Search
Close this search box.

La Jolla Luminaries: Tim Gonzalez, The Cave Store

cave store operator Tim Gonzales inside the store holding up a cave store pamphlet

Many La Jollans know The Cave Store, but there are many who don’t know there’s a tunnel there down to Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave.

And fewer know Tim Gonzalez, who has worked at The Cave Store for more than 23 years.

The Chula Vista resident, who also had a career in social services until about two years ago, wears many hats at the store and tour spot, he said, and notes his “favorite hat” is teaching visitors about the history of the cave. 

“I really fell in love with … the history of the cave, of the building [and] all the historical photos,” Gonzalez said. “I love to show customers the history and give them an understanding of how the cave [and] tunnel got here.”

Access to Sunny Jim’s

view from inside of sunny Jims sea cave provides a view of the La Jolla cove and Torrey Pines cliffs in the distance. silhouette of cave opening resembles a 1920s cartoon mascot for British Force Wheat Cereal.

Though the cave has stood for centuries, along with several others, it wasn’t until 1902 that daily land access to the caves became possible. 

Gustav Schultz, a German engineer, painter and photographer, read about an art community established in La Jolla called the Green Dragon Colony and “wanted to be a part of that,” Gonzalez said.

With plans to open an art gallery in his La Jolla residence at the north end of Cave Street, Schultz arrived from a photography trip to the Falkland Islands and learned most of his art had been stolen at sea, Gonzalez said. 

Searching for another income source, Schultz noticed people climbing down the rocks to explore the caves – then only accessible via the water or a very low, negative tide – “and thought, ‘Well, maybe if I dig a tunnel in my gallery, people would pay me to check out the view,’” Gonzalez said. 

He hired two men to dig the tunnel, which was finished in April 1903. The tunnel still stands in The Cave Store, Schultz’s former residence. 

The store and tunnel have changed owners a few more times over the last century-plus; the story of their origins is one Gonzalez loves to deliver while visitors wait in line – sometimes a long line, especially in summer – to descend the 145 stairs into the cave.

Another treasured component of Gonzalez’s job is linking the international influences of the cave’s past with those of its contemporary visitors. 

“The people that come in [are] from all over the world, every country,” he said. “You get people from Morocco and Egypt and Argentina, Pakistan and Turkey.”

Arriving at the cave

narrow tunnel accessible from inside the cave store in La Jolla leads guests down 143 steep stairs to the inside of sunny Jims sea cave

Many visitors to The Cave Store  – including La Jolla residents – are surprised to learn the store offers more than gifts and souvenirs, Gonzalez said.

He learned of the store and its unassuming cave entrance himself after reconnecting with an old friend who mentioned she managed the place. 

“I had no idea,” he said. “And I’d walked by here plenty of times starting in the 80s as a teenager.” 

After his first visit, Gonzalez was “just blown away,” he said. “How did I not know about this?”

He helped his friend cover a few Sunday shifts and gradually added on more. 

“I really like being a part of that history that’s been maintained for so many years,” Gonzalez said. 

In addition to adoring the connections he’s made, Gonzalez has stayed at The Cave Store so long for its environment, he said. 

“Whether it’s dark and raining, or bright and sunny and clear, it’s always beautiful out here.”

And the longstanding job has led to more community presence for Gonzalez, who recently began helping La Jolla organization Friends of Coast Walk Trail, which oversees maintenance and preservation of the Coast Walk Trail, which begins just outside the store.   

“I’ve met lots of people that I’ve developed relationships with,” Gonzalez said. “I love being out there.” La Jolla Luminaries is an occasional lajolla.ca series. If you know a longstanding employee of a La Jolla business you’d like us to interview, let us know!

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Everything happening in La Jolla, sent right to your inbox!

Follow & Subscribe

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Everything happening in La Jolla, sent right to your inbox!

Enjoying our content?

Your contribution helps support our small local team of journalists in continuing to bring you quality content and news about La Jolla.

Recommended Posts

Most Popular

Follow & Subscribe

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Everything happening in La Jolla, sent right to your inbox!

Enjoying our content?

Your contribution helps support our small local team of journalists in continuing to bring you quality content and news about La Jolla.

Most Popular

Search

What's new in La Jolla?

Stay connected with regular updates on all things La Jolla, CA

Join your fellow La Jolla enthusiasts and get the latest local news stories, exciting events, inspiring roundups for the top things to do, the best eats in town, new businesses, plus exclusive subscriber-only deals.

Get the latest local news stories, see upcoming events, top activities and restaurants, plus exclusive subscriber-only deals.

Join your fellow La Jolla enthusiasts and get the latest local news stories, exciting events, inspiring roundups for the top things to do, the best eats in town, new businesses, plus exclusive subscriber-only deals.