Shop Talk | August 31, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - August 31, 2012

Shop Talk

ESTRELLITA STRUGGLING ... Russell Clark is not going down without a fight. As the 33-year owner of Estrellita Restaurant at 971 N. San Antonio Road in Los Altos, he has spent the majority of his life working in his Mexican eatery. His family opened the restaurant in 1958, and it has grown into a labor of love for Clark, a Mountain View resident born in a far southern region of Mexico. Now it could all crumble. "The building was sold and the new owner increased the rent by 50 percent last April," he said. "It came as a real shock." But Clark is trying to hang on. "I had to reduce our staff," he said. As a result, Clark serves as the greeter, the waiter, the bartender and the cashier on several nights each week. "Times are really tough. Sales are way down. It's a drastic situation. I fell behind in my rent. ... So two weeks ago, I reached out to my customers. I wrote to them asking them to please consider coming here for lunch or dinner. I sent out nearly 1,000 postcards," he said. Clark's actions had an impact. As he spoke, he was visibly moved. "People came. Business is up. I am so touched and so gratified by the response from this community," he said. Although the future of Estrellita is still uncertain, Clark remains hopeful.

BEAUTY BOOM IN MIDTOWN ... There is no reason for anyone to have a bad hair day in Midtown Palo Alto. With the recent opening of two new hair salons, there are now a total of five salons, all on Middlefield Road, and all within one block of each other. SoHo Salon, which opened in mid-August, is the newest entry, tucked into a 500-square-foot space in a building at 2799 Middlefield Road. Owner Kim Keyak, who has been in hair design for 22 years, specializes in coloring and Japanese hair straightening, and says she does not view the nearby salons as competition. "I have my own clientele and I give individual attention to my customers." The other newcomer, appropriately named Midtown Hair Studio, is at 2786 Middlefield Road and owned by veteran hair stylist Dziem (pronounced Zim) Le, a Palo Alto resident. "I had always dreamed of having my own business, so when this opportunity came up, my dream came true," she said, adding, "You need competition to survive." In addition to offering hair cutting and color, Le's salon provides nail, makeup and waxing services. These two salons join the remaining three: Classy Salon, Monica Foster and TL's Hair Salon.

Meanwhile another Palo Alto hair salon, which offers a blow-dry for a flat $35, is expanding. "We're more than doubling our space," said Halo Blow Dry Bar owner Rosemary Camposano. The 2-year-old blow-dry bar in Town & Country Village is moving from its current spot facing Embarcadero Road to the interior of the shopping center in the former location of Williams Cutlery. "People were squashing into our tiny 450-square-foot spot," Camposano said. The move is scheduled for Dec. 1. Camposano has two other Halo shops, in Menlo Park and Burlingame, with three more in the works in the next few months. The success of the Palo Alto store, the first Halo, has not surprised Camposano, she said. "This is a huge, growing market."

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. Email


Like this comment
Posted by Stanley
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 3, 2012 at 9:55 am

Why doesn't the headline match the story?

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Headline matches 2nd entry of the article. Shop Talk tends to be a grab bag of unrelated local business stories. Hope Estrellita survives. The neighborhood economy will change with 1000 new residents packed in just across El Camino. When two lanes disappear for bus traffic, that area will become unnavigable.

Like this comment
Posted by :)
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 3, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I think the first poster was making a joke!

The fact that hair and nail salons are opening does not follow that the Midtown inhabitants are any more beautiful.


Like this comment
Posted by Hooked on Midtown Hair now
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2012 at 7:52 am

I am not sure if this is appropriate here,but I would like to say that it was a great pleasure to have Zim at Midtown Hair actually LISTEN to what I was looking for in my and my children's haircuts, and take the time to check in with me to make sure she did what I was asking.

I am hooked.

Like this comment
Posted by Estrellita Wishes!
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 4, 2012 at 7:55 am

Oh,meant to comment on Estrellita's: Thanks for the heads up. The single best Mole Poblano we have ever had in 30 years of trying moles from here to Puebla was at Estrellita's 2 months ago. I didn't know they wer struggling. I plan to go more often, not only for their mole, but all their authentic foods.

Best of luck to you, Mr. Clark, and if you move, be sure to put up a huge sign telling us where you moved to! Raising your rent 50% in these times seems like a time to consider finding someplace friendlier.

Like this comment
Posted by Carlito waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm

No wonder Estrellita is hurting for business, finally the customers found out that Taco Bell food is better than Estrellita's. Who told them that they could cook Mexican food? I gave them three chances , all of them they stroke out.

Way better Mexican food at Palo Alto Sol, Fiesta del Mar ......

On the other topic, looks like Palo Alto zoned out the Midtown Shopping Center as the Hair Cutters Center. What a joke.

Like this comment
Posted by CC
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

So, what happened to Williams Cutlery? First bought a gift there in 1976 for my sister's wedding.

Like this comment
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm

With that upcoming congestion, I guess no more shopping trips after work to the area (El Camino/San Antonio) for me ... It means doing even more shopping online than before.
But I'm sure the local business won't miss me when they have 1000 new shoppers coming.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm

The new shoppers will all be at Walmart.

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