News


Guest Opinion: New approach needed for College Terrace grocery store

Resident calls on city to make sure 'public benefits' are defined in the future

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.

If some of the signs on the side of the building had been for the College Terrace Market instead of First Republic Bank then maybe we would not be here now with a closed 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 lkavinoky@alumni.stanford.edu.

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Comments

41 people like this
Posted by Won't work
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2018 at 8:30 am

Sorry, undersized, overpriced markets will not work anymore. we saw it at Alma Plaza and now at CT. What worked for JJ&F 30 years ago, won't succeed now (plus remember how the city worked overtime to ensure that there would not be any significant competition to JJ&F--because CT demanded it).
There is such a thing as the free market. Unfortunately Palo Alto leaders have no clue how it works.


13 people like this
Posted by Who cares
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 9, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Palo alto should also stay away from any endeavor in which miki Is involved. Anyway people want fill service stores. CT market is nice if you want to pick up some milk, but not for family shopping. Not that I feel much sympathy for CT- they kept the city hostage for decades as far as allowing good sized stores in the city.


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2018 at 2:27 pm

Posted by Won't work, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> Sorry, undersized, overpriced markets will not work anymore. we saw it at Alma Plaza and now at CT. What worked for JJ&F 30 years ago, won't succeed now

You are assuming that it won't work, but, the editorial is asking what will work. I read years ago that many higher-end hotels lose money on their restaurant. Most higher-end hotels which cater to well-off business travelers feel they need a restaurant to serve their client base on the clients schedule. (At least they used to. I would guess that this has changed.) So, back then, the hotel would subsidize the restaurant. In some cases, this strategy was successful enough that the hotel restaurant would become a draw for the hotel.

Similarly, many shopping centers have, or used to have, money-losing recreational facilities such as movie theaters and ice-skating rinks in order to draw people in. They also typically required tenant stores to be open during certain hours, and, closed during certain hours (usu. with some optional hours for restaurants, grocery stores, etc.) Tenants effectively subsidize other services and businesses to make the entire shopping center viable.

My point is this: a similar formula might work for the College Terrace grocery. The landlord presumably committed to providing a grocery as part of its approval process. Why -shouldn't- it charge a vastly reduced rent, or even a negative rent, in order to keep a grocery viable? The only difference between this case and the above examples is that the city is a party to the agreement, rather than it being purely private.


22 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Marie is a registered user.

If smaller groceries don't work, how can the success of Mollie Stone's, Grocery Outlet, Piazza's, Draeger's, Milk Pail and even 7-11 be explained? They have been around for years. The Trader Joe's in Palo Alto is also on the small side and is definitely profitable.

Can we stop with the broad generalizations about small grocery stores not successful in Palo Alto?


10 people like this
Posted by Who cares
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 9, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Marie-- remember what was where grocery outlet is now. That failed. Grocery outlet is a bargain place- obviously what residents want. All the other places you mention are 2-2.5 times the size of ct market. And maybe CT failed because mollie stone and country Sun ate so close by. Milk pail is mainly fruit and veggies with some food. They do good because of the fruit and veggies. 7-11??? You consider 7-11 to be a grocery store. Bottom line, people want value. Palo alto is hung up on either overpriced stores or dirty dingy stores like midtown safeway. Feel free to ship at our poor selection of grocery stores. I will go to the large Safeway on san Antonio.


11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 9, 2018 at 5:23 pm

"Can we stop with the broad generalizations about small grocery stores not successful in Palo Alto?"

There's no requirement for a small grocery store, only for a grocery store. So let's think inside a bigger box.

The developer built a grossly oversize building. It has lots of space to expand a small store into a viably sized store to fulfill his development permit conditions. Suspend his occupancy permit for the rest of the structure until that store demonstrates sustainability.


23 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 9, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Suspend his occupancy permit for the rest of the structure until that store demonstrates sustainability."

Oh yes, let's put the esteemed City Council in charge of making decisions about where people buy their groceries.

[Portion removed.]


49 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 7:17 pm

There are lots of high-priced boutique markets in the area already. Trying to compete with them is a losing effort, especially with Amazon merging with Whole Foods, and there already is a Whole Foods just down the street from this location.

