Shop Talk | April 23, 2008 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 23, 2008

Shop Talk

by Daryl Savage

ESTHER'S GERMAN BAKERY OPENS (TWICE) ... Two is Esther Nio's new lucky number. That's the number of locations she and her husband, Robert, will have for their first-ever retail bakery. After four long years of searching out sites for Esther's German Bakery, the couple has finally found not one but two. The first opened last Tuesday, April 15, at 987 San Antonio Road in Los Altos, next to Armadillo Willy's BBQ. The second will open this summer at the San Antonio Center in the former location of Taco Del Mar. That's the prime corner spot facing the parking lot between Trader Joe's and Sears. Nio, a mother of four young boys, admits she is overwhelmed. "But after four years, you grab what you get," she said. Nio emphasized the differences between the two bakeries. "The Los Altos one is more in the style of a European cafe. We have nine tables and a patio in the back," she said. Hoping to attract moms with young kids, she added, "We also have a 'kids corner.' It has a chalkboard, a reading area and Legos." When the second Esther's German Bakery opens, "you'll find that this is more a bakery than a cafe. You buy; you leave," Nio said. Esther's German Bakery has been a fixture for years in Peninsula grocery stores, such as JJ&F, the Milk Pail and Dittmer's Gourmet Meats. But opening the retail shops has been surprisingly difficult. The Nios had several false starts. They looked at the old Caffe Verona site on Hamilton Avenue, which still sits vacant. They looked at the old One-Hour Photo site (next to Subway Sandwich Shop) on Middlefield Road in Midtown, which still sits vacant. They also looked in Charleston Center at the former site of the liquor store near Piazza's market, which is opening soon as Mountain Mike's Pizza. "I thought it just wasn't going to happen, and then all of a sudden, boom, two stores at once," Esther said. She calls the stores her 'children.' "I need to spend a lot of time with them, nurture them and watch them as they become independent. I just didn't know I'd be having twins," she said.

TRADER JOE'S MOVING FORWARD AT T&C ... Although there is still nothing to see on the site that indicates Trader Joe's is still a go for Town & Country Village, it is definitely going to happen, according to Caroline Morris, Asset Manager for Ellis Partners, the San Francisco-based firm that owns the shopping center. "We'll break ground in late summer and Trader Joe's should be open by the second quarter of 2009," Morris said. The new building will be located in the large parking lot facing Palo Alto High School, where the fall "pumpkin patch" is located. Morris said the specialty grocer is eager to get going and is delighted it will have a presence in Palo Alto. "It's a fantastic store, and everyone wants to move forward as quickly as possible," she said. Construction of the 12,000-square-foot building, which will be completely devoted to Trader Joe's, is awaiting final approval from the city. Once it is built, traffic signals on Embarcadero Road and pedestrian walkways in the parking lot and between Paly and T&C will be reconfigured. Shop Talk originally broke the news about Trader Joe's moving to Town & Country in mid-2006, despite initial denials (or non-denial denials) by corporate officials and T&C brass. Even city officials reportedly had to sign non-disclosure agreements before they were allowed to see preliminary plans.

TRANSFORMED CHEESE HOUSE OPENS ... The Village Cheese House in Town & Country Village reopened last week, April 16, after a five-month renovation. Although there were extensive renovations and upgrades, the sandwich, cheese, wine and snack shop, which has been a part of the shopping center for nearly 50 years, remains true to its roots. The sandwiches, which gave the shop its staying power, are virtually unchanged. There are a few additions to the menu, such as a vegetarian option and a variety of salads, but otherwise, the reconstructed shop maintains the same rustic feel and distinct character that made it famous.

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


Posted by Ricky, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 23, 2008 at 11:21 am

Congratulations Esther. We have loved your pretzels for years!

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 23, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Esther, YOu are baking the best and most healthy breads in the Bay Area. People, TRY this bread; there are many varieties, most filled with whole grains. It's authentic German whole grain experience - filled with fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates! I LOVE the "Kaptn-Korn" (Vollkorabrot). The pretzels are fantastic, and the pastries are YUMMY! It's a real pleasure to see something this authentic making a new presence known in Palo Alto and environs. Good luck, Esther!

Posted by Esthe, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 26, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Dear Ricky and Mike,
Thank you so much for your compliments! We are deeply touched by your comments. People like you make it possible for us to be here and provide you with what we have to offer.
Thanks again, hope to meet you in person!
All the best,

Posted by Corinne, a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Apr 29, 2008 at 5:23 pm

WE just ate there and tried "Bavarian breakfast". Sausages, pretzel, mustard, just like the Old Country. Too much for us to finish but all of it tastey.

Posted by Mary, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Esthers Cafe is wonderful! For those of you who are not familiar with German baked goods and foods, it is a casual environment, great food and you will definately see Esther, she may even take your order. I am so glad she is opening a second location with a Bakery emphasis in San Antonio shopping center next to Trader Joes this summer.

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