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Bird Rock museum finds a home in cafe

What started out as a history “project” seeking a temporary home has become a full-fledged museum with its own permanent residence.

“We’re on the verge of getting a Bird Rock History Museum,” Bird Rock Community Council (BRCC) President Joe LaCava announced at the group’s monthly meeting last week.

The new address for the soon-to-be community museum is a familiar one: Bird Rock Coffee Roasters at 5627 La Jolla Blvd. — more specifically, the organic coffee roaster’s newsstand room, which owner Chuck Patton has offered for use as history museum/exhibit space.

“The museum presents an opportunity to do something different,” Patton noted. “It will also be used for an art gallery,” he added, noting that artwork by Bird Rock Elementary School students is presently showcased on the newsstand’s walls.

News of Patton’s offer of permanent exhibit space for a community museum was enthusiastically received by 37-year Bird Rock resident Philomene Offen, who just started documenting the La Jolla neighborhood’s history in January.

“It’s the perfect place because everyone goes in there — moms with babies, students, people in the neighborhood, the self-employed — it’s really hopping all the time,” she said.

Offen said she never envisioned doing history projects in her retirement.

“However, in the course of exploring Bird Rock’s varied and often intriguing history, I found I really enjoyed being a history detective,” she said. “And believe me, there was plenty of sleuthing to do — the rock sign, the submarine, the first margarita, etc.”

Offen’s first exhibit of her history project on storyboards was at the Masonic Lodge in conjunction with the Taste of Bird Rock community celebration in July. After that, she exhibited it for short periods of time at other venues such as Bird Rock Elementary School. She was taken by surprise that permanent exhibit space for her work turned up so quickly.

At the council’s Nov. 3 meeting, LaCava complimented Offen on her hard work and noted that it may serve as an inspiration to others in the community.

“Hopefully it will help trigger folks who have old photographs up in their attic to be willing to share them with us,” he said.

“People who find old photographs in their garages, I’m happy to pay to get a copy of them so we can have them,” agreed Offen, noting that copyright protection is a difficult and time-consuming process involved in compiling a photographic history for an area.

Patton said it won’t take long to transform his newsstand into exhibit space.

“It’s just basically moving some temporary shelving around, putting in some new lighting,” he said.

The coffee shop and the new historical museum/art gallery will be separate spaces with their own names and signage, and will be open identical hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends.

Patton has high hopes for the new museum/exhibit space, which he aims to open by Thanksgiving.

“I would like to turn this into more meeting space for Bird Rock to use as a social hub, providing the museum and the gallery is kind of framing for the social hub,” he said.