A brand new Bloomingdale's opens at the Stanford Shopping Center, Mac's Smoke Shop and Gryphon Stringed Instruments celebrate big birthdays, and Mandarin Gourmet and Common Ground both close.
BLOOMIE'S BLOSSOMS IN NEW LOCALE … A newly-built, $18 million, three-story Bloomingdale's opened Oct. 10 at the Stanford Shopping Center, replacing the older two-story department store, which was constructed 18 years ago. "It has a new look and a new face," said Bloomingdale's spokesperson Anne Keating. "We listened to our customers and we realized we needed a brand new store." The 125,000 square-foot upscale department store has 39 fitting rooms, each of which is equipped with its own iPad that customers can use to communicate with sales people or get product information and reviews. The fitting rooms' full-length mirrors are framed with adjustable lighting that can be modified to create an outdoor, office or evening look. Another unusual feature is the store's children's department, which has two wooden playhouses and a balloon-like chandelier. "It's not often you get a second chance to make a first impression," said veteran store designer Jack Hruska, who has designed 30 Bloomingdale's stores in 22 years. Referring to the Stanford store, he said, "This is the jewel in the renovation of the mall." The shopping center is undergoing a major facelift. The aging structure that houses the former Bloomingdale's is scheduled for demolition in the next 30 days to make way for 20 to 30 new shops and five new restaurants, which will bring the total number of shops in the mall to more than 160.
TWO PALO ALTO SURVIVORS … While many retailers come and go, two Palo Alto businesses have withstood the test of time and are celebrating. Mac's Smoke Shop announced its 80th year in business last week. Located at 534 Emerson St., the small shop with the bright blue awning marked its octogenarian birthday with cake, coffee and energy drinks. It also gave out $5 gift certificates to the first 100 people who walked through the front door. Owner Gloria Khoury said Mac's is almost the oldest business in Palo Alto. "I think Bell's Books has got us beat by one year," Khoury said. The reason for Mac's longevity? "We do our darndest to make sure everyone who comes in here is treated with respect," she said. The second longtime survivor is Gryphon Stringed Instruments, 211 Lambert Ave, which celebrates its 45th year in Palo Alto on Oct. 25. Planned festivities include cake and a full day of live music. "We started in a garage on Margarita Avenue, about two blocks from here," said Richard Johnston, who owns Gryphon with his business partner, Frank Ford. "Then we moved into another garage in downtown Palo Alto, and we finally opened here in 1976. Never did we imagine we'd be celebrating 45 years."
TWO PALO ALTO GONERS … Mandarin Gourmet, which has been serving Chinese food for more than 20 years at 420 Ramona St., is now dark and dusty, with newspapers piled up near the locked front doors. There are two other Mandarin Gourmet restaurants -- in Cupertino and San Jose -- which will remain open. But they are no longer affiliated with the Palo Alto eatery, according to Fanny King, who owns the restaurants in the South Bay. She said Palo Alto's Mandarin Gourmet was sold several years ago. Also disappearing is the 43-year-old organic garden supply and education center, Common Ground, which closed Oct. 11. The much beloved business, located at 559 College Ave., could not survive a string of unfortunate events. Common Ground's Patricia Becker, who has managed the store for 20 years, saw it coming. "I knew it was just a matter of time before we would be forced to close," she said. Becker then listed the reasons for the shop's demise: "First, we have a drought. People don't like to garden when there's a drought, but actually, it's a good thing to do. Then JJ&F Market closed so we lost a lot of foot traffic. And there's construction going on. It's noisy and makes it hard for customers to get here. Plus, the road is blocked and you can't get in the parking lot. And of course, there's the whole online shopping thing going on. Also, our rent was going to increase and we lost the space for our classroom." Wow. Talk about a perfect storm. "I'm terribly sad," Becker continued. "This was my baby." But Becker, who also teaches yoga classes at Stanford University, is looking ahead. "I'm going to start teaching yoga for gardeners," she said.
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