By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
Laguna Drug filled its last prescription on Saturday to the disappointment of many long-time customers and it appears that there are no businesses actively planning to fill its location.
Laguna Beach residents are left to wonder what will become of the 14,378-square-foot storefront at 239 Broadway Street and in search of a new location to buy greeting cards, holiday decorations, and flu shots.
“After 15 years, we have decided to close our Laguna Drug store,” Dave and Cyndi Olsen wrote in a statement. “We can’t fully express our deep gratitude for your business and support. Working within the Laguna Beach community has been nothing but an absolute pleasure.”
The Independent checked with the Community Development Department at Laguna Beach City Hall and it doesn’t look like there has been any movement on a future tenant.
“There are no applications submitted, nor have I heard any request for pending submittals,” Planning Manager Scott Drapkin said.
For decades, the 1941 building was home to the five-and-dime store Sprouse-Reitz. It is now owned by Broadway Laguna Partners LP and managed by Fritz Duda Co., which has offices in Newport Beach, Dallas, and Reno. Duda is also known as the landlord of Via Lido Plaza, a commercial center at the entrance to Balboa Peninsula.
Property Manager Matt Frederickson did not return voicemails seeking comment about plans for the future of 239 Broadway Street.
Under the Downtown Specific Plan, the property could be redeveloped to include up to seven residential units, because one dwelling unit is allowed for every 2,000 square feet of lot space. The Downtown Commercial zoning provides a laundry list of 26 allowed uses including grocery stores, financial offices, medical offices, pet grooming and supplies, full-service restaurants, bars that offer food service, and retail supply stores.
The Specific Plan allows other uses if the Planning Commission determines after holding a public hearing that they aren’t obnoxious or detrimental to the neighborhood’s welfare.
In 2017, CVS unsuccessfully proposed to take over Laguna Drug’s location, saying it would fill an unmet need for residents who don’t want to drive to its location in South Laguna. Among the proposed inventory not found in other downtown stores were affordable midmarket health and beauty items, underwear and socks, school and office supplies, and seasonal items.
City staffers disagreed with CVS, arguing that similar items could be found at Coast Hardware, Whole Foods Market, Bushard’s Pharmacy, and other downtown merchants.
The Olsens invite former Laguna Drug customers to patronize their Newport Beach locations, Via Lido Drug at 3445 Via Lido, and Coast Hills Pharmacy, 2610 San Miguel.