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ShopTalk: CPK, Palo Alto Grill close; longtime florist loses lease

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, 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.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 21, 2014 at 8:44 am

Our family for one will be sorry to lose Office Max. It is the best source of school supplies and since we often have only couple of days' notice to get a required item for a class or a specialized project, it was good to know that it was there with all supplies available since other stores often run out.

Paly does not issue supplies lists before school starts and it seems that every year we are taken by surprise on at least one item we do not expect. Furthermore, when we are there shopping for these last minute supplies, we have found many classmates there doing the same thing.

We will miss Office Max.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by On the Avenue
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 21, 2014 at 9:08 am

Avenue Florists used to be really great--about two owners ago. [Portion removed.]

Losing OfficeMax, however, is a real shame. We used them for everything from school supplies to office equipment.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 10:38 am

A restaurant called Alkymists? How strange.

I hope that the new Ross location may result in fewer shoplifters.

The CPK on Cowper hasn't had a good rep for quite some time. Not surprised that they're closing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 21, 2014 at 10:50 am

I was surprised to read the criticisms posted by "On the Avenue" about Avenue Florist b/c my experiences there have always been positive. I hope for the now former owners that this change of circumstances coincided with retirement plans and isn't a harsh reality.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marcos
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 11:01 am

I am really sad to see Avenue Florist close, they have been so helpful whenever I was there to buy flowers, I always ask them for ideas and suggestions on what kind of flowers to use in a bouquet. Now I have to go to Menlo Park to get the excellent service they provided on California Ave.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terrie
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 21, 2014 at 11:38 am

not at all surprised by Palo Alto Grill closing. My husband and I predicted it would not last long on our first (and only) visit there right after they had opened. Way too expensive for food that really was not very special.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elinor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm

One of my big concerns is the condition of many streets as homes are torn down and huge houses put up. The trucks of all kinds and sizes are ruining the roads. Wonder when the city will get around to fixing them...in five years maybe?

Taking down buildings in the business section makes me sad. Look at the number of restaurants that have failed no matter how much they are praised when they open. If you walk around there are a number of vacant store fronts too. Not a good sign when they economy is thriving and the money here seems to be inexhaustible.

Yes, Palo Alto is a special place to live but I certainlynhope that SOME buildings will be left standing as each year goes by.

And, of course, as we all know....it's all about money!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Please close...
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 21, 2014 at 12:40 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by About Palo Alto Grill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 1:35 pm

The only memorable thing on the Palo Alto Grill menu was a fried Brussels sprouts, which although tasty was much too caloric more than just occasionally.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Ca Pizza Kitchen has been bad for many many years. Pretty sad when the frozen version of their pizza is better (marginally) than the restaurant


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

Best Ross was downtown. Decent goods. Didnt have things all over the floor. Far fewer broken items left on the shelf than other locations or iterations of the theme like Marshalls. Found $300 ski clothing for less than $50 there all the time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 21, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Sparty,

I still miss the University Ave. Ross, too, with the three levels and great location.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2014 at 4:37 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by emily
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2014 at 7:25 pm

I'm really hoping that CPK doesn't turn into office space. I'm so tired of great restaurant/retail turning into offices.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by suggestion
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 8:47 pm

We had a similar experience to Terrie at PA Grill. It was very expensive and their signature pumpkin soup appetizer was really salty, with an odd experimental flavor. For a really high price point, the expectation is higher. To get repeat business the food has to be great.

My 2 cents to the upcoming Alkymists opening. Palo Altans travel a lot; are themselves are from all over the world, so novelty lasts only so long. Remember that the competition is good food at home, or the staple restaurants which provide that good mix of quality of food, varied menu, price, and atmosphere. Good luck in getting that combination right and we look forward to trying it out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2014 at 9:28 pm

The first problem with PA Grill was the dark univiting appearance on a corner choked with traffic. So the new restaurant should brighten it up in the interior as seen from the outside. Make people want to go in there
or they never try it no matter how good the food may be.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by FOODIE
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm

My dinner at the Palo Alto Grill was the worst I have
ever had - never sent my meal back before - this
time the meat was the toughest I have ever been
served. Several other members of our party
returned their dinner for the same reason.
They really deserve to go out of business.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by On the Avenue
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm

We had a similar experience at PA Grill-- poor quality meats and side dishes. Not worth half the price.

Now, if only The Chowder House would close: the food is bland, the hostess on weekends is anti-family and seats large groups without kids before small groups with kids. The wait staff is very apologetic about the hostess and the wait time for meals, though.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 22, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Does anyone remember a time when one went to University to shop and not indulge in food marketed for 1%er's?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marlen
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:08 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by randy albin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 23, 2014 at 2:37 pm

well, the downtown has changed over time. there are the old businesses that were there a long time ago. is it now for the well-to-do? eliminate the down and outers and what is left? only the rich folks? palo alto can do better than this


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 23, 2014 at 9:15 pm

I remember shopping both California ave and downtown. California ave had a Patterson's variety store. It was a local version of woolworths. You could find almost anything there in a decently made,but not overpriced version.
Downtown there were a couple of shoe stores that actually waited on customers and cared about fit. We also had several good bookstores. Shops were varied and you could purchase most of what you needed without going to a shopping center. Also we had more movie theaters that showed a wide range of films.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terrie
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 24, 2014 at 8:13 pm

On The Avenue.....I have to agree with you. LOVE Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, but the one on University Avenue was not worth the wait. Another one that we tried once and predicted will not last long. Also have to agree with Suggestions comments. People return to a place with consistently good food and not outrageous prices. Look at SunDance, and Park Side Grill. Great food, every time....and they have been around for awhile.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Rupert of henzau
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2014 at 7:35 am

In yesterday's Daily Post story about this, Arthur Keller is quoted as saying that palo,alto should,implement a law banning chain stores from Univeristy and California avenues. Big mistake. First of all the city should nit be involved in which business a landlord can or cannot rent to. If that law was in place you would not have fedex/kinks, Starbucks, the counter and subway ( to name a few) on California avenue. What constitutes a chain? Is Mollie stones a chai store? Does Keller think that " mom and pop" stores can replace all of those. Let's be honest, there are little to no everyday shopping locations in Palo Alto. The city is reaping what they sowed.


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