Petition Drive to Get People’s Food Co-op to Move to Old Apple Tree Market?

by on April 29, 2013 · 15 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Ocean Beach

We have heard rumors that there is a petition drive just getting off the ground here in OB in an effort to get People’s Food Co-op to either purchase or lease the old Apple Tree Market site over in the central commercial area of the village.

The former business – Apple Tree Market – closed at the beginning of the year.  The store owner had talked about opening a smaller version of the store in his property on Newport Ave – the old OB Bike and Skate Shop (the old Bof A building), but we are unaware of any progress in that direction.

In the meantime, residents, shoppers, and visitors do not have immediate access to a large market in downtown Ocean Beach. The nearest large food stores are over in the Midway (Barons), up near the high school (Stumps), or on top of Point Loma (but the Fresh & Easy is closing itself).

And then there’s OB People’s Food Co-op – the organic store that has served the community and outlying areas since the early 1970’s – and already OB’s largest employer – with over one hundred full and part time people – many of whom live in the village.

Not too long ago Nancy Casady – head of the store – announced that they were looking for larger facilities in order to expand what they have now. Their parking lot is too limited for the number of customers, for one example of the store’s current problems.

Why can’t People’s move into the old Apple Tree, you might ask?

There would be horrendous improvements needed in that old Fifties-era building. The architectural design of the old place – which had been a Safeway for decades – has its fans.  Others feel it’s a very ugly and out-of-place building. Reportedly, it has asbestos that would need to be mitigated.  And whether People’s can afford to buy the building outright and make the improvements itself – currently the building is for lease – or whether the organic market could obtain a sufficiently long lease and guarantees from the owner to mitigate the unhealthy substances himself are all issues, questions that would have to be resolved.

Also, could a new, expanded People’s survive or be supported in downtown OB – where many of the denizens are meat-eaters (People’s does not sell meat)?   Perhaps People’s in their wish to open an additional store does not believe the old Apple Tree site is a far enough distance to warrant the move.

At any rate, there is a petition out there – and while we are not serving any judgement on its wisdom – we would like to provide a forum for the issue, so if you wish to obtain one, have info on the campaign – or just have something to say on this issue, please do so in the comments below.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine April 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm

OB People’s current location is such a nice space. I would hate to see it vacated and possibly sit empty. The Apple Tree building is a dump. Can only imagine a lot of work would be needed. I’m curious how much more space People’s wants and to expand for what? On another note, the current owners of the Apple Tree need to get a notice from code enforcement. The weeds are getting out of control there. That reminds me that I’ve been meaning to complain about it to code enforcement.


Denine April 29, 2013 at 10:03 pm

At the OB Town Council Meeting, the SDPD Western Division representatives shared that code violations had already been reported and that the owner of the Apple Tree property had been advised to cut back the bushes to a height of two feet as well as taking care of the weeds.


Anonymousness April 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm

I keep seeing these rumors of People’s moving mentioned in the OB Rag…so as a former employee of People’s (now I live in another city), I asked a store manager about it the other day. She confirmed, as I recalled, that there has been a desire since the early 2000’s for People’s to expand – meaning, open a second store – not move outright. There are a large number of members of the co-op who live in east County and beyond. They have always begged for a second location to fill the void out there. It’s just a matter of logistics, timing, etc…and People’s does not rush into any business decision. As far as moving to Apple Tree, I don’t have to ask anyone’s opinion on that…I can safely say that probably won’t happen. For starters, People’s owns the building and the land it sits on and they made double+ loan payments since they opened to make that happen quickly. Also, they designed and built the place to the highest green standards – it’s on the yearly “green building” or somesuch tour. It’s had attention from architectural digests and whatnot. Every detail was designed with purpose. Why on earth would they move into someone else’s ugly old building and attempt the same when they would only be leasing? No, they would only do that when they purchase a new (second location) building for themselves to do with what they please. And that’s not to mention the very valid point that People’s has extremely strict standards on what products they carry (no meat, nothing with GMOs – nothing even from a company who won’t guarantee to them that they won’t use GMOs whether its known or not, organic whenever possible, etc) so this actually does NOTHING to fill the void that Apple Tree left for people who just want “normal food” en mass. Hope this clears up some speculation. :)


Frank Gormlie April 29, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Thanks Anonymousness for your insights. I’m digging the discussion.


judi curry April 29, 2013 at 6:06 pm

I don’t know about others in the area, but I received an email from the management of “Fresh and Easy” telling me that even if they close, a market would take over for them. How about People’s moving there for a second store? It’s big; relatively clean – the stench in the old Apple Tree is a remainder of when it was Safeway . Wonder if the Pt. Loman’s would support People’s the way the Obeacians do.


Goatskull April 30, 2013 at 8:07 am

On one end that would be awesome for me because that spot on Cannon and Catalina is on my way to work so it would be great to have as a place to stop on the way home. I’m not so sure that area of PL would be too supportive of an OB People’s though to keep it in business. Then again, you never know.


Michael T. April 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I think the best way to cut down on congestion at the current People’s location (personally, I don’t consider this an inconvenience) is to open other stores in the same manner they did with the current location. A People’s in the Hillcrest Mission Hills area (where I live) would be most welcome. I can’t tell you how many of my neighbors shop there already, so there’s a built in base of customers. I think that People’s needs to consider the location very carefully. For some reason, I don’t think a People’s would be right for the downtown area even though I’m sure there are a lot of downtown people who shop at People’s. The character isn’t right imho. People’s has an earthy vibe going on and they need to consider that.


