News

Local developer buys College Terrace Centre

Blox Ventures takes over development at 2100 El Camino Real

College Terrace Centre had a rocky beginning when it opened last year along El Camino Real, with little pedestrian traffic and lack of signage, among other obstacles. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Watch Weekly journalists discuss the purchase of College Terrace Centre on an episode of "Behind the Headlines."

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The new owner of the College Terrace Centre development at 2100 El Camino Real is about to face a dilemma that has bedeviled its predecessors: find a supermarket or face a daily fine.

Blox Ventures, a Palo Alto-based company that specializes in commercial real estate, has recently acquired the 57,900-square-foot property that once housed the popular JJ&F Market and, more recently, the College Terrace Market.

Blox Ventures paid $78.5 million for the mixed-used building, according to The Registry, a San Francisco-based commercial real estate website.

Blox CEO Jason Oberman told the Weekly that he is well familiar with the site because of his long history of going to JJ&F. His wife grew up in the area, he said, and frequently shopped at the market.

He said he's been closely keeping an eye on the development because of it's "great location" on El Camino Real, a few blocks north of Page Mill Road.

Now, his top goal is finding a grocery tenant who would be "something long the lines of JJ&F," he said.

"It's really something that is a draw to the communtiy all around and would be that special place that JJ&F was," Oberman said.

Blox, which also owns a commercial building at 530 Lytton Ave., now lists 2100 El Camino as one of its "current projects" on its website. The largest tenant of the College Terrace building is First Republic Bank. The development also includes eight below-market-rate units and a grocery store, which was considered the project's main "public benefit" when the City Council approved the project in 2009.

Now, with that benefit gone, the property is in violation of its "planned community" zone and, as such, is subject to daily fines of more than $2,000 per day until a new grocery begins its operation. The "planned community" ordinance allows the city to start assessing fines if the market has been vacant for six months.

Jonathan Lait, the city's interim planning director, said the fines are set to begin on July 10, six months after College Terrace's closure. The fine will be $2,240 per day, which includes the base penalty and an adjustment based on the consumer price index increase embedded in the ordinance.

The challenge of finding a grocer has befuddled the building's prior owners. Several months after JJ&F officially shuttered in 2013, the project's developer Patrick Smailey proposed having his son, who had no prior experience in the grocery business, operate the new market -- a proposal that the council unanimously rejected. The supermarket then sat empty until last summer, when Miki Werness opened College Terrace Market.

Now, Blox will have to grapple with the same challenges in finding a grocer that had confronted the building's prior owner, Greystone Property Development. In the past, residents had neighborhood leaders had been concerned about the market's viability given sparse pedestrian traffic, insufficient clear signage, lack of street parking in front of the store and competition from First Republic's cafeteria.

Despite these challenges, Oberman said he is confident that he can find a great tenant that would appeal to the community.

"With the quality of this location, we should be able to get a great market to be able to do well here," Oberman said. "JJ&F did do well in this location when they were here, so the proof is in the pudding from that time.

"Really, the population has grown here (since then), there is more housing and more offices. It should really be able to support a quality market."

Lait said he received notice on Thursday about Oberman's acquisition of the property.

"We are sending out the letter today to Mr. Oberman and letting him know about the penalties, which I understand he is fully aware of."

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Comments

21 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2018 at 10:00 am

The last paragraph should read:

"Now, Blox will have to grapple with the same challenges with the beat writer that had confronted the building's prior owner, Greystone Property Development. In the past, residents had neighborhood leaders had demanded the market be part of the new development. The nearby neighborhoods have yet to support their demand."


58 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2018 at 10:48 am

There are enough generic markets around town that College Terrace residents do not have any real incentive to visit this place instead of Safeway or whatever, especially when this place charges higher prices than Safeway and has a poorer selection. If any new market is going to succeed in the city, they should try fulfilling a demand that no other nearby market is doing a good job with. For example, why is there no Chinese grocery store in Palo Alto? People keep talking about the growing Chinese population, including school-age families. All of the grocery stores in Palo Alto right now have really terrible selections of Chinese-style vegetables and other fresh foods and ingredients.


14 people like this
Posted by Clueless in palo alto
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2018 at 11:15 am

Resident- how true. But palo alto had issues that it never addresses:
1- the love of small, overpriced, boutique grocery stores- in the past or wwzdd to knuckle under to the demands of college terrace, who demanded that jj&f be protected from free market competetion.

