Part supermarket, part food hall: New Carmel Valley Jimbo’s opens its doors

The new Carmel Valley store has a large section of ready-made food, including a pizza station, taco spot, juice and coffee bar, among other options.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The new location is 10,000 square feet bigger than previous spot, adding new prepared food sections for busy shoppers


A new Jimbo’s supermarket opened its doors in Carmel Valley on Wednesday, blurring the line between a grocery store and a casual food hall packed with ready-made foods.

The new location sits at the lower level of the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, which recently underwent a $120 million expansion. It replaces the smaller Jimbo’s location in the same strip mall, which officially closed Monday.

The store’s owner Jim ‘Jimbo’ Someck invested $6 million in the new spot, which spans 25,000 square feet — 10,000 square feet larger than the previous store. The supermarket dedicated a significant amount of square footage to pre-made foods, whether its grab-and-go sandwiches or restaurant-style food made to order. The store features several counter-service dining options, including a Mediterranean spot, a burrito bar, a taco shop and a pizza joint (complete with a large pizza oven imported from Italy).

“As people’s free time has been crunched, they want ready-made foods they can bring home,” Someck said. “The food is restaurant-quality food, and people want that.”

The expansion of restaurant-style and other pre-made foods in grocery stores is a trend throughout America, driven largely by millennials and other convenience-minded shoppers. The trend inspired the new industry term “grocerant” — a hybrid between the words grocery and restaurant. The model is employed by supermarkets to help diversify their business while under intense pressure from giants like Walmart and Costco, along with online grocery delivery companies.

But the freshly made food also contributes to a happy shopper experience, Someck said, as the aroma of freshly baked cookies and pizza wafts throughout the building. Someck said he wanted to replicate the experience of shopping at an outdoor European market, where food preparation is not hidden behind walls. As a result, much of the food is prepared on-site in plain view of the shoppers.

The store will also appeal to environmentally-conscious shoppers, as Someck has gone to great lengths to cut down the supermarket’s use of plastic. The store has an aisle of glass, aluminum and cardboard water bottles, and two massive stations for customers to refill reusable containers. One station accommodates large containers, which customers can fill up for 35 cents a gallon for reverse-osmosis-filtered water. They have a filtered tap at the front of the store where customers can refill smaller, single-use bottles for free.

Someck, a vegan and religiously consistent athlete (he’s gone on a run every day for 1,500 days straight), is hyper-aware of health food trends and has catered to many in his new store. The Carmel Valley location’s produce section is completely organic, and so is its bulk bins and salad bar — a rarity even in natural grocery stores. Like most supermarkets these days, it also includes plenty of vegan and plant-based products.

The new supermarket also features a large specialty cheese section, curated by Jimbo’s Chief Operating Officer Justin Jackson, who was the first specialty foods coordinator for Whole Foods in the 1980s. He’s been buying specialty cheeses for over 30 years, and chose a selection of both imported and local products to feature in the store.

“We’re not bringing in pieces; we’re bringing in full forms (cheese wheels) so that we have cheese at its best,” Jackson said.

Jimbo’s has five locations throughout San Diego County — Del Mar Highlands Town Center, Escondido, Carlsbad, 4S Ranch and downtown San Diego in Horton Plaza.

Someck said he has plans to refresh several other Jimbo’s locations with new branding and some equipment upgrades, starting with the Carlsbad location. He’s also considering opening three new stores, two of which are in San Diego County. The first new store could open as soon as 2022, although the location was not yet disclosed.