Shop Talk | August 31, 2018 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Eating Out - August 31, 2018

Shop Talk

FLOAT SPA COMING TO ALMA ... The Alma Street storefront that once served as the longtime home of outdoors sporting retailer The North Face could soon be filled with private pods — called sensory deprivation tanks — where clients can meditate and de-stress while floating in 93.7-degree water infused with more than 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. According to a notice on the building, the Palo Alto planning department is reviewing a permit request to transform the vacant site at 217 Alma St. into a 4,169-square-foot float-therapy spa called Float Station. (The area's zoning requires all personal service businesses that exceed 2,500 square feet to obtain a conditional-use permit). Float Station owners Ryan and Katie Arikosay opened their first float spa in Campbell at the start of 2017 and are expanding into Los Gatos, Los Altos and Palo Alto, according to the company website. If the Palo Alto location is anything like the Campbell site, clients can expect to de-stress in float tanks (about the size of a bed) located in private soundproof rooms equipped with showers, personal lockers and other luxury amenities. According to the company website, each 60-minute therapy float starts at $89 for members and is "free of distractions, free of gravity, free of stress." —L.T.

CALAFIA ENDS 9-YEAR RUN ... Google's first-ever chef, Charlie Ayers, closed Calafia Cafe this week after nine years of serving farm-to-table California cuisine at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto. "The costs were greater than the take. I couldn't operate that way anymore," Ayers said. The closure was publicly announced in a brief typed note from Ayers, posted on the restaurant's door: "It was a good 9 years Thank you Palo Alto!" Ayers said the closure was not prompted by any problems with Town & Country management. He did not answer further questions about Calafia's financial state and how long he had been considering the closure. Ayers left Google to open Calafia in 2009, "realizing his dream of owning a neighborhood spot serving organic, sustainable, healthy, delicious food," the Calafia website states. Ayers took over one of the El Camino Real shopping center's larger spaces. There was the sit-down restaurant on one side and the takeout-focused Market A Go-Go on the other. Calafia won for best California cuisine for several years in the Palo Alto Weekly's Best Of competition. When asked what's next for him, Ayers quipped, "Opening a pizza place on Mars with Elon Musk!" —E.K.

TOY-TESTING SHOWROOM COMES TO STANFORD ... Palo Alto moms Hanna Chiou and Anne-Louise Nieto are launching a new kind of toy store where parents can watch their children try out toys in a living-room-like showroom before buying items later from the duo's online site. Their venture, Habbi Habbi, is set to open as a three-month pop-up at Stanford Shopping Center (across from Williams Sonoma) this fall. The showroom — designed to look like the "ultimate great room" with floor-to-ceiling chalkboards, an indoor swing and plenty of space where kids can touch, feel and engage with products — will showcase toys, language-learning tools, books and other items that Chiou and Nieto carefully researched and curated. The duo said the showroom was designed for both parents and kids and mixes elements of museum, home and play room so families can play and discover in a welcoming environment. "Our goal is really to provide an amazing experience," Chiou said in a press release. —L.T.

Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Elena Kadvany and Linda Taaffe. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email shoptalk@paweekly.com.

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