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Bright-eyed entrepreneurs take over El Cajon Boulevard

Pearson Ford, mattress store make way for compostable dental floss

Isabelle DeMillan, founder of Mighty Bin
Isabelle DeMillan, founder of Mighty Bin

There are a lot of used-to-be’s on El Cajon Boulevard. The now-gentrified corner at Utah used to be a mattress store. The Red Fox Room used to be on the south side of the street. The chalet-esque building that now houses The Village restaurant used to be Li’l B’s, and before that, for 30 years, it used to be Johnny’s R (where I broke bread with my editor at the Mid-City Neighbor, which used to be a newspaper that covered the area).

On the east end of the Boulevard, 54th and El Cajon used to be known for, said Boulevard Improvement District Director Tootie Thomas, “a bad element. Not to put a negative spin on it,” she added. But much of the Boulevard is looking super spiffy these days.

Stephanie Butterfield-Richardson of Activate House

Fresh power-washes every few weeks up and down the street were instituted late in 2021 and continue this year, with each area on a set schedule for cleaning. John Royal of Royal Environmental and Friends of Talmadge leads a weekly Wednesday morning trash pick-up on the sidewalks around 50th. Community-activated space [email protected] (Fairmount at 44th) will reopen April 20 after a hiatus due to construction near the lot where it was operating, which used to be Pearson Ford. Register for the grand opening Earth Day celebration and tree planting workshop to get a free tree from City Farmers Nursery. Look for the International Rescue Committee Market on Wednesdays and women - and minority-owned vendors on Sundays — along with the revival of weekly suckling pig roasts.

Sponsored
Sponsored

In May, the Little Saigon section of El Cajon Boulevard is getting an installation of $405,000 worth of new red lamp posts, continuation of a project started 15 years ago. And local small businesses are moving in all along the street. In North Park, the Mighty Bin is San Diego’s first zero-waste grocer, in the former mattress store that was divided into several commercial spaces —the new trend on the Boulevard. Under the same roof is Activate House of Wellness, Tulum-themed spin, yoga, and sculpt.

Mighty Bin opening day

“Businesses are snatching up those smaller spaces,” said Tootie Thomas. “A lot of buildings on El Cajon were too big for new entrepreneurs to occupy.”

The modestly-sized Mighty Bin carries bulk food with no packaging. Bring your own jar, buy a fresh one, or grab a donated (sanitized) one to fill up with what you intend to purchase. Weigh and pay. Shop for dry foods, local produce, oils, personal care and cleaning products.

“The idea is to have as much variety as a conventional grocery store,” said owner Isabelle DeMillan.

Disco balls glitter over the black-painted spin room at Activate House.

But a regular grocery store doesn’t carry compostable dental floss — or offer compost collection. Drop off a bucket of food scraps (meat, bones, and all) and Naomi Wentworth of the Compost Group will pick it up and take it to her anaerobic digester on campus at Cal State San Marcos. For free.

Back at Activate House, disco balls glitter over the black-painted spin room. It looks like a trendy club, but with stationary bikes.

“We have classes in Spenglish,” said owner Stephanie Butterfield-Richardson. Aside from regular paid classes, people can apply for scholarships here, where instructors hail from Mexico City, Italy, and San Diego.

Stephanie heads one of three female-owned businesses on that corner. On the other side is Pure Project, an outdoor biergarten. Next to Pure Project, the Alliance for African Assistance and Safari Seconds Thrift Store thriving contains donated items set aside especially for refugees coming to San Diego.

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Isabelle DeMillan, founder of Mighty Bin
Isabelle DeMillan, founder of Mighty Bin

There are a lot of used-to-be’s on El Cajon Boulevard. The now-gentrified corner at Utah used to be a mattress store. The Red Fox Room used to be on the south side of the street. The chalet-esque building that now houses The Village restaurant used to be Li’l B’s, and before that, for 30 years, it used to be Johnny’s R (where I broke bread with my editor at the Mid-City Neighbor, which used to be a newspaper that covered the area).

On the east end of the Boulevard, 54th and El Cajon used to be known for, said Boulevard Improvement District Director Tootie Thomas, “a bad element. Not to put a negative spin on it,” she added. But much of the Boulevard is looking super spiffy these days.

Stephanie Butterfield-Richardson of Activate House

Fresh power-washes every few weeks up and down the street were instituted late in 2021 and continue this year, with each area on a set schedule for cleaning. John Royal of Royal Environmental and Friends of Talmadge leads a weekly Wednesday morning trash pick-up on the sidewalks around 50th. Community-activated space [email protected] (Fairmount at 44th) will reopen April 20 after a hiatus due to construction near the lot where it was operating, which used to be Pearson Ford. Register for the grand opening Earth Day celebration and tree planting workshop to get a free tree from City Farmers Nursery. Look for the International Rescue Committee Market on Wednesdays and women - and minority-owned vendors on Sundays — along with the revival of weekly suckling pig roasts.

Sponsored
Sponsored

In May, the Little Saigon section of El Cajon Boulevard is getting an installation of $405,000 worth of new red lamp posts, continuation of a project started 15 years ago. And local small businesses are moving in all along the street. In North Park, the Mighty Bin is San Diego’s first zero-waste grocer, in the former mattress store that was divided into several commercial spaces —the new trend on the Boulevard. Under the same roof is Activate House of Wellness, Tulum-themed spin, yoga, and sculpt.

Mighty Bin opening day

“Businesses are snatching up those smaller spaces,” said Tootie Thomas. “A lot of buildings on El Cajon were too big for new entrepreneurs to occupy.”

The modestly-sized Mighty Bin carries bulk food with no packaging. Bring your own jar, buy a fresh one, or grab a donated (sanitized) one to fill up with what you intend to purchase. Weigh and pay. Shop for dry foods, local produce, oils, personal care and cleaning products.

“The idea is to have as much variety as a conventional grocery store,” said owner Isabelle DeMillan.

Disco balls glitter over the black-painted spin room at Activate House.

But a regular grocery store doesn’t carry compostable dental floss — or offer compost collection. Drop off a bucket of food scraps (meat, bones, and all) and Naomi Wentworth of the Compost Group will pick it up and take it to her anaerobic digester on campus at Cal State San Marcos. For free.

Back at Activate House, disco balls glitter over the black-painted spin room. It looks like a trendy club, but with stationary bikes.

“We have classes in Spenglish,” said owner Stephanie Butterfield-Richardson. Aside from regular paid classes, people can apply for scholarships here, where instructors hail from Mexico City, Italy, and San Diego.

Stephanie heads one of three female-owned businesses on that corner. On the other side is Pure Project, an outdoor biergarten. Next to Pure Project, the Alliance for African Assistance and Safari Seconds Thrift Store thriving contains donated items set aside especially for refugees coming to San Diego.

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

Garnet Peak is a gem that lives up to its name

This time of year fall colors are on full display
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How Covid tore San Diego friends and neighbors apart

Our friends joked that they were going to dig a tunnel to our house
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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
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