Posted by J.L., a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Oct 20, 2006 at 12:47 pm
"David" and "Shopper" are right on. There isi more than one reason that JJ's is threatened.
Large chains with buying power, not even to mention WalMart - the latter using it's market muscle to challenge even the larger chains, like Safeway.
Access: it's not easy to see, and in many cases, easily get to JJ's. We just agreed to put up a huge sign for Fry's, but would never do something like that for JJ's. How about considering visibility signs for "groups" of businesses? Tthis is something that could be taken on as a design challenge, with the goal to make a sign that people actually enjoy having in their midst. Signs don't have to be inherently ugly.
In JJ's case, look at how difficult it is for Evergreen Park and other folk to cross El Camino (at College), instead of having to walk all the way to the light at Stanford. the College and El Camino intersection is unsafe, with traffic light timing so bad that it is virtually impossible to negotiate a crossing - on foot, or even in a car. Why do we have two consecutive traffic lights at California and Cambridge (and El Camino)? Why not move tha Cambridge light over to College, so that the mass of people living in Evergreen Park can easily cross to get to JJ's. That intersection alone has often deterred me, and other I know.
In fact, cars almost NEVER stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk at El Camino and College; even the PA police - an otherwise excellent force - fail to patrol that intersection. One day on patrol there would bring a payload of tickets by drivers who fail to stop for pedestrians.
So, we have a light at Cambridge, that helps people gain access to chain restaurants, and fast food places. It's absurd. (btw, CalTrans controls those lights, but our transportation officials have been lax is lobbying for the light change).
I know for a fact that many people go to JJ's to get "that one special mustard" etc. etc. that the large chains don't carry. They use JJ's as a token food outlet,, instead of regularly patronizing it. So, MUCH of othe reason for this is true lack of community support for that market. It's not just incidental variables that are responsible for JJ's problems.
I've heard (this is not substantiated, but others may want to look into it) that the developer that asked JJ's to support its project there, backed away from early promises for a certain rent deal. Is this true? If it is, it should be made public.
Then there's the talk about Trader Joe's at Town and Country. I find this ironically amusing, and maddening. Even if JJ's was in good shape, suggesting that TJ's would be a "good idea" at T&C, as suggested by some in a prior thread, shows the crass insensitivity to the realisties of osmall business in this city, by patrons who should know better.
I"ve seen the same sort of thing over the years with Printer's Ink Bookstore, with the Fine Arts theatre on California, with the Guild Theatre, etc. etc. Local customers must, ifi they want small, quaint, botique retail to survive, PATRONIZE those stores regularly. The fact is, they don't do this enough.
Rents in Palo Alto are very high, compared to most surrounding cities. These is simply no way that a small botique business can survive unless that business is aggressive in its promotions, stays on top of trends, and is FAITHFULLY and REGULARLY visited by locals who value its presence. Admittedly, this requires some dedication, and personal discipline, especially in today's fickle retail world, where consumers are pulled this way and that by large chains, etc. etc.
In sum, my sense is that the days of the small shopkeeper in Palo Alto are numbered. It's simply not possible to compete on pure service and custom attention to customers if one is paying current market rate rents, and is at the mercy of landlords when rents come up for renewal at the "new" average street price every 5 years or so.
The one thing I don't want to hear is people blaming chains, the market, etc. etc.. If we lose a small business in Palo Alto, one that is normally cherished by a core group of users, it's almost always because WE haven't patronized that business enough - or, the business just hasn't kept up with the times.
IN JJ's case, I think the former reason is primary.