Is 4896 Newport Avenue ‘the Most Desirable Corner in Ocean Beach’?

by on September 18, 2017 · 32 comments

in Ocean Beach

4896 Newport Ave., corner of Newport and Cable. Site of the current Helm’s, the former Humble Hippie and other businesses.

We had to chuckle the other day when we read the listing for the sale of Helm’s Brewing Company on BizQuest which included a description of their OB tasting room at the corner of Newport and Cable as “the most desirable corner in Ocean Beach”.


Is the corner which includes 4896 Newport Avenue really “the most desirable” in all of OB?

See, here’s why it’s invaluable to have some (limited, granted) institutional memory of Ocean Beach and the history of its community organizations and businesses within the OB Rag at your fingertips.

If Helm’s at 4896 Newport Avenue closes due to the sale of the over-all business, it would in fact be the fourth fifth business failure at that address over the last dozen years.

Ever since the 30-year-old Ocean Beach pet store was forced out with a rent increase of 3000% (that’s not a typo), every business that has moved into that space has had to close – not counting that part of the space taken over by Ortega’s.

Okay, so what are we talking about?

The Pet Store

What year did the pet store have to leave? Some time earlier this century, no doubt. It was a real pet store, with real animals, birds, reptiles, fish for sale. The smells that greeted you when you first walked in and the sounds of gurgling fish tanks and squawking birds told you this place was genuine. The owner was a real local; he graduated from Point Loma High in the late 1960s. And he didn’t have a modern cash register – but an old electric adding machine.

After the astronomical rent increase, the pet shop had to close as he didn’t have the resources to move and the space was empty for some time.

Cottage Antiques

An antique store.

Belle Maison (High-End Home Furnishings)

Finally, a high-end home furnishings store opened and it seemed ready to cater to all those Point Lomans who needed their high-end homes furnished.  But it didn’t make it. Anybody recall the name of the store?

I don’t know how many months in between new businesses the storefront stood empty – at either ends.

Humble Hippie Store

At some point, that pseudo-hippie Humble Hippie store opened up, the one that blared out rock and roll and had lots of hippie-looking and OB-centric T-shirts. Yet, it too had to lock its door for good and leave.

Then again the space stood silent.


And Helm’s Brewing Co. tasting room moved in during mid-May 2016.

That’s five four businesses – over a dozen years (as said, we don’t know when the pet store closed exactly).

Certainly not a vacancy rate desired, either.

So, unless you’re buying the tasting room as is, buyer be ware – this is certainly NOT the most desirable corner in Ocean Beach


{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler September 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Helm seems to be selling because their product isn’t as good as the competition. I don’t drink alcohol but I’ve noticed it’s been the quietest tasting room in OB for at least a year. Considering it’s on “the most desireable corner,” it says a lot about their brand/product.


fstued September 18, 2017 at 12:33 pm

I think the Humble Hippie jus wanted to do something else. I liked helms but there are just to many breweries


Oldob September 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Way to make a mountain out of a mole hill, frank. Just a marketing piece for a piece of property….they aren’t asking for a designation of “best corner of OB” in that precious community plan that you seem to love so much.


Frank Gormlie September 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm

When entrepreneurs make outrageous claims just to move a buck, it’s our duty to at times to set the record straight. This is a failing corner, with 4 businesses gone before Helm’s moved in.


triggerfinger September 18, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Prior to Humble hippie it was Cottage Antiques then Belle Maison furniture


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2017 at 8:00 pm

There ya go, thanks triggerfinger. How did you remember?


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2017 at 8:01 pm

So, that would make 5 failed businesses if Helm’s closes.


Dave September 18, 2017 at 9:29 pm

I think this is correct – two different businesses before Humble Hippie. Also, I don’t have a date on the pet shop, but I came to town initially in 2006 and it was gone by then, so it’d have had to closed in the first half of the last decade.

Also, it tripped me out to see a “OBDave” handle responding here – on a lot of other places around the web that’s me. Here I guess I’m just Dave…


triggerfinger September 18, 2017 at 3:34 pm

It would be interesting to see a map of the monopoly of commercial property owners on newport…


OBDave September 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

I know that at least in the ’90s it was a pet supply store, not a pet store. That’s where I bought my pet food.


Frank Gormlie September 18, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Me too, but the place I’m thinking about also had, like I said, fish, birds, turtles ….


Christo September 19, 2017 at 8:27 am

I remember a small assortment of non-mammals.

Funny how smell is such a strong memory trigger. I distinctly remember the smell in there.


Chris September 19, 2017 at 5:55 am

Didn’t the herb shop move at some point? Anyway it looks like it closed due to some owner conflicts.


Frank Gormlie September 19, 2017 at 12:04 pm

The Herb Store was on another block of Newport and was not the Humble Hippie store.


South OB Girl September 19, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Vacancy and for lease sign on the herb store too across from the hostel.


rick callejon September 20, 2017 at 9:46 am

The Herb store was on Santa Monica, across the street from the library.


