UPDATED: Coming to a Theater Near You! Cinema to replace Jonathan’s Market on Fay Avenue in La Jolla

Jonathan’s Market, a four-decade presence in the heart of the Village, will close June 1 and its owners will lease the space to a local entrepreneur who plans to operate a movie theater there. A cinema in the Village has been the wish of many La Jollans since the Cove Theatre closed in 2002. Pat Sherman photos

By Pat Sherman

Despite months of refutations from employees and its main office, on April 30 the management of Jonathan’s Market at 7611 Fay Ave., finally confirmed rumors of the store’s closing with a simple message written on a dry-erase board set outside the front door: “Thank you La Jolla for 18 wonderful years. Jonathan’s will be closing its doors for good on June 1, 2014.”

Exiting Jonathan’s with a cart of groceries May 1, La Jolla Community Planning Association trustee Nancy Manno said she was “heartbroken” at the news.

“When I walked in yesterday afternoon and saw the sign, I started to cry,” Manno said. “I opened a house charge (at Jonathan’s) the third day they opened the store. … I know the manager. I can call and say, ‘I really wish you’d get this particular cookie or this particular thing.’ ”

Warwick’s employee Jim Stewart, who has shopped at Jonathan’s for the past two decades, called the closing of San Diego’s first gourmet market a “great loss for the Village.”

Stewart said he preferred Jonathan’s for its selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, fine wine and “that hard- to-find spice or gourmet extra.

“The deli has the best sandwiches, meat counter, and selection of salads and pre-cooked dinners,” he said. “Others say the prices are high, which is true in some cases, but I was willing to pay a little extra for their excellent customer service. … Plus, it was carpeted, which made shopping there an even greater pleasure.”

Al Bercuson, Jonathan’s store manager, and Michael Dallo of Dallo Enterprises, bid adieu to the store’s loyal customers. The gourmet market, which once included a live lobster tank near the front entrance, opened in 1970. It was purchased by the Dallo family in 1995.

Store manager Al Bercuson said all house charge accounts will be transferred to the company’s Harvest Ranch Market in Encinitas, which carries the same products. Customers will still be able to phone Jonathan’s, the existing line for which will transfer to the Encinitas store.

“We’re also going to have a free delivery service from the Harvest Ranch

in Encinitas to La Jolla for the rest of the year,” Bercuson said. “Anything that we need to bring into that store to accommodate the people in La Jolla, we will.”

Following the closure of Burns Drugs on Girard Avenue, Jonathan’s becomes the second longstanding La Jolla business to shut its doors in the past few months.

Jonathan’s opened more than four decades ago as part of the Big Bear grocery chain founded by John Mabee. Its current owner, Dallo Enterprises, which operates a handful of Foodland Markets in the South Bay, and Harvest Ranch Markets in Encinitas and El Cajon, bought the store in 1995 (a third Harvest Ranch in Del Mar closed its doors Dec. 31, 2013).

Michael Dallo, who serves as general counsel for his family’s business, said a La Jolla businessman approached Dallo Enterprises about opening a theater at the site. His family will retain ownership of the property, leasing space to the theater operator.

Employees Patrick Woodland and Sharon Heinz say they will miss Jonathan’s customers most. “People have come in weeping because they love this store so much — just like Burns drugstore,” Heinz said. “There will never be another store like Jonathan’s.”

“A lot of thought went into it,” Dallo said. “He met with (my) family and the board and after long talks and a lot of thought we decided it was in the best interest of the company and for La Jolla that we proceed. …

“It’s been bittersweet, for our family as well,” he added, noting that most of Jonathan’s 35 full- and part-time employees are being offered jobs at other stores owned by Dallo Enterprises. “This has been the crown jewel of our family’s business, so it was a tough decision to make.”

Theater in the wings

If the city approves plans to convert the space to a cinema, it would be the first movie theater in the Village since the Cove Theatre on Girard Avenue closed in 2002.

Staff in the city’s Development Services Department are reviewing preliminary plans for tenant improvements, to include some minor demolition and the inclusion of auditoriums, a lobby, bathrooms, employee room, storage, offices and concessions area on the ground level. The applicant is also seeking to raise the height of the roof and add second-level projector rooms and another storage area.

La Jolla Architect Michael Morton, whose firm, Marengo Morton Architects, is located next door to the space where the Cove Theatre once was (7730 Girard Ave. near Kline Street), said he thinks the return of a movie house would boost the Village atmosphere.

The Cove Theatre, which operated in La Jolla from the 1940s to 2003 on Girard Avenue. Courtesy La Jolla Historical Society

“It might be a good thing for the local merchants to keep people in La Jolla, rather than people exiting La Jolla,” he said.

La Jolla Historical Society staff historian Carol Olten, a former film critic, said she is “very happy about a movie theater opening in La Jolla again.”

Underground parking at the site could be its saving grace, she said, noting that a lack of parking may have led to the Cove’s demise — particularly when its owners considered redeveloping the single-screen theater (then under Landmark Theatres’ auspices) as a multiplex.

The only single-screen movie theater left in San Diego is the Ken Cinema in San Diego’s Kensington neighborhood, which was nearly shuttered last month, though it will remain open now, with improvements, largely due to outcry from cinema buffs.

According to Olten, at one time La Jolla had two other movie houses — the Granada Theatre (at the corner of Wall Street and Girard Avenues, where La Plaza La Jolla is being developed) and the Unicorn Cinema, at the corner of La Jolla Boulevard and Pearl Street (today, Kitchen Expo).

— To read more about the new cinema complex, click here.

Related posts:

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  3. Hotel Parisi in La Jolla closes doors after 14 years
  4. Geisel Library to take visitors back in time with films of the La Jolla Cinema League
  5. War Stories: Historical Society exhibit paints portrait of La Jolla during WW II

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Posted by Pat Sherman on May 1, 2014. Filed under A & E, Featured Story, Film, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Comments for “UPDATED: Coming to a Theater Near You! Cinema to replace Jonathan’s Market on Fay Avenue in La Jolla”

  1. al

    Wonderful reporting. Very said to see Jonathan’s go. I do miss having a movie theater in the Village and if we are to lose a treasured market like Jonathan’s, I can’t think of a better consolation prize. I will be more likely to frequent local restaurants if I can go to a movie before or afterwards.

  2. I turned the key on the last night of the Mithras Book/ Unicorn Cinema. I plan on being first in line if our village gets a new cinema.

  3. Marnie

    Another longtime LJ business, gone….. :(

    But replacing it with a movie theater, really? How many BIG theater complexes are close to the area??? A movie theater at this location will be viable for, maybe 1-2 years before failing to make the areas overpriced rents.

    Here’s an innovative idea that may better serve our community: An indoor skatepark/youth center. A controlled, safe environment for the youth of our fine community to congregate and play.

    This facility can house all the alternative sport activities that our kids enjoy; skateboarding, scooters, slack lining, rock climbing, etc..

    Since our children are our future, lets give them the options and opportunities they deserve.

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