Why are there no Asian markets like Nijiya or Ranch 99 in Palo Alto? The closest of there are a long drive down to Sunnyvale. I am sure there is plenty of demand for these types of stores and they should be able to keep prices down by using the same wholesalers as the Sunnyvale stores.


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 9, 2018 at 10:09 pm

"Oh yes, let's put the esteemed City Council in charge of making decisions about where people buy their groceries."

Talk to the developer about that. Those of us who actually followed this story know the cc was involved from the beginning, put squarely in the center of this spot zoning enterprise by the developer's orchestrated popular hysteria demanding a neighborhood grocery store.

He got his wish. He wishes he hadn't. I believe the phrase is "hung by one's own petards". But a contract is a contract, right?


6 people like this
Posted by How large a subsidy?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 9, 2018 at 10:30 pm

How large a subsidy? is a registered user.

I guess the question is how large a subsidy does the landlord need to give the grocer so that prices are Safeway-like, so customers have a reason to shop here (or at least no reason not to shop here), which should in theory lead to adequate volume due to the convenient location. The team that left will probably best know this. My guess is if their prices were 25% lower across the board, they would have been fine price-wise and volume-wise. If there aim was to take in, say, $4000/day, then that would mean they need on the order of $30,000 per month, via some combination of cheaper (or zero) rent and cash subsidy. Is that workable?


13 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2018 at 10:47 pm

How much rent was JJF paying? How much is the new landlord asking?


5 people like this
Posted by Shopper
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 10, 2018 at 8:22 am

And how exactly is the landlord to "provide...customer flow"? Signage, sure, but how is it reasonable to expect the landlord to round up customers?


25 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2018 at 9:20 am

eileen is a registered user.

I would never shop at a Ranch 99. A large % of the food comes from China. Also, there are food safety issues.
Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2018 at 11:59 am

It is false that the majority of Ranch 99 products come from China. They cannot afford the international network of trucks and warehouses that large chains like Safeway have, so almost all their fresh foods come from farms in Northern California. The Mercury-News report is gross, but it is about a farm in California (a little east of San Jose) and hopefully the state health department is figuring out how that happened.


1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North

>> He got his wish. He wishes he hadn't. I believe the phrase is "hung by one's own petards". But a contract is a contract, right?

Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4:

== Let it work,
For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard. And ’t shall go hard,
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon.
==

I understand your point, but, I can't imagine that these particular business people miscalculated. I think they can afford to facilitate the market there and still make a profit. They just need to want to do it.
--

Posted by parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto:

>> Why are there no Asian markets like Nijiya or Ranch 99 in Palo Alto? The closest of there are a long drive down to Sunnyvale.

Mountain View, actually. On Grant Rd, just south of ECR. A little over 3 miles from the south end of Palo Alto.


12 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm

"I think they can afford to facilitate the market there and still make a profit. They just need to want to do it."

Big amen.


28 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Ranch 99 and Nijiya are more than 5 miles from the College Terrace market site. With typical traffic, this is too far to drive after work when most people do their grocery shopping.


16 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2018 at 8:13 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Parent, Ranch 99 is not a good fit for this spot. It definitely would not be a replacement for a market like JJ&F or
College Terrace Market which supplied all kinds of food, including Asian. Ranch 99 has zero organic produce and very little is local. Most coming from Mexico, Chile, China and Vietnam. Most of the meat, fish and chicken is not labels so you have no idea where it came from. Also it is not organic. The remainder of everything else in the store, about 80%, is imported from Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Taiwan and Japan. The only organic anything was Horizon milk. Also the strong fish smell throughout the store is not pleasant. If you want to save money but don't care about where your food comes from, the quality and only want Asian food then Ranch 99 is for you. Three miles is not that far. The market that replaces College Terrace Market needs to be of the same quality and JJ&J was and serving the whole multinational neighborhood.


5 people like this
Posted by CT Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2018 at 9:21 am

Is the city actually collecting $60,000 per month? For as long as the store is empty?

The city should not be in the business of selecting types, owners or structures of grocery stores. It can and should impose penalties on landlords who seek waivers.

