Original post made
on Apr 24, 2009
After three years of chasing dreams and weathering storms in downtown Palo Alto, Lisa and Scott Hunter are packing it in. Their story has become commonplace. Stores all over downtown are either shuttering their doors or struggling to hold on to ever-dwindling profit margins. ==B Photos by Veronica Weber/Palo Alto Online.==
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Friday, April 24, 2009, 10:16 AM
Posted by Janice Parsons, owner The Bead Shop
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 25, 2009 at 8:32 am
Dear Palo Alto Sucks and everyone else complaining about downtown, for 27 years, my shop on in Downtown attracted visitors from around the world. The Bead Shop was the a unique west coast business that was extremely successful, employing 25 people with four stores. It wasn't really until I was forced to close our doors because of shrinking sales and changing customer buying habits, that my customers and students showed how bereft they and the community was without The Bead Shop. Mind you, I am very grateful for all of my customers, but the conditions and the direction my industry was taking, changed so much.
I agree that downtown Palo Alto "sucks". But, please don't blame it on the businesses. Trust me, having been involved in committees and trying to keep the streets clean and attractive to visitors, it isn't the local businesses that are the enemy!
Look to the city and the landlords! Honestly, to hear Chop Keenan say landlords are now in the retention business is like seeing someone walk on water. His history with tenants is infamous for high rents and no negotiations. Some landlords fair better, in my opinion but Chop should NOT be the public voice for landlords, if they want to improve their public relations. Mills Florist is also a terrible landlord, but who ever talks about them? They own several spaces on University Avenue and raised the rent on Spirals and everything that went into that space by multiples of $1000 each lease go-around. The same with Arsan Realty representing the building on Emerson which once housed Turner and Martin, then Kikki's and then The Foam Store. Cafe Verona, our much beloved downtown breakfast spot on Hamilton closed because the owners got greedy and threw the tenant on the street. The rents in Palo Alto have been appalling for 15 years, some of the highest in the nation, and, so we're going to lose great, unique businesses...but the city has known this all along and let the landlords get away with it. Most tenant, by the way, already pay the landlords taxes for them when they pay triple net. So, in a sense, tenants will be taxed twice, if this retail tax goes into effect.
We've had great downtown stores! But we have had to leave. The landlords are one leg of the three-footed stool. The other two legs belong to the city council and city government. The streets aren't safe for pedestrians....who wants to cross the street with all the traffic? I never once saw police walk the beat, ask a homeless or drunk teen to stop loitering and littering. Please give the merchants a pass on this one; they are trying to serve the community, even when they are losing money!
It wasn't until the city got their "zero tolerance" on waste and "bring your own bag' that I called them on it and demanded recycling cans for downtown BESIDES CITY HALL! When I left 158 University, my landlord, Thoits Bros. couldn't be bothered with figuring out a way to recycle from the building (which I shared with Facebook and Junoon) so that we could do the right thing. It was too much work for Fred and Jim Thoits to maintain. Parking is a disaster! It's confusing signage for everyone. I had customers say again and again they had to move their car on Saturdays because of the color zones, when the signs just need to say "unlimited parking nights and weekends". But, the city couldn't be bothered to change it..or even listen to the problem.
And, the city government doesn't live here. They commute and they have no imagination for how retail is supposed to work. Go see Portland and learn how it's done. They have sandwich signs, small unique businesses and they are people and pet friendly. We have lost "that loving feeling". And, I just hate to have anyone say it's the tenants, who are there every day, trying to serve our community, supporting local schools and non-profits with gift certificates, free catering, etc. I would suggest even a short drive to Town and Country shopping center to see who is doing well in Palo Alto, but again, that is for only those businesses that could survive the landlords rent increases and two years of construction with no warning ahead of time.
Needless to say, I can now say what I want because I don't have to live with "them" anymore and make nice. So, I agree downtown sucks right now. But, it didn't always and it doesn't have to forever. Here's a litmus test...drop by city hall and go up to the front counter, if you can call that fortress a counter and see if anyone greets you, smiles or asks if they can help. See how friendly they are. Ask them how to get to a business or where a park is located. Trust me, they can tell you where Starbucks and the train station is. That's about it and that goes for the rest of the building. I don't think I'm exaggerating. Now, go walk into any store and do the same thing. I bet you'll get a very different response!
Janice Parsons, not missing the drama of downtown