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For College Terrace Market, a shaky start

Mandated grocery store faces hurdles of competition, signage

At the newly built College Terrace Centre, signage for the market is limited to lettering above the front door, atop the ornamental obelisk and signs outside the outdoor patio whereas First Republic Bank has signage placed on numerous sides of the buildings. Photo by Veronica Weber.

College Terrace Market, the longed-for grocery store at 2100 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, finally opened on June 14, but the hoped-for crowds of customers have been slow to materialize.

After a promising opening day, the market initially averaged only about 60 customers a day, said Ron Jensen, the market's director of operations. In the last couple of weeks, that number has grown as employees have moved into the First Republic Bank offices in the center's upper floors.

But Miki Werness, one of the market's partners, estimated the market needs more than 200 customers per day to thrive. He said he did not anticipate that a summer opening would be so slow, adding that he anticipates many more customers will come with the start of the school year.

The shaky start — and other factors potentially conspiring against the market — has customers and neighbors in College Terrace concerned. Under the planned community (PC) ordinance by which the College Terrace Centre development must abide, a grocery store has to be located in the 8,000-square-foot space, whether it's financially thriving or not.

Many residents have said that no one knows the market is there, despite its location on busy El Camino between Oxford and College avenues.

"There's not a lot of pedestrian traffic here, and that's always concerning," said Paul Hansen, who works from his home in the nearby Evergreen Park neighborhood and only recently noticed the market had opened. He began frequenting the store just this last week, crossing El Camino to get sushi there.

The market's lack of clear signage, residents and customer said, is an immediate threat to the grocery store's bottom line. But the City of Palo Alto also is allowing a competitor to open in the center: First Republic Bank, which is the primary tenant in the two buildings, is plunking down more than $700,000 to build a cafeteria for its employees. The cafeteria will offer a deli, bread and salad stations, sundries, coffee, hot food and soup — just as College Terrace Market does.

Stanford University also plans to add a small convenience store to its new Escondido Village housing development a few blocks away.

The market does have three signs: Two logos — a red apple in the shape of a "C" with shopping-cart wheels and a green apple-leaf handle — with "Market" in black block letters below affixed near the top of a 40-plus-foot spire at the corner of Oxford. Above the store's corner entrance is a third logo sign with the words "College Terrace Market."

But they lack visibility: Pedestrians said the spire signs are too high up; customers note that the entrance sign is in an alcove hidden behind the spire's base.

Along the front, the store's windows are tinted, making it difficult to tell what kind of business is inside and obscuring another sign posted on the inside of the front window.

By contrast, First Republic has aggressively branded itself with six large green signs — one that covers two sides of the building — three banners and two stately flag poles.

"The market does not stand out. The bank suffocates the store. There are too many signs," College Terrace resident Ann Lafargue Balin said.

Diane Finkelstein, another resident, agreed.

"You have to know the market is there to even discover the current sign," she wrote in an email. "The city should make the bank take down the huge sign over the market, and it should be replaced with one for the market so it is visible from El Camino."

Russ Reich, Palo Alto development-services planning manager, said the College Terrace Centre can have multiple signs, but the city has not received any such signage applications from the building owner or the market. Previous sign requests have been approved after about two months, according to city records.

Werness said the store's partners are planning to add a large sign to the building's El Camino facade. They've added a banner along the railing of the front dining patio to direct traffic to the center's underground parking garage, which has an entrance on El Camino.

In addition to the signage issue, also somewhat puzzling to the store's neighbors, is the bank's planned cafeteria.

Hillary Gitelman, Palo Alto director of planning and community environment, said the city can veto things such as cafeterias and other competing uses when projects are in the planning stages. The city has discretion over employee cafeterias when they are offered to ensure workers don't drive during lunch, creating traffic, and to justify a reduction in required parking spaces.

"The city reviews new development projects that propose employee amenities such as cafeterias, and in recent years we have not supported cafeterias where there are retail uses and services nearby because we want office tenants to patronize nearby businesses. Where there are not retail and services nearby, we have supported employee cafeterias as a way to reduce vehicle trips, because it means employees don't have to get in their car and drive to lunch," Gitleman stated.

"In this case, the cafeteria was proposed by the applicant as an amenity unrelated to any reduction in parking. Thus the city didn't see a justification for denying the request," she stated.

But customers expressed dismay that the cafeteria will be opening.

"I'm kind of horrified to learn they are allowing a cafeteria to go into the building," said a neatly dressed, 40s-ish lawyer from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati who declined to give his name. "It was hard to get someone in here in the first place. You'd like to see the planning process account for that and give the store the advantage to survive."

He's walked from his Page Mill Road office to the market for lunch every third day since it opened, passing a no-man's land of office buildings, apartments and small storefronts. He could eat at fast-food joints along El Camino or head to a California Avenue restaurant. But instead he makes his way past the Jack in the Box drive-through and the cars weaving in and out of the Shell gas station.

First Republic has cafeterias in all of its large offices, according to bank spokesman Greg Berardi.

"It keeps all employees closer and in the neighborhood, and it brings them closer to the market. The bank is already actively working to support the market and will continue to do so," he said.

The bank and the market are working on a number of initiatives together, he added. He declined to elaborate on the joint initiatives.

Residents at a College Terrace Residents Association meeting in early June also expressed concern over a proposed Escondido Village market on the Stanford campus. But Stanford spokeswoman Jean McCown said this week the 1,900-square-foot convenience store would be similar to one that exists in the Munger graduate student housing today.

"It is not sized to be a full-service grocery store, but what will be provided has not yet been determined and is a few years out," she said.

Within College Terrace, the market has its supporters. Lafargue Balin's family has lived in College Terrace since 1926, and her grandmother and aunt went to now-shuttered JJ&F Market.

"We need this neighborhood spot to foster community in the neighborhood. Not to whine, but we have lost so much of the character of College Terrace with constant construction and crushing cut-through traffic that it is sweet to have a market in our neighborhood," she said.

Husband Fred Balin said the new market is "a worthy successor to the beloved JJ&F," but now that the market has opened, the community must come out to support it and help it succeed.

He called on the property owner to bring businesses into the vacant, adjacent 5,000-square-foot retail space that will draw customers to the center and on the store managers to effectively run the market itself.

College Terrace Market has the potential to be a great community gathering space, said the Wilson Sonsini attorney, who extolled its sandwiches as he sat at one of the patio picnic tables under a red-and-black umbrella.

"I think when the school year starts there will be kids wandering in for lunch. ... But as word gets out, there also will be longer lines."

That's good for the market but not so good for him, he said.

"My concerns are entirely selfish. I want them to stick around."


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39 people like this
Posted by It will close
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 7:07 am

This is completely expected. A small undersized, overpriced market Is expected to do great business? And I love sues description of the lawyer trek to the market - makes it sound like he is walking through the Sahara. And then there is the attempt to manipulate the free market - opposition to a cafeteria and a small market at Stanford. Oh wait this is college terrace. Remember that is why we have only small supermarkets in palo alto.i will give this place another year.

33 people like this
Posted by Greatest Gridlock
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2017 at 7:42 am

Nice place and very nice accommodating clerks but very confusing signage and directions to the parking lot. Good produce. Nice deli.

Horrible confusing signage not easily seen when zipping down El Camino.

Parking is confusing and I would have expected the entrance to the parking garage to be from Stamford (the side street), not off El Camino.

13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 8:05 am

I tried it once when I was passing. I couldn't find the parking lot but managed to find some street parking behind. I needed bread but didn't like their selection and I bought something from the deli but service was very slow. I don't live in the area, but I can't see any reason for me to stop there as I am passing to get milk or something for dinner again.

33 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 8:31 am

I would like to shop here as it is in walking distance. However overall the prices are ridiculous. I understand the expensive counter for people buying lunch, but if you want locals to shop the prices need to be good. Go benchmark your pricing against Trader Joe's and Mollie Stone's and make sure you are competitive. $2.49 for a single avocado is not going to work! $8 for gallon of milk that I can get for $3 at T Joe's. And so on. JJ&F on the other hand was still overall competitive and reasonable as a small market.

