"The Palo Alto location just wasn't a good fit for Freebirds," Vice President of Communications Jessi Blakley wrote in an email.
Freebirds, a Southern California-based chain founded in 1987 in Santa Barbara (still one of the most popular late-night options for many local college students), opened at 2305 El Camino Real, near California Avenue, in January 2013.
The casual burrito chain's closure came on the heels of its next-door neighbor, Cheese Steak Shop, a franchised chain that opened in Palo Alto in 2011. The owner of the Palo Alto Cheese Steak Shop, who also runs an outpost in Sunnyvale, declined to comment, but a piece of paper posted in the restaurant's window said it closed "due to the high cost in the area."
Cheese Steak and Freebirds occupied spaces at the same address, a property owned by Los Gatos-based Pepper Lane Properties. Mark Carlquist, a Los Gatos attorney representing Pepper Lane, said Friday that Cheese Steak Shop, more than six months behind on rent, moved out "literally overnight" with no notice to the owner.
"They just frankly, were there one day and gone the next," Carlquist said. "We were very surprised to find out that they just left."
He said their rent had remained the same since the lease was signed in 2011. Carlquist did not know what had happened with Freebirds, but thought the restaurant's lease ran its course.
Blakley of Freebirds said there was no dispute with the landlord nor any connection to the Cheese Steak closure.
Pepper Lane President Myra Reinhard said Friday that Pieology, a large, franchised make-your-own pizza chain (much like Pizza Studio around the corner on California Avenue) will be taking over the Freebirds space.
Most of Pieology's numerous locations are in northern and southern California but also in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota and elsewhere. This will be the first on the Peninsula.
For $7.95, you get a 11.5-inch pie to dress with your choice of crust (housemade, whole-wheat or gluten-free), sauce, cheese, meats and unlimited toppings. There's also a menu with set creations at the same price.
Reinhard said there is no targeted opening date yet for Pieology, so stay tuned. In the meantime, she's searching for a "good fit" for the former Cheese Steak space.