Urgent Request: Letters of Support Needed
To my fellow Carlsbad neighbors and beyond,
My family and I have spent the last 3 years working tirelessly to bring a new experience and vision to the camp store at South Carlsbad State Beach, at tremendous sacrifice and expense. We have been driven by your support but behind the scenes our relationship and so called partnership with the State has been horrendous and abusive, and they have literally given us nothing. We have done everything we can to completely transform this area into what we hope is the benchmark of camp stores not only in California but across the United States and I have worked 60 -80 hours a week to bring everything I said I would into existence.
On August 12th we hosted a team from the State to conduct a “performance review”. This was our first review since our inception in June of 2020 and as you will read below they deemed all of our efforts a score of 51 out of 100. We’d appreciate a few moments of your time to read screenshots from their review and our response letter to them and then please share your own thoughts and reactions by sending their team an e-mail of support.
We have tried to maintain a professional approach but I’m afraid after reading this review all sense of respect and professionalism has departed. It’s time to let all of you see for yourselves how they view our efforts and give you an insight into why all State run camp stores are in a state of disrepair and disarray.
* Please note, the e-mail below is long and comprehensive. Feel free to copy me on your letters if you’d like – email@example.com – Thank you!
Please send e-mail letters of support for The Camp Store to:
Julia Miura: Julia.Miura@parks.ca.gov
Megan Boisvert: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gina Moran: email@example.com
David Block: David.Block@parks.ca.gov
Matthew Millspaugh: Matthew.Millspaugh@parks.ca.gov
Brian Ketterer: Brian.Ketterer@parks.ca.gov
Kathleen Amann: Kathleen.Amann@parks.ca.gov
San Diego Concessions General E-mail: SDCD.Concessions@parks.ca.gov
The San Diego Coast District Office is located at:
San Diego Coast District
4477 Pacific Hwy
San Diego, CA 92110
Letter dated September 1st, 2022
Subject: The Camp Store at South Carlsbad State Beach Performance Review Response
To the San Diego Coast District and Department of Parks and Recreation Partnerships Division,
My family and I have endured a lot of nonsense dealing with the State but this review is an embarrassment and we do not accept your team’s findings, your logic, your opinions, or this score.
No one in the history of the California State Park system has accomplished what we have accomplished especially with the amount of resistance and lack of support you have afforded us. We have sacrificed almost three years of our lives, took on debt, battled through Covid, and exhausted all of our savings to bring this to reality. And despite the monumental challenges out of our control, opening during the height of Covid, out of the blue park closures, and having zero accessibility we have created a place that has only really survived through the support of our local neighbors as you have failed to promote its existence in any capacity and on the very website that people go to research this particular park.
Most ideas, over time, evolve and become more refined, and in this process any business owner has to make decisions that no one could ever foresee and that protect the interest of the business to stay viable. And while we have executed everything we said we would under the terms of the contract you find it more important to overlook the 1000 things we have done right and dare to score us a 51/100 on a performance review which I will address below section by section.
In this review there is no mention of the record setting revenue we have secured for the state’s coffers on through our own creativity, vision, and hard work. No mention to the experiences we create daily amongst the local community and campers, no mention of anything positive in your “review” at all. And on top of everything you cite incorrect information to try and verify the scores you have given us in an obvious and predictable effort to sabotage our reputation and the good will of our partnership.
We have begged for support with parking solutions and basic accessibility and have gone nowhere at any level with the State or City. As we’ve discussed before if we would have known that we would be expected to open a restaurant with seating for 100+ people and not have some sort of parking arrangement in place for people to have access we would not have participated and wasted our time. No one would have wasted their time armed with that knowledge. No business can survive without basic accessibility. Surely, we would be the only business in not only the city of Carlsbad but perhaps all of San Diego and beyond with no accessible parking for our customers. None, not only for our guests but for our employees as well because based on your logic since it does not mention parking in the contract we therefore are not entitled to parking… That is an abuse of power and prohibits thousands of people from enjoying our location every month. The amount of people turned away from parking every day is astounding and crushes the potential of our bottom line and profitability.
