The Old Town Market officially closed its doors on Thursday after serving the Orcutt community as the local grocery store since the late 1940s.
The future of the building is uncertain, but the new owner reportedly has a chain of cannabis dispensaries on the Central Coast, so it’s likely the Old Town Market will become a marijuana dispensary, according to Mark Steller, who has owned the Old Town Market for the last 16 years.
He said he was notified by his landlord in late April that the building had been sold to an investor.
Mr. Steller had 90 days to clear out the building, but the eviction notice didn’t go into effect until Santa Barbara County lifted its COVID-19 stay-at-home order, providing four extra months to relive memories and prepare for the closure.
“It’s troubling,” he told the News-Press. “I wasn’t ready for it. I would have retired at some point, but it’s always nice to do something on your own terms.”
He said that while he’s remained neutral throughout the eviction, Orcutt residents have adamantly opposed the prospect of a dispensary, due to the nearby Orcutt Junior High School and Orcutt Academy High School.
“I really can’t speak for anyone else, but I just think that, possibly, the owner is thinking, ‘OK, if I can sell the building, at least I can get my money back,’ but there’s no validity in that sort of analyzation for me,” Mr. Steller said.
Sitting on the corner of Clark Avenue and Gray Street, the family-owned corner store was known for its fresh produce, local wines, custom-made deli trays, hand-scooped ice cream, weekend barbecues, gift bazaars and fundraisers, First Friday walk-abouts, wine and beer tastings and the annual Pinot Party.
“It was a great run,” Mr. Steller said. “I didn’t get wealthy on the situation, but it wasn’t really my intention to get wealthy.
“I’ve probably built hundreds of friendships. I don’t think you’re going to get that in corporate America. You get that in the small town, Americana type of thing.”
The store was originally Scolari’s Market since 1948, and Mr. Steller and his wife, Wendy, bought it in 2004.
The closure resulted in 13 lost jobs, four of which were full-time positions.
In an announcement on Facebook back in May, the store wrote, “We know some will be concerned that Old Town Orcutt no longer has its own grocery store; please know that we did everything we could to save it but were ultimately unsuccessful.”
While the reason behind the sudden transaction is unknown, Old Town Market staff thanked the community members for their business and asked them to stock up on groceries, gifts, their favorite wines and souvenirs prior to closing its doors.
“When you find that little corner store, it’s the people’s store,” Mr. Steller said. “It could be a bakery or a barber shop — whatever that little thing is, it’s just a really helpful feeling.”