EAST PALO ALTO SHOPPING GOING GANGBUSTERS ... While much of the rest of the country is going through an economic downturn, East Palo Alto's shopping district, Ravenswood 101 Retail Center, is about to go full throttle. It now looks like two retailers, Nordstrom Rack and Sports Authority, will occupy the 90,000-square-foot building, which has been vacant for more than three years when EXPO Design Center closed. Nordstrom Rack is the department store's off-price division, which first opened in the basement of Nordstrom's downtown Seattle store in 1975 as a clearance department. Sports Authority's move into East Palo Alto will mark its 68th store in California. It is also about five miles away from its Mountain View store in the San Antonio Shopping Center. Also poised to start business in Ravenswood 101 is the Firehouse Grill. Already open three years in downtown Sunnyvale, the Firehouse Grill in East Palo Alto is expected to open in October, according to Richard Tanner, construction manager for the restaurant. The 4,000-square-foot eatery will seat 120 people in the plasma-TV-studded interior. "We'll have 16 flat-panel televisions on the walls, both 50-inch and 62-inch," Tanner said. He also noted the parking availability. "It's one of the few restaurants around here that you can go to on a Friday or Saturday night and park in front of it. We've got a hundred spaces in this lot." Firehouse Grill is located next to Jamba Juice, which opened in mid-May.
PALO ALTO WINE MAKES BIG SPLASH ... One of the best-selling wines at a Mountain View beverage store is called Palo Alto. Not only has it become a chic gift to give Palo Alto city officials, but its label includes what could almost pass for the city's iconic tree. Nevermind that it comes from Chile. It's a red wine that's soft and fruity and has a blend of three different grapes, according to BevMo Wine Director John Ignowski, who says the wine is "rocketing out the door," with a steady stream of phone calls from Palo Alto customers eager to snap up bottles as soon as they arrive. "In the beginning, people were buying Palo Alto as a lark, just because of the name, but after they try it, they realize it's actually a very good wine for the price," he said. Ignowski calls the wine a consistent best-seller, as well as a favorite of the Mountain View's BevMo staff in the San Antonio Shopping Center. Although the wine sells well in all of BevMo's stores, sales spike in the Mountain View location, according to Ignowski. "I try to always have four or five cases on hand, but when customers buy it by the case, it's hard to keep it in stock," he said. Palo Alto travel agent and part-time comedy writer Janice Hough discovered Palo Alto (the wine, not the city) about a year ago and often gives it as a gift. "It's a lot of fun when you bring it to someone's home, especially someone who is connected with the city. It always makes for interesting dinner conversation," Hough said. Ironically, the wine might not actually be sold in Palo Alto. A quick, informal check of several Palo Alto stores revealed that not one carried the brand. Also, no word from Mountain View officials on whether they might be harvesting their own vintage soon — perhaps with a Google look-alike logo?
DOWNTOWN COMINGS AND GOINGS ... Taxi's Hamburgers, 403 University Ave., quietly changed its name last week to Abbey's. Same food, same prices, just new name. And the little Chinese restaurant, Windy's, 168 University Ave., is gone. In its place is the Sprout Cafe, featuring "build your own salads." MacArthur Park is having what it calls a "revival ribbon cutting" on Aug. 14 at 5:30 p.m. The restaurant, which opened in 1981, is celebrating a re-launch with its new chef, Faz, and one of the original owners, Chuck Frank. Champagne and assorted treats will be on hand.
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 [email protected]