THOUSAND OAKS — Oakdale Market, believed to be the city's oldest business, is closing its doors, unable to keep up with competition from a growing wave of chain stores that offer high volume and discount prices.
After 60 years as a grocery store, the 6,500-square-foot building will be leased to antique dealers beginning in July, owner Charlie Weiss said.
"It's sad," Weiss said. "We're sitting on what was my house for eight years. It's nostalgic--part of the family history."
The market's storage area, in fact, was the Weisses' three-bedroom home from 1945 to 1953.
Weiss has worked there since 1956, when he bagged groceries at age 11 for his late father, who purchased the business in 1945.
The younger Weiss took over the business in 1973 and has worked 60 hours a week since.
But hard work and perseverance could not stop the avalanche of chain grocery stores--Ralphs, Vons, Hughes, Gelson's, Bristol Farms, Costco, Lucky Food Center and Albertsons--from planting roots in the city.
"You saw the handwriting on the wall," Weiss said. "The name of the game in the food business is volume--the higher the volume, the lower the price."
Gone will be one of the city's most treasured and enduring institutions.
The building was constructed 70 years ago by Louis Goebel, who made his mark in the area with the creation of Jungleland, a zoo and showplace for trained animals, many of which were used in movies.
Resident Norman Morrison bought the place in 1936, moved in the following New Year's Day and operated it as a restaurant, saloon and dance hall.
It was transformed into a grocery store and post office six months later, under pressure from the sheriff, who got tired of responding to complaints of drunk and disorderly conduct, Weiss said.
Morrison, Thousand Oaks' first postmaster, sold the store to Weiss' father, Stan, in 1945, soon after the elder Weiss returned from World War II.
Back then, Thousand Oaks had only two main streets. What is now Thousand Oaks Boulevard was then two-lane Ventura Highway.
There was no doctor in town, only one police officer--who lived in Moorpark--and an all-volunteer fire department.
Students were bused to Oxnard High School by one of the school's teachers, Walter Jessup, who lived in Thousand Oaks.
"He just left the parked bus at his house," Weiss recalled.
Oakdale Market made a name for itself by specializing in friendly service and quality meats, cut exactly the way customers wanted.
"I always stocked up on their meat," said Pat Roberts, a customer for nearly 25 years. "You couldn't get any better than his meat. It makes a difference when you know the people."
Weiss said he decided about three months ago to lease the space to antique dealers who will leave their products in the store for him to sell.
Weiss estimates there is space for antiques from 30 to 40 dealers in what will be renamed Oakdale Antique Market.
Weiss will remain in the store as the salesman, overseeing the product line.
Dealers "have to come in and keep their areas neat and clean and stocked and priced," he said.