News

Accent Arts, Village Stationers to leave California Avenue

The retailers are the latest to leave due to rising costs, shifting shopping habits

Two of California Avenue's independent retailers, whose stores have contributed to the small-town charm that has long characterized Palo Alto's so-called "second downtown," have announced they plan to move out.

The owners of Accent Arts, an art-supply store located at 392 California Ave., and Village Stationers, at 310 California, say that customers' migration to online habits, combined with high rents, are prompting their decisions.

Kerry Hoctor, owner of Village Stationers, said he is looking for someone to take over the remaining 1 1/2 years on his lease of the 6,000-square-foot store at the corner of Birch Street.

"We were waiting for the remodel of California Avenue to see if it would invigorate the street, but there were the underlying problems of parking and retail in general, which has changed so much," he said.

When downtown competitor Congdon and Crome, a 110-year-old Palo Alto office-supply business, closed its doors in 2013, Hoctor took a chance and extended his lease to 2017. But with rents going up "it just became a losing proposition," he said. "You just need so many people to come through that door," to offset the rental costs.

"In the last three years we've been losing 10 customers a day. Two years ago, we had 20 more customers walk through the door each day. You can certainly see the trend," he said.

Technology is a main factor in the declining customer base, he said.

"The cell phone today replaces just about everything I sell in the store: pens, notebooks, photo albums, datebooks. It isn't what it used to be. We used to sell calendars and address books by the hundreds," he said.

Hoctor's parents started the business at Town & Country Village Shopping Center 50 years ago and moved it to Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park in 1976. The California Avenue store was originally a small office-supply business on University Avenue in Palo Alto that Hoctor purchased in 1988 and then moved to California Avenue in 2002, he said.

Hoctor doesn't blame California Avenue's street renovations, which took months to complete, for the store's closure.

"I think it's beautiful, but it hasn't translated (into improved business) for me. I think it will for someone else," he said.

Hoctor said he will try to employ his three full-time and three part-time workers at his other stores in Los Altos and Menlo Park.

When Village Stationers leaves, wholesaler Kelly Paper on Middlefield Road in south Palo Alto will be the last remaining office-supply retailer. Palo Alto has three high-end gift-and-card shops: Letter Perfect, Paper Source and Paperwhirl.

Accent Arts is also the last of its kind in the city, since its 65-year-old competitor, University Art, moved from downtown to Redwood City. Its owners blamed the move on high rents and a long renovation the building owner planned for the location at 267 Hamilton Ave.

Accent Arts posted a letter on social media stating that it would relocate.

"While we love our home at California Avenue, it's becoming too expensive to stay here, and we prefer not to pass those increased costs on to you. We plan to remain in Palo Alto, continuing to serve this community for years to come," the message stated.

Owner Gil McMillon said on Wednesday that he doesn't yet know what the business will do or when it will leave its current space.

"Soon," he said.

The Palo Alto City Council's decision this year to place a moratorium on the conversion of ground-floor retail space to offices is a good step, McMillon said, but it didn't come soon enough for his store. It's a conversation the council should have had five years ago if it intended to maintain the character of local retail, he added.

"They might have considered the approach of the Europeans with commercial condominiums. You go to Paris and you see all of these little shops, and you wonder how they can afford to stay open in Paris," he said. "They own their space. You not only have an asset, you have stability. Here, you lease and bleed forever.

"The fate of this place is that you'll have a whole bunch of people with a lot of money and no place to spend it. They will have to drive 20 minutes to buy anything they need," he said. "There will be nothing on this block other than food and (salons for) nails."

McMillon stopped and thought for a moment. There is one other independent retailer that is likely to remain: Keeble and Shuchat, the photography equipment store.

"He owns his building," McMillon said.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:01 am

This is too bad! I used to go to those stores 15 years ago, and I will miss them. That said, I don't use much stationary anymore, and I'd buy it online if I ran out. It's just so much easier to shop at home. I hope they can find something else to supplement what they sell, the way most bookstores now sell coffee.

Something doesn't make sense in his last comment, though - if he leaves, another store is going to replace him. We're not going to have "nothing to buy" - we'll just have different things (probably things you can't buy online.)


56 people like this
Posted by Sad news
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:07 am

What a terrible loss to California Avenue and its charm!
It's so sad to watch Palo Alto change, for the worse!


23 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:12 am

The solution is simple. The Palo Alto City Council should pass a law that makes it illegal for these merchants to go out of business. That way, chain stores will be prevented from moving into the space.


45 people like this
Posted by Will miss both
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:13 am

I would just make the comment that in my experience, you can't replace either of these businesses with online shopping, so I'm really sad to see them squeezed out. Where is the so-called initiative to keep small business owners on CA Ave? Los Altos has groups trying yo maintain that diversity in local shops. These two businesses are a large part of what gave the street it's charm all these years. Another step in PA bevoming an office park and none of our well-heeled trying to do anything to stop it the way Los Altos has done.


35 people like this
Posted by deleted
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:30 am

Joseph Davis, you said it very well. I will miss both stores, especially Accent Arts where I buy all my art supplies: paint, ink, drawing pads -- all of it. Other places might be less expensive, but you certainly won't get the ambiance and specialness both Gil and those knowledgable people provide.


