Apple Tree Market may sprout again in Ocean Beach
by ANTHONY de GARATE
Published - 05/28/15 - 10:13 AM | 8694 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Though most people call it the old Bank of America, this building at 4976 Newport Ave. has more recently been the site of a Gold’s Gym, OB Surf & Skate and Rock Paper Scissors. Owner Saad Hirmez hopes to open Apple Tree Market here sometime this year. / Photo by Anthony de Garate
Though most people call it the old Bank of America, this building at 4976 Newport Ave. has more recently been the site of a Gold’s Gym, OB Surf & Skate and Rock Paper Scissors. Owner Saad Hirmez hopes to open Apple Tree Market here sometime this year. / Photo by Anthony de Garate
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Before the building at 4949 Santa Monica Ave. opened as a CVS Pharmacy this year, Apple Tree Market reigned there as Ocean Beach’s only full-time grocery store. That distinction ended in late 2013 when, after a quarter century, the business lost its lease.

Saad Hirmez, who took over the former Safeway in 1989 and didn’t want to leave, has been counting the days until he opens a new store – literally.

“It’s been two years, five months and seven days since we were kicked to the curb against our will,” Hirmez said May 6 at the monthly meeting of the Ocean Beach Planning Board.

If Hirmez sounds bitter about Apple Tree’s demise, he’s equally optimistic about its return. He appeared with preliminary floor plans for a new Apple Tree at the former Bank of America building at 4976 Newport Ave., just a few blocks from the previous location.

“We’ve missed the community; we’ve missed doing business here. We’re very excited to come back with a beautiful state-of-the-art building to serve the community,” he said.

It won’t happen as soon as he’d like – he originally envisioned a July 4 opening – but Hirmez said he’s making enough progress on obtaining the necessary permits to open “sometime this year.”

Hirmez said he bought the building in 2001, when he began to have “issues” with his then-landlord, Elliot Megdal, a Los Angeles-based Realtor. The building, most recently the home of Rock Paper Scissors, has been vacant for several years.

The small size of the building will require some adjustments. There won’t be room for detergents, beauty products and other items typically found at a grocery store, Hirmez said. Furthermore, “There’s no reason for it” with the proximity of two drug stores – CVS and Rite-Aid.

But shoppers who expect and prefer natural foods will not be disappointed, Hirmez said. At least 40 percent of foodstuffs will be organic. “We know the community wants this,” he said.

As for alcohol, Hirmez said police have approved the transfer of his license from the former location to sell beer, wine and spirits – though final approval from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Department is pending. To gain police support, Hirmez said he agreed to several conditions, including: no single cans of beer, no half-pints or miniature bottles of spirits, no fortified wines and no sales after midnight.

No protests were filed when Hirmez applied for alcohol at the new location – in stark contrast to the contentiousness that erupted when CVS applied for a liquor license at the old Apple Tree location, Hirmez noted. He said it’s a tribute to the solid reputation and goodwill he earned at the previous location.

“Zero protests (to a liquor license application) are absolutely unheard of in a beach community. That’s a testament to the community and our neighbors that they want their store back,” he said

“Our intention has never been to run a liquor store. Our intention is to run a grocery store,” he added.

New board members

Nancy Kelley (District 2) and Georgia Sparkman (District 7) have been appointed to fill two of the four vacancies on the board. Kelley described herself as a retired vocational rehabilitation counselor and teacher and OB resident since 1971. She mentioned sustainability and climate change as a few of her interests and said she’s eager to dive into the fine points of community planning.

Sparkman, a 35-year resident, holds a master’s in city planning from San Diego State University and recently retired from the city after nearly three decades as a city planner. Her career at the city began in 1986 as a community planner for Ocean Beach.

Citizens seeking appointment to one of the remaining two slots on the board must be at least 18 and live, own property or run a business in the Ocean Beach Community Planning Area. They must also gather 35 signatures in the district they wish to represent. More information is available at oceanbeachplanning.org.

Crosswalks on Newport Avenue?

Stop signs and crosswalks could be coming to two corners near the foot of Newport Avenue – one of the most heavily traveled areas in Ocean Beach. The city has “evaluated and approved” a four-way stop sign at the Ocean Beach lifeguard station at the corner of Abbott Street and Santa Monica Avenue, Chairman John Ambert said.

More stop signs have been similarly endorsed one block south at Abbott Street and Newport Avenue. There’s no word on when the improvements may be installed, but city officials have told the board some $20,000 was available for pedestrian enhancements in Ocean Beach, Ambert said. Ambert has identified five areas of need and has pitched his ideas at recent board meetings and on social media.

People’s Co-Op expansion plans

Preliminary plans for an organic juice bar and cafe with residential units on top at the site of the former Tiny’s Tavern, 4745 Voltaire St., could be released in as little as a month. That’s from Jim Kase, store manager at Ocean Beach People’s Food Co-Op, which purchased the property early this year.

Discussions are under way with the architect Hanna Gabriel Wells, and the Co-op is eager to get public feedback on the design, Kase said. The proposal will likely call for demolishing Tiny’s, which is actually three buildings cobbled together and not up to code; and the adjacent duplex, he said. The Co-op’s current parking lot would be expanded, and the multi-use building would be constructed on the east side.

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