Century-old OB Hardware store facing closure if it doesn’t get a buyer
Time is running out as owner Michael DeEmedio looks for someone to buy and preserve the business.
Nearly three years ago, Michael DeEmedio and a business partner rescued OB Hardware from closing.
Carl and Carolyn Weidetz, who had owned the business in the heart of Ocean Beach for three decades, were retiring.
DeEmedio, then 37, had never owned a business and knew little about plumbing and electrical parts. He worked in the technical division of a medical device company in La Jolla, but he lived in Ocean Beach.
“Target was moving in and the hardware store was moving out,” DeEmedio recalled. “Those were two big hits this community didn’t need to take. I didn’t want to live in a town without a hardware store.”
He bought the business, which was established in 1919, and rebuilt it. Now his lease on the building at 4871 Newport Ave. is near expiration. He and his wife, Amanda, and their two young children are moving to New Mexico to be closer to relatives. He is looking for someone else to take the reins and keep the family store alive.
“I didn’t have a lot of experience, just a desire to help,” he said. “It wasn’t meant to be long-term.”
When he took over the hardware business, it wasn’t making money, he said.
“We turned the store around and made it profitable. We rearranged the store, freed up backroom space and added an organic garden center with seeds, soil and tools,” DeEmedio said.
Space was expanded by building shelves higher. A spray-paint section and much more hardware were added.
After working 80-hour weeks, DeEmedio has ratcheted back to a more family-friendly 40 hours a week, helped by his staff of seven part-time employees. A year ago, he bought out his partner, who owned 20 percent of the business.
DeEmedio said he isn’t looking to get rich. His sale price is $199,000, only slightly more than the $183,000 wholesale value of his inventory.
The main stumbling block, according to his broker Mitch McGinley, is that DeEmedio doesn’t own the building. He is leasing with a five-year renewal option that comes up in late September.
“The landlord has been kind and patient and supportive,” said McGinley, of First Choice Business Brokers. “He loves the business and will make it comfortable for the buyer.”
The monthly rent, about $2.60 per square foot, is reasonable, the broker said, but the storefront is big — 3,550 square feet — and therefore costly.
McGinley, who lives in Ocean Beach, said he’s eager to preserve the community’s character. “This is an institution. OB is proud of its mom-and-pop businesses and wants to protect them,” he said. “There is a lot of emotion tied to this particular business, and people want to keep it in the neighborhood.”
Employees make keys and window and door screens for customers. The store even has a piano, and local musician Clinton Ross Davis gives occasional concerts there and posts videos on YouTube (@ClintonRossDavis).
McGinley said he has fielded several inquiries — landlords asking about moving the store into their building, a school interested in buying the business to use as an educational platform and a workshop for students, even a suggestion of co-op ownership. But none of the queries resulted in a solid offer.
“The clock is running out for Mike,” McGinley said. “I wish we could hang on till we find the right person.”
DeEmedio agreed. “The last thing we need in OB is another bar,” he said.
He said plumbers, electricians and handymen come in every day, along with landlords, tinkerers and other less-frequent customers. The closest hardware store is a Home Depot in the Midway District that entails a 26-minute round trip.
On June 1, DeEmedio addressed his customers on the store’s Facebook site, relating how he had stepped in at the last minute in late 2018 to rescue an Ocean Beach institution.
Then he made a plea: “We have a dedicated staff who loves this town and this store and do not want to see it close. We have dedicated customers who every day tell me how important it is for OB to have a hardware store — and they’re right!
“So we are looking for someone who feels compelled to continue the tradition. Please share this with your friends and family or anyone you know with the time and resources to dedicate to preserving a most functional and beloved business in OB.”
One respondent who identified himself as a 33-year customer said: “I’ve always found what I need at great pricing. ... I hope the right people buy and keep it going another 100-plus years.”
“We’re down to the wire,” DeEmedio said.
If no buyer steps forward in the next month, plans will commence for the hardware store’s going-out-of-business sale.