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What do Palo Altans want in a supermarket?

Original post made by Resident on Feb 4, 2012

With news of two new boutique supermarkets in Alma and Edgewood Plazas and the Mountain View Safeway due for a move to larger premises while Safeway in Menlo Park still very popular, it does once again seem appropriate to ask what we really want here in Palo Alto.

Midtown Safeway is still very popular with parking and lack of staples on the shelves before dinner time still a complaint. Last time I was there, a line of cars formed on Middlefield trying to get into the parking lot while others drove round in circles looking for spots.

Do we still consider boutique neighborhood stores fitting our needs or do we want a large, catchall, supermarket?

Comments (33)

Posted by shop outside Palo alto, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 4, 2012 at 4:47 pm

The ship has sailed with regard to large stores in Palo alto. Safeway will/has built giant stores on our border. Why bother dealing with the process here and the group of people who live to complain about traffic and noise. The city will be left with small understocked boutique stores. I and others will shop on MV And MP.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Yes, Palo Altans want larger grocery stores, much larger grocery stores but forget it, it won't happens. Every time the issue has come up in the past those living near the boutique stores crowd into City Hall and complain their particular favorite little store will be put out of business, and the CC always side with the little stores.

I will continue to grocery shop in MV.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Piazzas is in the process of expanding to 25,500 sq. ft., they got approval from the CC.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2012 at 6:19 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I consider Midtown a boutique mini-Safeway. One trip out of 4, I will do Mountain View Safeway.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Safeway Midtown is too often out of basic staples - like milk. It also has the #1 worst fresh fish counter anywhere. The deli isn't much better. The "Chinese Chicken Salad" is really (staff admitted) the cole slaw with some crispy chicken added. Pathetic. NO seasoning. And with all this hunger in our area, it is sad that deli food is dumped in order to make room for new stock. Even Drager's doesn't do that - it donates to church 'soup kitchens'. The Midtown Safeway has a huge buying 'radius' area, and it is also sad that neighbors blocked its expansion years ago. The Safeway in MP is great but needs a AAA map to get around. I love TJ's and the Milk Pail.


Posted by mmmMom, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Methinks the city doth protest too much!

Midtown Safeway is more than sufficient. We have downtown farmer's market almost year round, & the 1 on California Ave is year round. Menlo Park - also year round - farmer's market is an easy bike (or car, if you must) ride. Whole Foods downtown has many price competitive offerings. Additionally, Trader Joe's in T&C is also an obvious, easy to get to location.

In fact, with the excellent, healthier, more ecological farmer' markets, we only need Safeway for a couple of items each month. And lately, even those we are tending to purchase @ Whole Foods. Why? Because altho they may cost a little bit more (toilet paper, for ex), they are more ecological in production. Protecting the environment is worth it, to us. Our family says "Put your money where your mouth is."

This city does not need another supermarket, nor do any of the existing markets need to expand. What Palo Alto residents need to do is start biking, walking, & using our wonderful farmer's markets.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Downtown North says: "(toilet paper, for ex)" Now I know you're on a different level than most South PA residents. Why don't you buy your toilet paper at Costco like the rest of us?!!!


Posted by Me, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 5, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I don't like how MMMom takes the view that since the current options works for her family, "this city does not need another supermarket, nor do any of the existing markets need to expand." Since I don't shop at the Farmers Market or the Whole Foods, should I suggest that they be shuttered so we can better support a Super Safeway? While I am fine driving to Menlo or Mountain View for good shopping, I dislike the "we know best" attitude that some people in Palo Alto have.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I truly hope Palo Alto finds supermarkets that cater to Palo Altans, thus freeing the need for them to travel in cars to outlying communities to do their shopping.

