ESTRELLITA STRUGGLING ... Russell Clark is not going down without a fight. As the 33-year owner of Estrellita Restaurant at 971 N. San Antonio Road in Los Altos, he has spent the majority of his life working in his Mexican eatery. His family opened the restaurant in 1958, and it has grown into a labor of love for Clark, a Mountain View resident born in a far southern region of Mexico. Now it could all crumble. "The building was sold and the new owner increased the rent by 50 percent last April," he said. "It came as a real shock." But Clark is trying to hang on. "I had to reduce our staff," he said. As a result, Clark serves as the greeter, the waiter, the bartender and the cashier on several nights each week. "Times are really tough. Sales are way down. It's a drastic situation. I fell behind in my rent. ... So two weeks ago, I reached out to my customers. I wrote to them asking them to please consider coming here for lunch or dinner. I sent out nearly 1,000 postcards," he said. Clark's actions had an impact. As he spoke, he was visibly moved. "People came. Business is up. I am so touched and so gratified by the response from this community," he said. Although the future of Estrellita is still uncertain, Clark remains hopeful.
BEAUTY BOOM IN MIDTOWN ... There is no reason for anyone to have a bad hair day in Midtown Palo Alto. With the recent opening of two new hair salons, there are now a total of five salons, all on Middlefield Road, and all within one block of each other. SoHo Salon, which opened in mid-August, is the newest entry, tucked into a 500-square-foot space in a building at 2799 Middlefield Road. Owner Kim Keyak, who has been in hair design for 22 years, specializes in coloring and Japanese hair straightening, and says she does not view the nearby salons as competition. "I have my own clientele and I give individual attention to my customers." The other newcomer, appropriately named Midtown Hair Studio, is at 2786 Middlefield Road and owned by veteran hair stylist Dziem (pronounced Zim) Le, a Palo Alto resident. "I had always dreamed of having my own business, so when this opportunity came up, my dream came true," she said, adding, "You need competition to survive." In addition to offering hair cutting and color, Le's salon provides nail, makeup and waxing services. These two salons join the remaining three: Classy Salon, Monica Foster and TL's Hair Salon.
Meanwhile another Palo Alto hair salon, which offers a blow-dry for a flat $35, is expanding. "We're more than doubling our space," said Halo Blow Dry Bar owner Rosemary Camposano. The 2-year-old blow-dry bar in Town & Country Village is moving from its current spot facing Embarcadero Road to the interior of the shopping center in the former location of Williams Cutlery. "People were squashing into our tiny 450-square-foot spot," Camposano said. The move is scheduled for Dec. 1. Camposano has two other Halo shops, in Menlo Park and Burlingame, with three more in the works in the next few months. The success of the Palo Alto store, the first Halo, has not surprised Camposano, she said. "This is a huge, growing market."