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Owner of JJ&F market eyes Miki's Alma Plaza space

Original post made on Apr 3, 2013

Miki's Farm Fresh Market might be closing, but one local grocer is looking at potentially taking over the spot. Joe Khoury, the patriarch of the family that owns JJ&F Market, told the Weekly that he is considering opening a store at the Alma Plaza site.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:38 AM

Comments (36)

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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

I always felt that the building that houses Miki's was well-designed -- but poorly placed. The store appears a few feet away from busy Alma St. with no visible parking lot. If the store had been placed further back with the parking lot in the front, I think that it would have appeared more friendly and inviting to drivers on Alma St.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:31 am

Nice to see a well know market that might take of this space, the building might be inviting if some details and better paint colors.

On rear parking, I don't see a problem, maybe better signage telling customers to enter.


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Posted by sparty
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:31 am

whoever goes (stays?) in the Miki's building should let people know there is underground parking--which isn't evident even when driving into the ground level parking--and indicate what the store is in the first place, since "Mikis" is all you see driving down Alma. Sounds like a hair salon or something. They don't bother to put "market" on it except for the side facing traffic which you don't see unless you turn your head 90 degrees and away from traffic.

Then again I lived a few blocks from JJ&F for a year until I cared enough to see what it was exactly. Its about as inviting as Fort Point after hours. You need to have some indication to people driving by as to what your store is exactly.


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Posted by Signs might help
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:31 am

How about putting up a big sign that points to the PARKING in the rear? They should also give parking permits to the residents of the abutting housing. I have seen them using the store's lot to park.

The site is underparked overall.

Way too much was given to McNellis.


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Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:32 am

I could see a store like The Milk Pail, Sigona's or possibly JJ&F succeeding (or at least surviving) in this spot because of their long-term experience and loyalty in the area, however it will be a challenge to live up to the quality that Miki provided.

I've valued all three in the community over my long-time residency in the area, although once Miki's opened it became my "go-to" place for produce and many other delights. The quality surpassed all other stores in the area.

I agree that the layout for the entire property was poorly designed and executed. Reflecting again that our city council will posture for decades and then approve without any real thought or consideration for the many intelligent observations provided by the community at large.

The building slapped up against Alma like an alley way (even though the was finished tastefully) has already been hit by a drunk driver... can't figure out how (s)he managed to hit the building and miss the fire hydrant.

This is just the latest example of the fact that people who are in government are there because they haven't got what it takes to perform in private industry - well that and they want to power to advance their own agendas.

Miki was one of the truly good guys, as were the people who worked for him. I feel like I lost a newly discovered family.


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Posted by richard mamelok
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

If a new store/owner carried the same types of interesting and unique items that Miki's did I'd shop there. There are a number of stores, especially Sigonas, that carry excellent produce. What Miki's offered that was special and why I shopped there were unique items not found elsewhere. Also it was a short drive down Alma from my old palo alto address. In addition the cheese selection was by far the best in the area and the cheese mongers where very knowledgeable and helpful. If the new owners just duplicate Signonas and Whole Foods, I doubt they'd make it. Also given margins of a food shop, some deal on rent needs to accommodate that.


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Posted by Jeff Cashdollar
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:37 am

I was so upset that Miki's was forced to close. The location of the building may have been flawed, but what Miki and his staff had to offer wasn't. I have been a loyal customer of Miki's since the first day it opened, stopping by every week to see what wonderful, beautiful cakes were being offered by their in house baker, Isabella Costa, from the famous Cosentino family. Once they annouced they were closing I purchased 6 cakes within 4 days. I wish Miki and his staff the best and I had my fingers crossed hoping that Miki would be saved at the last moment. Miki's didn't fail, the city and the developer failed Miki's.


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Posted by Through-A-Glass-Darkly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:43 am

> Khoury said on March 26, that he is dissatisfied with the
> situation. There is garbage around the abandoned adjacent
> property, the roof leaks and the business is not getting a
> dequate customers to make money, he said.

JJ&F's owners seem to have a very different picture of their situation than that expressed by a goodly number of College Terrace residents.


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Posted by Emily Renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:52 am

I just drove into the Alma Plaza project for the first time yesterday. The traffic circulation is terrible and it looks like it will get much worse once the housing in the rear is completed. I think the Planning Department and the Architectural Review Board were asleep at the switch when this project went through -- not to mention the City Council.