2 people like this
Posted by deleted
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:30 am

I can't read the Verification code!


26 people like this
Posted by Emily
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:46 am

It's sad to hear this news. I will keep supporting Keeble and Shuchat!


11 people like this
Posted by Tom McD
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:10 am

@Joe E. Davis ( I am assuming you are the wonderful Dr.Davis.I am a formerly very young patient of yours).

Why such an onerous law? Should not businesses be allowed to come and go. Why penalize people because their business would fail or move. I agree that chain stores is not preferred but all are not necessarily evil.

While the loss "Accent Arts" and "Village Stationers",is sad it does reflects a changing business marketplace and landlord rent increases. I love California Ave over University Ave which has become just a bit too crowded and noisy for my taste. Both my wife and I love California Ave for its charm and interesting stores and businesses. Perhaps commercial and residential rent control laws might be better to be considered since that seems to a problem up and down the peninsula.


42 people like this
Posted by Sad News
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:14 am

We patronize both stores! Some things you can't get anywhere else-- even online!

This will definitely be bad news for our children and their art projects as well.


31 people like this
Posted by Shirley Gaines
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:31 am

Thanksgiving, and this is not the kind of news for which one is thankful. Village Stationers and Accent Arts are my two favorite places to shop on California Avenue. They are the reason(s) why I like to support local merchants instead of going to Amazon. The staff in both places is helpful and pleasant, and in the case of Accent Arts, amusing as well. Irreplaceable.

Change is inevitable. Often we view change as a good thing, as a moving forward concept. In this instance, the change is not for the best. I, and others for sure, will no longer see California Avenue as a place they'll want to bother going to. Palo Alto, you are losing your charm!


9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:32 am

If you read the article, the problem is not online shopping. The problem is that the demand for personal stationery is shrinking dramatically. I haven't bought a paper calendar in years. I now buy 1 pen and notebook per year instead of 10. I can't remember the last time I hand-wrote a personal letter (or bought stationery or envelopes). I buy birthday and Christmas cards from the local drug store.

In addition, businesses use big box stores like Staples and Officemax for their office supplies instead of these independent stores.

I do hope that these 2 stores can stay in business, but perhaps they need to reevaluate their business model. Consolidating art supplies and stationery makes a lot of sense, as well as reducing some of little used inventory (like paper calendars).


11 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:34 am

Come on folks. Obviously, that post by "Joseph E. Davis" is a troll (hoax).


18 people like this
Posted by Dean
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:38 am

That's really a shame that Village Stationers is leaving, they have by far the best card selection in town - I can always quickly find the perfect card for any occasion there.


36 people like this
Posted by Shirley Gaines
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 10:50 am

Try if you must to jolly folks up about not needing an art store and a stationery store. Maybe they aren't needed. Very little of what we buy is "needed", a whole lot of it is now device oriented: the new device. How would some of you feel if Fry's disappeared, or the Apple store?

A few of us remain old-fashioned and still enjoy giving and getting cards with real stamps. Perhaps we are on the short list headed for obsolescence. I know artists still like to go into a real art store. Accent Arts on California Avenue is the best. It may not be the biggest, but it's the best. The people who work there are knowledgeable and helpful. If they don't know something about a material or product, they quickly find out. They make you feel glad you went into the store for the experience. This may not mean much to some, but it means a lot to some others. So, don't even think of trying to cheer me into believing that it's OK to lose these two businesses. It isn't.


22 people like this
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 11:01 am

I will really miss Village Stationary! It was a regular stop for gifts, cards and even some office supplies. They had such a great selection. I will miss them!


26 people like this
Posted by Maryanne
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 11:13 am

Very sorry to see Village Stationers leave the neighborhood. The store has saved me many times when I needed office supplies in a pinch, and it's been a great spot to pop in for birthday, sympathy, and any day cards.


10 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 25, 2015 at 11:27 am

"none of our well-heeled trying to do anything to stop it the way Los Altos has done."

Why someone else? Why not you? Get off that keyboard and get going.


27 people like this
Posted by Longtime resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 11:29 am

This is sad news, indeed. While California Ave. is becoming so crowded with people and their cars, so jam-packed, appearing to be a thriving area, the people seem to mostly come from all the new offices that City Council has been preferring over old-fashioned retail stores.

A few newer retail stores for babies and children went in, and that is good. But California Avenue is just not a good place to go for a stroll anymore. No window-shopping there now. No place to go to browse, perhaps getting an impulse buy or a small gift on the run. Village Stationers was the BEST for that.

It is a destination only district now: to buy a camera, eye-glasses, running shoes, vitamins, cigars, baked goods, and that's about it.

That district has way too many restaurants, nail and hair salons, 3 eye-glass businesses located a stone's throw from each other, plus lots of services, like banking, cleaners, barber shops, etc.

Like the saying, "Where's the Beef?", I ask, "Where's the retail?"


5 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:00 pm

@ JE Davis. Trolling or not - PACC passed an ordinance preventing chain stores on Cal Ave.

Those lamenting the loss of VS...read the article. Foot traffic in the store has dropped by 50% and the owner is not blaming anything or anybody except for market conditions and how people's buying habits have changed.


