Shop Talk: knitting Marine; Masa Sushi closes; Vina Enoteca opens

This week's retail news in Palo Alto

FROM DITCHES TO STITCHES ... That's what happens when a former U.S. Marine joins a knitting circle. The knitters, ranging in age from 60 to 90, meet weekly on Fridays around a large table at Avenidas, 450 Bryant St. Avenidas is a 40-plus year Palo Alto nonprofit that offers support and services to seniors. The Avenidas knitting group, called Aveneedles, consists of a core team of nine knitters, one of whom is 87-year-old Jim Mimmack, the only man in a sea of women. A retired Palo Alto computer programmer who spent five years in the U.S. Marines Corps, Mimmack started coming to Avenidas for lunch. It was there that he heard about the knitting group. "The first question I asked is if it was gender-specific. They said no, so here I am," he said. Mimmack picked up knitting 50 years ago when he was hospitalized in Olympia, Washington, after being kicked by a horse. "The owner of the horse came by to visit and said I needed to do something to keep myself busy. She taught me how to knit. I knitted 12 sweaters in two weeks while I was in traction in the hospital. I still have one of the sweaters," he said. Even though Mimmack hadn't knitted for 50 years, he easily picked it up again at Avenidas. "It's like riding a bike. You don't forget," he said. Mimmack is surprised by the amount of help and support he has received from the other knitters in the group. "There's no competition or jealousy here. The ladies have been fantastic. We help each other beyond redemption. It's also a support group so it's good for everyone," he said. Proudly picking up a long, rose-colored, knitted item from the long table where the knitters knit, Mimmack said, "This is what I'm currently working on. It started out as a scarf but I kept going and now it's going to be a shawl." Fellow knitter Ann Lieberman says Mimmack is the most prolific knitter in the group. "He also has the best yarn," she said. "I buy only wool yarn. And the highest quality there is," Mimmack said, adding, "One skein of high quality yarn can cost up to $30." Mimmack's creations, along with several hundred other items that the group has knitted the past year, will be available for sale at Avenidas' annual craft sale. Now in its fifth year, most of the handmade pieces, which include socks, gloves, hats, baby items, blankets, wraps, afghans and even knitted necklaces, will be priced from $5 to $40. The group of knitters said they wanted to keep the items affordable, even though they admitted they often spend more money on the yarn than the finished product, emphasizing that it is a labor of love. The annual sale is one day only, Nov. 18, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. All proceeds will be divided between three nonprofits -- Avenidas, Peninsula Humane Society and LifeMoves (formerly InnVision Shelter Network).

28-YEAR-OLD SUSHI RESTAURANT CLOSES ... The venerable Masa Sushi, located on the Mountain View border at 400 San Antonio Road, closed on Oct. 31 after a 28-year run. The aging building that housed Masa Sushi is scheduled to be torn down to make room for a three-building, 583-unit apartment complex. But the restaurant closing is only temporary, according to owner Masa Uehara. "We will be moving back once the apartments are built. We plan to reopen in the new building in two years," Uehara said. That's when the the massive development project is scheduled to be completed. Uehara spends much of his time at his second restaurant, which is on Mountain View's Castro Street and also called Masa Sushi. Opened two years ago, it is a smaller version of the original restaurant. Uehara also has plans for a third Masa Sushi, which is expected to open early next year in Campbell on Bascom Avenue.

ITALIAN RESTAURANT OPENS AT STANFORD BARN ... The long-awaited Vina Enoteca celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 4. The Italian restaurant at 700 Welch Road in the Stanford Barnis owned by Rocco Scordella, who also owns Tootsie's, the small cafe just a few steps away from the new, upscale restaurant. Vina Enoteca, which serves lunch and dinner, replaces the former California Cafe following a complete renovation of the 6,500-square-foot space.

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

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