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Balboa Beach Co. to close its island doors

August 06, 2002

June Casagrande

Its logos have become a symbol of Newport Beach and, in

particular, Balboa Island. But now the Balboa Beach Co. clothing

store will close the doors to its flagship location on Marine Avenue.

"We have chosen, with great regret, to leave our location on

Balboa Island," said Jim Roberts, Balboa Beach Co. founder and

current president of Pacific Brands Retail Group.

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The reason, he said, is simple economics. A rent increase coming

down the pike for their Balboa Island site "exceeds our business

model," Roberts said.

It's sad news for the Roberts family, who themselves are a Newport

Beach institution. And it's sad news for neighbors of the beloved

longtime business.

"I'm so sorry to hear they're leaving," said City Councilman Steve

Bromberg, who associates the retailer with his earliest memories of

visiting Newport Beach as a tourist, 17 years before he even moved to

the city. "There are a few stores on the island, Hershey's, the

Balboa Beach Co. and a few others, that fall into what I call the

icon companies for Marine Avenue. They're really, really going to be

missed."

The Balboa Beach Co. started in 1970 in the Fun Zone on Balboa

Peninsula. Its mission: "The Balboa Beach Co. was and still is a

family-oriented beach store specializing in casual clothing with an

emphasis on family and comfort and education about our oceans around

the world," Roberts said.

After setting up stakes on Balboa Island, and eventually making

that location its sole Newport Beach business, the store made a name

for itself with its logo T-shirts. To date, the company has sold more

than a million of its shirts.

"Of my T-shirt wardrobe, I can honestly say that about 90% of it

is Balboa Beach Co. shirts," Bromberg said. "And that's not uncommon

among people on the island."

The logo changes every year, making each of them an instant

collector's item.

In 1995, the company merged with Pacific Brands Retail Group and

began operations in outlet centers, like the Citadel Outlets in the

City of Commerce. All these stores will stay open, Roberts said.

Roberts, himself, is a longtime icon of the Newport Beach Chamber

of Commerce's Commodores Club and other community institutions. He's

perhaps best known locally as a keyboard player and all-around

musical entertainer at notable local events.

The whole family, in fact, is known throughout the community for

the business and beyond: Jeff Roberts is president of the company;

Jim's wife, Kathy, is president of the local chapter of the National

Charity League. All five of their children attended local schools.

"This community has always meant a lot to us," Roberts said. "We

sincerely regret having to leave Balboa Island. But in the meantime,

we will continue as a family and as a business to support Balboa

Island going forward."

* JUNE CASAGRANDE covers Newport Beach and John Wayne Airport.

She may be reached at (949) 574-4232 or by e-mail at

june.casagrande@latimes.com.

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