Jan. 26 2011 10:46 AM

A breakdown of O.B. offerings

One of Noon's gift bags
Photo by Clea Hantman
O.B. could stand for “Off Beat” or “Overly Boho” or, less kindly, “Obviously Bedraggled.” I mean, Ocean Beach is dirty. Let's do the math: On a Wednesday morning along Newport Avenue, I counted more than 40 work-age people of varying degrees of dress and bathing habits hanging out on street corners, as well as three tattoo parlors, three smoke shops, two medical-marijuana outlets (I expected more, frankly) and no less than 10 crap-ass “boutiques,” aka purveyors of women's trampy and disposable clothing. And yet I sometimes feel a draw to the neighborhood. I do enjoy the plethora of antique stores and stalls that also dot Newport. I love Rancho's and New Break's avocado sandwich. It's Pizza Port's closest location, and Azucar's Cuban coffee is mighty tasty. But there had to be more, so I set out to find the off-the-beaten-track side of off-beat Ocean Beach.

And I didn't find much.

The enclave is riddled with retail pockets nestled so ideally within the dense residential mishmash that you'd think they'd be filled to the brim with boutiques and coffeehouses and bookstores. But, instead, the '50s- and '60s-era small commercial buildings are half-empty, the other half occupied by Laundromats and convenience stores and more tattoo, smoke and pot shops.

Perhaps you like convenience and pot and tattoos, and, if so, you're probably happy as hell in O.B. But me, I wanted something more. I finally found it at Noon (5022 Santa Monica Ave., noondesignshop.com, with a new, second location in Solana Beach), a cute little droplet of a store. Noon doesn't just have sweet jewelry and ceramic egg cups and adorable rings made of spoons; it has it all in an exceedingly well-designed shop. A small vintage letterpress machine hides in a corner, and it's used to create some of Noon's letterpress designs, which are lovely and graceful without being stuffy or old. They craft invitations and wedding table toppers, but also recipe cards and their own wish-list tickets. I adore the silk-screened wine gift bags that declare the inhabitant's region of origin, such as “Tuscany.”

I asked the gal running Noon for more interesting small stores in the area, and she reminded me about her neighbor, Molly B (4966 Santa Monica Ave., Suite E, mollybbikinis.com). I wrote about her a year or so ago when rustling up places to buy bikinis. Molly B is thriving in O.B., and this makes sense—adorable, slightly retro-inspired custom-fit bikinis for the beach-dwelling California girl. And all her materials come from within 100 miles of her tucked-away studio. She has a new line for 2011, the Todos Collection, a stripe-fest of burnt-sky colors.

I almost didn't stop in Temptress (1918 Bacon St., temptressfashion.com). The front just looked a bit junky. But, inside, I was shocked that this shop featured a really terrific selection of '40s-era-inspired clothing. Temptress carries the Bettie Page line, which consists of well-made garments based on patterns from days gone by (San Diego now has its own Bettie Page store in the Gaslamp). Temptress also carries dresses and skirts from the likes of Pinup Couture and Stop Staring! as well as an extensive—I mean, wide-reaching and wonderful—selection of SPANX, a line of body-shaping undergarments, because to fit in those snug hourglass-shaped dresses, most women need to be packed tight like German sausage.

Finally, my favorite find from my foray into the outer banks of Newport Avenue: Stonehedge Leather Company (1967 Abbott St., cowcutter.com). It has that great URL (or hideous, depending on how you feel about leather in general) but a website in much need of some beefing up and design. So here's the deal: Stonehedge will custom-make anything out of leather, “except saddles and hard soled shoes,” or it will sell you the tools and goods to do it on your own. I asked owner Eric DeLeon what people have made. He told me they just finished taking a deceased man's beloved floor-length leather coat apart and making it into several leather notebooks and bookmarks for the man's grandkids. Rad! And then, with rapid-fire speed, he told me the bare wood floor I was standing on used to be a much-used dance floor, that they used to show pot movies in there many years back and that this building was, in fact, originally a jail. Oh, and they have leather dye so I can make my orange Frye boots brown. I absolutely love this place. O.B. ain't so bad after all.    

Looking for something? Write to clea@sdcitybeat.com.


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