The homespun, iconic Ocean Beach restaurant business, which opened in 1960, is being sold.
“We are in escrow,” confirmed Marilyn Thomas, Nati’s current co-owner and operator, along with Dennis Kerr.
Recent rumors had the restaurant already closed and/or being sold to developers to construct condominiums in its place. Neither was true.
The Peninsula Beacon has confirmed with a source that Pop Pie Co. will take over Nati’s space at 1852 Bacon St., after the sale is completed.
Pop Pie has an existing location in University Heights. The eatery, which serves sweet and savory pies, including breakfast pies, is owned by Gan Suebsarakham and Steven Torres.
“Pop Pie Co. is extremely grateful to the San Diego community for making it a neighborhood place that people can enjoy,” said Torres. “Because of that, we are looking at opportunities for expansion where the local scene fits with our brand promise. As of now, there are a few locations in discussion. We look forward to what the future holds for both San Diego and Pop Pie Co.”
Pop Pie Co. pairs handheld, five-inch savory pies with side dishes/salads made fresh daily offering the two as a lunch combo or dinner meal. Breakfast pies, a variety of sweet pies, and refreshing beverages, including fresh locally roasted coffee, round out the menu. Pop Pie Co. operates a multi-roaster coffee model, meaning patrons can expect a different coffee experience each time.
Originally owned by Vern Lontz and his wife, Charline, Nati’s started on the corner of Bacon and Niagara streets as a one-room OB diner before remodeling and expanding. The couple owned and operated Nati’s until retiring in 1972. Longtime employees Thomas and Kerr then took over for the Lontzes, and have been operating Nati’s ever since.
About Nati’s imminent sale, Denise (Denny) Knox of Ocean Beach Mainstream Association, said, “I just heard that the tenants are going to meet with the new owner early next week, and I would rather wait until we have proof positive about what is happening.”
Addressing the sale of the 58-year-old Mexican restaurant renowned for its family atmosphere and patio dining, Kerr said a confidentiality agreement he signed prevents him from disclosing any particulars.
“I don’t have any idea (of the new business),” Kerr said. “They haven’t shared that with me.”
Kerr said the time had come for he and business partner Thomas to pass the business baton.
“I and Marie both started here as teens and we’re both still working hard,” said the 72-year-old Kerr, adding restaurants “are a younger person’s business.”
Kerr said local Realtor Tony Franco has been working with them on Nati’s sale, with the directive to keep the proceedings low-key.
“Tony’s mandate was to work with no [for sale] signs or advertising at all,” Kerr said. “That was part of the deal. We did not want to upset the employees, some of whom have been with us since the ’70s.”
Kerr was uncertain how long escrow would take, pointing out selling a business is more complicated than a residence.
Regarding leaving Nati’s, Kerr commented: “Of course, I’m going to miss the loyal customers that have been keeping the business running all these years. There are a lot of things I’m going to miss about it.”
For a variety of reasons, Kerr said it was time for a change.
“Both Marilyn and I are getting a little tired,” he said. “We both have grandkids now we’d like to spend some time with. It’s time to move on.”