An Ocean Beach grocery store is shutting its doors at the end of the month.
Independently owned and operated Apple Tree Supermarket will be emptied out after 25 years of serving the Ocean Beach community, according to the store owners.
The reason? Owners Saad and Bob Hirmez said their rent has increased to the point they can no longer afford it.
“We lost the lease and we couldn’t negotiate with the landlord -- he has asked for an arm and a leg,” said Bob.
Elliot Megdal & Associates, a Los Angeles-based commercial developing company, owns the building and placed the Hirmez brothers on a month-to-month contract earlier this year after increasing the price of the lease. Megdal did not respond to NBC 7 San Diego to comment on this story.
Megdal initially told the brothers they had to leave on Nov. 27. But they received an extension. They now have to be out by Dec. 31, even though a replacement has not been secured -- meaning the building will be empty until Megdal finds a new business to take over the space.
The Hirmez brothers asked to stay and continue paying the same price until a new tenant moves in, but they said Megdal declined.
“It’s pretty depressing,” Saad said.
The store is centrally located at 4949 Santa Monica Ave. has ample parking (a rarity in OB) and is less than five blocks away from the beach.
Executive director Denny Knox of the Ocean Beach Mainstreet Association wrote a letter to Megdal supporting their business.
“We said how important it is to have a community grocery store, we’d hate to see it turn into something else,” she said.
Knox also voiced concerns to Megdal of the large vacant building potentially getting vandalized. She said in a conversation she had with Megdal that he would fence off the area. But that also includes the parking lot, which people currently pay to use.
“We would hope that he would work hard not to leave it empty,” Knox said. “It’s bad for a small community. Really bad.”
There are no other supermarkets in the area, and Knox said residents without cars will have a hard time getting what they need. She said she hopes Megdal will place another grocer in the space.
OB residents will have to rely on smaller stores, such as OB People’s Organic Food Market and The Olive Tree, starting in 2013. Until then, Apple Tree Market is emptying its shelves during the holiday season.
Saad said they plan to open a new, smaller store on Newport Avenue in the next four to six months.
“We’ll give the community a store back,” he said. “We will continue to serve them as best we can.”
In the meantime, Saad said the empty building will serves as a reminder that people have fewer options for groceries.
“We love our customers,” he sighed. “But what can we do?”