4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Full Stomach, Empty Wallet

The word I heard was that Ed Moore was headed toward semiretirement. Last September, he sat down, assessed his plans for the coming year, and realized he was beginning to lose interest in Thee Bungalow, the Ocean Beach institution that Moore made famous for, among other things, its remarkable wine list. (Even now, after selling the place, he still goes back and cherry-picks some of those finds whose prices haven't risen with the tide. "Most customers there were content in the $30-$40 range," he says, "but if I find something that I think is a screamer at $60, I'll buy it without thinking twice.")

He still had his wine club, which passed along to its members some of the deals he managed to sniff out. But the 3rd Corner — his big Mediterranean-feel project across the street — hadn't worked out. "The decision to close was a business decision. At some point you have to get above everything, look at the landscape, and say, 'Whatever we're doing, we're not doing it right. It ain't working.'"

To make the mortgage payments, he started renting the building out for catered parties. Two a month would pay the rent, and Moore made money off the bar (he kept the liquor license). Then he started moving Thee Bungalow's wine dinners into the place. "That worked out just fine. I was doing 100 dinners with the wine thing and still doing 70, 80 dinners at Thee Bungalow."

The success of the wine club, however, had led him to consider converting the space to a retail wine shop. Oh, and while he was at it, why not serve a little food? "I made the menu very simple. I had the food expertise to set up something that was somewhat limited," and fairly foolproof. "I didn't want to sauté a lot of things on top of the stove; I didn't want things that were too critical." Things like duck confit, baked chicken, short ribs, mushroom pasta. A few cheeses, some salads and desserts. Smaller portions, nothing over $14.

And then the kicker: Why not let customers buy bottles off the racks and drink them onsite for just $5 more? "You read Wine Spectator, any of those magazines, and there's always a letter to the editor -- somebody's pissed about restaurant markups. Most wine lists today don't start until $30. Some of them don't start until $40 or $50. It drives you nuts. You look at that list, and you see stuff you recognize at a three, three-and-a-half markup. Why? We want to make friends. We want to bring people back."

He envisioned 60-70 percent of the business coming from the retail end, with the restaurant padding things out — just a few tables here and there, plus the patio and the bar. He borrowed $50,000 to stock the shop and added "Wine Shop" to the existing 3rd Corner sign.

Things didn't work out quite as planned. Looking back, says Moore, "I had a funny inkling about what was going to happen." Before Thee Bungalow sold, "We did a chef's celebration dinner over here — Thee Bungalow wasn't really big enough. I had done a couple of wine sales to the wine club here, and they had been very successful. We had racks in, and we had floor stacks of wine, and I just didn't want to move everything out of here. So I said, 'Let's see how many tables we can get in here; just kind of put them around the wine.' I think we did 90 dinners or so, and everybody loved this environment of being in the middle of the wines. Everybody who walked in here thought the place looked great. It was simple: just throw a ton of wine out there. Everybody likes the look of wine."

Moore learned a lesson about the retail business, which has been slower than he expected. "A lot of it is convenience — where you're located, where your market is coming from." He learned another about the restaurant business, which has exceeded his wildest expectations. "The concept seems to work. It's not the normal restaurant." By this, he means the kind that leaves you with a full stomach but an empty wallet and an anxious heart. "The uniform statement, the one I hear over and over again, is, 'It's amazing how much fun we had.' I call it Chuck E. Cheese for adults. I have to squeeze myself sometimes, business is so good." He paid off the $50,000 in two months.

The new 3rd Corner worked "right off the bat — and that's the absolute rarity. Without any ads or anything. The only thing we had was a big inflatable gorilla up on the roof. I put that up there so that people would look at the building — 'What is that place? Oh, that's a wine shop and bistro.'"

The gorilla grabbed attention; the rest was a matter of right time, right place, right concept: "I think the market in OB is much more upscale than it's given credit for. It's price-conscious, but it's savvy. It's cultured." As with the rest of San Diego, the demographics are shifting: "Now, we have a lot of food-service people, people in the service industry. Younger couples who probably don't want kids; at least, not right away. Then you start looking up the hill — people who bought houses for $500K, then dumped $300K more into remodeling. They come down here."

The crowd changes as the evening progresses: at five o'clock, the median age skews toward 70; at 2 a.m., it's closer to 22. But thanks to the pricing, even the more moneyed old-timers get to play outside their usual safety zone. "If they're used to spending $40, $50 on a wine list, and they see all the things we've got for $15--$20," they're more likely to look at an unfamiliar varietal and declare, "'Yeah, let's try that.' Someone once told me, 'If it's bad, I only spent $8 -- I'll take it home and cook with it.' They'll sit down -- 'A bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer for $16.50 plus a $5 corkage? That's a deal! Let's have a second one! And what about one of those?' By that point, they've got the glow. 'Now, let's get a few of these to take home. He's got some great prices here.'"

So much for semiretirement. "It's been a really interesting movement," says Moore. "I could see having two or three of these in the San Diego market. Maybe two or three in L.A./Orange County. I'm dying to open up another one."

