Early in the morning on May 19, the 7-Eleven at 1446 Encinitas Boulevard closed permanently. It’s been a fixture near the El Camino Real corridor for decades — since the 1970s.
According to 7-Eleven’s director of corporate communications, Margaret Chabris, this location, one of seven in Encinitas, had a “significant rent increase and demand for other expenditures” by the new owners of the Village Square I commercial center.
Other center businesses tell an expanded story. The new owners of the center, an investment firm out of L.A., appear to want the mom and pop-owned businesses out. And they are doing so by raising rents to unsustainable rates.
In the last year, now-vacant space once housed Figaro’s Pizza, Swami’s Café, and Martin’s Fine Art School. One of the Mexican restaurants in the center may be next to leave, according to other merchants. All due to a large rent increase, as much as 50 percent, according to a merchant who asked not to be identified.
“The center owners only want nationally recognized brands,” said the business owner. “They want it to be more upscale.” The business owner pointed out that most leasing agents receive a higher commission from center owners for finding national, upscale chains to locate on the property. (While 7-Eleven is a national chain, “the husband-and-wife owners were local franchisees,” said 7-Eleven’s Chabris.)
In the next center over, the Ralph’s/CVS shopping center, a row of four fast-food chain restaurants have changed hands in recent years — including a Pizza Hut and Pick Up Stix. “Now they are something else,” he said. “What happens if we lose all of our locally owned businesses?”
“These new center owners don’t care that I’ve been in business in this town for 25 years,” said the business owner. “Its not like when the old Encinitas families [original developers of the older El Camino Real centers] used to own it. You make one mistake with these corporations, like late on the rent, and you can be out.” He’s not concerned about his business, however, as he just signed a ten-year lease before the new owners came up with their “upscale” plan.
At 8:40 a.m., as customers were still parking in front of the 7-Eleven and trying to walk in, I recognized the 7-Eleven’s owner inside the store and attempted to talk with her. “She’s not allowed to talk to you,” said a woman who refused to identify herself. The owner, who looked distraught, said she’d call me later, once away from the store.
7-Eleven’s Chabris said 7-Eleven, Inc. owns the building, equipment, paid the lease, and ultimately had to make the decision to close. She said the store’s employees would be welcomed at other nearby 7-Elevens.