Many neighbors treasured the modest-sized market that emphasized personal service for its customers, often known by first names. "Save JJ&F" became a rallying cry for a large redevelopment of the block where JJ&F was a fixture for six decades.
But competition from larger markets, an economic slump, competitive buying power of large chains and other factors were cited by JJ&F owners in a farewell letter this week. Even a rent subsidy for 30 years apparently was not enough to make the market feasible in today's environment.
Fortunately, Palo Alto city officials in 2008 were far-sighted enough to require the developer of the College Terrace Centre to make the rent subsidy available to any grocery store that would occupy space in the new mixed-use development.
JJ&F owners said the store will be bought by Emerald Market, a grocer based in Redwood City. They note that the buyer has a neighborhood-service emphasis.
There are two take-home object lessons here:
The first is that no development should be keyed to the future of a single business, such as the rallying of support for JJ&F when the office-heavy development was being considered.
The second is that if residents want to have landmark locally owned businesses such as JJ&F, local pharmacies, bookstores (such as Kepler's in Menlo Park and Bell's in Palo Alto), art-supply businesses and restaurants they need to make personal choices that support such businesses. Otherwise, chain stores and the Internet (with no local sales-tax revenue) will displace them.
That is one reason the Weekly has launched an interactive business directory (www.ShopPaloAlto.com): to help residents find and support local businesses. It is designed to boost awareness of products and services of local merchants and highlight their importance to our communities. Check it out this holiday season.