15 people like this
Posted by not enough retail space
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Part of why their rents are going up so fast is that we just don't have that much retail space in Palo Alto. If you think about it, only a small number of streets in our city have any retail on them at all. It's scarce, so it becomes expensive, and then the only businesses who can afford to be there are either chains or high-margin businesses. So anything cheap or eclectic just doesn't survive here.

We should think about expanding the places where we allow retail and for every new development, we should be asking ourselves whether we can find space for retail on the ground level. Seattle does this really well. You walk around in a residential neighborhood and you think you're looking at an apartment building, but on the ground floor there's a lovely tucked away coffee shop or art studio, etc. We could use more of that here. It would also put less parking strain on existing hubs and provide people with retail they can walk to instead of having to drive to it.

I know Council just expanded the retail district around Cal Ave, but it could probably expand it even further. I don't know why Park Blvd is all offices and no retail on the ground. They should also expand that zone around Middlefield and downtown.


26 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Sorry to see both Accent and the Village Stationers close. Is it too late for them to consider modifying their products/focus and stay in business? VS is such a large space I wonder if the two businesses could team up? With no bookstore on Cal Ave., there are so many beautiful Dover/art/craft books that could be offered at VS, and there could be some regular art demonstrations included in the Accent business model that would attract parents with active "artists." Many parents are looking for activities which emphasize process more than product. With the Gallery nearby, there might be some collaboration opportunities: Book makers, print-makers, etc.

If we want the smaller independent stores to remain we must support them through our purchases. Country Sun is still an independently owned retail store which also sells no GMO products--I was told recently that 8 of the original co-op members bought out the others and retain ownership of the building. Thank goodness for that! CS does have some expensive things, but we are a frugal family, and here are some regular staples that are affordable:
- comparable prices [for the same product elsewhere] for eggs, milks
- bulk grains/beans/spices which are cheaper than packaged ones
- reasonably priced organic [and great looking] produce, cheeses
- Marin frozen meats

If stores are not offering the products/services you want, please let them know. Molly Stone's now carries loose-leaf PG Tips tea because I couldn't find it elsewhere. That one product brings me in to shop there regularly.


7 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Sorry to see both Accent and the Village Stationers close. Is it too late for them to consider modifying their products/focus and stay in business? VS is such a large space I wonder if the two businesses could team up? With no bookstore on Cal Ave., there are so many beautiful Dover/art/craft books that could be offered at VS, and there could be some regular art demonstrations included in the Accent business model that would attract parents with active "artists." Many parents are looking for activities which emphasize process more than product. With the Gallery nearby, there might be some collaboration opportunities: Book makers, print-makers, etc.

If we want the smaller independent stores to remain we must support them through our purchases. Country Sun is still an independently owned retail store which also sells no GMO products--I was told recently that 8 of the original co-op members bought out the others and retain ownership of the building. Thank goodness for that! CS does have some expensive things, but we are a frugal family, and here are some regular staples that are affordable:
- comparable prices [for the same product elsewhere] for eggs, milks
- bulk grains/beans/spices which are cheaper than packaged ones
- reasonably priced organic [and great looking] produce, cheeses
- Marin frozen meats

If stores are not offering the products/services you want, please let them know. Molly Stone's now carries loose-leaf PG Tips tea because I couldn't find it elsewhere. That one product brings me in to shop there regularly.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I can't say that I am really sorry to see them go as I rarely used either of them more than once or twice. I honestly don't think that I will miss them.

The bigger thing is that if people do not patronize these stores, like me, then they are not going to be there in future. To try and push non chain stores on Cal Ave is not really going to help as independent stores are not going to be able to survive either because of high rents, lack of customers, or a mixture of both.

Instead, perhaps hoping that a great selection of chain stores that we actually use may help. Otherwise, Cal Ave retail will go the way of the dodo.

And for those who say you can't buy this stuff online, I sincerely doubt it. If you look hard enough, nearly everything is available online. Google your requirements and a plethora of sites will appear. Amazon is great, but it is not the only place to shop online.


16 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm

I think it's tragic. These losses make me sad each time another independent leaves.


6 people like this
Posted by coda
a resident of Los Altos
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Village Stationers is alive and well in Los Altos, which is just almost as close to Barron Park as California Avenue. (I, for one, am very happy about that... for a couple of short years we lost our only stationery store, and now we have two!)


23 people like this
Posted by Nostalgic
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Time for rent control for businesses on CA Ave?
How about at least a moratorium.
All the charm and warm neighborhood feeling seems to be evaporating on California Avenue.
It's time for City Hall to start caring about South Palo Alto!


17 people like this
Posted by Art store shopper
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Sad to hear that these stores are leaving California Avenue. Glad they aren't going out of business, just moving. Village Stationers will consolidate to their other stores and Accent Arts is looking for a new home. I remember when Accent Arts was near Piazza's. I followed them to their then new home on California Avenue. I will follow them to wherever they call their new home. I just hope it's not too far away. I will continue to shop at these fine local stores! Thank you for sticking it out for as long as you have on California Avenue.


22 people like this
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Gil McMillon really made the point here, regarding a Parisian model for independent store owners; "They own their space. You not only have an asset, you have stability. Here, you lease and bleed forever..."

