Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - July 9, 2010

Shop Talk

by Daryl Savage 

TOTAL ECLIPSE: BELLA LUNA ... The authentic Italian restaurant in the charming red brick building is gone. Bella Luna Ristorante at 233 University Ave. in Palo Alto, which had been in business since March 1999, suddenly closed its doors at the end of June. The tables are still set, the menus are neatly stacked on a podium at the entrance and the window boxes have been carefully moved from the outside to the inside directly behind the front door. Although it appears as if this was a quick and unexpected departure, leasing agent Sam Arsan of Arsan Realty says no. "There were no major issues. It just wasn't working the way it was. So part of the negotiation between landlord and tenant was to leave everything in place. It was a mutual agreement," Arsan said. The whole building, which wraps around the corner at Ramona Street and also houses Mills the Florist, Da Coffee Spot and Da Hookah Spot, is currently for lease if the right high-end tenant comes along, Arsan said. Susie Mills, who co-owns the building with her sister, Leslie, said, "There are lots of different options, and, yes, we would lease out the entire building if the right person comes along — but that's not what we're looking for." Yet Mills the Florist would not cease to exist, she added: "If that happens we would relocate." Her grandfather bought the building in the early 1960s.

CULTURE AT CULTURE ... When Alexis Beckman and Mary Randolph Hundt chose a name for their frozen-yogurt shop, they had no way of knowing how important a role that name would play. Culture at 340 S. California Ave. in Palo Alto was the setting of a "cultural exchange" of sorts when several men wearing dark clothing and earphones made an unannounced visit to the store to purchase a large amount of frozen yogurt. The bodyguards and aides were part of the entourage of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Silicon Valley on June 23. The shop had the advantage of being located near Yandex Labs, Russia's largest Internet company. "We had no official sighting of the president. We're not even sure if we would have recognized him or not, but we suddenly got very busy," Beckman said. No confirmation yet from the Russian government on the visit — nor is anyone saying what flavor yogurt was ordered.

PHILZ GETS COOL ... The coolest place for coffee just got a little cooler, but keeping cool comes at a price. About $10,000, according to Jacob Jabor, president of Philz Coffee. That was the cost of air conditioning his tiny, tony Midtown cafe. Jabor, son of Phil, thought it was way too hot at Philz, which is at 3191 Middlefield Road. "We were schvitzing," one employee said. Another, Ksenia Zhilyaeva, said she thinks the new air-conditioning is terrific: "I dream about. I love it. I've never felt cooler."

GREEN AND KEEN ... When David Greene says his new downtown Palo Alto store is green, he means it. Livegreen opened last month at 158 University Ave. in the former Bead Shop, which closed in August 2008. Not only are the items he is selling "sustainable," the store's furnishings are also recycled. "Cabinets left from the previous tenant were re-used," Greene said. Even the shelves are made from something called "zboard," created from recycled paper. Some of the more unusual merchandise includes wallets made from repurposed bicycle parts, solar-charged flashlights made from mobile phones and cameras, and home decor items using reclaimed wine and beer bottles. "Making a purchasing decision involving green products doesn't have to be burdened with guilt of fear, or involve political messages. It should be fun," Greene said.

TRANSPLANTED BOUTIQUE ON HOMER ... Cassis, the popular women's clothing and accessory store, has relocated. It left its downtown Palo Alto location at 532 Ramona St. last month to hang its trendy shingle at 206 Homer Ave. "It was a rent issue that forced us out," said Gordon Cruikshank, who owns the boutique with his wife, Carol. Cassis had been at its downtown location for nine years. Cruikshank also owns Leaf & Petal, a similar boutique that has been at its California Avenue location for 30 years.

MONEY ON THE MOVE ... Wells Fargo Bank moved out of its Los Altos branch at 4540 El Camino Real a few months ago for a jump across the street. Although this was a simple move just a few yards away, it now has a new address, 2600 El Camino Real, and a new city, Mountain View.

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out or in? Daryl Savage will check it out. She can be e-mailed at shoptalk@paweekly.com. 

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