Without a parking compromise we then asked for a chance to renegotiate the rent structure down from 15% to anything lower. Denied. As it turns out in a post Covid, hyper inflation world running a restaurant with close to zero margins and 7 skilled employees is a lot more challenging than simply opening a generic camp store which might require one or two unskilled employees. Our rent is 15% of gross revenue sales and writing a check for $29,000 for the month of July 2022 is grossly excessive and again, not sustainable. If you want to keep places like our camp store alive you have to be willing to act like a partner and make compromises so that both sides see benefit and are motivated to succeed together.
You have also offered zero marketing support citing you don’t have the staff or the resources to help. What do you do with that $1000/day we pay in rent in July? We requested you simply update the website for South Carlsbad State Beach with a more accurate description of the Camp Store and two years later nothing has happened besides you adding a meaningless sticker to the brochure when people arrive a mere three weeks ago and a few days before this performance review was set to convene. Every single request we have made to help us stay viable has been rejected. You have contributed nothing.
To date we have paid for every single improvement to the landscaping, the building, things that the State were deceptive about and should never be forced on a private citizen under any arrangement to take full responsibility for like adding our own electrical connection to be able to operate a restaurant. We have also paid the “possessory interest tax”. A fancy way of saying since we occupy this building and despite it being owned by the public we have to not only pay rent but pay the property tax for as long as we occupy this building. And the best part is this property tax went higher because of the improvements we paid for and installed ourselves. During the course of our due diligence we were told the possessory interest tax was $2000/year, we pay 4X that. We have been nickel and dimed to the death.
We have done thousands of great things to improve this location and have created a destination that finally utilizes the space for people to actually enjoy and to get this negative, error filled review is the reason I am finally going to publish this letter to our neighbors and the general public and ask for their support and ask them to let you know how they feel about what we’ve done and the impact we feel like we’ve made.
I’ve realized there is no such thing as a “partnership” with the State of California, it’s an arrangement where one side does nothing but expects everything, where one side interprets the will of the contract in ways that benefit them but ignores the contract in ways that are inconvenient to them. This can not continue and I’m sure that I am not the only person in “partnership” with an abusive and vengeful State that feels this way.
More comments are below for each section:
Use of Premises:
- The old operator was open for a total of 8 months a year. We have crafted a year round solution and are open close to 60 hours a week every day of the week. For our efforts you have decided that deserves a 1 out of 4 rating?
- All of the items we sell are things that our campers actually request and purchase. With Walmart and Amazon and the fact that it’s no longer 1981 it is no longer necessary to have items like sleeping bags and tents on hand, we have had zero requests for either or those items since opening. Our store is functional and sells the things people need and ask for so another 1 out of 4 is out of touch with reality. We also introduced an idea and partnership with Outdoorsy.com to create a one of a kind camping gear showroom on the back patio but you denied that request citing it was not covered by our contract, you can’t have it both ways.
- Please specify where it says in the contract that we need to promote laundry or rentals more than we do already. In 4 months 6 people have used the laundry and if people do need to use it they ask for it. It is located exactly where the plan the State approved says it could be.
- Regarding parking, our contract does not mention parking at all and you have used that as a basis for blocking access. Do we now have 5 dedicated spots for our guests? If that is the case the contract should be amended to cover those changes and other vehicles should be prohibited from using those spaces allocated to us. By law any restaurant is required to have one parking space for every 100 feet of building and patio space, that would mean we should have at a minimum 24 spots dedicated to our restaurant. How can you approve a restaurant plan that is technically illegal?
- Every single one of these items is current and up to date. The entire portfolio was sent to the District office again on August 11, 2022 when we renewed our State Compensation Insurance Fund policy which now runs from 8/11/22 to 8/11/23. Any questions please contact the good people at HUB International. Pat Hurley or Julie Graessle.
HUB International Insurance Services Inc.
1525 Faraday Ave, Suite 200
Our main insurance policy and everything else you’ve inaccurately listed and scored 0 out of 4 are active and run from 1/20/22 to 1/20/23. This needs to be fixed immediately.
- We have spent $500,000+ on improvements we will never get back in addition to my own time and efforts, an updated list will be provided soon.
- How do you score 1 out of 4 for authorized goods and services and then 6 out of 8 for goods? To bring the restaurant to life we needed half the building which required us to halve the space of the store. That was a plan you agreed to and we executed.
