Midtown's 'Creme de Cafe' coffee shop closes Restaurants, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Nov 1, 2008 at 4:26 pm
Midtown's Creme de Cafe expresso coffee shop is the latest victim of the financial crunch and competiton. It abruptly closed its doors Wednesday (Oct. 29), leaving behind only "Sorry, we're closed" signs with sad-mouthed smiley faces.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, November 1, 2008, 1:31 PM
Posted by Teresa, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm
This was like "The day the coffee died" for me and several of my friends and neighbors whom I had met at La Creme. We were among the group you'd see in the early mornings every weekday or the ones lingering for hours on weekend mornings. First off, no one made a better soy latte. The roasted beans were perfect which made the coffee strong but not biter. I recall when La Creme first appeared on the corner of Middlefield and Loma Verde when all of Midtown and South Palo Alto must have called the fire department one too many times about the smell of smoke until we came to know the regular roasting schedule and enjoyed the familiarity of a homey-bohemeian new business on an otherwise abandoned spot. It is from La Creme that I now have some of my new best friends who were simply friendly neighbors who enjoyed good conversation. We have Palo Alto Cafe, Peets and Cafe Sophia nearby and the corporate one who shall not be named. I would like anyone who cares about our neighborhoods to continue to support the small local businesses; it is what makes up the character of our town. Through the years, as much as I loved it, it became a bit of a dive. A Boheme-dive, but it was OUR Bohene-dive. Thanks to everyone who supported it to its dying day; I will miss seeing you all there (and your little dogs too.)
Posted by Half-Caf, Nonfat Latte/Jane, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2008 at 8:49 pm
I just put an espresso machine on my Christmas list. I have been to La Creme almost every day for years. My kids have practically grown up there, and our previous dog spent many minutes waiting for me outside the door (the new one was just getting the hang of the routine). I made many friends, both behind the counter and customers -- all ages and stages. I'll miss my morning ritual and all the friendly faces.
Thanks to the many people (and 4-legged companions) who made La Creme part of my day for so many years: Davide, Alex, Adam, Harley, Dobin, Mike, Hayley, Marina, Hana, Giancarlo, Chiara, Grace, Alex, Carolyn, the many friendly faces whose names I didn't know, Stella, Ann, Bill, Tom, Jeff, big-headphones/bike guy, Eleanor, Judy, Nancy, Ann, Elyse, Alice, Maria, D.O.G., Georgie, Glen and daughters, Malcolm. . . I'm sure I'm forgetting some.
Posted by Joyce, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 1, 2008 at 9:46 pm
Oh. No. La Creme is where I'd toddle my then-baby daughter, sit her on the counter, and she'd politely request "Whipped cream, please." On Christmas, we'd take a break from opening presents and truck over in our PJs and get our coffees (and hot cocoa.)
La Creme is where my son works on his fear of dogs (thanks, DOG!), and where the girls get together. The folks who worked there were (and are) awesome, making us feel at home.
This neighborhood establishment will truly be missed by my whole family.
Posted by Malcolm, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2008 at 1:12 am
I lovcd this place and will miss it terribly. Sure, it wasn't exactly spotless, the floor was warped, the chairs inside were all either rickety or riddled with stains, houseflies danced in airborne circles all summer nearby while you waited in line, there seemed to be no heat or AC, cigarette smoke constantly wafted in from the outside, anyone over 5'6" tall had to duck under a wall hanging to get through the doorway leading to the bathroom and yes, there may have been a slight scent of raw sewage in the air around certain seats, but these factors all (except maybe the sewage smell) contributed to La Creme's charms.
I also loved that La Creme's clientele consisted almost entirely of people either under 25 or over 70. I guess when you're young you don't care about all the abovementioned shortcomings, and when you're old you don't notice.
As Jane noted, while the staff was subject to frequent turnover, La Creme always attracted great people behind the counter, folks who might not be as comfortable in a more corporate environment. They were always friendly, engaging and conscientious, and never gave me too much of a hard time when I interrupted their smoke breaks to ask for service.
