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Miki's Market in Palo Alto to close

Original post made on Mar 25, 2013

Less than six months after Miki's Farm Fresh Market opened its doors at Alma Plaza, filling a vacancy that has blighted the plaza for seven years, the store has announced its plans to shut down.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 25, 2013, 9:45 AM

Comments (221)

Posted by Kim
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:23 am

Oh, I am so sorry to hear this news. It was a beautiful store, maybe just a little too much competition in the area with other grocery stores, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Piazzas, Sprouts, Safeway, etc.

Posted by shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:25 am

The problem with this market is that it is too small to be a general purpose market, but the produce it sold was not sufficiently different to attract shoppers from other markets around town. The location was also too obscure to be interesting to people that didn't live in this new complex (is it fully occupied now?).

I hope that a new market can open in the space, hopefully selling products that are hard to find in Palo Alto, like fresh ethnic foods.

Posted by No Surprise
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:27 am

Lets start with some positives.
Miki's is a great small grocery store.
The staff were fantastic, the selection fresh with some nices twists.
Many of us will be sorry to see it go.
Unfortunately we also have the realities.
The real focus of the developer was a planned community so they could make more money rather than a true retail center that would have served the neighborhood. The city let it happen, eyes wide open. Its amazing how these folks can sleep with their eyes wide open....
A crippling location with no direct neighborhood access from the the homes and neighborhoods behind. Too little parking, and not enough other reasons or access to generate traffic.
A terrible site plan with the oversized box rammed up against the narrow sidewalk on Alma resulting in an uninviting, predestrian unfriendly presence with awkward access for cars as well. All a result of the Architectural Review Gods looking for an urban look and feel. Guess what? It FAILED!

So what will we be left with when Miki's closes?

An empty store with a terrible site plan with the oversized box rammed up against the narrow sidewalk on Alma resulting in an uninviting, predestrian unfriendly presence inaccessible form the neighborhoods with awkward access for cars as well that will sit empty and finally get converted to some other use. Oh, and a new traffic light. We will get to enjoy that new light for years.

Miki's was a great effort and a nice store in a doomed location with the city asleep at the wheel. With their eyes wide open...

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:27 am

I'm so sad! We love Miki's and shop there. :-( :-( :-(

Posted by la barbe
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:27 am

Too bad, but not unexpected.
1. bad architectural design. the cold blank wall right up at the sidewalk, and fortress like appearance was offputting.
2. had to be brave to drive into the narrow alley off a busy road. messy traffic and traffic light set up
3. very high prices on many items. higher even than some of our notorious high priced markets.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:29 am

I'm heartbroken! I love this store with it's wonderful offerings and warm friendly employees.

What a miserable way to start the week!

Posted by Sw
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

This really is bad news. I do have to agree that the biggest problem is the design of that center. I was excited to hear that Miki's would be opening and had intended to shop there. But it seems like such a pain to get in and out due to the limited parking and strange entrance, that I just never made it there. We are about the same distance from Miki's as Safeway, so that isn't the issue. I think they will have an impossible time getting another grocer in there unless they offer free rent!

Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:43 am

This has not stopped the city from continuing to make ridiculous "public benefit" promises, i.e., lies, to sugarcoat high density developments in places they just should not go!!

Posted by Barron shopper
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:45 am

I am so sorry to hear this but that location is cursed. The location of the building is too close to the sidewalk *and* main driveway making the traffic flow in and out dangerous, especially for those of us who turn left out of the driveway. And the parking lot was a trap. After several trips, I avoided it after 4pm which was often when I need to pick up something for dinner.

The PA planning process so failed this merchant and the community. Miki's was sunk before they even opened their doors.

Posted by Shop Mountain View
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:47 am

Well, first of all Gennady/Elena Albertson's closed in 2005 at Alma Plaza
Web Link
But the story goes back even further--Luckys/Albertsons wanted to build a large grocery store at Alma Plaza over 10 years ago. But they were stymied by the local "process"--the council refusing to make decisions, NIMBYs, traffic studies of far away streets, people complaining thatthe store was too big and the list goes on and on.
So we lost a neighborhood shopping center and now have ALma Village.
Miki's was a small, overpriced boutique grocery store. We have plenty of those in the area (Sprouts, Whole Foods, Country Sun etc). We need a LARGE full service market in town. But that will never happen, for a variety of reasons. But we will soon have a large Safeway in San Antonio Center, coupled with the large Safeway in Menlo Park and Palo Alto residents will have even more reasons to shop outside of town.
This should also be a warning for the rebuilt Edgewood Plaza--if we do not want a repeat of this, then we need to make sure that the store at Edgewood Plaza is not another Miki's.
Maybe an ethnic grocer will take over this spot, but not any owner would want to deal with the Palo Alto issues. Plus there are plenty of larger ethnic store within a short distance of Palo Alto (isn't that the case with any shopping need???)
Amusing that Miki's has not paid rent from day one--how do I get a sweet deal like that?
Well, Palo Alto has made it's bed, now it must sleep in it.

Posted by Clay
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:48 am

Just want to echo what "No Surprise" said. I also loved that store adn am very sorry for the people who are much more intimately hurt by this than am I.

That said, this is a city of Palo Alto screw up that benefited a private developer at the expense of a neighborhood that is left with this monstrosity.

With commercial construction all around me, I hope this isn't a trend.

Posted by Tish
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:49 am

Location location location. It is the most horrible location for a grocery store I have ever seen. Parking also horrible, ruined alma with an extra uncoordinated street light... Move it somewhere else and I can guarantee it will do far better, anywhere but there..

Posted by Developer profits and south PA loses AGAIN.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:49 am

This is a case of a developer being permitted to overbuild housing on the site so that the residents are using the retail parking during the day. I have observed them doing so on a number of occasions. Retail NEEDs parking! Council seems to understand this when they talk about the parts of town most of them live in (downtown and northeast neighborhoods). Why don't they apply the same knowledge in decisions that affect other parts of the city?

Council should have stuck with the original zoning. Here is another example of the PC zoning process gone awry. The community benefit is a joke--a community room that almost no one knows about (I have no idea if it is being used.) Some local girl scout troops might be interested if they knew about it--as PAUSD kicked them out of the classrooms they were using.

Some BMR apartments over the retail, abutting Alma...and the so-called "pocket park" public benefit is a joke. It looks like a tiny green on a miniature golf course (fake turf and all). It infuriates me every time I see it. More junk development in south Palo Alto. Why do different standards apply at this end of town? The difference between SOFA and the projects we get in the south is huge. We'd appreciate some thoughtful planning down here, too.

McNellis is dancing all the way to the bank. He got what he wanted. Do NOT rezone this for anything other than retail. I am furious.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:49 am

Agree with all the above postings! I went to Starbuck's once and had intended to visit Miki's someday but the parking was so narrow and difficult to navigate that it was too frustrating. The third photo of the store should have been the side facing Alma so it would appear more inviting.

Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:52 am

I knew it couldn't last. Extremely high prices not design killed it. EVERYONE knew a market was going in, so we can't blame a blank wall facing Alma and design flaws for their demise.
We need a REAL grocery store!
Sorry for everyone who liked it, but apparently that isn't too many.

Posted by Evergreen Park resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

Sorry to hear about Miki's. I love the Berkeley Bowl and was so excited about them making a go of it in Palo Alto. Unfortunately I didn't frequent the store as often as I would have like to. As others have stated, the location is not convenient to get to by bike and the intersection is a mess in a car most of the time. If a great store like Miki's couldn't make it it will be hard to get something to work.

Looks like another Yoga studio of fitness center. What a shame!

Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

We were thrilled when Miki's opened, and we continued to shop there. We love fresh organic produce and felt we finally had a location where health high quality food was affordable. However as the weeks passed, the prices of produce climbed higher, and we noticed that the quality was not as good - some items were almost rotting and stayed on the shelves. We have friends in East Bay and we knew that Berkeley Bowl has much greater variety and much lower produce prices. We continued to pay the higher prices, hoping that produce prices would drop in the spring.

Despite the changes we didn't like, we are heart broken to see Miki's go. The employees are great and we are so sad for them. We hope they can make a go of it again somewhere in our area and utilize the lessons they have learned this time around.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

I am extremely disappointed, as I was a regular shopper at Miki's. I found the selections interesting, especially the fresh produce, and the prices reasonable. And for those of us nearby, it was extremely convenient. Unlike other writers here, I never found the parking problematic.

Posted by Anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

I agree 100% with No Surprise and Shop Mountain View. A disastrous design ruined everything. Palo Alto planners and council members are too willing to accommodate developers and supported a truly terrible design for this project. I'm disgusted.

Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:00 am

No surprise because parking and access were disasters. So glad the idiotic city allowed it and messed up Alma and traffic for months.

Posted by A
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

I agree with No Surprise (3rd comment from top). I liked Miki's as a store, but these so-called "public benefits" never out-weigh the damage done to a community by the relaxation of zoning regulations. Can anyone point to one of these "planned communities" that was a success?

Posted by Colleen
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

I live right behind the developement so made a point of going to the stores and figuring it all out. But several of my co-workers/friends/aquaintances said they didn't even know it was a food store and if they did, they couldn't figure out the hours of operation. TERRIBLE architectural planning! Everyone dislikes that back of the store look and yet it keeps getting approved by Council.

As they say ~ What is the matter with you people?!

Posted by sk
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

So sad to see Miki's go. It is so hard to find such a variety of produce, at affordable rates. May be they should have focused just on produce (like Milk Pail or De Martini does). I hope they would reopen somewhere else real soon.

Posted by Parthena
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:13 am

Very sad! I loved the market and we were shopping at Miki's regularly! The cakes also were very fresh and delicious. Prices were not more expensive than Mollie Stones for instance and selection was better that other grocery stores. I think that the store was not advertised enough and sure couldn't compete in price with Safeway in many products. But the produce was fresh and organic.
I believe that all of us as a community had to support more this nice store...

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:28 am

I went there a few times - I thought it was a very nice place ... a bit expensive and small but ... again, with the idiotic developers ... what is wrong with Palo Alto planning and developers?

It's almost impossible to get in there, and to park. Someone already said the appearance was off-putting, but the name recognition as well ... who knows what a Miki's is? Also, for a "gourmet" market it is very close to Piazzi's and not as big or as many customers with history.

Another problem is that it closes way too soon. With most Palo Alto markets open until 10pm, what the heck did they think would happen?

I really do not get this, with all the supposed brilliant business genius in Palo Alto and Stanford why do we have such (for the most part) crappy and expensive stores in Palo Alto?

It would sure be interesting if some enterprising journalist would look into this whole process and report to us how and why this happened?

Now the city is stuck with a building configuration that few other businesses are likely to take a chance on, and the poor people who live in this development do not get to benefit from the market right outside their front doors. What a SNAFU ... more incompetence in Palo Alto.

Posted by Jane
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

This is terrible news. I love this store! Great food and great people. My ONlY complaint was that it didn't stay open late enough. I think perhaps staying open until 9 might have helped? I always used to see folks racing in to make the 8 pm close and lots of times seeing folks miss it by a few minutes. I wish Miki and his wife the best. I will miss you tremendously.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:33 am

Having gone to the California Ave. Farmer's Market yesterday, there sure seems to be a lot of local produce growers ... why not make this place into an outlet for local produce, at least to normalized people to go into this labyrinthine location and have a use for it until someone else wants to take a chance? The city should foot the bill or underwrite it for a while instead of spending money on all the boondoggle projects I read about here so often.

It's unpleasant to have to go to the Farmer's Market since it is so crowded and chaotic.

Posted by KBlair
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:35 am

So sad. I shopped there and turned a lot of friends onto Miki. Loved the produce, bakery, and meat market plus the fresh squeezed OJ was the best! Any chance of relocating nearby?

Posted by GrandmaKK
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

So disappointed to see this happen. We loved the food and people. But the architecture is an abomination. The location is wrong. So sad.

Posted by Sandy Gifford
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

This is very sad. Someone moved my cheese! Now I have to scurry and find some more.

It's hard to accept that we had this choice and now it disappears!

Posted by jw
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:39 am

Wonderful store and people; terrible design--The Wall on Alma is distasteful and uninviting; parking not big enough for a store to survive and impossible to get out of during rush hour. I will particularly miss the wonderful cheese department with Shannon who is so knowledgeable-- Piazza's please hire her! Excellent wine buyer who is delightful to work with. A great group of employees, hope other local stores will swoop them up. Very sad.

Posted by Cur Mudgeon
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:40 am

A family member shopped at Miki's once and liked it, but the location is/was off-putting. Access to the parking is dreadful.

I hate what is happening to our city, especially the south end.
Greedy developers and stupid, stupid, stupid planning decisions by all concerned in city government.

As for us, back to Piazza's, Milk Pail, Sprouts for produce and Costco/Safeway/TJ's for the rest. Notice all but one of these are in Mountain View. Oh wait, the new Safeway will be buried in the San Antonio Santana . . .

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:42 am


And lately with reading about chloramine in our water, I won't even start on that. What are the odds that everthing the city does is wrong, bad, expensive and incompetent? Wow? What is going on behind the scenes opaquely that no one with any sense can raise the flag on this kind of screwup ... again and again.

Now the city wants to sell more school property back to developers?

I think there should be an unconditional 10 year development moratorium here on Palo Alto, with any out of band development needed to get real public approval instead of the nonsensical farce process we see over and over ... and I'd lay anyone odds that the Edgewood project is going to be the same story.

We all would be better off if nothing was done and the old markets and developments were just left alone.

