Fred Khammar, Long Beach’s beach concessionaire and event promoter for more than two decades, died suddenly last weekend at his home in Bullhead City, Ariz.
“He was getting ready to go to bed when he had a heart attack,” Jesel Evans Ortloff, Khammar’s step-daughter, said. “It was late Friday there, so it was Christmas Eve here.”
He was 69.
Khammar was born July 1, 1947, in Watertown, NY. He grew up and went to high school there. Once he left home, though, he “lived all over the country,” Ortloff said.
He followed his father into the concessionaire business, ultimately rising to handle stadiums, including Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium when the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series in 1990. Khammar was awarded a World Series ring by the team.
Khammar came to California shortly after, beginning at Zuma Beach and working down the coast until he landed in Long Beach. He bid on the contract for concessions at the beach, creating Alfredo’s Beach Club.
“I remember working there for free when I was 12,” Ortloff said. “We rented skates and bicycles, and sold snacks.”
Khammar gradually expanded, with shacks at Alamitos Beach and Granada Launch Ramp being joined by a beach club at Horny Corner on Alamitos Bay, and Mom’s Snack Shack at Mother’s Beach in Naples.
“I met him when I first became a councilman,” said Frank Colonna, former Third District councilman. “He had some great plans to activate the beach and get people out there… It will not be the same without him.”
Khammar began hosting special events at the Granada shack and at the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in 2011. He started with Movies on the Beach, and soon added a Pirate Invasion and Fourth of July party at the pier. He also hosted an annual Tiki Festival and helped the city promote beach events including the Great Sand Sculpture Contest as part of the International Sea Festival.
Khammar had long maintained a home in Bullhead City, on the banks of the Colorado River. He had just purchased a small bar there in preparation for retiring from the beach, Ortloff said.
“He planned to announce his retirement in 2017,” she said. “Our plan is to continue his legacy on the beach, to keep it all going… I love being on the beach, and the shack operations are second nature. It’s the events that are hard, but are going to keep trying.”
When news began to spread about Khammar’s death, his Facebook page was overwhelmed with comments, memories and condolences.
“I love you Freddie!,” wrote Steve Guillen, one of his current partners. “My mentor, my business partner, my dear friend. The only man who always understood what I was going through and was always so supportive. I wanted to love my family as much as he loved his, I wanted to think like him, walk like him, talk like him, I even wanted dress like him. I'm so lucky that I got a chance to talk to him before he passed. Freddie, thank you for believing in me. Thank you for being there for me.”
Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, also was a friend.
“Fred was always smiling, laughing and genuinely cared about how you were doing,” Kojian wrote. “To overstate the obvious, he lived life to the fullest and loved every minute of it. RIP Fred and I hope you are in a better place now and enjoying it as much as we enjoyed your friendship and kindness during the time we had together here.”
Khammar’s relationship with city staff ebbed and flowed along with his contracts. But the focus always was on bringing activity to the beach, they agreed.
"Fred had a great love for our city and was always looking for a way to bring enjoyment and entertainment to the community," City Manager Pat West said.
Looking forward, Parks, Recreation and Marine Director Marie Knight said, “We look forward to continuing our partnerships with Beach Ventures International, Inc., as Fred's family has also been a very active part of this partnership and send our prayers to his family during this very difficult time.”
Ortloff said her 11-year-old son Dorian and Khammar were best friends. Her husband, Greg Ortloff, said Khammar was the only grandfather the boy has known.
“He’s the guy I called my father figure, too,” Greg Ortloff said. “You could always go to him with anything.”
Khammar is survived by his wife, Michelle Evans Khammar; two daughters, Jill Pan and Brandi Galini; stepdaughters Mia Fesmire and Jesel Ortloff; and eight grandchildren.
Jesel Ortloff said the family would plan a memorial in the next month or two at the Granada beach shack, as Khammar would have done. No date has been set.
Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.