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Longtime local business closes on Newport Avenue

“We’ve had an amazing 16 years here, but yeah, it’s gotten rough.”

Some speculate that a brewery will next occupy the former Lola Luna store.
Some speculate that a brewery will next occupy the former Lola Luna store.

After 16 years, Lola Luna women’s clothing boutique in Ocean Beach will close its doors at the end of February, as they have opted to not renew their lease.

Owner Kimberly Johnson and longtime employee Rio Mezta explained the highs and lows of running a business on Newport Avenue.

“It hasn’t been about just running a clothing shop,” Mezta said. ”It’s where women came to feel safe and heard and loved on and understood. All kinds of beautiful energy is inside this store because women — several mentioned it last night during our closing party — said that they shopped here because of us, because we listened to them and actually care who they are. It’s a happening, it’s an energy, it’s a safe place, it's not just a clothing shop….

“I was an activist for so many years out there, and it’s the same premise that I brought here with me — I wanted to raise awareness, to inspire, to educate. The only difference is, I wasn’t out there protesting something; I was in here standing up for something — which is local business.

"That’s how I met Kimberly. When Starbucks opened, I was out there protesting and promoting small businesses…. Kids traveling from other states come here, some don’t want to contribute anything to the community, that’s the mentality, the arrogance and self-entitlement — at least a half a dozen times this week, travelers have told me, ‘We don’t give a shit about your community.’”

Said Johnson, interjecting, “Rio walked a customer — a school principal from Point Loma — to her car one night last year because she didn’t feel comfortable. She would come in here all the time and shop; that’s a customer we don’t have anymore because O.B. has changed and what happened afterward…”

Some of the loiterers who regularly camped at the store's entrance (October 2016)

As Mezta was returning to the store she was jumped by “travelers.”

She said, “Last year, man, this chick went crazy after I walked [the principal] to her car. She was tripping out in front of the store and I asked her to leave. I tried to explain that we were running a business; that’s when she charged me, screaming, ‘It’s our town, get the fuck out’ and broke my jaw — I’m still having medical issues because of it — and when Kimberly came out front to help, she was jumped by another one from behind who broke her ribs.”

Because Lola Luna is one of the few sheltered un-gated storefronts, it attracts homeless people who set up camp in the doorway. The mess left behind requires cleaning up before customers arrive.

“We’ve had an amazing 16 years here, but yeah, it’s gotten rough,” said Johnson. “There’s one guy I caught pissing on our window recently. I walked up and he was standing there and I said, ‘What the fuck, dude? Really, you gotta do that in front of my store? Get the fuck outta here.’ After that, every day since then, piss on our windows. I know we’re not the only business that’s been harmed by the influx of aggressive travelers. We’ve lost business because of them, a lot of places have…but it’s not the only reason we’re not renewing our lease.”

Mezta agreed: “Exactly, it’s not just the travelers, it’s a much bigger issue. We are an example of what is happening: corporate takeover, lack of support for independent businesses...Ocean Beach is a slideshow for the bigger problem. It’s very in-your-face here because it’s so small, but what is happening to America — mom and pops are going under, independents are going under, homelessness is increasing, drug use is increasing — O.B. is a [smaller] picture of what is happening in society as a whole.”

In an effort to better understand the situation and support Lola Luna, I volunteered to work there a few days a week (for no pay). During that time, I was verbally accosted by a drunk transient who refused to leave the doorway; witnessed a homeless woman high on something grab Lola Luna’s shoes and toss them into the street; walked up on a campsite in front of the store prior to opening; witnessed the constant harassment of tourists and locals by young travelers; numerous incidents of public urination, and daily drug deals — or what appeared to be drug dealing. I tapped out after a month and was not surprised when the ladies told me they weren’t going to renew the lease: dealing with this on a daily basis and trying to run a business takes its toll.

“I love my customers,” Johnson said. “They have supported us since day one and this is killing me to close, but financially it doesn’t make sense anymore…. It was so beautiful for a while — same faces and same people walking by. I’ve been staring out the front window for years people-watching. It’s a trip. O.B. is a different place now — my mom doesn’t even come here anymore. When I asked her why, she said, ‘I’ve been coming there to Ocean Beach for so long it doesn’t even feel the same anymore.’”

Is there the possibility of a new Lola Luna opening? Johnson said, “I really wasn’t prepared. I didn’t even realize I was going to end the lease until recently. So I don’t know if I am going to open Lola Luna somewhere else. Honestly, I can’t afford to renew my lease, I can’t afford to be here anymore. I’m not making any money because of the riff-raff and my financial situation…it’s a domino effect, it trickles down…no one wants to come to O.B. when people are getting shot and beaten up, so naturally business has gone down.”

Speculation around town is rampant that another brewery will go in, but so far the only confirmed interest I know of is from the Supermax Discount Store, located next to Lola Luna. They want to expand into the space to sell clothing; however, the buildings are separately owned, and one of the owners has assured me that “expanding by tearing down a wall” will never happen.

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Some speculate that a brewery will next occupy the former Lola Luna store.
Some speculate that a brewery will next occupy the former Lola Luna store.

After 16 years, Lola Luna women’s clothing boutique in Ocean Beach will close its doors at the end of February, as they have opted to not renew their lease.

Owner Kimberly Johnson and longtime employee Rio Mezta explained the highs and lows of running a business on Newport Avenue.

“It hasn’t been about just running a clothing shop,” Mezta said. ”It’s where women came to feel safe and heard and loved on and understood. All kinds of beautiful energy is inside this store because women — several mentioned it last night during our closing party — said that they shopped here because of us, because we listened to them and actually care who they are. It’s a happening, it’s an energy, it’s a safe place, it's not just a clothing shop….

