The lifelong San Diegan and longtime OB resident had been keeping tabs on potential storefront openings in the neighborhood for a while. When the location next to the ABC Liquor store at Voltaire and Ebers opened up over the summer, she jumped on it.
It seemed like a dream location.
”My mother almost bought that building 30 years ago,” Hostetter said. “She tried to get financing but it fell through. My grandmother owned a shop further down on Voltaire.”
Hostetter called her new store Urban Upcycle, which specialized in used furniture that she would refurbish.
“It was a great spot. People kept coming by and saying it’s so clean it s so pretty it’s so nice,” she said. “But they didn’t buy anything. A lot of people don’t have spare money to spend.”
Six months later, the storefront is empty again after she was unable to pay the rent and keep the place going. “It was all we could afford without turning a profit.”
Hostetter is not alone. That storefront has been what she called a “black hole.”
Tony Kiryakoza, whose family owns the ABC Liquor and the adjacent 310-square-foot location where Hostetter’s store was located since 1993, says there have been numerous businesses that have come and gone over the past few years, including short-lived iterations as a shoe repair store, an auto repair place and a couple different thrift shops.
In just the past two years, the storefront has had at least three businesses come and go.
The Voltaire Trading Company held the spot for a while before moving to a different location down the street. The place is now closed and the owners reportedly moved to Washington.
Then came some sort of Rastafarian spot, which Hostetter kept tabs on because she really wanted the spot.
“He never got off the ground. He was never open and there was no inventory,” she said. “I kept leaving notes because he left for parts unknown.”Added Kiryakoza: “I don’t know what the hell he did there.”
So after the guy’s lease ran out in June, she finally got her chance and opened the shop, complete with a peace flag in the window she got from a protest rally of the Iraq war a few years back.
“We lost money every month. But I loved it. People would bring me things to sell, to refurbish. They would just give them to me. People were bringing me stuff all the time.”
But after six months of losing money, she just couldn’t do it anymore.
Her story is all too common for places on Voltaire that just can’t sustain the business without the foot traffic of areas like Newport Avenue. Hostetter would like to see the Ocean Beach Merchants Association give more attention to businesses on the street.
“Frankly, Newport can take care of itself right now. Everybody knows Newport. It doesn’t need more promotion. But Voltaire really could use some help.”
Kiryakoza had another theory. “No parking,” he said, walking out of the doorway of ABC Liquor and gesturing down the street. “Look, it’s really hard to park.” While there are some spots, it’s certainly not the most conducive parking for businesses in the area. He said the police enforce what little parking there is with regular sweeps of the area. He said the same woman from the city comes by all the time. “And she tickets too.”
He also thinks the right places haven’t been opening up in the location. He says he would put in a sunglasses store or a place to buy t-shirts and sandals.
“There’s foot traffic, but it’s a younger crowd. They’re not buying furniture.”
Meanwhile, her OB dream deferred, Hostetter has resigned herself to selling her furniture online and out of her home. She hopes to find a spot in South Park sometime soon to give it another go.
She said she really likes the way that neighborhood helps support local businesses. And the people are more apt to buy local.
“If you want nice things, nice shops like that, you have to actually support it. It can’t stay by itself as a charity or whatever.”
Would she give it another go in OB?
“I don’t know if people would support it again. It has to be supported financially and there’s no sign it’s going to change.”