2- listening to loud and vocal Neighbor hood groups

3- a lack of understanding how the free market works

4- the constant demands for mom and pop retail ( chain stores must be banned) without realizing that it is difficult to compete.

Yes I know. The deal was for a grocery store. Good luck finding one that will be able to thrive in that closet that calls itself a store. And it is never the neighborhoods fault for the store closing- it is signage and parking and a dozen other excuses. And if miki will be involved. Say no thanks.


19 people like this
Posted by Bobby
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 3, 2018 at 11:30 am

The consumers now in Palo Alto are looking for deals on groceries, Its the culture now in this area. You have familys that have 5million dollar and up homes that are looking for bargins on their food. Just put in Grocery Outlets every where. It seems to be the only thing working here.


17 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2018 at 11:36 am

@resident,

Look around..... South of San Francisco and north of Carmel, Palo Alto is the whitest town. Palo Alto is the Marin Co of the South and the RV parking along El Camino Real is the Marin City of the South.

Palo Alto is a population of affluent white educated liberal ex-hippies. Palo Alto is not culturally diverse.


15 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 3, 2018 at 11:38 am

Marie is a registered user.

And yet, many small markets in Palo Alto are very successful: Piazza's, Mollie Stone's (owns their own building), and Grocery Outlet. It's all about the rent and finding the right niche. The first market failed in Alma Plaza but Grocery Outlet is doing just fine. AFAIK, the new market in Edgewood Plaza is doing fine.

There is no reason a small market in that location can't do well, with the right marketing. One thing that helps Mollie Stone's is their lunch business and take out. The fact they own the building and so their rent does not go up is also a factor. I'm not sure the right mix but I'm sure there is one, as long as the rent is reasonable. Given the incentives the developer was given, a rent of $0 is reasonable.


14 people like this
Posted by Clueless in palo alto
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 3, 2018 at 11:55 am

Marie- piazzas is almost 3 times the size of the CT market. Mollie stones is ay least twice the size so you are comparing apples and oranges. Why does grocery outlet succeed? Because they provide value. Ct lathey was overpriced. Any market that had to charge twice the cost for milk that you would pay at Safeway will not suceed.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter K. Mueller
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 3, 2018 at 1:10 pm

It makes no sense to require yet another market. Since the closure years ago of the College Park market several others have sprung up. What we have now seems to be working well. Let's leave it that way.


22 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Woodside
on Jul 3, 2018 at 1:27 pm

First order of business: different paint job


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 3, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Second Order of Business: Better signage re parking and providing parking from the side street, not just from El Camino. We had to circle the block twice to find the parking entrance.


13 people like this
Posted by JLN
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 3, 2018 at 2:57 pm

JLN is a registered user.

Agree with the earlier suggestion to find a market that offers items not readily available in the nearby markets. With the large numbers of Asian people (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian) in the area (both resident and workers), food at reasonable prices that appeals to these people (including takeout), along with 'regular' food for the general public seems like a good gamble.


11 people like this
Posted by Help to make it happen.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 3, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Help to make it happen. is a registered user.

If people want a Chinese grocery (which may be a pretty good idea), why don't they identify a "good Chinese grocer" and work with the developer to pitch the project?

Be active citizens. Reach out in a positive way (instead of criticizing) and help.


10 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 3, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Was there a missed opportunity? Ownership changed hands, couldn't the city get back into the discussion and maybe renegotiate the original deal? Get rid of the planned community. Give up on trying to get a grocery that will succeed. It will never happen. Give up on retail as being viable in that location.

"With the quality of this location, we should be able to get a great market to be able to do well here," Oberman said. "JJ&F did do well in this location when they were here, so the proof is in the pudding from that time.

That pudding is old and stale...been in the fridge way too long. Times have changed. Get ready for the real future.


10 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Maybe the energy around the location will change (improve) with this new owner. The original plans and promises for the market space worked but those were piecrust promises and the plans were changed. Now we have market space in a difficult location, lousy signage and parking that eliminates any chance of a quick stop at the market. Signage is fixable and if the market is magnetic, the location and parking issues will be offset. Hopefully the new owners are creative and good at overcoming obstacles. With JJ&F, the Garcias gave the neighborhood its heart and soul. That's what we loved and that is what's missing. Bringing that back is the real challenge.

