Its future uncertain, JJ&F Market to close | News | Palo Alto Online |


Its future uncertain, JJ&F Market to close

Long-planned redevelopment of College Terrace block leaves grocer scrambling

Palo Alto's 65-year-old JJ&F Market has been given a 30-day notice to make way for the long-stalled College Terrace Centre development, owners of the grocery store have confirmed.

The Khoury family, which has owned and operated JJ&F since 2011, received a notice from developer Adventera Inc. that their month-to-month lease of the 520 College Ave. site is up. They must leave by Sept. 19, according to a letter from Patrick Smailey. The developer plans to use the premises as a meeting space after the store closes, the letter states.

While the Khourys were aware they would need to leave at some point, the notice has left them scrambling, Ronnie Khoury said. The store is fully stocked, and more inventory is coming in that cannot be returned.

Store employees, including some family members, are likely to lose their jobs, he said. Given a longer notice, the family possibly could have found a nearby location for the store, he added.

The market became a community rallying point several years ago, when Adventera (formerly Twenty-One Hundred Ventures LLC) sought planned-community (PC) zoning in order to create a mixed-use, dense development at the corner of College and El Camino Real.

Because planned-community zoning requires the developer provide a "public benefit" in exchange for permission to build more densely, the Palo Alto City Council required the redevelopment to house an 8,000-square-foot grocery store. The new space is to be leased at a subsidized rate.

The Khourys, however, have had no communication with Adventera regarding a possible move into the new building, Ronnie Khoury said.

The city must approve a signed lease between the developer and the grocery store before it can issue any building permits for the site, and the grocery store must be occupied before tenants can move into the office portion of the building, city spokeswoman Claudia Keith said this week.

Adventera has informed the city that it now has financing to move ahead with the project, which received the council's OK in 2009. But the developer has not submitted a lease with a grocer for city approval, Keith said.

The block-long development will include 40,000 square feet of office space, the grocery store, 5,580 square feet of other retail space and eight units of affordable housing.

Despite a relatively brief ownership of JJ&F, the Khourys, who also operate grocery stores in Half Moon Bay and Windsor in Sonoma County, say they have built strong relationships with their customers. They've watched kids grow and traded stories about schools and births and Little League games, they said.

"Papa Joe" Khoury would sit at an outside table and shoot the breeze with former San Francisco 49er Steve Young, whose children attend school in the area, Ronnie Khoury said.

"We're going to miss a lot of people. There's a lot of really nice people here and we'll miss a lot of that," Chris Khoury said.

The youngest of seven children, he said most of the family members are involved in the grocery business. The stores support most of the family members, and the Palo Alto business "is a big help," he said.

Shopper Louise Stephens said she will miss the store.

"I like it because I live 10 minutes away and I don't have a car. I really like to cook, and they have more ethnic foods that you wouldn't normally find in a small corner grocery store," she said.

The immediate termination of the market's lease will be a premature loss to the community of its market of 60-plus years, said Fred Balin, a College Terrace Residents Association board member, who emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not the association.

The Khoury family took a calculated risk when purchasing the market. The family "has provided a welcome environment to clientele ... and they have persevered despite the continued deterioration of the building," Balin said, referring to a leaking roof and lack of property upkeep.

The Khourys give every indication of being just as committed to the neighborhood as were the original and longtime owners, the Garcias, he said.

"At a minimum, they should be provided sufficient time to transition out of the space without incurring hardship. Beyond that, the market should be allowed to continue in operation as long as possible and as long as the Khourys are willing. No other non-retail use should be permitted within the market space prior to demolition," Balin said.

He has asked Adventera to give appropriate consideration to the Khoury family regarding future tenancy of the new market.

Smailey did not return the Weekly's repeated requests for comment.

Around the corner, at 2121 Staunton Court, another business is also leaving due to the planned demolition. World Centric is moving to Petaluma, owner Aseem Das said.

"Since the block was up for redevelopment, we didn't know when the ax was going to fall. We were proactive. We started looking two to three months ago," he said.

World Centric employs 14 to 15 people in Palo Alto, and some will not be relocating. Others can work remotely. Although he had "very good rent here," Palo Alto's generally high rents were a factor in leaving the area, he said. The business will move to the Foundry Wharf, which houses alternative businesses such as Cowgirl Creamery and Traditional Medicines.

He learned of Adventera's plans to move him out after notifying the developer that World Centric would leave at the end of September.

"They said, 'That's good timing,'" Das said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Edith
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:00 am

Can't they just move to the recently closed supermarket on Alma / East Meadow?

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:01 am

Wish they'd taken the "Miki's" site on Alma instead of the "discount grocery store" that are far as I know, offers food of poor quality (if it can be called food).

Glad I don't own one of those million plus homes behind Miki's. [Portion removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Missing Miki's
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:13 am

Still missing Miki's, but we would welcome JJ&F in its place. I heard that Grocery Outlet will be moving in. Whose brilliant idea was that? I would rather drive across town to Trader Joe's even though it's out of the way. I live very close to where Miki's used to be and was a loyal shopper there. I will not shop at Grocery Outlet.