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Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:54 am

Lots of comments on the parking. There was lots of parking. There was parking along the store but also in the space between the houses and the apartments next door. We parked underground once, tons of space there. As the article said, the store was packed after the closure was announced. We went in during that time and there was no problem parking. There was clearly a perception of a parking problem and the spaces are not easy to get into but there was lots of parking.


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Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:18 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Hi Allen,

I apologize if it seemed like I was saying that I didn't feel that there was parking at the store. That wasn't what I meant. I meant that the parking (and, hence, the store) did not feel "inviting" because the parking is in the rear and under the building.

I have shopped at Miki's a dozen times (they had a great fruit section) and I still don't know how to park beneath the building. The little road between Miki's and Starbucks was narrow and often filled with people walking in the road between the buildings.

If the builders hoped to attract drivers passing by, this was a terrible flaw. Like you say, it was a perception problem.


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Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:33 am

"I was so upset that Miki's was forced to close."

Throughout its existence, Miki's was unable to pay rent. Miki's was not 'forced to close'; instead, it's closure was the result of rather simple economics.


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Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

That location will be the kiss of death for any store attempting to
start up there. Regardless of the claims of "adequacy" of parking, whenever I drove in the appearance was that sales and construction workers had taken up all the apparent spaces. No open spaces visible.
My reaction: try to find the way back out to Alma.

I can certainly understand why good customers still did not know there was underground parking. If, in fact, the claims are true, it has got to be the best kept secret in Palo Alto.

Normally you want your store to be in a "high traffic" area for good exposure to potential customers. But very few of the folks zipping by on Alma had a clue what Miki's was. It could have been a warehouse.


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Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

I hope a "normal" store goes in there. Some of us in the neighborhood don't want all the specialty (and therefore expensive) items. We want to just buy regular stuff. JJ&F would be great! Palo Alto feels it can't do anything for regular people, because everyone who lives here is extraordinary. :o) But also, with the changing demographics of the city, an Asian grocery would probably do very well, if we have to have specialty items.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:54 am

JJs may succeed if they bring their loyal customer base with them, but I doubt it will be enough though. A lot of their customers are Stanfordites who may not want to navigate that far afield for just a few groceries.

The parking is not, was not great when I was there. I didn't see the underground parking until the last week when a sign went up. I parked on ground level and when I returned I had to enter my vehicle through the passenger side because the large vehicle to my left was too close. I think anywhere else these parking spots would be called compact only.

Signs were poor and with hindsight I get the impression that this was a deliberate attempt by someone to make it harder for Mikis to succeed. Mikis Market would have been a better sign on the outside and a better sign into the complex would have helped - the first time I tried to get there I almost turned into an exit only - ridiculous system.

For any new business to succeed there they must bring their established customers with them and also improve signage and advertising. My use was no more than grabbing a few items on my way home when Alma was my route. Passing traffic will stop if they feel it is easy and quick. They may not be doing the weekly family shop, but they may stop for a few dinner items and even a couple of impulse purchases. Getting these shoppers as well as a more loyal customer base will be necessary.

I agree about the bakery, cheese and even to some extent the deli. The bakery did not sell hot bread which would have been excellent and the deli lunch items were not cheap but were large enough to do two people. 30 minutes parking didn't give enough time for a coffee at Starbucks and a grocery trip.

More thought was needed and will be needed in future. In the meantime let Edgewood eats do their thing in the parking lot. I am sure Starbucks would appreciate it!


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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:59 am

One reason, we believe, that Miki's failed, is because it looks like a sushi restaurant. The lettering matches most Asian eateries, and you can only read "Farm Fresh" when you are actually passing the building. If you saw "Market" on each side of the building, people going in either direction could SEE that it's a MARKET.

P.S. The bakery wasn't very good.


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Posted by Dummies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

If the owners of JJ&Fs want to lose it completely, move it to the site of Miki's. That location has been the kiss of death for every business that has been there for the last twenty years, at least.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm

I agree with others that call that new building the "kiss of death". and, I personally refused to financially support the monstrosity. Sorry you were the victim, Miki.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Better sign going to the parking lot is a must, 6 months Mikis Market was here, that is not a lot of time to get use to a building. Yes the building is awful but it is here now. In 10 years they might repaint it, maybe add some details to make it look better.