There's a fabulous, bustling grocery in Berkeley that I bet hums all day long. I do not recall the name but as I recall it is near Oliveto and the Rockridge BART station. It is crowded and funky and full of good things; kind of like EATALY in NYC. In other words, fun. If someone knows what I am thinking of (!) please reply. The place is brimming with soul. We could use some of that!


6 people like this
Posted by Jeff
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2018 at 5:07 pm

A Amazon food market. The one in Washington is great!


26 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 3, 2018 at 5:27 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Where was our ARB when this building was under consideration? It's hard to imagine that any competent group of individuals would look at drawings of that building and collectively conclude that it 1) blends with the surrounding neighborhood and 2) is aesthetically pleasing. How does what we see in this story's photo happen?

I doubt the new owners can change the looks of the place, but it would sure be nice if they could improve it at least a little. More trees? Some ivy? Lose the stripes? Change the silly looking round lights? Surely there's a lower profile fixture that sheds sufficient light.


21 people like this
Posted by Jumping jack flash
a resident of Mayfield
on Jul 3, 2018 at 5:44 pm

Who designed the new market entrance, someone in New York? JJ&F worked because it had a side street entrance, why did the architect change that? Stay with what worked.
@Online Name, you have it right.


3 people like this
Posted by No big signs
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Jul 3, 2018 at 5:56 pm

Yes. I can see how having a side street entrance would have ensured the success of this undersized, overpriced store. It didnot succeed because it was not supported by the people who demanded it. What did they think they would get with a 8K square foot store--Grocery Outlet prices???
And no point in talking about different signage. Palo Alto has strict laws about signs. I expect that Tom duBois will oppose any new signage, just like he opposed the signage at Grocery Outlet.


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 3, 2018 at 7:39 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

The huge signage for Grocery Outlet was totally isolated on a non-commercial strip whereas El Camino location is already heavily commercialized. Signage there might go a long way toward hiding the super-ugly architecture of Town Center and now the new ugly building where BofA was.

Not everyone wants oversized understaffed stores where they're trying to abolish cashiers and make customers do their own checkouts. JJ&F worked because they had side-street parking and a convenient parking lot around the corner, plus a great meat/fish /deli counter and friendly service.

With the closure of Menlo Park's small Asian grocer (Naks), it would be great to have a specialty market that would save people a trip to Grant Road and the Asian markets there area.


4 people like this
Posted by Loves large safeways
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2018 at 7:49 pm

Online name- and many people like large grocery stores. It is clear that people do not like undersized, overpriced stores. How long did CT market last? How long did Mikis at alma plaza last? There is a clear lesson to be learned which Palo Alto chooses to ignore.
As for self service checkout, I,prefer that. That way I can see exactly what I am paying for each item and I can make sure I get the sale price, if applicable. You use a cashier checking you out and everything zooms by. That is the way the store wants it- that way you may not notice that they are not charging you the right price.
But everyone has their. Choice of where they can shop. And clearly CT market was not one of those choices.


26 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 3, 2018 at 9:18 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

The property developer's "bribe" to the community, in exchange for changing the existing zoning from 25,000 square to almost 60,000 square feet, was to convince the public, “I Love JJ&F” and the only way to “Save JJ&F” is to allow me to build this development. So he did just that. This zone-busting development was a non-starter without using JJ&F as the bait.

Using JJ&F the developer mounted a well-funded publicity campaign to drum up support for his development. Finally this culminated in a big rally in his support prior to the council meeting, followed by bussing in enough people with "Save JJ&F!" buttons to fill the council chamber. Council caved. They approved the zone change and included his condition that in return, as the public benefit, he would house JJ&F in the same size space they had previously occupied. Council added that if, despite his assertions, JJ&F did not materialize in the new space, then a comparable market must operate as the public benefit instead.

Somewhat ironically, one of the owners of JJ&F observed to me afterward that if even a quarter of the people who filled the council chambers shopped at JJ&F they would not be experiencing such a decline in patronage. Unfortunately, the owners of JJ&F were in a difficult position because they had earlier settled a lawsuit filed against them by the developer which included a non-disclosure clause.


10 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 3, 2018 at 9:22 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Loves Large, each to his own about the types of stores and service people prefer.

People will put up with more hassles / distances / higher prices if they're getting something special -- ethnic foods, service, good butchers, whatever - than when doing commodity shopping.

