Organic Store Had Agreement With “Tiny” of Tiny’s Tavern Before His Recent Passing
By Frank Gormlie
The expansion plans of Ocean Beach’s largest employer, the famous OB People’s Organic Food Market, have been placed on hold due to the unfortunate and untimely death of “Tiny”, the owner of Tiny’s Tavern.
The market co-op, which is a mainstay on Voltaire Street in OB, has just recently purchased the two parcels of land directly to the store’s east, one containing a duplex and the other containing Tiny’s Tavern. And part of the store’s expansion plans were based on an agreement with “Tiny” who was on the verge of retiring from operating his bar and small grill. “Tiny” – the nickname of Alan Kajiwara – had planned to use the land sale to the co-op as a push for him to move back to Hawaii where he has family, but his fatal stroke at the age of 54 ended all that.
And as Nancy Casady, the co-op’s CEO, told me this morning in an exclusive interview, the store is “cooling our jets” in deference to Tiny’s family and to Dara, Tiny’s minority partner at the bar. “We’re in a holding pattern,” she said, “until the conditions and status of the bar are settled.” The store certainly does not wish to unsettle Tiny’s family or crowd more than they already are due to his death. Apparently, Tiny’s brother had also just recently passed away.
In a phone interview, Casady explained the co-op has been looking at expansion options for 3 years now. The current parking situation at the store is a challenge to their customers coming in – and always has been a problem since its beginnings as one of the very first organic vegetarian stores in San Diego.
“The co-op has investigated more than a dozen potential locations,” Nancy told me, over the years. And for various reasons, they were all “unworkable”.
But at a recent board retreat, she said, “one of our board members raised the question of ‘why don’t we double-down in OB?'” Afterall, the co-op owes its success to Ocean Beach, and has built a strong relationship with the community over the decades, giving back, employing locals, providing a cultural and meeting center.
This idea resonated with Nancy and the staff and they moved on it. Besides more parking, the co-op has wanted to open a sit-down vegetarian restaurant, which is one of their main goals. It’s truth, Nancy said, there is a vegan take-out upstairs currently at the store, but a restaurant is a different dining service. “We also want to open up a juice bar as part of the restaurant,” she added.
These ideas gained momentum. And the ideas turned into reality. The co-op purchased both lots next door to its east, each 50 x 100 plots. And the lot with Tiny’s Tavern closed on January 5, this year. The day after it closed, Tiny passed away.
Nancy told me that the original agreement the store had with Tiny was that he was going to operate the bar for another year, and then transition in February 2016, enabling him to wind his business down. In the meantime, the co-op was going to just sit on it all. Tiny had plans to move back to Hawaii to be with his family.
The store felt very comfortable with that arrangement. “We’ve been neighbors with Tiny’s for 11 years.”
The original plan, Nancy said, was to take over ownership of the lots by February 2015, and have architects and planners review the conditions of the 2 parcels and come up with options for the store that include the sit-down restaurant and more parking, using the duplex and Tiny’s Tavern parcels in some configuration. (The current upstairs vegan take-out would be kept.) The plans and options will not necessarily call for the demolition of the buildings.
Since Tiny’s death, the co-op has been working with Dara. It’s Nancy’s understanding that she plans to continue operating the bar until Tiny’s estate gets settled.