Neighborhood market faces foreclosure

Barron Park Market and Florist struggling to survive in the harsh economy

Hassan Bordbari sat in a chair in the floral section of his Barron Park Market and Florist eating lentil soup out of a battered pot for his lunch.

"Customer!" he yelled to an employee who was tending to the fruits and vegetables at the small neighborhood market at 3876 El Camino Real.

Bordbari, 58, opened the floral shop 27 years ago and the market in 2007, with high hopes of filling a gap and serving the community after another neighborhood grocer, The American Market, closed, he said.

But these days his spirit is feeling as battered as the bean pot from which he ate. Bordbari is facing foreclosure and doesn't know how much longer the store will go on. Chase Bank is foreclosing on the building, which he owns. He owes $35,000 for four months of delinquent payments, including fees and penalties, he said.

"When I opened it, people said if it goes in, they would come, so I opened it. I put my life savings in it, but they don't shop here," he said.

"I understand, they say the fruit isn't fresh, but if they don't come and buy, there isn't any turnover. I throw it away all the time. I lost everything," he said.

Barron Park Market has received five- and four-star reviews on Yelp!, with customers calling it "part Bodega, part roadside fruit stand, part florist" and praising its offerings as a "crazy, eclectic smorgasbord" of Mexican, Middle Eastern and European products with surprises such as Captain Toady's Cocktail Sauce, Cotija cheese and gourmet Frantoia olive oil.

Bordbari blamed the market's failure on a preference of busy residents to go to larger markets such as Whole Foods and Costco. For a time, he thought about selling the building but changed his mind when the real-estate market collapsed. When he bought the building, it cost $4 million; he still owes $700,000 on the loan, he said, and he pays $6,000 each month on his mortgage.

Now he is trying to secure a $100,000 private money loan company to keep going.

Bordbari said he has seen many changes in retail along the El Camino Real strip.

"Taco Bell goes; Compadres goes; Jack in the Box goes -- all gone! Every little business -- they are all moving out. Then a big company moves in and takes the essence out of the neighborhood," he said.

Residents agreed that if Barron Park Market and Florist closes, it would be a loss for the neighborhood.

"Although we rarely shop there it still is useful to have a market in the neighborhood within walking distance of most of Barron Park and Ventura. I think we all would be very sad to see them go. Unfortunately it's hard for small markets to be competitive with the giants like Safeway and Raley's," Bob Moss, who has been keeping an eye on recent retail closures along El Camino near Barron Park, said in an email to the Weekly.

"Walmart and Target also are expanding in the grocery business, so competition for the smaller stores like Barron Park Market is tough. Let's hope this is just a temporary rough patch and they are able to survive," Moss said.

Resident Tom Wagner said he shops at the market periodically but not routinely. Lisa Altieri said she hoped the Barron Park Green Team, of which she and Wagner are members, could come up with creative ways to help the market.

"I can't speak for other residents, but I would feel that it is unfortunate for the neighborhood to lose a local market. ... I think this is a great opportunity for our neighborhood to be more sustainable by having a local market that we can easily walk or bike to for groceries.

"I have been thinking about whether it would help the market to continue if we set up some way for neighbors to provide feedback and info to the market on what kinds of items they would come in to buy, so that the owner could stock items that were more likely to support neighborhood customers," she said. But, she added, the Green Team is working on numerous other projects and would not be able to launch a feedback system right away.

The stress of loss has affected Bordbari's health.

"I almost collapsed two months ago," he said, pointing to the floor. "Right here -- I almost had a nervous breakdown."

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Like this comment
Posted by saleha
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 19, 2011 at 1:05 am

I understand what he is going through, but every time I have gone there everything is stale. Fruits and vegetables are bad. I don't know, but it seems even though he is paying what he is for the place, unless you can offer fresh produce then people are going to stay away. Harsh truth I know, but bread and everything else there is stale. I go there as a last resort.

Like this comment
Posted by Too much traffic
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2011 at 7:16 am

""Although we rarely shop there it still is useful to have a market in the neighborhood within walking distance of most of Barron Park and Ventura."
Well, doesn't that explain it all. If the neighborhood residents do not support this place, who will?? We certainly wouldn't want cars driving there to shop, that would create too much traffic.

