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What Palo Altans want in a grocery store

Original post made by Shopper, Palo Verde, on Jul 17, 2009

We have had many discussions on this topic without actually finding out what we, the shoppers, actually want.

I am starting a list of the things we feel that we would like and I hope that others will add to it. Please don't add criticisms, there are other places to do that. It doesn't matter if there are overlaps, that just adds to show demand.

Great selection in all departments.

Great quality.

Good prices.

Good parking for cars and bikes - underground OK.

In store bakery.

In store deli.

In store hot foods to take home.

Knowledgeable staff, particularly in meat/fish/produce departments.

Wine, Cheese, Imported Foods.

In store coffee shop/cafe with somewhere to sit and eat inside and or outside.

Comments (25)

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Posted by Yes
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

We need grocery stores that are big enough to include a bakery, a deli and a larger variety of groceries that are usually found in larger full service grocery stores.

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Posted by shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Selection is very important, especially for fresh foods that you have to buy frequently (fruits, vegetables, meats, bakery). I also want a good selection of ethnic foods (spices, herbs, vegetables, sauces, etc.) since I don't want to eat "American" food all the time.

Location is also very important. The store has to be close by and easily accessible. Some people like Andronico's, but that is too far away and too congested for me. I would love to see a nice supermarket in midtown, where the only current choice is the inadequate Safeway. The Alma plaza location would be great.

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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 17, 2009 at 2:18 pm

These ideas are mostly subjective. To make it more concrete, take the 6 grocery stores in Palo Alto and grade them on these categories.

Also, nominate a grocery store not currently in Palo Alto that could fill the bill.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 17, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Mountain View Safeway, Menlo Park Safeway.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 17, 2009 at 5:12 pm

MP Safeway is closest and best for us.

After that, I'd rather drive to Costco than put up with the inadequate parking, selection of product (e.g., only small boxes of cereal), availability of product (e.g., not enough space for a wider variety of grocery items).

After Costco, we go the MP TJ.

Once the T&C TJ opens, I can imagine that we'll eliminate some trips to MP Safeway.

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Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2009 at 6:53 am

Mountain View Safeway ... that is what we want in Palo Alto...

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Posted by frank
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm

Just a "normal," large, supermarket--a place to buy everyday food items. Trader Joes or Whole Foods does not count.

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Posted by VoxPop
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 18, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Dream on. Face reality. Palo Alto has a number of decent markets and is geographically bracketed by big Safeways and other stores. Chains make decisions based on coverage of regional consumption patterns, not those of small individual communities.

Palo Alto citizens won't allow the kinds of markets you all visualize without major fights and years of process.

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Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 18, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Organic Foods

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Posted by PAs Loss
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2009 at 12:28 pm

VoxPop says: "Palo Alto citizens won't allow the kinds of markets you all visualize without major fights and years of process." That's why so many of us shop in Mountain View, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto - and take our retail tax dollars to those cities. Palo Alto's loss is their gain.

We are the Carlsbad of northern California a City, like Carlesbad, with building codes so restrictive no good sized store can be built here. We are surrounted by Cities who allow big box stores to be built as close to Palo Alto's border as possible to syphon off our retail tax dollars.

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Posted by shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Do grocery stores generate a lot of tax revenue?

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Posted by reality
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2009 at 12:49 am

5 years from now, Whole Foods and Safeway will be absent from PA. Will JJ&F, too? Since I live near the proposed Mtn View site, I frankly hope so

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Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2009 at 8:54 am

The main point is to impose an absoluite bar on any attempt to penalize or limit developers based on some 19th century sentimental view that favors small mom & pop local markets.

