Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - December 31, 2010

Shop Talk

by Daryl Savage

ESTHER'S BAKERY CLOSES ... Today (Dec. 31) is the last day for Esther's German Bakery in the San Antonio Shopping Center in Mountain View. After only two-and-a-half years, the bakery will serve its final pretzel, for now at least. "But we're not closing because business is bad; we're closing because we're forced to," owner Esther Nio said. The shopping center is starting a major renovation and the location of the bakery is one of the first to go. "They promised to take me back in a year when the renovation is over, but that depends on the rent," Nio said. In the meantime, Nio's other location, Esther's German Bakery and Cafe at 987 San Antonio Road in Los Altos, next to Armadillo Willy's, continues to thrive. The bratwurst remains the most popular choice for diners in the European-style cafe and beer garden, Nio said, adding, "I will now be able to devote more time to the restaurant."

COLLEGE TERRACE FRAMED ... Give Fred Rubenstein a bucket of paint and he can do wonders. That's what happened in the College Terrace neighborhood at 2086 El Camino Real. Rubenstein spent $100,000 and in only four weeks, which may be a record for a Palo Alto remodel, turned a 4-year-old vacant building into the new framing store Photograph and Frame. "It was all gray with a concrete slab," Rubenstein said, referring to the 2,200-square-foot space that formerly housed a bike shop. "The floor was moist and oily and it smelled," he said. By installing a cherry-wood floor, painting brown and beige accents on the walls, and installing custom-made fixtures, Rubenstein transformed the space into a contemporary work of art. Displayed on the walls are frames of different sizes and colors that customers can choose to surround their photos, posters or personal art. Rubenstein refers to it as "modular picture framing," a system of pre-cut mats and ready-made frames that can be interchanged. Rubenstein's 15-year background in retail gave him the impetus to open a Palo Alto branch of the San Francisco-based Photograph and Frame. "It's a great location here on El Camino. Lots of drive-by traffic," he said. To help integrate himself into the community, Rubenstein has partnered with the Palo Alto Camera Club; his shop will be the club's home for permanent photographic displays from its members. Beginning next month, the limited-edition work of eight club photographers will be featured, signed and available for purchase.

ERNIE'S JOURNEY ... Ernie's Wine and Liquors has turned a corner. Literally. Not only did the 40-year-old liquor store in Palo Alto's Barron Park neighborhood jump from one corner to another (it is now at 3866 El Camino Real), it has taken on a bright, clean, colorful appearance. "We put in a lot of time and money to clean up this place," said Ernie's owner Anthony Puthan. "When people walk in, they're amazed. They notice the artwork and the flags on the wall."

A NEW FORCE OPENS ON EMERSON — GRAVITY ... Gravity Wine Bar opened earlier this month at 544 Emerson St. in Palo Alto. That's the former location of Melt, a lounge that lasted about two years, and the former former location of Maddalena's, a restaurant that was in business for 31 years. Gravity is part of the Restaurants From Scratch organization, a family of restaurants that include the Palo Alto Creamery, Reposado and the soon-to-open Scratch, The Restaurant, located in Mountain View. Gravity features an international wine list and French/Italian cuisine.

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. She can be e-mailed at shoptalk@paweekly.com.

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