- More than 70% of the camp store’s total revenue is based off the restaurant… you say “restaurant service is good” and then score 2 out of 8 because we choose to focus on the restaurant and not promote laundry and rentals more? Two things that might generate $2000 this year opposed to the restaurant which will achieve over $1,000,000 in sales? 2 out of 8 is 25%, what a surreal understatement.
- Prices… Can you please provide where our contract states that pricing needs to be “clean”? For your information the entire store is set up with intelligent pricing, I chose $4.64 because with taxes the total comes out to even numbers like $5… $2.78 is $3, $3,71 is $4, etc… We find this is a lot better solution than having something that is $2 and then the total comes out to $2.16. Again, a score of 1 out of 4 makes no sense. And if we talk about being competitive we have had numerous conversations with you about accessibility and that if we wanted to keep pricing low we would need better accessibility. From this you responded you were ok with us increasing prices instead of giving us parking, your words. You want us to charge higher prices yet you haven’t increased the prices of camping in 7 years because you want it to be more accessible? Again, your logic is do as I say and not as I do.
- We have a 4.8 rating on Google, 5 stars on Yelp and 4.9 stars in Square yet you state that customer service quality is “satisfactory”? Where does it say in the contract we are not allowed to address Yelp review responses or that you have the right to say they “need improvement” and then score us 2 out of 8? Customer service of 2 out of 8 is insulting.
- Can you explain to me what the “assessability department” even is? You have had complaints? I’m sure you mean to say accessibility department and again we have tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who have visited the new camp store since we opened and everything we have done was approved by the State planning department. I know of one complaint out of all of those and it was about the handicap parking location being shifted from the south of the building to the north of the building and that person did not like crossing over the DG (which is ADA approved)…So one complaint out of hundreds of thousands of people and that is “satisfactory”? I call that extraordinary, our track record is extraordinary. And what’s even more extraordinary is this, in two years we have never had to call a Ranger or had a dispute or fight except for one time when a homeless guy was harassing guests on our patio which is unrelated to our business and your responsibility.
- “Gas/Electic” was all approved by the State. We constructed everything according to plan and that is what you see today, even the laundry location. Again, a score of 1 out of 4 to simply build what the State signed off on is ludicrous.
- And a score of 1 out of 4 for General Safety when again, all of the outside areas that people actually access and use with the whole thing signed off by a State planner is incorrect. We have gone to incredible lengths to make sure all the grading is correct, we tore out all of the old concrete and replaced it with a more level foundation for easier accessibility. Not sure you remember but the old camp store had an illegal slope coming up to the front door. We have ADA tables, an ADA restaurant counter, everything we do has safety considered… 1 out of 4, do you realize how egregious that is?
- The interior of our store is subject to thousands of people walking in over the course of a busy day. And every night we clean it up, all the dust that is tracked in , kids playing with toys, the windows, the ice cream cabinet, we relentlessly clean not only the store but our kitchen. In fact, we have had numerous food reps state very clearly that we have the cleanest, most organized kitchen that they have ever seen. But somehow, our cooler in the store which is again opened 1000 times on a busy day can accumulate some condensation which can drip on the floor and you deem it a score of 1 out of 4? Can you offer a solution based on your experience on the best way to manage that condensation? I’d say that this trend is a purposeful attempt to sabotage our reputation and a clear violation of our basic right to operate.
- The “refridgerator” is also not required to have a drain into the sewer. We utilize an evaporator which is satisfactory to the health department which coincidentally scored 98 out of 100 on our last health inspection in July. We were missing some litmus papers in the three compartment sink… I’m not sure you can possibly score 98 out of 100 in an interior kitchen and get 1 out of 4 for interior cleanliness or maintenance.
- In the maintenance plan section you give us 3 out of 4 and mention touch up paint. So we take all of the things that require maintenance, inside the store and on a day to day basis, and we get a score of 75% of the total for – do you realize there are hundreds of maintenance tasks that we do every week? It’s not based on reality, we are 50 yards from the ocean and keep our area as immaculate as possible but since we need more touch up paint on some doors, 3 out of 4?
- Merchandise plan – again 3 out of 4. 75%? Our merchandise plan and layout is constantly evolving and we strive to make it better every day, it’s not a 3 out of 4 score either. To justify that score you say put the S’mores books closer to the smores, genius.