South OB Girl September 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

“Happy horny healthy Herbs” or something like that… Across from the hostel, on Newport… For lease sign recently. “Herbs in Harmony” moved from its location across from the post office on Santa Monica to a shop by Nati’s on Bacon — several years ago that move happened. After approximately 20 years in business, Herbs in Harmony is one of the longest standing Ocean Beach businesses.


South OB Girl September 19, 2017 at 12:05 pm

I wandered into the Humble Hippy and both interior design places before that — more than I go to Helms (but I’m not really hip and in the beer scene and don’t go beer tasting a lot).


South OB Girl September 19, 2017 at 12:10 pm

How many vacancies on Newport now next??
Herb shop next to Apple Tree, Helms, Lil Miss, the old hookah lounge… Two Dollar Thrill closed, Mad Munch has not opened yet… Target moving in (?)… When is antique center closing (?) …


colleen dietzel September 19, 2017 at 4:12 pm

The pet store closed sometime soon after Starbucks came in on Sept 11th 2001. I don’t know who said it, but there was rumor that the owner of the building jacked up his rent when his lease was up because she wanted to upscale the corner like the Starbucks corner.
It was owned by the Wahl Family. I believe they owned all the buildings from that corner to 4878 Newport. I went to the County Assesor’s office and researched ownership of every building on the 3 commercial blocks of Newport. Any body interested in updating it?
Also at that same time the Newport Avenue Antique Center (proposed Target building) was owned by Scott Allgaier and Craig Gerwig. The value was listed as 322,393 and 311,464.(2 lots?) I believe the last date of sale was 1994.


marc johnson September 19, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Newport pet supply Gary was the owner. I think his parents started it in the late 70s.


Gary Gilmore September 24, 2017 at 10:29 pm

Marc, you’re right. Gary Varela was the son of the original owners, the Varela’s. I’m pretty sure it closed in the mid 90’s


Debbie September 19, 2017 at 10:50 pm

I shopped there even though Gary was kind of grouchy. He was not into selling the business or showing someone the ropes to take it over. What happened to him?

It always nice to know the owner of a business and get the feeling they are happy to see you like when you visit Little Chef/Mary Ann.


marc johnson September 19, 2017 at 10:58 pm

Gary is retired living in Point Loma, once you get to know Gray he is a good guy.


Frank Gormlie September 20, 2017 at 11:33 am

Gary is a good guy, always enjoyed our interactions. We both went to Pt Loma High.


nostalgic September 20, 2017 at 6:03 am

I loved the store. THANK YOU for coming up with Gary’s name. There were fish there, a mini-aquarium visit for the children, while I bought the special Science Diet dog food for the dog. Gary was a real person, and he was grouchy sometimes with good cause, and also a friendly and real person. I am thinking it was rising rents that set off the grouchy side. Does anybody remember when the store closed?


Frank Gormlie September 20, 2017 at 11:32 am

Colleen commented that she believes it closed not too soon after the opening of Starbucks on 9/11/01, so in late 2001 or early 2002 maybe.

The point being that in these 15 years since Gary closed the 30-year old family business there have been 4 business failures in that space – and if Helm’s goes, that would be 5.

Ortega’s expanded and took over a good amount of the space.


mr.rick September 23, 2017 at 4:17 am

In 1971 that store was a dog grooming place. I got hired to help the Lady running the place to help bath dogs. but was let go almost as fast as I was hired for lack of patience. At 19 yrs old I guess she had a point.


Gary Gilmore September 24, 2017 at 10:36 pm

I don’t think there is any one “best” corner in OB but, the corner of Newport & Cable is a buzzing spot. I think that with the right business and with the right enthused and devoted owner, a Mom & Pop could make a decent living from that corner.


OB Kid September 25, 2017 at 12:22 pm

That corner certainly has a ton of visibility and traffic (foot and car). However, the past few businesses have not been the best fit to anchor the block – expensive home decor, expensive hippy duds, or expensive okay beer are not gonna pay the rent on that prime piece of property. Rent has to be so high that it is impossible to have any slip in business and to still stay afloat.

Lots of vacant commercial properties on newport, yet everyone is fighting the one business – Target – that is trying to open up? Love OB but you crazy sometime.


Bill DeWitt November 2, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Thank you to everyone for all the history of this location. I live in OB and recently took over this corner and opened up a tasting room for my brewery California Wild Ales. We opened on May 4th and have had a great time meeting and interacting with all of our neighbors. We will do our best to break the “curse” of this corner, and we look forward to many years of working and serving the OB community. CWA specializes in barrel-aged sour beers, but we have also teamed up with other breweries (OB Brewery, Tapshack, and Thorn St. Brewing) to create some beer-flavored beers…ie West Coast IPA, HAzy IPA, Pale Ale, Lager, and a Hard Kombucha. Look forward to meeting you. ~Bill


sealintheSelkirks November 2, 2021 at 8:52 pm

Wow, I had forgotten about the live animal pet store that was there until reading the mention about the smell. It came back in my memory! Holy smokes some forgotten part of my brain DOES remember the smell walking in the door, it hit me strongly as I looked at the picture, but I have no idea what year that was. Or maybe it was another live pet store in OB? I don’t even remember if I was a kid or an adult since the remembered olfactory memory came out without a date stamp on it! Memory is a weird thing.



Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: