Information

Business in San Diego: A History - History


San Diego, California, is well known for many popular reasons for both entrepreneurs and residents. Based on the Pacific coast, San Diego has long since been associated with the U.S. Navy, and therefore many military-associated businesses and groups. However, as a thriving city, San Diego can also be a popular choice for many startup businesses, and especially those wanting to get into the tourism sector.

Starting a Small Business in San Diego: Is the Economy in the City Reliable?
The economy within this city for startup businesses is a good one, with Forbes listing San Diego as one of the best places for businesses and careers (reported in 2019). Forbes listed job growth in San Diego as 2.3%.


Which Businesses is San Diego Known For?
San Diego is known for many large sectors within the military, trade, tourism, and manufacturing. The city is also the home to the headquarters of several national defense contractors. One of the biggest industries within this city is tourism, due to attractions like sandy beaches, amusement parks, and its famous zoo.
One of the most well-known and popular tourist attractions in this city is the San Diego Comic-Con, which takes place every year.
As a city that is popular for many business professionals, it's also attractive for startups. Many budding entrepreneurs may also turn to San Diego banks for credit union loans to help with their startup companies.


Examples of San Diego-based or -Founded Businesses
Sony San Diego
San Diego Studio is a video game developer that works under the company, Sony. Based within their headquarters in San Diego, this development company was first founded in 1997 by the merger of companies 989 Sports and Red Zone Interactive. The latter was already a development studio based in San Diego, founded in 1997 by former Sony employees.
989 Sports was originally known as Sony Interactive Studios America but was eventually renamed.
The official San Diego Studio was founded in 2001.


Bumble Bee Seafoods
Now headquartered in San Diego, this business produces canned seafood and actually began in Oregon in 1899 by a group of salmon canners.


GoFundMe
This is perhaps the most famous crowdfunding platform, but it may not be common knowledge that it was originally founded in San Diego, California. In 2017, it was revealed that the platform had managed to raise over 3 billion dollars in 7 years since its founding.
The platform is now based in Redwood City, still within California.


The UPS Store
The UPS Store has thousands of locations across the U.S. and Canada and is a well-known name in the world of postage and shipping. The UPS Store currently has its headquarters in San Diego and was originally formed following the original Mail Boxes Etc., idea, which was created as an alternative to the traditional post office.
Other Top Employers Within San Diego
At the very top is Naval Base San Diego, which has the most employees at approximately 24,000 military and 10,000 civilians.
The list also includes:

  • Sharp Healthcare
  • Scripps Health
  • University of California
  • Kaiser Permanente


Established 1962

The Port of San Diego was created by the California State Legislature to manage San Diego Bay and surrounding waterfront land on December 18, 1962.

The Port of San Diego is the fourth largest of the 11 ports in California. It has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in public improvements in its five member cities – Chula Vista, Coronado, Imperial Beach, National City and San Diego.

The Port oversees two maritime cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals, 22 public parks, the Harbor Police Department and the leases of hundreds of tenant and subtenant businesses around San Diego Bay. These include 17 hotels, 74 restaurants, three specialty retail centers and numerous other attractions including museums and bay tours.


Reading Between the Lines (Of A Business Ledger)


A page from the “General Merchandise” ledger in question.


The frontispiece of the “unidentified” business ledger.


The Rose-Robinson Building in San Diego’s Old Town.


Verdict of jury in inquest into death of Andrew Kriss, May 26, 1864 (page one shown here).


Letter to E. W. Morse from Breed & Chase, January 15, 1864.

San Diego History Center

Located in the heart of Balboa Park
1649 El Prado, Suite #3
San Diego, CA 92101

For general inquiries:
[email protected]
619-232-6203

Employment Opportunities

Research Archives

Lower level of the San Diego History Center
1649 El Prado, Suite #3 San Diego, CA 92101

For research questions:
[email protected]
619-232-6203

Junípero Serra Museum

Located in Presidio Park
2727 Presidio Drive, San Diego, CA 92103

For general inquiries:
[email protected]
619-232-6203

The San Diego History Center a Smithsonian Affiliate and member to the San Diego Museum Council and Balboa Park Cultural Partnership.

The San Diego History Center is funded in part by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and by the County of San Diego.


100 Years Ago in San Diego

San Diego Building & Loan first did business at a desk in this real estate office at 809 Fifth Avenue. The individual in the center of the photograph is Theodore Fintzelberg, an early director whose son became a director in 1953 and still serves in 1985 as director emeritus.

Small boys liked to play with their sailboats in the plaza fountain when the manager of the Horton House across D Street (now Broadway) didn’t run out and scare them away. In 1985, Horton Plaza is undergoing restoration, as is the U.S. Grant on the Horton House site.

In the mid-eighties, the center of harbor activity was the Pacific Mail Wharf (earlier known as Horton’s Wharf) at the foot of Fifth Street. Lumber schooners are seen in the bay and a coastal steamer lies alongside the dock.

Alonzo E. Horton built his magnificent home in 1885, on First Street, two blocks west of W. W. Bowers’ Florence Hotel, Appearing with Horton is probably his first wife, the former Sarah Babe, whom he married in 1860 and who was killed in a carriage accident in 1889.

Leach’s Opera House was an entertainment center in 1885, featuring such diverse attractions as “Faust” and Mlle. La Selle, “the wonderful water queen.” Located on what is now Broadway, between First and Second Streets, it later became known as the D Street Theatre.

Kate O. Sessions, second from left, posed for this picture with her fellow faculty members at Russ School on March 27, 1885. Soon therafter, she moved to San Gabriel but by the end of the year she had become part owner of the San Diego Nursery at Fifth and A.

A company of soldiers stands in 1889 on the parade grounds of the U.S. Army barracks at the foot of H Street (now the corner of Market and Kettner), in front of eucalyptus trees that had been purchased earlier from the nursery taken over by Kate O. Sessions in 1885.

This building on the northeast corner of Fifth and F Streets was shared by Marston’s store and the real estate office of Morse, Noell, and Whaley at 809 Fifth Street. Here, the first organizational meetings of San Diego Building & Loan were held early in 1885. The building still stands in the Gaslamp Quarter.

San Diego’s fire department in 1885 was located on Fifth Street (now Avenue) between D (Broadway) and C Streets. Some San Diego Building & Loan directors were members of this volunteer group.

The Mush and Milk Society held its meetings in the Rectory of the Episcopal Church, pictured here.

Moses A. Luce, first counsel to the San Diego Building & Loan Association is pictured at left.

Captain and Mrs. Matthew Sherman, photographed in 1884. He was the first president of San Diego Building and Loan she was the first schoolteacher in New Town.

This is San Diego in 1884, the year before the founding of Great American’s predecessor, San Diego Building & Loan. The view is southwest from the corner of Seventh and Ash, just one block north of Great American’s current San Diego headquarters.

The transcontinental railroad came to San Diego in 1885, but the first depot, shown here, was not completed until 1887.

The first entry in the original minute book of San Diego Building & Loan is shown above, dated, July 11, 1885.

In 1887, Theodore Fintzelberg became secretary and managing officer of San Diego Building & Loan. Above is a photo of the office at 961 Fourth Street in which Fintzelberg & Steinmetz was located. The insurance firm, still in business in 1985, was founded in 1886.

San Diego Building & Loan’s second location was a couple of blocks from the first, at 759 Sixth Street in the old “Express Block.”

In 1951, San Diego Federal built its own headquarters building at the southeast corner of Sixth & A. This office was demolished in 1974, upon completion of San Diego Federal’s new building.

The 53-year old association had changed its name to San Diego Federal Savings and Loan by 1938, when this picture was taken of the new office at 1027 Sixth Avenue in the heart of a thriving downtown San Diego.


Great American’s present main office, at 600 B Street. Even though the Great American office network now extends to many areas of California and lending operations are conducted throughout the nation, headquarters have always remained in downtown San Diego.


Built just four years after the founding of San Diego Building & Loan, the B Street School was built on the future site of Great American’s present main office, at 600 B Street (above).

In 1930, Great American already had served San Diegans for 45 years under its original name of San Diego Building & Loan Association. Seven years later the word “Federal” was added and “Building” became “Savings.” Just last year the name became Great American First Savings Bank.

San Diego History Center

Located in the heart of Balboa Park
1649 El Prado, Suite #3
San Diego, CA 92101

For general inquiries:
[email protected]
619-232-6203

Employment Opportunities

Research Archives

Lower level of the San Diego History Center
1649 El Prado, Suite #3 San Diego, CA 92101

For research questions:
[email protected]
619-232-6203

Junípero Serra Museum

Located in Presidio Park
2727 Presidio Drive, San Diego, CA 92103

For general inquiries:
[email protected]
619-232-6203

The San Diego History Center a Smithsonian Affiliate and member to the San Diego Museum Council and Balboa Park Cultural Partnership.

The San Diego History Center is funded in part by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and by the County of San Diego.


Square Dancers Take Over Carrier

The squeak of fiddles and shouts of callers replaced the roar of jet planes aboard the carrier Kearsarge last night as 6,300 square dancers crowded the flight deck for an evening of dancing.

The novel hoedown was a preliminary to the fifth national square dance convention which opens in San Diego today.

The carrier was docked at North Island. Its flight deck was filled to capacity by the dancers in colorful western costumes. A few sailors in navy blue danced the intricate steps with the civilians.

Two sailors from the repair ship Ajax and the father of one of them, called the Square-D Toon Twisters, provided the music.

The square dance aboard the Kearsarge was one of several trail end dances held throughout San Diego last night under sponsorship of the Heartland Square Dance Federation.

Mrs. Ruth Engle, president of the federation, said they were called trail end dances because they meant the end of the trip had been reached for an estimated 15,000 square dance enthusiasts who came here from all parts of the United States.

Among the larger trail end dances last night was one at the Spring Valley Community Center sponsored by the Calico Twirlers Club.

Searchlights from the Kearsarge pierced the sky as the thousands of square dancers rode across the bay in motorboats for the dance aboard the carrier. For many of the visitors this was their first visit aboard a ship of any kind.

Rear Adm. J.M. Carson, Pacific Fleet air Force chief of staff and Capt. E.O. Wagner, commanding officer of the Kearsarge, welcomed the visitors.

Carson told the group the Navy was pleased to have been able to assist in opening the square dance convention.

Masters of ceremonies for the evening were Ron East and Frank Dyson. Fifteen callers from the Heartland Federation alternated in calling the square dances.

Interspersed with the regular dances on the program were round dance exhibitions by three groups. They were lifted to the flight deck on one of the carrier’s elevators.

Volunteer Navy square dance callers directed several of the dances.

Mrs. Engle said arrangements for the dance aboard the Kearsarge were made with Vice Adm. Alfred M. Pride, Pacific Fleet Air commander.

Among the callers were Kip Muse, Clarence Montgomery, Al Schaeffer, Marion Ashtron, Pete Mighetto, Helen Mighetto, Gladys Rongey, “Hoppy” Hopkinson, Al Rider, Roy close, Bill Keller, Wally Riggs, Sylvia Conkie, Don Frank, Juan Frank, Ralph Miller and Stan Bryan.

Exhibitions included “The Rock and Roll Waltz” by the Candle Lighters, “Rainbow Round My Shoulder” by the Rainbow Twirlers and “Rosen Cavalier Waltz” by the Rhythm rounders.

The convention will open formally today with registration and opening ceremonies in Balboa Park at 9 a.m. Square dance and round dance workshops will be held in the morning in the Balboa Park club, the municipal gymnasium, the recital hall and federal building.

Clinics on the round dance, contra and the square dance are scheduled in the early afternoon with a waltz quadrille clinic and workshops at 3 p.m.

A cavalcade will be held in the Balboa Park bowl at 7:30 p.m.

Impromptu dancing will be held almost continuously during the day at various locations in the park.

The federation has 28 clubs in the San Diego County with a membership of 3,000.

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San Diego

San Diego ticket deals on SanDiego.com have you covered from Padres tickets at Petco Park to Chargers tickets at Qualcomm Stadium.

Whether you are traveling to San Diego or a local looking for a great stay-cation, San Diego hotels can accommodate all of your needs. There are hotels in San Diego with perfect locations right next to some of the most exciting things to do in California. This city truly has it all with hotels located on gorgeous beaches or just minutes from amusement parks! Rest your head just a short drive from SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo or the beach! For young adults looking for a way to blow off steam, hotels in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego offer easy walking access to some of the best nightlife in California. Or choose a hotel near Old Town to enjoy the rich history of San Diego.If a luxury hotel in San Diego is in your plans, you will not be disappointed. This city has some of the most pampering top tier hotels in the world, perfect for a special occasion or romantic getaway. Luxury San Diego hotels let you relax in a resplendent setting with gorgeous views of the ocean, Balboa Park, or La Jolla Cove. You can also find San Diego hotels that offer promotions and deals that can make a trip to Southern California affordable so you can have a great vacation without breaking the bank! No matter what type of vacation - or stay-cation - you are planning, San Diego offers a wide variety of attractions and neighborhoods, each destination featuring a perfect San Diego hotel for you.

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San Diego No Credit History Startup Business Loan

If you are starting a business on the west coast, in the bay area, Los Angeles or San Diego, no credit history startup business loans are going to be very tough to come by, especially under current market conditions. Banking businesses are much more reluctant to lend credit as loosely as they once did, and especially so to new businesses, but if you look hard enough you will be sure to find a way to obtain easy financing for your enterprise, even if you have, in San Diego, no credit history.

Startup business loans are best acquired through smaller banks and credit unions. Large banks, especially in the modern financial marketplace, are usually not a very good place to go to for getting initial financing, as they carry very high credit requirements and likely not allow exceptions to their rules and regulations get through. By contrast, the smaller financing agencies are more competitive and business-friendly, and you will likely have a better chance of having your pitch be heard by someone higher up in the decision-making process.

You may also want to consider an SBA loan. SBA loans have been for a long time an excellent way for new entrepreneurs to get access to the financing that they need in times of limited options. The SBA provides excellent startup loan programs for women, minorities, veterans, the disabled, and a number of other demographics that can benefit greatly from its wide lending availability. Best of all, this federal program is available in all fifty states and the cities within them, including San Diego. No credit history startup business loans are entirely possible through these programs, and you can rest assured that the financing options offered by the SBA will be safe and secure.

You may also want to take the route of P2P lending. P2P is an excellent way to get financing under the table. You will be happy to know that the internet provides a wealth of tools that are extremely useful for the provision of the necessary legal and business resources to facilitate P2P lending. Sites such as virginmoney.com are excellent as they provide an excellent way to conduct your P2P transactions in a professional manner at a very low cost.

There is always a way to find the financing that you need to start your business, no matter the market conditions. Just be sure to know what you have to work with, and how you can go about implementing your ideas.


Shops and More

Dirt Don’t Hurt

Three San Diego sisters’ search for non-toxic personal care and cleaning products for their families led to the creation of Dirt Don’t Hurt. The online business specializes in making products like charcoal tooth powder, facial and body oils, soaps, scrubs and facial masks with vegan and cruelty-free ingredients.

LiliKouture

This small, woman- and Black-owned business in the City Heights neighborhood serves San Diego’s African community by creating modern and easy to wear fashions using traditional African fabrics and designs. Designs are available for purchase online and on Etsy.

FiveSpace

Selling vinyl, cassettes and vintage clothing, this family-owned and operated record shop in North Park is a haven for Hip-Hop aficionados.

Freshly Faded

Located in the heart of North Park, this barbershop and retail store specializes in hot towel and razor shaves, fades, tapers and mohawks. The shop also sells pins, t-shirts and vintage magazines reflecting Black culture, while also serving as a space for the Black community through events.

SewForgiven

With a unique style, this online boutique crafts everything from handmade accessories to natural skin care products.

Reggae World

For more than 10 years, this all-reggae store has been selling music, clothing, accessories, jewelry, oils and incense out of its small North Park shop.

For more information on Black-owned San Diego businesses visit https://buyblacksd.com/.


A Look Back: San Diego Beer History from 1868 to 1953

The brewing industry writ large is always in a state of constant flux and San Diego is no different. Since the summer of 1987, when San Diego’s current “New Brew Wave” kicked off at Bolt Brewing Co in Fallbrook, there have been various cycles of both growth and depletion. Recent San Diego brewery staff layoffs and some brewery closures have been well documented in this publication over the past few months, and fortunately some brewery openings too.

As tempestuous as these times may sometimes appear, when the aforementioned Bolt started to brew there had been a fallow period of some 34 years in which San Diego had no commercial breweries. Prior to that period, from 1953 going back to the late 1860s, with the exception of Prohibition from 1919 to 1933, San Diego had a relatively rich brewing history, though again a past replete with ups and downs in the marketplace. Unfortunately, a great deal of the information about this early period of brewing in San Diego has either been lost to time or exists in (currently) inaccessible archives. That said, here is a primer of some of what we currently know, with hopefully more to come in the future.

Up until around 1868, all beer consumed in San Diego was brewed elsewhere and shipped in, almost always in wooden barrels. Various local depots representing one or more distant breweries would then either distribute the barrels and/or more commonly repackage the beer into bottles for both retail sales and/or distribution to local saloons.

San Diego’s first brewer of record was one Christian Dobler, an Austrian immigrant who arrived in San Diego with his wife, Martha, sometime in the late 1850s or early 1860s. Dobler’s father had been a brewer in Austria, which makes it somewhat likely that is where Christian learned his trade. Interestingly, at around the same time in 1865, John S. Dobler established The Dobler Brewing Company in Albany, New York, though I have yet to establish if he and Christian were closely related or just shared a common family name.

By 1868, Christian and Martha had set up a brewery on their farm in Chollas Valley, not too far from the then-soon-to-be-established Mt. Hope Cemetery. The brewery has been referred to by various names, initially as San Diego Brewery, and then a little later as Pioneer Brewery and/or Pioneer Chollas Valley Brewery. The precise location of the farm has been lost to time, however, it would have been necessary to be near a reliable water source. Some local farms in the Chollas Valley did have wind pump-driven boreholes for water, and there are reports of a natural spring known as Crystal Springs near the farm/brewery, so there is a possibility that was their water source. Another clue is that back in those days, at times, sections of Chollas Creek had some significant water flow, and it is possible that it was a potential potable water source or perhaps even a supplemental source.

A Chollas Valley farm circa 1870. Note the wind pump located in the right foreground. Courtesy San Diego History Center

There are reports that after the Mt. Hope Cemetery opened in 1869, mourners would stop at the farm/brewery for some liquid fortification on their way back to New Town – aka “Horton’s Addition” – as the area around today’s Downtown San Diego was then known. In addition to the previous information reported, and assuming that the mourners would have been heading back west to San Diego, an educated guess puts the location of the farm and brewery just west of 36th Street, somewhere near the K Street extension in the small valley slightly northwest of that location. That area is now bisected by the 15 freeway and is close to the 15 and 94 freeway interchange.

Dobler farm location

As to the type of beer Dobler might have been brewing, well, we really do not know. Some reports have suggested that Dobler brewed a lager-style beer however, I personally find that notion highly unlikely, given the warm and fluctuating temperatures of Chollas Valley, coupled with the lack of available refrigeration. An educated guess is that the beer would have been some version of a Weissbier (wheat beer) and/or an ale of some type. Initially, wheat would have been more readily available than malted barley – from milling into flour for bread – though there was some malted barley being imported into San Diego at that time. Both ales and Weissbier are top fermenting beers and, unlike a lager, both of those styles would have been able to handle the range of Chollas Valley temperatures and still be good to drink.

There are also reports that Dobler began growing hops, which makes sense under the circumstances however, again, I have yet to find proof to back up that claim. According to information obtained from the San Diego History Center, the brewery initially produced about 200 barrels annually, which would eventually grow to 500 barrels annually, as some of Dobler’s beer was more than likely distributed more widely in New Town through City Brewery and Depot – more on that in a bit – and also as more thirsty mourners sought solace on their way home.

City Brewery and Depot, opened in 1870. Courtesy San Diego History Center

By 1870 the population of San Diego had reached 2,300 people, which may not seem like much, but that was four times more than 20 years prior. That same year, in a partnership with Philip Wedel, Dobler established The City Brewery and Depot at the northwest corner of 5th and B, where the Bank of America tower stands today. By around 1871, Dobler and Wedel purchased a mill from San Francisco in order to grind their own grains, though again we have little knowledge of the styles of beer being brewed. An exception we do know of is a “Bock Beer” which was advertised in the Daily San Diego Union on July 4, 1872. This beer was most likely not a traditional German “Bock Beer” which is a lager, but rather a brown ale brewed to the consistency and color of a traditional bock with a similar alcohol level. This was a style known “out West” and had been previously brewed by Denver resident and German immigrant brewer Moritz Sigi in the mid-1860s.

Where City Brewery and Depot would stand today, at 5th & B

In February of 1872 a report in the Daily San Diego Union paper noted, “A brewery will be erected shortly in the Chollas Valley near to the one already in operation at that place. Nothing but ale and porter will be brewed at the new establishment. San Diego has two breweries at present both of which make first class malt liquors, which are pronounced by many to be superior to those turned out of the San Francisco establishments.”

There are a number of other historical references regarding additional breweries around this time that we know nearly nothing about today. In the San Diego city directory of 1886/7 there is a listing for a Valley Brewery with the proprietor listed as Jacob Hoefle and the address listed as “East San Diego.” Was this perhaps a reincarnation of Dobler’s “Chollas Valley Brewery” or maybe the aforementioned unnamed brewery announced in the Daily San Diego Union article of 1872? The area in question would have at the time also been considered as “East San Diego.” Unfortunately, we really just don’t know.

There is an additional brewery mystery from that time. On an 1880s city map of San Diego there is an open area listed as “Brewery Tract” that today would lie somewhere in the quadrant now bordered by 32nd and 33rd Street and Logan and National Avenues respectively, and that’s all we have on that score – a name on a map.

Wedel passed away in 1875, and his widow Magdalena retained an interest in the The City Brewery and Depot with Dobler until he too passed away in 1882. This is the same year that coincides with what we believe to be the closing of the Pioneer Brewery and/or Pioneer Chollas Valley Brewery. Martha Dobler would live until 1926, reaching 92 years of age. She and Christian now rest for eternity in the same plot in Mt. Hope Cemetery not too far from the location of their original farm/brewery.

After Christian Dobler died, his deceased partner’s widow, Magdalena Wedel, sold the business to John Diehl who changed the name to the City Brewery Saloon and Beer Gardens, an early brewpub prototype. This business would remain in operation for at least the next six years, until 1888, with a reported production of 1,000 barrels a year. This is not that surprising as San Diego was booming, and by 1886 the population had grown to some 40,000 people.