PS Our esteemed Planning department didn't do anyone any favors (in terms of driving grocery traffic or improving Palo Alto) by approving what is arguably the ugliest and least functional building designs ever seen.


8 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 11, 2018 at 10:09 am

While it's sad to see the loss of neighborhood grocery stores, I wonder how many grocery stores Palo Alto can support. We currently have a Safeway, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Piazzas, Mollie Stones, The Market, and the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, as well as nearby Safeway's to the north in Menlo Park, and south in Mt. View, and another Whole Foods in Los Altos. Then, the Cosco and Walmart in Mountain View who also sell grouches.

It seems to me that there is a lot of grocery stores already and I can understand that it's challenging to build a business case for another one.


5 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2018 at 12:00 pm

The whole idea is that there is insufficient business justification for a grocery store there.

That’s why a grocery store was offered by the developer as a public benefit as part of the deal to offset the publc detriment of violating the existing zoning.

The agreement was made without misrepresentation and with fully informed participants. So this line of argument, that the location is not suitable for a profitable grocery store iis underhanded, is it not?


21 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2018 at 12:18 pm

We don't need more of the same types of grocery stores that Palo Alto already has. If you want organic, Whole Foods is already a popular Whole Foods in Palo Alto and another one on El Camino in Mountain View. Milk Pail next to the San Antonio shopping center is also great.

There is still plenty of unmet demand for the produce that is not sold by any Palo Alto stores. Despite what some of the other comments here say, the closest Nijiya or Ranch 99 to this location are more than 5 miles away near the Mountain View/Sunnyvale border.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Posted by Bob, a resident of Palo Verde

>> While it's sad to see the loss of neighborhood grocery stores, I wonder how many grocery stores Palo Alto can support. We currently have a Safeway, Trader

>> It seems to me that there is a lot of grocery stores already and I can understand that it's challenging to build a business case for another one.

Like, 20 years ago or so now, I used to shop at All American Market at Los Robles and El Camino (3900 block). Always seemed to be customers in there, and, according to store employees, did a steady business. The business case for neighborhood grocery stores is that people shop there. Just not for their big weekly or biweekly shopping trek. As All American got ready to close, customers would ask employees why it was closing. The answer was not that nobody shopped there. (It was self-evident that they did.) The answer was that the property was "too valuable", that the lease cost would be too high, that the property owner could get more money from other types of businesses.

People do shop at affordable smaller scale markets in their neighborhood. But, the market value of real estate works against such markets being financially viable. But, the City has an bona fide interest in reducing the number of cars on the road. A short car trip, or even better, a walking or bicycling trip, that displaces a longer trip, benefits almost everybody.

It may even benefit large scale grocery stores, even if they have lost a small amount of business. Large stores like Costco are not set up to handle somebody wanting to buy one head of lettuce, or one gallon of milk.

It is reasonable for the City to protect resident's interests, by requiring certain developments to actually support (through lower rents, subsidies, short-term parking, etc.) smaller-scale grocery stores.


9 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 11, 2018 at 2:26 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

Good try Larry,

Great job of writing in the 'Opinion' piece section of PA Weekly.

You are my good friend and I know your head is on straight, and your ideas have merit if anyone is brave enough to try them. But, from comments so far, it doesn't sound very promising. I think most of the CT residents, who loved and patronized JJ&F's, are now skeptical of any new grocery owner/operator capable of replacing them. Better signing at the project, and all the creative ideas you offer about owner/operator/manager arrangements, might work, and I hope they will, but, as other posters have said, similar attempts to save grocery stores at other locations in PA have failed. Let's keep our powder dry and watch and wait how well the new Edgewood Market does. That model market could be a fit in CT.


9 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2018 at 4:16 pm

eileen is a registered user.

@Resident, as much as you would like to have a Ranch 99 market closer to you, this location will not be the place for several reasons. 1. It is too small to sustain a large, Asian only, store like Ranch 99 or Nijiya. 2. The PC was written for a market similar to JJ&F in quality, which Ranch 99 is not. 3. It would not be a neighborhood market. 98% of Ranch 99 clientele are Asian so that eliminates over half of College Terrace residents. BTW, you can get good Again ingredients at any of our Palo Alto, Safeway, markets. Remember this replacement market was part of the public benefit that the developer proposed to the neighborhood in exchange for JJ&F to remain. Good luck with your desire to have your all Asian market close by, I just hope it won't be in this spot! Maybe a small grab and go with just the basics would work?
Or a community space for the neighborhood? No ALL Asian market please!


12 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 11, 2018 at 4:20 pm

No grocery store will survive there. Maybe a Potemkin one! Let's try that: the city funds a fake grocery store. That might work.

There exists no business model that would support a grocery store there. What, Mollie Stones is too far away from College Terrace? And subsidizing of a market (including that which kept the pathetic CT Market open for six months) is blatantly unfair to other grocers.

@eileen: You've obviously have never been in a Ranch 99 and your post comes across as anti-Asian racism. Just an FYI.


11 people like this
Posted by Long Time CT Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2018 at 4:45 pm

So much uniformed speculation and naysaying by folks who seem not to know anything at all. Here's the truth: Miki burned most of his supply chain bridges with his past market failure and, therefore, often had to buy retail from Mollie Stone's or elsewhere and then tack on a markup at College Terrace. That is the same reason he had such limited inventory; no suppliers would work with him. Ask John Garcia. It was a recipe for failure from Day 1 -- and maybe what the developer hoped all along so that he could argue that a market doesn't work and convince the City to allow buildout with expansion of the bank or another startup of some kind. Miki's incompetence does not necessarily mean a better, smarter grocer will not succeed. Although business and quality declined in the last years of JJ&F, the population in the vicinity of the store has expanded and continues to expanded as a result of nearby Stanford residential growth. Students, faculty, and staff moving into the swelling College Terrace neighbor have expressed interested in patronizing a market with easy walking distance, but the 25% or greater markup on things like a gallon of milk made regular shopping there untenable. How about approaching another, more reputable local grocer with an existing supply chain (the owner of Edgewood, perhaps?) to manage College Terrace as a satellite to its existing operation?


8 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2018 at 4:49 pm

@Michael O. - I'm pretty sure that @eileen is making an intentional statement about who is welcome in "her" neighborhood. Sounds like the neighbors are trying to intimidate anyone outside of walking distance from visiting "their" store. Maybe that is why that is why the last one failed.


26 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2018 at 6:52 pm

Yeah, I'm not even Asian and @Eileen doesn't even to bother to disguise her comment as wink-wink, nod-nod racist code.

Folks, a small Asian oriented store would be very unique for the Palo Alto area and doesn't have to be nearly as large as a Ranch 99 to work. The key is to find a niche that is not already filled by the likes of Whole Foods, Mollie Stones, Piazza's, Grocery Outlet, etc. The PAUSD school population is nearly 50% Asian, so I think Asian could be viable.

Or, I like Ava's Downtown Market & Deli on Castro Street. Anyone been there and would that work in College Terrace Centre?


17 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 11, 2018 at 7:09 pm

eileen is a registered user.

@Michael and @Parent, The original article was asking for suggestions and I am giving my personal opinions about why I think a Ranch 99 would not be a good fit. BTW, I was just at the Mt View store on Saturday. I am NOT the neighborhood (just a resident of CT) and I am not anti-Asian. My nephew ran an English school in Beijing for over 5 years and has a beautiful Japanese wife and children fluent in Mandarin, so please do not make assumptions about me. I spent many years traveling to mainland China for business and my son lived and worked in Vietnam for over 5 years. This is about a market that serves the whole neighborhood with food choices everyone can enjoy, OK? If Ranch 99 had more choices and some organic produce it might work in CT. Maybe a small grab and go with just affordable basics and Asian or Indian ready to go? Its the whole PC fiasco that caused this dilemma in the first place.


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 11, 2018 at 7:43 pm

-Posted by Michael O., a resident of Stanford

>> No grocery store will survive there.

So you say. I don't agree.

>> There exists no business model that would support a grocery store there.

So you say again.