As a former resident, and now a resident of an outlying community, I want your presence in my community as much as you want mine in yours.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2012 at 8:49 am

I would like to see some different types of grocery stores: Japanese, Indian, Korean, Mexican, rather than 4 upscale stores, especialy if each store had a deli section. You can find these stores in the South Bay, especially in the Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino border areas. These are stores which work well in the "smaller" footprint as well.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

Despite all the talk of walkable neighborhoods, it is clear that Palo Alto does not want real supermarkets--they prefer boutique stores with "European- style" selections (whatever that means). Any attempt to build a decent size store is met with opposition from "neighborhood ;eaders", NIMBYs and those that constantly complain about noise and traffic (look at Edgewood Plaza--people are complaining about the occasional delivery truck that will have to back up and make noise!!!) or else the project is stalled by claims that the "store is too big" followed by "the store is too small".
Palo Alto will soon be bordered by two big Safeways--Menlo Park and Mountain View. Plus their is a Ranch 99 in Mountain View that has a nice selection of Asian food.

"Piazzas is in the process of expanding to 25,500 sq. ft., they got approval from the CC."
When is this happening? when did the council decide this??
That is unfair to JJ&F and Barron Park Market.


Posted by mmmMom, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2012 at 10:03 am

Hi, "Me" from Adobe Meadows

Why don't you shop @ PA's various farmers' markets?

They have the very best food (including produce, bread, meat, fish, ice cream, nuts, oils, etc; etc.) AND the best prices! It's a no brainer. If you've never gone, I suggest you give it a try. There is also live music, & a wonderful atmosphere. Beats the big box stores &/or shopping centers any day. And you can even do a little "bargaining" @ the end of the market for even better prices. Talk to the very folks who grow your food.

Those so-called cheaper prices @ Safeway, Costco, etc. come with other costs that can not be forgotten.

See you @ the market!


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 6, 2012 at 10:19 am

"Why don't you shop @ PA's various farmers' markets?"
mmmMom--did you even read Me's post. He states:
"Since I don't shop at the Farmers Market or the Whole Foods, should I suggest that they be shuttered so we can better support a Super Safeway?"

"They have the very best food (including produce, bread, meat, fish, ice cream, nuts, oils, etc; etc.) AND the best prices!"
That is a matter of opinion.

"It's a no brainer. "
There is "we know best" attitude Me was talking about.

"Beats the big box stores &/or shopping centers any day."
Give me big box stores/shopping centers anyday. Oh, wait--this is Palo Alto-so JJ&F-like small stores must be protected by limiting competition. That's okay, I will shop in the neighboring cities. Palo Alto is all about boutique shops--not just for groceries--nothing for the common folk to shop at.
"


Posted by Me, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Feb 6, 2012 at 10:30 am

@MMmomm - thanks for the advice, but here's where I think you miss the point. We have two working parents, three kids, one severely handicapped, and boutique shopping, "bargaining," and "meeting the people who grow our food" is not high on our priority list for weekend activities. You are welcome to those things, but let's not assume that other people have the same priorities that you have.


Posted by chris B, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 6, 2012 at 11:09 am

MV safeway is best. Would like one of the same size in PA but unlikely ever to get one as CC is anti-biz.


Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2012 at 11:41 am

The midtown Safeway is atrocious. The stock is awful and usually sells out quickly. The parking situation is enough to scare anyone away. I will gladly put up with the crowds at MV Costco over this small, ugly store. Palo Alto will never get it - people want SELECTION. Just watch the tax revenue go to Mountain View and Menlo Park.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Not to pick on "laura" --- but grocery stores are hardly a source of sales tax revenue. Remember that groceries are non-taxable. Of course, junk food, soda, alcohol and the like are taxed...but "food on the table" items are not taxed.

We visit MP Safeway, T&C TJ, MV Costco, occasional PA Farmer Markets. Will not shop Midtown Safeway - terrible parking, limited selection. Piazza's is nice but not convenient unless I happen to be in the area. I look forward to the new neighborhood market at Edgewood.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Piazzas is in the process of expanding to 25,500 sq. ft., they got approval from the CC." When is this happening? when did the council decide this??

