The only customer-owned grocer in San Diego, People’s, a food cooperative with more than 14,000 members, recently opened OB Garden Café, formerly Tiny’s Tavern, at 4741 Voltaire St. It is just down the street from its two-story grocery-deli parent at 4765 Voltaire St.
Also two stories, the new cafe has an art-deco ambiance, sporting a giant peace sign covering an entire wall, with multi-level, outdoor pet-friendly dining space and a sun roof.
The full-service organic vegetarian eatery currently serves lunch and dinner, but will be open soon for breakfast. The café serves organic teas and coffees, fresh-pressed juices and healthful smoothies. The café will also soon be serving organic beer on tap plus organic wine on its second floor, with outdoor seating on both floors.
Jim Kase, People’s general manager, said the OB co-op has been around some 45 years since the ’70s.
“It started in a garage,” said Kase of the grocery’s genesis, noting it was begun by Obecians “who just wanted good healthy organic food for themselves and their families. They weren’t happy with the way the commercial grocery business was going with use of a lot of herbicides and pesticides, etc.”
Kase said the independent organic grocery went through several “iterations and little-bit bigger buildings” until the mid-’80s, when they went from a collective totally owned by the workers, to a consumer’s cooperative, which is owned by the shoppers and workers.
“That brought a lot more capital into the business,” said Kase. “Our store, our business, is owned by the community. We give back to the community and this (cafe) is something our owners wanted.”
People’s is run by a board of directors.
“Building the café was a board decision,” said Kase, who is charge of operations at the collective.
Why a café?
“It’s something our owners have been asking for a long time, to have a fresh juice and smoothie bar,” said Kase. “We don’t have room for it over at the store. When this property opened up, we thought this was a perfect opportunity to fulfill the wishes of all the owners who had wanted something like this for a long time. So everybody’s excited about it.”
Kase said a lot of the wood in the café interior is “reclaimed wood from the previous building.”
Kase noted the café offers an alternative to its cafeteria-style grocery-deli up the street. “The café’s more vegetarian-vegan and menu-driven,” Kase said. “They’re really meant to complement each other.”
Kase added People’s just got a beer and wine license for the café.
OB Garden Café had a soft opening the second week of December and plans are to have a grand opening sometime in February.
“Business is growing day by day in our community-based, family- and pet-friendly café,” Kase said.
OB Garden Café
Two-levels pet-friendly dining outdoors
Where: 4741 Voltaire St.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Info: 619-255-1193, obgardencafe.coop