>> And subsidizing of a market (including that which kept the pathetic CT Market open for six months) is blatantly unfair to other grocers.

Let me ask you this: if a luxury hotel subsidizes its hotel restaurant, do you consider that blatantly unfair to nearby restaurants? If you think so-- why?


7 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 11, 2018 at 8:53 pm

There are plenty of successful smaller grocers, but they essentially evolved with the needs of their customer base. You can't create a Sigona's or a Milk Pail straight out of the gate; this takes time and effort and iteration. It takes ownership and management that are committed to trying different things, being creative, and understanding their customers.

This location doesn't necessarily need a Sigona's or a Milk Pail, but both are good demonstrations that small format grocers can work.


2 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2018 at 10:23 am

Have the ,Bank and Stanford University subsidize the market. Find a decent grocer to run it, not somebody trying to rip every one off , and you'll do fine.


5 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 10:51 am

This opinion started a good discussion.
I know that Palo Alto is becoming a place, away from which people will need to move when they retire. But, if any remain, having a grocery store that is not a long car or taxi/rideshare ride away will be important. And not only for the aged, but also for any non-drivers, people with kids, those who prefer bike over automobile.
I remember JJF as a place where, when I lived in College Terrace, they offered to grind almonds for me as I didn't have a blender or other grinder and didn't realize one couldn't buy ground almonds (now TJ sells this). That was the 'neighbor' part of the store.


3 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2018 at 11:13 am

So many ideas and back and forth about why we need a market and what kind. Criticism of Mikki - it is not our business to know if he was at fault. My personal opinion - although nobody 'official' is soliciting my opinion - is that I don't need a market in that location. Clearly, to my mind, lots of people seem to think the same way. The last market failed because not enough people went there.


10 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2018 at 11:27 am

Annette is a registered user.

TOLD YA SO pretty much sums up the history on this one. If the developer and City were sincere about the grocery store benefit the store would likely not be on the side of the building it is on, not have lousy signage, not have a parking scheme that adds significantly to the time needed to do a "quick shop", not have started with a grocer with an unfortunate track record that invites incredulity, and not have a cafeteria in the anchor tenants building. ETC.

The developer got exactly what the developer wanted: a bigger development. And the City helped that along.

And BTW, I know who Eileen is and she is not in the least bit racist.


8 people like this
Posted by Don
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 12, 2018 at 12:03 pm

> BTW, you can get good Asian ingredients at any of our Palo Alto, Safeway, markets.

Compared to Nijiya? Hardly.


26 people like this
Posted by Don
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 12, 2018 at 12:12 pm

I think it'd be a longshot for even an excellent grocery (say, Draeger's) to survive in the College Terrace Market space.

But... what I think could work is something along the lines of the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Web Link

Consider the popularity of the Sunday California Ave farmers' market. I bet many of the same vendors would jump at the opportunity for a space in a College Terrace Marketplace.


14 people like this
Posted by College Terrace resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2018 at 1:01 pm

I would love to see an Asian market like Naks which used to be in Menlo Park. I really miss it and think a small Asian grocery store would do well and fit an unmet need. A Ranch 99 is too big and would probably not work but a something like Naks would draw business from more than just College Terrace and Escondido Village.


22 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2018 at 2:02 pm

@ Don - That is an interesting idea! A Ferry Building type of enterprise might work well. The farmers' markets work well. There are some interesting concepts in southern California where multiple vendors share a space and sell their goods. In fact, the old Edgewood Eats was enormously popular prior to redevelopment there.

I just wonder how much of a "grocery store" this would be.

What would happen if a small-scale grocery store opened with the rest of it delegated to shared-space concept (e.g., farmers, retailers, food spots, etc.)? I would be drawn to the food and farm options; and, I'd probably pick up items at the grocery store too.

I just don't feel the need to stop by for overpriced grocery items.

As for an Asian market: How popular would it be? I'm Hispanic (born in Mexico), but I don't visit the various mercados in the area very often simply because they primarily market toward Hispanic patrons. Most of the "daily" items are available for less money elsewhere. Now, I've stopped by 99 Market. I usually visit once a year. If a location opened in Palo Alto, I might be inclined to visit two times per year. Would it succeed in this location? I don't know. Are there enough prospective clients in CT to merit such a venture?

