After nearly two decades in Palo Alto's Midtown neighborhood, the Starbucks store on Middlefield Road closed its doors for good on Jan. 25, a representative for the store's landlord confirmed Thursday.
The Starbucks at 2775 Middlefield Road had been in the community for 18 to 19 years, according to real-estate broker Tim Foy of Midtown Realty. He did not know why the store left the neighborhood, but said there were no changes to the lease agreement prior to the closure.
The Midtown location is likely one of 150 underperforming stores in "densely penetrated markets" Starbucks planned to close in fiscal year 2019, according to a June press release.
A Starbucks shop at 863 El Camino Real in Menlo Park, was reportedly closed on Feb. 1, according to a poster on Yelp.com.
"These stores are special, to our customers and our partners, and we remain committed to continuing to serve the Palo Alto and Menlo Park communities, offering a warm and welcoming environment for people to connect," a Starbucks spokesperson said Friday in an email to the Weekly. Employees who worked at both stores have been transferred to neighboring locations.
Just a day before the Palo Alto store closure, the Seattle-based company announced "solid operating results" in its first fiscal quarter that wrapped up on Dec. 30. Starbucks expects to see its stores grow by 6-7 percent around the world, of which 3-4 percent will occur in the U.S.
The building owner is in talks with potential tenants, according to Foy. Under city zoning laws, the space prominently situated at the corner of Middlefield Road and Colorado Avenue has to be occupied by either a retail store or a restaurant.
"We would love to find someone who would equally complement and kind of enhance the community to come in," said Foy, whose office neighbors the former coffee shop.
Midtown resident Greer Stone, who lives near the Starbucks, called the coffee shop's closure "heartbreaking."
"I remember studying for the finals there when I went to Paly, and then studying for the bar exam and for the law school finals there, and meeting up with friends on the weekends," Stone said. "A lot of personal memories for me in that Starbucks."
Stone, who is a member of the Midtown Residents Association, said he had recently met with Foy and Molly Foy-Rich (also an agent at Midtown Realty) to discuss the future of the property. He was reassured that Starbucks did not leave because of any rent increases or any other actions by the property owners. The company just announced its intent to close the Midtown shop without giving either Foy or the employees any specific reasons.
Stone said the property owners said they would like to see another community-serving retailer at the site, whether it's a coffee shop, a wine bar or (Stone's suggestion) a beer garden. This vision, he said, is consistent with that of area residents, he said.
"One thing we talked about was wanting to bring vibrancy back to the Midtown Center -- something to make it more of a destination for the city, rather than what it is now, which is more of a lunchtime location," Stone said.
The biggest challenge, he said, is attracting the right retailer. Some prospective tenants have looked at the site and expressed concern about inadequate parking, he said.
Stone said he and other members of the association believe the challenge is exacerbated by an apparent "disconnect in the city," which is trying to encourage more retail while also discouraging people from driving. As part of the latter goal, the council has been relaxing parking requirements for new developments and rethinking its plans for new parking facilities (the council recently paused its plan to build a new downtown garage).
The Midtown property that until recently hosted Starbucks is a perfect example, Stone said, of where "both of these ideas don't go hand in hand." He noted that, until recently, the area had a two-hour parking limit. Since that limit was removed, office workers from nearby businesses parked in the area throughout the day, leaving few spaces for customers.
"If we don't have adequate parking, we can't attract good retail and community-serving retail," Stone said. "The city needs to get smart and provide parking so that we can attract the type of retail we want to see."
According to a store locator map on the Starbucks website, there are still 10 stores in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Stanford University and Stanford Shopping Center.