By Karen Billing
Pannikin Coffee & Tea, one of Flower Hill Promenade’s longest-running tenants, will serve its last cup of coffee at its Flower Hill location on May 31. The coffee house has opted not to renew its lease.
“We’ve been here a long time and we just couldn’t come to an agreement with the mall management on a fair rent so we didn’t renew our lease,” said owner Shawn Holder.
Holder said from a business standpoint, it was an easy decision to make but from an emotional side, it was anything but.
“We have many loyal customers and friends,” said Holder, whose son Dempsey is a business partner and in charge of the Flower Hill location. “We will do a great job for them right to the end, we hope everyone will come until the last day. We’re disappointed; we absolutely would have stayed.
“This is a family business and these kinds of businesses take everything you have. And we have put everything we have into it,” Holder said.
Jeffrey Essakow, president of Flower Hill Promenade, said he is saddened to see their long-standing tenant go and that they were informed of the coffee shop’s intention to close at the end of the shop’s current term lease.
“We have enjoyed a long relationship with the Holder family and will miss them at Flower Hill,” Essakow said. “We wish Pannikin every success in the future as we look forward to announcing an exciting new tenant soon.”
As stated on its iconic cups, Pannikin has been “wakin’ up San Diego” since 1968. Holder and his family bought the coffeehouse chain from the original owner and founder Bob Sinclair in 1997.
Although he’s not sure of the exact year, Holder said Pannikin has been at Flower Hill since the mid-1980s. TRE Boutique (formerly The Rare Earth) is the only other store that has been around that long.
Pannikin used to be conjoined with BookWorks book store, which closed in 2011 after 35 years — currently the shop shares open borders with Pangaea Outpost and Dallmann Chocolate Boutique.
Pannikin will continue to have its coffee shops in La Jolla and Leucadia (inside the yellow, historic Santa Fe Railroad Station building that Holder owns), as well as a shop at San Diego International Airport — they roast the coffee and supply all the baked goods, but the airport shop is run by a company called High Flying Foods.
At Flower Hill, the front counter cases were always filled with baked goods such as pies, cakes and giant cookies, espresso drinks named for rock stars like Jimi Hendrix (four shots of espresso with steamed Mexican chocolate milk and hazelnut syrup), and there was a unique selection of teas.
The shop featured quirky décor, such as vintage road signs and airplane propeller proclaiming its coffee had altitude, old wooden stadium seating and a popular wall of window-front seating looking out onto an often-packed outdoor patio. There was a variety of seating spots and tables usually filled with families enjoying meals, students studying or people working on laptops.
Holder said the closing of the Flower Hill movie theater (which became Whole Foods Market in the renovation) hurt their business. They used to stay full in the late afternoon until 9 or 10 p.m. at night on the weekends with traffic from movie-goers — Holder said that’s just not the case anymore.
“We really miss that part of the business,” Holder said. “The rent is just more than we can support.”
Holden said he has “no hard feelings” toward the center or the management. He said they are good people that just need to get a business in that can pay the higher rent.
Holder said that Pannikin has many exciting things coming — they have started producing their own Pannikin brand K-cups for single-cup coffee makers and their website sells over 20 varieties of coffee and 40 types of tea across the country; Holder said soon they will partner with Amazon on a website.
Pannikin will continue to roast its own coffee in Leucadia and bake its cookies and cakes from scratch.
“We think we do it better than anybody,” Holder said. “We have an amazing little company and great shops, we were one of the first in San Diego and we’re going to be here forever.”
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