The rocky closure of Rock Paper Scissors

by on February 19, 2009 · 25 comments

in Economy, OB Shop Talk, Ocean Beach

OCEAN BEACH, CA.  We’ve learned that the popular crafts store Rock Paper Scissors, which shut its doors suddenly a couple weeks ago, had a very rocky closure, indeed.

The store’s closure was so rocky, that many of the store’s vendors feel ripped-off and say the store’s owner, Jeff Fagan, owes them thousands of dollars.

Some of the vendors are talking about suing Fagan.

Accusations are flying, anger is rising.  When he closed the store, Fagan gave the vendors insufficient notice; he hasn’t paid back February rents, or even for some vendors January rents, or for some monies from December, or the original deposits.  He owes his vendors thousands, tens of thousands; one estimate is a quarter million.

Apparently, after collecting February rents from his vendors, he surprised everyone by telling them soon after that he was permanently closing the store’s doors on Thursday, Feb. 5th, and they had until Wednesday the 4th to remove their stuff.  There’s a question whether he has paid his employees.

Shocked vendors were forced to drop everything overnight, and attend to hauling their goods out of the store.

We spoke to several vendors who wish to remain anonymous as the atmosphere surrounding the store is quite toxic. They confirmed that they had not been paid February rents, or their original deposits.  And they were pissed. We spoke to another vendor who claimed she was paid her December and January monies, but not her Feb. rent.

The crafts mall on Newport Avenue in the old Bank of America building, the former site of Gold’s Gym, had dozens of individual vendors with quality items, hand-made art, jewelry, crafts, mounted photographs, clothing, imports from Asia and South America.  The mall had become quite popular amongst locals and tourists alike.  OBceans would take visiting family there almost as a tourist stop. I know someone personally who blew his entire Christmas budget there one year.  Definitely not your average craft mall as glass blowing, yoga, dance and jewelry classes were offered, many of them held in the old bank vault.

Everyone loved the place.

Fagan, who goes around as the colorful Dr. Jefe, had earlier owned Apogee Piercing, another successful business down the street, when he opened Rock Paper Scissors, International Galleria in June 2006. Fagan also had a corner of the store filled with his imports, and owns an import business across the street.

But whether suffering from the financial meltdown that’s going on around us or not, at some point Fagan considered bankruptcy. Months ago he decided he was going to close. But he didn’t tell the vendors and instead just kept collecting their rents. He reportedly took his usual Asia tour and brought back many imports to sell.  He traveled to New York, San Francisco. One former vendor claimed Fagan had bought a new expensive car.

Apparently some vendors have been paid their rightful amounts. But enough of them have not been made whole that this story won’t go away soon. We plan to talk to Dr. Jefe and get his side of the story. There’s always at least two sides to any story.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Patty Jones February 18, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Maybe the Farmers Market folks could help these vendors out and give them a place to set up a table and show their wares for a few Wednesday evenings. A thought.


Dog Beach Dude February 18, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Wow, I’ve always thought that Dr. Jefe was a decent business man and a way more stand-up guy.

Word of advice Jeff, don’t burn your bridges…


Abby February 19, 2009 at 9:03 am

This is a huge loss for OB. I used to love bringing people to Rock Paper Scissors when they game to visit.

Every time I walk down Newport I see more and more empty store fronts. This can’t be good for the town.

Wouldn’t it be better for landlords to make a little less money and have businesses in those spaces?


Frank Gormlie February 19, 2009 at 9:39 am

Sadly, it’s worst than I thought. Just got off the phone with another vendor with more anguished tales of woe. Apparently, knowing full well he was going to close the store, Dr Jefe had his workers in December rent out every inch of space, get first and last months rents. When asked, Jefe aka Jeff Fagan told everyone “we’re doing great!” Fagan even raised vendor rents in December. One vendor had a $300 rent raise – almost 30%! So, with promises of good times and just before Christmas when sales either make ya or break ya, all the vendors complied and paid the higher rents. They were a “captive audience” so to say.

There’s also an allegation that Fagan paid half the vendors with rubbery checks in December.

Plus, Fagan has another year in his lease, and now he wants to open a “co-op” where each vendor would handle their own cash and have their own salespeople. Uh, that would be easy, sure.

