San Elijo Hills Buy Local and Demand Quality

San Elijo Hills

San Elijo Hills Buy Local and Demand Quality

Our local San Elijo Hills neighborhood is one of the building blocks of a more sustainable world. Shop where you live. Support local artisans. Do at least one thing to connect with your neighborhood merchants and, in doing so, you will build a stronger community with great merchants. Sounds like a plan? Yes it does.

I’m sure most of our readers read the UT article that implied some blame on San Elijo Hills (SEH) for the rumored closing of Lowe’s in San Marcos. We don’t think the blame should be placed on SEH, but rather on the housing boom and bust. But we feel this is a healthy discussion for San Elijo Hills to ponder. Are we supporting our local merchants? We should shop at San Marcos Costco rather than the Carlsbad location to keep the sales tax revenue local.

Do we think the city of San Marcos has been remiss in over “Big Boxing” San Marcos and not feeding a new breed of artisan soul in San Marcos? We see a trend in this county of quality hip goods and services produced with care and local support, mico brews, artisan baked goods, bikes and boards all manufactured in the USA. Hey, even Apple is onshoring some manufacturing.

As publishers of San Elijo Life we sense and read a lot of angst about our SEH Towncenter. We laugh and think back to the excitement we had when the Chevron opened and we could get milk at the gas station mart. In this last couple of years we have added Relm, The Hills Family Dentistry and recently both Chase and Pacific Preschool and Kindergarten. That is real progress from just the café and gas station.

We talk to some folks who have never shopped in the towncenter and choose to shop only in San Marcos or on the coast. We also hear from others who would like to see a Subway and others who call out for a health food store. Look at The Village in Rancho Santa Fe, where merchants have never really cashed in on the daily trips passing through and high rent for quality construction has made it hard for The Village to support anything but banks, brokers and yah one famous restaurant.

Some businesses have thrived in San Elijo Hills and some are anemic and yearn for more daily trips as originally forecast. Not sure SEH locals are looking for more traffic. Some of the SEH merchants are expensive with poor service or value. We need ovens in SEH not toaster ovens! We all need to shop where we live and please tell the merchants how they can do better. Do at least one thing to connect San Elijo Hills and, in doing so, connect with San Marcos and North County. By our connecting San Elijo to San Marcos, others will think of us as a place to stop for quality service and goods.

Any discussion on brick and mortar must consider “The Amazon effect”.  Good service and quality save trips to a big box. We sure have some of the best UPS drivers here in SEH. How would a local entrepreneur combat the Amazon effect: Start a business that is based on quality design and service and let Amazon deliver such commodities as a new HP printer. The Lost Abbey, King’s Paddle Sports, Stumblefoot Brewing, Cowan Bikes are the merchants and manufactures of the future, and some of these will pull shoppers from all over San Diego County and even the world. Big box and premium fast food are going to contract in the next recession; we are burnt out on premium fast food and big box stores. We don’t need four Five Guy’s in North County and another Lowe’s in Carlsbad to replace the one “maybe” closing in San Marcos.

We spend time thinking about what type of restaurant would work in SEH, a restaurant of quality and coastal charm. We eat at Beach Fire Bar & Grill the perfect restaurant in San Clemente and enjoyed the eclectic coastal art on the walls, the warm fireplace, bar and quality food; and we thought hmm we would drive to San Clemente just to have this experience again. Would people drive from Carlsbad, Rancho Santa Fe and La Costa to have a quality dining experience like this in SEH? This San Clemente restaurant has a 90’s dated logo and is not polished but it works and the service is solid. Sadly two other expansion locations they tried in Talega and Ledera Ranch planned communities have failed. Talega is extremely similar to SEH. Thus we need small town business operators who will create a buzz and soul without grand expectations at the start.

We look at the plans for the new La Costa Town Square and are disappointed that the nice open space mesa where we have taken family dog walks, mountain bike rides and played with our RC cars would be another grocery store and pharmacy and we would guess yet another Chipotle. We don’t need another Chipotle in this area!

We have always enjoyed driving through neighboring Elfin Forest and recently we were sad to see the torn down chicken ranch and the gentrification of slopes with chain link fences to keep rocks off the road. The funky shacks in the s-turn and even a few rocks in the road made this a fun drive as you drifted east away from our groomed community. Sadly as we have more building and retail closing in on us some of the charm we had just outside our doors will fade. We realize the Elfin Forest residents must have felt somewhat the same way when SEH was built.

