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Town Square

Dinah's Poolside Grill to change hands Sept. 9

Original post made on Sep 1, 2012

Dinah's Poolside Grill, an iconic 40-year-old Palo Alto restaurant, will close after serving lunch on Sept. 9 and reopen with a new operator and staff at the end of the month.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 31, 2012, 5:17 PM

Comments

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Posted by Liz
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm

NOOOOOO! This is a huge lose for Palo Alto. I grew up eating the omelets--this is really one of the only places my whole family really loves in Palo Alto. I live out of state now, but when we come back for family visits, we always go there. The staff is very friendly and it won't be the same without them.


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 1, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Another icon bites the dust. I love Dinah's. Not pretentious or tech-centric. Loved the Madsen omelette. Darling children's menus. So creative! Who wrote those?? Thank you to the lovely staff. We sure don't need another seafood restaurant, let alone one with Internet access. The upscaling of Palo Alto depresses me to no end.


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Posted by Kelly Magnuson-Baldal
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

My mother and father bought this little gem 40 years ago. I remember very early mornings when my sister Kim and I would go to open the restaurant wih our parents. The smell of bacon and fresh brewed coffee filled the air and my senses. There were only three tables outside back then. Kim and I would bus them, and then stand on milk crates in the dish room to do the washing. Arguments about who got to pull down the handle on the dish washer were always settled by our mother Sharon who was the only waitress at the time.

The business grew over time as did our family with the addition of my baby brother, Eric. Our family was extended by our regular customers as well, some of which still frequent the restaurant today. My father Bruce named some of the breakfast items after those regulars. I vividly remember him sitting in our family room at home and creating the children's menu in a day. Not only was my Dad creative, but he had a work ethic like no other. He worked hard to provide for our family, and took extreme pride in doing it.

That work ethic was instilled in all of us. I waited on tables at Poolside throughout high school and college. My sister Kim became our Dad's right hand, and managed Poolside for years. Eric too worked many summers, and stepped in when our father's health started failing.

Dad passed away six years ago, and my mother Sharon has been running the restaurant ever since. While most women my mother's age are retired and enjoying their grandchildren, my mother still gets up every morning and goes to work. Not only is she carrying on the legacy, but she goes to work every morning so she can pay her bills.

The phone call I received from my mother just a few months ago will forever be etched into my memory. Through her tears, she told me that Julie Handley had given her a 30 day notice of eviction. What our family thought was a lifetime lease at Dinah's apparently died when Mr. Raymond Handley died. Julie Handley, the daughter of Raymond Handley, has left my mother with little options. The business she and my father owned is gone. Gone and left with debt, as there was no offer from Julie Handley nor any compensation. It greatly saddens me to witness a closing like this of our 40 year family run business.

I'm extremely worried about my mother. She has no appetite and can't sleep. Her stress will not stop there either, as she'll be forced to sell her home. Julie Handley has taken the life of her. After our last day, we'll try to pick up the pieces. Our family always has been and always will be strong. Nobody can take that away from us.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 2, 2012 at 10:53 am

This tragic episode signifies what Palo Alto has become!! ...and I long for what it was. It was once a caring, loving family town. Now it has become an impersonal, money-driven megapolis. Kelly, I ache for your family and especially for your mother. I hope the Palo Alto Weekly will publish your comments above in the next printed issue. I loved eating by the pool, seeing friends, you and your family. And, no, I will never set foot in Dinah's again.


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Posted by This is so sad
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

This is so sad. There is an omelet named after my Dad. We will always remember Sharon and Bruce. We will NEVER return to the new Dinah's. [Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language].