I liked Miki's at Alma Plaza but thought the access was problematic. Sigona's and Schaub's at Stanford are small, specialized and seem to be doing fine. The Market @ Edgewood seems to be doing well and they have parking aThe various Trader Joe's are small yet crowded. The huge Safeways in Menlo Park and Los Altos always seem to have practically empty self-check lines than the cashier lines so you've lucked out.

Just trying to say the messages re CT Market and Miki's aren't as clear as you suggest.


14 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 3, 2018 at 9:31 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@Margaret Heath, thank you for the much-needed perspective.

Also, remember that Yelp was a big part of the well-funded lobbying effort and had planned to occupy the CT development but suddenly pulled out at the last minute after the big brouhaha about the low wages they were paying their workers.

You can Google it.


11 people like this
Posted by Loved JJ&F
a resident of Nixon School
on Jul 4, 2018 at 4:14 am

I loved JJ and F and I’m looking forward to attempting to support a new market in that location. For the most part it’s really nice to be able to bicycle/walk over to the market and do your shopping without having to get into a car. I am looking forward to a market that has the green-grocer skills of J,J & F, The personable and friendly help, the community feel, meeting my neighbors there, adapting to new products and brands and supporting COMMUNITY efforts.
I am hoping that the wags on next-door and palo alto online will hold their negative comments and give the new place a chance. It will be a work in progress for awhile. Be Nice!


13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 5:47 am

"The consumers now in Palo Alto are looking for deals on groceries, Its the culture now in this area. You have familys that have 5 million dollar and up homes that are looking for bargins on their food. Just put in Grocery Outlets every where. It seems to be the only thing working here."

These folks are looking for bargains for everything, lawncare, babysitting, construction, transportation.

The Chinese are smart business people, they will not open a market because they know that they will not make any money in Palo Alto.

It is hard to say if the owner of Grocery Outlet is really making money, or the money is just changing hands.I always see him working his butt off, and can see the stress on his face.

I worked on a job a few years ago in Santa Clara for a Residential developer who happened to be from Taiwan, great guy, just kinda frugal. I will never forget what he said when I mentioned Palo Alto; "Palo Alto!!!! Palo Alto!!!!" as he had this look of extreme alarm, and disgust on his face, " You no make no money there, no more!!!!!" I will never forget that, for the rest of my life. And you know what? As far as that goes for the folks in the service industry, he is right.

People are cheap in Palo Alto, it has always been that way, and always will.


17 people like this
Posted by Larry Robert
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 8:29 am

Larry Robert is a registered user.

This is not a normal rental situation. The owners need to look at the grocery store requirement like a utility bill or property taxes. It is a cost associated with the extra rents it was allowed to collect from all that excessive commercial office space they were allowed to build. The owners should find a grocer and ask them what help with finance and rent they need to be successful in this spot. Let the grocer determine products and pricing that will work and then determine a rent they can afford. It might be paying 10,000.00 per month or it might be a negative 5,000.00 per month that the landlord pays them. Please crunch the numbers and provide the public benefit promised. I can assure you that I will walk across the street for many items when the price is reasonable.


1 person likes this
Posted by Great Idea
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 8:40 am

How about this match made in heaven? The City and the College Terrace neighborhood HOA band together to establish their own grocery store. The City will play the role of subsidizer & guarantor of the partnership to cover rent and the HOA will play the role of the operator to select merchandise (Chinese, indian, organic, etc... a mix of everything) and set the buyers price points.


21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 8:43 am

The city needs to enforce the new developer to charge below market rent,that was the deal that was placed on this particular property, the new owners know that, otherwise they should not have purchased it.

BTW--- The rent on the now closed Oasis burger joint in Menlo Park went up to $20,000 a month, this is one of the reasons why it closed.


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 8:59 am

@ Great Idea

"The City will play the role of subsidizer & guarantor of the partnership to cover rent and the HOA will play the role of the operator to select merchandise (Chinese, indian, organic, etc... a mix of everything) and set the buyers price points."

HOA to set buyers price points!?


So you want the City to subsidise the food for folks that own $3,000,000 homes?




