Shop Talk: Bill's Cafe construction halts, Urban Style barbershop thrives | News | Palo Alto Online |


Shop Talk: Bill's Cafe construction halts, Urban Style barbershop thrives

This week's retail news

Construction on midtown Palo Alto's new Bill's Cafe suffers a setback, while Urban Style barbershop offers clients an old-school vibe.

BILL'S CAFE HITS A SNAG ... The much-anticipated opening of Bill's Cafe had a major setback when Palo Alto officials discovered the site was being renovated without a permit. The breakfast-and-lunch restaurant, originally scheduled to open its doors in June, ceased all construction in early May. "The building inspector came out on May 4 and put a 'stop work' order out," said Palo Alto Development Center Manager Rosemary Morse. As a result, the midtown site at 3163 Middlefield Road has sat idle ever since. But there has been a recent development. "They just submitted a permit to us on Aug. 12 with their plans, and hopefully it will be approved in four to six weeks," Morse said, adding, "We really want to be able to help them out." A peek through the front window of Bill's Cafe shows a nearly completed restaurant. Booths and tables are all neatly in place, and salt and pepper shakers are on each table. Condiment bottles line the shelves. One industry source posited that since the site had already operated as a restaurant in the past (as Pommard Deli and Fandango Pizza), perhaps Bill's Cafe owners thought they didn't need a permit to do work. "But this is Palo Alto; you don't do anything without a permit," he said. There are five Bill's Cafes in San Jose and one in Pleasanton; the first opened in San Jose in 1977. The restaurants are known for their traditional American breakfasts. Attempts to reach the management at Bill's Cafe in Palo Alto were unsuccessful.

A HIP CLIP IN MIDTOWN ... Terry Parks is a humble man. The owner of Urban Style, a barbershop that opened two years ago with little fanfare, Parks has quietly built up an enviable clientele in his tucked-away midtown Palo Alto location. "Most people can't even find it on their first try," he admitted. The shop's address is 719 Colorado Ave., but it can only be accessed around the corner, from the parking lots behind Starbucks or the Wells Fargo ATM. A walk through the front door is a walk back in time. "If people come in expecting a trendy hair salon, they're going to be disappointed," Parks said. Modestly decorated with sports posters, the small shop has an old-fashioned feel. Prices for hair cuts range from $15 to $22. "We don't charge outrageous prices," Parks noted, "but it's the vibe, the conversations that keep them coming back." There is very little traditional advertising for the six-chair shop. "It's almost all word of mouth," Parks said. The shop has six master barbers, Parks explained. "Five of our barbers are black; one is Hispanic. But our clientele is every color, every age, every group. Too bad the rest of the world isn't like this. If it were, we'd all get along." Perhaps most impressive is the list of athletes and performers who come in regularly. Parks is reluctant to name names. "We get a few 49ers in here; a few rappers too," he said. "But we treat them like everyone else. Nobody gets special treatment." Parks' goal was to create a local, neighborhood barbershop with a homey feel, "and I think I've got that," he said. "It's real comfortable here. People stick around just to talk."

Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? Daryl Savage will check them out. Email

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Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2015 at 8:11 am

The video ad for Urban Style barbershop that accompanies the Shop Talk article is... um.... interesting...

Like this comment
Posted by Mary J
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 31, 2015 at 8:58 am

Yes, and I'm glad I was using my headphones on my computer when I viewed it at work.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 31, 2015 at 9:12 am

Hadn't planned to watch the video until I read the above comments.

I would just like to ask what type of demographics this barber shop is hoping to attract?

1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 31, 2015 at 9:24 am

I see that on their facebook page, Urban Style Barbershop had a censored version of the same song on their video.

7 people like this
Posted by Undocumented
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2015 at 10:45 am

Construction without a permit? In Palo Alto!! OH MY!!!!

8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 31, 2015 at 10:45 am

You can't even get a new water heater when your old breaks without a permit. And an on-site INSPECTION.

Only in Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by AllenE
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2015 at 10:59 am

AllenE is a registered user.

Huge disconnect between the barber shop described in the article and the one shown on the video. What's with that?

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth Schwyzer
arts & entertainment editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Aug 31, 2015 at 11:16 am

Elizabeth Schwyzer is a registered user.

Thanks for the feedback regarding the Urban Style video originally posted with this story. We've replaced the link to the YouTube video of the shop with a link to their website.

Like this comment
Posted by AllenE
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 31, 2015 at 11:20 am

AllenE is a registered user.

@Elizabeth. Your article really only gives the flavor of the place if one fully understand the word "hip" in the title. Hardly looks like a traditional barbershop at least based on the video. But the video did have some off color language so best it was removed.

6 people like this
Posted by enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 31, 2015 at 11:39 am

Oh give me a break. Palo Alto is allowing BASEMENTS to be built with MILLIONS of premium gray water being washed out to the Bay...they screwed up California Avenue and are allowing hideous McMansions to be built, sometimes replacing classic Palo Alto homes, and NOW Palo Alto is being conscientious? The ONE thing that actually may benefit ALL Palo Altans, and they halt construction. City Hall is really (not) run by geniuses.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 31, 2015 at 12:03 pm

So glad to hear Urban Style is doing well! Not too many barber shops around in Palo Alto anymore.

2 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 31, 2015 at 1:09 pm

@Palo Alto Native...Thank you.

Just curious...In regard to the video, if the music had been different, what wouldn't be "traditional" about this barber shop?
And how are the video and the article so different?
The video showed barbering tools, barbers cutting hair and details of the shop...where's the disconnect?

Everyone is very hung up on the music playing in the video...Just think about what the words are saying in that song, except for the cuss words, these guys have a shop in Palo Alto - THAT in-itself is not an easy thing to accomplish. They started from the bottom, got here, and are continuing in a positive direction!

2 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Great to have a barber in MIdtown, I wondered back there one day and was pleasantly surprised to discover. But very strange video, best to change the audio if you want to attract customers, the marketing message is misguided.

Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 7, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Not everyone regards the opening of Bill's Cafe as "much anticipated". Those of us who live on Loma Verde Ave are already reeling from the huge increase in problems with traffic, parking, noise and safety due to the volume of traffic attracted by Philz Coffee, and Bill's is going to make it worse. I'll be ready when Bill's opens to make sure their patrons get a parking ticket when they park in the Loma Verde bike lane, as Philz patrons do. The Philz patrons are also really good at making unsignaled, unsafe U turns in our driveways and blocking our driveways when they are looking for parking. Many a time I've seen cars crossing Middlefield honking at families on bicycles as the families are trying to pass cars parked in the Loma Verde bike lane they are entitled to, but the self important patrons of Philz think it is fine to park wherever they want despite all of the signs indicating no parking because of the bike lane. Check out all the comments on Yelp regarding this Philz...they are from all over the Bay Area. This is a residential area, we don't want to be a destination for Philz customers. Also Palo Alto Police and Fire vehicles think it's fine to park in the bike lane too even though they are there to get coffee and not on official business. I saw a lot of yellow French's mustard at Bill's - yuck.

2 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 7, 2015 at 9:53 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 8, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Anne - the traffic there really is terrible. Knowing how lousy it is for the residents and the traffic headache, we won't even go there. When we want Philz we just make it at home.

Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm

KP is a registered user.

I hope everyone (Resident and AllenE) has the comment notification on...

Have you all seen the new Facebook commercial...Using the SAME music as Urban Style? They used the clean version because it's on TV!
Hmmm, wonder what "demographics" they were trying to attract!? JS

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