BIDs are assessment districts in which business owners in a specific geographical area are assessed a fee to fund BID board-approved business-related activities and improvements within the district. Reflecting back on the evolution of Ocean Beach’s commercial strip along Newport Avenue, longtime business owners say OBMA has played a key role in raising the status of the business community. Gary Gilmore, owner of Gilmore Family Jewelers at 4857 Newport Ave. since 1978, credits OBMA with being a unifying force within OB’s business district, and also with helping transform the community’s character.
“It’s brought a lot of people together,” said Gilmore, noting that, prior to the BID, “businesses were disjointed with everyone working with their own space and never really working together.”
OBMA allowed merchants to band together for a common cause, said Gilmore.
“As a result, the energy level has just risen incredibly,” he said, adding there’s a committee structure in place now to implement ideas.
Gilmore said OBMA has fostered a more positive attitude within the business community allowing it to “take possession of the area.”
There’s been a sea change in how Obecians view themselves because of OBMA’s influence over the last 35 years, said Gilmore.
“There’s less trash in the streets, people have more pride in the neighborhood and are doing things to beautify it, like decorating around palm trees and making things more green and more inviting,” he said.
Above all else, the community sees itself differently now.
“Before, there used to be this attitude of Ocean Beach being a den of iniquity,” Gilmore said. “That attitude has chan-ged. Now it’s thought of as being a fine little beach community.”
Other merchants agree with Gilmore that OBMA’s been a plus for the community over the last 35 years.
“When I opened in 1984, I really didn’t have an outlet to voice my opinions and thoughts,” said OBMA member Paul Bolton of The Electric Chair and The Ocean Beach Playhouse & Arts Center. “Since they (OBMA) have been here (Denny Knox, Claudia Jack and Liz Green) have ALWAYS answered all my
e-mails/questions and have done it the same day.”
Bolton applauded OBMA’s efforts in being “very active dealing with the homeless problem.”
Bolton said the BID has been “an advocate for all the businesses of OB dealing with crime, etc.,” adding “My alley on the 4900 block of Newport Avenue has had less transients and crime largely because of their hard work battling with SDPD for increased patrols etc. The OBMA has been a blessing for my business and for all of OB.”
Kurt Dornbusch, who’s owned The Black smoke shop boutique at 5017 Newport Ave. since 1981, said OBMA “does a lot throughout the year,” pointing out one of the most important things has been working with the police to keep a handle on the large number of area transients.
Marilyn Thomas, co-owner of Nati’s Mexican Restaurant at 1852 Bacon St., said OBMA “does a nice job promoting Ocean Beach with the different activities they put on and the things they’ve sponsored.”
“I think it’s nice they bring merchants together with the different programs they offer, and just alerting merchants of the different happenings and activities that are going on throughout Ocean Beach,” Thomas said.
A 501(c)6 private nonprofit, OBMA’s mission is to find a unique balance of economic development, within a neighborhood setting and through special events, to contribute to the health, welfare and pride of the coastal community. With 14 elected board members, the BID is committed to preserving a healthy active atmosphere for those who work, live and visit Ocean Beach.
OBMA’s current president, Barbara Iacometti, said there are about 324 businesses and 225 associated members in the BID today. It started out small, with just a handful of people that included Knox, her husband, Mike, and Mike James.
Originally formed in 1978 as the Ocean Beach Merchant’s Association, OBMA has grown rapidly.
“In the first year, it grew from five to 20 people,” Iacometti said. The group really took off in 1998 when OBMA received national and state designation into “Main Street,” a national program promoting business revitalization via a powerful network of linked communities offering support and a proven strategy for success.
Iacometti said OBMA has leveraged the Main Street Program to revitalize Ocean Beach’s business community. One of the ways it does that is by hosting special events and regular activities.
“We have the farmers market every Wednesday on Newport Avenue,” she said. “Then there’s our signature event of the year, the OB Street Fair and Chili Cook-off the fourth Saturday in June, and the Oktoberfest in October.”
“We’ve installed 17 community mur-als, 11 historical plaques and commissioned and maintain artwork on most of the utility boxes throughout the community,” said Iacometti.
OBMA’s president said the group also hosts 10 merchant “sundowner” mixers a year, as well as sponsoring four business development seminars, plus holding an annual marketing and promotions workshop.
“We’re really good at special events,” Iacometti said, noting OBMA is thankful for its “relationship with community groups that we work together with and who volunteer countless hours for OB.”
Iacometti said one goal stands out for OBMA in the future.
“We want a better economic base for our businesses,” she said, adding there is one business the community no longer has that it direly needs.
“We’d love to have to a grocery store,” Iacometti said, adding she’d like to issue one big thanks to the community in general for “shopping locally and using our businesses.”