Woman makes push to save Dahl's
by Kelly Feser Eells
In September 2000, when Bert Dahl announced the closure of
the market bearing his name, a collective chorus of, "Aw,
say it ain't so" went around town.
Oak View's corner grocery store, at Larmier and Ventura Avenue,
had been more than a convenience. To northbound travelers it
was something of a landmark, the stop at the top of the Arnaz
grade. And its homey, small-town atmosphere made it a favorite
with part-time residents used to impersonal, "big city"
Yet, by October 2000, there was concern that the store hadn't
closed so much as it had been abandoned. On Oct. 10, a resident,
alarmed by the fact that there were still perishables on the
store's shelves, lodged a complaint with Ventura County's Environmental
Health Department - "the last one we received," per
supervisor Debbie Borsos.
Borsos explained that, while the items were "immediately
removed," Environmental Health officials had already received
written notification of Dahl's intention to quit the facility
and (voluntarily) suspend its permit, and "the market never
had a (forced) closure. They made the decision to close."
The property again came under scrutiny in August 2001, when Dahl
confirmed that regional market owner-manager Jose Luna had signed
a 10-year lease. In an interview with the OVN, Luna indicated
that the market could reopen for business in as little as three
months. "I'd like to make it kind of like a Trader Joe's,"
he was quoted as saying.
But, nine months later, the only sign of the Lunas' interest
in Dahl's Market is the one posted in its front window, announcing
their application for a permit to sell alcoholic beverages. According
to Ojai resident Sandy Adair, "Yhe deal (between the Lunas
and Dahl) fell through."
Adair, who'd grown up in Oak View, had been encouraged by news
of the market's reopening - though not out of any sense of nostalgia.
She had been trying for months to direct people's attention to
the fact, "there was all this food still sitting in there,
just going to waste."
Indeed, the store has the look of a ghost town. A newsrack still
carries the Nov. 22, 2000 edition of the Ojai Valley News. A
half-used bottle of Windex sits on a cash register. But it's
the dry foods, peanuts, cereal, pet food, canned goods, etc.,
that disturb Adair most. "The more I see it just sitting
there, the more frustrated I get. We have people right here in
Ojai who're hungry."
Adair thought, "Why not turn this building into a food distribution
center," and staff it with volunteers from the valley's
various charitable organizations. "The Humane Society, HELP
of Ojai, local food share programs - I'd like to get them all
Finally, "after running into a lot of brick walls,"
she was able to discuss her idea with Dahl.
"But, he indicated something about a 'tiny lien,' and said
he couldn't make any decisions (about the inventory) now."
Sighing, Adair confides that she is "getting more frustrated
as time goes by. I'd like to hang a huge banner there, and see
what, as a community, we can do about this."
Adair welcomes suggestions, and may be reached at 640-7389.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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