Palo Alto really likes to consider itself having a special kind of charm that resembles a European feeling, from the well-worn "Mediterranean climate" to dozens of eateries with "bistro" in their titles. The retail bleeding has been happening for thirty years since the first major downtown redesigns. Is it time to adopt practical business practices to protect this costly image?


22 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

...another victim of the California Avenue "revitalization."


26 people like this
Posted by OPar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Shoot. Accent Arts was the last art-supply store in town. Buying online just doesn't cut it for me when it comes to art supplies--and I don't really want to have to drive to Redwood City for a tube of paint or a frame.

This really sucks--I hope there's a space for Accent in town. It was awful losing University Arts as it was.


12 people like this
Posted by Julie Armitano
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:21 pm

Thats is sad.
I will miss the store.
It is my favorite store.


24 people like this
Posted by Clem Clemson
a resident of Southgate
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I Grew up in Palo Alto riding my bike to Cal Ave. to the Five & Dime, Co-Op, Monet's Pet Supplies, Round Table Pizza. One by one I have seen them all replaced till there is not very much left. I go into the Art Supply store all the time. Especially for framing. They do a fantastic job there of making all my frames. Except for banking and Norge's Dry Cleaning, I stay away now. I used to have my hair and nails done on Cal Ave but now its impossible to find a parking place. I walk over to Town & Country sometimes because there are still things to shop for over there. Frankly, Palo Alto is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. I moved away to Boston for some years and moved back here because it was a pleasant place to live. Can't beat the weather. But now it takes 20 minutes to get any place because of the traffic. Wish it was different. Not like the old days - when we had a horse pasture where the Palo Alto Square is now where I would hop the fence and take a joy ride on a pony. But just better than it is. Where is the City leadership on this problem?


4 people like this
Posted by A poster
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Are we still able to "Like the comment"s? The logo seems to have disappeared.


12 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 25, 2015 at 2:13 pm

I think it is cool to have an eclectic store like Accent Arts on Cal Ave and will miss it - particularly the framing service. Worse of all, with the departure of both stores the city's "charm factor" goes down another notch or two. I think there's an unappealing sameness about what's replacing the established often funky businesses that are nudged out by economics. I'm not against change; just prefer it to be for the better.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Can't something be worked out with the hideous buildings on El Camino between Page Mill and Barron Avenue. They are, with a few exceptions, a total and complete eyesore. If the city investigated code violations I bet most would no longer be rentable let alone standing.


30 people like this
Posted by Gray Matters
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 25, 2015 at 3:07 pm

We decided to do something to support local retail about 1 year ago. We wanted a place for our children and people in the community to go to to have fun, especially during the farmer's market. We own another business about 5 doors down, but I love to go by our toy store, Gray Matters, and see all the happy children and parents/grandparents. We are hoping to stay in the area for years to come. I shop local to help keep the shops I love in town, and that includes Zombie Runner, Printers Cafe, Izzy's Bagel, Molly Stones, just to name a few. It's great to go in and have the owner know me by name, and I really feel good when I support these local shops. Yes, I could easily go on-line and purchase my favorite shoes, but I would much rather go to Zombie Runner to support their shop, and also so I have a place to walk into and try shoes on from a local retailer. We have been on California Avenue for 8 years now, and I have really enjoyed getting to know all of the local shop owners. It really does add to the charm of Palo Alto. I hope that the community continues to support the local shops so that the ones that remain can stick around. Yes, it is all about supply and demand, but I also feel that I need to take action, be responsible, and shop local if I truly want local shops to stay around. I may have to pay a bit extra, but to me it's worth it. I don't want to do all my shopping 10 miles down the road at Walmart or another big box store. I would rather walk in the local shop and talk to someone I know, and support their shop. Not only for me, but also so my children and perhaps their children can enjoy them too.


7 people like this
Posted by Wendy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 25, 2015 at 3:46 pm

I read quite recently that more than 50 percent of all retail purchases take place over the internet now. Sadly, this will only increase in years to come. Our City is going to have to adjust and as retail businesses decline it will be impossible to find tenants for all our retail outlets. Will we become a City of restaurants and bars only in the future?


14 people like this
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2015 at 4:08 pm

High rents + lack of parking will cause more losses like this.


16 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 25, 2015 at 4:10 pm

I too feel badly that we've lost almost all small locally owned retail stores on Cal Ave. I'm a really old geezer so I remember it from 1961 when we moved here. They were almost all locally owned stores at that time and they were all doing very well, turning profits with no red ink. We rented a duplex on Alma and then bought a house in SPA in 1963. Cal Ave was a really nice shopping area and we did a lot of shopping there. We shopped downtown on University Ave also but I think most of our shopping was on Cal Ave. I shouldn't leave Midtown out either because we shopped there also. I will always miss Bergmann's department store with real and friendly people waiting on us and helping us, plus the lunch counter and free gift wrapping.

I could see it coming and I commented on it months ago when CC voted on the issue. I basically said it's too little to late. Those mom and pop stores will be gone and won't be coming back. Rents will continue to drive them out like it has many others already.

