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Stehly Farms to open third market in Kensington Commons

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Stehly Farms Market will open a organic and gourmet foods store in Kensington Commons at Marlborough Drive and Adams Avenue. Image courtesy Allard Jansen Architects Inc.

After opening its first location in Bay Park less than a year ago, Stehly Farms Market is set to launch a new grocery store on the ground floor of Kensington Commons, now under construction.

The new market -- set to open in early September -- will be like a permanent farmers market with all organic produce from local farms, including Stehly Farms Organics, Suzie’s Farm and Be Wise Ranch. Stehly Farms is a citrus, avocado, berry and vegetable operation in Valley Center run by brothers Jerome and Noel Stehly. It is celebrating its 50th year in business in San Diego County.

Though the market will be just under 5,000 square feet, Jerome Stehly said shoppers should be able to find all the groceries they need. The market will also sell gourmet items, meat and cheese, and beer and wine. There will be a juice bar and a full deli offering made-to-order salads and sandwiches.

“You won’t have a selection of 10 different kinds of mayonnaise or ketchup; maybe you have two. It’s what we call a small-store concept,” he said. “Everything will be there, but in smaller quantities.”

The first 1,000-square-foot Stehly Farms Market opened at the southern end of Morena Boulevard in June last year. The brothers then opened a juice bar and market in South Park in March. The new market will be their biggest endeavor.

Stehly said he didn’t expect to expand from a single market to three in less than a year and has no immediate plans to open another store.

“Right now, I’m just trying to get this [new market] off the ground. The two are running fine,” he said of the Bay Park and South Park locations. “We’ll look beyond that if everything runs smoothly.

I’m very excited about the Kensington store because it will be our largest store. It will have prepared food and a kitchen, which opens up a lot of what we want to bring -- quality food, different foods. We don’t want to be like everybody else.”

Stehly said the Kensington space was a location the brothers “couldn’t pass up.”

“We’re going into neighborhoods we feel are underserved with local produce or grocery items. Our first store on Morena Boulevard -- there was nothing like it in the area. There was no local organic produce store. Kensington fits into that,” he said.

The $6.2 million, three-story, Spanish Revival-style building at Marlborough Drive and Adams Avenue contains 37,000 square feet of residential space above 9,900 square feet of retail.

In addition to Stehly Farms Market, one suite has been leased to Pacific Dental and another to The UPS Store. Architect-developer Allard Jansen said 1,400 square feet of retail space is still available for lease.

Stehly said he happened to drive by the Kensington Commons construction site, did a Google search, found the owners and made a call. Stehly said Allard Jansen Architects Inc. was looking to install a locally owned market at Kensington Commons, so it was a good match.

An interest list is now forming for the 34 apartment units, which will be available for move-ins by August or September, Jansen said. Rentals include one bedroom, one bedroom plus den and two bedroom floor plans featuring private patios or balconies, modern kitchens, outdoor spaces and security access.

Kensington Commons is seven years in the making. Original plans called for a 58,567-square-foot complex with underground parking, offices, retail and nine condos, at a cost of more than $14 million. It would have been the largest, tallest project in the neighborhood’s history.

Critics of the original project said it was too big for the community, and that it would destroy the character of the neighborhood. Kensington is made up of mostly independent businesses housed in one- and two-story buildings.

After a citizens group filed a lawsuit against the city to stop the development pending further environmental review, the parties agreed to a scaled down version of the project that scrapped the underground parking component. Kensington Commons now has 65 parking spaces on the ground floor, tucked below the two apartment levels and off the alley behind the retail space.

-Klam is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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