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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:38 am

Palo Alto's problem with grocery and other retail is that it doesn't let the market work. I find this ironic because one or two well-meaning, past Council members were always talking about how "market forces" were most important in the generation of retail in Palo Alto. Instead, our city developed a tradition of kowtowing to citizens who had absolutely zero understanding about what makes a city or town work - aside from their own interest in preserving some mythic, bucolic way of life that lived in their imagination. One can't blame people for wanting what they want. That said, a large part of where we are happened because of an indulgence of the everyday citizen (essentially, an exceedingly small core of that group)re: what Palo Alto should build, how big it should be, how many enployees should it have, how they should be housed, and so on. We didn't have policy makers who were thinking about the possibility of Palo Alto ever being constrained. Well, those days are over - and so are a lot of the possibilities that we squandered during those days. What we're left with is a city that is a great place to live, but that will not be self-sufficient in certain ways. Rather than moan and groan about this, we should celebrate what we have - lots of nice, expensive shops to browse in; nice tree-lined streets to walk along; a nice bevy of services (now threatened by a lack of revenue *because we don't have really strong core retail* [[just had to get that in there]). Consider that Palo Altans are going to be doing most of their core shopping elsewhere. We can change that somewhat, by making sure that we integrate more mixed use housing/retail into our city as it grows, but that won't solve the core retail problem. The fact is that it's expensive to be a retail proprietor here. The many attempts over the years to keep Palo Alto a bucolic place have paid off in certain ways, but those same attempts have made this a semi-exclusive place that only a certain kind of retailer can survive in. This is a *fundamental* reality that escapes all those who keep thinking that retail owners are going to make massive downside risks just to play in Palo Alto. btw, there is no way that Whole Foods is going away - whoever said that, above, is wrong. The only thing that might happen there is that Whole Foods gets rolled up by another company and the name changes. the Whole Goods location is a grocery and dollar-generating goldmine. Small grocery markets? Seriously, those markets cannot be profitable in Palo Alto unless they charge a LOT more than large markets with buying power (with Trader Joe's being a unique exception - we might see more Trader Joe's in Palo Alto - that would help, and is a good example of how grocery retail can innovate to compete with the large mega-chains. Anyway, when I see lists of "what people want" in this or that store, or retail sector, I'm almost always amused - evenn by the citizens who claim to understand what drives business. The latter group are generally clueless about this, but nevertheless keep claiming they know what's best for our city. The more we listen to that group, the less viable this place will be in terms of retail services in the future. Coount on that.

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Posted by Maria
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:39 am

Any grocery store should have a section for diabetics with no-sugar and no-salt or low-salt items.

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Posted by Sun and Sand
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:40 am

In other words, let's the market REALLY work.

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Posted by PatrickD
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:52 am

It'd be nice to have a green grocer (like the Milk Pail) and a butchers shop (like Dittmers) in the T&C village close to the new TJs.

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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2009 at 10:59 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Let the market work is a good idea.
That means
No roadblocks
No Subsidies (or special zoning waivers)..
Why does every food store need to be a "Super Center" with all the departments people have listed. We have some of those already.
Let us use the 80% rule:
80% of what we buy comes from (the same) 20% of what a store stocks.
(and most of that is non-taxable grocery items).
Look at your next grocery receipt, How many items have a "T" near the price? less than 30%?
Now, how any percent of sales does Fry's generate: 100%. The city bent over backwards to waiver zoning for them.
LEVEL the playing field and let the market forces work.

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Posted by Cindy
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2009 at 11:10 am

Molly Stones comes close to what I want -- organic fruits, meats and foods as well as chips, lunchables, and other items. Although it doesn't have hot foods, like ready-made chickens and I often have to go Whole Foods to round out the organic selection. However if I go to Whole Foods, I then need to go somewhere else for things like regular Ginger Ale.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2009 at 11:14 am

It's a lot easier to continue into the future to drive to the Menlo Park Safeway with a TJs stop on the same trip than to cope with the severe headaches that accompany any thinking about PA process solving this problem in any reasonable way.

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Posted by Elsie
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 20, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Here are the grocery stores currently in Palo Alto-

Midtown Safeway
Middlefield - Piazza's
Downtown Whole Foods
College Ave - JJ&F
Calfornia Ave - Molly Stone
Calfornia Ave - Country Sun
Stanford Shopping - Andronicos
Soon - Trader Joe's at T&C (plus Village Cheese House)

PLUS: Safeway, Trader Joes, Draegers in MP
Safeway, Trader Joes, Milk Pail & Walmart in MV/San Antonio

The ones that left:
Co-op - both Midtown and California ave (replaced by Molly Stone)
Albertsons - one at Alma Plaza and one at Edgewood Plaza

What more can a town of 60,000 need within 2 mi?

