Move over, Newport Avenue. There’s a new hot spot in Ocean Beach.
OK, nothing’s taking over for OB’s main drag in terms of businesses and foot traffic. But if you walk just a block south on Bacon Avenue, you might be surprised at the renaissance of business and shopping.
The long-perceived notion that the only businesses that can survive have to be on Newport is quickly diminishing. That’s evident with the addition of Bar 1502 – the new incarnate of the immensely popular OB Noodle House just eight or so blocks down – at the southeast corner of Bacon and Niagara. It now gives a solid restaurant option at each corner of that intersection, providing ample opportunities for businesses on the block to attract traffic.
“It’s awesome to see,” said Bar 1502 owner Steven Yeng, who passed up offers to open up shop on Newport. For him, the location is a personal dream come true, as it is just steps from his boyhood house.
“Niagara is my street. It’s my home,” he said. “If this property was on Newport, we wouldn’t be able to do this. There’s no drama here. I really like that.”
Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association director Denny Knox has seen first-hand a shift in shopping traffic. The OBMA office sits on Bacons between Newport and Niagara.
“That would be your first choice to be right on Newport, but I think certain types of business do great on side streets,” she said. “They certainly seem busy from what I see. And everybody seems to be having a good time. All those places do well.”
Sarah Larson is a co-owner of Often Wander at Noon, a boutique jewelry and furniture store just south of Bar 1502. She said she loves the insider vibe she gets from the customers at her shop.
“Newport is more touristy,” she said. “The people who walk in here are locals. It feels like the people who come into our place are in the know. They come to this spot because they know this spot.”
Jennifer Doyle, a manager in the store, like the fact that they’re off the beaten path.
“I think we’re in the perfect spot for our customers,” she said.
The draw of cheaper property/rent costs and lesser riff-raff than what you find on the Newport is luring more businesses off the main strip.
“When I was looking for a location, a lot of people were saying that you have to be on Newport,” said Robert Stewart, owner of The Coffee Method.
“There’s more here than just Newport.”
Stewart opened up in a space shared by a flower shop just south of Niagara a little over a year ago and said he couldn’t be happier with the location.
Another newbie to the area moved in just down the block when Keely Belding opened up Teeter, a paper goods, organic and modern design store just west of Nati’s on Niagara. She has quickly built a network of local artists to showcase their wares while starting up arts and crafts classes for neighbors.
“I love Newport, but there’s a lot of cool stuff happening around here,” Belding said. “We want to be a part of the community.”
She says she’s perplexed why her location – which most recently housed an outpost of Robb Fitness Club – hasn’t had more stable clientele.
“I always loved this building, but there was never really anything to draw people here. It’s not very welcoming. We have the greatest pier on the coast, so you would think we could do more.”
Belding credits the addition of Raglan Public House a few years ago as the catalyst for the shifting trend.
“Raglan really brought in a younger crowd around here,” she noted.
Raglan owner Mike Zouroudis sees the shift and hopes it continues.
“Sometimes I take a look around on a Tuesday night and nothing’s really going on, except on this corner,” he said. “I hope that these new places drive the engine of traffic to this part of town instead of Newport.”
The elder statesman on the block – if you will – is Nati’s Mexican Restaurant, which will celebrate its 55th anniversary in OB next year.
Nati’s owner Marilyn Thomas said the big question is whether the new places can sustain the rigors of the non-tourist season.
“More businesses bring more people, which opens up this area,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how it goes after Labor Day.”
Zouroudis is also concerned about how to sustain the uptick in traffic the block has seen.
“The question for me is, is this just shifting demographics or are people coming from outside (OB)?” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, the goal is to get people from North Park, South Park, Kensington to come to OB. Time will tell. Who knows? It’s too early to tell.”