Like this comment
Posted by DC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:20 am

I'm not understanding why, if the Koury family would like to continue at that location until and once the new development is completed - which requires a grocery store - they cannot be that grocery store? If there is a bidding process for that space could they present a reasonable bid and have "first dibs" as a reward for serving that community for so long? It is remarkably arrogant to be tossed out rather than either being given time to find a new location, or being allowed to stay until everything is set to begin on the project while continuing to serve that community, as Mr Balin comments. So tired of developers take, take, taking w/o regard to anyone but themselves. Shame on Adventera.

Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:35 am

How many parking places is this huge "Planned Community" going to have? I bet they are planning that everyone will ride bikes! Petty soon that wil be the only way to move in town.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Car Fumes
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:54 am

Trust us, sayeth the City. The cars from the dense new development won't impact traffic one little bit. Nope, no traffic problems here. And we don't need the sales tax revenue from JJ&F.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm

How lousy for the owners :-( It seems mighty rude of Adventera to only give a month's notice.

Like this comment
Posted by AR
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm

The article did not mention the curb cut that will be needed for cars to exit the parking structure onto El Camino but I assume it must have been approved. I hope SOMEONE in the Planning Dept is paying attention to the cumulative impact of all that is being approved b/c whether by car or by bike there are going to be multiple stops/slow downs between University Ave and Oregon/Page Mill. Better check your brakes!

Like this comment
Posted by Lorin Krogh
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:30 pm

As always, especially in Palo Alto, money is the bottom line.

Like this comment
Posted by yeah right
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Wanna bet that by the time this is done the public benefit will have disappeared, just like every one in Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Berry
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 29, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Don't forget to add that affordable housing!

Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Bad news. The Khoury family were pleasant and helpful; it has been a joy to shop there. I hope to see them set up shop somewhere else close by. We need a market in this area!

Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 5:38 pm

JJ&F Market has no future

The owners son now works bagging @ Mollie Stones

Like this comment
Posted by How can we compensate college terrace?
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Nora- there is Country Sun and a Mollie Stones nearby. Many neighborhoods in town have no stores. You have three.
The residents of CT and the Khourys should not be surprised by this. The closure was discussed a number of years back when this project was approved.
For those of you missing Mikis, read today's Daily Post to see how his many creditors, including many family run small businesses, will be stiffed by Mikis bankruptcy filing.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 5:51 pm

The whole premise of the rezoning / approval campaign back in 2009 was "save JJ&F". You can't imagine how often the rezoning was positioned as "save JJ&F". I remember distinctly.

Now, it feels like a completely fraudulent campaign just to get the rezoning approved by the City Council.

Those people -- both residents and developers -- involved in the "save JJ&F" myth should be ashamed of themselves.

Like this comment
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I certainly will miss JJ&F. The new owners have been great. They are a welcome addition to the community. Although I find it very difficult to get into/out of the center at Alma and E Charleston I would go there for JJ&F.
The whole aim of the community in allowing the zoning change was for JJ&F to remain at the site. Now I see that once again our developer-centric council have neglected the wishes of the community.
I certainly hope there is some rectification of this disaster at the next election.

Like this comment
Posted by Charles
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Aug 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm

Size-wise and neighborhood-market-wise, it would make more sense for JJ&F to be in the Miki's space, and Grocery Outlet to move into the vacated older Safeway near San Antonio.

I love JJ&F, and I hope there is a way to save them. I don't understand the PA city government. They seem to hate us and love developers.

Like this comment
Posted by @puzzled
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 29, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I don't quite understand the issue. The city requires the developer provide a 'public benefit' in exchange for a denser development. A grocery store would qualify as a 'public benefit'. JJ&F is a grocer in need of a space. So, everything fits together nicely. Sign the lease and be done with it; no need for drama!

Like this comment
Posted by AR
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2013 at 12:21 am

Smailey's goal was to get Council to grant a zone change and he used the neighborhood's affection for the Garcias and support of JJ&F to achieve that. He ran a slick campaign and the City helped this along. Now it remains to be seen if the promised benefit will materialize. I think it would be great if somehow the Garcias could return but one could hardly blame them if they would not.

Like this comment
Posted by CT resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:32 am

We stopped shopping at JJ&F after the Garcia family sold the store.
The quality of produce and other fresh food items was no longer acceptable. Also the new choice of household staples was no longer attractive. We took all our grocery shopping to Mollie Stones. A little longer to walk but worth it. A major issue for the viability of any neighborhood grocery store now is how to stay viable when you have to compete with Trader Joe's.

