Meet Anthony Pretto. His grandfather started Kobey’s Swap Meet. Now he helps run it.

Anthony Pretto, advertising and operations manager at Kobey's Swap Meet.
(Courtesy )

Working at his family’s swap meet, Anthony Pretto has come across some pretty great finds.

As a kid, he collected Pokemon cards and Beanie Babies; as a newlywed, he and his wife furnished their home with antiques; and most recently, he scored two 8-foot-tall nutcracker decorations to adorn his front door at Christmastime. The price tag? A steal at $100.

“The unknown find is the best thing — something you’re unexpectedly looking for,” said Pretto, who oversees advertising and operations for Kobey’s Swap Meet, which his grandfather started in 1976.

When Monte Kobey started the small operation in the Midway Drive-in, Pretto said he never thought it would become a full-time job, let alone a family business. But it blew up, and in 1980, the family moved the operation to the San Diego sports arena, where it’s been ever since.

That’s not to say things have always been easy. The swap meet business has seen ups and downs with the arrival of eBay to the proliferation of Target and Walmart, which hurt sellers of bargain merchandise.

“We had to find ways that we could differentiate ourselves from the billion-dollar industries,” Pretto said. So the family business started focusing on special events, and not only on shopping but the whole shopping experience.

“When you come out to Kobey’s, it’s about the good food, good music and really specialty vendors that you can’t find anywhere else,” Pretto said.

And now the swap meet at Pechanga Arena San Diego is facing another obstacle, with the imminent repurposing of the site where Kobey’s has flourished for more than 40 years. Pretto said the sprawling 40-acre swap meet will soon cease to exist, but he’s staying positive about the possibilities.

“We are cautiously optimistic about the future of the sports arena, but we’re also very realistic at the same time,” Pretto said. “We understand that something is going to happen, and it is inevitable, but yet it will allow us and our family to evolve the swap meet once again.”