For most of 2020, many of us left the house only to get groceries and essentials. Being able to spend an afternoon trying on shoes you don’t need, catching up with a friend while aimlessly browsing the shelves of a cute boutique, or getting lost in a bookstore became another pre-pandemic luxury we had taken for granted. Unfortunately, retailers that rely on brick-and-mortar storefronts paid the price: Over 12,000 stores in the US closed last year, according to a report by CoStar Group, while mega online retailers saw record sales.
We wanted to dedicate an issue to our city’s beloved small businesses, so we put together a guide to more than five dozen boutiques and shops throughout the county (many of which are owned by women), which begins on page 70. From South Bay to Oceanside, these are the places that sell hard-to-find gifts, are stocked with inventory that reflects the owner’s personality and passions, and that bring more character to our neighborhoods. Some, like Warwick’s in La Jolla, have been in business for decades; others are newer, like Sew Loka in Barrio Logan. Look through the guide and consider visiting them first, if you can, the next time you want to refresh your wardrobe or buy a gift for a loved one.
While we’re talking shop, check out our Culture section, where you’ll find a story about one of the oldest businesses in the city, San Diego Hardware, established 1892. Also in this issue is our neighborhood guide to Vista (who knew this pocket of North County was so happening?), as well as a celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Associate Editor Erica Nichols interviewed Lilly Cheng, chair of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, who has created a safe sense of community online by hosting virtual living room dialogues while showcasing the museum’s artifacts.
Speaking of the virtual world, Barrio Food Hub recently opened in Barrio Logan, housing space for nearly two dozen different “ghost kitchen” restaurants that prepare food for delivery only. Although the ghost kitchen concept isn’t new (and commissary kitchens have existed for years), it’s been taking off since last year. Food critic Troy Johnson got an inside look at Barrio Food Hub, spoke to local restaurateurs who are operating there, and discussed the big tech money behind the project. How will ghost kitchens affect the future of dining? Read our feature, going up later this month, to find out.
It may still be too early to predict when life will start feeling normal again, but a stop into one of our local small businesses is a good place to start. Whatever you’re after, you’re sure to find it inside one of the many brick-and- mortars that call San Diego home. Happy shopping!