Sorry, We’re Retired and Not Accepting New Orders
After 37 great years in business, we’ve closed our store and are no longer accepting new orders here.
Farewell and Thanks for 37 Great Years – from Joan and Bill Keller
Go Inside Le Travel Store, circa 2012, with Google Street View
Le TRAVEL STORE in the Gaslamp Quarter, 1994 to 2013
Le Travel Store in the Gaslamp Quarter was located across from Horton Plaza at 745 Fourth Avenue — six blocks north of the San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park, home of our San Diego Padres. The Gaslamp Quarter is one of the most lively neighborhoods in the US, packed with restaurants, clubs and stores.
We were located in the historic Labor Temple Building, constructed in 1907. In the 1920’s it housed a machine shop and a labor union hall, serving the workers from nearby theaters including the Balboa, Spreckles and California. In the 1930’s, it was home to the County Health Department. Le TRAVEL STORE settled here in December 1994. We exposed the original brick by pounding off a thick layer of plaster. We left the rough-cut joists exposed above — real “two-bys”. You could see the original electrical system.
Le TRAVEL STORE at Horton Plaza, 1985 to 1994
In the summer of 1985, we took a leap of faith and moved from the beach area to Downtown San Diego. Like many American cities, our urban core had declined with the rush to the suburbs. It had become a rough sailor’s entertainment zone, if you know what I mean. To reverse the trend, the city developed a revitalization plan and the cornerstone was a big, new retail center. Le TRAVEL STORE was one of 39 original stores ready for the grand opening of Horton Plaza.
Amazingly, the revitalization plan worked. Respectable folks have returned to Downtown to shop and play. Thousands of people have moved into mid-rise and high-rise condos and apartments. And thousands more units are under construction. We have become a lively, pedestrian, European-style city. It has been exciting to be a part of the process.
Le TRAVEL STORE in Pacific Beach, 1976 to 1985
We started in 1976 on Garnet Avenue (near Cass) in Pacific Beach, between Mission Bay and La Jolla. We took $3000 in wedding presents and opened a travel agency specializing in budget travel to Europe. We sold charter flights, Eurailpasses and a few products including money belts, voltage converters, travel books and maps. Our earliest suppliers were Dolt of California, Caribou, and a local start-up called Eagle Creek, small companies that made products for backpacking and mountaineering, but who also began to recognize the needs of world travelers.
Le Travel Store in the Media
Perhaps you saw us on TV. We were pleased to be featured on Hattie Bryant’s Small Business School, the nationally syndicated show that appears on over 200 PBS stations.
On the Road with the Kellers
We were married in July ’76. Jesse appeared in 1978. Kate arrived in 1980. Both were nearly born at Le TRAVEL STORE — literally!
Other Favorite Places — Australia: Byron Bay. Italy: Lucca & Verona. France: Montpellier & Bayeux. Spain: San Sebastian & Vejer de la Frontera. Mexico: Patzcuaro & Morelia, Argentina: Estancia Rolito & Palermo Viejo, Thailand: Chiang Dao Nest, China: Shanghai & Hangzhou, California: the Central Coast & San Diego’s backcountry.
We took Jesse traveling by train in Europe when he was 3 months old. The Parisians loved him. At the age of eight, Kate saw her first Hamlet, a Derek Jacobi production in London starring young Kenneth Branaugh. We traveled often and sometimes got into difficult situations. We took some risks on the theory that the rewards would be worth it. The theory usually worked. When it didn’t it resulted in great bonding or a good story, though a frightening bus ride from Mazatlan to Tepic once raised serious questions about this approach.
In recent years, Jesse has traveled around Asia, North and West Africa, Europe, Mexico and Central America. Between trips he graduated from UCLA with a degree in World Arts and Cultures. After a stint writing web sites for doctors and lawyers, Jesse now manages this very web site. Jesse has other talents. He started at USC Film School in 2009 and will graduate in 2012.
Kate lived in London for eight months and taught swing dancing. She returned to California to continue her studies at community college. She found that her travel experience made her a better student. Kate graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English Lit, after a summer spent at Cambridge University. She now lives in San Francisco and is a student at UC Hastings Law School.
Over the past few years we have traveled to Morocco, Argentina, Hawaii, the UK and Finland. We have explored smaller towns and the coutryside in France and Spain — Poitier, Brantôme, St Jean de Luz, Bilbao and Logroño. We rented a stone farmhouse in the Spanish Pyrennes and hiked near Benasque in Huesca province. We traveled via Hong Kong and Singapore to Northern Thailand. Most recently we have sampled the restaurants, parks, metros and stunning architecture of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing.
In 2001 we began a family tradition, a getaway renting a house for a long weekend. The first was Flathead Lake in Montana. Subsequent getaways have taken us great places on the California coast including Cambria, Dillon Beach, Sea Ranch and Carmel. We read, cook, hike and romp with the dogs — Nollaig, The Rocket and Norm. The family has grown to include Mark (Kate’s husband) and Laura (Jesse’s bride).
Joan has served eight years on the board of the Outdoor Industry Association and made numerous trips to Washington DC to urge Congress to support outdoor recreation, and especially the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Bill has worked on numerous projects in Downtown San Diego as a board member of the Gaslamp Quarter Association and the Centre City Advisory Committee.
Through the years we have been blessed with the support of family, friends, a great staff, amazing suppliers and the world’s best customers.
Thanks to everyone!
Joan & Bill Keller