much to report on the new place. She did confirm that they had “acquired” the building – but didn’t know whether they had leased or bought it -. She couldn’t tell me whether the acquisition also included the down stairs and that small space on the ground floor.
Kelly was very emphatic in saying that there was no concept developed yet. “We don’t know the name or type of food it will have,” she said. She did say that they plan to open something by the end of the year.
Finally, Kelly managed to tell me that “there’s 4 other concepts in Southern California” taking priority.
OB Dollar Store
Down the block and around on Cable, I found a relatively new storefront – the OB Dollar Store at 1919 Cable Street. The long, thin store holds a variety of beach items, house cleaning stuff, drinks and snacks. Everything is one buck or less, I was assured by the owner Zach Meyer – whom I met; his fiancee Stephanie also is an owner. They plan to be married in July.
Ocean Beach Brewery or Whatever
Noticing that way down Newport Avenue closer to the beach, the two-story ugly pink building had its front covered, I knew something was up. I also knew that the building was owned by the owner of Newport Pizza (whose name I cannot recall) and he had been planning on developing a new Italian restaurant there for awhile now.
So I crossed the street and went into Newport Pizza and found Megan, who was shoveling pizzas in and out of the huge ovens inside. I knew her as a reliable source and peppered her with questions.
Megan told me that they do plan to open in July, but still were deciding on the exact name and food for the new restaurant. There will be three levels, she told me, on the down stairs floor will be a beer tasting room; the next two floors will be levels for dining – including a roof-top site where patrons can watch sunsets. The prices, she said, will be between $10 and $15, “not too high-end” she added.
A couple blocks away and over on Santa Monica Avenue, I found that the small, short-lived children’s and baby-clothes place has apparently closed in that two-story building on the 4800 block of Santa Monica Ave, across from the library. There’s been a number of businesses that have come and gone in that place over not too long of a period of time. So, new businesses have opened around the village, and some have closed. This was one.
Local Development Progress
At the corner of Ebers and Santa Monica, 4 single-family homes and garages are going in, and it appears that walls have been built between the lots.