Cardiff Shopping Center, 1958
  • Cardiff Shopping Center, 1958
  • from Ken Harrison's postcard collection
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While a restaurant remodel in Cardiff by the Sea was recently underway, residents witnessed a long-forgotten commercial artifact.

Speedee Mart's façade, recently exposed

Built in 1958, Cardiff’s first shopping center housed its anchor convenience store named Speedee Mart. The Southern California–based chain of 127 stores went on to help a small, Texas-based chain become a household word: 7-Eleven.

The Cardiff Speedee Mart’s 1964 conversion into a 7-Eleven was part of Southland Corporation’s nationwide expansion. Cardiff kids became hooked, for the first time, on ten-cent Slurpees, reminded former Cardiff resident Bruce Freebury on Facebook.

7-Eleven was a perfect fit as a business merger, as Speedee Mart boldly advertised its hours, “7 AM to 11PM,” on its Cardiff signage.

Many fond memories of an earlier time in Cardiff were posted on Facebook after the Speedee Mart sign was revealed on January 18.

“It was in Speedee Mart that I first saw a microwave oven work. It seemed like some sort of witchcraft to me at the time,” posted local attorney Hugh McLean.

Johnny Downs, a Hollywood actor and then resident kiddie-show celebrity on KOGO Channel 10, was the master of ceremonies when the store opened. “It was a big, big deal,” posted McLean.

Cardiff native John Scheunemann, now residing in Pennsylvania, wrote that he used to buy penny candy in there all the time. So did resident Jon Kelley. “A lot of candy,” Kelley added.

The original Speedee Mart/7-Eleven site in the center at the corner of San Elijo Avenue and Aberdeen Drive was turned into the Piccadilly restaurant, which was in business for years. Numerous other restaurants have come and gone since the closure of the Piccadilly in the mid 1980s. Some restaurants have enjoyed success: Hamburger Hulas, Beach City Burrito, Kooks Café; others did not, like the most recent incarnation, Flat Rock, which lasted less than two years.

To be named Best Pizza and Brew, the new restaurant is slated to open in late February, said Dustin Jenkins, the restaurant’s contractor. The design will be similar to other numerous youthful upscale restaurants that have recently opened along Encinitas’ Coast Highway 101 — with a contemporary color palette, openness, and lots of glass. The building is being prepped to be re-stucco’ed.

“It took us three permits [with the city] to change this façade,” said Jenkins. The old 1970s aluminum façade was pulled off and exposed the Speedee Mart sign.

“We tried for decades to get the center’s owner to pull that ugly stuff down. It finally got painted in an acceptable beach-blue color,” said one longtime resident.

The “Best” name may be confusing for tourists, as the new restaurant has nothing to do with the Besta-Wan Pizza House, located next door to the shopping center at 148 Aberdeen Drive. In 2015, Besta-Wan celebrated 50 years in business in the converted beach bungalow.

When asked about the similar names, Becky, the co-owner of Besta-Wan, said, “We have more on our menu than just pizza. There is plenty of room for all of us. Bring ‘em on.”

Eventually, the Cardiff 7-Eleven moved to a freestanding building at the corner of Birmingham Drive and Newcastle Avenue, now occupied by New Balance shoes.

In 1982, a second 7-Eleven was built on the site of a former Exxon gas station; it is still in business at the corner of San Elijo Avenue and Chesterfield Drive.

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Comments

Visduh Jan. 19, 2016 @ 10:09 p.m.

Didn't the story go that Henry Boney pioneered that brand of small neighborhood convenience food store? After selling out to Southland Corp, he and his offspring tried different concepts, one of them being Windmill Farms, before they settled on calling them "Boney's." Then more than a decade ago they changed the name to Henry's, and sold it to Wild Oats (which itself was bought by Whole Foods.) Through many machinations, a chain of stores, now run by Boney sons and grandsons, emerged. That chain is Sprouts. Its roots go 'way back in time, but the constant has been the Boney family.

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Ken Harrison Jan. 20, 2016 @ 8:04 a.m.

Hey Visduh, SInce you and I can both share the label of "Mr. History North County" my research shows 7-Eleven claims to have started the convenience store concept in 1927, when a guy selling ice curbside at several Texas locations, added milk, bread, and other stuff. And the rest . . . as they say . . . is history.

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Visduh Jan. 20, 2016 @ 9:53 a.m.

7-Eleven may well have been the first with that sort of store. But on the west coast, Speedee Mart was the first to spread out and open many stores. In the latter days of the operation, it added the Bradshaw's super market chain here in the San Diego area, and that was part of the sale to Southland. But Southland didn't keep that for very long. By the end of the 70's there were no more Bradshaw's stores.

In my comment above, I neglected to mention that after the private equity firm assembled the Sprouts operation, it took Sprouts public, and it now trades on the NASDAQ, symbol SFM.

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AlexClarke Jan. 21, 2016 @ 6:42 a.m.

I remember the Speedee Mart on College Ave across from San Diego State. It is still there (as 7-11) and must be one of the oldest 7-11 store in San Diego.

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