4 people like this
Posted by Clueless in palo alto
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 4, 2018 at 9:27 am

Larry Robert-- you want the owner to pay the grocery store $5000 to operate ay the location? Why should they? Familiar with the free market? This whole mess is because of college terrace. There insistence for years that the city project jj&f and now there lack of support od the closed market. Id a new grocer moves in there must be mandated minimums that CT residents spend there. Seems fair to me. They want a neighborhood serving store, they should be the major source of support.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:11 am

@ Clueless

The City could charge college Terrace residents $5000 a year extra in property taxes, then at the end of the year they can produce receipts from grocery's that they bought from the store,in order to get a deduction.

What an asinine way of thinking!!!

I have been in Palo Alto to long!:)


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:17 am

Online Name is a registered user.

"So you want the City to subsidise the food for folks that own $3,000,000 homes?"

Last I heard you can't eat your dining room or paper profits. Why should we keep subsidizing developers of over-sized properties who keep violating the terms of the agreements that got them their exemptions to build such monstrosities?


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:21 am

In all fairness to Larry, he has a valid point. The deal was for a public benefit, that being a local market in exchange for expensive office space. That was a lousy deal for the residents. We now no that this does not work.

Remember: City is a against us, they want new tenants, so that they can increase the property tax...ect...

Remember that as we celebrate the 4th.

P.S. expect more of the same from our newly appointed City Manager.


11 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 4, 2018 at 12:24 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

Too bad the developer didn't build his allowed 25,000 square feet on the property as allowed by the Neighborhood Commercial Zoning. Yelp came into the picture relatively late in the game and I don't think anyone cared to much about which tech or corporate office was in the office space. A lot of people swallowed the koolaid about a new JJ&F.

College Terrace doesn't have a homeowners association. It has a resident's association. Anyone living in College Terrace, whether renter or homeowner, has an equal say and vote with a formal ballot for board members at the annual meeting.

The council should have known better, but the architect is prominent locally and very well liked. At least that is what one council member told me when he told me that he was going to vote for the development!


5 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 2:30 pm

I can't imagine the developers will be able to find any grocer willing to open a market here, because it's just not viable. However, I think one Palo Altan Evergreen resident had a great idea that I think could work: Ask Whole Foods/Amazon if they would put in a sub-market (for lack of a better word) and also Amazon lockers. Someone else who is a long-time grocery manager in the area thought a place focused on prepared foods, like entire meals, might be a good idea, and I'm thinking that might work too. In the early '80s, there was briefly a a caterer like that at the Edge, making use of the kitchen there in the daytime, I guess. I worked at PA Square. They offered a full meal changing each day. We would call and order, then swing by and pick up. The food was delicious. Maybe the community wasn't ready for that then, but I think it is now.


2 people like this
Posted by Jay Ess
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jul 4, 2018 at 2:59 pm

Why not get a Trader Joe's market. their prices would appeal to the grad student population around College Terrace
The nearest one seems to be at the San Antonio center.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 4, 2018 at 3:59 pm

How big is the Nijiya Japanese market on El Camino near Hwy 85? Can't be much larger than this space. They make very efficient use of their space and they have been successful for decades. This is a chain store (they have other stores in San Mateo and San Francisco), so their suppliers should be able to service a Palo Alto store with minimal fuss.


9 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2018 at 4:02 pm

Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow:

>> Get rid of the planned community. Give up on trying to get a grocery that will succeed. It will never happen. Give up on retail as being viable in that location.

"Get rid of the planned community." ?!? Are you saying the new owner is going to volunteer to tear down the current monstrosity and build a conforming 25,000 square foot building in its place. I think you missed the part where the public benefits of the "planned community" project justified the over-sized project.

>> That pudding is old and stale...been in the fridge way too long. Times have changed. Get ready for the real future.

What is the "real future"? Complete plutocracy? Total abject obedience to developers?


Posted by Clueless in palo alto, a resident of Community Center:

>> Larry Robert-- you want the owner to pay the grocery store $5000 to operate ay the location? Why should they? Familiar with the free market? This whole mess is because of college terrace.

Gee, and, I thought it is was the developer who promoted the idea. At great length. But, I guess what you are -really- saying is that we voters were fools to ever trust what a developer says. Or, puts into an agreement. Just curious-- if an abusive husband beats his wife, do you blame the husband or the wife? I mean, she should have left already, right? But, regardless, if you are saying we should never trust a developer, and if we do it is our own fault, well, sure, like the old saying says, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."