Like this comment
Posted by Openureyes
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2013 at 10:56 am

Well, Here we are again another store closing over night. However, like Miki's JJ&F knew what was coming and they had an opportunity to move to the Miki's location. But decided that it wasn't for them and most likely thought the rent was too high. Not too mention dealing with another weasel was not the way too go! I feel so sad to another family business going under and like Miki's they will have too liquidate quickly, especially if another load has already been ordered. But since they have other revenue Unlike Miki did, hopefully they can pay off their vendors and move on. They most likely won't find another venue in time and will just fold. As for the smart remarks regarding Miki. Yes, He is aware of owing all the vendors and is still paying off each vendor... Not that you really care and not that you really know what your talking about since you only go by what the paper decides to print. But Maybe the community needs to understand that the closure of a community or Family owned business see how it effects all the suppliers. NOt only did Miki get screwed but all his suppliers, not that the developer would take any responsibilities "OH NO!"... but let Miki take the complete fall.. Bankrupt at 66 is NO not how one would like to retire. nor having to leave all those nice vendors high and dry. Not all businesses are cut and dry, family owned businesses are all on personal basis and when you have to fold hit it's home hard..... really hard. It's like loosing your spouse or your watching as they die off slowly and get ripped apart piece by piece. If you've never been owned your own business or been in a family business, You will never understand what it truly means to be in either of these owners place.

Like this comment
Posted by Musing
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

This is the first I've heard of Grocery Outlet, and my first thought was, I wonder whose palm was greased to make that deal. Granted, we are poorer than our neighbors to the north, but we can afford groceries at regular-prices, for goodness sake! I'm tired of people complaining that access to Miki's was bad; it had plenty of underground parking and there are left turn lights onto and off of Alma. It's a great location for south PA, and deserves a market that meets the needs of the neighbors The new Safeway at San Antonio is much harder to get in and out of than Miki's was. Sadly, Palo Altans weren't given a chance to fall in love with Miki's. Miki needed a business manager to advise him to spend up front on advertising before investing in 500 different kinds of cheese. Looks like small grocers can go under decisively and quickly as Miki's did or be in sad decline for years like JJ&F, but they can't last. If we want neighborhood grocers in PA, maybe they should get a break on rent, or perhaps subsidized by the city.

Like this comment
Posted by Yecccccchhhhhhh
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I used to go to JJ&FS when we first moved here 12 years ago, but in the last few years it has gotten quite dirty and unkempt. I would certainly not want to buy anything not pre-packaged there.

[Portion removed.]

I think College Terrace is better off without JJ&FS

Like this comment
Posted by new development
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm

What is the College Terrace Centre development, and what businesses will it include?

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 30, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Our City Council has got to wake up to the fact that small grocery stores of less than 20,000 sq. ft. are just uneconomical.

Safeway in Mnt Vw and Menlo Park are over 60,000 sq. ft., they are profitable, well stocked and well patronized.

We need to compete with our neighbors with decent sized grocery stores.

Like this comment
Posted by Fred Majeur
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 30, 2013 at 11:01 pm

It's great that Palo Alto is cleaning up towards a more upscale environment. Whoever replaces this grungy grocery store will be an improvement. It's time for Palo Alto to come up to par, I'm looking forward to it.

Like this comment
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 1, 2013 at 11:55 am

About the comments that JJ&F is grungy. That is true. In fact the entire project area is a mess (the word blight comes to mind). This is not the fault of the Garcias or the Khourys. Threat of closure (followed by demolition) has been hanging over the tenants since this whole sorry mess began. Under the circumstances no tenant would spend their own money on the sort of improvements needed. Blame should be placed where it belongs and this time it goes to the landlord for not maintaining the premises, the developer for delaying the project, and City Council for not demanding that the developer timely perform. If the economy were truly the culprit, why is it that other developments are going forward? Perhaps our Council should not approve projects unless funding is secured and they are willing to enforce compliance from the developer. The approach taken in this instance has proven to be a failed one. Two families have been forced out of business and a neighborhood has lost a valued asset.

Like this comment
Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm

JJ&F was nicer under the previous ownership. The deli/butcher has slipped drastically, prices are too high, and the grocery part smells dirty. I would be more loyal to a local business if it were run more professionally.

Like this comment
Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm

If you stop shopping there because the issues is strange smells, not being clean, run down or one of the many issues. This has nothing to do with development or any kind of future building plans. Seen far worse buildings with clean stores, this is a owner of market issue.

Mostly likely the space in the new building is too high to reopen. I don't think public benefits should be the promise of certain kind of stores. Public Benefits are parking, parks, open space, funds or support for public services and schools funds. It would be OK if someone wanted to build an extra floor for a ground keeper at park for a few years.

Restroom improvement come to mind also but supermarkets not so much.

Like this comment
Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2013 at 7:29 am

@Bob Safeway in Mnt[sic] Vw and Menlo Park are over 60,000 sq. ft., they are profitable, well stocked and well patronized.

So, old people will be forced out of here? Used to be you could take the VTA 22 up El Camino to SafewayMP if you were no longer driving. Not now.

Old residents of College Terrace, a good time for you to sell.

Actually ditto for anyone not superwealthy. [disclosure: all this is why busdecis is in another community]

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