Do we sound conflicted? We are. But we would like to see quality-smart small town operators because we are a small town here in San Elijo Hills. Let’s work together to make that happen. Please share your ideas and opinions.


  • We need a real restaurant! Can the expansion be partially built? A restaurant would do well here if it wasnt high end. All we have currently is pizza and cheese and crackers.

  • I would love to see more restaurant variety in SEH. Not a Chili’s but a place with outdoor seating and real food…ethnic maybe & family friendly. We are limited now and have to go outside the community for more selection. We like what we have but get tired of the same.

  • Randy & Anonymous- can you give an example of a specific restaurant that could have long running success in SEH?

  • I am not sure. Almost any new option would be great. It would be nice if the restaurant was locally owned versus a chain. I would like a place to go to where you can sit inside comfortably, under decent lighting, and have a nice varied menu selection. I think an ethnic based restaurant is risky because, like pizza, one flavor might get tiresome after awhile. I go over the hill every weekend just to get some diversity and would much rather just walk to a decent restaurant. And being in SEH, it has to be kid friendly.

  • Thanks for the thought-provoking editorial. I agree with you that many, if not most, SEH residents want to support local businesses and try to do so whenever possible. A local zip code, however, isn’t enough by itself to garner loyalty – the quality needs to be there and you’re right to say we should demand it.

    On the subject of a restaurant that would work in the Town Center, I would love to see an eclectic menu that uses locally grown & seasonal food, meaning a menu that varies. An excellent example is a place called Frances in San Francisco. The menu varies daily based upon what’s available and the whims of the owner/chef. Check it out at . . . one can only wish!

  • First off, this article nails it. Second of all, I agree with you Randy and Tom. Pizza is great but we are somewhat health conscious (nothing crazy) but for us Pizza is an option once or twice a month. It would be great to have a restaurant for the family with good quality and variety of food. And yes outdoor seating would be a plus!

  • Tin Leaf (in Carlsbad), Besta-Wan (yes pizza, but a lot more as well), Borelli’s all come to mind. They are all three different in presentation or genre, but I think each could be successful in their own right.

  • Good products, quality, and service, that’s what will bring customers.
    Customers won’t shop local just for the sake of shopping local.
    My neighbor has a sticker “shop local” on his BMW “made in germany”.

  • I would respectfully disagree with Greg. Certain establishments, i.e. certain ‘cafes’, lack big time in the customer service area IMO and I still go just due to conveniance. I pay more for food (Albertsons) to not have to drive, I eat lesser quality pizza (to me) to not have to drive, I pay way more for a beer or a glass of wine to not have to drive, etc. I would prefer to have it all, but sometimes you cannot. I weigh walking to a location above most anything else. That was the #1 reason I moved to SEH. Variety will also propel competition and that would lead to better pricing, quality and service across the board. Bring in new options and the rest will follow.

  • I definitely believe that the concept of locally-owned versus a chain is over-rated. We’ve now gone through, what, FOUR locally owned coffee shops in the old Visitors Center? How’s that been working out for us? And our crappy locally owned pizza place?

    I tell you . . . I would love to just suck it up and get a Subway in the Towncenter. I know, I know . . . “we don’t want national chains.” But Subway is clean, reasonably priced, healthy (if you want), and in EVERY one I visit, they’re always friendly and fast. And for anyone who’s against national chains . . . tell me you wouldn’t love to have a full-on Starbucks in the Town Center.

    Chains aren’t necessarily evil.

    • I agree with you Ron! I’m tired of people complaining about not having local businesses. Customer Service with quality products is the key! No matter if local or chain. Starbucks and Panera Bread are great places. I’ve tried the cafes with several owners. Everytime I want to go, its closed for day or closed early. Some of businesses didn’t have good food for the price. I guess I just gave up on any business in that location because the past local disappointments.

  • How about having a shopping mall style food court? I’d like a Subway, a burger joint, a noodle/asian joint, a barbecue place..anything else?
    I’d just like a casual place walking distance to take my picky eaters when we don’t feel like cooking . Upscale won’t work, “honey, get dressed up, I’m gonna take you to the Towncenter= meh.