11 people like this
Posted by Gramps
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 11, 2017 at 8:51 am

I was there yesterday and there is a "struggling" vibe. Hard to keep fresh stuff fresh with the low volume of customers, and some of the veggies were suffering. Selection fairly limited, prices fairly high. Not as big or nice as Mollie Stone's, just 2 blocks away. Great for College Terrace residents, for sure, but I hope that is enough for them to thrive.

20 people like this
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2017 at 8:59 am

I visited the market once. Outrageous prices. Good luck.

31 people like this
Posted by Wouldn't go back
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2017 at 9:15 am

I went there once after reading about all the excitement around the opening on paweekly. But I entirely agree with what others have mentioned above. I found the prices to be very high and very, very small selection. I don't think businesses realize how many people in Palo Alto are still price sensitive for things like daily food & groceries. Sure there are lots in the town that do not need to pay attention to pricing but there are many of us that still need to stretch each paycheck.

Also isn't the Miki Werness mentioned in the article the same person behind the Miki's market that was at Alma plaza? If so doesn't seem like he learned much from that fiasco. Seem's to me the budget priced Grocery Outlet is doing much better there than his pricier store.

43 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 9:40 am

One other comment for Miki, hopefully he reads all this. You seem to have a skewed notion of how people live in Palo Alto. Sure most people are not broke and like some high-end stuff, but grocery staples need to be price-competitive. I would advise you to make your basic grocery staples very competitive and then people will be in your store to buy your fancy cheeses etc. At JJ&F you could go fancy but you could also get everyday basics for a fair price. You need to market to your base of nearby families and other residents that you have good prices for everyday shopping and then we will be in your store and you can upsell us to buy the fancier stuff too. Otherwise, forget it.

24 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2017 at 9:44 am

Resident is a registered user.

I agree with many of the comments about the merchandise being overly high end.
However, there was a surprising mention in the article about city staff approving a cafeteria for the primary tenant, First Republic. I recall that the market model included an anticipation that it would serve as the de facto lunch room for the office tenants above. Why would the city approve a use that undermines the intent of the PC to have a market. Also, the developer volunteered as part of the PC approval to be on the hook for a very big fine if there is no grocer so why would they approve a lease that shoots themselves in the foot?
This sure seems to be a shortsighted approach by the city and developer.

17 people like this
Posted by anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 10:04 am

Wow there are some sort of mean comments here......The CT market is small jewel providing a great personalized service to residents.
Of course it cannot compete price wise with a large chain like Trader Joes.!

But it is not trying to compete with large chain grocery stores it is a small very friendly, personalized store with a great coffee bar and fantastic fresh homemade food.

Too bad that Stanford is planning to put in a grocery more than twice the size ( 1,900SF ) in their new high-rise residences, which will add more competition to an already crowded grocery sector.

Hopefully the bank will be thoughtful enough to remove the large sign on El Camino over the market. They really don't need so much signage, this is a corporate headquarters, not a retail bank that needs to advertise.

All interested parties need to remember that it is a requirement to have that grocery store there and that without it there will be steep fines for the property owner and the entire project will be a failure.

On the cities website it is clear that the grocery initially applied for 3 signs. They only have 2, and really would benefit from one more large sign on El Camino.

Let' s be welcoming and give CT market a chance. Thanks for the article Ms. Dremann!!!

14 people like this
Posted by grumpyoldman
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 11, 2017 at 10:17 am

Overpriced, bad parking, bad selection. What could possibly go wrong? So glad the neighborhood residents forced a grocery store on the developer. Given the number of grocery stores that PA residents force on developers you'd think there was a shortage. Cal Ave already has two small groceries. The reality is that most people in suburban communities own cars and drive to purchase their groceries and have no problem driving 5-10 extra minutes for better selection and price. Hopefully this market puts an end to this zoning silliness.