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Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 3, 2012 at 10:15 am

My family and grandchildren visit Dinah's Shack regularly. We enjoy the staff, the atmosphere (welcoming for the 11 of us who crowd in on cold day near the inviting fireplace), the beautiful tapestries, the children's menu (priced for families and delightfully edible for the children). Dinah's Shack has also been a nice place to have lunch with friends by the pool most sunny days of the year. With a restaurant next door to cater for the hotel's evening needs (and Su Hong across the street offering terrific Chinese food), surely Ms Handley should reconsider her marketing plans. Save Dinah's Poolside Cafe from becoming another Silicon Valley casualty to money and upgrading.


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Posted by paige
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm

This is just a tragedy for Poolside to be forced to close. Sharon and Bruce and the rest of the Magnuson family created so much more than just a restaurant.....they created an oasis for many, many people.

They knew most of us by name, they asked and cared about our spouses, our kids, our parents, US.

I moved from Palo Alto many years ago, but whenever I have gone back, Poolside is a place I would visit and BE REMEMBERED. It is a place I would take guests because I knew they would be treated like family and it was sincere.

I'm sorry for the loss to Palo Alto. I'm extremely sorry for the loss to Sharon and her family.

You did a great thing, Sharon. Thank you for all the years you made a safe and serene place to come and visit.

I'll miss you.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

And yet another casualty of a family owned business, tossed aside with disregard and a thirty day notice. I will not patronize the new establishment, nor will my visiting relatives and friends ever stay at the adjoining hotel. Handley had a choice to make. We can also choose not to send her our business,


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Posted by mauitom
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Palo Alto isn't MY Palo Alto anymore...not even close....I was just there too and ate at Dinah's and thought to myself "Well....at least they haven't drummed this place out yet..." Shame on Palo Alto....Just sell the whole town to Oracle or something....fools....


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm

To Mauitom:

"Palo Alto" did NOT do this!!!! The real people of Palo Alto did not do this!!! The anger level is rising. Don't blame the good people who make up this town. I hope there will be a civic boycott as a warning to other greedy business owners.


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Posted by Tom Martens
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2012 at 7:57 am

If only those with serious complaints, personal attacks, really knew all the facts and especially if they knew Julie Handley as I do, they wouldn't be as quick to judge. Sure it's a loss to the community, but only to those who choose to live in the past. Julie is a wonderful, giving human being who considers others as much as herself. It hurts me to see this negative reaction. Believe me on this, if those who are complaining so vehemently were in her position, that is, as an employer of many people from this community, and as a responsible person, they would have made the same choice. Don't judge other people by your own needs. We are all in this together and Julie has as much rights to conduct her own business as each of us do. She was not as heartless to the Magnuson family as some think. There is always two sides to every story.


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Posted by mauitom
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2012 at 8:11 am

I tend to live in the past....:)


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Posted by Trish McBride
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 10:50 am

This greatly saddens me. I've been going to Dinah's for almost 30 years and fondly remember the days when the whole family worked at the business. (Isn't there still a Kimbo's scramble?). In fact, we were just there last week and seeing Sharon's welcoming smile while working her butt off for all these years was very humbling. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2012 at 10:57 am

This is a very sad story, but unfortunately there are two sides to this story and this is where nostalgia and community separate from business. We don't know everything about how long this issue was personally discussed before a 30-day notice was issued, and it's private business, not ours to know. It's not being questioned that the original hotel and restaurant owners wanted a lifetime arrangement, but "times change" and this may not be economically possible. It is unclear as to how Dinah's will survive the next few years, even with "upgrades", to avoid becoming yet another master-planned business and residential community which would add even more density to the area.

We still mourn the loss of Stickney's, a story with many similarities to Poolside Grill. Remember how after nearly 50 years in the same location across from Stanford, Stickney's closed for costly renovations to "suit" the Town & Country Village expectations - only to be evicted (or pay triple rent to stay) just before they planned to reopen? That was twelve years ago, and many others have joined that list. Palo Alto's population and tastes have changed greatly since our memories formed. Our family doesn't find the new crop of restaurants that pop up downtown or along the El to be of any interest. They cannot recreate what was lost, but with any luck today's favorites will survive long enough to become tomorrow's revered evictions. The two biggest restaurant goals are gaining good customers and to own the building to have any kind of future. As we see, each "old school" handshake agreement falls to dust with time.