If you were a vendor and have more stories, please contact us. You can do it anonymously either by leaving a comment (no one except the editors can see your email) or by contacting the OB Rag blog via our email address


gary ghirardi February 19, 2009 at 10:37 am

In a time when the economic crash is forcing tenents out of their leased properties, artisans whom were formally renting spaces in a “quasi cultural collective marketplace” that was represented by Rock Paper Scissors, should consider taking their stalls to the street of OB. The small merchants represent an “informal economy” that would initially be seen as a threat to the businesses inside of the buildings that line OB’s commercial district could actually rejuvenate the scene and attract many more visitors to the district. The sum effect could be to bring additional business to those merchants that currently are seeing their revenues dropping as people, faced with growing economic hardship, choose to spend less on eating out in restaurants and buying non-essentials in local stores. Here in venezuela, these informal merchants called “buhoneros,” became a political force that vied for their right to survival and accomplished to negotiate with the municipal government to construct a multi-story bazaar to continue their businesses after local merchants and the city wanted to recover public spaces and restore street access after the street merchants began to dominate some principle streets in and around the capital.
The irony for the merchants who leased properties for their businesses was the reduction in foot traffic for themselves as the informal merchants resettled in the new building(s). Tough times call for open minds; not a characteristic of how things work for the officials who regulate “public spaces” in OB and elsewhere around urban areas in the USA. Those marginalized inside the U.S. economy by decisions of (or lack of) by authorities who work for the benefit of property owners have no interest in democratizing the landscape and supporting a “commons” for the benefit and in support of all its citizenry.

What is at stake for informal street merchants are police harrassment and property seizures for operating an illegal street business without permits. This is a front line issue of demanding reciprocity and economic justice and, once weathering the fallout, if done as an organized effort, could lead to gaining public spaces for a new legitimate street economy. It is an opportunity to take the battle to the streets. The sympathies of the public are likely to be with the street vendors.


jon February 19, 2009 at 11:57 am

“Dr. Jefe” has always been a greasy little weasel in this community. I recall being a young 15 year old kid and trying to get my friends tounge pierced in his shop. He wouldn’t do it because we were underage. So instead, he sold us the needle and explained how to do it. So we went out to the car and pierced her tongue. 15 year old kids are dumb, but a responsible business owner never would have done such a thing. I’ll bet the gang at Apogee has some interesting stories about the guy. They bought him out a few years ago as I understand.

It’s really sad that RPS closed. It had become such an important part of the community. Although I was always weary of Jefe’s involvement. I look forward to hearing more about this, especially Jefe’s side of the story if he will even give an interview. Thanks OB Rag for investigating stories like this.

And when are property owners going to wake up to the fact that we are not living in 2003 anymore? Property values are declining rapidly. You are going to have to cut some deals to keep good tenants otherwise you end up with a big empty building bringing in zero and becoming a blight on the community instead of reducing rents and working with the people to assure a steady income. The ridiculous increases in property values was a total farce created by wall street and the mortgage companies anyway. get over it. We all got suckered. Excuse me while I go punch the economy in the face.


aGGona February 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm

I’d have to second the .. “Did anyone get Dr. Jefe’s side to the story?”

I bet when “Jon” was 15, he thought that Dr. Jefe was the greatest guy
on earth for doing that.

Has anyone taking a look at who is buying up
Newport? Who is raising the rents so high that business after business
is going out of business.
Its so painful to see people closing their doors,
having their dreams crushed.



mysto-cliff dweller February 19, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Perhaps it would have been more responsible journalism to have gotten Dr. Jefe’s side of the story BEFORE running an article filled with unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo. Even Fox News gives lip service to being “fair and balanced”.


Frank Gormlie February 19, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Mysto- this is a blog. We substantiated enough of the claims to have a story. I’m actually meeting with Dr Jefe today to get his side and so he can respond to the allegations and accusations, which I said I would.


OhBeachMum February 19, 2009 at 12:29 pm

What an interesting piece of literature.

No comments were sought from Fagan PRIOR to publishing this article? Or from the building’s proprietor? Attorney? Employees? Partners? Many of us who know of the good “Dr.”, or who have any experience owning or operating a business, or understand the current recession that is especially affecting small businesses are wise to consider an alternate perspective.

