Origins and More of the OB People’s Organic Food Market

by on August 25, 2022 · 0 comments

in History, Ocean Beach

Delivering produce to the Ocean Beach People’s Food Store. Deborah Menkart in the truck and Jimbo Someck in the Lehigh t-shirt, both of whom worked with the store. Early 1970s.

The Rag was contacted by former OBcean, Davis Hayden, who had been involved in OB back in the 1970s, and informed that a piece he had written about the history of the OB People’s Food Store (People’s old name) was on Wikipedia. Davis had been instrumental in helping to form the store. We checked it out and here you go, from Wikipedia:

The Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market is a food cooperative located at 4765 Voltaire street in the Ocean Beach community of San Diego, California.

It was previously called the Ocean Beach People’s Food Store. People’s started as a retail store at 4859 Voltaire Street, selling natural foods and household products.

The current co-op is member-owned, but open to the public, and focuses on offering locally grown organic food.


People’s Food originated from a food buying club operating in Ocean Beach in 1971 that was eventually located at the Ocean Beach Free School.

In August 1972, three of the buying club members — Willie Groome, Diane Miller, Davis Hayden — decided to open a store front at 4859 Voltaire Street. The initial markup was 20% and designed to only cover the cost of operating the store, paying no salaries or wages. As the store volume increased, the markup of essential items such as milk and eggs was decreased to 10%. By 6 months, the store “was grossing $11,000 a month”.

Initially, the three original people ran the store with occasional help from students of the Ocean Beach Free School which operated across the street from the store. However, as the volume of customers increased, they enlisted community volunteers who received food credit for their work.

Next, more managers were added, and in 1973, the store itself expanded by moving to a larger building at 4765 Voltaire Street. In 1985, the store converted to a food cooperative.

Current Status

In 2002, People’s food built a new larger store at the 4765 Voltaire Street location. This store was one of three stores in San Diego cited by the San Diego Union Tribune as having “high marks for energy efficiency.”

In 2018, People’s was chosen to be visited by “18 delegates from China” to learn more about food quality in America and the “green” philosophy of the co-op movement. Currently the store has about 14,000 members-owners and is currently a member of the National Cooperative Grocers Association.

Here is more from People’s website:

Humble Beginnings

Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market was born as a small neighborhood buying club in 1971. The people who nurtured its growth were activists in a local movement to create alternatives to established institutions, including grocery stores.

Their dream was a store that provided healthy, non-polluting, cruelty-free foods at a fair price, and a store that belongs to the community it serves.

A year later, on August 19, 1972, we set up our fast-growing enterprise in an apartment storefront at 4859 Voltaire Street. Customers looked for perishable foods in the refrigerator (where else!) and added up their own purchases for the cashier.

Our Evolution

1973 brought a very big step: O.B. People’s moved up the street to a former pool and dance hall. It took a lot of work just to get the building ready. Gradually, the new store filled up with products and fixtures. The store’s reputation grew too. O.B. People’s became known as a truly people-oriented store with a unique selection of foods and uncompromising standards for quality. For the first fourteen years, People’s had operated as a worker’s collective. Then, in 1985, the workers decided that since O.B. People’s had always been a community store, it only made sense that it become a food cooperative.

The years 2001 and 2002 found us remodeling yet again. This time, however, the Co-op moved into a whole new building. We are staying on the same site that we have occupied since 1973, but designed and constructed a new sustainable building to meet the stores growing needs and serve as a model of conscious construction. The new building was completed in the summer 2002 and O.B. People’s, our very own community-owned Co-op, began a new chapter for the new millennium.

(Hat tip to Davis Hayden)

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: