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JJF may have to leave College Terrace

Original post made by moonwalker, College Terrace, on Oct 19, 2006

In last Friday's PaloAltoWeekly there is an article about JJF may have to leave College Terrace after 60 years of business.It is sad to see them leave but hopefully the developer will turn the whole lot into something nice like Cafe Borrone.

Comments (7)

Posted by ann
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2006 at 11:09 am

I love walking to JJ&F to buy the grocery and meet friends there.
Can we do something to keep JJ&F here.

Posted by David
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 20, 2006 at 8:27 am

Its sad to see JJ&F faced with a difficult challenge and I hope to see them find a solution and stay!

However its also sad to see such poor reporting, which can help to contribute to the problems faced by stores like JJ&F. If JJ&F had to leave, why in the world would independent and quality minded patrons drive 2 miles to a Safeway when they could walk less than 1/2 of a mile to a Mollie Stone or to Country Sun?

Mollie Stone is a chain to be sure, with their website claiming 7 stores. but that is nothing in comparison to the monstrous size of Safeway.

In my mind, the total omission of the nearby independent stores from the article is a gross oversight by the reporter and the editor staff. Never mind the fact that there is also an Andonoco's, Piazza's, and Milk Pail that are closer than the nearest Safeway as well.

The default assumption that JJ&F and its ilk are amusing sideshows on the way to Safeway is a sad and telling sign of the reasons that these stores have to struggle against the marketing and buying power of the mega chains. And why they deserve the extra money and consideration.


Posted by Shopper
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2006 at 9:13 am

I am amazed at all these comments about Safeway. The midtown Safeway is overused but very poor. If it is not careful it is going to lose out to Piazza's as a dinner time and lunch time quick stop. Parking is poor, and even if you do grab a sandwich there is nowhere to eat it. The new WholeFoods in Los Altos is also wonderful for quick stop eating and taking dinner home, or alternatively eat it there and rush off to the next activity. Supermarkets are changing and so are what we want them for. Piazzas stepped up to the mark, and if the others don't join in then they will look old and tired in comparison.

Posted by J.L.
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 20, 2006 at 12:47 pm

"David" and "Shopper" are right on. There isi more than one reason that JJ's is threatened.

Large chains with buying power, not even to mention WalMart - the latter using it's market muscle to challenge even the larger chains, like Safeway.

Access: it's not easy to see, and in many cases, easily get to JJ's. We just agreed to put up a huge sign for Fry's, but would never do something like that for JJ's. How about considering visibility signs for "groups" of businesses? Tthis is something that could be taken on as a design challenge, with the goal to make a sign that people actually enjoy having in their midst. Signs don't have to be inherently ugly.

In JJ's case, look at how difficult it is for Evergreen Park and other folk to cross El Camino (at College), instead of having to walk all the way to the light at Stanford. the College and El Camino intersection is unsafe, with traffic light timing so bad that it is virtually impossible to negotiate a crossing - on foot, or even in a car. Why do we have two consecutive traffic lights at California and Cambridge (and El Camino)? Why not move tha Cambridge light over to College, so that the mass of people living in Evergreen Park can easily cross to get to JJ's. That intersection alone has often deterred me, and other I know.
In fact, cars almost NEVER stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk at El Camino and College; even the PA police - an otherwise excellent force - fail to patrol that intersection. One day on patrol there would bring a payload of tickets by drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians.

So, we have a light at Cambridge, that helps people gain access to chain restaurants, and fast food places. It's absurd. (btw, CalTrans controls those lights, but our transportation officials have been lax is lobbying for the light change).

I know for a fact that many people go to JJ's to get "that one special mustard" etc. etc. that the large chains don't carry. They use JJ's as a token food outlet,, instead of regularly patronizing it. So, MUCH of othe reason for this is true lack of community support for that market. It's not just incidental variables that are responsible for JJ's problems.

I've heard (this is not substantiated, but others may want to look into it) that the developer that asked JJ's to support its project there, backed away from early promises for a certain rent deal. Is this true? If it is, it should be made public.

Then there's the talk about Trader Joe's at Town and Country. I find this ironically amusing, and maddening. Even if JJ's was in good shape, suggesting that TJ's would be a "good idea" at T&C, as suggested by some in a prior thread, shows the crass insensitivity to the realisties of osmall business in this city, by patrons who should know better.

I"ve seen the same sort of thing over the years with Printer's Ink Bookstore, with the Fine Arts theatre on California, with the Guild Theatre, etc. etc. Local customers must, ifi they want small, quaint, botique retail to survive, PATRONIZE those stores regularly. The fact is, they don't do this enough.

Rents in Palo Alto are very high, compared to most surrounding cities. These is simply no way that a small botique business can survive unless that business is aggressive in its promotions, stays on top of trends, and is FAITHFULLY and REGULARLY visited by locals who value its presence. Admittedly, this requires some dedication, and personal discipline, especially in today's fickle retail world, where consumers are pulled this way and that by large chains, etc. etc.

In sum, my sense is that the days of the small shopkeeper in Palo Alto are numbered. It's simply not possible to compete on pure service and custom attention to customers if one is paying current market rate rents, and is at the mercy of landlords when rents come up for renewal at the "new" average street price every 5 years or so.

The one thing I don't want to hear is people blaming chains, the market, etc. etc.. If we lose a small business in Palo Alto, one that is normally cherished by a core group of users, it's almost always because WE haven't patronized that business enough - or, the business just hasn't kept up with the times.

IN JJ's case, I think the former reason is primary.

Posted by Not just College Terrace problem
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 20, 2006 at 1:50 pm

Back to comments on the original posting:

* JJ&F is also the closest market for many families and single students in Escondido Village, some of whom do not have access to cars. Almost every time I'm there, there's some mom or dad pushing a stroller or some grad student on a bike, headed to or from JJ&F via Yale, Oxford,and Staunton. Sure, these folks could take the Shopper's Express buses to San Antonio, but that you can't buy more than a day's worth of groceries if you've got a young child with you.

* The produce area almost always features some local products that no other stores carry and are much tastier than Safeway, like Dave's tomatoes (regular or heritage), or Big Jim oranges, or their spring season strawberries which even taste better than ones from the Farmer's Market.

As for Cafe Borrone's as a replacement for JJ&F: True, it would be nice to have an alternative to Starbucks, but we've got to find a way to keep a grocery store in this spot. The redevelopment plans did show a plaza with tables at the College/El Camino Real corner, but what about adding the fancy lattes and all to an expanded deli/quick bites section -- NOT a replacement.

I know the profit margin is razor thin for small groceries. But what can those of us who want JJ&F to continue offering a viable walkable alternative to the chain stores (and Whole Foods is just a yuppified chain store with big bucks marketing) do to convince the developer and owner of that block to rethink their demand for back rent that will drive the store out of business?

Posted by J.l.
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 20, 2006 at 1:59 pm

How about letting the developer know that letting that back rent go could be used as a lever to help drive business to other stores that locate in the new development. Make a real community effort out of it. The bottom line is that is HAS to make OVERALL economic snse to all parties, or it won't happen. JJ's may find that it might have to compromise on some ways, as well.

In addition, there IS something that should b done on the City side to make people aware of businesses besides thhose on University - and I don't mean nthe provision of small "where to go" maps, etc. etc.

Posted by Jill
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 20, 2006 at 3:24 pm

I have to agree with J.L. that we the consumers bear a large responsibility in whether small businesses falter or thrive. Some of these snazzy new mega-groceries attract attention and business because they can deliver just about everything -- a bounty of ready-made foods, beautifully displayed produce, 100 varieties of bread. (!)

We're following the convenience model now, not the village model.

Many of us may shun Wal-Mart, but we'll shop at Target for things we could get at Village Stationers, Palo Alto Toy and Sport and Maximart Pharmacy. Even Kepler's had to re-open under a new business model that makes it seem more like listener-supported KQED than Borders.

How to stop the trend? Maybe we need to start by having neighborhood discussions about shopping locally and what the costs could be if we don't. We seem to live in a state of denial until a major consequence rears its ugly head; then suddenly we're paying attention. Not casting any blame here, just observing.

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