In regards to Fagan’s traveling, this is how retailers and wholesalers purchase and sell merchandise; I am quite sure these were not joyrides, but another attempt to make money for the business. If there is an effort to make money, I am sure the vendors of RPS are all in agreement as the owner, he should do everything it takes. The vendors probably could have done a little more too, in retrospect.

In regards to increasing December rents, did anyone research to see if the vendors were paying fair market value prior to an increase? Perhaps this was done to bring them closer to the level of “fair” to the other vendors? Or in regards to renting out “every inch of space,” could this possibly be an attempt to increase revenues to keep the store afloat for the benefit of all 100+ vendors involved with the store’s success? Of course not, that would only make good business sense, require creativity, foresight and risk that are involved in solid business decision making.

A co-op may not be “easy, sure” to an author; a seasoned group of experienced and creative business people dedicated to growing the local economy and finding new and potentially better opportunity for many [of the displaced and new] vendors may however be very well suited for the challenge. Personally, I loved the store and most of the items in it, and if a co-op alternative were opened in the same location I am among many locals who would support it by shopping there. I might even work one day a week at the co-op, and encourage others to do the same. A cooperative alternative is rebuilding on a community level at it’s finest. I find it rather creative and promising.

It sounds to me like there are a few slighted and emotional vendors that sought to get their word out, and the Rag picked it up like a gossip whore. Disappointing. The emotion of 3 or 4 (out of over 100) vendors makes for an interesting read; but is it also important to consider that business decisions [even good ones] often isolate emotion and personal relationships? Could everyone have worked harder, or done things differently for the greater good? Surely. It sucks for everyone, and who’s to say Fagan isn’t experiencing some emotion in being forced to close his beloved OB landmark storefront? By the very nature of RPS, seems he’s helped a lot more than he’s hurt along the way.

From what I know, Fagan always been supportive of the community, creative, helpful and a smart guy to boot. I would be interested to hear his side. Would the rag consider his editorial, or that of those who might be joining the new co-op venture?

Do yourselves a favor: seek more information, consider business decision making and the risks involved when you sign up for it (vendors and owners alike), and continue to buy and support local.


mr fresh February 19, 2009 at 1:21 pm

“responsible” journalism is what’s brought us the U-T and their mass media soundalikes. the OBRag rocks! AND readers get the chance to have INSTANT feedback. can’t wait for Frank’s report on his meeting with Dr.Jefe….and when is Doug Porter gonna follow up on the Farmers Market?


Frank Gormlie February 19, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I just met with Jeff Fagan, Dr Jefe of Rock Paper Scissors and will be filing my report by the end of today. you’ll just have to wait, mr fresh. And I second that emotion – when is Doug gonna do his follow-up. Probably early next week as I understand he will be meeting with a representative of the OB Main Street Association soon.

We wanted to get the other side, and we did.

Oh, by the way, we will be investigating who is buying up Newport Avenue very soon.


jon February 19, 2009 at 1:56 pm

OhBeachMum wrote:
“The emotion of 3 or 4 (out of over 100) vendors makes for an interesting read; but is it also important to consider that business decisions [even good ones] often isolate emotion and personal relationships? Could everyone have worked harder, or done things differently for the greater good? Surely. It sucks for everyone, and who’s to say Fagan isn’t experiencing some emotion in being forced to close his beloved OB landmark storefront? By the very nature of RPS, seems he’s helped a lot more than he’s hurt along the way.”

Well said. Looking back at my own comment, I am sad to say, my own emotions easily get the best of me. Calling Jefe a “greasy weasel” seems pretty harsh in retrospect. I have had a couple encounters with the guy that left a bad taste in my mouth, but that doesn’t give me the right to hurl insults at him in a public forum. He sure did do a lot for the community in the time that RPS was around. If he does read this, I apologize for the insult. Both the beauty and horror of the internet is you don’t always have to be held accountable for your actions. I will attempt to hold myself accountable. It’s an emotional time for everyone in our community and all communities in our country. That said, I will eagerly await the other side of the story before being so quick to judge.

