But don’t look for a garish neon sign to point the way to a dark alley. In Ocean Beach, alternative businesses are mainstream, mixed in among popular antique shops, restaurants and bars. More than 50 alternative businesses can be found in the Ocean Beach business directory under categories like homeopathy, herbs, astrology and metaphysical practices.
“Because of a Bohemian, progressive attitude, OB has always been unique,” said Timothy the Astrologer, whose office for Astrodata Astrology Services has been in Ocean Beach for 18 years. “It is the last of the authentic Southern California Beach towns. All of the others have gone corporate.”
The non-corporate face of Ocean Beach includes businesses like Tree of Life, Crystal Visions Rock Shop, the Philosophers Stone, In Harmony Herbs and Spices, Happy Healthy Herbs and Mad Monk Tea.
Many of the so-called “new age” practices are as old as history. Herbs for healing predate written history, with written evidence of their use found more than 5,000 years ago. Tarot cards were first seen in Europe in the 14th to 16th centuries. Astrology dates back to Babylon in 1645 BC.
Diana Disimone owns Tree of Life Metaphysical Books and Gifts. Her store offers classes on metaphysical and spiritual topics and hosts author events and book signings. The services of independent readers skilled in techniques from Norse rune to numerology are also available.
Both Disimone and Timothy said their businesses thrive in Ocean Beach because of the vibrations from the ocean and the open attitude.
Timothy, 70, specializes in the arcane arts and sciences of astrology, tarot cards and palmistry. His full range of astrodata and astrology services includes portfolio analysis and stock potential. In addition to his office in Ocean Beach, he keeps an office in Carlsbad and is the astrologer for La Costa Resort and Spa and Hotel del Coronado.
“I am a healer in the sense that healers don’t heal, we inspire healing,” he said. “I’m able to impart extra life-force energy — mental, emotional and spiritual.”
His office is tucked away in Scrimshaw Square at 4966 Santa Monica Ave. A block-and-a-half from the ocean, the enclave is also home to Crystal Visions Rock Shop, Mad Monk Tea and licensed acupuncturist Lucas Hausler.
“It’s like time does not exist here,” said Suzy Lambert, who opened Crystal Visions Rock Shop seven years ago.
Her store offers crystals, stones, jewelry, books and music. She has a room dedicated to crystal singing bowls. When customers permit, she reads their energy to determine what type of crystal they could benefit from. She has a six-page handout that explains how crystals transfer energy and points out their use in fiber optics, electronics and cell phones.
“We give a lot of time and energy to teaching people and sharing experiences,” Lambert said. “We’re not run-with-the-herd businesses. We have one-on-one interaction and personal connection with clients.”
Across the breeze way from Lambert’s shop is Mad Monk Tea. Taylor Drye, 25, sells teas he personally acquires from around the world.
“The road to peace is an inward road,” Drye said. “Contemplation and tea keep people company along the way.”
Inside Drye’s one-room shop is a door that leads to Hausler’s acupuncture practice, where he treats patients and dispenses herbs.
“We specialize, and that’s how we survive,” Drye said. “We have longstanding relationships with our clients.”
A block north, the Healthy Happy Herbs shop has a higher profile. Amanda Costea chose the location for her store because of the heavy foot traffic along Newport Avenue.
“We try to educate people on the use and appreciation of plants,” she said.
While the medicinal use of herbs is viewed in America as an alternative practice, Costea noted, “nothing could be more traditional than a plant.”
Patrons of the neighborhood’s alternative businesses aren’t just the stereotype of OB hippies living off the grid.
“Our clients are across the board — partiers, alternative-health people, everyday regular people,” Costea said.
Lambert said her business is supported by locals and visitors.
“People who find us know what they’re looking for. They are open to receiving what we have to say,” she said. “We also get great support from the OB MainStreet Association. They are wonderful.”
Timothy the Astrologer has seen an increase in young people and more men coming to his business. What all of his customers have in common is the reason they come to see him.
“It’s an unutterable life longing,” Timothy said. “It is a hunger so deep and profound there aren’t words to express it. People are hungry for what they’re here for. They want to know what the meaning is for them being on the planet.”