Checking In on the Agreement CVS Made With Ocean Beach Town Council

by on April 6, 2015 · 11 comments

in Culture, Economy, Ocean Beach

OB CVS lit Oct 2014Report on Progress with OB Community Agreement

By Matthew Wood

When CVS moved into the old Appletree Market building at Santa Monica Avenue and Bacon Street, it was with great fanfare – and an equal amount of worry around the community as to whether the store would be a positive for Ocean Beach.

Store officials had to give a presentation to the Ocean Beach Town Council and agree to a number of stipulations laid out in a community agreement in order to get approval for the store.

Town Council President Gretchen Newsom recently sent a copy of the stipulations – in checklist form – to the CVS to see where they stand on progress.

“When CVS entered into the Community Benefits Agreement, they declared that they wanted to become a solid community partner,” she said. “We are looking forward to receiving their response in early April, and sharing their feedback with OBceans.”

OB CVS notice sale alc tdgWhile the checklist is still going through the proper red-tape channels of CVS’ corporate offices, local store manager Steve Usrey went through each of the 50-plus bullet points, telling me they have achieved just about every one of them.

“First they didn’t want us, they wanted a grocery store,” Usrey said. “That’s kind of why my boss stuck me in this store. I’m a people person and we wanted to make sure everything would be OK. We had to win them over.”

Usrey said he understands the concerns from the community, having grown up in San Diego and visiting OB throughout his youth.

“Mom brought us down here to surf the jetty every day,” he said. “I love Ocean Beach. I’m a surfer kid from way back when.”

Usrey said he understood some of the major reservations from the community – liquor sales, hiring local employees, parking and keeping the area clean – and has tried to go above and beyond to be a good neighbor.

So, let’s go through some of the major bullet points:

  • First, the building itself. CVS agreed to keep the structure of the building.

“A lot of the customers I talked to loved it,” Usrey said. “It keeps the old style charm. It cost us a lot of money, but we kept the character. It definitely looks like it’s from the 70s. That’s what I like about it.”

  • “Appletree Mural” – He said they have no plans to paint over the “Appletree” mural on the side of the building, although CVS has deferred to the Town Council on the mural’s future.
  • Limit on Alcohol Sales – The agreement also stipulates that no more than 5 percent of store sales can be from liquor, something which Usrey says they are happy to comply.

”We’re drug store first. We’re not a liquor store,” he said. “In PB it’s different. They have a big liquor selection. There’s a lot of other liquor stores in OB.”

He said they put security caps on all their liquor bottles and don’t sell any individual servings of beer, wine or liquor. They also train all cashiers how to spot someone who has been overserved and to not sell alcohol to anyone who might be a problem.

“CVS would not do that,” he said. “You don’t want to have ABC on your butts. That’s not something we want at all.”

  • Hire Local – Usrey also proudly says a majority of the store’s 14 employees are from the area.

“It’s a great thing for the community. They asked us to do that, but it’s something we want to do anyway,” he said. “A lot of the people walk to work. We’ll continue to do that. I had my reservations about getting quality people. But we got some really good kids. We lucked out.”

  • Local Vendors – He said the store is committed to using local vendors, even for things that might not be noticeable like ice. He also said the deli section – a small table on the left side of the store – has been very popular. “We can’t stock it fast enough.”
  • Landscaping and Parking Lot – The outside area has been landscaped and parking lot repaved.

On a recent Wednesday evening, a “Lot Full” sign was posted. Usrey said they contract out the lot, but reserve 20 percent of the parking for customers.

“When it gets to 80 percent, they get a message. They come up and put signs up that say the lot is full. That leaves 20 percent for my customers.”

Parking is free for up to two hours, but they do monitor to make sure nobody abuses the policy.

“We don’t want to tie the parking up, but if we don’t manage it, we won’t have any place for my customers to shop,” Usrey explained.

He paints a rosy picture of the store’s first few months. But that’s not to say it’s been all smooth sailing.

There have been problems with homeless people trashing the area and even the bathroom. After letting anyone use the store bathroom, Usrey had to restrict it to only customers after a number of messes were left. They also had to deal with someone pouring syrup all over some blankets and leaving them outside.

“The parking lot has been trashed a few times, but it’s still looking pretty good,” he said. “After the weekends and after Wednesday, it gets pretty beat up.”

Other than that, Usrey says he has gotten positive reviews both in person and from websites like Yelp.

“We’ve had really good feedback from customers,” he said. “We’re really going after the service thing and making sure people get greeted. The customers themselves are really enjoying it. Our major push is customer service. That’s one of the downfalls our competitors have.”

Competitors like the Rite-Aid just a few blocks away?

“You’d think they would step it up, especially with a new drug store coming to town.”

Newsom said the Town Council will report on the store’s progress at this month’s meeting – April 22nd at the Masonic Center. Usrey seems pretty confident it will be a positive one.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

MC April 6, 2015 at 11:05 am

SO happy I never have to go to that Rite-Aid again, have never had such repetitive long lines and horrible customer service


objamie April 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Based on the empty parking lot day after day, this must be the worst performing store in the chain.

The service at Rite Aid I find awesome. And I have waited in line there like twice in eight years.


Debbie April 7, 2015 at 8:27 am

I could take or leave CVS or Rite Aid, my favorite was Longs. No doubt OB needs at least one pharmacy.

Kudos to CVS….the building is gorgeous. Thank you for retaining its charm. Rite Aid is like an old friend….you don’t want to loose it. Both have good people work for them.

If OB can have tons of bars, no doubt it can handle 2 pharmacies.

Maybe the parking lot is not full because residents are walking to this store???


Bb April 6, 2015 at 3:56 pm

How part of the agreement didn’t include fresh produce or a real food section is amazing. They have these items in NYC and east coast stores.. Someone must have been paid off to overlook the fact that OB is now a food desert.


OB Mercy April 7, 2015 at 6:29 am

Is it just a poor choice of words that the manager said, “This is kind of why my boss stuck me in this store.” And, “I had my reservations about getting quality people.” (from the locals hired). I hope so.


Christo April 7, 2015 at 9:04 am

You are putting word into the managers mouth with “(from the locals hired)”.

When I did entry level hiring ( I interviewed thousands and hired hundreds over the course of 20 years) the reality is that hiring quality people at the wages offered is always a challenge.

Even more so when you are being artificially limited in the scope of where you can hire from geographically.


OB Mercy April 7, 2015 at 9:17 am

Christo, my use of parentheses is just to show what he was implying as a referral back to that paragraph, not what he said verbatim.


OB Wood April 7, 2015 at 10:15 am

Just to clarify, he was referring to the fact that nobody really wanted a CVS when they talked about moving here. So he felt had to work to get the neighborhood behind them.


OB Mercy April 7, 2015 at 10:17 am

Yeah…I do know that. Covered the whole thing for the Reader at the time.


OB Wood April 7, 2015 at 10:19 am

Interesting to hear the varying opinions on Rite-Aid. I have had numerous experiences with unacceptably long lines and a lack of help when trying to find items. CVS is going after those shortcomings with an added focus on customer service in their store. Hopefully that will lead to Rite-Aid stepping up their game as well.


Citizen April 7, 2015 at 2:29 pm

I like the CVS a lot better than the Rite Aid. There are no lines and the prices are the same for the most part. I think the lot being open for use is also a big plus for OB. Hopefully the Apple Tree people open the store on Newport and keep it clean this time. The old Apple Tree was nasty.


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