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Shop Talk: Fran's Market closes

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Palo Alto's Fran's Market closes suddenly; owners and customers say the eviction notice came at a bad time.

DOWNTOWN MARKET CLOSES ... Montana Saleh and his brother, Frank, have had a bad month, quite possibly the worst month of their lives. As owners of Fran's Market, the little corner grocer at 499 Lytton Ave., at the intersection of Cowper Street, they were suddenly evicted. The small, old-fashioned market closed June 30 after 24 years in business. It was a one-two punch for the brothers. Not only were they evicted, but the notice also came just days after Frank was diagnosed with colon cancer. "The landlord didn't want us here. And the reason? We sometimes have homeless people hanging out around the corner and the landlord didn't like that," Montana said. "I like to help them," he added. "If they're hungry and they don't have any money, I will give them food from my store. My wife makes me lunch sometimes and I'll end up giving it to them. Homeless people are depressed. I try to make things better for them." The Saleh brothers are well known in the Downtown North neighborhood. "They are compassionate and community-minded -- both of them are," commented a woman named Adele, who said she has been a customer of Fran's Market for more than 10 years. "They would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. It's not fair what's happening to them."

Montana said he is unhappy with the recent turn of events. "I don't like the way the landlord is dealing with this. It's bad timing. He was aware my brother just found out he had cancer and then he evicted us," he said. Montana is very appreciative of his customers and the support they've shown. "They have given me cards and they are saying prayers for my brother. I'm so sorry it ended up like this," he said. Despite the setback, his work is not done. "I have a boarding house for veterans in Stockton," he explained. "I charge them a very nominal fee for room and board. Most of the veterans are over 60 years old, and even though I'm younger than them, they look at me as a dad, because I'm there to help them, to talk to them, to make them feel better."

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14 people like this
Posted by lame
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2015 at 9:20 am

Pretty lame for this article to blame the landlord without naming him or her and asking them for their side of the story.

31 people like this
Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2015 at 10:23 am

Dear Montana Saleh and brother, Frank,
We are so very sad to read your story. But it is a common story we hear from too many small business owners. Please let Neighbors Helping Neighbors off you some guideance and resources in your time of need.
Besides the other hunderds of middle income residents we serve, NHN also, helps landlords and small business owners.

Please contact us,
Caryll-Lynn Taylor
Exec. Director & Food Programs Chair
Phone: 650-283-0270 (No Texting, please)
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302

22 people like this
Posted by DTAYLOR
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2015 at 10:32 am

I have been a Palo Alto resident since 1964. And Fran's Market was open when I was in high school. Fran and his wife were working in the store everyday. My friend, Phil and I would chat with Fran. Low key, very nice guy. His wife was very friendly.
It was a magical time in Palo Alto, 1964 to 1966. And through out my adult life I would pop in the store from time to time.

Very sad to see this tradition end.

20 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 3, 2015 at 11:54 am

Palo Alto is becoming nothing more than an overpriced office park. Palo Alto will be Detroit in 20 years, when high tech moves to areas with cheaper housing, and a more business friendly, tax environment.

13 people like this
Posted by Whiskers
a resident of Los Altos
on Jul 3, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Fran's was there before 1953, the year I started collecting empty cigar boxes from Fran's and Mac's. Fran was a kindly black man whose photo still hangs on the wall in today's Fran's.

22 people like this
Posted by Linda
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 3, 2015 at 1:07 pm

If the real reason for eviction is because of homeless people. I've never been bothered or seen that many. No more then they homeless people down the street at another establishment. Remember some people aren't as fortunate as others in Palo Alto. These brothers have been the kindest people I know. They would do anything for you. I've lived in Palo Alto all my life. I remember Fran and his sister. Fran went to school with my father. So sad that we are losing Fran's . So sad indeed........ Palo Alto is no longer the comunity who knew each other, or who cared........

15 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 3, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Hate for the homeless and less fortunate knows no bounds. For shame Palo Alto, for shame.

5 people like this
Posted by Commonsense
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 3, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Fran was such a nice guy. Used to buy baseball cards from him.

Sales, please reopen at SOS! Best of luck.

27 people like this
Posted by Marty
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2015 at 2:01 pm

@Lame" ... this story seems to have been lifted from this morning's Daily Post, which identified the landlord as Sal Giovanotto. He hung up on a Post reporter who wanted to know why Fran's was evicted.

13 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Fran's Market has been around a lot longer than 24 years. So I assume
it is the proprietors of the existing market that are being talked about here.
I am sorry to hear this. Whether they are the original owners or not, I have
gone to Fran's since I was a kid and first discovered reading back then
they had a science fiction section of books in that room closest the corner.
That went back more than 40 years and it was there some time back
before that. My condolences to all who are affected by this.

13 people like this
Posted by Rent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 3, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Mr. Giovanotto is the owner of two restaurants in Palo Alto, La Strada and Joya. He also owns V Rents, which owns three or four thousand rental units in Palo Alto, Mt.View, and other peninsula cities.