A case in point. I go to Wesley Methodist Church on Cambridge, and right across the street I see that another new restaurant has opened up and is trying to make a go of it on the corner of Cambridge and El Camino. I wish them well. I remember a KFC there for many years and I know they were successful...the owners live in Los Altos Hills. Then 2 or 3 others have tried and failed in that same location. And there's a Panda's and Jack In The Box across from them on El Camino. Tough competition.

To Art store shopper: I actually don't remember them next to Piazzas but that's because I'm not an artist and never had the needs or products and services they offered.

To Clem Clemson: Now you fall into my time frame. You must be old too, just like me.lol! When you mentioned the horses running in that pasture it brought back the same memories but I was never brave enough to try to ride one. I see really good movies there now.

I had the occasion to experience the vibrant night life on Cal Ave recently. I hosted some out of town friends and we went to Palo Alto Sol on a Wednesday night...dinner at 6 PM. I was astonished to find that we got the last parking space on the ground level of the 2 level parking garage on Cambridge. And we got the last table for 4 in the restaurant. Cal Ave is thriving on restaurants because the young techies eat out.

I'm trying to make sense of it all, and I think I have, finally, but reluctantly. Malls, online buying, and box stores, have killed local retail, Restaurants and nail salons are thriving because you can't do those online.


15 people like this
Posted by Shirley Gaines
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm

I'm trying to 'like' some of the comments, like the last by Gale Johnson. We moved here just a couple years later, and would be considered fossils, too. Yes, the young techies eat out. The restaurants are so noisy that conversation is iffy at best. Is conversation, when one goes out to eat, passé as well? This may be another topic.

Our city is becoming yet more citified. What remains perplexing is: In a city, aren't there usually places where one can still buy lovely art supplies and stationery, or, are these really a thing of the past? Like someone has recently mentioned, it's not easy for an artist to get all art supplies on line. One thing is certain, you don't get the lively atmosphere that Gil McMillan & Co. provide.


17 people like this
Posted by Stephanie Enos
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 6:58 pm

In the last two years most of my favorite stores have closed down or moved away:

Daiso in MV for interesting Japanese items ranging from ceramics to all kinds of stationery/ art materials/ curious containers and cleaning tools. You had a glimpse of how another culture makes and presents things.

The Bargain Box on California Avenue which was not only a treasure trove of curious items but a meeting place for all kinds of very different people: old, young and in between. Many people were regulars and knew one another.

The florist next door where you could admire the arrangements in the window

Know Knew Books which was eccentric but a fun place to hang out.

Now we are to lose Accent Arts and The Village Stationers, both very useful stores.

I understand that changes are happening fast with internet shopping but I wonder if it comes at the price of fostering real community where people naturally gravitate to places that attract them and where they want to linger and cross paths with others who feel the same.

The city is trying to create community places such as Mitchell Park Library but it is a very different kind of community and probably has more appeal for a younger generation.



25 people like this
Posted by robert
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 7:18 pm

I've said it once and I'll say it again .growing up near cal ave we had a true walkable business district. My grand mother could do all her errands without a car. Hardware store, pharmacy, bargain box, co-op, jj &f, Harlans bakery, round table, German deli, butcher, paint store, bookstore, hair salons, Monettes pet store, etc. All mom and pop. Everyone knew you. You could send your kid down and call
ahead for what you needed.

Now we have multiple pizza places, too many offices, no parking, retail almost gone, nowhere for kids or teens to hang out, no bookstore, too many restaurants (do we really need 3 of the same so so french restaurants in one block??)

The block near mollie stones is dead. No reason to go there now. Greed has taken over. Chos gone. No one can afford it there so now big chains are moving in. Goody. Calif ave as we know it is gone. Support those businesses hanging on if you can. I'd love to see it as it once was...a place full of mom and pop businesses ...places for kids, families, ice cream, hardware, books, etc. Sadly I don't see that happening.


10 people like this
Posted by Will miss both
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 25, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Accent Arts - suggestion - unique classes for kids. Getting in foot traffic via classes helps a lot of other local businesses, then they realize your prices are competitive and it's so much better to have a place nearby with expert advice, too...


11 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 25, 2015 at 7:47 pm

Robert makes a good point: the Cal Ave neighborhood WAS a walkable place with most everything nearby residents needed. This quaint arrangement WAS common in lots of communities, once upon a time. Now we have "new urbanism" and have to drive to get what we formerly could get by walking. And we're supposed to regard that as progress? The decision makers who are bringing us all this progress need to rethink what they are doing b/c what's happening is, in many ways, counterproductive.


33 people like this
Posted by annoyed
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:15 pm

this makes me so sad. My kids and I would often walk 2 blocks from our house to both of these stores. Getting office supplies a Village Stationers and other mailing supplies. I am only 36 yrs old but still love sending and receiving mail and have taught my children the lost art. And for Accent Art...it's a REAL ART STORE. Not some dumb craft store. It's hard to find these type of art supplies and it was convenient having a framer so close. This makes me so infuriated. Now it's probably going to be filled with some stupid nail salon or blow out bar. I cannot believe how quickly Palo Alto has been tented with a new lifestyle. And to even leave Palo Alto at certain times of the day is gridlock. So if I want to get office supplies instead of walking 2 blocks down the street with my 3 children I have to load them up into our gas guzzling mini-van and drive 20 mins north to Staples. Yes it used to take 10 mins to get from Cal ave. to Menlo Park, but it's now 20. 30 mins if you're driving between 4:30 and 7pm. Believe me we did it the other evening at 5:40pm and headed to downtown Menlo Park. El Camino was stop and go.

