First location opened in North Park in 1984
By Dave Fidlin | SDUN Reporter
When Jim “Jimbo” Someck sought to open another organic and natural food grocery store, Downtown San Diego was not at the top of his list.
“I didn’t think I could find a place Downtown that had much space,” Someck said. He said he also didn’t like the idea of opening inside a mall, since cars could not park right in front of the store.
To make matters worse, when Someck first toured the intended space in April of 2011, he was not happy, later calling it “an abomination.”
The idea seemed doomed from the start, but Westfield management was willing to work with the local grocery chain, and as of Oct, 16, Jimbo’s …Naturally! became the newest tenant within Westfield Horton Plaza. Someck not only found adequate space for his fifth location, the 28,000-square-foot store became his largest.
Through a series of tweaks in the conceptual phase, Someck and the mall’s ownership devised a mutual plan that resulted in a three-level space within the popular Downtown shopping destination. A walk-up entrance via steps or an escalator exists on level one, the store is physically located on level two, and new escalators and a “cartveyor” were installed to shuttle shoppers up to parking on the fourth level.
Several hundred people attended the grand opening festivities on Oct. 16—which included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a number of speakers, including “Jimbo” himself and several local officials who each took turns at the podium: County Supervisor Don Roberts, Interim Mayor Todd Gloria, City Councilmember Lori Zapf and San Diego Downtown Partnership CEO Kris Michell, among others.
“I’ve been involved in the natural foods industry for over 40 years and my passion has always been organics and supporting local organic farmers,” Someck said. “I know that these are buzz words now but that has been our focus ever since we opened our doors to our first store in 1984 because that is who we are. We walk the talk.”
Zapf, who said she launched her own natural endurance bar in Jimbo’s Del Mar store decades ago, lauded the grocer for his practices.
“Jimbo believes in local companies, he believes in buying produce locally and supporting the community and I was one of those businesses many years ago that he said yes to and got my business going,” Zapf said.
Someck’s foray into the grocery store business began well before 1984, the year the first Jimbo’s store opened in North Park. Although his transition to vegetarian had already started, after Someck moved to San Diego from New York in 1974 and began working at People’s food in Ocean Beach, it solidified his direction and he is a vegan today.
“There are a lot of people out there who don’t eat the diet I eat, and we really should appeal to everyone and just carry the highest quality of foods in whatever category people want to eat,” he said. “I eat the way I eat because I am a product of the experiences I had, other people have had other experiences.”
The North Park store, which Someck admits put him “on the map,” closed in 1997 and the property currently houses Ranchos Cocina, another local vegetarian food chain. As he sought to expand around the county, Someck said he continued to receive comments from San Diegans who fondly recalled the store’s presence in the Uptown area. Fifteen years later, he is happy to be moving nearby.
“We’re excited to be Downtown,” Someck said. “We look forward to serving the residents and business people. There aren’t many stores [here] selling high-quality foods, so I think we’re filling a void.”
Someck had his construction and design team deliberately pay homage to the Downtown neighborhoods as pieces of the puzzle came together. Old photos of the area are on display throughout the store, and local references abound, as evidenced by the Little Italy-themed deli, the Gaslamp Bistro and shopping aisles named after area streets, like Market, Kettner and Grape.
The new store features a number of the signature options one would find at other locations, including a large selection of wines and cheeses, a made-from-scratch bakery, organic produce and hormone-free beef, poultry and pork.
As part the company’s dedication to the local communities it serves, on Thursday, Oct. 31, Jimbo’s donated approximately $23,500—a portion of its opening weekend proceeds—to Connections Housing, a housing and services center located at 1250 Sixth Ave., designed to reduce homelessness in San Diego. The local chain holds two community fundraisers per year and Someck told the grand opening crowd that his stores had recently passed the $1 million mark in charitable giving.
“Our community is very fortunate to have a business like Jimbo’s, who offers great food to their customers and invests in their community to make it a better place for all,” said Ben Avey, media relations manager with Family Health Centers, parent of Connections Housing.
“I don’t care how successful our business would be, without working with the community that we are in, it wouldn’t feel right, so we will be actively involved in whatever we can,” Someck said, adding that he’d met with Downtown San Diego Partnership on Oct. 29, to see how else they could become greater involved.
“That’s our goal, to be part of the fabric of the community,” he said.
For more information, visit jimbos.com.
Uptown News Assistant Editor Morgan M. Hurley contributed to this report.