Four years later, the land boom went bust, and the population dropped to around 16,000 people. In 1888 the City Brewery closed, while the beer garden remained open, serving beer purchased outside the region. The premises then become the Prescott Lodging House with the attached saloon and beer garden remaining in operation at that location until 1898.

In 1896 things were taken to a whole new level of brewing in San Diego with the establishment of the San Diego Brewing Company (note: this company is related in name only to the brewpub opened in Mission Gorge in 1993). The company was headed up by Jacob Gruendike and other investors, including “city father” Alonzo Horton (the original developer of “New Town”) and John D. Sprekels, the industrialist and entrepreneur. At the time of its inception and for a number of years thereafter, the San Diego Brewing Company was the largest commercial manufacturing entity in the county.

San Diego Brewing Company around the turn of the century, at 32nd & Bay Front. Courtesy San Diego History Center

The brewery, with an initial annual capacity of 14,000 barrels, was located at 32nd Street and Bay Front (now Harbor Drive). The brewery had state-of-the-art refrigeration for that time, which allowed them to brew lager-style beers – according to the San Diego News of June 11, 1906, “they [SD Brew Co] manufacture nothing but a lager beer” – and also the ability to produce ice. Some of the ice was for local consumption prior to this, most of the “local” ice was brought to San Diego from Lake Tahoe.

There are also reports that a portion of the San Diego Brewing Company ice was exported as far away as Hawaii. Today, this may sound a little far fetched to some, however, consider that Frederic Tudor had already shipped ice from New England to the Caribbean in the early 1800s and then later to Calcutta, India in 1833.

In 1905, two businessmen who had been involved in brewing in the Midwest and Kentucky, George Stadler and J.H. Zitt, purchased control of the San Diego Brewing Company from the estate of Jacob Gruendike. At the time the brewery continued to brew lagers, a “San Diego Light,” a “San Diego Dark,” and “Corona.” In 1909, following the death of George Stadler, the company name changed from San Diego Brewing Company to San Diego Consolidated Brewing Company.

By that time, the company had evolved into three separate locations: the brewery location, a separate warehouse location, and administrative offices on California Street. Initially, the office was on the 1500 block of G Street. In 1914, San Diego Consolidated Brewing Company also purchased the Mission Brewery, whose building still stands today, now converted into offices, at the corner of Hancock and Washington (then Harasthy Street).

Mission Brewery circa 1914. Courtesy San Diego History Center

The Mission Brewery building was initially established in 1912 as the Bay City Brewing Company (incorporated in 1911, and no relationship to the current brewery of the same name that operates on a different part of Hancock Street). Bay City Brewing Co was controlled by F.C. and August Lang who were the father-in-law and brother-in-law, respectively, of the aforementioned J.H. Zitt. That entity fizzled out prior to actually brewing any beer, though in 1913 Mission Brewing Company was established at that location, reportedly brewing two beers, “Old Mission Lager Light” and “Old Mission Lager Dark.” According to an article in the San Diego Union Tribune on March 19, 1913, these beers were brewed to help supplement the brewing capacity of San Diego Consolidated Brewing Co, which was unable to keep up with demand.

In the summer of 1915, perhaps seeing the Prohibition writing on the wall, the Mission Brewery started to brew a non-alcoholic malt and hop soft drink they called “Hopski” which was brewed at the location until the brewery closed in 1917. “Old Mission Lager Light” and “Old Mission Lager Dark” continued to be brewed at San Diego Consolidated Brewing Co up until Prohibition. In 1918, after the Mission Brewery closed and through 1919, the brewery building served as a hospital during the flu epidemic. It was then vacant until 1925 when the American Agar Company was established on that site.

In the late 1980s, Paul Holborn, founder of the by-then-defunct Bolt Brewery, attempted to start a new brewery project on that site with funding raised by Mike Foote, a former San Diego Charger. The brewery was to be known as the Mission Brewery (no connection with the current brewery of the same name in the East Village) and the brewery did manage to brew some pilot brews before ultimately running out of capital due to the Savings & Loans crisis of that time.

In more recent years, beer has been brewed at that property, however, the original brewery itself is long gone. In the mid-to-late oughts, in a smaller brewhouse, Clint Stromberg (now of the new incarnation of Bolt Brewery) brewed under the Five Points banner, and New English Brewing Co brewed beers there for a while too. Coronado Brewing Company also leased the brewhouse for a period until their Knoxville Street brewery came online. More recently, Acoustic Ales brewed at the location, and the brewhouse is currently being operated by the Latchkey Brewing Co.