Palo Alto is so hypocritical...save the earth, save water, bike more and save the planet...yet they're demolishing all of our arm reach resources so now we have to get in the car and drive. Oh and I would bike more with my children, however A. I ride a cargo bike and most of the streets/bike lanes are so bumpy that my children get rattled and B. It's so much more dangerous. A Stanford marguerite came within an inch of me and my children in the cargo bike on Escondido. So there's my rant. I tearfully bid these 2 stores a farewell. If they are relocating I will still drive to you guys.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:21 pm

I like to see more wine bars and beer joints on California Av.


18 people like this
Posted by hardware or bookstore?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:42 pm

We could really use a hardware store or bookstore on Cal Ave. I hope one (or both!) could occupy these spaces in the future.


7 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 26, 2015 at 5:32 am

The worse things become, the more people want to live here.


5 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2015 at 7:36 am

SteveU is a registered user.

@Hardware or Bookstore
Where have you been?

Cambridge Hardware: Closed (was a nice, local oriented store)
(Many) Bookstores, new and used: Closed

CPA Daytime parking rules discourage leisurely browsing.
Run in-- Run Out-- before the time limit expires. No strolling allowed.

Stationary requirement changed. Typewriter/Printer ribbons gave way to Ink and Toner. The stores biggest problem became, handling the sheer variety to support in space and dollars tied up.


5 people like this
Posted by AllYouCanEat
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2015 at 9:17 am

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Lydia
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 26, 2015 at 10:16 am

Hard to believe that Printer's Ink closed up shop way back in 2001, because that's what I think of when I think of the Village Stationers location! Hope whoever moves in there is worthy of that important neighborhood site!

I live in North Menlo Park, but regularly bike over to Cal. Ave. for the best farmer's market in the area, retail and services. It helps that the Bryant St. bike boulevard and dedicated bike path along Alma make it easier to bike there than for me to bike to downtown Menlo. (The only tricky part is that stretch of Castilleja Ave., closest to Cal Ave., which is barely a one-way street if cars are parked on both sides.) Thanks to the city of Palo Alto and community members for continuing to invest in the California Ave. downtown.


8 people like this
Posted by MV
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2015 at 11:16 am

Move to Mountain View! I would love to shop at these places on Castro Street. They would fit right in along side Global Beads and West Valley Music.


21 people like this
Posted by Deborah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2015 at 11:56 am

I will miss both stores because they had excellent personal service. Village Stationers would order things for me if they were not in stock and call me when they came in. I can't do that at a big-box store. Accent Arts had the best people behind the counter, who really knew the stock in the store. I once went in looking for a bone folder, a rather obscure piece of equipment. The guy behind the counter didn't say "What is that?", he asked "which kind?"


23 people like this
Posted by hollowed out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Palo Alto is being hollowed out, gutted of its character and quality of
life, as a community. A business that works in Menlo Park and Los Altos
doesn't work on California Ave. It's because of the government policy
framework here the last 15 years and private market operators whose
value system is defined by $$ signs.That's a bad combination.


24 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 26, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Hi, Fellow Onliners,

Argh, this is awful.

I'll sign any petition, write any email, wash any car or twirl any sign to keep Village Stationers here.

Just to walk through their doors is to feel yourself surrounded by all the gizmos and amenities and unsuspected paper and metal and wooden solutions to everything that needs organizing or communicating or recording in your entire life. I've always felt calmer just to be inside their premises.

For twenty years I purchased there the cards that kept me linked to friends, the note paper for special missives, the calendars that give me a sense of my own history, and (above all) the blue-tipped pens that I've marked my high-schoolers' papers with and which they remember years later.

"Hey, Mr. V.!" I hear a young voice ring out, on a sidewalk somewhere in town, "Good to see you! Y'know, I still remember your comments in blue, all over my essays!"

Well, dump me in a bin with the dinosaurs, I guess. I think it was a better avenue when the Fine Arts Theatre (replaced by videos) was there. I think it was a better avenue when Printers' Inc. Bookstore, full of life in the evenings, was there. I think it was a better place when it had a café that stayed open past 9 pm.

But I guess the landlords are raking it in. Farewell, O sense of community and pleasures of browsing. Welcome, Brave New World of no one saying "May I help you?" anymore, and of the bottom-most line.

Sincerely,
Marc Vincenti


20 people like this
Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 26, 2015 at 7:25 pm

Anybody remember Peninsula Scientific, killed by inaccessibility after the city installed those incredibly ill-designed traffic barriers around my neighborhood?


15 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 26, 2015 at 11:05 pm

Say it isn't so! Village Stationers is my favorite store on California Avenue. I love being able to walk over there. It won't be the same driving to Menlo Park. Palo Alto has lost so many wonderful stores in the last few years. Such a shame.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2015 at 11:37 pm

This is very odd, I just read dozens of comments on another thread saying companies should be encouraged to leave Palo Alto, but not a single one here praising this decision? Those posters wouldn't be so hypocritical as to only want the places they don't patronize or work for to leave?