9 people like this
Posted by Clueless in palo alto
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 4, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Jay- there is also a trader joe at town and country so no way they would put one midway. Anyone palo alto does not want a chain store- they have made it clear that chain stores are not welcome.
So it will have to be a mom and pop grocery wrong to risk their life savings and go into debt to satisfy the needs of CT.


7 people like this
Posted by Clueless in palo alto
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 4, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Resident- the nijiya by 85 is larger- I would say about 1.5-2x larger. I dobut they would want to open so close to their other location.

Anon- let's remember that originally the jj&f people were supposed to run the store. They decided not to. Then despite his history the city loved it when miki was named as the manager. But the real reason the grocery failed was because CT did not support the market. And those that say that the developer should not charge rent, remember that mikis at alma plaza did not pay rent and they failed because the local neighborhood did not support the market ( and i know what the excuses are- bad signage bad parking, hard to find etc) . But the real reasons are high prices little choice, lack of support by the locals.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 4, 2018 at 4:54 pm

Talking about Grocery Outlet, I would like to think it is doing well because local residents are doing the majority of their grocery shopping there, but I am inclined to think otherwise.

Personally, I have never been in there. My main reason is that I usually want specific grocery items on a list rather than going somewhere to see what they have this week. I have spoken to various friends and neighbors who tell me that they seldom go there or if they do go they only buy one or two items.

Is this how Grocery Outlet survives? I doubt it. I am quite convinced in my own mind that the people who regularly shop in Grocery Outlet come from Mountain View and East Palo Alto. I have no problem with them coming, only a neighborhood store that is designed for the neighborhood so that people can walk or bike, it is not.

As someone who drives along Alma, at one time I was always stopping at that light to allow someone come out of the parking lot. Nowadays, the light seems to be green more often than not. Unless the light has become synched with the light at Meadow, I would estimate less cars using the parking lot. Maybe I'm wrong, but who are the shoppers there?


12 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 4, 2018 at 7:23 pm

Grocery Outlet survives because their revenue minus their costs are enough to sustain a business. I like it, it’s a treasure hunt. There will never be a good store in this El Camino Building, or at least I’m not holding my breath until there is. There obviously isn’t a business need for one. The last market was a joke put there by the developer to snooker us.


12 people like this
Posted by Possibilities
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 4, 2018 at 7:47 pm

Possibilities is a registered user.

For zero rent, or something like it, you could do a lot of fresh-frozen take-home foods -- dumplings, empanadas, quiches -- which will last, as well as high-quality sandwiches to go (deli lasts okay) for lunches, as well as drinks, chips, and desserts. If you do take-home, convenient foods, without a lot of things that will go bad quickly, I think someone can make a go of it, appealing to nearby homeowners, businesses, students. It won't be a general-purpose store. But it will be a useful store.

This developer got an excessive zoning exception. We should not back down from a significant public benefit, and we should not feel any chagrin about requiring the developer to charge zero or even negative rent as needed.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 4, 2018 at 8:19 pm

Grocery Outlet has the best deals on wine anywhere. We go there about once a month for that and other opportunistic buys just like we do for Costco.


2 people like this
Posted by al
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jul 4, 2018 at 10:34 pm

Let's put in something fun for the kids-- How about an arcade? I've seen a few successful ones down in the coastal cities of LA and they keep the kids pretty entertained. I don't think signage is an issue, if it is somewhere people want to go, they'll get there.


4 people like this
Posted by Nearby neighbor
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 5, 2018 at 11:59 am

I used to stop by JJF when I passed by on El Camino. But the new parking lot was hard to see by a driver, and then when I figured it out, meant driving down into a dark hole. No thanks. Never went there.

On the other hand Grocery Outlet is kind of fun. Always new things, prices are fair and often low, lots of national brands as well as off brands. I don't have to have my special superior item, I can get it elsewhere. I'm not a spoiled child.


13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 5, 2018 at 12:00 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Too bad the city council decided to let the title company occupying CT put in its own employee cafeteria which of course hurt the market by cutting into its business but which will let the cc lobby for more office space "because groceries don't work."


7 people like this
Posted by Clueless in palo alto
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 5, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Online name--- did the council have a say about putting in a cafeteria? Sounds like you want more micromanaging. Anyway, If that is the problem, then they should have put in a restaurant and not a grocery store. The truth is this market was for the neighborhood. The neighborhood did not support it. So it closed.


