From his seat at the Starbucks last week, Charles Johnson looked out the window and across the parking lot to his now-shuttered restaurant on the other side.
“It was my wife’s dream, not mine,” he said. “She has cooking in her blood.”
They opened Magnolias Authentic Southern Dining in 2004 with high hopes of bringing the Creole okra gumbos and crawfish ettouffees of their native Louisiana to southeastern San Diego. They closed the restaurant June 26, $745,000 in debt on a startup loan and years’ worth of back rent, Johnson said.
Magnolias is the latest in a string of closures of resident-owned small businesses at Market Creek Plaza, a retail center developed in southeastern San Diego’s Diamond neighborhoods with a goal of providing business opportunities to local entrepreneurs. Two months ago, El Pollo Grill shut its doors. Its owner, Victor Lopez, said he owed more than $100,000, mostly in back rent.
Several other small businesses have closed there recently, including a second Southern restaurant, a small fitness center for women, a sandwich restaurant and a craft store managed by local residents.
Only one locally owned business, a copy center, remains.