Posted by Annie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:43 am

Went there on my bike on the way home from work, but never went back since I realized it meant biking on Alma - no other way in, even for bikes and pedestrians.

Another very poor plan.

Posted by What did you expect?
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:44 am

So can we take back the land from the developer and re-zone back to what it was originally?

The developer knew this was going to fail and just did it to get it past the PA city council. It isn't surprising that the store stays open just long enough to get all the high-density residential units built.

I bet they turn that store into housing now too.

This is a case or zoning arbitrage to screw over Palo Alto. Developer buys something zoned retail and turns it into high density housing with narrow roads to make the schools even more over crowded.

When are we just going to say "no" to these developers. this place is crowded enough. Stop already. enough is enough.

Posted by Mc Koy
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:45 am

So sorry to hear this. Will miss Miki's wonderful offerings, caring, helpful, friendly employees and polite customers too!

Posted by dws
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:48 am

The selection in their produce department is second-to-none in the area. Agree with the rest about location and parking. Very sad to see them go. :(

Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:50 am

Well, initially I thought the building could be repurposed as a jail, which is what it sort of resembles.
But even a jail has windows -- tiny, skinny, vertical windows, but windows nonetheless.
Miki's frontage lacks even that. How off-putting.
So now to Plan C: mushroom farm?
Or Plan D: worm composting?

Posted by Another mom
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:10 pm

We are so sad to see Mikis go, but how about a restaurant in the space? Something interesting, not another chain please!

Posted by Where-Supermarkets-Are-Concerned--Bigger-Is-Better
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

The Alma Plaza site has been a political football for at least fifteen years. So much has been said, and written, about this site that all we can deduce is that the “Palo Alto Process” is very broken, and the people on the Planning & Transportation Commission, and the City Council, have almost no idea about what land use issues that are favorable to business.

There was a study done as this project was working its way towards Council approval that identified the San Antonio Shopping Area as a better place for supermarkets. Safeway will soon open a very large market in the rebuilt Plaza.

Many people testified that no supermarket needed to be larger than 20,000 sq. ft. Well, here’s a point to ponder—if the rent for a 20,000 sq. ft. market is 5/sq. ft—the nominal rent is $1M/month. Most food retailers claim that they see only a slim 2% margin. So—how many cars would it take to generate just the rent? Not to mention the utility costs, insurance, and who-knows-what-else.

So—seems to now can see that people trashing the idea that supermarkets need to be larger than 20,000 don’t really know what they are talking about.

Posted by Bruce
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm

If the store isn't too small, Ranch 99 would be a good ethnic (Asian) grocery store for Palo Alto. Closest one now is Grant Road. Web Link

Posted by john
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Finally went by on Saturday morning to check it out--thought it was strange that the store was empty at 9:oo am. Hard to get to, who wants to go out on Alma to get to a half hidden, walled off grocercery store?
But the real money maker is behind the grocery store:
Half finished "detached" houses, wow, can you cram any more in?
What a joy that would be to live in, better get to know your neighbors!
No a surprise that its closing.

Posted by ARB's To Blame
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Blame this one on the ARB's continued ridiculous drive to place all buildings right at the curb. This entire development sucked from the beginning.

1. No way to see this is retail.
2. Plain STUPID entry is narrow and uninviting
3. Parking is not obvious
4. Urban blight in a new building

The best thing the developer can do (and it was not his fault in the first place...look at the initial development drawings). Tear the Alma loaded building down and replace with a smaller less intrusive and more welcoming to the neighborhood structure.

This disaster sits squarely on the City of Palo Alto's Architectural Review Board...they continue to damage the streets of Palo Alto.

Case in point...

JCC Buildings falling into Charleston/San Antonio intersection
Miki's unsightly blob of blank walls on Alma (ON Alma)
New Mitchell Park library that fails to meld with the neighborhood
All of the atrocities along Alma downtown

Please SAVE OUR SIDEWALKS. Reinstate the street setbacks!

Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Very sad. I thought Miki's was a real jewel. I tended to go there on my weekday off, so parking was no problem at all. The issue for me was that it always felt farther away than Piazza or the Midtown Safeway for me. And old habits are tough, so it was usually easier to go to the same old places.

Miki's had some interesting items I didn't see in other stores. And everything was so clean and well organized.

Again, sad.

Posted by Don't go!
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm

The parking and entry to Miki's ARE tiny compared to those of Costco and Walmart, for example. This is problematic for politically correct Palo Altans who drive monstrous gas-guzzling SUV's to do their grocery shopping. You don't have the luxury of supersized parking lots in Europe, or most places out of the U.S.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I already posted on the other, earlier thread hinting at the store's demise, with my main point being that first trip was ok though prices were high and it's a small store, second time the produce seemed to have gone way downhill. If that store stayed open, I would only go there if I happened to be driving by, which is not that often. It's not a place I would ever go "on purpose."
I do appreciate the various posters calling for a followup and accountability from the City of Palo Alto. Some sort of analysis and accountability - Architectural review board, city council, city staffers and/or whoever else has their votes, requirements, demands, decisions on this one. I wonder what will happen to the space as it isn't suitable for much....and it took many years to get that built.
And please, please do not curse Edgewood Center - we have been waiting so long and sincerely hope it goes well
-from a resident near to Edgewood...

Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Rather than screw up the bay lands park the new compost factory can go in the empty hole. No need for parking!

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm

@ARB's to blame - I just saw your post - wow, an excellent sum-up.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm

This should be a warning to the City. We want a decent sized full service supermarket with parking that can be seen from the street. We don't need/want any more boutiques.

However, from the article about Mikis, I would love to have the reporter do some indepth reporting on this. What about the Starbucks? Is it paying its rent and getting customers? What about the townhomes? Are they selling? Are we saturating the market with homes like these? What about the vacant store? Has any business been interested in leasing the site beside Starbucks?

I imagine that Starbucks survival is dependent on the grocery store rather than the local residents but I may be wrong.

We may be returning to more blight in this location.

Posted by Alice Smith
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

A loss to the community of a small, independent and outstanding grocery/meat and fish store. Regretful, but sadly inevitable.

Posted by Clues to the failure
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Here is one clue to the bad design:
Excerpt from Ordinance 4956, look it up on the city web site.
>Fourteen (14) Below Market Rate (BMR) rental apartments above the ground
>Thirty-seven (37) single-family detached residences;

Another clue:Council members who approved it: June 18, 2007

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

"Where-Supermarkets-Are-Concerned--Bigger-Is-Better" has his facts wrong. I was at the Council meetings (and many of the other meetings leading up to those Council meetings). His claim "Many people testified that no supermarket needed to be larger than 20,000 sq. ft." is false. I don't remember any of the public testifying to this. Quite the contrary: They were arguing that the store needed to be larger. Many years before that, there was a portion of the public making that argument, but that was related to supporters of the long-closed Co-op markets who worried about competition. The size limit on the market was something the developer agreed to when he purchased the property from Albertsons. In his presentation to Council, the developer claimed that a standalone market of that size would be successful because there was a trend by customers away from the super-stores (55Kft2 and larger) to smaller markets.

During the Council's "deliberations", the public (aka NIMBYs) repeatedly pointed out many of the points above:
1. Horrible traffic circulation
2. Inadequate parking for store
3. Inadequate parking for housing would lead to parking in the store's parking lot.
4. The visual impact of having the large box right up to the street.
5. The plans didn't provide the critical mass of retail needed for survival at that location. Smaller retail benefits from people being able to visit multiple stores during the same stop. A coffee shop would provide little support for the market -- have you ever been on your way home to prepare supper and needed to stop for a few ingredients and said "What I also need is a hot cup of coffee"?

Council and City staff were well aware of the many problems, but they couldn't be bother to get it right for the city and its residents.

Posted by Where-Supermarkets-Are-Concerned--Bigger-Is-Better
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:22 pm

> His claim "Many people testified that no supermarket
> needed to be larger than 20,000 sq. ft." is false

With all due respect—you might check the transcript of that meeting. There were people living around the periphery of the store making the claim that 20,000 sq. ft. was large enough.

There were also people who were arguing for a larger store. But there were also people arguing against.

Is your memory so acute that you can remember all of the testimony of all of the public meetings you have ever attended?

Posted by agree with Doug
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Doug is right. This thing was doomed from the beginning. Now we have this ugly wall, a new stoplight that snarls everything, a dedicated vacant store that will probably never be anything good in that location (how will anyone even know it's there and it has no parking) etc. It would have been nice to have had the Trader Joes in that location where Albees was. Now we have a giant ugly wall of nothing, screwed up traffic, and no parking. Thanks City Council. Can't wait to see how well you do with 27 University. Why is PA government so dysfunctional? The only thing you can say good about the City Council is they are not as incompetent as the school board, which is surely damning with faint praise.

Posted by Size Doesn't Matter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:45 pm

The size and appearance of the store are factors but not the main problem. Milk Pail in San Antonio Shopping Center is small, inconvenient, very tight quarters and tight parking.

The difference is price. Milk Pail's prices are 20% lower than their competition. They're a low overhead operation. Quality is only fair but they attract shoppers from all over because they offer some slightly uncommon products but they're very price-competitive.

Posted by A sad one
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm

Heartbreaking; I loved Miki's: the products, the people. Would that they could move to JJ&F's location. That market has not been the same since the original owners had to sell a few years back. It is now dirty (oh my gosh -- have you SEEN their floors?!), doesn't carry the items they said they'd carry, often has nearly empty shelves, and overall is very unappealing to me as a shopper. I live much closer to JJ&F yet would frequently drive to Miki's and dream that they'd have a store in my neighborhood. If you build it, Miki, we in College Terrace will come.

Posted by Commuter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I drive by Miki's twice a day but only shopped there once. The awkward entrance was easy to just pass by, especially when there is rush hour traffic backed up on Central Xway. The prices were too high and selections too gourmet for my simple grocery needs. I think a fairly priced neighborhood restaurant, like Eric's Deli or Hobees, might work there instead.

Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Can we start with the very reasonable expectation of accountability.

Who was on the planning commission when this project got approved?

Who was on the City Council when this project got approved?

It is time to name names and get answers. Anybody care to provide the list of names?

This is the same issue about who was on the Council as the $400 million infrastructure deficit accumulated and fiscal management was ignored.

We have a couple historical personalities that were on Council in the past while this deficit accumulated, but not one person has stepped forward to appologize for creating the problem. Liz and Larry, where were you and what were you thinking about that let this happen.

This is accountability, not criticism. I hope we don't let our leaders that simply made bad decisions revise history and paint themselves as heros for solving the very problems they created.

I hope more residents will share my clarity on this topic.

Tim Gray

Posted by Shop Mountain View
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Here you go Doug. Maybe these will refresh your memory:

Web Link
"The 20,000-square-foot cap on grocery stores in "neighborhood-serving" zones has been in effect for quite some time. And it has worked effectively to encourage small retail, restrain local traffic and preserve the small, intimate character of neighborhoods that Palo Altans cherish."

Web Link
"Looking on the bright side, longtime Albertson's opponent Jay Hammer said a moderate-sized store of 18,000 square feet was in keeping with what he believes neighbors near Alma Plaza seek."

Remember that Hammer was the front man for opposition to a decent sized grocery store. After ALbertson's pulled out (and sold the lot with the condition that the grocery would not be bigger than a certain size), the group reworked itself into "Friends of Alma Plaza" fronted by Len Filipu and complained that the grocery store proposed was too small!!!
This coupled with the city council and the Charleston Road traffic study made sure that we lost a shopping center and inherited what we have now.

In fact, Piazza's is now 24K square feet--so much for small grocery stores in Palo Alto.

When the new Safeway in Mountain View opens this will bring pressure on to the Palo Alto stores to lower their prices. I see a few more stores going out of business soon as a result.

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Lets see:

Developer desperate to build, promised something that he HAD to know would fail.

Residents out of touch with reality, demanded something that the market no longer supports, anywhere-- but, but, Palo Alto is different. Its special. No. its neither.

City staff foolish enough to play along with naïve neighbors and developer, lets through a stupid project that was terminally ill before a single shovel of dirt was turned

I feel really sorry for the proprietor, who probably thought that all the people demanding an unrealistic neighborhood store will actually shop there. Sorry, pal, they're all at Costco and Whole Foods. But they sure liked the idea of your shop.

Posted by Matt
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:29 pm

I think a gym might work well there, the competition is Equinox, YMCA and the 24 hour fitness in Mtn View. People have been leaving the YMCA for the other two recently, but I think they would prefer to have an upscale option closer to the neighborhood. In any case, I hope that zoning regulations don't get in the way of entrepreneurship

Posted by Too much like the others
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Miki's was definitely beautiful, clean and upscale. But its selection was a copy of what could be found in Whole Foods / Piazaa's. Maybe a more ordinary but highly differentiated Asian foods market is what would work there. There are plenty of Asians in Palo Alto all of whom have to drive to MV or Sunnyvale for their Chinese / Indian groceries. As someone else pointed out the tightness of the parking or the ugliness of the building on Alma are possible contributing factors, but are highly unlikely to be the main reasons. The main reason is the lack of differentiated product that would bring a loyal customer base to it.

Posted by Andrew
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm

I am always wondering why not bring in a Chinese grocery store. The nearest one is several miles away in Mountain View and that store is always crowded.

Posted by Midtown old-timer
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I lived within walking distance of Alma Plaza when Lucky's was there. Lucky's had a back entrance through Ramona for pedestrians and bikes and made access so much easier from the midtown neighborhood. My mom would send me over on my bike to pick up a few things she needed. The current plaza is certainly not friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

This neighborhood really needs a good grocer. I'd love to stop buying my groceries outside Palo Alto but the truth is that there's no real alternative near by. Miki's was great and I was there once a week for produce and other "specialty" items. I'm sorry to see it go.

