In this week's Shop Talk column, read about the upcoming opening of the College Terrace Market, the potential closure of a 72-year-old flower shop and other retail news.
MARKET OPENING ... The wait is almost over: College Terrace Market is preparing to open its doors at the newly constructed College Terrace Centre in the first half of June, according to operator and general manager Michael "Miki" Werness, who last week was overseeing last-minute touches to the grocery store. Plans for an 8,000-square-foot market at 2180 El Camino Real have been in the works for nearly eight years as the city waited for developers to find just-the-right tenant to replace the beloved JJ&F Food Store, whose owners sold the business after plans for the center were approved. (The inclusion of a neighborhood market was a key condition for approval of the 1.4-acre mixed-use project.) Werness' vision to open a store with the look and feel of a neighborhood market ultimately won over the Palo Alto City Council in 2014, which allowed the mixed-use project to move ahead. The store will include an open-air produce section along the sidewalk, outdoor seating, a bakery, a full-service meat department, a deli, meals to go and groceries that can be ordered in advance for quick pick up. Most of the products will be made or provided by small-scale, local food manufacturers and farmers. And the market's ultra-local focus doesn't end there. The names of neighborhood streets -- College, El Camino Real, Oxford-- appear on green street-like signs hanging above each aisle, paying homage. Workers were moving wooden produce bins and shelves into the store last week as Werness looked to fill some remaining vacant cashier positions. This will be Werness' second stab at running a grocery store in Palo Alto. The local grocery veteran operated the acclaimed but financially troubled Miki's Farm Fresh Market at Alma Village for six months before it folded. "It's not that I failed. I just tried something that didn't work. It was an inferior site. And the store faced the wrong way," Werness said at the time. He called the College Terrace location much better. -- L.T.
END OF A LEGACY? ... The iconic bubble-gum pink store that has supplied corsages and boutonnieres for generations of high school prom-goers may be permanently closing its doors unless someone steps up to carry on its 72-year legacy. Owners Michaela Dieffenbach and Steve Wong are retiring in June. The tiny store at 453 Waverely St., currently known as Michaela's Flower Shop, opened as Stapleton's Florist in 1945. Dieffenbach and Wong, both longtime Stapleton employees, took over the business and renamed it Michaela's in 1999 after original owner Olga Stapleton retired. (The name Stapleton's still remains on the building's narrow facade as a tribute.) Now, the duo is looking to hand down the flower business to the next generation. "I hope we're going to have someone to take it over," said Wong, who is in talks with real estate agents and plans to sell the building after Dieffenbach moves to Idaho with her husband next month. Dieffenbach, who began her career as a florist at Stapleton's in 1987, described her retirement as bittersweet. "I have to admit, I've started crying when I've started telling some of my customers that I'm leaving," said Dieffenbach, whose customers have seen her grow up, get married and have a son and then watch him grow up, too. Wong, who joined Stapleton's in 1982 as a delivery driver before becoming Dieffenbach's business partner, said Dieffenbach has overseen the shop's daily operations over the years. He described her as "the hardest worker. She never takes a day off. (She's) very dedicated." -- S.M.
NEW BAKERY ... Downtown Palo Alto has lost a French restaurant but will soon gain a new bakery with the opening of Tuts Bakery & Cafe at 535 Bryant St., the former home of Bon Vivant. A message posted on Bon Vivant's website announced the closure: "After six wonderful years in Palo Alto, Bon Vivant Dining is now closed. We have exciting plans for the future and hope to see many of our customers join us in our new ventures to come." The restaurant did not return a request for comment. Windows of the Bryant Street space have been covered with bright yellow signs advertising Tuts Bakery & Cafe. Online job listings describe Tuts as an "up and coming new bakery and cafe" opening locations in Palo Alto and San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood. Tuts will serve fresh pastries, bread made in house and coffee. The company hopes to open in Palo Alto by the end of June and in San Francisco in September. More locations across California and the country are on the way as well. -- E.K.
JAPANESE GIFT SHOP OPENS ... After quietly operating at the former site of Yea!Mac computer repair shop at 520 Bryant St. for six months, Loggon Stationery finally held its official grand opening at the end of April. And while the 575-square-foot Japanese stationery and gift store may be small, its inventory is anything but lacking. The family-owned shop carries everything from typical stationery items -- pens, pencils, handmade gift cards, origami -- to not-so-common items, like cow-shaped notepads, rubber ducks, a hamburger-shaped puzzle, stuffed cats carrying a pizza slice and a 41-inch jumbo Pusheen cat body pillow. Owner Dongyi Xiao said she wants customers to feel "immersed in a snapshot of Japanese culture," according to Loggon's Facebook page. The shop also carries the artwork of artists from Palo Alto, adding some community culture to the mix. Despite not celebrating its grand opening until last month, the store has been hugely successful over the past six month, Xiao said. She said there really isn't anything else like Loggon in the vicinity. Her family currently is looking to open a second store in Cupertino by early 2018. -- S.P.
Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Linda Taaffe, Elena Kadvany, Sarah Mason and Sophie Pollock. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email [email protected]