Downtown Palo Alto's high rents are pushing another longtime retailer to another city. This time, it's the 65-year-old University Art and its The Annex gift store.
The business, which is a destination spot for artists and offers many unusual gifts, will construct its own building at 2550 El Camino Real in Redwood City, Cornelia Pendleton, daughter of one of the founders, said.
University Art had been looking for a space to buy or move into in Palo Alto for the past two years, she said. The store's owners tried to purchase its current building at 267 Hamilton Ave. in 2008 but were outbid, she said.
The building's owner plans to retrofit the Hamilton Avenue space, and the store would have to relocate for at least two years, she said. University Art looked at moving into the old Apple store on University Avenue, but rent was too high.
It wasn't feasible to stay in Palo Alto, where rents go for at least $4 to $6 a square foot, which is more like $6 to $8 per square foot with taxes, insurance and maintenance, she said.
"It's very difficult to be a small retailer in today's market. ... Economically it does not make sense. There are guaranteed rent increases in the future. It's not sustainable," she said.
University Art owns its San Jose and Sacramento store buildings.
Pendleton's aunt, Lauretta Cappiello, now 91, and her mother, Virginia Biondi, 89, started the business in 1948 with her grandfather, Anthony Cappiello. The family had moved west from New York.
They purchased University Office Supply store, which was located at University Circle in downtown. In 1957, they moved to Hamilton Avenue north of Waverley Street. They occupied their current location in 1964, she said.
Anthony Cappiello died in 1957, but Pendleton's mother and aunt are still actively involved in the business as board members, she said. The store and adjacent The Annex gift store will stay open until the move in the spring.
Pendleton said she will miss the ambiance of downtown Palo Alto. She'll miss stepping out the door to talk with merchants or strolling to one of the many restaurants or coffee shops. But Palo Alto's popularity has made it increasingly difficult to find parking in downtown. The new location will have plenty of parking spaces, she said.
The 11,000-square-foot Redwood City store will have an open floor plan, an improvement over the current layout that is divided into small rooms. Pendleton said she was not yet ready to reveal other details of the new space.
"It will be everything we are now, and more. And it's only four miles door to door (from here)," she said.
The fate of another longtime downtown shop, Shady Lane, located at 441 University Ave., is up in the air. A proposal to redevelop the site of the gifts and jewelry store went to the Architectural Review Board last month. A two-story, 24,750-square-foot mixed-use building is proposed.
The architect is the Hayes Group, two of whose downtown building plans have recently been appealed to the City Council and survived.
Shady Lane has been a downtown fixture for 38 years, said Alice Deutscher. The store's lease is up in February, and she does not know if they will be allowed to stay on.
"We have known for a long time that the building could be torn down. The writing is on the wall. We're just part of what's happening in downtown.
"We would love to go on and be part of the community as we have. We're a strong, vital store that the community loves," she said.
Shady Lane is looking for another place. "We just need a home to function," she said.
"We have history here. We have a store people love and love to shop at, It's hard to be off the avenue. It's kept us vital in many ways. People love finding a local store that is connected to a community, There's less and less of that now," she said.
In June, Stanford Electric Works, a 99-year mainstay, moved from its High Street and Everett Avenue location to Mountain View after reportedly being outbid by a $3 million dollar offer for the property from the owner of California Skin Institute, a dermatology chain.
Palo Alto stationer Congdon and Crome, a downtown fixture for 109 years, closed its store this year.
Empire Vintage Clothing, located at 443 Waverley St., is moving to Mountain View after the Christmas season, the store announced on its website.
House of Bagels, which has been in Palo Alto for 30 years, is also looking for a new location. Its building in the 500 block of University Avenue is slated for redevelopment. The new building at University and Cowper Street will include ground-floor retail and office space.
Retail stores elsewhere have also moved. Know Knew Books on California Avenue migrated to Los Altos this year.