Shop Talk: Everyman barber shop opens in Midtown


BARBER OPENS IN MIDTOWN ... Palo Alto's newest business this week is in Midtown. It's small and tightly tucked into a spot in between two parking lots, and PG&E is currently doing major repairs near its front door. But none of that fazes Terry Parks, a 48-year-old Palo Altan whose lifelong dream was to open his own barbershop.

Urban Style opened its doors at 719 Colorado Ave. on Aug. 5. It replaces the 6-year-old soapmaking shop called Opal'Z, which closed in December. The cottage-like space has been transformed into an "old-school" barbershop.

"We painted the whole place. We put in six new barber chairs. We did everything," said Parks, whose wife, Kathy, helped in the redo. Parks is not new to hair design. "I've been cutting hair since I was 15 years old," he said.

For the last six years, Parks has been using his garage on East Meadow Drive for his barber business. Urban Style, at 725 square feet, is even smaller than the garage.

"But I've developed a good clientele over the years, mainly through word-of-mouth. And the Internet helped, too. College students Yelped me and high school kids Googled me. That's how they found out about me. And they became my meat and potatoes," he said.

A former Marine, Parks hopes to appeal to the "average person, the family man." He added: "It's cool here. That's why I chose the name 'Urban Style.' It's a relaxed atmosphere."

Parks has taken great pride in decorating his shop. Adorning the walls are pictures of some of his favorite people, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Bob Marley. Also on the wall is an antique set of barber tools, given to Parks by friends and relatives. "I hope this becomes the community barbershop, kind of the way 'Floyd the Barber' was on 'The Andy Griffith Show,'" Parks said.

DISCOUNT GROCER GEARS UP FOR ALMA PLAZA ... The recent announcement that Grocery Outlet will replace the short-lived Miki's Farm Fresh Market has fueled speculation about exactly what kind of grocery store can be profitable at Alma Plaza at 3445 Alma St. in Palo Alto. Can a discount store succeed where an upscale store could not?

Developer John McNellis is betting on it. "We have 6,500 people in Palo Alto on Social Security and more than 2,000 low-income housing units." One longtime Palo Alto renter agrees. Valerie Borg, a 70-year-old retired hair stylist, has a one-bedroom unit facing Alma Street. "I shopped at Miki's once. That's it. Not my type of store," she said. Borg remembers when Lucky Stores was her neighborhood grocer. "I loved that store. Lucky was nothing fancy. But who cares about fancy when all I want is to buy food at cheap prices. I don't care what the package looks like or if they have a pretty display," she said.

Lucky occupied the back of the plaza from 1964 to 1999. The name of the grocery chain then changed to Albertsons and it continued doing business until 2005. Miki's opened in October 2012 and closed six months later after lackluster sales.

The site now sits dark as it awaits its new tenant. All the shelving and the former bakery, cheese and deli counters sit empty. Grocery Outlet's anticipated opening is in the first quarter of 2014 and it is expected to employ 20 to 25 people, said a source familiar with the plans.

PHILZ ON FORBES LIST... A shout-out to Philz Coffee, which was just named online as one of "The 25 Most Creative Consumer and Retail Brands" on the ForbesList. There are two Philz locations in Palo Alto, another at Facebook in Menlo Park, and a newly opened shop in Cupertino. Philz has been on a roll lately. This past year, it was also voted as one of Zagat's 10 Coolest Coffee Shops in the U.S. "We're growing and we're thrilled," CEO Jacob Jaber said.

--Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out, or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out. Email

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Like this comment
Posted by Craig Hansen
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm

I've driven past "Miki's Farm Fresh Market" on Alma street many times but I never felt an invitation to enter that shopping center. To me, the fact that you can't see into the center from the street makes it uninviting. It's an unfortunate design choice that I'm seeing repeated at the shopping center at San Antonio & El Camino - and presumably it's becoming more popular. It seems to me that these recent shopping center developments have become very unfriendly in their appearance to pedestrians & vehicle street traffic - a pattern I hope will not become the norm.

Like this comment
Posted by may
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2013 at 9:35 am

What you are seeing is the community not involved in certain planning processes along with the City. There should have been bike planning and pedestrian planning there at the site connecting the neighborhoods across Alma. The development funds for transportation and improvements for new developments should be used for the actual development themselves and not transferred to another project out of the area.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2013 at 9:58 am

Glad to see more family-oriented businesses opening up in midtown. We don't go downtown any more now that they are replacing all the family-oriented businesses with yuppie businesses.

Like this comment
Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2013 at 11:16 am

Craig-- if you drive on San Antonio you can clearly see into the center. There is a big open parking lot n front of Safeway.
Also the center is large so,seeing everything frm the street is not an option. This center will be a welcome edition to decent-shopping-hungry palo alto residents.

Like this comment
Posted by Nathan Deever
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Aug 12, 2013 at 10:29 am

@Not an issue: if you drive, bike, or walk by the new shopping complext at El Camino Real & San Antonio on the El Camino Real, the most that you'll see is the back of several stores. Only "The Counter" burger joint is visible to a passerby, and that primarily because they have outdoor seating (fenced-in outdoor seating) that sort of faces the street.

None of the other shops (Verizon, Fidelity, etc.) have anything but signs on their El Camino Real-facing exterior. You have to actually enter the parking lot to even see what other stores are present at that location.

If you pass by the complex on San Antonio, you can see into the parking lot and then see the Safeway store, as you note, but I think Craig's point still holds.

And his point _definitely_ holds regarding the friendliness of the street-facing facade of the old "Miki's" soon-to-be Grocery Outlet.

That location is going to struggle to draw sufficient traffic even with a cut-rate grocery store because of his critique. Also, the parking lot is small. (There's also some underground parking, but half of it is reserved for building residents, not for shoppers.) In addition, the entrance is just north of an intersection at Alma & Meadow that is always backed up during the morning and afternoon rush. And if the train happens to trundle by, then traffic gets jammed up even worse.

Like this comment
Posted by Betsy M
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Opal'z soap making shop didn't close, it moved to Mountain View and is now open by appointment only for parties, classes, etc.

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm

So Nathan, do you want the stores facing outward, if you want that you would have to move them inside and put parking spaces close to the street. Since obviously if you the stores facing outwards and by the sidewalk, people would have to park inside and then walk around to enter the store.
For me shopping centers do not look " un inviting" or " unfriendly" . If there is a store that I am nterested in, I will go to shop there. Does not matter what is facing out.
I think the cut rate grocery store will do quite well. Though if they do too well, there will be the usual complaints about traffic ( though in this case it will be an example of the neighbors not being careful for what they wished for) . Mikis was another in a long line of boutique palo alto stores that most people could not do their everyday shopping at

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2013 at 5:33 pm

The new Safeway and shopping center at San Antonio is uninviting and difficult to access. The ground level parking area is tiny. And a good bit of the parking is designated for electric cars only. Not one of the electric car spaces had a car parked there. What a joke. I drove through the shopping center on two occasions, and then just left. I like to park in front of a grocery store, on the ground level.

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Kate-- there are at least 4 entrances to the center on San Antonio and at least two from elcamilno. There is parking for about 100 cars in front of the Safeway. There are a few electric car parking spots on the side of the building.
There is also a large upper level parking area as well.
Have you tried parking at the midtown Safeway or exited onto middlefield? Not only is access and parking better at the San Antonio store, but you have a bett selection in a bright, well lit store , as opposed to the small, dingy midtown Safeway

Like this comment
Posted by Proud Daughter
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:58 am

Urban Style is going to do well in Midtown.
Although it too is tucked inside the parking lot, I'm sure many people young and old will find it.


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

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