And neither have the customers. Dornbusch explained: “Back then, the customers were much the same as they are now. It was an eclectic mix of people ages 7 to 70. We’ve always had stuff for children . lots of children’s clothes. Parents would bring their kids in all the time. We’ve always had a lot of older clientele, too. I remember when we had Congressmen and people on City Councils coming down for pipes. We never tell . it’s always confidential. People come in and it’s nobody else’s business.”
The Black smokeshop, 5017 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach area of San Diego, is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. (619) 222-5498. theblackoceanbeach.com
Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2016, Dornbusch said his sales have not gone up much — only about 5 percent. He’s not surprised, he said, because “people were using before it became legal. Basically, marijuana has been almost legal forever, for a long time. People were always able to get it.”
Dornbusch, who is about to turn 63, said he’s starting to think about retirement, although he has no successor in mind. And if you’re wondering . he said he doesn’t smoke marijuana or drink alcohol anymore.
It stands as sentinel to the hippie generation that gave Ocean Beach so much of its eclectic character back in the 1960s. The Black, a one-of-a-kind smoke shop, has operated on Newport Avenue for more than 50 years — longer than any other business on the block.
Despite that fact, he said federal agents raided the store in the early 1980s and confiscated all the plastic bags and several scales. No one was arrested and no charges were ever filed, but the merchandise was never returned.
At the time, The Black was one of only five major smoke shops in San Diego, so it attracted a lot of attention from law enforcement agencies because marijuana was illegal.
“We’ve been kind of the glue that’s kept it all together,” owner Kurt Dornbusch said. Recently, this OB landmark earned another distinction: The Black was named one of the Top 10 Legendary Headshops in America in the December 2018 issue of High Times: “The store’s survived recessions and raids, and it still sells hacky sacks and huaraches to local surfers. If you come to San Diego, check it out. It’ll blow your mind.”
Dornbusch pointed out that the secret to his success — and surviving four recessions — is to “keep your prices low. Sometimes you have to go walking to other places and see what they’re selling their stuff for, so keep it at least on their level or try to beat them out. If you keep your prices decent, people will come back. You need good customer service, as well. That’s important.”
It stands as sentinel to the hippie generation that gave Ocean Beach so much of its eclectic character back in the 1960s. The Black, a one-of-a-kind smoke