New OB Hostel Owners’ Upgrades May Include Covering Exterior “OB-esque Hippie Floral Design”

by on November 18, 2014 · 16 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Life Events, Media, Ocean Beach

OB Hostel emily fagan

OB Hostel, July 2014, by Emily Fagan

By Matthew Wood

When the Ocean Beach International Hostel was sold last month, OB residents couldn’t help but be a little worried about the future of the neighborhood relic.

Fortunately, the business is in the hands of USA Hostels – a company that started in San Diego with a hostel in the Gaslamp District and seems to have the best intentions of the relic on the heart of Newport Avenue in mind.

Here’s  USA Hostels president David Reuter response to those worries:

“We’re in it for the long haul. We’re the owners and operators. It’s going to be a hands-on approach. We’re interested in becoming members of the community.”

He said the sale had been years in the making. The previous owner, John Asher, had approached Reuter when he bought the place in the 1990s – around the same time Reuter had started his hostel business.

“He came to me and said, ‘Hey it would be great to make it a hostel.’ I was broke and couldn’t really do it. So he ran it himself,” Reuter recalls. “We would talk a few times a year about business. So when he was ready to get out of the business, he called me and said, ‘Hey, are you interested?’”

Ocean Beach International Hostel’s Jack McKeon and Maria Argyropoulos-Minos. Photo by Matthew Wood

It’s a first for the business that Reuter, a former San Diego resident who lives and works in Hawaii now.

“We’re really excited. This is our first beach hostel,” he said. “It’s kind of a twist on a new vibe for what we have currently. We’re excited about taking what John has done and putting our stamp and spin and culture on it.”

He cedes control of most of the operations to Chief Operating Officer Maria Argyropoulos-Minos, who has brought in OBcean Jack McKeon to help manage the place.

“I’ve been living and breathing this hostel for the past two months,” she said.

They said their biggest goal is making sure guests are safe, something they said had been a concern in the past.

“I’ve tried to make security a top priority,” McKeon said. “Make sure it’s a backpacker hostel and not something else. We’re really trying to represent ourselves to the community and open communication.”

They have employed overnight security guards on the weekends while tweaking the guest policy to make sure only residents get in to the building at night. Reuter said they are also trying to keep drugs out of the building as much as possible.

“I’ve heard some stories that there were a lot of drugs in there,” he said. “It was a bit of a wild, wild West. If our kids want to go out and have some beers and whoop it up, that’s all right. But it’s not an after party.”

Reuter said they will keep the guest policy – and pricing – similar. People who stay there need to be from at least 100 miles away, Reuter explained, and they have to be able to prove they are just passing through the area.

Rooms can sleep up to six people, but there are also private facilities. Prices range from $25-$70, depending on the time and the room.

“Summer time is pretty much sold out every day,” Reuter said. “Winter, weekends and big events we’re pretty busy.”

One change guests will see right away, as the group works on moving the hostel’s main entrance. You may have noticed the front porch has been blocked off with plants. Argyropoulos-Minos said that’s part security measure and partly a way to create better flow for our guests.

“We want to try to make it more garden-like,” she said.

They’ve also been busy upgrading some of the hostel’s features, including new doors and electronic keys for the rooms and an upgrade on the floors. They are also using the winter down time to put in new bunk beds with USB outlets for the 28-room, 90-bed facility.

“Just give it a little facelift. Give it a little love,” Reuter explained. “A lot of the furniture was a little bit tired.”

Argyropoulos-Minos said the whole place is ready for some cosmetic changes.

“We want something that will stand up to the weather. People track in a lot of salt and sand in here.”

The owner said he liked the peace sign up on the roof. One thing they are torn about changing is the paint job. The incredibly OB-esque hippie floral pattern adorning the outside of the building makes it stand out in a neighborhood that takes a lot to stand out. Newcomers to the area might think the unique work has been there for years, but it has only been up since last summer.

The big question: Will it stay with the new owners?

“When I looked at it, I was like, ‘Well, that’s a little over the top,” Reuter said.

He has been on the fence about whether or not to change it. While most of the feedback they get is positive, they have received some complaints from neighbors who say it is an eyesore.

“People are very passionate in OB,” he said.

None of the owners would give a concrete answer about the future of the exterior, though Argyropoulos-Minos offered up a novel solution:

“I think everybody else on the street should paint their building to match it.”

What is clear is that the new owners are going to put the hostel’s best interests first. They are all lifelong travelers who seem to take pride in making the hostel experience enjoyable for guests.

“We’re not in this for the money, that’s for sure,” Argyropoulos-Minos said.

Reuter is excited about the impact the place can have on the community.

“When you’re busy and you’ve got 40 or 50 kids in there, I don’t know what the economic impact of the hostel is, but I’d like to think it’s very positive,” he said. “Our guests aren’t hobos. They’re travelers with some disposable income.”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

newbecean November 18, 2014 at 11:20 am

Personally, I love the exterior! I hope they keep it as is!! I’m surprised that any OBcean would find that to be an eyesore. Over the top, sure. But eyesore?? I think it’s groovy.


dajohn November 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm

They need to worry more about correcting the emergency exiting they have messed with. You can’t just throw up a bunch of planters in front of the front door of your building.


Mari November 18, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Eyesore? This is OB – the Hostel is awesome how it is. I’m totally bummed they think it’s a little over the top. I too would worry about the porch and makeshift exit.


Christo November 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Love the current paint job. I hope they keep it!


gregg sullivan November 18, 2014 at 1:19 pm

How about handicap accessibility?


OB Mercy November 18, 2014 at 1:35 pm

Love the paint job…it’s SO OB!!


Dita November 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Sounds as if the new owners’ hearts are in the right place! Welcome to O B!
As for the paint job, to me that’s less important than that the hostel is run right, with “rules” that make sense, and that it is a safe and clean place to be.
O B is lucky that the hostel has fallen into good hands IMO.


Robbo November 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Wow. It sounds like it’s about to get ruined. There are no security concerns there (the wonderer sneaks in and helps themselves to beer). A wild west? Please what a condescending comment. I have stayed at the Gaslamp Usa hostel and it was sterile and boring and had to get out of there and straight back to OB or PB. Look forward to the upcoming reviews of the place – Robbo – Australia


obracer November 18, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Looked better before, change it back.


Tyler November 18, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I’d love to know the business owners that complained about the appearance? I LOVE that paint job.


john November 18, 2014 at 7:52 pm

They better keep the paint man, it’s to pimpin’ to just remove. One of my favorite parts about the hostel was chillin smokin’ on the porch. I met some of my best friends there, sucks you cant really chill there like that anymore nah mean?


COH November 19, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the exterior murals, and wish we had more buildings painted so beautifully. They should be protected and saved. and especially the PEACE sign. As an OB homeowner, I am so glad you asked for our opinions. Please Please Please save the paintings


CliffHanger November 19, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Love it.
Leave it.


Susie November 20, 2014 at 3:56 am

Leave the Peace sign & front porch area as is.
Paint over everything else as it looks like a kindergarten or a clown college.
“Less is more”. Paint fence area same as building. A solid color.


Selina November 21, 2014 at 10:21 am

As iconic as the hostel is to OB, it looks as though a unicorn ate lucky charms and threw up all over it. The color palette is tacky and over the top. I think it can be done more tastefully but still capture the essence of carefree OB.


Frank Gormlie November 21, 2014 at 10:53 am

Selina, at least you gave me a hearty chuckle with the “unicorn ate lucky charms and threw up all over it”.


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