On a positive note, I know of at least one vendor from RPS that has a jewelry and paper-goods store that is still open. They are called “noon” and are located at 5022 Santa Monica Ave. I ran into them at the Farmers Mkt and recognized their stuff from RPS. They were very friendly and had pretty decent prices. Maybe you guys could do a piece on what has become of the remainder of the artists from RPS since its unfortunate demise?


OB Joe February 19, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Gee, Jon, don’t beat yourself up too much. Your story of when you were 15 is fairly eye-opening in itself. Supposedly, Dr Jefe was younger then too.

(One of my fav bumperstickers went like this: “Support the Police. Beat yourself up.”)


becca lyn February 19, 2009 at 2:29 pm

wow. great journalism frank. i especially love the part where you said “this is a blog. We substantiated enough of the claims to have a story.” how exactly did you “substantiate” the story frank? you talked to 3 or 4 vendors that said the same thing then went ahead and published?

when you take the words of a few disgruntled vendors (out of the hundreds he supported), don’t bother to fact-check (a journalism term i’m guessing you don’t know) and create your own numbers (“a quarter million” dollars???), AND don’t bother to check with the person you’re writing about ahead of time, i believe that’s libel. saying “We plan to talk to Dr. Jefe and get his side of the story.” is pure laziness.

your story was pointless. you gave shane and heidi the courtesy of an interview prior to publishing the farmers market story…why couldn’t you do that for someone who actually gives a damn about the community?

way to go.


jon February 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm

lol…Thanks Joe. I’m just beating myself up over my choice of words. I still don’t like the guy, but name calling is innapropriate and tells me I’m getting too riled up. I tend to listen more closely and show more respect to people who refrain from such tactics and can express themselves without resorting to that level. OhBeachMum’s comment pointed out the “emotional” factor in this situation and made me realize I was being innapropriate. I’m over it. Thanks,

p.s. I just tried to punch the economy in the face but it overpowered me and stole my wallet. Then gave me a wedgie. Apparently the economy knows kung-fu.


Mike February 19, 2009 at 6:54 pm

This is your blog and you are entitled to set your own rules, but you came out swinging at Jeff. Instead of presenting an issue that impacted our community, you became an issue yourself. As was said, two sides do exist and some balance would be a good way to start. If Blondstone needed a diversion, this was well done. Most of see a guy that has contributed to (and not fought against) the arts and culture of Ocean Beach. I respect what your doing and appreciate the forum you provide. Please continue to keep the standards you set in the Blondstone stories. Can’t wait to read the follow-up with Dr. Jefe.


obtransplant February 19, 2009 at 9:46 pm

All of those people who are saying Dr. Jeffe is a great guy; really do not understand a sociopath. They can be very charming, Ted Bundy was charming. Step into his parlor.
Time will tell, and the truth will come out. Do not believe the rhetoric that Jeff is telling people.
He is bad for OB and should be run down Newport avenue tarred and feathered on a rail.
Let’s clean up this town, remove the grafitti, and move on.


Frank Gormlie February 19, 2009 at 10:45 pm

please see my new post “Dr Jefe Answers His Critics On Closing …”


Robert Burns February 21, 2009 at 11:06 am

Frank, where’s that report?


Frank Gormlie February 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm

RB – the report is still in the conceptual phase. Would you like to contribute?


MARC February 22, 2009 at 7:34 pm



ob templar February 23, 2009 at 10:58 am

I agree that there is a problem with greedy bastards buying up OB with the long term goal of changing its character into something akin to La Jolla. I have been here for 20 years and the commercial space I had rented was bought by one with that particular hope. He bought a mixed use property for $ 410K and sold it for $ 980K before the bubble burst. Hopefully now after the adjstment that similar speculators will lose their investments so that the rents may reflect the current marked real estate prices. I love OB it is a solitary beach town in San Diego that has retained its small town family friendly atmosphere.


risa renee March 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm

This guy owes me money too. I had a “layaway” at Rock Paper Scissors. I was in Ireland and came back to pick my “collectibles” up only to find RPS gone. They have my phone# and email and should have left a message to let me know they were closing so that I could pick up my goods. Instead, they kept my money, and the goods and ran.


Well, everything in that shop was supposed to represent “peace, love and karma”…. you can’t escape it Jefe’… it always catches up with you. If others are going to sue, I would like to take part in it. Why not?


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