23 people like this
Posted by eileen stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 27, 2015 at 1:55 am

As an artist and lover of fine German stationery, of which Gill at Accent Arts had both, I will miss this eclectic artsy store so much! It is a store for true working artists with all of the interesting paints, brushes, papers etc.to touch and sometimes try out. Now, I either have to drive to University Arts in Redwood City (never as good as Accent Arts) or Flax in San Francisco. Michaels is just a crafty store. Bummer!! What is the point in walking down to a retail area when there are only resturants, cafes and nail salons? Lets hope Gill finds a place for his store near College Terrace.


14 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 27, 2015 at 10:16 am

While Accent Arts and Village Stationers are now casualties, you can still support remaining high-quality, privately-owned stores by shopping at them tomorrow -- Small Business Saturday -- and throughout the holiday season.


10 people like this
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Too bad the commenters of this story aren't on the PA City Council.
Roger, good call - I DO remember Peninsula Scientific, if only to purchase magnesium ribbon as a fuse extender for things I wasn't supposed to play with!

Gale, that KFC you mentioned helped get me through some lean times in grad school, back when they had that life-sized Col. Sanders by the front door…

Mark, quite funny; too bad we can't add "smiles" to "likes" here. How much wine do people need to purchase by the glass in order to impress their servers? The "clubs" on Calif. Ave. have always been its sore spot (in addition to greedy landlords and dumb council zoning changes).

Robert, you should run the new city council. Where's that petition? :)


14 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 27, 2015 at 3:24 pm

If we allow rents to zoom up to absurd and unprecedented heights, small businesses will disappear, period. Because of the incredibly high rents, independent stores must charge high prices for their products, which makes buying similar products online cheaper. The real questions is whether communities have a right to defy the supposed sacred principles of "free market" to preserve their identity, character, core and soul, and give an opportunity to independent small businesses to survive and thrive, or just accept the notion that everything and anything goes in a capitalist society and only the strong, meaning the rich, or chain stores in this particular instance, survive. After all, the same thing has happened with our housing market. We have allowed foreign buyers to set such a high bar, price-wise, for housing prices, that only rich people with very deep pockets can now buy houses in Palo Alto.


15 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2015 at 10:43 am

Short list of what we've lost:

DOWNTOWN:
 CA Yoga Center, Cowper Street (40 years),
 University Art, Hamilton Avenue (65 years)
 Shady Lane moved to Menlo Park (>37 years)
 Empire Vintage Clothing (4 years. Rent raised. Moved to Mt. View)
 Addison Antiques (June 2005 – June 2015)
CA AVE:
 Cho's Mandarin Dim Sum moved to Los Altos (35 years)
 Farmers Insurance (45 years)
 Palo Alto Violin (23 years)
 Bargain Box (48 years)
 Avenue Florist (25 years)
 Know Knew Books (25 years)
 Park Automotive 3040 Park Blvd. (>42 years)
Radio Shack
 Village Stationers (2002)
 Accent Arts

T & C VILLAGE:
 Nature’s Alley moved to Los Altos
 The Cookbook restaurant (1986 – 2005)
 Scott’s Seafood



10 people like this
Posted by Sad farewell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 29, 2015 at 4:39 pm

@ annoyed: Totally agree on all accounts!

We have a true artist in our family (not everyone in Palo Alto is a computer programmer or engineer) who needs high quality professional art supplies. Accent Arts is our go to store. We can only hope they will remain in Palo Alto and still be accessible. Although I don't know where the rent in Palo Alto will be any cheaper . . .


6 people like this
Posted by subsidies?
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 29, 2015 at 6:19 pm

Perhaps the CC could provide rent subsidies for small businesses.


11 people like this
Posted by betty.schneider876@gmail.com
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 29, 2015 at 6:28 pm

I, too, grieve for our losses. One thing would help, and we can all do it....do the shopping that we still can do, while our 'character' stores are still viable!


6 people like this
Posted by Merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 29, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Too late. Times have changed. Cannot look back. We do not have buggy whips or hitching posts either. The present and future is big box and Internet!





7 people like this
Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2015 at 9:44 am

marc665 is a registered user.

For all those people who complain about the stores being lost, there is one comment that many of them seem to make. "We used to shop there" The reality is that times have changed.

When we moved here in 1990 Bergman's was still in midtown. It was a dump. And when it closed all the comments were "when I was a kid..." This was from all the people that hadn't shopped there is years.

Memories are nice but more fantasy than reality. Stickneys was a grease trap. The Cookbook had roaches crawling around. Even my dad couldn't find anything he would by Widermans'.

If people were buying at these stores, they would stay in business.

/marc


10 people like this
Posted by Shirley Gaines
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2015 at 11:04 am

Marc,
Thanks for your positive, upbeat comment to start the week!

Many people did, and still do, shop at Accent Arts. What slowed down my trips to both these stores was the tearing up and refurbishing of California Avenue. The noise, dust and difficulty in parking was the big factor. That being done (and, being said), I don't know if there is one major reason for the slowing down of business in these two beautiful stores. My best guess is the internet. We get lazy and want our needs filled in the quickest and most efficient way possible. In exchange for this, we will lose the joy of experiencing the sensual: seeing all the beauty and color, feeling the pleasure of communication, and just walking out our door and into another for the long established activity of exchange.