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Posted by sue
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 3, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Of course the volume of customers is up now. Prices are down 30%. duh.

Maybe PA doesn't want to support any more specialty grocers & just needs a regular, normal supermarket.

There are plenty of places to go buy cheese, i.e. Sigona's, Trader Joe's, MilkPail, Whole Food, Mollie Stone, The Cheese House, plus any delicatessen. The repititious cheese lover has many options.

I'd like to shop for everything from meat, produce, canned goods, laundry & cleaning supplies, baking needs, dairy, cereals, basic first aid items & decent bread all in the same place. Brand choices are good, too. i don't want to drive 5 different places in 2 or 3 towns to provision my family.


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Posted by Jane
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 3, 2013 at 3:31 pm

The shrewd developer outsmarted Palo Alto. And the ignorant government employees were too stupid to recognize it. Make the developer tear down the building and much of the parking lot, and have him turn it into a parklike area. We shouldn't have to look at that monstrocity of a building for the rest of our lives.


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Posted by CC's Fault
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm

John McNellis has stated that the City Council, et al, REQUIRED him to build a grocery store in Alma Village if he was to build 37 homes. So only a grocery store can rent there, and it cannot be demolished, as much as a small green park would improve the aesthetics.

The only grocery that will succeed in that accursed location would be an Asian one. I think the Asian population would like to not have to drive to Mtn View to shop! The clientele for whom the grocery store was built is not appearing, since those houses are a poorly constructed, overpriced, stripped-down rip off.


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Posted by Meesh
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2013 at 8:14 pm

I loved Miki's! Sad to see it go, but it's definitely not an inviting property. I feel so claustrophobic turning in to their lot. How can people stand to live in that housing packed in like sardines?
As another poster mentioned, the people in the large apartment building use the lot as their own. Their overflow parking used to park in the abandoned lot before construction, so of course they'll return after construction. Whoever does take over might want to address that issue.


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Posted by CJR_ CINDY
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I work at Miki's at least for 2 more days

The drunk driver who hit the building on the ALMA side DID take out the fire hydrant, it was replaced by the city the same day.

I agree the traffic flow may be worse in the parking lot when the homes are completed, but also the back way into the plaza off Ramona(?) is supposed to be opened up then.


Any store will have a hard time living up to Miki's style, quality, and service!




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Posted by @customer
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:42 pm

I also think a well-stocked Asian market can succeed in that location. I used to like JJ&F deli department. But I am not sure if it has enough distinction to attract enough business given all the competition nearby.


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Posted by MikkiS Fan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2013 at 5:01 am

Mikkis Market was lacking one very important element, Marketing.

This was a fantastic market much like Berkeley Bowl but the thousands of passerbys on Alma did not know what Mikkis Farm Fresh was. The wall facing the rr tracks had no advertising. Pictures of bread on the wall did not describe the real gourmet market inside that few knew was there.

It may have been helpful if the market square footage was smaller as a convenience grocery, More than a few months is required to develop business. what was the long range business and marketing plan.

There are so many positive reasons why Mikkis should have landed,
volumes of traffic, large palo alto housing next door with foot traffic located on Alma and an evolving and very upscale clientele in the neighborhood.

Perhaps Mikkis will be subdivided into a smaller grocery.

Didn't the City Council have guidelines to go with since the property was a PC zoning to serve the community good?



I like the points the other writer mentions:
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, 16 hours ago

JJs may succeed if they bring their loyal customer base with them, but I doubt it will be enough though. A lot of their customers are Stanfordites who may not want to navigate that far afield for just a few groceries.




The parking is not, was not great when I was there. I didn't see the underground parking until the last week when a sign went up. I parked on ground level and when I returned I had to enter my vehicle through the passenger side because the large vehicle to my left was too close. I think anywhere else these parking spots would be called compact only.




Signs were poor and with hindsight I get the impression that this was a deliberate attempt by someone to make it harder for Mikis to succeed. Mikis Market would have been a better sign on the outside and a better sign into the complex would have helped - the first time I tried to get there I almost turned into an exit only - ridiculous system.




For any new business to succeed there they must bring their established customers with them and also improve signage and advertising. My use was no more than grabbing a few items on my way home when Alma was my route. Passing traffic will stop if they feel it is easy and quick. They may not be doing the weekly family shop, but they may stop for a few dinner items and even a couple of impulse purchases. Getting these shoppers as well as a more loyal customer base will be necessary.