Mission Brewery circa 1914. Courtesy San Diego History Center

San Diego’s surviving first wave of breweries was given the death knell by the implementation of Prohibition in 1920. In a 2006 article in the Journal of San Diego History, Ernie Liwag notes that “before Prohibition, San Diego had approximately 112,000 people, seven breweries and fifty five saloons.” Some of these San Diegans would soon join others in various places in Mexico, including Baja, in order to drink alcohol openly. In 1928, in Tijuana, the Agua Caliente Casino and Hotel opened, and shortly thereafter an associated horse racing track. Some of the beer for this resort was supplied by a brewery in Mexicali – Cerveceria Azteca, S.A., aka Aztec Brewery, which had originally been established in 1921. The quality of the beer was good enough for its “ABC Beer” to win a gold medal in 1929 at the International Exposition in Seville, Spain.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, a decision was made to move the Aztec Brewery to San Diego. According to reporting by A.J. Burgess in the 1980s, Edward P. Baker and Herbert Jaffe were the braintrust behind this move. Baker was an investor in the aforementioned Agua Caliente Casino and Hotel resort, and Jaffe owned a distillery in Tijuana. Jaffe had also at one point studied to become a brewer in Pilsen, in what was then Czechoslovakia he reportedly brought brewers from there to work at Aztec.

The new brewery location was at 2301 Main Street, the former site of the Savage Tire Company, which was renovated into a state-of-the-art brewery with an initial capacity for brewing 100,000 barrels a year. Some of Aztec’s equipment and some personnel (the Pilsen folks?) moved from Mexicali to San Diego, and on July 20, 1933, the brewery delivered an initial 14,000 gallons on draft in San Diego, Orange, and Ventura counties, with bottled beer going on sale about one month later. Production grew rapidly, with beer being sent to Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Hawaii under the “ABC” brand with the name “Famous” now added to it for its San Diego incarnation.

Aztec Brewery circa 1930. Courtesy San Diego History Center

The brewery also contracted for several other private brands, according to John Crihfield, a collector of San Diego beer ephemera from that period. Crihfield notes that Aztec would contract brew for any private label brews as long as there was a minimum order of 500 cases (12,000 bottles).

Mid-1930s Aztec Brewery “ABC” cans

Aztec wasn’t the only San Diego brewery at that time with Agua Caliente connections. In 1933, Baron Long, a colorful character, established Balboa Brewing Company in Los Angeles. Initially, the brewery was going to be called Ritz Brewing Co, however, after some of the partners’ friends started saying, “Ritz is the shits!” and/or “Ritz gives you the shits!” they decided that Balboa Brewing Co might be a better choice. Long, part of a group known colloquially as “The Border Barons” had been one of the founders of Agua Caliente resort, and was also the owner of the US Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego, which he had acquired in 1919.

One of his partners in the Balboa Brewing Co venture was Wayne D. McAllister, an architect whose first major commission had been the Agua Caliente resort. McAllister spent a lot of time in Mexico during and after construction of the resort, and at some juncture supposedly learned to brew down there.

The relatively small Balboa Brewing Co brewery was located at 808 Imperial Avenue, which had previously housed, among other businesses, the Campbell Creamery. The brewery was only in existence for approximately one year in San Diego before moving production to a larger brewery of the same name in Los Angeles. The general consensus is that the San Diego brewery was established in order to get the brand off its feet, while the main brewery was being built in Los Angeles. The Imperial Avenue location of the Balboa Brewing Co is now located inside the grounds of Petco Park at the street level of the building that houses the concession stands behind sections 308 and 310.

Campbell Creamery on Imperial Avenue circa 1926. This location would become home to Balboa Brewing Co in 1933 and 1934. Courtesy San Diego History Center

We know that Balboa Brewing Co brewed lagers. The late Dave Williams, a San Diego collector of brewery ephemera, noted the existence of a “Balboa Old Style Lager” and John Crihfield has some old Balboa labels showing “Bock Beer brewed in San Diego.” Balboa Brewing Co in Los Angeles would undergo a name change to Monarch Brewing Co in 1936, and would eventually go out of business in 1942. Wayne McAllister continued his architecture practice and would go on to design numerous restaurants as well as hotels such as the Desert Inn, El Cortez, The Sands Hotel, and Fremont Hotel and Casino, all in Las Vegas.

Circa 1933/4

In 1935, the San Diego Brewing Company was revived by J.H. Zitt, previously the head of Mission Brewing Co, and a group of investors. I have been unable to find out too much about the beer that was brewed at the San Diego Brewing Company at that time, though a bottle label from the period states “Bavarian type brewed according to the old Bavarian process and fully aged,” so the beer was obviously a lager, which makes some sense given that the brewery had previously been noted as a “lager brewery” and had made other lagers including those for Mission Brewery. The post-Prohibition beer was marketed as “San Diego Beer” and we know they also made a Bock Beer.