  • I would like to see some good Mexican food and Sushi added too in my dream world. And if rumors of Hendo’s being possibly sold are true, I hope we can find a replacement pizza place. I LOVE Crust nearby and Blue Ribbon Artisan in Encinitas is really good. As a general restaurant, I like Firefly’s setup in Encinitas. Diff specials each night of the week, great happy hour, variety of food for different budgets, chef dinners, good ambiance.

  • Regarding Mexican food, it’s my understanding that Mr. Taco had an early interest in being part of the Towncenter. My guess is that ship has sailed, though.

  • When I lived in Sun Valley, we had a local place called Wrap City that sold wraps and salads. You could sit out on a nice day and enjoy a delicious wrap or salad or smoothie. Inexpensive, fresh, delicious. That place killed it. It succeeded where Ren fails.

    I also think we could use a restaurant that had a nice little happy hour. An El Callejon type of Mexican place, maybe? $3 delicious margs, chips & salsa and friends on a relaxing weekend? Walkable? Yes please!

  • I think a diner with healthy options would do amazingly well in San Elijo. Diners are notoriously family friendly and could offer a nice variety of food options.

  • Something with wraps, salads and outdoor seating would definitely do well! I agree with the healthy options. But besides food, there really is no “shopping” in SEH. What about a gift store/card shop? Perfumerie or jewelry store? Toy store (Geppetto’s)? Art studio? I’d like to see more Mom & Pop shops (even hardware) than have to keep going to the big box stores for the same old stuff. Coming from a small town girl, I’d much rather buy gifts and necessities from a neighbor than a Wall Street firm.

  • We love Which Witch and think something like that would do well here. Or even a Jimmy John’s sub (google it) would be a awesome chain to add to our area. They do delivery too (“so fast you’ll freak” is their motto). I think with the college nearby and the other neighborhoods that might want delivery a place like that would do well. As far as a sit down restaurant.. something with a variety of fresh foods that both adults and children would like. We enjoy Relm, but really wish there were more food choices, we want a bigger meal when we are drinking. Hendo’s is just okay. And Albertson’s has been going down hill lately.

    We do shop locally when possible. We use French’s nails, The postal Annex, Relm, The gas station, and Albertson’s.

    • I agree that we need sushi, sit down Mexican and something like Thyme on the Ranch and keep the pizza place.

  • The towncenter needs a good breakfast option with indoor and outdoor seating. Casual but NOT Denny’s casual. San Diego casual. Something with a little character, like Kono’s in Pacific Beach but not necessarily beach themed. It could have pastries and bagels, egg sandwiches, pancakes, fresh fruit and good coffee that you can get to go. If it could also transition into a lunch venue with tasty sandwiches, soups and salads, that would be nice. It HAS to be affordable or at least not over-priced. Nobody is driving to the towncenter to pay $15 for a sandwich when they could just go over the hill to Subway and get a $5 footlong. It has to have great customer service and a fun, friendly atmosphere. Any business that wants SEH to embrace it, must first embrace SEH. Consider the communities needs and wants when establishing hours, store setup etc. Do NOT attempt to make the community change to fit your needs. That is an instant snub to a really great community.

  • I realize it isn’t town center but has everyone forgotten that there is Subway, Mariah’s, Mexico Viejo and a soon to be Pizza and Pints place off Melrose near RSF? (yes I realize Mexico Viejo isn’t a Mr. Taco but it is close) These might make other restaurants question opening a similar business <2miles away on a less busy intersection. Also is SEH expecting too much in rent to support these businesses or is the town working on ways to help convince local businesses to come in? (BTW if a Chipotle opened in town center, I would eat there at least once a week. But I would prefer a privately operation with a similar menu and style.)

  • Sadly my sister and her husband proposed this very “locally grown and daily diversity, seasonal” restaurant pitch to hometown realty. They shot it down immediately and said it didn’t have the “wow” factor. They must’ve turned the other cheek when cafe Ren opened. It took 45 minutes for my iced tea and a piece of quiche the other day. I actually cancelled my order after they said it got “lost”. I was the only person in there. We need a restaurant like Station in South Park. It has a sand boxed in area for kids, good beers, and great food.