I will hold on to my coffee card in the hopes, however small, that La Creme will open up for business again and I can claim my remaining cups of coffee. Otherwise, I will be saddened every time I pass by but still fondly recall the many hours I enjoyed while seated at the big table inside either working at the computer, drinking coffee or chatting with the dozens of staff members and fellow customers I've had the pleasure to meet over the years. Thanks so much - I'm sorry it had to end.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2008 at 10:13 am
I had been a La Creme's customer since we moved to Mid Town in 1992. I like having a good coffee shop within walking distance to my house.
However, around 6-12 months ago something changed and the quality of the espresso went downhill. I tried it a few more times and stopped going there. In hindsight, I don't remember the smell of roasting coffee in the neighborhood either recently. I suspect there was a change of management or owners that cut back on the quality.
I hope something good replaces it. I had been a loyal customer and would like to see another local coffee shop replace it.
Posted by b.e.b., a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2008 at 10:49 am
I must be missing something. I tried Creme de Cafe several times over the last couple years since moving into the neighborhood and I was consistently given terrible coffee by rude, wannabe hippies. I can see thinking it'd be a cool place to hang out when I was 15, but now I'd much prefer quality and service. I'm hoping another shop moves in and becomes the neighborhood coffee shop I long to patronize.
Posted by JIM, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2008 at 7:45 pm
Note to b.e.b: why don't you go to Starbucks where you apparently belong? I believe it's wannabe-hippy free and you can lick the floors there. Or perhaps you are just too cool for Starbucks? Creme de Cafe was a coffee shop with heart and soul and will be missed. They had the best quality coffee in midtown and the people you called "rude wannabe hippies" always gave us samples and were consistently kind and considerate. Our family is sad to see this place close.
Posted by Teresa, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2008 at 8:20 pm
Well it's been little over 24 hrs since I first posted on this and find that the 'word on the street' is that there is true greiving going on. We lost friends and our place of belonging. When some comment about corporations, I want to point something out that I have only heard faint hints about the owners of La Creme and the fact that they moved outside of the U.S. and never took care of the business after they left town. The reasons are moot. Owning a business that you do not oversee on a regular basis is an insult to the community. The demise and lack of business was brought on by lack of living with the day to day of the business and looking your customers in the eyes. That is a business ethics issue. It was clear when they started out that they brought us to them by quality coffee, friendliness and welcoming rememberances of our names and favorite drinks. It was a feeling of affection that brought back customer loyalty. The illicit cat in a food/beverage establishment kept us all in the sly together and strengthened the bond of customer and businessmen. It really was a brilliant although unintended/non-deliberate bonding strategy. When the Harley story went national well then we all became master storytellers. We were there.
Posted by b.e.b., a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2008 at 9:16 am
I'll attribute your rudeness to the pain you're feeling after losing a business you loved. I can certainly appreciate where you're coming from. If you actually read what I said, I *do* want a non-Starbucks coffee shop near my house, and the Creme de Cafe location would be perfect. I grew up with wonderful local coffee shops surrounding me, where I could get excellent coffee in a mug and have great conversations with the employees and regulars. And the employees, were *actual* hippies, so trust me, I'm not poopooing free spirits. ;) I'm glad you were treated so well at Le Creme. I'm saying I never was, not once, and I gave it half a dozen tries. The coffee was terrible to boot. I find the selection of local coffee places in this area (the Peninsula in general, not just Midtown Palo Alto) pretty pathetic, so I was more than thrilled to be close to both Le Creme, and then subsequently disappointed with the reality of the place. And I think you're projecting -- I never once commented on the cleanliness of Le Creme, or did I express a desire to lick any floors.