I just wonder if this market is a lost cause (barring a business like Grocery Outlet). The building is hideous and the parking is confusing. Don's idea about multiple vendors might be the best case scenario.


5 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@ Long Time CT Resident,

Thanks...you shed new light on the background of this issue and the history, and gave reasons for successes and failures at that location. I haven't gone to the Edgewood Market yet, a little out of my territory, but it's getting good reviews and if it proves successful in that location...a neighborhood store more than a destination grocery store, then a similar model could work in CT.

An aside...and a little trivia: I'm a member of Wesley United Methodist Church, adjacent to, and across El Camino Real from the CT neighborhood. When we had an active Men's Club, I was the main BBQer for our dinners, followed by business meetings, and programs featuring our own members or important people in our community. Hal Walker, a Stanford grad, football player for the Indians (early 50's), and owner of Cardinal Roofing Company, always ordered steaks from JJ&F's. I live in South Palo Alto, but when I wanted good steaks for my own backyard BBQ's, I always went to JJ&F's.


7 people like this
Posted by Charlie
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:01 pm

The College Terrace Market had excellent, high-quality meats and fish and they were so much better than one could find other places that it was worth the trip. And the prices were not higher. Likewise, they did an outstanding job at the deli at lunchtime because of their delicious sandwiches and later because of the delicious items to take home for dinner. The fresh baked bread and the coffee bar were also popular. I think the other half of the store was the problem -- people weren't buying dish soup and canned beans and produce. What if the store were half the size, but focused on what it did really, really well?

We shopped there a lot and miss the great people who worked there, the fabulous meats, and the convenience of a store at that location. I hope the next version of the store will learn from what worked and what didn't work at the CT market.


8 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:11 pm

To the author's his bullet points;

1) Ron, the College Terrace Market manager was paid a fair full time salary. His leaving Whole Foods would suggest he was paid a fair wage.

2) The building owner and landlord had nothing to do with the current locations of the grocers signage. Code allows for signage at all of the locations you suggested. The owners of College Terrace Market chose to install signs at locations that they felt were appropriate.

3) The operators of College Terrace Market were able to provide their own financing for inventory based on their financials. Any new business that moves in would be expected to do the same.

4) Building Owners are in business to own and operated buildings. Grocery operators are in business to own and operate grocery stores. Two opposite ends of the spectrum. Why would a building owner invest in a business that they themselves have no experience operating let alone guarantee the success of the store. This is like suggesting the Smailey's idea of presenting their son (who has no grocery operations experience) as the operator was a good idea. Not!

College Terrace neighborhood has never led by example.... the resident community demanded a market be included with the new building, they won and received a new market, they failed the new market by not supporting their demand. The old JJ&F market wasn't making it, why would the author think that JJ&F 2.0 would succeed?


3 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2018 at 5:01 pm

Annette is a registered user.

There were some unique, contributing reasons why the old JJ&F was struggling, including that the store needed some repairs and a makeover - but no one spends money that way when the future involves either uncertainty or demolition. From the get-go on this there was concern that the developer was using affection for the Garcia family and JJ&F to garner approval for a PC development. They were and they did. Now they have their over-sized development and the neighborhood has exactly what they wanted the neighborhood to have: nothing. I fully expect some first class whining to City Council along the lines of "we tried, twice, but a grocery doesn't work there . . ." So Larry K is suggesting that the way forward from here needs to be well thought out AND he is offering to be part of the solution. Good for him.

Note to Larry: there's a popular, bustling,grocery in Berkeley (or is it Rockridge?) that is hip and cool and clearly doing something right. I don't live near there so haven't been to it in ages, but someone on this forum will likely know the store's name. My point is that the store has a good vibe and it draws a local crowd. I think the CT Market needs a little of that magic.


4 people like this
Posted by Bette
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 7:31 am

Thank you for important historical and business perspective.

However, important models exist for environmental sustainability in local communities . Leaders at Acterra and Transition Palo Alto are well able to address these perspectives such as the concept of Slow Money.