Brewing continued at 32nd Street and Bay Front until 1942. At that time, the US Navy, then occupied with World War II operations, expropriated the land to expand the scope of the Naval base which still stands at that location today. The brewery buildings were demolished in 1945.

SDBC’s old location

Aztec Brewing Co meanwhile had continued to expand, including building open fermenters in 1934/35. Again, according to Dave Williams, by 1944 Aztec had posted a gross profit of $6.5 million – approximately the equivalent of $92 million in today’s dollars. In 1948, Aztec was sold to The Tivoli Brewing Co of Detroit. That same year, Tivoli changed their name to Altes Brewing Co, due to the success of their Altes branded lager.

They spent around half a million dollars remodeling the brewery, which included enclosing the previously open fermenters, adding a water purification system, and a larger bottling line. The brewhouse capacity was increased to 300,000 barrels per year, and Altes branded beer went on sale on March 1, 1949. The change of brand name didn’t go down too well, as Altes was seen as an “Eastern beer” – it didn’t help that Altes marketed their beer as “the only Eastern beer brewed out West” – and was no longer recognized as local to the West Coast which hurt local sales. That, coupled with the rise of the national beer brands from the Midwest, resulted in continuing declining sales, and the closure of the brewery in March of 1953.

/>According to John Crihfield, “the ABC brand name was licensed to Maier Brewing Co in Los Angeles and beer was brewed under that brand up until the late 1950s or early 1960s.” Some of the Aztec brewery equipment was shipped back to the Altes brewery in Detroit, and the remainder was sold locally at auction. The property became a parts warehouse for the Rohr Aircraft Corporation, and later, somewhat ironically given its origins, the warehouse for Dorman’s Tire Company, before being demolished in 1989 due to the building being declared an earthquake hazard by the city.

Today, it is the location for a parking lot for a Navy defense contractor. Some of the brewery’s remnants – some lights, some wooden panels, and other miscellanea, are on permanent display today at Logan Heights Branch Library.

The Aztec Brewing Company name does live on. In 2011, John Webster and his partner, Claudia Faulk, revived the once-famous brand at a small production brewery in an industrial park in Vista, and continue to pay homage to the legacy of its namesake.

Where the original Aztec Brewery would stand today


BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021

In honor of Black History Month this year, the San Diego Business Journal is dedicating a special section in each February issue to tell these inspiring stories. In each issue we will feature stories of businesses in various local industries.

Visit www.sdbj.com/2021_Black_Business_Matters/ for more information about SDBJ's Black Businesses Matter in San Diego Awards 2021 in association with the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce.

See below the incredible stories of Black-owned business in San Diego.

Maya's Cookies Continues to Grow

Plant-Based Cookie Co. Gains National Spotlight

For Maya Madsen, a gourmet, plant-based cookie company was initially just a way to create an additional revenue stream while doing something she was passionate about: baking vegan goods.

Black Businesses Matter in San Diego Awards WINNERS Announced

Click Here to View Full Event Recap

PromoDrone Pivots to Global Licensing

Co. Sees Opportunity in Banner Advertisements

Powering Mentorship Through Technology

TECH: Co. Has Facilitated More 18,000 Matches

Helping Athletes Improve Speed, Strength

SPORTS: Performance Co. Has Trained More Than 2,000 Athletes

Helping Clients Build Wealth

FINANCE: ECF Wealth Saw a 25% Increase in Revenues in 2020

Taking Multitasking to Another Level

CONSULTING: Shan Cureton Hopes to Offer Diverse Founders the Support She Needed as an Entrepreneur

Merging the World of Electronics and Living Molecules

BIOTECH: Roswell Biotechnologies Uses Next Generation Tech to Solve Tomorrow’s Health Problems

Operator Runs Oldest Black Owned Restaurant in San Diego

DINING: Ron Suel Creates Food Places that Cater to Local Black Community

Destination Continues to Inspire

BEVERAGES: SIP Wine & Beer in Escondido is Largest Carrier of BIPOC Wine in California

Jack of All Trades

LEADERSHIP: Marshall Faulk Mentors the Next Generation While Building Empire

Honoring Black Entrepreneurs

EVENTS: Inaugural Awards and Panel Event to Be Held Feb. 25

Uplifting the Black Community

TECH: BlackOwned.com Aims to Elevate Black Business, Jobseekers and Culture

Improving Lives with Innovation

HEALTH: NewGait Founder Hopes to Change Lives and Improve Mobility with Rehab Device


Watch the video: View from Huntington Beach Pier (January 2022).