10 people like this
Posted by It will close
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 11, 2017 at 10:19 am

Anon- Stanford Is building a convenience store and it will be 1900 square feet- less than a quarter of the size of the CT market. If that place proves to be competetion for ct market, then there is something wrong with the market.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:05 am

Sorry you are correct I made a mistake about the size!

28 people like this
Posted by DCS
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:12 am

The folks that ran JJ&F knew many customer's names, greeted us when we arrived, and were always willing to order and stock special items so that I never had to go to any other grocery store if I didn't want to. They had duck breasts in the freeze for when I had special guests. If I wanted Italian "Typo 000" flour, they ordered it for me. When I injured my ankle, they spontaneously offered to deliver my groceries until I was off crutches. That kind of personal relationship was what drove the neighborhood's devotion to JJ&F.
If CTM would like that kind of relationship, they could invite the College Terrace residents to the market with flyers on the doorsteps, celebrate the opening with balloons and free hot dogs at the market, and open the relationship with name tags and discount coupons (e.g., Sign up for our weekly email and get 15% off your first visit, 10% off your second, 5% off your third).
It's a beautiful market and I don't mind the prices. But so far, no one has made me feel welcome the way the JJ&F staff did.

2 people like this
Posted by friend
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:34 am

The developer wanted his permit so badly he would promise ayathing - and he did. If the CT grocer fails, he (developer) also agreed to the fines which could be $2000/day. It behoves the developer to make sure that they work with any and all other tenants to have the grocery stocked. - via charging "x" amt. for a lunch and/or easy access. - all companies don't have to have their own cafeteria, Stanford doesn't have to have its own coveience store...... timed parking so that people don't park and shop elsewhere or sit in close by coffeeshop for hours.

As for the out rageous prices I keep hearing about - again, the Deeloper and Miki need to work together to listen to the consistent comment from shoppers - prices are to high and there are other local options for shopping. Your customer base is speaking loud and clear- why not listen?

26 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2017 at 11:41 am

This looks like another case of Palo Alto's PC ordinance failing to produce something reasonable. The owner pushed very hard for this market because he used it to override zoning and build a huge building.

Now, the owner needs to be held responsible for having a market there for the life of the development. If it is not profitable, then it is up to the owner to solve the problem.

We need to remember the problems that the Edgewood Plaza center has had. This is another use of the PC ordinance, and while the developer says he has found a replacement for the Fresh Market, the developer has also sued the city for trying to enforce the terms of the PC.

Using incentives to entice a developer to provide something that the community says that it wants but turns out to be not economically justifiable just doesn't work. The city needs to stop using the PC in this manner (indeed, the PC should either be repealed or seriously changed).

11 people like this
Posted by Overpriced
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Ridiculously overpriced, on every single item. I live in College Terrace. I'd love to go there for groceries if their prices are reasonable.

10 people like this
Posted by 5 Coats
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I used JJ&F when I wanted very good meat, wonderful sandwiches, pickup items for GG lunches, some produce, milk products and other pickup items. Signage terrible for parking and for the store. Hope to figure out the combination of parking and resume old routine. Send flyers to all in College Terrace, neighbors on the other side of El Camino from Stanford Avenue to Churchill. They had quite the trade at lunch time for super sandwiches. Hope they can survive.
Bad news about cafeteria for employees.

23 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:27 pm

While at Mollie Stones Market the other day a clerk from College Terrace Market filled up two shopping carts with milk and dairy products, took them to the register and paid for them.

One of the store people said the clerk told them the dairy supplier wouldn't deliver to them until they paid up what was owed them. Could be the end is near already.

11 people like this
Posted by Raised in Palo Alto
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Have College Terrace Market will come. I don’t think so. Do they accept EBT/SNAP? As a new resident of the College Terrace area I was very thrilled to not have to drive to a store to get my family of four groceries and household sundries. Indeed, I was excited that a small, family run store was opening on our side of El Camino. YES. I could walk without getting into a car to shop! Yet, the prices for us are out of this WORLD and I just can’t shop there. I don’t care what kind of bubble Palo Alto is experiencing right now – over half my income goes to rent and I am unable to afford to support this market as much as my family and I would love to.