4 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Please note that neither merchant blamed the Cal Ave. renovations as a reason why their businesses are down.


8 people like this
Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 30, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Bergman's had great buys. We shopped there right up until the end, even going to the little coffee shop inside that moved to Mountain View, and named "Bagi's Down the Street Cafe".

Stickney's was not a grease trap, in our opinion. The food was good and the service was always good, when we were there.

The family at The Cook Book were always nice. They had the best omelets and were very generous with potatoes, coffee etc.

It makes me miss all of the above now, generating fond memories of being there with extended family.

I'd not be surprised if there is an occasional roach or rodents, in more places around the whole Bay Area than we'd care to think.

We bought our father a suit at Widemann's that lasted for years, and it looked great, with classic lines that did not go out of style. I still remember the charcoal gray material of good quality. So our experiences were all good.

Cho's is in a brand new storefront in Los Altos on First Street, and they look to be doing very well, with loyal customers and newer fans enjoying their reasonably priced food too.

For the most part, the loss of these two retail establishments looks like a failure on the part of the city to ensure that our two downtowns have a good mix of retail stores, so people want to walk around, and shop local. Other cities are successful with it. Much of this is just common sense.


2 people like this
Posted by Shirley Gaines
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

I understand this, Crescent Park Dad. They did not blame the renovations, as you noted. I'm merely suggesting one possibility as a consequence...


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm

@Longtime, wow, I didn't know Baji's is a descendant of Bergmann's.
I'll have to check 'em out for breakfast. Opening at 6 a.m. is a plus in my book.
(Hobee's and downtown Creamery are 7 a.m., Joanie's my Cal Ave favorite is 7:30.)
I've purchased many odds & ends at Village Stationers and will miss them.
Regarding suits, and long ago, whatever became of Grodin's?


3 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 30, 2015 at 7:25 pm

On California Abe I remember the pharmacy, a shoe store, the Fine Arts movie theater (later ba
Exams a carpet store, also excellent), Patterson's variety store, Coop, Bargain Box, Old Country Deli (best pickles and bread), hardware store. Maximart is a good replacement for the pharmacy side of the other drug store. Country Sun is a welcome newer addition. Zombie Runner is OK, but their shoes are a niche market. The other store was more useful for the whole family and carried a wide variety of sizes, especially wide.


4 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 30, 2015 at 11:57 pm

Michael O. is a registered user.

It isn't just Palo Alto. Every city or town in the US with a vibrant economy is going through the same changes. It certainly isn't the America of the 1960's anymore, where pretty much everyone in a town like this was White, Christian, and married with children.

It is just me, or is California Ave coming to life again? Five years ago it was dying (what a depressing place at 6 pm on a weeknight) and now it's filled with people spilling out onto the sidewalks morning until night. Kind of a remarkable change. But with different people from the ones writing all these nostalgic posts, obviously, going to different businesses. Pretty much all the new stores are locally owned businesses, for what that is worth. I guess Main Street has a new look in 2015. I miss Main Street ca. 1965, but the new one isn't so bad.


3 people like this
Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 1, 2015 at 12:56 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

If you all really are going to miss those stores, then why did you not buy from them often enough?

Clearly you as a customer must take some responsibility for not frequenting them enough. Just walking by and staring at their windows isn't enough.

Stores are there for commerce, not atmosphere, which seems to be what people are lamenting more than anything else.

The last thing we need is a Disney Main Street on California Avenue.


1 person likes this
Posted by Shirley Gaines
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Why didn't people buy often enough? This might be a moot question. Why don't we buy crates of cranberries this time of year? Or, a gross of boxes of holiday greeting cards? Or, art supplies we don't yet need because we don't know what exactly we will need.

If you've been following, you may have read at least a few reasons for the falling off of (times) going into specific places. How many times does one go into "a place"? If you go out to eat, once to several times a week. If you work on this street, five days a week. Quantity is not the heart of the issue here.


11 people like this
Posted by R.M. Pan
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 12, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Joshua Tree, CA has a law that prevents box stores and protects small businesses which lends it its special charm. We are giving up too much when we lose someone like Gil at Accent Arts who is the face for artists and who is plugged into the art community. Village Stationers is a wonderful hands-on place too. I am so saddened by this "development" and wonder where our collective soul has meandered to...maybe Redwood City with University Art? Redwood City and San Mateo have figured out how to attract these interesting small businesses. We need to also.


7 people like this
Posted by Alex Green
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2016 at 8:59 am

I just enjoyed some delicious Chos Potstickers in LOS ALTOS.... bummer for Palo Alto that high rents are making our shopping areas into chain retailers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Older Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 3, 2016 at 2:07 pm

I am very saddened by what Palo Alto considers progress. Yes it is true that technology is good but not at the cost of the greed that permeates the city of Palo Alto. If you want more office buildings and restaurants with homogeneous folks that is what we are getting. I am sickened by the selling out that has taken place. It will be very interesting to see what happens if there is another burst bubble. Caveat Emptor!!


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