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Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 4, 2006

Shop Talk:

Trader Joe's rumor waddles through Town & Country

by Daryl Savage

JUST DUCKY . . . If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, then why isn't it a duck? "It is," says a credible source who insists that Trader Joe's is a go for Palo Alto's Town & Country Village Shopping Center. But James Ellis of Ellis Partners, the San Francisco-based company that owns T&C, is playing coy. "We have no such commitment from this or any other tenant like it," Ellis said in an e-mail. However, the source says Trader Joe's is primed to move into the premium corner spot, next to Long's Drugs and facing Palo Alto High School and the high-visibility Embarcadero Road. The estimated 15,000-square-foot space purportedly will wrap around into the area formerly occupied by an airline-ticket office. Trader Joe's corporate suits have repeatedly issued strong denials about a Palo Alto location -- until now. On Monday, a Joe's spokeswoman admitted to the specialty grocer scoping out a location in Palo Alto, without divulging any specifics. "We have a couple of areas that we're looking into," Marci Hedegard said Monday, but "nothing is confirmed." She gave it a year to 16 months before plans would be revealed. But, hold on: Two men with blueprints were spotted at T&C last week, eyeing that exact location next to Long's, which is currently hidden behind green drapes. When they were asked if Trader Joe's would be the new tenant, they looked at each other and nodded a big yes. Ellis, when told of the men with blueprints and asked a follow-up question -- "Could it be that while there is no signed commitment there are explorations/discussions/negotiations?" -- replied only: "Sounds like the construction guys know more than I do." Good answer. Did I hear a quack?

CONSIGNMENT SHOWCASE BANKRUPTCY HURTS . . . All that remains of Consignment Showcase, Town & Country Village's used-furniture store that closed in August, is a handwritten word on a small pink Post-It note stuck on the glass doors: "Closed." But while the consignment shop may be gone, it is not forgotten -- and with some painful memories. Just ask Joline Lyons, a retired Mountain View resident. The store's shutdown left Lyons high and dry.

"I honestly don't know how much I'm owed, but it's a lot," she said. Lyons had decided to sell her parquet dining room and bedroom set through Consignment Showcase last February. "I never heard back from them, so I finally called in June and was told that my furniture sold and that I would get a check in 30 days. The 30 days went by, and I got nothing. I called again and again and never got a call back. When I called in August, the store's voicemail was full and when I called the next day, the phone was disconnected," she said. "I thought something was really fishy." Lyons sent a letter, but it was returned. "No forwarding address. It seems as if they just disappeared," she said.

Lyons is not alone. Another customer, a Palo Altan who asked his name not be used, dropped off a sofa and loveseat in June. "I came back to the store six weeks later and the place was empty. There was no correspondence of any kind. How am I supposed to recover my pieces?" he asked.

The owners of Consignment Showcase could not be located and repeated calls to their bankruptcy attorney, Patrick Forte, have not been returned. Rumors are they a living in the Danville area.

But there may be some hope. A bankruptcy letter was sent out to customers two weeks ago notifying them of an Alameda County court date for creditors on Oct. 11 in Oakland.

WHOLE FOODS ON WHOLE BLOCK . . . California's largest Whole Foods Market opened in Los Altos last month. The 55,000-square-foot grocery store, at the corner of El Camino Real and Showers Drive, held a grand opening Sept. 18 featuring belly dancers, cooking demos and an accordion performance. The new store, which devotes two entire levels to underground parking for 275 cars, is twice the size of the Palo Alto Whole Foods on Homer Avenue. "We don't do cookie cutter designs here," Walter Roth, CEO and president of Whole Foods, said of the new store. "This store was specifically designed for Los Altos." Perhaps no one was more excited about this area's newest Whole Foods than Carol Milstein, a Los Altos mother of three who was shopping soon after it opened. "I got here at 7:30 this morning. I love this store. I love the company. I just bought their stock," she said. The store offers a variety of ready-cooked foods, including made-to-order crepes. It also has a pizza station and a Tandoori oven. "I may never have to cook again," Milstein said. The new store has already had an impact on another grocer. Safeway on California Avenue, about four blocks away from Whole Foods, has seen a decline in its shoppers, at least initially. "It's way more quiet here than before," said a checker, who is used to having a long line of shoppers at her register. "It's probably because Whole Foods is brand new and people are curious. They'll be back," she said optimistically.

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out, or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out. She can be e-mailed at


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