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm

We should have seen it coming, as far as the look of alma plaza, since some of the " neighborhood activists" involved in the loss of alma plaza as a shopping center helped bring us Arbor Real.
Timothy-- do not expect anything from Liz and Larry. They will both claim that they did not know or we're misled and then put on their public smiley faces.
Of course, palo alto should not complain now-- they keep reelecting these people to the council

Posted by What about Miki?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm

A lot of the fault for this failure is on John Mc Nellis, who, living in Atherton, did not have to look at the results of what he had developed. The ARB and City Council didn't have the smarts to see this was a loser, although most of the PA public predicted this would happen.

Those houses are not selling well: 1.6 Million for a 3/2 on 2000 sf of land in a horrible location is too much. The larger homes are three stories with steep, steep stairs. The livvin fare is on one level, the kitchen/dining area on another and the bedrooms at the top! Over 2 Million for those, on the same 2000 sf lot. Floor coverings, and cabinets cost EXTRA. Neighbors so close you can see into their windows from yours, because they line up in the line of sight. Shared driveways.

Once the novelty wore off, the Starbuck's has not done much business. It is hard to get to unless you are on that side of the road. The entrance being so narrow, the Starbuck's delivery truck had to park on ALMA to unload, causing major traffic issues. Plus, parking is limited to thirty minutes, what little parking there is.

The traffic light and the fact that it is unsynchronized have been causing huge pileups every morning and evening, and despite all the complaints City Hall has gotten, nothing has been done. It is not needed. Calif Ave has more need of it, and they are getting along okay without it.

But what about Miki? I read months ago that this man had quit a good job at the Berkeley Bowl and sunk his life savings into this store. Even rent-free, there was not enough business for him to stock the store and pay the employees, who probably went into this with high hopes. What does Miki do now? He is in his sixties and broke! What did John Mc Nellis say to him to entice him into an ugly building with no parking and a rotten location? Don't McNellis, the ARB, and the City Council owe Miki something for this? This was a retail location that should never have been. Seems it was designed as an afterthought, like a sound barrier for the housing project, to block noise from the RR tracks.

Most of us saw this coming, this has historically been a fatal location for every business that has been there. A lot of retribution is due here.

Posted by Gail
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm

The structure was so hideous I never bothered to go to the grocery store. Make the developer tear down the market, replace it with grass and trees, and remove the red light on Alma. Palo Alto city government is incompetent. It infuriates me.

Posted by I actually shopped there
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I shopped there about once a month, and never had trouble with parking or getting into the lot- actually found it convenient to get to. The variety was lovely, but the prices were extremely high, off-putting for many. It was more expensive than Piazzas, so I limited myself to going there for items I couldn't find elsewhere. I am sorry to see it go. Curious about those saying the parking and lot were difficult- did any of them actually go there? I never found the ground level lot full, and the flow is quite good in an out of the lot. Horrible traffic doesn't deter people from going to Trader Joes in Town and Country- unfortunately I think the store just wasn't big enough to keep prices down,

Posted by April Fool
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:25 pm

The development proposal was approved by the fools on the City Council. It is appropriate to close Miki's on April Fool's Day.

Posted by What about Miki?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I agree with Gail, just tear down the market building, although the houses will get more RR and traffic noise. The stoplight is useless, does far, far more harm than good, tear it out. Put in some landscaping and trees, maybe a couple of benches, too.

I just cannot stop thinking about Miki's losses, though. I think some compensation is in order from the City council that approved this monstrosity, and John Mc Nellis who created it. let THEM fix it!

Posted by Janet
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Why aren't Palo Altans demanding that the head people at the Architectural Review Board and the Planning and Zoning Departments, etc. be fired?
A local newspaper needs to do an expose that exposes the incompetence of these department employees.
1)The department chiefs need to be followed to see how many hours they are on the job each day,
2) their educational backgrounds verified,
3) their previous work qualifications verified,
4) their resumes scoured,
5) check for kickbacks and corruption within the departments,
6) Do they appear to be living better than their salaries would indicate?
7) What are their salaries and benefits? How long have they worked in PA government?
8) Expose the scandals and incompetence within the departments. Let the sun shine in.

Why are developers getting away with murder. What's going on??

Posted by shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I would love to see an Asian grocery store at this location. Some of the Japanese and Korean grocery stores along El Camino in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are small but profitable. I'm sure one would do well here because there is absolutely no competition. No one wants to drive miles out of town to do their grocery shopping.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm

The prices to high or poor selection will put a business out of business, poor access will too. But a ugly building, WOW, I admit it is ugly. I have seen really ugly buildings in my travels and though out the world.

Posted by Ethnic Shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

@Shopper - Absolutely correct, given the dramatic shifting demographics in Palo Alto, a Ranch 99 or Marina style asian market (especially with an accompanying Pearl Milk Tea shop) would do incredible business. The place would be flooded with shoppers.

Times are a'changin, Ni Hao.

Posted by Judy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

It's hard for passers-by to realize there is a grocery store since the store's entrance is away from Alma St. Why not have a sign visible from both directions? Probably because city planners don't allow it. Do we want business in Palo Alto or do we want to send it to Mountain View?

Posted by Janet
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 5:04 pm

More questions for the ARB and Building and Planning Departments:

1) List of other oversized, hideous structures approved by these agencies
2) What are the budgets for these departments?
3) Verify expense accounts of department heads,
4) Trips, parties, etc., in the departments. Where and what were they?
5) Projects in the pipeline that need to be re-evaluated before they are allowed to proceed
6) New commercial and residental development guidelines need to be implemented (setbacks, etc). Who would write the new guidelines? Oversight.
7) Outline of which city council members voted for these various projects
Etc. Etc. Etc

Posted by Debs family
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm

We loved Mikey's. Top-quality everything; great selection of fruit, vegetables, meat, and other foodstuffs; friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable staff; prices were good value for the very high quality. Their sale-price items were usually an excellent buy, far cheaper than probably most people realized. We're heartbroken they're closing. They deserved better.

- Doug & Laura

Posted by Odd
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Doesn't every business plan for retail include a two year period to allow customers to adjust habits and create the all powerful word of mouth necessary to build a customer base?

We are discussing an all but unidentified plain building off a commute roadway like Alma. One would have to expect in this case that it requires significant time to determine whether a grocery store has legs.

Unless there is some saving escape in the contract if things look bad after the first six months...

I agree with the previous poster that there is something funny with the developer here. Does he only have to include a grocery for six months to meet the terms of the deal made with palo alto planning?

Posted by inga
a resident of Triple El
on Mar 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm

This building has no merit. Poor planning by all involved. Miki should be compensated for trying to start a business in an impossible location for a grocery store. Tear it down! Let's get the food trucks in twice a month. Make the land into a park so that people who bought those awful houses can have some breathing room.

Posted by area man
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Yeah, Janet, we need to bring in the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the N.S.A., the F.D.I.C., and the Comptroller of the Currency on this one.

Posted by Wendy
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Back a ways in the comments someone mentioned JJ&F. Does anyone remember the fight with the developer around that grocery store? So many came forward to demand that the City approve that project even though it is too dense, not enough parking, too much retail but because the developer agreed to keep JJ&F as part of their approval from the city (or in the case of JJ&F not surviving the contruction process a grocery store of some sort HAS to be kept in the development - at least until they go back to the City and beg to be let out of the deal). Everyone said it didn't matter that the developer said the project wouldn't work unless they were given zoning exemptions - the developer agreed to keep JJ&F! That was all that mattered! Well, for some reason everone stopped going to JJ&F and the store changed hands and has gone downhill ever since. Where are all the supporters of JJ&F who demanded the City approve the project in order to keep their precious store? I loved JJ&F but I could see that it would be difficult for them to survive the development process and the construction. I understand that the developer has renewed the building permit, is claiming that they are still going to develop but if they do, we will have one more project in PA that was given approval and allowed to not abide by the planning and zoning rules for the site because they said they would keep JJ&F or provide a grocery store in perpetuity. Anyone want to take any bets on this?

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:20 pm

I bet you that piazzas is not sorry to see mikita close. They pressed back then to limit a new luckys at alma plaza to 20k square feet. Of course now they are 24k square feet. Hopefully the new Safeway will give piazzas a run for their money.
The blame for this latest fiasco is shared by the council, the ARB, P&T commission and the people the selfishly obstructed the development for a decade. Well done, the palo alto process is alive and well

Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:51 pm

casey is a registered user.

I don't think it was a parking or aesthetics issue. I've never had problems with parking at Miki's until today. They also have underground parking, but I've never noticed it before.

Lo and behold, when prices are 30% off, the store was packed and the registers were all backed up. Funny how that works.

Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Great store, terrible design. I don't know what they will do with it.

I am not however blaming the builder. They did their best to come up with something economically viable given all of the constraints.

The blame starts with the public. The public always gets what it actually wants, but perhaps not what it says it wants. City council meetings were filled with people asking for a grocery store. But not very many people actually shopped there when it was built.

We can also blame the city for listening too intently to the public and not asking the hard questions about what makes sense. As usual, the city does not try to figure out what people will really use. They assume that people won't use cars, won't be able to find the big stores in Mountain View, and will walk to get their groceries.

This property was never a good bet for retail given

Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Hours sucked. I am glad it is gone. What store closes at 8 pm?

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Robert-- you are partially correct about the public-- but it is the vocal few the council listens to. A dedicated few decided to obstruct any kind of normal sized grocery at alma plaza-- the council enabled them. By the time the smoke cleared, a neighborhood shopping center was lost and we have alma village. Remember how the council loves to talk constantly about " walk able neighborhoods" -- all talk, no action-- when push comes to shove the council will grease the squeaky wheel.

Posted by judy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:39 pm

It was so difficult to see some of the employees tearful on Sunday, and then over hearing that Milk Pail will be going out of business soon. Due to the over development of the Monster size housing unit that will hold some 800 family units. AS one of the cashiers said, Where will we shop? Piazzas and their attempt to try a half slop job of looking New! Or the plastic looking fruit at Safeway? Or Maybe Whole Pay Check. OH that's right both Safeway and Wholefoods are in Mt. View. We loved Miki's it was clean and employees so friendly and kind. If your shopping after 8pm then you deserve to shop at Safeway and Pay those high prices! So sad to see all the sharks come in after the fact. Goodbye fresh delicious food and Cheese. We didn't deserve you.

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:44 pm

Judy-- the Milk Pail issue is not a done deal, so do not start rumors. Stuff is cheaper at safeway and not everyone can shop before 8pm. Where did you shop before October?

Posted by Eileen Stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Wow, I am so shocked! From the moment I went into this market I loved it!!!
Why, because it was small and easy to get around, fantastic produce, wonderful locally sourced items at affordable prices, (always something on sale) and great knowledgeable workers that loved their job!!! Whole Foods does not always source local like Miki's and is even more expensive, Safeway is way too big and takes FOREVER to get through, and Trader Joe's has a bunch of packaged food and crappy produce. I ordered my daughter's wedding cake at Miki's and they had the best price! Why, because they have a bakery right there with wonderful desserts at totally affordable prices. Shame on palo Alto residents for not supporting this wonderful market and complaining about lack of parking and location! It's sad that small, wonderful markets like Miki's are not viable in this town for those who want them!

Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On "Shop Mountain View" refreshing my memory: As evidence of what was being said by the many during a decision being made in 2008, he offers links to advocacy in Spring 2004 and 2005 by one person, Jay Hammer, who led a small group -- the immediate neighbors.

This is an altogether too common attack on the public's participation, presenting a minority view as if it was that of the majority, or even was the consensus. The few become the "many" or even the generic "residents". In one instance, tens of residents testify for a proposal and only two against, but the latter is routinely reported as the one supported by "residents" (two people make the word technically not-false, but it usage is highly deceptive).

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Doug-- me thinks though protests too much. Especially considering that you provide no links to any of your claims.
And it is well known that in palo alto, the few do end up carrying the day, especially with our city council members

Posted by Judy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Milk Pail is a done deal! Do you honestly think that the multi-million developers who want and are going to build the Hotel and 8-screen Movie theatre and upscale shops are going to let a small market like Milk Pail beat them??? The plans are drawn and Milk Pail was and is in litigation over there parking lot dispute. Just wait, they will find any small hole to inch out Milk Pail. Money talks, Read the back issues of the Palo alto weekly online!!!

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Judy-- according to this story in the weekly from 2 weeks ago

Web Link

It states that plans shows that the Milk Pail would remain. Who are your sources?

Posted by handle
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:38 pm

This really is unfortunate, but not so unpredictable. Albertsons flailed in that location previously, and they had a huge highly visible parking lot. After doing some market research, they concluded that they could make that location work if they enlarged the store significantly, 50,000 sq ft comes to mind.

The neighbors howled in protest, no big market in our neighborhood, and Albersons bailed rather than fight the Palo Alto process.

Almost as soon as Albersons closed, the neighbors whiled even louder that they did not have a neighborhood market!? Yeah, WTF is right. They killed the one that wanted to improve, and now were demanding a smaller market for themselves. For some reason, Trader Joes was targeted as an appropriate candidate for the spot in the online forums. TJ's wouldn't touch the spot having found greener pastures so to speak at Town and Country Village, which incidentally does not have whiny neighbors.

So, Miki's bravely steps into the void. It is a very nice shop, and great helpful staff. Unfortunately, the developer turned the new development into a fortress fronting Alma with no indication that there was any parking anywhere. Apparently the neighbors who demanded a small store, failed to patronize Miki's, it's too _____.

And now, there is a hobbled retail space created by the disastrous combination of Albertsons stating (warning) that a small market was not viable, neighbors insisting a small market be installed, the developer agreeing and getting all sorts of concessions from the city, and voila, here we are.

Welcome to Palo Alto, a town with more vision than brains when it comes to planned development. And how about all those 'public benefit' scams, thanks Palo Alto City council members.

Sadly, this most unfortunate situation that Miki's is in was predictable, I wish them well. I just hope the city, and neighbors, activate a few working brain cells in the aftermath to prevent future such debacles.

Posted by An employee
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Wow I have sure learned a lot reading all these posts...

AS a manager at <Miki's, I am fortunate to work with one of the nicest men I have ever known.

Sure there are lots of pros and cons to this site.

Thru the course of the last few months, produce prices went up to do weather and seasons. Over the last few months we have had cash flow issues. We had to start buying from different vendors. Yes we love working there. There is a lot of things we could have done differently. And we could have used more support from the city and the developer and the community in helping to support the store.

Eventually that back access to Ramona was to open to allow for walking and biking access.

Thanks to all our wonderful customers who got what Miki was trying to do!

Posted by Sonia Rodriguez
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm

I live nearby but never shopped there because I found the entire project aesthetically offensive.
A wall too close to the road. Suffocating.

Palo Alto staff and elected officials who brought the project on us under some sort of transit-oriented mixed-use greenwash development myth should all go away and make room for common sense

Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Maybe a nice mural on the wall facing Alma, to soften it amd make it look more inviting?

Also, I don't understand why more parking space wasn't part of the plan. Really stupid and obvious.

Also, small stores mean high prices and not enough selection, so the grocery owners have to struggle, and we have to drive to nearby cities instead of patronizing a nearby store within walking distance. Why does the City Council hate us so much? Or are they just really stupid?

Posted by Spencer
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:35 pm

I gotta hand it to this McNellis guy, he’s pretty darn smart. He got the city council to sign off on his housing project by finding a fall guy in Miki (a REALLY nice guy, by the way). The store is beautiful, has a TREMENDOUS selection of fine foods (have you taken a look at that Cheese Department???), and had a tremendous produce department (until the dwindling money took that away). Miki certainly knows how to stock a desirable grocery store but was fooled by this McNellis character into opening a boutique store in a location that was dubious to begin with. Why didn't any of the other well-known grocers want to touch this location?

My bet is McNellis will never find another tenant for this building. But then why is he concerned about that? He'll make his millions on the 37 high density housing units that will sell in spite of the suspicious construction quality and horrible design that allows one to open their window while in the bathroom to ask their neighbor for a roll of toilet paper.

The rich get richer while hard working stiffs like Miki end up in bankruptcy court. Miki's only crime was being too naïve about the location and the amount of time it would take to build a loyal customer base. I hope the city council will put a stop to McNellis' housing project until he finds another tenant. It's his responsibility to ensure he gets someone with deep enough pockets to last 5 years or more. Perhaps the council can force McNellis to bankroll Miki for another 4 1/2 years? It would be a shame to lose this beautiful (on the inside) neighborhood store. Miki and his gang of thoughtful and delightful hard working employees deserve it. The City of Palo Alto certainly deserves it too.

Posted by Patrick Muffler
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Does anyone remember when Alma Plaza was lumped in with the Charleston-Arastradero moratorium? I do. It was as a non-agenda item in the wee hours of the morning after a long, exhausting Council meeting. A few days later, I complained to one of the Council members: "A hell of a way to do business, when Council members are so tired they can't think straight". She had no choice but to agree with me. But the deed was done.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:51 pm

For quite some time Our Planning Department has been trumpeting architectural "New Urbanism" which means building right up to the street/sidewalk - very "European". It's been a disaster, and projects are still being built, e.g. Alma and Lytton. Other examples are the Jewish Community Center and housing and the once beautiful area where Rickey's used to be. and along El Camino. Palo Alto's Planning Commission and ARB, the Architectural Review Board, should be dissolved. It has allowed many grotesque projects...and what is known as 'prison architecture', the stark buildings with vertical steel decor - see the monstrosity at the corner of El Camino and Page Mill and the one at the 'Circle" downtown across University from the corner which has graceful, elegant lines. Then there is Lytton Plaza which is cold, stark, unfriendly. Need I mention "Walgreen's"? The latest rage is 'transit-oriented housing' - which translated means El Camino and Alma with side-by-side condos and apartments. The Arrillaga project has started in Menlo Park. It's time to take control, fight ABAG, and other groups who are pushing this

Posted by Brian Guth-Pasta
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Brian Guth-Pasta is a registered user.

They need to tear this building down it is absolutely atroshious to look at as it's just a HUGE wall literally 8 feet from the street. I still can't believe this piece of trash building was ever approved in the first place and I for one am glad that I was proven right by this store having to close down.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:08 pm

> Posted by Resident, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, 2 hours ago
> Hours sucked. I am glad it is gone. What store closes at 8 pm?

I agree, but what else can a store whose front door is 50 feet away from the front doors of residences do?

This was really bad planning, the developer and the city government are to blame as far as I can see.

The developer should be banned, and the city government should all resign. How many more of these kinds of screw-ups does Palo Alto have to endure?

Posted by disillusioned
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Folks, Alma Plaza is just one manifestation of a city Planning and
Transportation staff which is developer focused and completely
incompetent and a City Council on balance which is apparently
getting exactly what they want on balance

Posted by AlmaPlazaNeighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm

An Asian market like Ranch 99 in the South Bay will do well here. So sad to see Miki's go. And agree with the comments on the Architectural Review Board - people not grounded in reality.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Have you seen Ranch 99 Asian grocery stores? They are the size of the Mountain View Safeway across from Milk Pail. The Miki's location is way too small for a Ranch 99.

Posted by Carlito's Waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Obviously there are not enough customers for a boutique food store in the Alma Plaza Neighborhood. I don't mind driving all the way to Safeway at San Antonio Rd or in occasion to the other Safeway in Menlo Park, I was a loyal Alma Plaza Albertson's customer, since they were pushed out by those "neighborhood activists" my food and grocery money goes to Safeway and some small ethnic grocery stores. Piazza's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's? No, thank you.

Posted by Near neighbor
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I blame City Council and the Planning Department for this debacle. Miki's was far too small in an era when mega-stores are being built.

Council kept listening to the NIMBY neighbors who wanted a little store like the old Albertson/Luckys. Instead they should have evaluated the cost effectiveness of such a little store and realized there was a reason why Albertson's closed, it was unprofitable!!!

Any little store in that neighborhood is not going to make it.

Posted by Sean
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:58 pm

So sorry for those affected by the close of Miki's, though I am not surprised. Case in point: Tonight I needed the makings for a pasta dish and some eggs. I hopped in my car and headed down to Safeway in Mountain View. I never considered going to Miki's. I have been in a few times, but I'm not going to pay almost $7 for a box of cereal. I never need 12 different kinds of mushrooms either. If we had a neighborhood market with reasonable prices, I'd go in a couple times each week.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:59 pm

I dislike urban sprawl parking lots as much as the next person, but, they made it much too tight getting off Alma and into the parking lot on a narrow 35 mph street. And, why on earth do are all the new buildings right up against the street, with narrow sidewalks? What happened to the street trees and wide sidewalks? I don't know what the "new urbanism" is supposed to look like exactly, but, a lot of true big cities have wider sidewalks. It just looks ugly pushing the buildings right up against the street. Did we voters vote for this change? I sure don't remember it.

Posted by Sally
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:17 pm

I used to shop at that location when it was Luckys then Albertsons. There used to be little stores, a pizza parlor even a small post office. i was looking forward to shopping there again, but the architectural design really turned me off. I had no interest in going in no matter how good the store was likely to be. I blame whoever approved the monstrosity.

Posted by Judy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Milk Pail fans. See Phase Two of San Antonio New Center. Mountain Voice -View March 22nd article. The city council of Mountain View have already decided that they will allow the demolition of Milk Pail and surrounding property for Hotel and Theater. Take a drive and see the existing empty buildings already bought out. International Market Palo alto plumbing company. They are inching out the small Mexican restaurant and sushi place. Ross will be part of the new Mall phase two. Wish I was making it up, I'm just trying to open the eyes of those with blinders on. I'm not trying to start rumors. Maybe with the thought of loosing something so great, will get people to support local businesses. I support Milk Pail and will continue too until the end. Miki's was a great place too, but without the support from locals they are now part of the past.

Posted by Lynn Ware
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:36 pm

The new German developers are trying to push Milk Pail out of San Antonio Shopping Center. It is an established business. Maybe they should take over the Miki's space in Palo Alto and get out now instead of staying in their current location and getting abused.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2013 at 11:53 pm

The developer initially did not want the grocery store; he didn't think it could succeed in the space restrictions set forth in the deed when he bought the property from Alberstons. However the council rammed it down his throat in order to develop the property.

Council thinks they are smarter than everyone else, like with the "New Urbanism" design, like knowing what it takes to run a successful grocery store.

Most of the council that made that decision are long gone and are still being given awards like "Tall Tree", etc. Only Larry Klein is there (another one of his bad decisions, like the High Speed Rail, the decision to enrich the city workers pension benefits, etc).
And Pat Burt was on the Planning & Transportation commission.

Posted by member
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 26, 2013 at 12:22 am

I am sorry to read the news about Miki's closing. I like the internal of the store (organization, variety of choices, quality of products, tidiness, and especially the produce on sale), and the super-friendly employees there. I also read the posting in this forum by a Miki's employee, who may be the store manager there. It is good to know that they are reading and are learning about customer sentiments. The best outcome would be for all parties to do something to keep Miki's there for at least 5 years, and then perhaps it will be sustainable after that. If we do not give Miki's another chance to succeed, it is doubtful that any grocery store would be able to make it.

Suggestions: the developer to waive the rent (as he indeed got this ugly tall building erected as a sound barrier and a grocery store as condition for the houses he built and for which he profited); Miki's to adjust the store hours (with developer and home owners nearby to agree and modify the contract if needed) to stay open till 9 or 10 pm, and perhaps reduce the price with gain of customers and volumes; VTA bus to have more frequent stops and more routes to this location; pedestrians and bicycle access from Romona to the shopping area; media outlets to give more advertisement; and Palo Alto residents to come shopping.

Posted by AlmaPlazaNeighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 12:22 am

That was wishful thinking - yes, an unrealistic spot for a Ranch 99 style Asian market, but I would be thrilled if Milk Pail moved here. Also, there really ought to be a way for residents to be in on Council meetings without having to be physically present at City Hall.

Posted by another customer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:52 am

Originally I resolved to never shop at Miki's on account of the utter monstrosity they built bang right up on the sidewalk. But I tried it out and rather liked the store. Unfortunately it was also mighty expensive, and not the kind of place I would think of doing my main grocery shopping at. That would be reserved for Safeway and Costco. Miki's rather was good to look for a few specialized items, and with all the many boutique markets around, it would be the place to go to for items I could not find at the other places. The produce was good too (at least before the quality dropped), but then the Milk Pail was cheaper and Sprouts was just as good if not better. If memory serves me right, Sprouts and Miki's both opened around the same time, September/October of last year. I wonder if that was another small factor drawing customers away. I am really saddened about the prospective demise of the Milk Pail. I can't imagine it moving to the Miki's location and thriving. It has its outdoorsy charm, and a prime location (near El Camino, on San Antonio and California leading further into Mountain View). Miki's location sucks.

I didn't know Miki plunged his life savings into his store; I feel bad for him and hope he is able to recoop something out of it, but this sort of business is risky and CC and the developer did no favors to him. I agree that it was doomed from the start.

And can we please please STOP with the New Urbanism. Just please stop. Palo Alto needs a feeling of inviting openness, easily achieved with setbacks from the street, trees, windows, and architecture that fits the environment. Huge blocky windowless cubes plopped right next to the sidewalk (the JCC also comes to mind) are eyesores. Same goes with those condo developments cramming a thousand units into a tight space with narrow alley ways. I look at them and think they look like million-dollar slum housing.

Posted by Too soon.
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 26, 2013 at 9:19 am

Like everyone who lives in the area, I have already found grocery stores for what I want and need. There's been no grocery where Miki's is for years, and few locals have had the opportunity to shop regularly at their Berkeley site.

I went into Miki's a few times, tried a sandwich, milk, bagels, fruit, what have you. Over time, I would have included it in my normal shopping rounds.

But it takes a while to see how Miki's would fit into my food buying routine. I think it would take a while for anyone.

True, there are going to be new residents very near by who will naturally try Miki's, but those people aren't there yet. And while they would help buoy Miki's, they wouldn't on their own provide enough business to sustain the store.

Did Miki's' planners expect people to suddenly start buying all their groceries from a new store when the ones they know and trust are already part of their shopping routines?

Many who reside within a mile still don't know the store is there!

The idea that the weather impact on produce prices is forcing the store to close only goes so far in explaining this change of plan. Other grocers (e.g. Milk Pail, Sprouts) are able to find produce, some very good quality, at great prices, and nearby residents often already know what to buy at those.

I mean, the owner has to protect his interests, but this just seems like the planning was inadequate. I think the grocer got a bad deal.

Posted by legal eagle
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2013 at 9:34 am


re: Milk Pail Status

Please do not post unless you know what you are talking about; in this case, you do not.

Milk Pail is NOT in any litigation over parking. As they and MG spokespersons have said, they have a parking license for their customers to park behind Ross and BevMo, and between Ross and IM and BPS, which has several years more to run, which MG has said publicly they would honor. What happens after that is still TBD

All public drawings of the site continue to show MP at its present location.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:00 am

Miki's a wonderful store with best produce and organic selection at very reasonable price. I love the mushrooms, organic and Asian products there. This store has exceed my expectation. I am sad to see it closing the door. The owner, Miki, is nice and friendly. I appreciate his effort to create this store for Palo Alto. I am sorry for his loss from this investment.

Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:57 am

@legal eagle
re: Milk Pail Status
Please do not post unless you know what you are talking about; in this case, you do not.

To quote:
"Several residents spoke in favor of the Milk Pail market, which Merlone Geier wants to buy and demolish at the corner of California Street and San Antonio Road. The developer has said an agreement to share parking -- that the market has relied on to meet city requirements -- won't be renewed."

Milk Pail will be demolished to make room for merlone greed's project.

Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:15 am

I agree with all the comments about the pricing to be too high, but it does make you wonder if 20K sqft is too small of a size for a non-chain grocery store. A Safeway, Albertsons or Ranch 99 can leverage its buying power across all the stores in the region to get lower prices. At least Piazzas has one more location is San Mateo to get scale.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:16 am

Why on earth does everyone want a store that is big, bigger, biggest? The more stuff there is to choose from, the less satisfying the shopping experience is and the more stymied the shopper. It is a lab-proven fact that the fewer choices a shopper has, the happier they are with the shopping experience.

And why does the shopkeeper have to provide you with blandishments while you sit there yelling "No, no, and not that one either." Heavens, adapt to what is available. My sister lives in rural Pennsylvania where the ONLY groceries available for less than a 35 minute drive is the grocery department. of a Walmart.

Hint. Keep a separate list for each store that carries a few of the things you want. And shop at each store a couple of times a month.

Posted by casoly
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

I loved Miki's so sad about it's closing. Walked there often, yes walked. I was impressed with what they brought to the space. I went to the Starbucks there because of Miki's. So many times one turns away from something without ever giving it a good chance. I don't believe the neighborhood gave it a chance. I felt it was beginning to take root, but too late. The neighborhood loses, and the developers win. It's incredibly sad. Don't walk anywhere. Hurry, drive to those big box cheaper non-descript super-sized save save save grocery stores and so convenient but lifeless. What an uphill struggle then for anyone to start a business dream, to get any sort of support; chain establishments are so much better for the city, for our neighborhoods.

Posted by casoly
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 26, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Absolutely wonderful people at Miki's - so very helpful, cheerful. That bakery the best around here. So sorry there is no way to save this marvelous store. It's not the building that matters, there was heart here in this store offering its service. I thank them for the effort, for giving it a go.

Posted by JA3
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:19 pm

"It is a lab-proven fact that the fewer choices a shopper has, the happier they are with the shopping experience."

Amazon's current operations -- US$21.27 billion in 4th qtr '12 sales -- may be running counter to this 'lab-proven fact'.

Posted by TJM
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Kate nails it.

The Alma Plaza development is just another example of the abomination that Palo Alto city planning has become. The people responsible for this should be ashamed and we all should be outraged.

These people have destroyed Palo Alto. Instead of a well-balanced community providing exemplary services (including commercial outlets) to its citizens, we have . . . high density housing. Everywhere. And what a surprise - we have the concomitant strain on infrasturcure, and most importantly, schools. One example: the field at Fairmeadow has vanished amid a two-story building, necessitated by overcrowding (see high density housing). Don't worry, the kids don't need room to play at recess (or ever), it's much more important to cram everyone into small spaces.

The whole thing is a disgrace that makes me sick to my stomach. Stop the effing madness!!

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2013 at 2:24 pm

A developer can build a building, provide space, lease the space. But he can't I will say this again I can't provide the customers. Only the paying public can vote with their feet.

Posted by Allen Edwards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2013 at 3:04 pm

We loved Miki's wonderful store. Great produce. Everything else was kind of expensive or not something they carried. We went there yesterday, 30% off closing sale. The place was packed with 3 people deep at every register. But we just drove in and picked from several open parking spaces. Parking was not the issue. It may have been a perceived issue, and it is difficult to get into some of the spaces but there was tons of parking. They even have underground parking that was virtually empty. It isn't that hard to get into either. There is a f***ing stop light with a left turn arrow. What more do you want?

This reminds me of what my granddad used to say: "When you expenses exceed your income you upkeep will be your downfall." They just didn't have enough business to cover their costs.

The entire time we were there yesterday, maybe 1/2 hour, there were two staff repacking packaged figs into crates as fast as they could. Wtf, why did they buy so many figs? There was an entire shelf, maybe 20 feet, of olive oil in gallon containers. I understand that at Thanksgiving, they had a very large number of turkeys, mostly unsold. At the market on Middlefield, if you want a turkey, you need a reservation. They didn't overbuy.

It is easy to point fingers at the city and, as I said we loved the store, but the real problem was that the cost of running the market exceeded the business they had. I mean, do people really pay $28 a pound for cheese? Do you really need a dedicated staff to sell artisan cheese to you in a local market?

Posted by Doris
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Miki's Marketplace is a wonderful store. It brings diversity to the bland, chain-dominated grocery store choices that abound everywhere else. I love the selection, the staff is friendly.
Please, please, please keep Miki's in business.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:15 pm

> Allen Edwards, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood

has some good points ...

Sure, when I finally got enough courage to drive into this little center ... in the wrong driveway I might add (it's odd that the first driveway you come to is not the one that you are supposed to enter into, but the second, which creates a small traffic overlap) I liked the little space, and the market was nice. I went in, everything was nice, new, clean and friendly ... but it was not even 5 minutes before I knew I would not be doing regular shopping there, and I would never spend enough time there to really be familiar with all the fancy stuff they had, because the prices were too high. It just felt too hoity-toity, and most stuff cost too much.

This market might have worked had the business strategy been more finely tuned, that is create a customer base around something. Fresh and prepared food would have been nice - people could come in, get a dinner and go home, but there really was nothing that would draw me there. But Piazzi's which is very close has a finely honed prepared food section. Miki's prepared food section was also too far back and cut off. Stuff maybe you cannot tell when you are planning the business but which you have to keep your eye on and give it time.

My girlfriend and I would go to Miki's every few weeks on the way home from dining out in places that did not have good desserts to grab desseert, usually a pack of Mochi, the little ice cream centers covered with dough, but that was all we got really. They had good produce, we were amazed on our first visit with the gargantuan size of the pomegranates in the outside display, but even that fizzled if we came home too late ... the place closed at 8pm? I was a bit angry after I took the effort to drive in there, and park and the place was closed.

Also, most of the time Mikis was open was in the winter when it was dark and rainy ... not a good time of year for people to build a positive vibe about a new business. I am sorry to see Miki's close though, I think if they had time they might be able to make a go of it, they just had to reach out more and create a customer base and word of mouth.

Posted by Katie
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm

This is so sad - we liked Miki's a lot, like the store, liked the employees (they were SO friendly - even friendlier than our JJ& least the new owners of JJ&F). The design of the store was definitely odd but I think the biggest pitfall was the location of the store. We would loved to see Miki's in the JJ&F location or Mollie Stones location. It's such a shame to see a locally owned store not make it - versus a chain store. Sorry Miki!

Posted by He says, he says...
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:27 pm

According to the front page of today's Daily Post ( not the most trustworthy of sources), John McNellis was told by the City that he was REQUIRED to put a grocery store in that development, and that when Miki's is gone, another will fill that building!

What, and guarantee some other poor fool's failure? That is cruel, that is stupid, that makes no business sense.

McNellis also said that Miki's needed at least $175K/week to stay open, but last week made only $108K, and vendors were about to cut him off.

Those cheesy, impractical, overpriced homes behind Miki's are not selling very well at all, and they were supposed to provide something of a customer base for the grocery store. Since most of the buyers at Elevation appear to be Asian, maybe an Asian grocery would work put. Other than that, another grocery store would be a foolish idea.

Posted by phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm

jb asks why everyone wants a store that is bigger. The fact is that Palo Alto people are driving to Menlo Park and Mt View to shop in full service markets. If jb, like my wife, prefers a small store, there are plenty in Palo Alto to choose from and no one will force them to shop at a newer bigger store. We don't have to worry about Walmart driving everyone else out, but there are no full scale markets for those who want to do all their shopping at once without paying small store prices. Too many people want to use their preferences to limit other people's choice.

On a different issue, a lot of people keep saying how expensive Miki's was. But on a same item per item basis, I found they were generally cheaper than Piazzas, especially for produce. The problem was that they did not carry many of the common items people look for--a very limited selection of cereals, only one expensive brand of half gallon ice cream (no Dreyers), almost no sodas, limited frozen foods, etc. I think they might have caught on eventually as an kind of Milk Pail--produce and cheeses--but it would have taken a long time for people to change their shopping habits. When they first announced the store, I was led to believe that they would be a branch of Berkeley Bowl. That might have worked better, if a parent store could have supported them until people got used to shopping there--similar to Piazzas back when it was called Park Merced and moved into the old Brentwood marker.

I still strongly believe that what Alma and Palo Alto needed was a mid-sized or larger (maybe 40k sq ft) chain grocery like Rallys or Ralphs and that the city should have fast tracked Lucky and then Albertsons original proposals. Then if Albertsons pulled out or folded, someone else could have come into the space. McNellis said once that no major chain would look at anything smaller than 39k sq ft.

Posted by Hung Lo
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:35 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by RogueTrader
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Diana Diamond from the PA Daily News had an article about the ridiculous demands from the PA Architecture Review Board in June. Here is an excerpt:

"Alma Plaza developer John McNellis told me his retail stores will be right next to the sidewalk because the city insisted on it.

Curtis Williams, the city’s planning director, admitted the new urbanism principles “were not implemented well at Alma Plaza.”

And Judith Wasserman, a member of the city’s Architectural Review Board, acknowledged the design elements for the JCC, Alma Plaza and Arbor Real “didn’t all work out well.”

Posted by He says, he says
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:28 pm

The tragedy is that apparently Miki had quit his job as manager of the Berkeley Bowl and sunk a large chunk of personal funds into this venture. He is in his sixties, so how can he possibly make that money back?

Now there are about 50 soon-to-be-unemployed people here as a result of all this, and they all say they had never worked for anyone nicer.

John McNellis may be independently wealthy and live in a mansion in Atherton, but he is losing money on this as well as on those horrible houses he built behind Miki's. Apparently, no one wants to buy them, as they are very pricey yet poorly constructed. He may well get a taste of his own medicine.

Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2013 at 10:41 pm

@Allen Edwards - it just shows you that architecture is important, because when you drive by that building, it gives a very unwelcome impression. And given how cramped it is relative to the street and sidewalk, people assume that the parking is going to be cramped and difficult. Compare to the downtown Whole Foods, where even though the parking spots are tight and often full, you can see the parking situation from the street, there are multiple entries, and it doesn't feel claustrophobic.

Posted by WebWolf
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:15 pm

This is so sad. I feel truly sorry for Miki and his friendly staff.
It's a shame that such a store can't survive in PA.
We live a block away and this store changed our shopping habits. Knowing that it's important to support a local store like this we went there twice a week to shop. I don't quite understand why there weren't many more shoppers supporting this store. To me it appeared perfect for the well educated and affluent crowd in PA. They had
fantastic items, and most of it was affordable.
Sure, the building wasn't ideal, but I never cared about this. And I never had a problem with parking either.

Since we are in the neighborhood just for two years now we were not aware that there is such a loaded history to the Plaza.
The city should take responsibility for all this. For the store failure and these ridiculous tower-like homes behind it. Looks like Hong Kong to me. How can one approve such terrible homes?

Posted by Employee
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:24 pm

As an employee of Miki's I would like it to be recognized that Miki was a really wonderful person, boss and role-model. Miki was at his store daily just like his employees and you couldn't count all the times he would circulate his store and thank the customers for shopping with us, Asking if they liked the store listening to all the suggestions and what people wanted to see in the store. He really worked endlessly trying to meet the needs of what our community wanted. He was listening, he donated to our local schools for Auctions and showed his support for our community and children. He also was donating food to the homeless shelter to help those in need. This was a man who honestly and truly cared about the community and giving back. This is what a role model is someone from whom you can learn from and a person who does things the right way and with dignity and love! Going to work was a treat , We all looked forward to going to work. It was fun working with our loving, caring and Terrific crew. We all loved working there and that is the hardest part is knowing the one thing that you looked forward to everyday was not having to go to work, but going somewhere that you wanted to be. This community that I share and live in can accuse each other as much as they like and point fingers at others, You should have come and supported us! Especially, when Miki was doing all he could to support our community in which he doesn't even live. For our true supporters, We know who you are and we are so very very Thankful too you, and we will all miss seeing you and your families. I will miss my all my co-workers from the endless hard working guys in produce, the extremely clean meat department, our beautiful and most talented baking chef EVER!!!, and all the beautiful and friendly deli crew, who worked to make everything look so perfection-ally and taste outstanding with fresh ingredients straight from our produce department everyday! The Cheese People- My God!! Need I say more! Just outstanding in what you do!!! If you didn't have the pleasure of meeting these people, YOU SO MISSED OUT!!!!! Then the "wine guy" always ready with the best wines ever, That's why his department was emptied out first by all the "sharks" once word got out we were going under... . And finally the cashiers and baggers who were always ready to greet you and meet your needs as much as possible. Saving the best for last, the Managers those who traveled near and far... VERY FAR! The blood sweat and tears that they help put this store together, literally. That's why we are taking it so personal sure there were contractors but the mangers actually put in all the cabinetry and all the shelving.. We didn't hire contractors to do it all, the managers who work their built it piece by piece with Miki.

Miki Supported our community but We didn't support him! And that is the truth. You can use all the excuses you want, But that is the fact. Oh one more thing, people who keep saying how expensive we were... So then if that is so true why are you spending 100's and 100's of dollars on us now??? Guess you won't be going to Piazza's or Safeway for a while???

Thank you From your sad, depressed,soon to be unemployed, and Mad. Employee resident of Palo Alto.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2013 at 12:23 am


A very admirable job pushing "Liberal Guilt" back on Palo Alto.

Good job, and well deserved.

What I really hope, however, is that you have gained the experience and true nature of "Liberal Hypocrisy" in all of this. That knowledge will serve you well as your life goes forward.

Posted by Interpretation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 7:39 am

JA3, in support of your point about Amazon, i'd add further to the previous poster:
Be careful about generalizing too much from those limited studies. Yes, if you're at Costco and someone is selling six flavors of jam, they're more likely to make an impulse buy than if there are 24 flavors, because people feel a need to optimize and they can't do that with 24 flavors and limited time if they're just looking at jam and there to get the weekly groceries. However, that idea isn't necessarily broadly applicable especially for things people take however much time they need to get what they want.

Posted by Interpretation
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 7:47 am

I am not sure what the complaints about the prices are. We have been shopping there regularly because the prices have been better - the sushi was less expensive and better than at the other local groceries, many of the grocery and produce items were less. My husband is a cheapskate, and he had started going to Miki's bc certain items were better priced. We buy organic, but choose carefully. I'm going o miss thus place.

Posted by richard mamelok
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2013 at 8:45 am

This is very sad news indeed. I loved this store; best cheese and dairy selection around. Great employees! I feel bad for Miki, the empolyees and the neighbors. What a lost opportunity.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2013 at 9:24 am

Sad times for the little store which I am sure Miki along with his workers, opened to great fan fare and then 6 months later having to close. Blaming the developer won't help, blaming the parking won't help either, blaming the the building won't help.

Some shoppers were loyal, others not too loyal, we all have our places to shop, we get comfortable, items can be found quickly, we know the workers. I shop at Fresh and Easy, i like this store, it is east and get out of fast. A guy thing I think. Reality maybe he and his workers just could win over shoppers going to other stores.

Posted by Allison
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:24 am

I am very sad to see this market go. I live pretty close to it, and I never really had a problem with parking there. The have a great bakery, cheese section, Asian section....the veggies were great and varied. The only thing I would change is the prices were great on some things but very high on other things. Their prepared foods were really expensive, which I think is a big downfall to a supermarket. They had Asian Chicken Salad for 10 bucks; you can get the same thing in Safeway for $5. As a busy mom, I would have really liked cheaper prepared foods for lunch and dinner. I thought the veggies were well priced, though.

Posted by buy buy... a little too late!!!
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

so true what "employee" said! if you want a store to make it, then do the obvious thing. . . shop there!

more than that, tell a friend, who tells a friend and make the store a success because you've introduced new people to the store you "love." the community needed to change their habits and open their wallets if they wanted miki's to stay. enough of this sad, doomed, pathetic litany of excuses, palo alto peeps. YOU should have shopped there, regardless of its outward appearance.

i just "love" how people are now sooooo sad about this store closing, why the heck couldn't you people shop there and make a difference when the store was open??

do you really think anyone goes into business to fail? perspective, people-- perspective!

DO THE RIGHT THING, get off your duff and SHOW how much you appreciate "things" by SHOPPING! CHANGE your habits, OPEN your minds and wallets, MAKE a difference! (please note the ACTION VERBS used to bring emphasis to this post)

nuff said!

shame on you!

Posted by WebWolf
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:23 am

Very true. "buy buy little too late"

People should have supported this wonderful store a lot more.
I don't understand why people count pennies when a local independent
store counts on their business. Most people (of course not all) have the money to pay a little more for quality produce. Why not support them? They are part of the community and it should be our interest
to have them there. It adds value to the neighborhood. Instead,
they keep complaining about "appearance". What a letdown.

They made mistakes though. Lack of marketing.
I live close by, and don't recall having a single flyer in my mail.
Why not print out a thousand pages with store deals and have a teenager distribute, say every other week. These things are cheap and easy to do....

But with most things that we take for granted, you see the value
only once they are gone...

Posted by Where-Supermarkets-Are-Concerned--Bigger-Is-Better
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:47 am

This location would serve a startup software company well.

Posted by Regretful
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm

I am so disappointed that I did not go to this wonderful store sooner. I really had intended to and was pleased to hear that they would be moving in and featuring organic foods. I guess it was just inertia and being so busy. I actually have a lot of my groceries delivered by really helps with all the heavy milk containers and amount of food I need each week to feed my family.

I finally visited Miki's this week, not so much because of the 30% off, but because it was now or never. I really liked the store and realize now that I would have gone there regularly to get things I had never seen before, such as some great dairy-free and gluten-free foods. I would have also bought most of my produce there, since Safeway's doesn't do much for me.

If we could go back in time, and knowing what I know now, I would have started shopping at Miki's when it opened! Unfortunately, all the shouldas, couldas, wouldas, don't help Miki's now. I do think if he could have stuck it out a little longer, his store might have made it, but I am sure he didn't want to risk further losses.

I don't know why the city council made the supermarket open up before the houses were done. That might also have helped his sales to have a full community already living behind him and the access opened up to Ramona.

Such a shame all the way around.

I have good wishes for all the hardworking people who put their hearts into opening Miki's. I am sorry that I didn't realize what a special store you had until it was too late.

Posted by Sorry for the Soon-to-be-Unemployed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I think Miki's was overstaffed....they had 25 full time and 25 part ime employees. Too much for such a small store. Every time I went there, a lot of employees, especially the
Checkout people, were standing idle. Now they will soon be unemployed. And Miki had lost a huge financial investment on a venture that was doomed from the start. He knew Palo Alto, lived here previously, worked here before, too. he should have been able to see this was not the place for a small grocery store with terrible access. Perhaps he got overconfident; he was a successful manager at the Berkeley Bowl. many of us were led to believe that Miki' s would be another Berkeley Bowl, but how could it be in such cramped quarters, with only one narrow way in and out?

Now there are 51 people soon to be jobless, and one man in his sixties who is broke. it is an American Tragedy.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 27, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Although this store was very convenient for me to get to from my house, their hours were not ideal for my lifestyle. I often shop in the evening and they closed either at 8 or 7. This is not very accommodating for the neighborhood customers who work in the day time and take care of family early in the evening. When I was able to get there in the daytime, the store had way to many employees hanging around chatting. Even a small cheese counter had two people working and the lady at that counter was excruciatingly loud and could be heard across the store. A simple request for a Bulgarian feta would get her frizzled and she would always correct my French pronunciation of all the fancy cheese names. I avoided the cheese station the few times I came during the day. I liked the products overall, the meat department, and very pleasant cashiers, but given their hours, this was not a place for me.

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm

The people reobsible for the loss of alma plaza as a neighborhood shopping center have been discussed before. The people responsible for what we have now are the members of the ARB. Either they are nitpicking projects with petty changes or they force alma village on the public. You know what they say about those that cannot do? Well architects that cannot design sit on ARBs?

Posted by A local
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I shop at Miki’s, have talked to the owner a couple times, and know some of the staff modestly well.

In the first couple weeks, I warned Michael he was steering into trouble. It has to do with two things: The “history” that land holds for local residents, and the proximity to Stanford Villa Apartments.

The Stanford Villa situation is easily explained. It might seem to be an upscale Palo Alto complex, but in fact there are a considerable number of students there, and poorish families who are desperate to get their kids into Palo Alto schools. That is, it’s hardly the clients an upscale market wants. The several businesses that were in Alma Plaza previously weren’t struggling for no reason.

The history of the land is more complex. A huge part of Alma Plaza was used by Stanford Villa renters for free parking. The owners of Stanford Villa, and the (previous) owners of Alma Plaza detested each another. The (previous) Alma Plaza owner did everything he could to drive the 9 odd businesses out (several of them small, private businesses), because he was convinced he could make a fortune selling to Trader Joe’s, or something like that.

The current Alma Plaza owner? I have nothing but bad things to say about him, and so do most of my neighbors. He has repeatedly lied (for example, promising not to remove a row of trees that had been standing for decades), and regularly breaks laws, for example, by attempting to do construction well before the legal time, and on into the evening, as long as there is light. He has tried several times to do construction on Sunday, which is forbidden. When contacted, the Palo Alto police seem to make up stories about the appropriate process to confront him. This is not necessarily pernicious, merely uninformed. I have been told, for example, that I must file a citizen’s arrest warrant, or that I should call in every time there is an infraction, because it’s the number of infractions that count, or that there is no problem working outside allowed hours, as long as there is no major noise. Etc.

Talking today with Miki’s employees who came in this Sunday, to find unexpectedly they had no jobs, they said that the Alma Plaza owner grossly misrepresented the building availability (by months), and “milked owner Miki dry” for construction costs.

My neighbors have discovered that two and three story homes have been unexpectedly “stretched” upward, overshadowing their homes, and blocking the view.

Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm

There is a memo on "pc zoning" (which was used to permit the ill-conceived project at Alma Plaza) by three current members of the Planning Commission.
Web Link

It is actually on the agenda for tonight Wednesday 3/27 at 6 p.m.

I think "planned community" pc zoning should be abolished. It is the developers' best friend.

The memo is kinda weak and says that the problem is the inability to define the term "substantial public benefit." Deeper than that, the laws were designed to permit flexibility in type of use and instead, surprise surprise have been used to justify density increases which in many cases provide increased builder profit with little benefit to the community.

There are way more of us than them although we do this out of conscience and they do this for the big money, so it's tough sledding.

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 27, 2013 at 6:03 pm

A local-- so I was wondering what in your long post is actually true? You seem to present plenty of factoids, but nothing in the way of substantiation. And I guess mike was naive babe in the woods before the own milked him dry but never collecting rent form him

Posted by Liz
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 27, 2013 at 8:27 pm

I will miss Miki's. I thought the prices for produce (especially organic) were far better than anywhere else. I found items (pomegranate molasses) which I couldn't find elsewhere. It was a great neighborhood market, walking distance, though I would have liked a back entrance like we had when the old Lucky/albertsons was in that space. Parking was OK---I never had any trouble. I thought parking at Trader Joe's at town and country was an absolute nightmare.

Miki's was a niche market for produce, fine cheeses and wine.

I loved the staff, always friendly and helpful

I will miss Miki's. I feel bad that Miki and all the staff got screwed.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Off topic, but "Regretful" stated they have groceries delivered by Safeway when they live in Palo Verde district, so should be within 1-2 miles of Safeway. Why would anyone have groceries delivered? It takes at most, 20 minutes to grocery shop with a list in hand.

Posted by Woulda Coulda and Shoulda
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:22 pm

Count 'em: 157 comments

Very nice condolences for a valiant effort by what the staff said was a carrying and hands on owner.
The shoppers said great things about the staff.

If one of Palo Alto's zillionaires (who may have shopped there) came up to Miki and said, "hey, is there anything I can do to help"?

do you think more Palo Altans would step up and support a Local business if Mike adjusted his pricing, increased his hours, improved his marketing if he was given another chance at bat?

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:37 pm

"Woulda Coulda and Shoulda": 157 comments with a population of 65,412 (not all adults, but still). The small parking lot and narrow entrance is too much of a deterrent. I would rather shop at a larger store where there are more choices, and Piazza's just expanded. Milk Pail might be able to bring 'em in because of it's niche.

Posted by jschmoe
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Every single last planner and council member of the City of Palo Alto should lose their job/position on account of this train wreck. They obviously do not have either the inclination or the competence necessary to make viable decisions regarding development in this City. Shame on all of them.

Posted by Eileen Stolee
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm

I would continue to shop at Miki's if outside funding helped it to stay open. I think it's the best market in town!

Posted by Curious Observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:50 am

Curious Observer is a registered user.

To the city council and developer: I drive by Miki's everyday on my way to work. I just assumed that the market was meant for those living in that area. I could never see where to park and just assumed there was a very small lot that was probably full. Those are the same reasons why I never stopped at Starbucks. I get my items in Menlo Park where I can see what's going on and I know there's plenty of parking. I think the design of the retail and parking has doomed it for failure if you're counting on more than the neighbors to frequent it.

Posted by Tennyson Avenue resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:51 am

a local's claims about miki being milked dry are pure fantasy. Local newspapers have reported that the developer funded 4 million dollars in furnishings for the store and never collected rent.
And surely the workers must have known that the store was in trouble--so the claim that they showed up on sunday to find that they would be closing is laughable. In fact if you look on Yelp you can see reponses to reviews by store people saying that they are in trouble.
Finally claoims that buildings were "stretched" and views are blocked is not true either.

Posted by Employee
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:04 am

Hello Tennyson Avenue Resident-

Sunday morning before I started my shift, I received a call from my manger Cindy who wanted to call and tell me that Miki is closing the store. And to be prepared to see flyers on doors and that the managers that morning have posted everything 30% off. This was 10am, I was scheduled to work at 11am. Mind you, this was only known told to the employees, Palo alto Weekly didn't publicly announce our closure until Monday the following day. By then I had checked out people will bills worth over 500.00 dollars not a blink of an eye and no one wanted there receipts. By Sunday evening peope were all putting there overstock of expensive wines away and all those imported items you don't know what to do with... Nice try.

Posted by Tennyson avenue resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:38 am

Not sure what you rpoint is Employee. This Cindy had been posting cooments on Yelp that the store ws in trouble. Hard to believe that the employees had no clue--did you not notice the lack of customers or the fact that vendors had stopped supplying your store.
Anyway, the store's failure can be summed up in one of the few ads I saw for Miki, where you were advertising $32/pound cheese on sale at $27/pond. Wow--no wonder people could not afford to shop there

Posted by Anymouse
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

Tennyson Avenue resident

' Local newspapers have reported that the developer funded 4 million dollars in furnishings for the store and never collected rent.'

Hi, could you site any newspapers please? I am highly suspicious that this may have be true.
Though I am unable to find any source.

Thank you
Also, to MIKI's Employees, EDGEWOOD PLAZA is now hiring for their new store The Fresh Market, applications being accepted Online today.

Posted by JA3
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2013 at 11:00 am

"Local newspapers have reported that the developer funded 4 million dollars in furnishings for the store and never collected rent."

Clearly, the economics were out-of-whack from the get-go; Miki's was doomed from the start.

Posted by Tennyson Avenue resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

anymouse--the rent issue in mentioned in this story and was also in the Daily Post and The Daily News.
The Daily Post discussed the funding of furnishing by the developer.
I agree with JA3+--this was doomed from the start. And who knows what would have been had the council not rolled over for the neighborhood activists and NIMBYs

Posted by some guy
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 28, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I hope it's irony and not a prank that it closes April fool'd day.

Posted by shopped
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm

yes ,the workers seemed more natural acting than the other markets like wfm and 'joe's. there was good hot take out items like a big pack of fried chicken for real cheap. also a lot of craft brewed sodas. it was a good stop over market so you did nt have go to los altos . there was bulk nuts and things that you cant find anywhere else , like thai spice cashews that were reasonably priced.. mainly though ,it was a good stop over market if you were on th way north or south. if youre hungry , who cares about architechture. also , there were many minority employees that really seemed proud to be working there rather than scared ''i hope i can keep my job '' attitude of wfm and trader joes workers.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm

funny how this thread has changed, with some reprimanding Palo Altans with a sort of noblesse oblige idea that they "should" support any store, even if the prices were high...
it's nice if the owner was nice, but he signed a legal contract to open his store. That's nothing to do with the rest of us "guaranteeing" it would work out...

Posted by Anymouse
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Tennyson Avenue:
"anymouse--the rent issue in mentioned in this story and was also in the Daily Post and The Daily News."

I can find out about the Furnishings in the DAILY POST and DAILY NEWS? As it is NOT mentioned in this article, please forgive if it was, but I do not see it.

I do see rent, I've read the articles hear, I was very interested in who paid for the furnishings for the store.

Posted by Tennyson Avenue resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2013 at 1:59 pm

any mouse--reread my response to you above:
"The Daily Post discussed the funding of furnishing by the developer."

It is in Tuesday's and today's Daily Post
Daily Post is not online, so you will have to find a hrad copy

Posted by Get real
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Of course a lot of people are going to try out Miki's now that word is out about everything being 30% off. The prices are back down to earth, where they belong. Most retailers are aware that you can sell a lot more goods and sell them faster if you do not have a high markup and keep the prices down. If the prices are high, you will sell a lot less and a lot more slowly, if at all.

This is just plain business sense. Besides, a small store does not need so many employees, it just creates too much overhead. High overhead kills a lot of businesses every day.

But it was a combination of a lot of things, previously posted, that killed Miki's. First impressions are lasting impressions, and most people's first impressions as they drove by Miki's were, " too small, to hard to enter, no apparent parking .

Miki's apparently did not have a good or realistic business plan, which John McNellis may not have asked to see. He is a successful business man, he lives in a mansion in Atherton, surely he would know a bad business plan if he saw one.

Posted by Get real
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I just checked on Yelp, and there were a lot of stellar reviews, but nothing from any employees complaining that the store was barely hanging on. Nothing from anyone named Cindy, period.

Posted by Tennyson Avenue resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm

"I just checked on Yelp, and there were a lot of stellar reviews, but nothing from any employees complaining that the store was barely hanging on. Nothing from anyone named Cindy, period."

Check again, get real:

"Web Link

Comment from Cindy R. of Miki's Farm Fresh Market 3/24/2013 «
Oh it is so sad ! I have loved working here. We were… More »
Oh it is so sad ! I have loved working here.
We were loving the customers too. We gave it all we had, but starting a new business requires so much capital.
If there is a such a thing as a miracle I wish we could have one and stay open
Come in and get some good deals anyway. 30% off


Comment from Cindy R. of Miki's Farm Fresh Market 3/23/2013
We thank everyone for their feedback. Business has been… More »
We thank everyone for their feedback.
Business has been slow for us and not where we need it to be. Not sure how long we can last like this!?
We need your continued support and fast! Bring friends, tell friends !!
Support your neighborhood, independent, non chain, non corporate, high quality Market.!!


Comment from Cindy R. of Miki's Farm Fresh Market 3/11/2013 Thanks Eva..Spread the word!!! We need to build the business… More »
Thanks Eva..Spread the word!!! We need to build the business , it has been very slow the last month!!

Posted by yelp
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 28, 2013 at 2:45 pm

The comments by Cindy are on yelp. Not sure how get real missed them, period.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Mr. McMillan is in the business of development, not the grocery store business. I would think the 2 businessmen would talk, but even the best laid plans don't work out. Just feel bad for Miki, the work that was involved and his employees.

Posted by Tree Top
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Something smells fishy here. Never paid rent since day 1? Store closes early? Did they ever intend to operate here in good faith? Or is this business just a bait and switch for the developer to get what they want?

Posted by CJR
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Do not include Miki in that comment about being fishy and "they" in in good faith

He was in it for all the marbles and in GOOD FAITH!!!!!

Posted by CJR
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 28, 2013 at 5:35 pm

I took the time to Respond to Customers comments, negative or positive on YELP me Cindy a manager at Miki's I

Posted by CJR
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 28, 2013 at 5:40 pm


Me CIndy from Miki's- WHen a business is not doing well, as we were you want to try and stay positive and ask the community to come shop there.

Asking people to come shop and that we need to build the business was on Yelp and our Facebook Page

I was practically begging in some posts...whatever, say what you want
I know I had heart and soul and every last employee and Miki all had good intentions to bring a QUALITY Market to people we thought would appreciate it.

Yes we failed in getting the word out faster and louder Don;t you think we realize that now?!!

Posted by CJR
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:34 pm

CINDY FROM MIKI"S .....Many other Business people were asked if they wanted to have a grocery store in this location....all turned it down until Miki

So MC NELLIS not McMillan, realized he needed to invest in some incentives to get someone in there like Installing the fixtures etc...And telling Miki ""DON"T WORRY ABOUT THE RENT Mick"

Then one day last Saturday Miki gets papers served that hey.. here are some legal papers and sorry but , YES WE DO WANT THE BACK RENT IN 10 DAYS OR ELSE

So gone is the notion that maybe we can somehow get out of this mess and then the straw that broke the camel's back were those papers and thus the "abrupt announcement of store closing"

So the choice was made to sell off the inventory to pay employees and not have the store locked up in 10 days with all the inventory inside, and maybe get some money to the vendors we owe as well

Maybe we were over staffed at times, we have laid off quite a few people over the last 5 months by the way.....

I made the schedule for the front end and you cannot predict when you are going to be busy. Certain days and times are usually busier than others, but than it shifts,

We were constantly cutting back in in labor and spending..We had reports we used to see the busier times and had crews for those times, but i was not given a crystal ball to know precisely when x amount of people were going to show up and shop

We all knew the business was not doing well, but you try to put on you happy face and treat the customers well, hoping they see what customer service really is and provide a pleasant shopping experience.


I have not seen one post they says the inside of store was ugly and the staff rude. That we carried junk you can get at any Safeway or Items from Joes that you have no idea where they were actually manufactured or grown !!

Wah wah wah an ugly building and narrow driveway..Maybe if The Local Police actually enforced the 35 MPH ( HA HA HA) speed LIMIT on Alma people would not be afraid of slowing down and turning into a drive way that has a frigging stoplight!!!!!
Wah wah wah the stop light has screwed up the traffic on Alma.

Now I noticed there miraculously appears a new lighted street sign at the stop light saying ALMA PLAZA Drive in the last few days!!!

I was involved in pricing and I know for a fact on grocery items we had a lower mark up than many other stores on many items as I have worked for other stores

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by CJR_ CINDY
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 28, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Get Real
I did not use my name on yelp sometimes, I was the Business person who responded

Posted by CJR_ CINDY
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm

And so this is why we live in America !

So we can voice our opinions and buy expensive cheese or not,

and have a wide variety of soy milk...Some people like Kraft cheddar and some people like expensive cheese from france or Spain...we also have kraft, tillamook etc...some people like 2 buck chuck and some people like expensive wine from Napa or Italy

We did offer choices and not just high priced items .

Excuse my sarcasm but it has been a rough week!!!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm

> And so this is why we live in America !
> So we can voice our opinions and buy expensive cheese or not,

Totally agree ... when someone doesn't have an argument or wants to attack someone for their speech they call them a whiner, or say they have too much time on their hands, or can't find anything better to do ... folks, this is the reason we have a town hall forum to begin with. I wish people would not do that.

Cindy's right, we have this freedom of speech in America ... at least for a while longer! ;-)

Posted by It's Pat
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 7:34 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2013 at 7:54 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Get Real
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Just checked the link Tennyson Ave resident provided. Maybe some thing is wrong, but there was nothing from anyone named Cindy on 3/23 or 3/24. On 3/24 there were comments from JanetH, Christine L, and Yu C. Nothing for 3/23 or 3/22. No comments until 3/21. No Cindy anywhere.

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Get real-- I just checked the Li k-- I see Cindy's responses to Yu c., Julie k and eve d., which Tennyson avenue resident cut and pasted on this thread. So I am not sure why you refuse to see it. Plus, Cindy herself, above, has acknowledged those comments.

Posted by Get Real
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2013 at 8:50 pm

It's Pat: I just heard from someone that MR not an issue is actually MISS not an issue, so be polite!

Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 28, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I guess the weekly is feeling sorry for the employees of Mimi's. Otherwise how else to explain leaving her post intact where she makes fun of the Reasonable complaints about the location.

Posted by Get Real
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2013 at 9:10 pm

CJR: You mentioned that no one but Miki wanted to put a grocery store in that location/building. Given the history of the location, should that not have been a red flag?

Miki's WAS a great store, but as you have read, there were just too many detractions. The lack of advertising did not help one bit, especially since advertising is a deductible business expense.

By the way, I know John McNellis, I used to teach his daughters. He does not have a good reputation in Palo Alto. Probably why he lives in Atherton. I think almost anyone who really knows JMc would tell you not to take his spoken word as bond, but get a contract in writing.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Employee
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 28, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Thank you again to those who supported us and for those who wished us well today. Yes, there were a lot of things that contributed to us not succeeding. The Parking= No the lot was never filled to be a problem. If you didn't like shopping here fine. But I'm directing this to people who have never stepped foot in the building stop making assumptions of what happened. Too Expensive...No not after the 300.00 and 600.00 purchases you've made in the last few days, Oh and not one of you waited for your receipts or even checked too see if you were over charged. Makes you wonder Huh???
But the message is this, help support your local business, know what's happening in your community and your neighboring city, Open your eyes and look at what's ahead. I may have lashed out at a customer today, and honestly, after she left I did feel bad, and wished I hadn't. But it is amazing that almost everyone I have talked too, doesn't know that The Milk Pail is being demolished in Phase Two of the San Antonio center. The eight screen Movie theatre will go up and the luxury hotel will be built next to the new Mall on the second floor. By then the 300 family unit will be opened. Safeway will open it's doors in the next two weeks and the already existing population of Mt.View and Palo alto who share this location will welcome the additional 300 families with open arms right?. And what will become of the old site of Safeway.... Hmm anyone??... I would guess MORE HOUSING. How many of you knew this was happening, not many as I talked to a lot of people today. I really hope that the Milk Pail will find a new home, if they can afford it. Yes, it was interesting to here someone complain about the Alma street and the light. When was the last time you ever saw a patrol on this side of Palo Alto? And when was the last time anyone actually drove 35mph on Alma , I would clock most at 45-50. That goes for Middlefield Road 25mph, YEAH RIGHT!! Okay, okay let's not get into that now. Thank you everyone again.

Posted by former resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

There is plenty of blame to spread around here. A building or retail development organization should do a postmortem study on the whole Alma Plaza project and it's troubled 15 year development process.

I would say it all went downhill as the city surrendered it's better judgement and gave in to the mob mentality of the NIMBY's opposing the original project. Rather than reason with them or ask the developer to make modest adjustments the city caved to every NIMBY demand establishing a moratorium on new development. It basically killed the original proposal. The biggest boogeyman for project opponents at the time seemed to be the concept of a SUCCESSFUL retail development in their "own backyards". Now look what they got! A MARGINAL retail development, planned as an afterthought and a whole bunch of Dublin/Livermore style townhouse style tract homes.

The city of Palo Alto really seems to be asleep at the wheel or out of it's comfort zone with any project outside the downtown business core. It wants to be perceived as responsive to "community concerns" (basically just a few people) so it caves in to EVERY one of their demands rather than work towards compromises that would actually benefit the vast majority of the city's residents. That is pure irresponsibility on the city's part; not good leadership at all. It's like the city is run by a bunch of amateurs.

