In the latest Shop Talk column, news about the permanent closure of two Subway sandwich shops, the first hotel opening during the pandemic and the return of Bay Area-born cafe chain Specialty's.
MARRIOTT OPENS REGION'S FIRST NEW HOTEL ... After a yearlong struggle to stay afloat during the COVID-19 era, the hotel industry may be showing signs of a bounce back in Palo Alto with the opening of the region's reportedly first new hotel since the outbreak of the coronavirus in March 2020. AC Hotel by Marriott Palo Alto is scheduled to open its doors at 744 San Antonio Road the first week of April. The five-story, 144-room hotel, which will serve both business and leisure travelers, features more than 2,100 square feet of meeting and event space as well as outdoor fireplaces, a pool, a fitness center, a lounge, and a kitchen that will serve Spanish-inspired breakfast daily, according to the company's website. General Manager Michael Lerman told the East Bay Times earlier this week that the hotel is seeing "really good reservation patterns from the community. We have bookings from some people all the way through December." AC Hotel, which is part of the Marriott International group, is geared toward a more hip, urban and cosmopolitan feel. The hotel is part of Marriott's two-complex hotel campus on the Mountain View border at 744 and 748 San Antonio Road that gained approval during Palo Alto's hotel boom in 2017. The project, when completed, will also include The Citrine, A Tribute Collection Hotel by Marriott on the site. Both hotels will share a courtyard. — L.T.
TWO SUBWAY SHOPS CLOSE ... Two Palo Alto Subway sandwich shops have permanently closed their doors within weeks of one another: The shop at 421 California Ave. shuttered at the end of February and the shop at 205 University Ave. on March 24. "Closed" signs were posted on the doors at each shop for the past few weeks, directing customers to other nearby Subway locations — there are four additional Palo Alto sites, including one at Stanford University. Amanda Lee, who co-owned the two franchise eateries with her husband, Amos Wu, confirmed last week that the closures are permanent. "COVID-19 affected us a lot," said Lee, who has operated Subway restaurants in Palo Alto since 2003. "The rent is very high in Palo Alto, and we lost many employees during COVID." Lee said Steam, the downtown Palo Alto dim sum restaurant next door to the University Avenue Subway location, plans to expand its kitchen and take over that site. There are no plans for the California Avenue restaurant, which Lee and her husband operated since purchasing the business from its original owner in 2008. Lee also owns two other Palo Alto Subway shops, including the one at Stanford University. She said there are no plans at this time to shut down those locations, which are now employing some of the workers from the California and University avenues shops. — L.L.
SPECIALTY'S MAKES A COMEBACK ... Specialty's is back. The Bay Area-born cafe chain, which filed for bankruptcy and closed all locations last May, reopened March 1 at 645 Ellis St. in Mountain View. "Specialty's' original founders, Craig and Dawn, missed the business, so they've returned and they've brought their (now grown!) kids with them," the Specialty's website states. "We've downsized to just one location and have updated the menu with new delicious creations. This will allow us to focus on the great food and customer experience." The owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company, which Dawn Sandnes and Craig Saxton founded in San Francisco in 1987, once ran more than 50 cafes in California, Washington and Illinois. Specialty's was a workday lunch favorite, particularly for its cookies. When the business announced it would give away frozen cookie dough before shutting down last spring, people flocked to the Specialty's warehouse in Redwood City. According to a Facebook post, 2,000 lucky customers got boxes of frozen cookie dough. The reopened Specialty's has new sandwiches, salads and pastries — from a porchetta sandwich to a Moroccan kale salad and morning buns — but the "same cookies — we're not crazy!" the company wrote on Facebook. The owners plan to reopen more locations "based on customer demand," the Specialty's website states. — E.K.
Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Lloyd Lee, Elena Kadvany and Linda Taaffe. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email [email protected].