Posted by Derek & Tristan, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2008 at 9:22 am
As many here have pointed out, La Creme was definitely a Midtown institution. The staff were always kind to me, and I liked the fact that I had my own latte card and Tristan had his own dog-treat card. We walked there most every morning--there was something wonderful to me about seeing the same people every morning either jogging/walking with their dogs, or jogging/walking/biking solo, exchanging pleasantries and small talk with them, and so on. Because of my work schedule, I could only say hi to the "regulars" at Le Creme during the week, but I loved sitting with everyone on the weekends: whether the topic du jour was earth-shatteringly important or utterly trivial, everyone gave it their full attention! I understand things change and these sorts of things happen; still, I'm deeply saddened that Le Creme has gone. I really do think it was very special. Certainly I could be accused of being biased, but a friend who visited several years ago from Wisconsin loved Le Creme, and felt it was very special, too. When Harley died, she sent a few memorial items which remained on "Harley's shelf" at Le Creme. I will always remember the cafe with great fondness.
Posted by Meric, a resident of another community, on Nov 3, 2008 at 12:33 pm
Really sorry to hear that...This is coming from someone who lives in Istanbul now...I know the place since the day it opened...must be 1986 or so...owner used be a cook that worked at Stanford...years later he sold the place....then it changed so many hands but the quality of the coffee remained the same...I used to drink that coffee every day, I got the coffee shipped to Istanbul so many times...I visit the area twice or so every year and that is the first stop after I rent the car at the SFO...so many memories...
Posted by Ally, a resident of another community, on Nov 3, 2008 at 1:48 pm
Starbucks and Peets??? - There are already both of those within a few blocks of that spot. It's a shame this independent coffee shop had to be the one to be squeezed out by this economy. I hope some new owners will take over and put a little refurbishment money into it and reopen it.
Posted by Mose, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2008 at 5:01 pm
Hey 'Tall size' and others who wish for a peets or starbucks in place of Creme de Cafe, be careful what you wish for. The logical outcome is a world bereft of individuality, in particular, of the quirky local places that give a neighborhood its character, and its denizens a sense of place. I guess you prefer home despot to real hardware stores, and costco to most anyplace, and couldnt care less that there are almost no independent drug stores left.
Tho I have moved away from midtown, my car still tugs me to this cafe when I pass by.
Posted by you are right, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2008 at 5:26 pm
You are right, Mose, I do prefer Home Depot (or actually OSH) to most local hardware places. I went to the midtown hardware store to buy a fluorescent bulb a few weeks back; I laughed when they told me $9 and got it the next day at OSH for $5. On the other hand, I will shop at Barron Park Supply for plumbing parts if I need help, since they are so knowledgeable there and have very deep inventory.
As for Costco, I have trouble shopping there (too chaotic for me) though I find many people like the prices.
Quirky stores are nice, but not at such a steep price. Frankly I find the character of neighborhood comes more from its residents than its retailers. People should shop where they like, and let the retailers compete to serve them best.
Posted by former resident, a resident of another community, on Nov 3, 2008 at 8:27 pm
I just moved away from Palo Alto in August. I loved to stop at this coffee shop and did so for years, especially in the winter months. I loved their chai tea. I never smelled any wacky tobaccy being smoked there, else I would have asked for a hit!
Posted by Harley the Cat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2008 at 12:32 pm
To the non believers:
There were those who understood what La Creme stood for and those who could never get it. This place took me in and it loved me, despite the challenges. These were my friends, my soul mates, the very few free spirited, anti-Starbucks elite left in Palo Alto today. This was my home, and if you could look past its tattered exterior, you could see it's history, feel the significance, the way it touched so many lives. It wasnít the coffee that brought us together, it was our commonality, the quirk in us all. Come all outcastes, come the abandoned, come the irritated, the old, the depressed, the hungry, the poor, come those who could not belong at home or at work or at school or in life. Because here is where you belonged. Here you are welcomed. Here is so many faces I will never forget, who excepted me, despite the fact I was a cat in a coffee shop. Despite that I pranced around this place where you purchased your food and drink, I was welcomed and loved, as was everyone.