I agree about the bakery, cheese and even to some extent the deli. The bakery did not sell hot bread which would have been excellent and the deli lunch items were not cheap but were large enough to do two people. 30 minutes parking didn't give enough time for a coffee at Starbucks and a grocery trip.




More thought was needed and will be needed in future. In the meantime let Edgewood eats do their thing in the parking lot. I am sure Starbucks would appreciate it!




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Posted by Marco Schuffelen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2013 at 7:53 am

It would be helpful for bicyclists and people from the neighborhood if there was another way to get to the store than from Alma. The new houses have been built too close together to allow for a bike path, but seen from the street there is just a brick wall between the parking lots of the Ramona and Alma apartment complexes. If there could be an opening made in that wall for pedestrians and bicycles ...


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 4, 2013 at 9:06 am

I already miss Miki's. The pricing of most organic, green and health products is cheaper than Whole Foods and Piazza's. Even though Asian products are a little more expensive than Ranch 99, it's worth it. I rather buy from Miki's than spending time driving to Asian markets to get them. I wish to see it come back in business, even it means partnership with JJ&F Market.

Personally I don't understand why City Planning committee allows so many high density housing development. Aren't schools are already over-crowded? Who benefits from more high density housing? They should have developed that lot into a retail space as it was. I hope the planning committee understands that over-development is impacting the quality of life in Palo Alto.


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Posted by another fan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I was just munching on the remaining caracara oranges from Miki's.

Miki, in case you are reading this thread, please please reopen somewhere else - even if it's on a smaller scale. I have been shopping at your shop every week ever since it opened. I miss your produce. I can find the same options at Ranch 99 or Indian stores, but the quality is inferior.

We already have lots of shopping options for packaged foods - Piazza's,WH Foods, Sprouts and what not. Though after visiting Miki's, the produce section in all these stores looks pathetic. We really need a store that serves organic vegetables, fruits and good cheese.


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Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Please put in a regular grocery store, not a specialty store with overpriced items. We have too many specialty/gourmet stores in the area. I live down the street from Miki's and did not step in there once.


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Posted by another fan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Palo Alto native, if you didn't step inside Miki's once, how would you know if items were overpriced ?

I shopped at Miki's regularly because of two reasons:

- quality of the produce
- the produce(including organic) prices were way lower than that of Piazza's or Whole Foods


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Posted by CJR_ CINDY
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Just what is a regular grocery store?
We had regular groceries like C&H Sugar and Lipton, tea, and folger's coffee, and glad bags, and gold medal flour and milk and eggs and van camps pork and beans, kraft cheese, aunt jemima, etc and comet cleanser and best foods mayo and we were competitively priced for everyday retail.

If you never set foot in the store how would you know what we did or did not carry?


Maybe Mc Nellis & Partners should sell the building now. I am sure they do not want to have a fiasco like this to happen again under their "watch."






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Posted by TMA
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm

We, too, would personally prefer "regular" store -- by which I mean, like the Lucky's/Albertson's that used to be there (And while they weren't a very successful market by Albertson's standards, they saw enough potential to want to expand to 50,000 square feet -- at the end, before they decided to sell out, only a few thousand square feet were between the albertson's reduced request and the city's expanded offer). A store in walking distance that sells milk, eggs, cheerios, toaster waffles (which my son insists on having for breakfast every day) at prices comparable to Safeway would get our business, especially if they were open until 9 PM. I liked a lot of the stuff at Miki's, and we did shop there but it wasn't *that* different from what we could already get at Molly Stone and Piazzas. (and closing at 6 PM made it particularly difficult)


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Posted by cjR_ CINDY
a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2013 at 10:42 am

We were open until 8 pm on weekdays, just to be accurate. 7 pm on Sunday


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Posted by TMA
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Ah, sorry, I knew it closed early, but didn't remember the exact time. I was going by the web page (still up at of April 8th), which says:
"Hours of Operation: Mon - Sun 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.")

Web Link


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Posted by keith@klwines
a resident of Atherton
on Apr 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

The cheesemongers at Miki's were amazing, and showed a level of professionalism unmatched anywhere. Sure you can buy wine anywhere, but a great wine store is a different experience. Same with cheese.

I am sorry that traffic never generated enough volume. It is a terribly situated place, but we made the pilgrimage their regularly.


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