A landowner of prime commercial property in Carlsbad’s Village district has given one of the oldest downtown businesses a 30-day eviction notice. Neighboring businesses are allegedly “terrified” that a similar fate may come to them.
“The whole block is terrified,” says Sarah Lenhert about the eviction of Carlsbad Village Coins. “The entire complex is under siege and they are all wondering who will be evicted next,” Lenhert says of the adjacent tenants. She says the eviction, which was “a complete surprise,” gave the collectable coin shop until March 1 to get out of the State Street space it has used since 1977.
Sarah Lenhert: “Danny (Ray, the owner of Carlsbad Village Coins) is the sweetest man. He has never been late on his rent."
Lenhert was the property manager for Carlsbad Village Coins and the adjacent State Street businesses from 1988 until 2019. She is the ex-wife for Leor Lakritz, the man who controls most of the commercial property on the west side of the 2900 block of State Street.
Lakritz is the majority owner of the two-story building built in the 1920’s which has housed Carlsbad Village Coins for 43 years.
Lenhert says she wants to do everything she can to thwart the eviction which she says is being executed because Lakritz wants a new tenant. “Danny (Ray, the owner of Carlsbad Village Coins) is the sweetest man. He has never been late on his rent. This isn’t about the money. It’s about the power. [Lakritz is] doing this for pure spite...He’s trying to impose L.A. thinking on Carlsbad.”
Lakritz gained local notoriety as the man who wanted to build a four-story, mixed-use project on the corner of State Street and Carlsbad Village Drive. That lot is immediately south of Carlsbad Village Coins. That project, called Carlsbad Village Center, was rejected by the Carlsbad City Council in 2017 and again in 2018. Most three- and four-story developments in the Village area have won approval over the last eight years. But this project was rejected by a council majority including councilman Keith Blackburn who normally sides with developers. “It’s not consistent with the Village and it’s too overwhelming,” said Blackburn.
Lenhert says Lakritz made unilateral decisions on behalf of his other State Street land-owning partners. “He wasted $260,000 on the architects and consultants for that [Carlsbad Village Center] project,” says Lenhert. “I was fired as property manager when I spent $150,000 of the partner’s money on tenant improvements including leaking roofs and caved-in ceilings.”
When told via text that he was being contacted for comment on both his future plans for the Carlsbad Village Center and for the eviction of Carlsbad Village Coins, Lakritz, a resident of Capistrano Beach, responded: “I can’t comment on Village Coins since it’s being handled by attorneys.”
Just as Lenhert predicted, none of the businesses contacted on the State Street block wanted to comment. Other State Street businesses who rent from Lakritz (between 2917 and 2981 State Street) include dress shops, hair salons, shoe stores and restaurants including Cielo Boutique, Vigilucci’s, the Doll House, and Barrel Republic.
Danny Ray, the longtime owner of Carlsbad Village Coins, was polite but declined to respond to his pending eviction.
One nearby entrepreneur who declined to be named says that the downtown Carlsbad Village district has certainly upscaled over the last 10 years attracting more visitors who in fact are spending more money. The downside is rents have increased while parking availability has drastically decreased.
Some longtime locals lament that the potential loss of Carlsbad Village Coins signals the loss of a funkier, more soulful Carlsbad, and that only a few local businesses like Garcia’s Mexican restaurant and its adjacent retro barber shop remain as one of the few vestiges of old Carlsbad.
Carlsbad Village Coins is one of five collectable coin shops in San Diego County that buys and sells coins and gives free appraisals. The others are in Poway, Vista, Escondido, and La Jolla.
On any given day you might find a local kid at the Carlsbad Village Coins’ viewing table. “They do provide a kind of community service here,” says one longtime customer of the Carlsbad Village Coins operation who did want to be identified. He says there is a group of kids aged 10-15 who regularly come in to look at the coins.
The Carlsbad Village Coins groupie says that the appraisals don’t usually wow the people who bring in their collections. “Everyone hopes they will win the lottery. But maybe every three months or so someone comes in with a coin that is really spectacular. It’s usually a $20 gold coin that may be worth $10,000 to $50,000.” Gold coins were minted from 1799 to 1933. The customer says that most gold coins are usually just worth their gold weight value which is about $1600.
“Basically you can expect coins to increase in value five per cent a year which means they double in value every 20 years,” says the customer who adds says that the most popular collectable coin is the silver dollar, but that pennies just aren’t worth much “…because they made so many of them.”
Susan Guiterrez, president of the Carlsbad Historical Society, says her club does not take positions on specific issues. “We don’t want to get into what people can or can not do.” Yet she does lament that area youth can not have the experience enjoyed by her now grown sons. “There were places they could visit by just walking around downtown. There was that store with rubber stamps, the store that just had board games, Village Coins and the Grand Deli. I miss the variety.”
Mike Downs closed his popular breakfast-and-lunch Grand Deli five years ago after 28 years when a new landlord bumped his rent by 65 per cent. The 5,000 square foot building he was in sold for $2.1-million. “My mechanic owned Carlsbad Auto Technology [on State Street] for 25 years. They came in and said he had 90 days to get out. He tried to find a new spot but he couldn’t find one. I still use him but like me, he now works as an employee.”
Meanwhile Lenhert says she will fight “tooth and nail” on behalf of Danny Ray’s Carlsbad Village Coin store, including hiring an attorney. “Leor [Lakritz] does not believe that any of the other partners have any knowledge of this eviction and the pending lawsuit.”