As for Poolside Grill, it may be too late for the family to open a new place to continue serving great food with wonderful service. Their family is indeed part of Palo Alto's history, but that history and all of the great feelings we have from the years continues to give way to bottom-line Palo Alto. This "upscale" push started with downtown in 1985 and has methodically stamped out any lasting personal touch across all of the districts of the city.


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Posted by ingrid
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 4, 2012 at 11:37 am

Please come by poolside grill to sign the big farewell card. It is standing on an easel near the entrance. Thx.


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Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 4, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Re Dinah's and living in the past and small businesses, I moved here in 1985 and since then have seen the demise of the small family-owned businesses that made Palo Alto, not Anywhere, USA.

Since then, we've made this ridiculously expensive place safe for chain stores.

Nothing is ever done about the greedy landlords who do have their rights. But let's not kid ourselves that PA is special or unique any more. Will our $200K travel promotion person offer tours of all the CVS, Safeways, Walgreen's etc.?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I suspect Starbucks will outlive me.


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Posted by Memories of happy meals
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm

The problem with the good people of Palo Alto is they're busy with their own issues. So while most have opinions & they're even very nice people, they're of little practical use to all of Palo Alto. We snooze. Everyone loses. It's a law of nature.

Developers & those that think like them take over and change the atmosphere, causing everyone to lose what made this place special. It's not limited to Palo Alto or even to this valley. We've lost bowling alleys too...this is just another instance.

There is no such thing as a "Gentleman's Agreement" anymore, where men and women give their word, on a handshake. Values are different than what they were, even 50 years ago. Ethics and morals? What's that? A nice memory. Everyone does what is right in their OWN eyes now now. Greed? It's good now.

Developers think this is good. They control the reins, the money, and Palo Alto from the top, down, bends to them.

It boils down to this:
Residents, either put up (by voting with your money & your time) or shut up. Residents that are vocal and active can often influence those that control the purse-strings, and make the rules.

While there are always two sides to every story, this looks like a case of greed. It does not appear as if the memories of the men that worked together to create such a successful business dynamic for all these years is being honored. That's the saddest of all.


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Posted by Alice
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2012 at 7:55 am

Well, it looks like Dinah's will soon disappear and become a condo location like everything else in the area. They will lose business and go the way of the "careless Palo Alto". Too bad that they can't keep some traditions for people.


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Posted by Tom Martens
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2012 at 9:21 am

I didn't think I would make another comment in defense of Julie and her decision, but why not . . .People who really don't know the facts continue to post, and judge this action in such a negative way. The comment just before this is typical "It looks like Dinah's will soon disappear and blah, blah, blah" Don't people realize that it is exactly this kind of thinking that will materialize into their own personal world. Sure, Julie could have left Poolside cafe as it was, probably sell out and walk away, happily wealthy. But this is exactly what she is trying to prevent. She intends to maintain the Hotel as a viable business and continue it's tradition. Don't forget, she is keeping many, many people employed, factor that into your data bank before you conclude such negative attitudes. Everyone who has shamed Julie should look in the mirror and point their finger at themselves instead. Are all of you holy, perfect beings, qualified to criticize and degrade others, even when you are ignorant of all the facts...


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 5, 2012 at 9:28 am

A promise was made, and she turned her back. That's precisely what took place here. It's an injustice.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

I think Tom is quite right.

There are two sides to every story and I for one will not change my eating habits which might ultimately destroy the whole business and we end up with something we like even less.

Times do change and businesses can't always continue the same and expect to thrive. We have lost a lot and unless we want to see more and more condos, fast food and coffee chains, we will have to frequent the businesses that offer independent menus and service, or we will end up with plastic coffee cups and eat with your fingers pretend restaurants.