10 people like this
Posted by What about?
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 5, 2018 at 1:09 pm

First of all, I don't live in College Terrace and aside from the lack of good signage and convenient parking, I'm wondering if this might be an option:

What if a specialty fruit and fresh (good) produce market that also had some cheese and bakery/breads. Maybe a coffee area for locals to meet and grab a small snack - a Milk Pail or Sigona type of Market. Oh, and add the wine and beer too.


11 people like this
Posted by Jesse Moy
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 7, 2018 at 12:59 pm

This building was doomed from the start. It looks bad, it blocks the views of the hills, and nobody wants to go in there. Nobody in the neighborhood likes this building. JJ&F was great, they never should have torn it down.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 8, 2018 at 9:41 am

JJ&F had the rotisserie meats; Roast Beef, Turkey, let's not forget the herb roasted pork sandwich.... Remember,The herb roasted pork sandwich?!! This can never be duplicated.

This is a part of Palo Alto that is lost forever.


5 people like this
Posted by Seelam Prabhakar Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 10, 2018 at 3:10 am

Seelam Prabhakar Reddy is a registered user.

Yes for Greed. No for openness.
Residents lose.
Very upsetting.
Who duped who?

Respectfully.
Outside looking in from Zurich.
Enjoy Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Grocery Shopper
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jul 11, 2018 at 6:10 pm

Ava's Downtown Market & Deli in Mountain View found a niche. Hope they can too: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Grocery startup;)
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 12, 2018 at 12:48 am

I just hope it is not going to boring
This is a perfect chance for a new breed of grocery startup or maybe a concept flagship store for Amazon(like someone suggested), Alibaba, JD or similar. It will bare a Palo Alto zip;
the best place to run a new concept (with so many innovative minds around) and for international name exposure;
Also, the city is pro grocery store, right? ;)


4 people like this
Posted by R. Bates
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:28 am

Once upon a time....along California Avenue there were several thriving grocery stores. A Co-Op market, Purity Market, Farmer's Market, Pool Brothers & a specialized butcher shop called United Meat. This was back in the late 50s-early 1960s. I grew up in the Evergreen neighborhood back in those days & remember the various grocery stores.

Now there is only Mollie Stones & while their produce is very good, basic staples like canned/packaged goods are comparatively overpriced and their meat department average at best.

Corporate acquistions/mergers + escalating commercial real estate rental rates have eliminated consumer options over the past several decades.


Welcome to the modern-day Palo Alto.





4 people like this
Posted by R. Bates
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 13, 2018 at 8:37 am

AN EARLIER QUOTE: "Palo Alto is a population of affluent white educated liberal ex-hippies. Palo Alto is not culturally diverse."

Have you ever been to Danville? The notable comparison here is that Danville is 87% affluent white educated conservative with a significant number of currently-active lawyers & commercial land developers. Danville is not culturally diverse either.


So given the choice...which one would you still opt for? My vote still goes to PA even though it is no longer the Palo Alto of my youth.


Like this comment
Posted by Sally James
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 13, 2018 at 12:52 pm

Danville? *ugh*

Palo Alto? *yay* (to a certain extent...)


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Danville! (*Yay*)

Palo Alto? ( *ughhh!*)


2 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 14, 2018 at 7:51 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

The corner plaza was kept undeveloped so there would be the possibility of a larger market if the original space proved to be to small. Perhaps the building owners should consider this as part of the cost of doing business if that is what it takes to recruit a grocery tenant.


2 people like this
Posted by margaret heath
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 14, 2018 at 8:22 pm

margaret heath is a registered user.

The developer included in his pitch to the council that employees of the offices in the building would be part of the market's clientele thus boosting its viability. Including the prospect of the market having a lunch cart in the little plaza behind where patrons could buy and then eat their lunch.


Like this comment
Posted by Riding a Swing at Peers Park
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 15, 2018 at 1:09 pm

"For example, why is there no Chinese grocery store in Palo Alto? People keep talking about the growing Chinese population, including school-age families."

A Chinese grocery store in Palo Alto would be too specialized. Besides, a sizable number of Chinese shop at 99 Ranch which is a well-stocked supermarket.


2 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2018 at 3:37 pm

It's been 2 years and what about the other "public benefits" the "public park" at the corner of Staunton and Oxford still isn't open to the public and the "rooftop garden" still isn't open to the public or the other tenants at 2100 El Camino Real


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