"Unfortunately it's hard for small markets to be competitive with the giants like Safeway and Raley's"
But, Palo Alto has addressed this issue previously with JJ&F. Pass a rule that grocery stores in Palo Alto cannot be bigger than Barron Park Market. Of course current stores will have to downsize, but that is the price we pay for living in Palo Alto--micromanagment of the economic market.
If only this place were in College eTerrace

Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 19, 2011 at 11:23 am

Maybe he should forget about doing his own produce and host a small farmers' market?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm....
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Sep 19, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Hmm...maybe take some of the leftover fresh fruits and veggies from the Los Altos famers mkt Saturdays, so people know he has very fresh produce all weekend.. maybe do boxes people can pick up? He has to create some kind of a draw so people stop by even when they don't need something badly -- a walking destination the way The Sweet Shop is....

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Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I shop there sometimes - I don't think his produce is bad, it's just that he doesn't have the kind of volume to have a good enough turnover.

- hosting his own farmers market is the same problem, if you don't have the volume you won't have the farmers for very long.

- Truly this is a case where we want a small local shop to be available but we want to shop at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Safeway or Walmart. Even if his prices were the same as Walmart he just can't fit the selection into that space (and if you could the neighbors would certainly not allow the parking).

He's a good guy - I hate to see him in distress but All American closed because they weren't making enough money and they were much bigger than his store.

Like this comment
Posted by Maria
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I shopped there once, I bought a package of kraft cheese and when I got home and opened it, I discovered the mold, so I returned it. Also, if you look of his name in the criminal and civil case indices you will find five or six criminal cases in the nineties, with the latest in y2k and over thirty civil cases from the eighties until the latest in 2010. You can see the civil cases on the county court public info....the criminal cases are also public, but you must go to the courthouse to view.

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Posted by understand
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm

The store is basically disgusting. The "floral" shop abuts the "market" and both are dirty and crowded with junk. If one wants to compete in this difficult economic time, one must strive to do their best. This is clearly not the case with the Barron Park Market. I am surprised that this business is still in business.

Like this comment
Posted by Fruit Stand
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 20, 2011 at 12:03 am

""Although we rarely shop there it still is useful to have a market in the neighborhood within walking distance of most of Barron Park and Ventura."

This is SO typical of the typical Palo Alto "shopper". It's "convenient" to have someone nearby, just in case Costco is closed, or "I need a quart of milk", etc. This is the attitude that has brought down most of the small markets in Palo Alto.


"I think we all would be very sad to see them go. Unfortunately it's hard for small markets to be competitive with the giants like Safeway and Raley's," Bob Moss, who has been keeping an eye on recent retail closures along El Camino near Barron Park, said in an email to the Weekly."

This has to be one of the most ironic comments in these forum threads I've seen in a long time, because Mr. Moss and several others have lobbied long and hard to force retail solutions in Palo Alto into a box of their own design - even though not a one of them have ever been retailers. Just look at the Alma Plaza, Edgewood, JJ&F, etc. etc scenarios

Just look at the revenue that Palo Alto has given up to Mt View, in large scale retail. Has Costco or any other large-scale retailer caused as much blight as the delays caused by those, like Mr. Moss, who have kept retail venues like Alma Plaza, the disgraceful Park Ave, Edgewood Plaza, and other retail projects from achieving full potential. Can you even begin to imagine what hell some retailers at the upcoming Alma Plaza are going to have to go through because the developer was forced to design in *non-front-facing* retail into some Alma Plaza retail space. Just absurd!

The sad thing is that Mr. Moss and others who agree with him mean well. An even sadder thing is that careful studies of Palo Alto's retail dynamics have always been dominated by long-embedded retailers and City Hal departments who have been all-too-cozy, for years. Result? A boring retail scene in Palo Alto, and one that is largely unsustainable for the mom-and-pop retailer.

My heart goes out to Mr, Bordbari; he like many, many restauranteurs and retailers in Palo Alto have been seduced by the "potential" to make a go of it, without knowledge of the historical dynamics that have made Palo Alto a hell hole for the unwary business person who comes here.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 10:38 am

Isn't this the same guy who said that the Health Care Bill of Obama would help him stay in business because "he couldn't afford insurance for his employees"?

Don't misunderstand. I am sorry he is going out of business. I don't wish that on anyone. But I suspect there were and are more reasons than we know. I wonder how many stopped buying there because we figured he wanted to soak us for his responsibilities?

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Palo Alto Hills

on Jun 5, 2017 at 1:07 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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