Allied Gardens gets lucky in produce department

Farmers' market on the way for residents who miss their grocery store

A farmers' market is waaay better than no market.
  • A farmers' market is waaay better than no market.

Last October 18, Allied Gardens residents celebrated their neighborhood's 60th birthday in the Waring Road parking lot where original shopping-center businesses included Food Basket.

Albertsons Market - Allied Gardens

5185 Waring Road, Allied Gardens

(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)

At the Albertsons "everything must go" sale, January 23, 2015

At the Albertsons "everything must go" sale, January 23, 2015

The grocery store became a Lucky store and was an Albertsons when it closed in February of this year. The closure — reputedly unrelated to the sale of stores to the Haggen chain and required due to the merger of Albertsons and Vons — surprised employees, residents, and the owner of the Allied Gardens Shopping Center. What the closure meant to the neighborhood was expressed earlier this year at forums including the Allied Gardens-Grantville Community Council town hall and District 7 city councilman Scott Sherman's March 12 State of the Navajo Neighborhoods meeting.

While the store remains empty, the April 23 Del Cerro Action Council meeting brought news of a temporary solution. Sherman staffer Liz Saidkhanian announced the May 15 grand opening of the Kiwanis Farmers Market. The market, sponsored by the Grantville-Allied Gardens Kiwanis Club and Cloverfield Management (the center owner) will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays in the center located on Waring Road between Zion and Orcutt avenues.

Cloverfield waived the fee for the market, property manager Linda Lasher said in an April 28 interview.

Joe Huston, Diem Do, David Klaman

Joe Huston, Diem Do, David Klaman

On April 27, I met with past Kiwanis president Joe Huston and San Carlos residents David Klaman and his wife Diem Do. The couple owns and operates Community Crops. Klaman said his involvement in farmers' markets started in the late 1990s in Ocean Beach. He manages the farmers' market there and also runs Gaslamp and Otay Ranch markets. The Allied Gardens market is the opportunity to "do [a market in] my neighborhood," he said.

Huston said Sherman spoke to the Kiwanis Club and "floated the idea of a farmers' market," and Jay Wilson of the Del Cerro council brought up Klaman's name.

"We're a nonprofit organization,” said Huston. “What we raise goes back to the community. With the loss of the grocery store," the service organization looked for ways to help. Kiwanis are handling tasks such as advertising and banners; they will have a booth at the market.

By the last weekend of April, Klaman said vendors included "vegetable guys" and an "orange person." The market won't offer flowers because SD Flower Shop is a center tenant, and Klaman will "not bring in anything that competes" with businesses.

In addition to produce, Do said market offerings will include prepared foods and crafts. Tables and chairs will be set up so residents can dine and visit.

Huston said organizers hope to have weekly entertainment, noting that the Kiwanis Club has relationships with local schools. Do and Klaman also have a connection to young entertainers. Their nine-year-old daughter Dani is a member of Off the Hook. Her two band mates are ages 8 and 10. Do said the market is planned as a "fun family event. The family can come, hang out, and do grocery shopping."

As for the shuttered store, Lasher said she couldn't comment on a prospective tenant. "We're very actively in the process of obtaining a tenant. Hopefully it will be a market."

Residents are hopeful and weighed in on their preferences at meetings and on the Allied Gardens San Diego Facebook page. Residents endorsed Sprouts and Trader Joe's. While residents also favored Keil's, they acknowledged that the store has a San Carlos location.

Klaman and Wilson are also optimistic. When a grocery store comes to the center, they hope the farmers' market will move to another Allied Gardens location.

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That was the perfect spot for a supermarket, and that's why it was one for about sixty years, I'd guess. Albertson's has been shuttering stores all round the county. In that, they've had company, because Von's and Ralphs have been doing the same. Their reasons for closing up in Allied Gardens have to be obscure, unless they are just an example of corporate stupidity. And yes, large corporations can go through periods where their every move constitutes "stupid." Unless all the potential entrants into the AG area are also being very dense, one of them will grab that location and be very successful there. Possibilities, in addition to those mentioned are Smart & Final Extra (and those are supermarkets now), Ralphs (unlikely to be sure, but you never know), Grocery Outlet, and a couple of the 99-cent and dollar stores that sell plenty of food. Then there's Food for Less, and Stater Brothers. All of those are possibilities.

Unfortunately, that store was very small, cramped, and didn't carry some of the things that a bigger Albertson's in San Carlos carried. It's doubtful a major chain would snap up that property, as there really is no way to expand that location. And while it was the only supermarket in Allied Gardens, it just wasn't really that busy--certainly not as busy as it was years ago.

You're right about how supermarkets are much larger now than they were thirty or forty years ago. 30,000 square feet was typical in the early 70's, and now most newly-built ones are twice that size, But it is also true that the expansion of space hasn't really changed the food offerings much. Instead these new outlets have floral shops, delis, much more hardlines, in-store bakeries, and a host of other frills. During the last takeover-fest, when Albertson's bought Lucky, they had to divest some locations and they were sold to Stater Brothers. On Mission Road in San Marcos, there's a small Stater store now that probably was originally an Alpha Beta. It lacks many of those add-ons, yet seems to do a good business, and suits the neighborhood in that there's nothing upscale about Stater, nor that area of No County.

As to Allied Gardens, a Sprouts might make a go of it in that smaller space. But I don't know how close that is to an existing Sprouts. A good, independent local operation, tailored to the clientele in the area, would perhaps be the best fit.

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