    • We go over the hill for pizza (Flippin is way better than Hendos), nail services (French Nails is way too expensive), mail services (UPS store is more than 1/2 the price lower for shipping!!). We do love Relm, Yogurt Utopia and A Colorful Universe (although they are very expensive too – special occasion place). I have a feeling that the rent here is very expensive. I miss Dexters like crazy! I bought all my dog food there and it was actually cheaper than Petco…..what a shame on that one. We would love to see a sushi or Mexican place! We were so counting on “buying local” but most of our business is done over the hill sadly!! It’s just way too expensive here in SEH. (Oh but love Doc Martin at Hills Dentistry!)

  • To be honest, I’m not sure that anything but a handful of eateries would survive here. Someone mentioned a toy store or jewelry store. They’d both be out of business in a year. If there are to be any non-restaurant retailers, they need to be convenience based. Hair salon, maybe a small hardware store.

    But honestly, I am more concerned that retail either won’t come to SEH (since, as someone said, La Costa has beat us to the punch), or the SEH community won’t support retail (did Dexter’s even survive a year?).

    At this point, I have waited nine years for there to be a thriving Towncenter next to where I live in Morgan’s Corner. I frankly have no faith that it will ever happen, and would gladly have that whole center parcel turned into a park (think “Questhaven South”) and just be done with it.

    I’d rather have that than the ugly eyesore we have now, another nine year wait, or a Towncenter comprised of boarded-up out-of-business shops.

  • stand alone restaurants will not survive . Make the town center into a semi enclosed public market – like a mini Granville with fresh fish and meats and mini eateries.

  • It would be a nice area for a pool facility….

    • Pool facility would never fly. It was proposed before and no one wants to pay membership fees for a recreation facility and they couldn’t get investors. Not to mention there lots of homes with their own pools and the condo communities have public pools.

  • Agreed! Just make a park for now until they can decide what to do. Throw down some grass and park benches and take the fencing down.

  • We’ve waited this long for a Town Center, I definitely would like to see San Elijo Hills completed as planned. There are restaurants that could do well here. As a few have mentioned, they need to have a local, casual, & family friendly vibe: The Habit is a great/reasonably priced chain (originated in Santa Barbara). I also think a sit-down Mexican restaurant (a Las Olas type—flip-flop appropriate, kid friendly and affordable for families). A breakfast/lunch place similar to Honey’s, 101 Cafe or Pipes might be fun for families too. Rubio’s and Which Wich might be decent options as well.

    • I just moved to SEH and I can say its a very nice place . But my husband and I both say the same thing . This place needs more choices in restaurants. Sushi and mexican would be great and also retail shops . Isn’t the logo Live Shop Play

  • Where can we get an real update on this project? Good luck calling the Developer or the SEH HOA and getting an honest answer.

    I am all for buying local if it is good food and not going to break my wallet. We need more food options like some others have suggested. A breakfast spot like Kono’s in PB would be great for a breakfast burrito or a sandwich. A Love Boat Sushi would be awesome. Something like The 3rd Corner, UNION, etc… too (but on a smaller scale). Need a taco shop like Lolitas by Petco Park… great food and beers. Relm is perfect but REN needs a lot of help and is too $. Hendos is just ok (order is usually wrong and service is spotty) so we prefer to drive to Crust, Blue Ribbon or Pizza Port. If there was a Chipotle in the town center, I would eat there once per week for lunch\dinner. Albertsons is a rip off compared to other stores but we shop there all the time and we also use the Pharmacy and the Clinic. 90% of the time we get gas at the SEH Chevron.

    To be honest, just build a damn park and call it done. Just build a wall or barrier to protect everyone from cars screaming down the hill.

    • Wow! I read this to my wife and she thought I wrote this! 🙂 Nailed many of our fav places and critique is spot on about what we currently have.

      • A lot of us feel the same way. Just want some answers from the developer and want to see the dirt lots finally gone.

        We moved here 10 years ago and were promised a “thriving” town center. Per the SEH website, “More shops are opening soon!”. Where?!? Of course they still have Peppertree listed as a store and they closed shop years ago.

        Maybe the developer is busy trying to convert that lovely looking recycling plant into a movie studio :0)

        Guess we will continue to take our business down to Encinitas\Carlsbad. Cannot wait for the La Costa Town Square to open (I can walk there too).

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