If you donít get it you donít get it. And too many didnít get it. And thatís why La CrŤme now joins me, Harley, in the world beyond. But friends, we will meet again. Around a latte, or a cup of joe, and I will bask in the sun while you scratch behind my ear and I ease drop on your discussions and debates of the world, and politics and life. And we will laugh at the neigh-sayers. Until then, goodbye friendsÖ.
Posted by Half-Caf, Nonfat Latte/Jane, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Nov 4, 2008 at 9:24 pm
OK, I'm seriously considering planning a "wake" gathering outside La Creme for all the regulars, occasionals, and the many workers recent and not-so-recent to say goodbye to a slice of our neighborhood. I envision us sharing some baked goods (potluck-style) and raising our empty coffee cups to fond memories, warm conversations, much-needed caffeine, and the ever-changing, quirky place that was La Creme.
Who's in? Weekday morning or weekend morning?
Post here or email LaCremeWake at gmail dot com and email to your La Creme friends to do the same.
Posted by Resident, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Nov 4, 2008 at 10:02 pm
A lot of these places under report their earnings; depriving our county, state, and federal government taxes. I know a tiny restaurant that makes 4 thousand just during lunch and report that they make less than 400 a day.
In one restuarant in Cupertino, we were told that they would accept cash only. No way to trace how much money is made. This place was packed on a mid-day on Saturday. It was clear that they could easily make over 10,000 a day.
We refuse to spend our money at these kinds of mom and pop places that grossly under report their earnings.
The tax board does not have enough staff to investigate each of these little places that are suspect. It is a huge loss to federal revenue too.
If you patronize one of these places you are contributing to their wealth - often at the expense of underpaid undocumented workers.
Many owners of these establishments have homes in other countries and launder money.
I don't know if this was the case here, but it is the case with many of these little restaurants and businesses.
Posted by Midtown Girl, a resident of another community, on Nov 6, 2008 at 12:41 pm
Resident - how do you know that the businesses you boycott are evading taxes? Rumor? Stereotype? Or are you actually privy to their tax filings? If you KNOW something, then of course you are right to avoid patronizing them. But there are small business owners (like me) who report every penny, but most of us are profoundly struggling in these difficult economic times. While my business does accept credit cards, we pay a high price to the banks for doing so. I can understand a small business not accepting credit in effort to keep their costs down to their customers. But the fact that they do not, does not in and of itself mean that they are not reporting all of their income. While it is fair and right to patronize businesses that earn your business with great products and services, it is absolutely unfair to the rest of us to jump to conclusions about all small businesses based on rumors or assumptions about other(s).
Even under the best economic circumstances, it is difficult for us to compete for customers with the big chains. Not only do they procure the lowest prices on products that they sell you at HUGE profit, but they are able to write their own leases and push out budding entrepreneurs from their own communities. Small businesses, on the other hand, have the opportunity to get to know their neighbors in a very personal way and give back to their communities, and as so many mentioned in this blog, they ABSOLUTELY give neighborhoods character and bring people together.
Hats off to La Creme for it's long and fascinating history and for the mark it made in Midtown. My condolences to the gang who will miss it - - hopefully you will not have to succumb to the big chain in your quest for a good cup and some good conversation.
And by the way, anyone who wants a great cup of coffee roasted by one of La Creme's former roasters from way back when, (and a great place to hang out) go see Nima at Clocktower Coffee in Mountain View.
Posted by Long,longtime customer, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 6, 2008 at 11:00 pm
I think that the neighbors - those who were regular customers of La Creme, and those who occasionally stopped by - should try to organize a new lease and new management for the cafe. The location is ideal, the parking ample, outdoor seating plus the nearby deli for a sandwich lunch, make the place a really popular hang-out; it has much, much more appeal, atmosphere and just plain sunshine than any of the other local cafes. It could be a perfectly viable business, if run properly by someone with initiative and a good work ethic. It could be cleaned up, made a bit more attractive, and run more efficiently while still keeping its laid-back charm. We should try contacting the owners in Italy, and see what could be done. How about it, everybody? Shouldn't we try to do something to save our nice cafe corner?
