A man swirls his finger in a circle and asks, “Does anyone else need one?”
A series of nods and surf yew’s come back from a half-dozen friends crowded around a picnic table overlooking Carlsbad State Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Everyone at the table is wearing the standard California winter uniform: flip-flops, shorts, and a puffy coat. They all have tallboy cans in front of them.
I follow the guy up to the walk-up window at The Camp Store. He orders a round of beers and decides to get a pizza too. I ask where he is from, assuming he and his friends are staying at the campground.
“Carlsbad,” he replies. “We rode over on the bikes,” he said, pointing to a row of e-bikes lined up next to the slate grey building.
When it is my turn, I order a tall can of beer, too.
The Camp Store is located just inside the north entrance to Carlsbad State Beach Campground. It reminds me of going to an old-school fast food joint with the walk-up window and single-serving plates and hot dog boats. I half expect a roller-skating server to come rolling around the corner. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.
They serve pizzas and appetizers, beer, wine, hard seltzers, and kombuchas from a walk-up window, and there is a small convenience store with anything you may have forgotten to bring with you to the campground, including firewood, ice, rain poncho, and because this coastal California, skateboards.
In an email, I asked Anthony Marcotti, Operator of The Camp Store, how the first year at the C-Bad campground has been and what vibe can campers and locals alike experience when they visit.
“We had a vision for the area and the potential of that area, and despite Covid and the State being the State, we’ve been able to bring that vision to life and create a one-of-a-kind experience for the local community and the campers,” Marcotti said in the email. “There is nothing like The Camp Store anywhere and as small business owners, we are proud [of] what has been accomplished and look forward to the many ideas we have in the future on how to make things even better.
“We hope our efforts, financial [sacrifices], and personal sacrifices to transform this area and create the restaurant featuring live music at affordable rates focused on families will provide a blueprint for other parks throughout the State as well. Our ‘vibe’ is inviting. We strive to deliver a clean atmosphere that highlights the beauty of our location, and it’s almost unfathomable that we have this unique opportunity to create one of San Diegos’ most sought-after destinations from nothing.
“It’s pretty amazing to feel the energy and friendliness of our guests who seem to know that we are doing our absolute best every day, word of mouth has been incredible. All you need to do is read our reviews on Google or Yep to see how much people enjoy it, and that kind of positive feedback propels us forward.”
As I sit at a table sipping a beer and waiting for the sun to go down, I notice that the waves drown out the conversations of even the closest tables. I’m waiting for a lifeguard chair to open up, but it seems like some regulars have already staked their claim.
Some activity catches my attention from over by the stage – The Camp Store regularly has live music (see the schedule online), but it is just someone bringing wood over to the fire pit.
My beer is almost gone, and I’m forced to decide if I’m going to stay a bit longer to catch the sun touching the horizon. I see some neighbors crossing the street and begin lining up along the fence. Campers begin streaming down either side of the camp. They show up on foot, on bicycles, and even in golf carts. “I’ll have another one of these,” I say at the window.
The Camp Store’s winter hours and menu occasionally change. Check their Instagram account, @thecampstorecarlsbad, for the most up-to-date updates.