Climate change continues its march toward destruction.

An essential shift is needed for survival.

A local grocery store is a perfect starting place for Palo Alto. By brining if locally grown, seasonal, organic produce, plentiful vegan options, and humanely raised meat options we can each participate in turning the tide.

Grocery Outlet showed that lower costs attract. The wonderful Webb Ranch no longer has a market because the greatly increased traffic made it impossible. Why not connect with them? They sell to Bianchinis and Farmers Market. Would be great if new local market could get deals from them on their imperfect produce! By focusing on only seasonal produce, costs would be cut by using foods when they are plentiful.


3 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2018 at 9:54 am

@Don

Great idea and reference the Ferry Terminal. College Terrace Market used the outdoor as a seating area. A new business could use this outdoor produce area for multiple uses similar to the SF Ferry Terminal. Such as seating during the week and Saturdays & Sundays as a farmers market.

@Bette

"A local grocery store is a perfect starting place for Palo Alto. By brining if locally grown, seasonal, organic produce, plentiful vegan options, and humanely raised meat options we can each participate in turning the tide."

College Terrace Market reduced inventory and eventually stopped carrying locally grown, seasonal, organic produce due to higher prices and short shelf life. Customers were not willing to pay the premium which led to this produce going bad.

College Terrace Market also had the best grain fed humanly raised meat on the market. Customers praised applauded their meat department as a destination department.



6 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2018 at 10:13 am

eileen is a registered user.

@Mary, "College Terrace neighborhood has never led by example.... the resident community demanded a market be included with the new building, they won and received a new market, they failed the new market by not supporting their demand. The old JJ&F market wasn't making it, why would the author think that JJ&F 2.0 would succeed?"
Your post if filled with misinformed statements. Did you even live in CT years ago when this crazy Idea was cooked up by the developer? Please do a little research and you will learn that it was was NOT the neighborhoods idea to have a market as a Public Benefit, That concept was entirely brought to the residents and city council as a way to save JJ&F market and allow the property owner's to gain millions of dollars in extra square footage for their owners! A large % of residents knew that a small market would not work and was aware that JJ&F was in financial trouble. Just a small vocal group (duped by the developers) and the city (eager to have this built) was on board. Stop blaming the neighborhood for this failure. Ten years have passed since that decision was made and the entire neighborhood has changed with many residents moving, houses being torn down and replaced, and tons of new, younger renters who have completely different shopping habits, i.e. online! Why the putdown of your neighborhood?


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Posted by Duveneck
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2018 at 11:33 am

By comparison, The Market at Edgewood, a small market with excellent produce and meats, is sincere in its efforts to serve the surrounding community.It is a good go-to place for those items. The prepared-on-site baked goods and soups have received rave reviews. The local residents sincerely hope that the market will remain and that others will discover this resource. This could be a model for College Terrace. The Ferry Building model is also a good idea, as there is nothing like that in PA. Unfortunately, the CT building has little of the charm of the SF Ferry Building.
Also, what I see now is that Stanford students often go to Trader Joe's. Good for the budget and close.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 13, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

@Larry Robert Kavinoky

Thank you for fleshing out a possible scenario for keeping a grocery store at College Terrace.

I'm in complete agreement when you say, "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."

You know the CT neighborhood well. Do you think residents there would patronize a store with an Asian core to its product mix? Just another grocery store isn't likely to make it there. It's got to have something that sets it apart from current options and draws from a broader area than College Terrace. Ranch99 is not a good model, too big and not an appealing place to hang out. Madras Groceries and Madras Cafe (Indian) in Sunnyvale, Rose Market (Persian and ME) in Mountain View, and Nijiya Market (Japanese) in Mountain View are closer in scale and format to what seems to me might be possible in College Terrace.




6 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 13, 2018 at 1:22 pm

To @Anon, a resident of Atherton:

The CT Market had $0 rent for 3 months then 50% off rent for 3 months, then closed the day its rent was supposed to go up to the lease rate. There is no business case for a market there. A charity case, maybe; a business case, no. But you're from Atherton -- perhaps you can make a charity case.