Posted by Soy-a-nara, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Nov 7, 2008 at 10:02 pm
They owe too much $$$ you would not want to buy into a bad business. Better to start you own. I hear the landlord at that entire corner there is not doing much towards routine upkeep either.
1)Crabby staff and the liquor store
2)Deli is so-so but could work to keep the outdoor area cleaner.
3)Laundromat has broken machines.
4)Dry cleaners are very nice and I like that they switched to the non chemical cleaning process.
5)La creme would be very viable if someone had the $ to upgrade the floor, plumbing, deck patio overhangs and light fixtures, appliances, seating, landscaping and the horrible painting on the building.
Posted by T Bird, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Dec 6, 2008 at 9:27 am
Ok, here is is December now and there just is not as good a coffee place around. No better coffee in the first place, no better amount of outdoor seating.... the lament goes on.... but I found a bag of La Creme beans in my freezer! Gold.
We can all do better to not spend 3 to 4 + $ on a stupid cup of coffee and maybe this really came at a good time to force us to save. It's also about the place in general, the central hang out with enough seating outdoors. Maybe we need a kiosk at the duck pond. Now, there's a happy place.
Posted by Elyse Feldman, a member of the Palo Verde School community, on Dec 22, 2008 at 9:39 am
Wow, Great News. La Creme is coming back, won't be called La Creme, it will be Philz Coffee Shop, they own three in San Francisco and one will open in San Jose and our old location. You can check it out at Philz Coffee, San Francisco. I wrote to Phil and he got back to me and said he is very excited and expects to be open in one to two months, and he wants it to be very homey and friendly, etc. He sounds like quite an interesting man. So happy about this news. Fondly, Elyse Feldman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Posted by Happy Midtowner, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 7, 2009 at 11:57 am
Best news this year! Hope Philz keeps it a laid-back, cozy place with friendly employees and lots of outdoor seating! Why not call it "Philz Creme de Cafe"? Anyhow, we are all waiting with bated breath for the moment when our cafe RE-OPENS! Hurrah!
Posted by Julian, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2009 at 6:10 pm
They're going at it full speed. I can hardly wait to have a neighborhood place again. I've been sorely missing La Creme - missed the wake too, since it was scheduled while I was away at a conference. Wonder who'll be working there.
Posted by half-Caf, Nonfat Latte/Jane, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2009 at 8:11 pm
Julian (and everyone),
I emailed Philz last week and got an almost-immediate, lovely response. I welcomed them to the neighborhood and made a suggestion that they reach out to the La Creme employees. They (Phil?) replied that some of the La Creme staff had already reached out to _them_, so they're in contact.
Another friend of mine also emailed them, suggesting they carry some vegan things. Again, the response was quick, friendly, and informative. They do carry vegan items (including donuts).
The phoenix rises. . .
Anyone know what happened to the Harley statue that was in the planter area with the rosebushes? Hope someone's keeping it and that it didn't get tossed.
Looking forward to seeing everyone again. Sorry you missed the "wake", Julian.
Posted by Julian, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Feb 23, 2009 at 11:37 am
The place was open yesterday so I looked in, and found Phil watching the wireless being installed. We got to chat for a while, and I got to see the new, roomier interior. He said maybe ten days until opening. After meeting him I'm *really* looking forward to having his place in the neighborhood.
Posted by reuben, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 12, 2009 at 12:45 am
this cafe has been so seriously abused by THIEF employees that i have the first hand information on it. MANY times i approached the owner and/or the landlord to sell this place to me so i can make it a successful and sightly business; no cooperation or willingness.
boooom! finally they hit the dust. sorry to see them go in misery but they built up their "future" in the "past"!