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Posted by PAmoderate
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 20, 2009 at 1:14 pm

What I'd like? A Palo Alto version of Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market. Great produce (organic and nonorganic) at reasonable prices.

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Posted by reality
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

One opinion on the future of your roster, Elsie, in CAPITALS
(AT RISK means I think it has a <50% chance of being around at its current location in the forseeable future)

Midtown Safeway- AT RISK

Middlefield - Piazza's

Downtown Whole Foods- AT RISK

College Ave - JJ&F- AT RISK

Calfornia Ave - Molly Stone



Soon - Trader Joe's at T&C (plus Village Cheese House)-NICHE STORE
PLUS: Safeway, Trader Joes, Draegers in MP
Safeway, Trader Joes, Milk Pail & Walmart in MV/San Antonio

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Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 20, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Why must the grocery shopping experience be had in a huge all-things-to-all-people bazaar?

There is the store (small) where one can duck in quickly for milk, cereal, other emergency purchases. These purchases are horrible made where the run back to the milk is a jog and the lines are still impacted regardless of 30 possible check-out lines.

Piazza has had the best selection of vegetables since it was Brentwood Market back in the '80s. When I asked about the wonderful quality, I was told, "We use the same buyer Draeger's uses."

By the way, Draeger's in Los Altos has a wonderful, inexpensive collection of mostly organic produce on the front porch which I haven't seen in M Pk.

There is the wonderful whole wheat naan at Trader Joe's. Why does piazza have to get their naan from Ontario??

A real adventure is to shop for Mexican or Indian. I go to a Mexican grocery in Mountain View or Redwood city. I linger, read labels, listen to people talking, ask someone which brand they like best and why. There is an Indian grocery in Sunnyvale on Fremont. I used to get spices and mixes for Indian food at Dee Dee's. Do you remember when she made it onto Public Radio because Indian mothers were calling her from India to take care of their unmarried sons working in Sillycon Valley? I had always wondered about the number of very foreign-looking men eating in her cafe. They all wore sandals under their button-down shirts and wash-and-wear slacks. There were very few women, none at lunch. Dee Dee served exclusively vegetarian fare and sold groceries. Her location is now a razed lot behind a fence on Midddlefield just past Toyota Palo Alto.

I go down to Grant Road to the Japanese market in the Walgreens shopping center at the corner of El Camino. Ha! All the signs in the vegetable department are labeled in kanji! Their other branch is in the LA area. They have a remarkable selection of saki.

It takes a little planning and pre-cooking on the weekend to have some foreign variety in your food, but that same planning is necessary for a nice series of American (there's variety there too) meals. If you work it right you can cook leftovers and other foods to make for nutritious school and work lunches. And speaking of the kids, these forays to foreign markets for ingredients is good for them too.

None of this is possible for spur of the moment self-soothing, though, unless you con someone into installing a grocery super-store that will run all the other stores out of business. And picking up pre-cooked costs the same as going out; plus you get dirty dishes with that.

Make eating a wider experience by exploring foreign groceries and buying a couple of foreign cookbooks. Is Nak's Grocery still in Menlo Park? For a while that was the sole source of inari zushi in the area after Coop went out of business.

Anyway, we are blessed by the variety of grocery shopping in this area. But making dinner is an enterprise for grown-ups. Stomping and insisting, "I want THIS RIGHT NOW," is expensive and inconvenient. And after all, its only supper.

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Posted by cecelia horn
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2009 at 6:28 pm

The Milk Pail is my favorite. Its fruit and vegetables are at least 20% lower than all others. Good real bread, exotic imported cheezes and language lessons as you shop. Whenever I see someone buying an item (fruit, vegetable, or other), I always ask how they cook it or what it tastes like it. The Milk Pail even has Jose's empenadas that used to be made and consumed just off California Avenue in Palo Alto. Just stop trying to add housing, community rooms. Remember when the argument against expanding the Alma Lucky was "that it would attract traffic"?
I've always felt that quite a few drivers would love to drive in that vacant site to do some shopping on the way home. It's a good place to buy liquor to relax with when you finally get home. Just leave few tax dollars in Palo Alto instead of exhaust fumes.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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