Shop Talk: Pet Depot to close, Accent Arts moves

This week's retail news in Palo Alto

In the latest Palo Alto retail news, Pet Food Depot is set to close after 30-plus years, Amity Crossfit opens on California Avenue and Palo Alto's iconic art-supply store, Accent Arts, moves across the street.

DOG EAT DOG WORLD TAKES A TOLL ... Harry Tashjian is a man who knows what he does and does not want. And he doesn't want to own Pet Food Depot anymore. "Enough is enough," he said of his decision to retire. The pet-supply store has been a Palo Alto fixture since 1984. It moved six years ago from its longtime home at 3127 El Camino Real to its current location at 425 Portage Ave. The former El Camino space is now Equinox, a fitness center. The Portage site is an 8,200-square-foot Quonset hut. "We wanted to save a little money," Tashjian said. There's no question the corrugated steel hut is a no-frills venue. But did his customers care? "If they wanted to go to a beauty salon, then they should go to a beauty salon," he said. "All I care about is service, product and price." As a result of the impending closing, all merchandise is reduced 10 to 20 percent. Tashjian does not yet know the exact date of the store closure: "When almost everything is gone -- that's when we'll close." The imminent closure of Pet Food Depot leaves only one pet supply store in Palo Alto: Pet Food Express, located in the Charleston Shopping Center. Pretty surprising in a town that has three dog parks!

AMITY CROSSFIT JOINS CALIFORNIA AVENUE ... Fitness center Amity CrossFit opened Jan. 30 in the former Keeble & Shuchat Photography building at 261 S. California Ave., less than a block from the new Performance Gaines studio. Owner Zach Height, who has operated the center on El Camino Real since 2010, said he needed a bigger space. "I liked the look and feel of the old building -- it had that 'CrossFit' feel, but it didn't have any insulation," Height said. "The new building is definitely an upgrade." Height said he has already seen "tons of foot traffic" going past the center from the Caltrain station. As for being located near Performance Gaines, Height said it's already been beneficial. The owner, who knows Height's business partner, offered Amity the use of Performance Gaines' showers until Amity gets settled in. Height said the two gyms cater to different niches: Amity provides group classes rather than the one-one personal training workouts of Performance Gaines. -- Linda Taaffe

ACCENT ARTS MOVES TO THE ALLEY... Palo Alto's iconic art-supply store, Accent Arts, is leaving its longtime home at 392 California Ave., but it won't be going far. The independently owned retailer is relocating across the street to its longtime storage facility at 421 Jacaranda Lane (just behind ZombieRunner) during the first week in March, according to an email announcement from store management. The California Avenue location is set to close Feb. 25. The shop's impending move has been widely anticipated since late 2015, when owner Gil McMillon announced that rent along California Avenue was becoming too expensive for him, but the store's fate remained uncertain. As part of the move, the business also will be changing its name to Accent Arts in the Alley to commemorate its new location in the one-way alley. "I think this will bring a bit of a Bohemian feel to the area," employee Shirley Hollis said of the new one-story, flat-roofed cinder-block building where the shop plans to operate for now. Hollis said she's unsure if the building will serve as a temporary "pop-up shop" or become a permanent location. In the meantime, Accent Arts is frantically trying to sell as much of its merchandise as possible because it won't all fit into the new building -- which is only about one-third the size of the California site. Store management said it has "lots and lots of things we don't want to move" and is selling merchandise at a 30 percent discount between now and Feb. 25. Hollis said the new location will still provide framing services and a wide selection of art supplies, but many items will have to be custom ordered. -- Linda Taaffe

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

Associate Editor Linda Taaffe contributed to this column.


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6 people like this
Posted by Darn!
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm

That move to an inconvenient location off ECR is mostly what killed Pet Food Depot.

This is bad for me, because I have a dog who requires a special food made only by Nutro.

Other stores carry Nutro, but not the high protein Active Dog formulation, and no their pet food store will even order it for me!

5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2017 at 2:56 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

None of those stories should be surprising. The kind of retail I think of and remember, is gone forever, in PA. I'm so old I remember a lot of stuff from the '60's. Almost all those stores on University Ave are stores, clothing stores, furniture stores, shoe stores, shoe repair shops, Liddicoats, Delmar Israel, Varsity Theater, good restaurants. Now it's all coffee shops, trendy restaurants/bars (all overpriced, but in PA price is not a factor for the young high tech workers and rich folks in the area), salons/spas, and health workout centers. People who want to buy stuff where they can touch it, feel it, and try it on, just go to shopping centers or malls. Those that are smart enough, knowing their exact size and dimensions buy online. That's just a fact in our fast changing world.

So, it will be interesting to watch tonight's CC meeting where they will deal with the retail issue...trying to save and salvage it...out of the dumpster it's in now, and has been for many years.

This is just not the town I remember and would want to stay in, except for my love of my home in SPA. I separate the north side and south side folks, just like all our politicians and CC candidates running for office do, the rich and very successful folks, north of Oregon Expressway, versus us commoners that made it on our own to our own level of success and affluence, and have had the privilege to live here for so long.

3 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Do we really need yet another fitness place in any Part of Palo Alto?
Fitness places discourage foot traffic which retail, places that sell actual things, need to survive. Soon there won't be any place on University or California Aves where you can purchase anything useful.
The City tells us they want to decrease traffic and encourage more residents to walk or ride a bike. That suggestion is fine if you live nearby and don't need anything large or heavy. Lack of real retail stores in an area mean that residents must drive.
The biggest killer of retail is the new parking permit program. The permit holders snatch the parking early and stay all day. If the City wants to retain real retail it will eliminate the parking program.

8 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Its been a bad year. Gone, my Camera store, my favorite Sushi place, my local hardware store, my liquor store, and now my dog food store. Where will it end, probably buried in condos, cars, and office buildings. At this rate there will be no place to bike to.

9 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 14, 2017 at 8:38 am

It's sad to see retail stores go. The camera store and toy store (Palo Alto Sport and Toy, set to move/close soon) are especially sad for me. I know a big reason is online shopping. While my kids were growing up, PA Sport and Toy was where I took them to get soccer cleats, baseball gear, etc., and was also the place I got them toys/games for everyday use or gifts, or gifts to bring to a friend's party. One store that still seems to be going strong is Books, Inc., and I actively support it by buying books there rather than on Amazon. I'd rather have the nearby bookstore where I can browse than save a couple of dollars by purchasing the books online.

I like places with a variety of shops, and both downtown Mountain View and downtown Los Altos have more variety than downtown Palo Alto currently does, maybe due to lower rents and a different crowd shopping there. I like the midtown shopping area because it's not yet been turned into an upscale place.

3 people like this
Posted by Shopper
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2017 at 12:38 pm

It's so sad to see Pet Food Depot go out of business. A family owned business that's been in Palo Alto forever. This is what happens when you can't afford the outrageous rent on El Camino Real and need to move to an inconvenient location in order to survive.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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