Jack's has worked for more than a year to open on Ocean Avenue in the vacant Big Dog Sportwear store near the Marine Room. In June, the Planning Commission denied the company's request to create an 8,000-square-foot shop that incorporates the Big Dog store, an unused apartment upstairs and two adjacent businesses - a dry cleaner and dress shop. Jack's planned to invest $2 million in the remodel, according to city documents. The landlord would move the dry cleaner and dress shop to new locations downtown.
With Hobie Sports, Toes on the Nose and Quiksilver Boardrider stores also downtown, the Planning Commission said there was already enough surf shops in the area. The commission also objected to an intensification of parking use and eliminating a residence above the store. In city plans, Ocean Avenue is designed to serve local residents so moving the dry cleaner and dress shop is a no-no. City staff called Jack's a "formula-based" business with a "mass marketing approach."
Jack's has four other stores in Huntington Beach, Corona Del Mar, Dana Point and Newport Beach. It is one of the most powerful surf shops around.
Bobby Abdel told me the other day he objects to the city's characterization of Jack's as a chain store.
"We are a regular business like everybody else," he said. "People are saying we'd be bad for the city - if anything we would bring a lot of tax (revenue) to the city."
Nearly a dozen Laguna residents spoke against Jack's application at the Planning Commission meeting. At the City Council meeting, Bobby hopes to counter with lots of Jack's supporters.
Personally, I find the localism fascinating. Each beach town in Orange County is different, and what flies in one doesn't fly in others. I've had surf shop owners tell me the popularity of certain brands varies from city to city. The hottest brands in Huntington are sometimes different than those in neighboring Newport.
I'll let you know on Sept. 19 how the City Council rules.