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Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 5, 2012 at 10:57 am

It's amazing how many people cannot read. According to the restaurant management herself they were losing money and have debts, so taking a restaurant over that is losing money doesn't seem like a greedy move. It sounds like there was no legitimate lease. The property owner is saving the entire property from development, not selling. This could have been a Rickey's situation. She's a local too, not corporate; her dad built it for Christ's sake! Poolside was not affiliated with Dinah's Shack, which closed in '89 by the way. What if they could bring back Dinah's chicken though, wouldn't that be amazing?!?!?!? I'm all for nostalgia, but sometimes it clouds our judgment. I look fondly on my first car…was it a good car? NO! Judging by recent Poolside reviews on Yelp, it maybe wasn't the restaurant we all remember from our childhoods either. I ate there about 6 months ago. The food was average at best, service was poor, and the fireside room smelled bad. Haven't been back.
Hopefully the owner is true to her word and they are sprucing it up and fixing issues. If the uniqueness we have all loved over the years is maintained, just refreshed, I'll give it a shot.


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Posted by Oh Well
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Teresa and Michael
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 5, 2012 at 5:12 pm

The poolside Cafe has always been our stomping ground on a Saturday morning. We were shocked to hear this week that they were going out of business, given only 30 days notice, and no compensation. Somehow the "big bucks have to be made" steps in here, and this family who have given 40 years of their lives are just thrown out! No I won't go there again, and I will cancel my booking with the hotel for our upcoming event. I am sure I can find a hotel that will have a better policy for its lessee's and employees. I hope the place does close, and be sold and reopened by someone who has a heart and values the people who have got them where they are.


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Posted by Linda
a resident of another community
on Sep 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Posted by Concerned Resident, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 6 hours ago

It's amazing how many people cannot read. According to the restaurant management herself they were losing money and have debts, so taking a restaurant over that is losing money doesn't seem like a greedy move. It sounds like there was no legitimate lease. The property owner is saving the entire property from development, not selling. This could have been a Rickey's situation. She's a local too, not corporate; her dad built it for Christ's sake! Poolside was not affiliated with Dinah's Shack, which closed in '89 by the way. What if they could bring back Dinah's chicken though, wouldn't that be amazing?!?!?!? I'm all for nostalgia, but sometimes it clouds our judgment. I look fondly on my first car…was it a good car? NO! Judging by recent Poolside reviews on Yelp, it maybe wasn't the restaurant we all remember from our childhoods either. I ate there about 6 months ago. The food was average at best, service was poor, and the fireside room smelled bad. Haven't been back.

Hopefully the owner is true to her word and they are sprucing it up and fixing issues. If the uniqueness we have all loved over the years is maintained, just refreshed, I'll give it a shot.

***I copied the previous comment because I agree with it. Having worked in Palo Alto since 1981 (at Dinah's Garden Hotel AND Hyatt Rickey's) I have a bit of knowledge about the history of these properties and the honesty and good intentions of Julie Handley. She is not evil. Those who want to take sides may do that. I just wish to say that Poolside Grill needed an overhall. It is not a black and white issue. Probably more a case of really bad communication. No blame can be placed on either party. When things like this happen there are underlying reasons that are perhaps not meant to be divulged in the press.

Sharon is a beautiful person and did a decent job at the Poolside after her husband died, but it was not her calling to do it alone.
The owner of the property has every right to do renovations and it is not because of greed at all. It is to make sure that the clients of the hotel are being served in a top-notch fashion.

Restaurants do not survive on nostalgia alone.

Wishing the best for all involved and also that the hurling of insults ceases.

LM


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Posted by Bambi
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 10, 2012 at 9:26 am

Bambi is a registered user.

Seems like both entities are trying to do their best. Things change in life... I wish the original Dinah's never closed and my town hadn't changed so much. But life presses forward and I try to treasure the memories. Palo Alto was the best place to grow up! If you want nostalgia, visit Palm Springs.