News

Shop Talk: Vacancies mount at Town & Country Village

The latest in local retail news

A Bokman Rock "For Lease" sign hangs on the retail space that used to be occupied by Babka by Ayelet, a Jewish bakery, which closed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Lloyd Lee.

The number of vacant storefronts at Town & Country Village seems to be growing. At least nine out of the center's 59 retailers — or about 15% — are vacant or have "for lease" signs hanging in the window, Traci Markel, Town & Country Village's marketing director, confirmed. Some businesses closed prior to the pandemic; others shuttered after the shutdown.

While the Weekly was unable to confirm the center's average vacancy rate during normal times prior to the pandemic, the Financial Times reported in January that the national mall vacancy rate had reached an all-time high of 9.7% at the end of 2019.

The stores that have permanently shuttered at the 855 El Camino Real shopping center include: GNC, which reportedly emptied its shelves just before the health supplement chain announced in June that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and planned to close 1,200 of its 5,200 stores across the U.S. after struggling for years to increase its sales. Ella, which sells luxury equestrian gear, closed its doors a few weeks ago and posted a sign in the window that states: "It is with appreciation that we say farewell to Town & Country Village." The company will continue to operate its online store, according to the sign. Beauty retailer SpaceNK announced on June 29 that it was closing all eight of its U.S. stores, including its Town & Country location, to focus on its wholesale business, and Sweaty Betty, which opened at Town & Country in 2017, recently announced that the pandemic had caused the women's active-wear apparel brand to close all 12 of its U.S.stores. "We've loved being part of the Palo Alto community," the company wrote on its website.

Children's hair salon Snip-its, which used to share the same building as CVS Pharmacy, closed around six months ago. Town & Country Village Cheese House, Babka by Ayelet, Create It Ceramics and Glass Studio and Ambassador Toys also all permanently closed prior to the March shutdown. Markel confirmed that Motion Stretch Studio also will not be reopening.

A farewell letter to customers hangs by the storefront that used to be occupied by Ambassador Toys. The owners retired. Photo by Lloyd Lee.

Amid the closures is at least one high-profile opening: Montreal-based chocolate shop Cacao 70, remains poised to take over the space of Biondivino wine store, which closed last year. The franchise announced plans for the spring opening of its second U.S. shop at Town & Country last February. For now, the shop is offering curbside pick-up service. Sur La Table also avoided having to put a lease sign in its window this month after the Seattle-based franchise announced in early July that it was filing bankruptcy and closing nearly half of its 120 high-end kitchen stores, including locations in San Jose, Santa Clara, Carmel and San Francisco — but not Palo Alto. The shop at Town & Country, which opened in 2007, is among the company's top 10 performing locations, according to floor manager Pamela Diken. "We're kind of a cash cow," she said.

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Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Lloyd Lee. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email [email protected].

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Shop Talk: Vacancies mount at Town & Country Village

The latest in local retail news

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 17, 2020, 6:57 am

The number of vacant storefronts at Town & Country Village seems to be growing. At least nine out of the center's 59 retailers — or about 15% — are vacant or have "for lease" signs hanging in the window, Traci Markel, Town & Country Village's marketing director, confirmed. Some businesses closed prior to the pandemic; others shuttered after the shutdown.

While the Weekly was unable to confirm the center's average vacancy rate during normal times prior to the pandemic, the Financial Times reported in January that the national mall vacancy rate had reached an all-time high of 9.7% at the end of 2019.

The stores that have permanently shuttered at the 855 El Camino Real shopping center include: GNC, which reportedly emptied its shelves just before the health supplement chain announced in June that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and planned to close 1,200 of its 5,200 stores across the U.S. after struggling for years to increase its sales. Ella, which sells luxury equestrian gear, closed its doors a few weeks ago and posted a sign in the window that states: "It is with appreciation that we say farewell to Town & Country Village." The company will continue to operate its online store, according to the sign. Beauty retailer SpaceNK announced on June 29 that it was closing all eight of its U.S. stores, including its Town & Country location, to focus on its wholesale business, and Sweaty Betty, which opened at Town & Country in 2017, recently announced that the pandemic had caused the women's active-wear apparel brand to close all 12 of its U.S.stores. "We've loved being part of the Palo Alto community," the company wrote on its website.

Children's hair salon Snip-its, which used to share the same building as CVS Pharmacy, closed around six months ago. Town & Country Village Cheese House, Babka by Ayelet, Create It Ceramics and Glass Studio and Ambassador Toys also all permanently closed prior to the March shutdown. Markel confirmed that Motion Stretch Studio also will not be reopening.

