My family has been connected with the JJ&F Food Store brothers since the late 1940s, when they learned the trade at my mother's uncles' grocery store in Mountain View, Erichsen Grocery Store. I now live across the street from the new College Terrace Centre development and watched as JJ&F shut down and many years later the construction began. I was treasurer of the College Terrace Residents Association (CTRA) when the redevelopment was first proposed. We envisioned a grocery store similar to JJ&F, which would cater to walking traffic from College Terrace and Escondido Village.
The buildings were leveled and a two-story parking garage was built under the new building. Now First Republic Bank is the major tenant providing all that extra revenue the landlord is allowed to collect from the extra large office space approved with the "public benefit" of a grocery store.
I would hope now that all parties will consider a new approach to "viability" of a grocery store.
I would like to see the viability process begin with a grocery consultant determining what product mix and price structure would provide adequate volume in this location.
Then the costs of product, labor and utilities could be figured to arrive at a profit level. That profit level would then allow a determination of what a sustainable rent would be. Even if it was a negative figure, I am sure it would be less than the $60,000 per month penalty levied by the city for having a vacant grocery-store space.
I think the original price for rent for the College Terrace Market was set by comparing it to other grocery stores or, perhaps more cynically, to satisfy the banker. That would be how I would advise a banker or landlord client if I were involved and there were no requirement to set the rent so the grocery store could survive.
I believe all my neighbors in College Terrace and perhaps throughout the city would like to see the city of Palo Alto administration make sure in the future that all "public benefits" be legally defined and insist that all contracts have binding and enforceable clauses specifying the benefit and the penalties for non-compliance. We cannot redo the contract failures of past administrations and their dealings with developers, but hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and stop making the same mistakes again. That would benefit all the residents of Palo Alto.
Maybe the most viable option would be to get a store like Sprouts to open an annex here since I am sure we all know that a grocery store here will not be like a Safeway or a Mollie Stone's Market.
Another approach might work as well. We could encourage a partnership, perhaps an LLC, between a grocery-store manager and the landlord. This would require good faith from both parties along with community support. Please keep in mind that this plan I am proposing will need lots of fleshing out and legal details to be fair, transparent and effective.
Here's a basic outline of how that would work:
• The store manager will get a basic wage.
• The landlord will provide sufficient signage and customer flow.
• The landlord and/or the store manager will provide financing for inventory.
• The landlord and manager will then split what is left in an equitable fashion.
The manager could be fired for non-performance, and then the landlord would not have a need for a whole new set up. The landlord would simply find a new manager and continue. In addition, any good contract will have an "exit strategy" that will spell out separation in the most likely scenarios.
As everyone digests this approach, let us all get together and oversee a workable solution. Our community has many bright minds that can help. Because we will all have our own ideas as to what we want, please give constructive ideas on how to make it better and couch your suggested improvements to these plans with the community in mind.
The Garcia family of JJ&F provided a successful market for over 60 years. I doubt there is anyone more qualified to help identify what is needed than John Garcia. He watched his uncles and father meet the needs of our neighborhood, and he still works in the area.
I have watched many families walk and ride bikes to the latest store. I grew up in College Terrace. This is where I intend to retire. I know times are changing, but there is a grocery niche here that we residents will support. It cannot be all things for all people, so let us find a way to get it done.
Please put in your good wishes, prayers and suggestions so we can move forward. I would love for CTRA to oversee this process. I will be happy to be a sounding board for the committee that takes this on. I believe College Terrace and Escondido Village will support a small grocery store west of El Camino Real when the right mix of product and price is found.
Larry Robert Kavinoky is a CPA and a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.