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Going beyond banh mi at Banh Mi Hoi An

Terrific take-out options include a warming beef stew
Next Article

Going beyond banh mi at Banh Mi Hoi An

Terrific take-out options include a warming beef stew

The word I heard was that Ed Moore was headed toward semiretirement. Last September, he sat down, assessed his plans for the coming year, and realized he was beginning to lose interest in Thee Bungalow, the Ocean Beach institution that Moore made famous for, among other things, its remarkable wine list. (Even now, after selling the place, he still goes back and cherry-picks some of those finds whose prices haven't risen with the tide. "Most customers there were content in the $30-$40 range," he says, "but if I find something that I think is a screamer at $60, I'll buy it without thinking twice.")

He still had his wine club, which passed along to its members some of the deals he managed to sniff out. But the 3rd Corner — his big Mediterranean-feel project across the street — hadn't worked out. "The decision to close was a business decision. At some point you have to get above everything, look at the landscape, and say, 'Whatever we're doing, we're not doing it right. It ain't working.'"

To make the mortgage payments, he started renting the building out for catered parties. Two a month would pay the rent, and Moore made money off the bar (he kept the liquor license). Then he started moving Thee Bungalow's wine dinners into the place. "That worked out just fine. I was doing 100 dinners with the wine thing and still doing 70, 80 dinners at Thee Bungalow."

The success of the wine club, however, had led him to consider converting the space to a retail wine shop. Oh, and while he was at it, why not serve a little food? "I made the menu very simple. I had the food expertise to set up something that was somewhat limited," and fairly foolproof. "I didn't want to sauté a lot of things on top of the stove; I didn't want things that were too critical." Things like duck confit, baked chicken, short ribs, mushroom pasta. A few cheeses, some salads and desserts. Smaller portions, nothing over $14.

And then the kicker: Why not let customers buy bottles off the racks and drink them onsite for just $5 more? "You read Wine Spectator, any of those magazines, and there's always a letter to the editor -- somebody's pissed about restaurant markups. Most wine lists today don't start until $30. Some of them don't start until $40 or $50. It drives you nuts. You look at that list, and you see stuff you recognize at a three, three-and-a-half markup. Why? We want to make friends. We want to bring people back."

He envisioned 60-70 percent of the business coming from the retail end, with the restaurant padding things out — just a few tables here and there, plus the patio and the bar. He borrowed $50,000 to stock the shop and added "Wine Shop" to the existing 3rd Corner sign.

Things didn't work out quite as planned. Looking back, says Moore, "I had a funny inkling about what was going to happen." Before Thee Bungalow sold, "We did a chef's celebration dinner over here — Thee Bungalow wasn't really big enough. I had done a couple of wine sales to the wine club here, and they had been very successful. We had racks in, and we had floor stacks of wine, and I just didn't want to move everything out of here. So I said, 'Let's see how many tables we can get in here; just kind of put them around the wine.' I think we did 90 dinners or so, and everybody loved this environment of being in the middle of the wines. Everybody who walked in here thought the place looked great. It was simple: just throw a ton of wine out there. Everybody likes the look of wine."

Moore learned a lesson about the retail business, which has been slower than he expected. "A lot of it is convenience — where you're located, where your market is coming from." He learned another about the restaurant business, which has exceeded his wildest expectations. "The concept seems to work. It's not the normal restaurant." By this, he means the kind that leaves you with a full stomach but an empty wallet and an anxious heart. "The uniform statement, the one I hear over and over again, is, 'It's amazing how much fun we had.' I call it Chuck E. Cheese for adults. I have to squeeze myself sometimes, business is so good." He paid off the $50,000 in two months.

The new 3rd Corner worked "right off the bat — and that's the absolute rarity. Without any ads or anything. The only thing we had was a big inflatable gorilla up on the roof. I put that up there so that people would look at the building — 'What is that place? Oh, that's a wine shop and bistro.'"

The gorilla grabbed attention; the rest was a matter of right time, right place, right concept: "I think the market in OB is much more upscale than it's given credit for. It's price-conscious, but it's savvy. It's cultured." As with the rest of San Diego, the demographics are shifting: "Now, we have a lot of food-service people, people in the service industry. Younger couples who probably don't want kids; at least, not right away. Then you start looking up the hill — people who bought houses for $500K, then dumped $300K more into remodeling. They come down here."

The crowd changes as the evening progresses: at five o'clock, the median age skews toward 70; at 2 a.m., it's closer to 22. But thanks to the pricing, even the more moneyed old-timers get to play outside their usual safety zone. "If they're used to spending $40, $50 on a wine list, and they see all the things we've got for $15--$20," they're more likely to look at an unfamiliar varietal and declare, "'Yeah, let's try that.' Someone once told me, 'If it's bad, I only spent $8 -- I'll take it home and cook with it.' They'll sit down -- 'A bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer for $16.50 plus a $5 corkage? That's a deal! Let's have a second one! And what about one of those?' By that point, they've got the glow. 'Now, let's get a few of these to take home. He's got some great prices here.'"

So much for semiretirement. "It's been a really interesting movement," says Moore. "I could see having two or three of these in the San Diego market. Maybe two or three in L.A./Orange County. I'm dying to open up another one."

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Influencer Andrew Muse sucker-punched at secret Baja surf spot

Who's the local at Alejandro's?
Next Article

Race blending at San Diego beaches, who does best Afro hair, Mitchell family

Black collectibles, Morse High tragedy, 70s activists
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close