Piazzas are expanding into the store that butts up against theirs, I think it's presently a dental office. The expansion will take place when the present tenants move out. The P & T Commission and the CC approved this very quietly last August or September 2011.


Posted by Walter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm

> Just watch the tax revenue go to Mountain View and Menlo Park.

There is generally no sales tax on food. However, other items that supermarkets sell (like brooms, charcoal, etc.) do generate a small amount of tax. Whether people shop at other stores (in Menlo and Mountain View) that do generate tax while they are on a supermarket trip is an open question.


Posted by VoxPop, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm

To answer the question originally asked, "What do Palo Altans want in a supermarket?", it is abundantly clear that there is no simple, single answer to that question. It has been equally clear in every forum topic that was even tangentially about the subject since Palo Alto Online began.

Different citizens want different things in a supermarket; needs and preferences vary, often widely. There will be no consensus because there can be no consensus.

Give it a rest.


Posted by AMRW, a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I echo VoxPops statement. People who live in Palo Alto want many different things out of a grocery store.

I moved out of Palo Alto about 10 years ago, but when I lived there, I usually shopped at the Mountain View or Los Altos Safeway. 20 years ago, I shopped at the All American Market on El Camino and Los Robles. Ahh, the All American Market.

I kick myself for spending too much money on groceries *every* time I shop at Whole Foods.


Posted by emily, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I'd love to see a larger Whole Foods. I'm a fan of stores that offer high quality meats and cheeses. I end up making the rounds in neighboring cities, because Safeway is disgusting. Safeway in MP is the biggest grocery store I've been to, yet it's full of so much "non-food!"

Here's where I shop:
-Costco in RWC for organic chicken, bulk avocados, frozen veggie burgers
-Sigonia's in RWC for produce and ground beef (organic, grass-fed for $3.99/lb!)
-Whole Foods in PA for cream, bulk bins, last minute items, though sometimes I go to a neighboring city's WF because of the larger selections.
-TJ's for canned veggies, frozen veggies, snack foods, pasta/sauce, cheese, etc.
-Target in RWC for household items (TP, cleaners)

I actually ENJOY grocery shopping and I don't mind taking a few hours on a weekend to go to all of these stores. RWC and MV are not that far and I don't mind going a little bit further, especially for a great business like Sigonia's.

I'm excited for the new market coming to Edgewood Plaza.

I would say of all of the stores that Palo Alto needs, a Target would be most beneficial. The Target in MV is dismal. Target offers a really decent selection of groceries, for those that could benefit having groceries in this location.

Please no more Safeways. Don't support this lame business that specializes in selling garbage food.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm

With all the comments here, one thing is very clear. For the majority of posters, the present selection doesn't suit most people's needs.

We have those who want to spend their weekends at farmers' markets and shopping a variety of stores to get their needs. We have some who love large Safeways and some who don't like Safeway at all, or just don't like our Midtown Safeway for many reasons. We have some who like to do big weekly grocery expeditions and others who like to buy something on the way home to cook for dinner. We have some who like the idea of biking (or sending someone else to bike) to a neighborhood store, and some who don't like driving out of town but see little chance of doing otherwise. For some, price is very important, others don't seem to mind paying a little extra.

My family likes to be able to shop during the week at convenient times and not at the weekend as we have better things to do. We would like to buy groceries once or twice a week and get a good selection without having to go to more than one store. We like being able to get toiletries, cleaning supplies, school supplies, in store baked bread, self selected produce, fresh meat and fish that is not prepackaged but weighed and eyeballed to suit our needs, a good deli that slices cold cuts to suit our needs with a few prepared salads and an excellent choice of cheese, all in the same place. We like a good variety of brands including some easily available imported goods. We like to cook our own food but occasionally want something quick to reheat or have as standby in the freezer. We do use Costco but usually only buy groceries if we want something major, in bulk for a large event or to stock up on staples.