I don't get the criticism that this is a failure of "new urbanist" design. There is nothing new urbanist about this project. New urbanism is all about providing attractive and pedestrian friendly street frontages and laying things out so people do not get plowed down by cars. Yes, maybe the back of the building is too close to Alma but in a normal sized development that backside would be facing a service alley or back of the lot.

I wouldn't say the buildings are ugly either. I think they are actually pretty elegant for new suburban retail buildings. Much better at least than the new Safeways in Menlo Park and Mountain View. Those are pretty ghastly! The Alma Plaza buildings just happen to be poorly configured and constrained to a site too small to meet it's needs.

Visiting Miki's when it first opened I noticed it's huge inventory of fresh produce combined with it's limited parking and felt something in the throughput calculations must be off. It just didn't seem sustainable. Maybe they should of stuck to a smaller inventory with less perishable items. As I believe the owner said it's definitely a "coulda, shoulda, woulda" situation and I think that also applies to everyone involved with the Alma Plaza development for the last 15 years.

Normally I would be the last person to defend the need for large parking lots but I feel differently here. When the developer realized the building would be under-parked and too late to eliminate some of the new housing he should of asked his architects to design a larger underground parking lot that would extend beneath the Starbuck building and under the surface parking lot beneath the store and the new houses. The parking should of been arranged to allow driving in a loop to find a spot so no one gets stuck in a dead-end. Considering there are so many "retail experts" out there that have this stuff down to a science and I am really surprised they made such a big blunder.

Also, considering that "public amenity" park is a joke some of that land should of been allocated to front onto Alma; providing a larger setback and safer viewing angles at the intersection with the light. I think someone at the city's engineering department must of figured there would be a problem when realizing the only place to mount their traffic light was a post in the middle of a narrow sidewalk! The project was probably too far down the line when that problem was identified. Otherwise I am sure there would of been a major "heads up" on that.

For a long term solution I think McNellis should make a very generous offer to the owner of that one story medical/dental office building along Alma just to the south of Alma Plaza. He should tear it down and build a parking lot to provide the needed capacity. A few years back the news was that police uncovered an illegal prostitution / sex trafficking operation masquerading as something legitimate but I don't know who the current owner or tenants are and if they would be willing to sell. As for myself I got to say I feel "dirty" advocating tearing something down to make way for a parking lot of all things! In this situation it might be a real necessity!

Posted by CJE
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

regarding the Yelp Reviews and CIndy ( me)
I respond to the yelpers as a person from Miki's after the post

Posted by Remembering the Plaza
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 29, 2013 at 1:02 am

I grew up near Alma Plaza and my family always shopped at the Luckys and later Albertsons as our main grocery stores. I also remember frequenting the pizza parlor, donut shop, buying my first bike at Garner's bike shop, and I even used to get my haircut from the local barber. It was a true community shopping center. I don't know why the City ever gave up the retail zoning for the site? The mixed or planned use (whatever you want to call it) zoning has really screwed up this site. A piece of land needs to have a dedicated use, it can't be all things to everyone. Trying to cram a bunch of tall houses and some quirky retail buildings on the site doomed this project from the beginning.

I did check out Miki's as soon as it opened, hoping it would be an opportunity to shop at the "Plaza" again, but their prices for staples (cereal, bread, milk, etc.) were too high compared to Safeway, and with my own family now, including four young kids, price is really the driving factor when it comes to grocery shopping for me. I loved the store, the employees, the unique offerings, (what an amazing supply of bottled Root Beer!) but for me going into Miki's was just for fun or to pick up a treat.

I hope another grocer can make a go of it though. Parking and street access, while not ideal, aren't the problem (Safeway's parking and access on Middlefield are awful, and you have to walk across the street to get to Whole Foods in Downtown, and both those stores seem to thrive). I think it all comes down to pricing. Make it affordable for the average joe (which most of us are, even though we may not like to admit it) and the rest should take care of itself. People like to think they are getting a good deal on everything in the store, not just a certain area like produce. That's why Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Milk Pail work. It even works for Whole Foods b/c people think they are getting a good deal on everything organic, which is what that store is all about.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 29, 2013 at 1:45 am

Ah, remembering the plaza, so last-century, when newspapers were still delivered by bicycle, I'd get some donuts at that shop after finishing my Sunday morning Examiner/Chronicle route. At least I can still go to the Stanford Theatre and pretend the world hasn't changed.

Posted by Peter Maresca
a resident of Monroe Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Was a fabulous store and a welcome alternative to Whole Foods and other expensive markets. A big part of the blame for its failure lies in the architecture review board and planning department of Palo Alto, that continues to encourage the moronic practice of "building to the curb." This made for a very un-inviting edifice with a tiny tunnel-like driveway to a "back-door" entrance. I passed by it for months not even knowing it was a grocery store. The passing view of Safeway, Whole Foods and Piazza's all invite you in, this building just tells you to drive by to daylight.

Posted by zoe
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 5:40 pm

If failure of this business was all about the architecture as so many posts say, then why are so many people coming to this supposedly uninviting location when the sale was announced ..... oh, yes .... people will travel and find parking for good "realistic" prices. Miki's was a lovely store with way too many employees covering such a small venue. A wine stewart at all times, several people in the deli, three or four in the meat department, a couple of people at the tiny cheese counter, an overkill of employees and labor is very expensive. I enjoyed this store the few times I visited. Good Luck!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 29, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Get real folks, no one is going to tear down a brand-new perfectly good building. Anyone who wants to bet on that let me know! ;-) Too bad, sorry to see Miki's market leave before Palo Alto even had a chance to get to know it. People change their shopping habits slowly, it just might have taken time.

Posted by CJW
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Help could have come faster from the building owner...signage was weak for the store itself on the Alma sides, a WE ARE NOW OPEN Banner was promised by the building owner/partner and never delivered...the parking garage signage was JUST added a month ago..

I feel so sik that we employees could have done more to promote Miki's but we were running on start-up energy or lack of energy from day one..putting in many hours ...some of us had one day off a week most of the time we were there. We tried so hard.

Do you think the Milk Pail will move in?

Posted by Will miss you
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm

I wish I had done more too; I am regretful I did not shop at Miki's as much as Piazza's (just two blocks from me). You guys were so awesome. I will miss your pies! I keep hoping some last-minute miracle could happen but its all but over. I feel sad that Miki's dream has been dashed; I'm so sorry we let you down. Whatever moves into the space next won't be the same, our town let this fine market slip through our fingers. Miki, you will be missed!

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Mikis closed because not enough people shopped there. All of these letters are nice, but not enough people spent their $$ at the market.

It is not the parking or frontage issue at all -- many successful stores have difficult physical arrangements. (like a certain coffee place on Alma)

People seemed to have forgotten that "community outrage" several years ago demanded a small market on this property (wouldn't allow Safeway expansion,and fought a streetside parking lot). It was a ontentious years-long battle.

Be careful what you wish for. Palo Alto has so many naive zoning constraints, it is new-business unfriendly.

If there are businesses you like..SHOP there. That's how capitalism works. Businesses are not charities.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 30, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I don't think Miki's was necessarily a losing proposition from the start. Yeah, there were negatives that kept me from going there for a long time ... namely my first visit was kind of an impulse visit and I could not figure out where to go in and park. Once I did I found the place nice, but on the expensive side. They also closed way to early, the only real major drawback that I can see. Even Piazzi's is open until 10pm.

I think the problem is that maybe he is under capitalized and under marketed. I never really saw any advertising or specials, big signs or gimmicky marketing things. If they hung in there and give people a chance to find it and work it into their habits it might have been just fine. But now with many competing markets coming online, maybe it's the ones that have guts and staying power that will survive, because the already existing places in Palo Alto are not that great.

Safeway does'd have much and does not stock larger money savings items. Whole Earth is expensive and has a lot of weird stuff I would never buy ... plus talk about weird parking arrangements. Molly Stones is way out of the way, but nice.

Miki's might have worked given time.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm

@ neighbor. I would agree 100 percent, a store needs shopper and the builder owner needs his rent. The vendors, employees, and the providers of the store must be paid.

Posted by short memory?
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 30, 2013 at 11:51 pm

too bad people didn't support JJ&F moreso when they had the chance...a nice family run market with integrity. Now that was a market....with lots of parking...the new ownership hasn't had much traction....has nothing to do with location or parking. Don't get me started on how great co-op was....

Posted by Mythily
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2013 at 10:07 am

We are so sad to hear this. Mikis was so nice and had a great selection. We need a grocery store within walking distance. Is there anything we can do to save Mikis? If there is no hope, could we have a Trader Joes or other grocery store there?

Posted by Employee
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I would say most people have forgotten what a "community store" is or even a community, a community store is just that a small version of a regular super Market with the idea of being able to support it's community. We also need to ask ourselves if no one is willing to support their local Community Markets JJ&F, Miki's, Home Video (Next on the chopping block Milk Pail),and apparently many other small markets or even just community shops in Palo Alto that are no longer in existence. If you compare JJ&F Market in the College Terrace Community, you would see that that particular store closed at 8pm also. For those of you that criticized our hours. Well, Maybe we so called "Community Markets" close at 8pm because We have near by neighborhoods that we are placed in and need to respect the neighborhoods noise compliance. Especially, since we have family units right above our Market and surrounding buildings. We were never to have business like Piazza's or Safeway again we were to serve the community with community hours. If you don't want small Markets in your Community, then get your tails down to city hall or write to them and let them KNOW. If you couldn't shop there after 8pm then why couldn't you come earlier OUR HOURS MON-SAT 7AM-8PM/SUN 8AM-8PM. The first two months we were open until 9pm, since we had no business after 8;00pm why would we stay open later. Just thought I'd share.

PLEASE NOTE; The Words ALL MERCHANDISE 30% OFF means that everything in the store is 30% off,,, EVERYTHING!!

PLEASE When a store is going out of business, that means they will sell off merchandise and not replenish any items, IF we are going out of business, WHY!...OH WHY????? WOULD WE OREDER MILK, EGGS AND OR BREAD OR ANYTHING ELSE FOR THAT MATTER. COMM'ON PEOPLE THINK.



Thank you !!

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2013 at 11:55 pm


You are doing very well with your education about the true nature of Palo Alto (reference: postings of 3/27)

I wish you success in the future, and I know you will have success if you apply what you have learned here.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2013 at 8:05 am

If you want to save small business or even local chains, Shop. Send your support to Milk Pail, Barron Park Plumbing or whatever small business you chose.

Posted by Leo
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2013 at 11:35 am

I shopped at Miki's last Saturday. After 30% off the price finally became affordable. I wish developer can open a new grocery store soon so that I can shop at 30% off again in another six month.

Posted by regina p
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm

The parking lot was always packed, and was hard to maneuver around people. The stop light was moved over from the original apartment large drive way to this itty bitty driveway. Can we just blame bad construction and building choices?
So sad to see this market go! I loved it.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 2, 2013 at 12:51 pm

There are a lot of places that have bad parking ... for example the Starbuck's at Midtown, or the Aquarius theater, but they survive. I think they gave up on Miki's too soon honestly. It was a nice place and I go by there quite often and so do a lot of other folks.

They think it was hard to negotiate the parking lot because they never got used to it. It was a pain, but parking all over Palo Alto is a pain.

I don't know what the deal was here, but I wonder if the owner got down to having to put his own money into the venture and did not have faith that his business would succeed so pulled out. Especially with another market in Palo Alto coming online at Edgewood Plaza. I think Miki's is a better location because Embarcadero is so often jammed around Edgewood and hard to exit from unless you live there and don't care.

I think it might well have worked when people got to know it and developed the habit of going there. Perhaps undercapitalized?

Sorry to see it go, and now, what is that building going to be used for? It might be good for a place like Calafia, a restaurant/market combination, or a bakery/market. Oh well?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 2, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Perhaps Edgewood Eats can now relocate to the empty parking lot.


Posted by CJR_ CINDY
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm

""REMEMBER THIS...In order to have a neighborhood market in YOUR neighborhood, you MUST shop there. ""

A quote from the previous long time owners of JJ&F The Garcia Family when a new owner took over the market they sold in 2010

Today as we last employees were inside cleaning Miki's...i realized that the people that go to Starbucks next store do not seem to have a problem with pulling in the long narrow drive and parking to walk and get a cup of coffee

Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 8:34 am

RE: Email correction

Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Our correct email is
If you are a former Miki's employee and need help, please contact us.

For those more financially stable residents, we need you to drop off fresh or
canned foods or money gifts (store cards welcome) @ our "food drop off station,
Sat. 4/06. Midtown Center, parking lot next to Wells Fargo ATM. 2700 MIdtown Court.
We gather first Saturday of month (Mar.-Aug.).
Let's all be part of the solutions for our 'neighbors in need'. NHN Core Team

Posted by foodie
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Apr 7, 2013 at 6:56 am

I am a long time Berkeley Bowl shopper and was excited when Miki's went in (although with the name I thought it was a Japanese centric market till my friend corrected me).

I was heading toward downtown PA on Alma so it was easy to turn right, but I remember how limited and narrow the parking seemed. The prices seemed fine and I loved the selection. Local friends though said they avoid driving on Alma at all costs.

My guess is a small, high volume, high quality mini version of the Bowl or Monterey Market could be a winner (especially in downtown MV).

Posted by Hopeful Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Anyone heard any rumors about a replacement? If so, please post...

Posted by JP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 15, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Miki's was a great effort, a great store with nice selection, in a doomed location. My suggestion: move the building away from Alma with the parking in front.

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