Merchants go public with Meet The Street event | News | Palo Alto Online |


Merchants go public with Meet The Street event

Palo Alto mayor hopes inaugural retailers' street fair will be replicated

Call it a block party that the whole city is invited to attend. Palo Alto will kick off its inaugural Meet The Street event on Oct. 8 from 5-9 p.m., with food, fashion, music and more.

Palo Alto Mayor Karen Holman is hoping the free downtown festival will give retail and personal-service businesses located on side streets more visibility -- and will be the first of many such parties in the city's retail districts.

"This is the genesis of a series of events. ... We have a lot of businesses that have been here for a number of years, and they deserve the city's support for persevering during the up-and-down economy. And the newer businesses we also want to help and highlight," she said.

Bryant, Ramona, Emerson and Waverley streets will be filled with live music, Irish dancing, chalk art and other activities and giveaways. Businesses on University and Hamilton avenues between those blocks will also be part of the festivities.

Zola's, The Chocolate Garage, Pizzeria Delfina and Nola will offer free tastings, while Lure + Till Chef Patrick Kelly will give cooking demonstrations at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. at 180 Hamilton Ave. A fashion show emceed by designer Susan Graf will present merchandise from boutiques Phyllis, Leaf & Petal, Cassis and S. Graf Ltd. at 6 and 8 p.m.

Three Palo Alto institutions will celebrate anniversaries at the event. The Cardinal Hotel at 235 Hamilton Ave. will observe its 90th with a 1920's-themed event; theater group Palo Alto Players will mark its 85th year by performing from the musical "Chicago"; and Bell's Books at 536 Emerson St. will fete its 80th year with exhibits and demonstrations of book production, calligraphy, bookmark making and live gypsy music by the band Left Bank/Rive Gauche. Constance Hunter, a Santa Cruz bookbinder who does restoration work for the store, will demonstrate bookbinding, and local author Theoni Pappas will sign books.

Owner Faith Bell has worked at the store since she was "a little tiny person learning to run the cash register" and recalled making runs to get Chinese food from the Golden Dragon restaurant for her parents. Her mother, who is 88, turned the store over to her last year, she said.

She applauded Meet The Street for putting the spotlight on merchants on downtown's side streets.

"This event is wonderful. It is really focusing on giving people the opportunity to spill out onto the streets and rejoice in what we do," she said.

Palo Alto merchants have lamented their seeming invisibility since at least the 1930s, when Bell's father opened the bookstore, she said.

"I just found my father's letters from 1934, which I found touching and amusing. In one letter, he wrote about watching students and workers in the City of Palo Alto walk by in search of cafes. It sort of hurt his feelings. He had these beautiful displays of books, and people were only interested in reading menus," she said.

Adams Holland, co-owner of Timothy Adams Chocolates at 539 Bryant St., said he's welcoming Meet The Streets.

"I think it's a great thing to do because it involves our neighborhood," he said.

The chocolatier will host a chocolate-making demonstration. People will learn about the chocolate the store sources from all over the world, the different percentages of cacao and how to make a ganache -- a bonbon filling -- and the coverature, or outer chocolate coating. There will also be free samples, he said.

Holman said she was struck by the number of small businesses that have been operating for 30 years or more.

"There has been a lot of conversation in the last year about the changing 'scape of retail. But I think the longstanding presence and attraction of businesses on our streets are very strong indicators of the value of personal relationships and hands-on customer service," she said.

The City Council this year has passed new policies aimed at preserving the city's retail and personal-services businesses, she said. The city now has an ordinance largely prohibiting ground-floor retail space from being used by other types of business. On Sept. 21, the council approved a restriction on new chain stores on California Avenue.

If this Meet The Street is successful, Holman hopes it can be expanded to other downtown streets and to the city's other retail districts, including California Avenue and Midtown.

More information about Meet The Street is available at

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5 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2015 at 9:40 am

Did I hear that? Midtown is getting some notice from the City Council?

6 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2015 at 9:44 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

This sounds exciting! I look forward to this event.

BTW, this is the first time that I ever heard of Bell's Books. After visiting their website and reading reviews about their store, this is the type of bookstore that we would enjoy.

It would be great if Palo Alto Weekly/Online could include a weekly column about one of the small businesses in Palo Alto that might be just a bit off the beaten path -- i.e., establishments that are not chain stores. We've lived in Palo Alto for several years now and we're still discovering new places around town.

2 people like this
Posted by Southie
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2015 at 10:53 pm

I used to LOVE going downtown. Now it's just such a pain. I wish our merchants the best. I'm glad business is good, I just wish it was easier from across town. I hope the event reminds people of what wonderful businesses we have here.

9 people like this
Posted by More, Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2015 at 10:33 am

There REALLY should be an event like this for Cal Ave. There are so many wonderful businesses there and on the off-streets.

One for Midtown might be a good idea, too. C. Even though I don't live there, I seem to e d up going there at least twice a week.

1 person likes this
Posted by music
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 5, 2015 at 10:40 am

Great idea, I live downtown and I leave to either redwood city, los altos, or mtnview to get something different. Found out that Los Altos has music all around the downtown corners. It was great

6 people like this
Posted by If you hate the drive, try this...
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 5, 2015 at 10:56 am

Dear Southie,

Downtown is a 25 minute very leisurely, flat bicycle ride away. Try the Bryant St. Bike Boulevard which takes you all the way from our homes in the south to downtown via a lovely, low-traffic, shady lane. A very enjoyable bike ride--even for an old lady like me.

If you can't ride a bike, try the FREE City of Palo Alto Shuttle (info here Web Link or, depending on where you live, the VTA 22 bus line Web Link which gets you to the University Avenue Caltrain Station and an easy walk into downtown. :-)

Try it out. You may find you prefer one of these options over driving. (Big bonus-- you won't have to search for auto parking!)

4 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 5, 2015 at 10:59 am

People in Barron Park should try riding the 22 bus.
No hassle with parking.

Like this comment
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Oct 5, 2015 at 2:34 pm

What a great idea! Hope it spreads to midtown area as well.

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