From the hospital, to apartments, stores, offices, and for the last 16 years Coronado Beachwear, the Spanish architectural building at 1111 Orange Avenue, tucked between McP’s Irish Pub and Bank of America, has had a diverse history since it was built in 1910.
Its storied past includes Coronado Court, which was promoted as “concentrated elegance in apartment living with sleeping porches.” In 1926, Dr. Arthur and Dr. Harry Wegeforth opened a medical office, and then in 1927 it became Coronado Emergency Hospital with 14 beds and five bassinets. The building was also transformed into the Hadley Hall Apartment Hotel and was primarily rented to commissioned Navy personnel for $3 a day. It also housed the popular Bayberry Tree gift shop for 20 years, and was briefly the Coronado Cove restaurant, followed by the Sports Emporium until 1994, when it became a real estate office.
Coronado Beachwear opened 16 years ago and has been run by Chang Hee and Eun Hee Ahn. Building owners and landlords, Carroll and Linda Gerbel, say that they’ve been hardworking and dedicated tenants to the business throughout the years. Their store boasts a wide array of Coronado and beach-themed merchandise and clothing. You’ve probably stopped in with visiting friends looking for tourist mementos. The store is currently featuring a closeout sale to clear inventory before they permanently close at the end of the month.
We reached out to the Ahns to get an inside look into their business and future.
What made you decide to open Coronado Beachwear?
I had been working for a long time, but my goal was to run our own business, so we took this opportunity.
What are your best selling products? Has that changed through the years?
The t-shirt and hoodies printed with “CORONADO BEACH” have always been the best selling items. They are very popular with tourists.
What changes have you seen in the community since opening?
For 16 years, I saw many businesses have disappeared and new ones have been created.
COVID obviously affected your business, has business picked back up and did that influence your decision to retire?
2020 was a very difficult year for business operations due to the COVID pandemic. The store was closed for four and a half months. Thankfully our landlord, the Gerbel family, reduced the rent so that helped. However, we have always been afraid of getting infected with COVID while running our business and believe that the uncertain future of the COVID-19 resurgence has influenced our retirement.
Do you have any favorite memories of working in the shop?
I think Coronado is now the hometown of our hearts, and we see many tourists from different places and countries every day, I was really grateful that the Gerbel family treated us kindly.
What do you plan for retirement?
After retiring, we want to visit my parents and relatives in Korea to share the feelings I miss. We plan to travel to various places and live happily.
The historic building has been owned by the Gerbel family since 1988. With deep roots in the community, Carroll and Linda Gerbel were married here in the Navy Chapel in 1964, vowing to return to Coronado someday to make it their home. After 20 years in Michigan, the family was able to realize that dream, after growing their business, University Blanket and Flag, which they started in their basement. Their children attended CHS, with Brad graduating in 1988 and Lisa in 1991. Both now work in the family business, which has offices upstairs in the building, and have helped it grow exponentially and now the company currently is a product licensee, representing more than 650 schools.
“We are excited for the possibilities of a new business in town,” says Lisa. Retired realtor and family friend of the Gerbels, Dawn Nguyen, commented, “We know that everyone is rooting for a local business. This is such a great historic building, near The Del and trolley stop. Coronado Beachwear has been part of the fabric of Orange Avenue for many years, but we are excited for what comes next in the history of this handsome building.” She noted that she has already received interest to lease the space from a number of businesses. Coronado bids a fond farewell to Coronado Beachwear.