Restaurant Row & Our Plans for the Future - Ascend Coffee Roasters

Restaurant Row & Our Plans for the Future

Posted by Erin Nenow on

I have learned a lot over the last couple of years through our experience with the redevelopment of Restaurant Row and I am asked a lot of questions about it while working at the cafe. I wanted to take a minute to share this journey we have been on with you and offer insights into what we have learned about it. Of course, the news has been very emotional for myself and our long time loyal staff. The coffee house has been our world for most of our adult lives. But we have turned our focus away from mourning and onto what is next for us, and how we can turn this into a growing opportunity. I want to start by saying that WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE ANYTIME SOON. Until we get official notice that it is time to move out (which could be years), you will be able to find us at our long-time location in Restaurant Row, tucked between the King & I Thai Food and the old San Marcos Brewery. Where the coffee house has stood for over 30 years. We are working on a second location in Vista (coming 2024) and looking to find a new permanent home in San Marcos. San Marcos is our community, our home, our people and that new location will come after our time in Restaurant Row is officially over.

But let’s go back to the beginning of the story.

In 2019 tenets in Restaurant Row discovered that the property was on the market for sale. No one announced this, but it was public knowledge online. Many of us were realistic that a new owner would not be interested in cleaning up the historic landmark, due to the state it was in, and would likely be more interested in the location for new construction. Large pot holes in the parking lot, many vacancies including one with fire damage no one wanted to repair, and a big brown fence masking a large abandoned project overrun by weeds. The surviving businesses have only made it by their own efforts to make the best cup of coffee (chicken wings, cocktails, fish tacos, ect.) around. We saw the writing on the wall a long time ago, that Restaurant Row was not the draw for our businesses that it used to be. To this day I do not see the new owner of Restaurant Row or Lennar Homes as the problem. The real problem started a decade ago when the previous owners stopped investing in basic upkeep of the property and stopped investing in growing its future. At that time and even now, there is a part of me that is a little excited that someone is going to invest in the area again.

We found out in January 2021 that the property was sold in an email from our longtime property manager, who only informed us that she would not be working with us any longer and where we would redirect our rent checks to. This was just another property management company, the identity of the new owner was unknown to all of us until the publishing of the Union Tribune article in August of 2022. During this whole process, we did not have any information that was not available to the public, we learned the updates in real time when you read about them. I have had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Papera (owner) and her representatives at Lennar Homes. My takeaway was that they do care to build something the community will enjoy and they are interested in what San Marcos has had to say about it. So I think the most productive thing we can do is join together with a message of what we want to see happen at 1080 W San Marcos Blvd. My thoughts are advocating to help current tenets through open communication, preserving some of the historic charm and keep parking a priority in the plans.

My attitude today is one of acceptance, some excitement for the area to redevelop, and hopes that they will preserve some of the history where they can. Recycling the fun tiles and wood beams into the look of the new commercial spaces as a nod to the past and the early development of San Marcos. As a business in the market for commercial space, I would advocate for plenty of parking for the businesses. Some of the new construction around town leaves me confused as to where I can park and can turn me away from visiting certain businesses. Obviously what Ascend Coffee has right now is excessive and not something I can hope for in the future, but only calculating 10 parking spots per business is not going to work. Their plans include 200 dwelling units, a park and (I believe) six commercial spaces. This kind of community hub will need to allow for easy access for all and plan for guest parking versus parking for the businesses.

There have been so many people in our community checking in, staying up to date, and advocating for our business. I truly feel so blessed to be a part of the San Marcos family. Every single member of the City Council and our Mayor have reached out to check in and to find out how they can help. I know we have a future in this city and we are staying patient to see what that will look like. I also can’t wait to share more about our plans in Vista as we get closer to opening day. To stay up to date be sure to join our mailing list and/ or follow us on social media. I will be using these channels mostly to relay information and would kindly ask you not to rely on the cashier at the coffee house for updates. All of the changes feel like big hurdles, and when the cafe is busy or we have a lot to tackle it can become overwhelming. If you have questions my email inbox is always open at .

Thank you for showing us so much love and support. You got us through many obstacles in my time- as Restaurant Row slipped into decline, business lockdowns and many changes over the last twelve years. We have survived it all and grown because of you showing up and caring about us.

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