It is sad to think that here in one of the most demographically diverse cities in the area, very few residents seem satisfied with the grocery opportunities in our own town.




Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

"It is sad to think that here in one of the most demographically diverse cities in the area, very few residents seem satisfied with the grocery opportunities in our own town."
Note also that their is not a single ethnic grocery store in Palo Alto--given our demographics that is somewhat surprising. Is it because they are not welcome in Palo Alto (seems to me that people here are excited about "european-style" stores)? Or is it that, given Palo Alto's reputation, potential businesses chose to build outside of Palo Alto, thereby saving themselves the aggravation of dealing with unsatifiable populace.


Posted by therose, a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 6, 2012 at 5:47 pm

I think we need the larger asian grocery store with deli in Palo Alto.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I agree with therose. I tried to convince the Mountain View Market [Chinese] to open a branch at Alma Plaza with no luck. I much prefer an Oriental to a European boutique.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I find everything I need at midtown Safeway. Fruits (fresh, dried, canned), vegetables (fresh, frozen), milk, bread, juice, pasta, tuna, oatmeal, and other low-maintenance food-as-fuel basics. Kept me alive for the past half-century since they displaced the old A&W across from the distant memory of my elementary school. Perhaps a mundane diet, but I get my variety elsewhere in life. Shopping before the morning rush-hour avoids the crowds and finds the shelves re-stocked. Just a random native Palo Altan here responding to the question posed at the top of the page.


Posted by laura, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2012 at 6:47 am

Any ethnic market would be wonderfully welcomed here. I would love it!! Sunnyvale, Cupertino,Mountain View have them, why not us??? But, of course being Palo Alto, the residents would fight over the size, amount of traffic it would generate, and so on. Just the Palo Alto way .......


Posted by Choice, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

Easy answer live in Palo Alto .... ride a bus, bike or walk and shop in Mountain View and Menlo Park for all your needs.


Posted by Julian, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:40 am

To those who think parking at Midtown Safeway is atrocious: the area in front of the store is a pain. Try parking off to the side, next to the 7-11. It's only fifty feet farther to walk - NBD.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Julian

Do you mean in front of the 7 - 11?

Some of the spots in the Safeway lot are designated Round Table, and there are often large and midsize trucks taking more than one of the spaces. Yes, oftentimes it is possible to get a spot there, but not always! At present, there is construction inside Safeway and there are spots taken up by that.


Posted by Greatplacesnearby, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Perhaps, some of us nearby can walk to the market, good for the body unless bad weather, and lessens gas fumes. There are a variable # of small rolling bins, etc. that could help bring back the groceries etc. I'm going to try it.
I go to Piazza's and Mollie Stones, and Safeway. The safeway parking lot can be troublesome at certain times, but I seem to find a parking space each time I come. Also, some of the large supermarkets are just TOO big...


Posted by mmmMom, a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 7, 2012 at 11:32 pm

Hi, again, "Me"

Just to be clear: I do not assume everyone has my very same priorities. Whoa.... how could I? Just look @ all these different needs, wants, opinions, ideas posted above. Amazing! In the end, of course, we all vote with our dollars, don't we? Quality or not, good for the environment (our children, in the end) or not,expensive or not, stores without patrons close up shop.

I am trying to get people to enjoy our diversity. And to help someone like yourself realize that it IS possible to enjoy the very best without spending your hard earned $$ on 2nd rate "food" at Costco, etc.

I am a single Mom, & live on an budget that would probably shock most residents of this town. (And no, I do not get housing assistance of any kind.) When I say "no brainer" I mean it: Why would anyone pay more for food of inferior quality? Some of us shop @ the farmer's markets because it saves us money! Yes, it is CHEAPER than driving to big-box human fuel warehouses. Add to that the wonderful community atmosphere, & you have a win-win-win situation.

But as my Grandfather used to say, "That's what makes for a good horse race." Meaning: if they all ran the same speed, it would be no fun.


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