In this week's ShopTalk column, closures dominate. More downtown Palo Alto restaurants bite the dust, as well as 25-year-old California Avenue tenant Avenue Florist and OfficeMax in Mountain View.

DOWNTOWN: ONE OPENING, TWO CLOSINGS ... Downtown Palo Alto has lost a steakhouse and will soon lose a pizza restaurant. California Pizza Kitchen, 531 Cowper St., is scheduled to close in mid-August. Although CPK officials did not return calls for comment, an employee at the restaurant said the staff was told last month that CPK's lease was not being renewed. Palo Alto's other CPK, located in the Stanford Shopping Center, is unaffected by the downtown closing and will remain in business. Also on the chopping block is the nearly new Palo Alto Grill, 140 University Ave., which went dark on July 12 after just 15 months in business. The steakhouse opened to much fanfare last year, following a major renovation of the 3,900-square-foot downtown space, which was once home to Miyake, the former sushi bar. The owners of Palo Alto Grill also ran Lavanda, the Croatian restaurant that shut down in the summer of 2012. But all is not lost. It will be a quick turn-around for that corner space. Veteran restaurateur Thierry Fassiotti has taken it over as director of operations, changing the name to Alkymists and hoping to have the newly remodeled, 70-seat restaurant open in early August. Thierry calls the cuisine for Alkymists "world fusion. It's a mixture of North African, Asian, Latin American and California fusion." Fluent in three languages, Thierry says: "I was born into the restaurant business. I've done this my whole life." He learned about spices and herbs as a young child from his Spanish mother and French father. The 48-year-old Fassiotti has a degree in economics and marketing but has also studied design and architecture. That combination is all coming into play as he not only designed the new restaurant but created the new menu as well. "The overall design will be a softer, more sophisticated atmosphere and will have three separate rooms for dining," he said. Fassiotti, who moved here from Los Angeles to create Alkymists, is unfazed to open a new place in the already restaurant-saturated University Avenue. "Competition is exciting. And it's healthy. There's nothing else in Palo Alto anything like this restaurant," he said.

MV OFFICEMAX CLOSING, ROSS TO MOVE IN ... In anticipation of its July 26th scheduled closing, OfficeMax in Mountain View's Rengstorff Center is liquidating its entire inventory. Several large signs advertising "Up to 50% off," went up last month to announce the office supply store's closure. Mountain View's OfficeMax is one of approximately 400 stores to close nationwide. The shutdowns are the result of last year's merger of Office Depot with OfficeMax. In Mountain View, the vacancy caused by the closing of OfficeMax in Rengstorff Center, at the intersection of Leghorn Street and adjacent to the onramps to U.S. Highway 101, will be short-lived. Ross Stores is planning to fill the 24,000-square-foot-spot, said an industry source. Ross will be re-locating from its current spot in San Antonio Center. Ross' move is somewhat surprising since its current lease does not expire until 2016, but because of the construction nearby, making parking lot access a little more complicated, Ross was more than happy to get out of its lease earlier, the source said.

LONGTIME FLORIST GONE ... Avenue Florist, 347 S. California Ave., is the latest victim of the modernization of the aging building it has inhabited for 25 years. The shop's last day in business was June 30. A sign on the front door of the vacated store advises customers that it has lost its lease and explains that another florist, "Twig and Petals in Menlo Park will continue serving your needs." Avenue Florist's next door neighbor, The Bargain Box, a thrift store that raised money for the nonprofit Children's Health Council, is also gone for good.

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out, or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out. Email shoptalk@paweekly.com.


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