Amid the closures is at least one high-profile opening: Montreal-based chocolate shop Cacao 70, remains poised to take over the space of Biondivino wine store, which closed last year. The franchise announced plans for the spring opening of its second U.S. shop at Town & Country last February. For now, the shop is offering curbside pick-up service. Sur La Table also avoided having to put a lease sign in its window this month after the Seattle-based franchise announced in early July that it was filing bankruptcy and closing nearly half of its 120 high-end kitchen stores, including locations in San Jose, Santa Clara, Carmel and San Francisco — but not Palo Alto. The shop at Town & Country, which opened in 2007, is among the company's top 10 performing locations, according to floor manager Pamela Diken. "We're kind of a cash cow," she said.

Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Lloyd Lee. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email [email protected].

Comments

resident
Community Center
on Jul 17, 2020 at 6:52 pm
resident, Community Center
on Jul 17, 2020 at 6:52 pm
15 people like this

Landlords need to give small businesses free rent during the pandemic. There is no profit for anyone in forcing to go out of business.


Marc
Midtown
on Jul 19, 2020 at 11:44 am
Marc, Midtown
on Jul 19, 2020 at 11:44 am
14 people like this

Why is the landlord obligated to support businesses? Isn't the landlord a business that also needs to pay it's bills?

/marc


resident
Community Center
on Jul 19, 2020 at 2:17 pm
resident, Community Center
on Jul 19, 2020 at 2:17 pm
15 people like this

Landlords aren't making any money off of vacant storefronts. At least letting the tenant stay there for free gives both of them a chance to make money when the business reopens.


Prop 15
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2020 at 9:22 pm
Prop 15, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2020 at 9:22 pm
1 person likes this

Great time to raise property taxes.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2020 at 11:35 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2020 at 11:35 am
1 person likes this

Posted by Prop 15, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Great time to raise property taxes.

Paradoxically, it might be. If 99% of small businesses go under, then, all those building owners can't pass-through the increased taxes. The result, over time, will be reduced commercial building valuations, and, reduced rent.

Unless they are allowed to convert the space to offices for software developers.

The goal of Prop 15 should be to level the playing field. Yes, I am worried about the implementation.

==

Posted by Marc, a resident of Midtown

>> Why is the landlord obligated to support businesses? Isn't the landlord a business that also needs to pay it's bills?

Actually, depending on the zoning and terms under which the building was developed, the landlord might be legally obligated to keep some kind of small business there-- and perhaps even a particular class of small business (e.g. small locally-oriented grocery store). So, yes, they aren't legally obligated to keep a *particular* store there, but, in many cases, no they can't do whatever the hell they want.

But, that wasn't what the poster was talking about anyway. The poster was talking about obtuse landlords who feel that *someone* owes them $10,000/month because, under previous economic conditions, they were getting that much. This is known, technically, as "cutting off your nose to spite your face". A vacant store that is "worth" $10K/month, even though no one can pay that much right now.


tom kearns
Charleston Meadows
on Jul 20, 2020 at 12:06 pm
tom kearns, Charleston Meadows
on Jul 20, 2020 at 12:06 pm
3 people like this

Excellent discussion!, but the bottom line is if the store can't
pay rent, the landlord can't pay the mortgage and then the bank
becomes your new landlord. The words "forgive" and "waive"
don't exist in the banking world. Good luck.


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:48 am
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:48 am
2 people like this

Town and Country has been overpriced for more than a half century. A neighbor used to have a shop there 50 years ago and left due to the high rent (back in the 60's).
It seemed to go through hard times in the 70's. Not many local people shopped there due to such high mark ups on their merchandise.

Now with the rat and roach infestation, I have no desire to eat there.

Perhaps now is the time the time to redevelop it, and let the city reap the property taxes that they need.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:48 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 10:48 am
1 person likes this

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Town and Country has been overpriced for more than a half century. A neighbor used to have a shop there 50 years ago and left due to the high rent (back in the 60's).

I guess if they've been making that much for that long, over 50 years, then, it wasn't "overpriced". Tenants were willing to pay it. Unfortunately, many landlords -assume- that conditions won't change. They do.

>> Perhaps now is the time the time to redevelop it, and let the city reap the property taxes that they need.

"Redevelop it"?

Do you think any developer wants to build affordable housing here? We know what they want to build, because they have told us, indirectly, and, directly. Exactly what we don't need.

-No more office space!-


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:16 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2020 at 11:16 am
2 people like this

No Paly students and no Stanford students.

Without the students, the number of people going to T & C will always be low and with the pandemic a shopping trip is not a social event but a necessary evil.


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2020 at 4:24 pm
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2020 at 4:24 pm
Like this comment

I wouldn't want it to be redeveloped into housing. I was thinking a newer shopping center without termites, and vermin. The building hasn't changed since it was built.Although I love the original design, it needs upgrades. Never understood how they could ask so much for rent. Things were hard for retailers even before the pandemic.


merry
Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 21, 2020 at 7:42 pm
merry, Palo Alto Hills
on Jul 21, 2020 at 7:42 pm
1 person likes this

After all these months we have been retrained. Perhaps retail is finished as we knew it.
Home Depot, Costco and CVS were essential, All is lost for everyone else.


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