- Furnishings and interpretive plan – 3 out of 4. When we took over this location there were two 20 year old wooden picnic tables, we added state of the art and environmentally friendly, milk jug derived picnic tables across the entire patio. Our look is not intended to be industrial but instead replicate an old time camping feel with modern touches and colors. Our look is based off the Airstream, a travel trailer that defines American camping history. Our entire area is meant to compliment the Airstream we have on the back patio. And you probably didn’t notice but when we reframed the building we used James Hardie fiber cement siding which is fireproof, bug proof, and weather proof so that this building will last for the next 50 years. We did not have to take it to that level. Can you please cite another camp store that exemplifies a score of 4 out of 4 for comparison?
- The events/activities, and interpretive plan is perhaps the single most nauseating analysis of what we have done to reinvigorate this area. Nowhere in the contract does it state that things we do are less important or have to take a back seat to “pre-planned interpretive programs” yet we have been strong armed time and time again and threatened that our music permit would not be approved if we didn’t comply. Live music is a nightly event that brings people from all walks of life together, allow local artists to showcase their talents, and improve the overall character of South Carlsbad State Beach. We have a cool community building event every night with our music and you scored it 1 out of 4.
This is our vision statement from our contract – we brought it to life.
Marketing and Advertising has been enacted with zero support from the State on any media platform.
Community Involvement (below) – We have concerts on the cliff every night which would be a special event every night, and you score us 1 out of 4. We pay $100 a month special permit fee to have “amplified” music, every month for the right to do something that is in our contract already. How does this music not benefit the local community and campers night after night? If you come over you see people smiling, having a good time, enjoying the shows, every night…
Ironically the people we attract support the campfire centers programs because we bring them in with music and dinner as well. We routinely host dinners for all of the local schools and have donated thousands and thousands of dollars to support those schools and their programs, that is a huge priority for us, we want to make our community the best it can be. No one has ever done this with a camp store ever before.
We also organize Carlsbad’s largest toy drive (with Officer Opeka) to benefit Toys for Tots in conjunction with both Carlsbad Police and Fire Departments. For over a month Carlsbad Police HQ and all Carlsbad fire stations have boxes out for toys and on the last day of the Toy Drive we drive them down to The Camp Store for a community outreach program and to present the Toys to the Marines. And what does the State do to help that initiative? Most people would be appalled but the State charges us a $100 special permit fee to use The Camp Store for this Toy Drive, if it doesn’t benefit them directly they do not make any exceptions, even for children who do not have toys at Christmas. So when we get a 1 out of 4 for event’s activities when we do something practically every day it shows how out of touch the State is. We would love to do youth surf contest but guess what? We would have to hire one of their lifeguards and pay all sorts of special permits and fees and get a 2m insurance policy. No thanks. We would love to organize a beach clean up day but again I’m not going to pay $100 special event fee to go pick up trash on the beach when I pick up trash on the cliff every day already for free. You can’t possibly give a score of one out of 4 when you require people to pay for special permit fees, that is extortion. And the Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad, as far as I know do not exist! I guarantee the landscaping and maintenance I do and pay for myself exceeds any other private citizen in California, but we scored a 1 out of 4. A totally unjustified score to say the least.
- The implementation of the Interpretive Plan, another 1 out of 4!
This entire “performance review” needs to be redone. We carry 98% of these items in our plan… but once again we got a 1 out of 4 for “authorized goods and services”. If we carried 25% of the items listed below that would justify that score, 98% of those items does not warrant a 1 out of 4 score.
We could charge significantly more for our services but we want to make it accessible and affordable!
And there’s more, what have we not done in any of these sections?
This score and the rationale behind the score baffles the imagination and is a purposeful attempt at inflicting harm on our business and potential to have future contracts with the State, I expect a full recount immediately and hope that the people responsible for this scoring are held accountable for their lack of judgment and obvious disregard for the truth and reality happening on a daily basis.
The person who rated this even failed to sign the document, we want to know their identity.
Regards, Anthony Marcotti
The Camp Store
7201 Carlsbad Blvd
Carlsbad, CA 92008
P: + 1.714.369.8121
C: + 1.714.478.2487