“I was an activist for so many years out there, and it’s the same premise that I brought here with me — I wanted to raise awareness, to inspire, to educate. The only difference is, I wasn’t out there protesting something; I was in here standing up for something — which is local business.

"That’s how I met Kimberly. When Starbucks opened, I was out there protesting and promoting small businesses…. Kids traveling from other states come here, some don’t want to contribute anything to the community, that’s the mentality, the arrogance and self-entitlement — at least a half a dozen times this week, travelers have told me, ‘We don’t give a shit about your community.’”

Said Johnson, interjecting, “Rio walked a customer — a school principal from Point Loma — to her car one night last year because she didn’t feel comfortable. She would come in here all the time and shop; that’s a customer we don’t have anymore because O.B. has changed and what happened afterward…”

Some of the loiterers who regularly camped at the store's entrance (October 2016)

As Mezta was returning to the store she was jumped by “travelers.”

She said, “Last year, man, this chick went crazy after I walked [the principal] to her car. She was tripping out in front of the store and I asked her to leave. I tried to explain that we were running a business; that’s when she charged me, screaming, ‘It’s our town, get the fuck out’ and broke my jaw — I’m still having medical issues because of it — and when Kimberly came out front to help, she was jumped by another one from behind who broke her ribs.”

Because Lola Luna is one of the few sheltered un-gated storefronts, it attracts homeless people who set up camp in the doorway. The mess left behind requires cleaning up before customers arrive.

“We’ve had an amazing 16 years here, but yeah, it’s gotten rough,” said Johnson. “There’s one guy I caught pissing on our window recently. I walked up and he was standing there and I said, ‘What the fuck, dude? Really, you gotta do that in front of my store? Get the fuck outta here.’ After that, every day since then, piss on our windows. I know we’re not the only business that’s been harmed by the influx of aggressive travelers. We’ve lost business because of them, a lot of places have…but it’s not the only reason we’re not renewing our lease.”

Mezta agreed: “Exactly, it’s not just the travelers, it’s a much bigger issue. We are an example of what is happening: corporate takeover, lack of support for independent businesses...Ocean Beach is a slideshow for the bigger problem. It’s very in-your-face here because it’s so small, but what is happening to America — mom and pops are going under, independents are going under, homelessness is increasing, drug use is increasing — O.B. is a [smaller] picture of what is happening in society as a whole.”

In an effort to better understand the situation and support Lola Luna, I volunteered to work there a few days a week (for no pay). During that time, I was verbally accosted by a drunk transient who refused to leave the doorway; witnessed a homeless woman high on something grab Lola Luna’s shoes and toss them into the street; walked up on a campsite in front of the store prior to opening; witnessed the constant harassment of tourists and locals by young travelers; numerous incidents of public urination, and daily drug deals — or what appeared to be drug dealing. I tapped out after a month and was not surprised when the ladies told me they weren’t going to renew the lease: dealing with this on a daily basis and trying to run a business takes its toll.

“I love my customers,” Johnson said. “They have supported us since day one and this is killing me to close, but financially it doesn’t make sense anymore…. It was so beautiful for a while — same faces and same people walking by. I’ve been staring out the front window for years people-watching. It’s a trip. O.B. is a different place now — my mom doesn’t even come here anymore. When I asked her why, she said, ‘I’ve been coming there to Ocean Beach for so long it doesn’t even feel the same anymore.’”

Is there the possibility of a new Lola Luna opening? Johnson said, “I really wasn’t prepared. I didn’t even realize I was going to end the lease until recently. So I don’t know if I am going to open Lola Luna somewhere else. Honestly, I can’t afford to renew my lease, I can’t afford to be here anymore. I’m not making any money because of the riff-raff and my financial situation…it’s a domino effect, it trickles down…no one wants to come to O.B. when people are getting shot and beaten up, so naturally business has gone down.”

Speculation around town is rampant that another brewery will go in, but so far the only confirmed interest I know of is from the Supermax Discount Store, located next to Lola Luna. They want to expand into the space to sell clothing; however, the buildings are separately owned, and one of the owners has assured me that “expanding by tearing down a wall” will never happen.

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Comments
5

Where is OB arrests or police for family protection? Can always use drunk or whatever abuses in public for a deterrent. It's not tolerated/allowed in Kensington.

Feb. 11, 2017

The quote of the years spent running the store as "amazing" is typical of the new use of that adjective. Just what was "amazing" isn't clear; neither is the definition of it. From the travails reported, I'd guess it was amazingly bad, amazingly frustrating, and ultimately amazingly intolerable. No business should have to put up with those daily outrages in a city that calls itself "America's Finest." Oh, good ol' OB has always been tolerant, funky, and hang-loose, but that doesn't excuse how far it has fallen into being a cesspool of human wretchedness. If the city of SD is to ever claim to be something close to first world, spots like OB need to be cleaned up, and kept cleaned up. Sheesh!

Feb. 11, 2017

There are many areas of "America's Finest" that are little better than third world. These areas are never touted in Chamber of Commerce promotions. These areas are ignored by the politicos and avoided by all but those who live there.

Feb. 12, 2017

Sigh :( As a former resident (30+ yrs), it sadden me to move away - it's even worse since I could no longer do any business there due to the "cesspool of human wretchedness".

The city of SD will do nothing to stop it.

I would suggest "alternative" methods of dealing with the street crud but that too would escalate.

Good luck

Feb. 14, 2017

Whatever happened to the security officer teams that were supposed to patrol the OB streets? I thought the business merchants contracted with a company last year--or did they decide not to?

This problem is not limited to OB; it also is happening to store owners in El Cajon.

Feb. 17, 2017

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