By KAREN VELIE
Orcutt’s iconic Old Town Market is closing, the tenants evicted by marijuana mogul Helios Dayspring, who recently purchased the building.
After more than 70 years, locals will lose the only grocery store in Old Town Orcutt. They may, instead, have a marijuana retail shop in their future.
“There are people in our community who don’t drive, they rely on this store,” said neighbor Chuck Williams.
Unaware the owners of the western style building on Clark Avenue were selling the property, Mark and Wendy Steller, the owners of the Old Town Market, were stunned when they received an eviction notice to vacate the property within 90 days after the end of the shelter at home order.
Since late last year, multiple marijuana business owners have showed interest in opening retail pot shops or delivery businesses in Orcutt. At this time, none have been approved.
Dayspring, however, has been successful at garnering retail permits in Morro Bay, Grover Beach, and San Luis Obispo. A handful of Dayspring’s former employees and a partner, allege Dayspring has plied local officials with cash and free cannabis to secure the coveted permits.
Tony Brocking, a former employee of Dayspring, said his former boss boasted he had paid public officials.
“Dayspring told me he paid the mayor (Grover Beach) $100,000,” Brocking said. “He was guaranteed a spot.”
While working to secure permits, Dayspring regularly donates money to local nonprofits, including the Central Coast Aquarium in Morro Bay, Exploration Station in Grover Beach, Rise in San Luis Obispo, and more recently, multiple nonprofits in Northern Santa Barbara County.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to support our local communities, NHC (Natural HealingCenter) has made substantial gifts over these past few months to several local nonprofits, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast, The United Way of Northern Santa Barbara County, and Blochman Union School District,” Dayspring announced in a May 3 email.
Dayspring has not returned requests for comment.
On April 14, Stacy Wooten, a consultant who works for Dayspring, filed articles of organization for Orcutt Holdings LLC, listing Dayspring’s home address on Los Osos Valley Road in San Luis Obispo County as the business address for the limited liability company. Four days later, a statement of information was filed with the state, listing Dayspring as the owner of the LLC.
On April 24, Orcutt Holdings LLC purchased the Old Town Market building and several other parcels for $1.6 million. A week later, Dayspring sent the Stellers and eviction notice.
On May 3, Dayspring also announced plans to open a retail pot shop in Orcutt.
“NHC has decided to apply for a retail location in Orcutt,” Dayspring said in his announcement. “Santa Barbara County has created a rigorous new process that will allow six cannabis retailers to apply and ultimately secure a permit to operate in one of the six specific zones in Santa Barbara County. And because this will be a very competitive process, our loyal customers and patients will be a valuable resource in helping us receive the approval of Santa Barbara County.”