Frank Gormlie April 29, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Thanks for your comments and information. I did not want to imply that People’s was pulling out of their current location. General manager Nancy Cassady announced not to long ago in the store’s newsletter that they were looking for a place to expand to, as they were having congestion, traffic and other problems.

Plus, People’s just had on 4/20 a mortgage burning party, we understand, as the store has finally paid off its mortgage. Congratulations guys!

The expansion strategy was pulled off by Jimbo, a former member of People’s staff and leadership a few decades ago. He decided to open up his Peoples-like stores around the County.

I’m sure a lot of San Diego County residents would want a People’s in their community, but a community-oriented organization like the current People’s has to be careful in expanding and not lose that “neighborhood” feel to the store.


Dave Rice April 29, 2013 at 11:33 pm

1. I’m glad to hear that the proposed People’s move would be an expansion, not a move – that building they have is beautiful and a huge community asset. I could see where a mid-city second location anywhere from Hillcrest to City Heights would be a winner, as long as they’re not abandoning OB.

2. Apple Tree wouldn’t work, IMHO, for a host of reasons: it’s for lease and not for sale (I’m thinking the owners eventually want some sort of condo or mixed-use project to go in), it would require so much renovation, it wouldn’t fill the need for a ‘traditional’ (meat products, affordable alternatives, and general merchandise) supermarket, and they already have an awesome location a few blocks away (that nasty parking lot excepted, glad I can ride my bike there).


Kathy April 30, 2013 at 2:03 am

Remember the OB Rag “survey” several months ago?
The “negative” and “derogatory” categories (i.e. “it’s a dump”, “good riddance”, “don’t shop there, won’t miss it”) won by a landslide. I was in the minority who thought it would be “a hardship” and “inconvenient”.

I have a car and driveway to park it, but miss the convenience of biking to Apple Tree for incidental shopping needs. I was very satisfied with selection, quality and price (usually less than big grocers).

It’s inefficient to drive to Vons for a few items, so I “go without” or “pay double” @ 7/11, Rite-Aid, or corner liquor, IF their small inventory avails.

I shopped @ Peoples ONCE, a long time ago, was told I had to buy a membership card but they’d let it go “this time” – I wasn’t THAT impressed. After Apple Tree’s demise, I decided to give them another try . . . CLOSED on a Sunday night, it wasn’t even 7 p.m.

Stumps . . . too far to bike, I drove there a few weeks ago, so cold my fingers were numb. Rather just go to Vons, same distance, open 24 hours, and my usual Costco alternative.

I have options . . . people without transportation don’t, with the most financially strained being the most severely impacted. A “For Lease” sign at the former Apple Tree site, contradicts the proposed opening of Foodland. “Lack of progress” diminishes the thought that Apple Tree’s owner would open a food market in the old BofA building. OB may soon be comparable to undesirable, blighted neighborhoods . . . vacated by a supermarket, left with an “eyesore”.


John May 1, 2013 at 1:20 am

Yeah I saw all those comments and wanted to puke.
People don’t know a good thing when they have it. The guy who operated Apple Tree was, IMO, an honorable man who gave a damn about the community. His store wasn’t perfect and the prices were a little higher than the big chains but for what it was they were competitive.
As for the owner of the property if there is any truth to what I read about him in the comments in another article here about this issue, hell will freeze over before he does anything beneficial to the community here.
Probably writing off the lost rent as a tax shelter or waiting to cash it in for condos anyway.
I say we annex the damn thing and convert half into a VFW and the other half into a homeless shelter.

I can’t see what in the world could go wrong with that plan….


Tyler May 1, 2013 at 9:20 am

Yes, the operator of Apple Tree was so honorable he said they’d be open with the new store on Newport within 6 months. ZERO progress has been made.


John May 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Well first off I base that conclusion on several things I witnessed in and out of the store in the years they were operating here, not what’s transpired since… and secondly the observation about what’s transpired since is made with little factual details about why they haven’t opened.
Maybe they read the comments here and decided OB didn’t want them. Maybe the regulatory hurdles and permit fees in the other building were in excess of what they’s budgeted for.
Failure to live up to predictions is usually indicative not of dishonor but unrealistic goals or less than competent planning.

You know what sticks in my mind, was probably around 1994, I was waiting in line at B of A to deposit my paycheck and Apple Tree’s owner was waiting in line at the merchant window to make a deposit- the farthest window from the front door.
At that time the front door opened and a guy in a wheelchair who appeared to have MS or a similar problem was having trouble with the heavy door and was struggling to get in. Before any of us really realized what was going on, that guy sprinted across the lobby floor and yanked the door open with one hand, and pulled his chair through with the other.
The guy in the wheelchair was thanking him but Apple Tree’s owner was all, it’s cool, no big deal-yet I’d never seen anyone just forget about themselves and in an instant be there when needed. The incident burned into my memory like it was yesterday.
I’d always thought of him as a grumpy guy who barked out orders to his employees and he probably did run a tight ship, but what I saw at the bank made me think I didn’t know that guy at all. In the face of someone whose needs were greater than his he became immediately selfless.
I still don’t even know his name, but if he’s reading this, I was at the bank that day and saw not only what you did but the way you did it and I was impressed.


Tyler April 30, 2013 at 7:35 am

More than half a year after the bickering between the Apple Tree property owner and the family that ran the store itself, I think it’s pretty clear neither truly cared about the community, just $$$. Both Apple Tree and the old B of A building sit vacant and blight the neighborhood. It’s really sad.


Goatskull April 30, 2013 at 8:11 am

That does bring up the question. Will the spot where the AT stood ever become something? Even if the property owner dosn’t give two s**ts about the community, he’s still not making any money just letting it sit there like that.


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