Equating the government (taxpayer) subsidy of a market to a hotel's subsidizing of its restaurant is bizarre. (What hotel would do that unless it improved its bottom line? An out-of-business hotel.)

To @eileen: You still come across as racist, no matter how many Asians you know. Where did you get the idea that 99% of Ranch 99's products are from China? Was that supposed to be accurate? Or just some kind of insult?


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Posted by Michael O., a resident of Stanford

>> To @Anon, a resident of Atherton:
^^^^^^^^^
My mistake. I missed by one line. "Another Palo Alto neighborhood"

>> The CT Market had $0 rent for 3 months then 50% off rent for 3 months, then closed the day its rent was supposed to go up to the lease rate.

Perhaps it should have had a negative rent then. Whatever it takes to keep the market in operation. The proposal for this configuration was created by the developer, not the city. And jacking up the rent after 3 and then 6 months is totally unrealistic anyway. To establish a business of this type usually takes 1-2 years.

>> There is no business case for a market there.

Again, unproven.

>> A charity case, maybe; a business case, no. But you're from Atherton -- perhaps you can make a charity case.

My mistake, but, glad to give you the opportunity to toss off an insult.

>> Equating the government (taxpayer) subsidy of a market

You are confused about what I wrote. A subsidy, if required, is the developer's responsibility. It was the developer who promised to keep the market there as part of the overall development proposal.

>> to a hotel's subsidizing of its restaurant is bizarre. (What hotel would do that unless it improved its bottom line? An out-of-business hotel.)

Hotels used to do it all the time, as I explained, precisely because it did improve their bottom lines, for the reason that I explained. I doubt if very many hotels do it any more, because food alternatives are so much more ubiquitous now than they used to be.


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Posted by OldPA Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2018 at 3:08 pm

OldPA Resident is a registered user.

How about allowing the building owner to waive the requirement for the tenant to be a grocery store and allow him to provide rent at modest costs to non-profit organizations needing space? Many organizations in Palo Alto claim there is a shortage of low-cost space for their activities. The College Terrace market was too small to be a viable grocery store, but would be large enough to host community center activities.


1 person likes this
Posted by Don
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 13, 2018 at 3:38 pm

Competition is tough these days for a traditional grocery. It now includes Amazon Fresh / Prime, Instacart (Whole Foods), Good Eggs, Thistle, DoorDash, Munchery, Postmates, Plated, Blue Apron, and a host of smaller delivery services.


2 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 13, 2018 at 4:50 pm

I came across a market in south Los Altos. It’s called Foothill Produce. The market about CT market size. It’s in Los Altos. Near 2400 homestead and foothill Express way. It’s literallnext to Trader Joe’s.

Will they succeed here!


1 person likes this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 13, 2018 at 9:18 pm

@Anon The Atherton remark wasn’t an insult. I just thought you had a ridiculous amount of money and might want to subsidize it yourself.

There is no business case for a market there. The proof is that a subsidized one failed. Good luck getting more subsidies for it. Not sure how that would work. I agree that the city was had. The insistence on a market there was just silliness from the beginning. Now that there is a peculiar vacant space there I say it’s time to let it go.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2018 at 8:33 am

Posted by Michael O., a resident of Stanford

>> There is no business case for a market there. The proof is that a subsidized one failed.

Subsidized insufficiently, for a few months. No proof at all. You keep deflecting from this point.

>> Good luck getting more subsidies for it. Not sure how that would work. I agree that the city was had. The insistence on a market there was just silliness from the beginning. Now that there is a peculiar vacant space there I say it’s time to let it go.

I disagree. The developers/owners should be on the hook to deliver what they promised.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2018 at 8:42 am

I used it once as I was passing by and needed to stop there for milk and a couple of other items. I think the location is poor for passing traffic but I do think that if they marketed themselves as something different they might get the local residents to use it for things that they can get on the way home. I see the hot and cold buffets at Piazzas are really popular and think that if a store at this location specialized in something similar along with staples it might work. People are creatures of habit and if locals have been using other sources for major grocery shopping they probably won't change habits. But, if they could get something quick on the way home while needing to stop for milk or similar, it could be a fix for busy locals.


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