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Inside the Icon: Kobey’s Swap Meet

There’s history behind San Diego’s treasured open-air market. Anyone looking for a futon?


Kobey’s is open Fridays through Sundays, year-round, rain or shine. In its 36-plus years in business, it has only been forced to close one day: the 2012 San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon, which used the Valley View Casino Center parking lot for runners.

On any given weekend, there are six different sellers specializing in iPhone repair.

One seller, John Oswalt, known as “Futon John,” has sold futons at Kobey’s for 30 years. The swap meet is his only retail location.

There are more than 25 sellers who have sold at Kobey’s for at least 25 years. There are 250 permanent sellers with permanent spaces.

Kobey’s Swap MeetKobey’s Swap Meet

Monte Kobey moved from Phoenix to San Diego in 1976 to launch his swap meet at the Midway Drive-In.

The “face” of Kobey’s is Monte Kobey’s grandson Anthony Pretto, who posed along with his sister Liza in the company’s early billboard and advertising campaigns. He now serves as operations and advertising director.

The initial swap meet had only 13 sellers and 200 shoppers; today there are more than 1,000 sellers and 25,000 shoppers each week—amounting to more than 1 million shoppers per year. Sunday is the busiest day, with more than 750 sellers and 10,000 shoppers.

Monte Kobey died in 1989 from the AIDS virus, contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery.

Kobey’s daughter, Kimberly Kobey-Pretto, took over the business from her father and has served as president and CEO of The Kobey Corporation since 1988.

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