5 people like this
Posted by Kazu
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2015 at 4:32 pm

@Neighbors Helping Neighbors, that was totally cool of you.

I remember Fran from way back in the day. He was the nicest person on the planet.

2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 3, 2015 at 5:04 pm

[Post removed.]

11 people like this
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2015 at 5:32 pm

I have a painting/litho of Fran done by Marguerite Flethcher, sold to raise money for Fran's medical bills. It was his sister who worked with him, and Fran lived in a tidy white house with black trim on Middlefirld, near Everett. He used to put a straw in my Coke and leave the tip covered by the paper wrapper. Such a gentle soul. I'm sorry the store's ending is so fraught with emotion.

15 people like this
Posted by Zayda
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 3, 2015 at 6:07 pm

What a great opportunity for the City to "put its money where its mouth is" when it comes to displacement of ground floor retail. Let the owner clearly understand that he will NOT be allowed to convert this property to office space.

6 people like this
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 3, 2015 at 8:12 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

A question: Could this store be relocated in BVMHP? Is there a community center or set of rooms that the BV residents share? You have lost something venerable and what makes Palo Alto unique. To lose this decades old " mom and pop " store says much about the new character of Palo Alto. Next up: City inks a deal to build a Sam's Club where the former Fry's was located.

A Business saying: He who has the gold makes the rules. Sal has plenty amounts of gold,,

8 people like this
Posted by Chrisc
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2015 at 8:19 pm

This is so sad. I have never been in Fran's, as I do not live near, but I regret not knowing these brothers. I was lucky to live in Paris a year, and the convenience store a few doors down was what I missed most. The owner was everybody's friend in the neighborhood. The kids would run in to grab a baguette, and Ali would just put it on the family's bill. He would put a bottle of champagne in his cooler for me, so that I could buy it ready to drink after work when celebrating the culmination of some grueling task. He loaned me chairs when I gave Thanksgiving dinner to more guests than I had chairs. I didn't know there were people like him and a store sort of like his (doubt Fran's has high end wine and champagne) in Palo Alto. Again, so sad.

16 people like this
Posted by relieved ex tenant
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 3, 2015 at 10:24 pm

I was so relieved to move out of a building owned by the owner of the building containing Fran's Market. With any request I made for him to finish the remodel of my office or to repair something I was threatened with eviction and had to wait months for the work to be done. I recommend that everyone do their best never to rent from him.

13 people like this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 6, 2015 at 10:36 am

Anyone else sick of the shady practices of landlords in this city? I sure am. Landlords, speculators and realtors. A deadly combination to any poor slob who isn't a millionaire.

4 people like this
Posted by Julia B
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 1:14 pm

[Portion removed.]

Doesn't the owner need to give a 60 day notice if rent is current? That was not mentioned in the article. Or are the laws different for businesses?

12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2015 at 1:53 pm

We agree with @enough. The biggest problem in Palo Alto right now is greedy landlords that are destroying small family-owned businesses, not the rich techies [portion removed] that many people like to blame.

1 person likes this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Interesting that the editors removed part of the above comment, but left in the insulting " greedy landlord" comment, which seems always to escape editing. This is an insulting term with no,actual facts to back it up. And I see above a comment regarding " shady practices" by landlords. Is this based on any facts.
It would be nice if the weekly would discontinue its one-sided and biased policy regarding certain issues, even if it is on board the PASZ train.

So the questions are:
- what rent was the market paying? Was it above or below market?
--did the market have a month to month lease? I assume if it was month to month, then the eviction notice was legal
-- what rights does the landlord have via a via his own property?

2 people like this
Posted by KIley Kinnon
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 21, 2016 at 6:23 am

Sad story. I stumbled across this article on February 21, 2016. Francis Hinson's father, Mac Henson was my grandfather by marriage. His family's Palo Alto history began in the late 1800's, on land that would become Stanford University. Fran's dad opened the market. Fran and his sister ran the store. My friends and I bought comics and popsicles from the Market.Fran owned a large rooming home in Palo Alto. He is cited in an old Palo Alto census as having a white male tenant, listed as Fran's brother-in-law. Fran had one daughter, Pearl. The Henson family and others founded the old Palo Alto University AME Zion church. My late Mother told me he and his sister both graduated from Stanford University. The owner (the Ed McMahon look-a-like) of the old Palo Alto, Lozano Car Wash was a best friend of Fran and had a painting of Fran in his office at the car wash.

Like this comment
Posted by Yes, it is greed
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2016 at 11:57 am

Giovanotto also owns, or destroyed and reconstructed, 240 Hamilton (Radio Shack bldg), 335-339 University, and 350 Forest Ave.
>La Strada and Joya. He also owns V Rents<
If it isnt greed, what would you call the motivation?

Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 21, 2016 at 5:25 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Poster
a resident of Downtown North

on Aug 3, 2016 at 4:38 pm

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