With the under construction 180 unit Stanford University staff and student housing off Page Mill and the newly occupied 70 unit family friendly Mayfield Place housing completed, I was so hoping that there would also be a sanely priced market that lower income families could shop and purchase safe, healthy, fresh food at. Residing in this town are plenty of Stanford Post Graduate students supporting families too and living on the financial edge. I am sure tey would honor and support one less trip in a car to shop.

With the College Terrace Market now open for business supporting them is not an option for us. I continue to have to get in to my car and drive to shop competitive and lower prices all over: Costco, Sprouts, Grocery Outlet, T Joes, and Safeway. Thankfully Country Sun remains within walking distance and is my go-to for a last minute single sale item. And ALL of the mentioned stores I am budgeted to shop at - ALL gladly accept EBT/SNAP. I have yet to see a friendly sign at the College Terrace Market accepting EBT. I am too embarrassed to ask. All of the market staff is very friendly – but a little intimating as well. I did ask about stocking a medium priced caffeine labeled item, but they were not that enthusiastic about getting it. With Woodside’s Roberts Market pricing, I don’t’ see how successful they can be.

Regarding the floor plan: Why are there five high tech check-out counters? Seems to be taking up more space than needed. Critically the market is very poorly lighted. It's hard to select or examine labels or see prices clearly and just is too dark to appear welcoming. The bulk coffee station has no scissors or tape for self-grinding coffee. It’s annoying to get your coffee ground with the front door constantly opening letting out precious cool air.

Perhaps one day and for a very special occasion, I will budget to take my kids there to split an organic Strauss Bros. ice cream cone. At $2.75 a scoop that’s about all I can do. BTW: Isn't there an employee cafateria at the firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati?

4 people like this
Posted by macbaldy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:47 pm

The relevance of Stanford's Escondido Village plans goes begging. JJ&F didn't have the much higher densities of grad students that are now living on that part of campus and more density is under construction. That intense in-fill housing addition is post-JJ&F, and it's generally a response to the continually escalating cost of off-campus housing options. This new CT market, and its alleged overpriced goods, is mistaken if it had seriously used EV as part of its target community. Those huge new law school dorms adjacent to EV combine as a much much larger service community for a new EV convenience store than the nearby PA neighborhoods represent. The County and Municipal pressures via Stanford's General Use Plans have consistently insisted on avoiding traffic increases. That PA businesses bemoan losing profits from Stanford student customers is silly pathos and reflects poor business plans. If on-campus grad students need to use a car to go off-campus for groceries, etc., Molly Stone's has been more worth the trip than the former JJ&F--or its new successor. Back in the day, I spent several years as a LSJU grad student and later spent several years as a CT resident at multiple locations. JJ&F barely held its ground against the former CO-OP and current Molly Stone's. Higher prices are a lost cause.

9 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:49 pm

I agree with DCS that the market needs to engage with the adjacent neighborhoods! If they would leverage their location and become part of the community, we will spend $$ there. In addition to DCS's suggestions, they should engage with neighborhood groups, have little events like free orange slices after soccer, let neighbors exchange/sell their own produce, have bake sales, free used book exchange, etc. It should become a hub with that nice outside space there. If you get people there, there we will spend our money as long as the prices are not so off-putting.

To anon, the comments are not mean, they are constructive criticism! We want the market to succeed, and it doesn't seem like they understand what JJ&F was like and how that worked. JJ's pricing was at a level that made sense due to their local market size, but not outrageously so.

If it were my market, I would go old school and give all the locals house accounts, offer phone orders/free delivery, etc. If you can't make it work it's on you. You have the location, location, location.

8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:52 pm

I was very disappointed first in the strange entrance with small doors and no welcoming appeal. Marketing has been very poor. College Terrace is a motherlode of opportunity for the market yet they haven't done any marketing on Network Collge Terrace. Perhaps the network does not allow marketing but their are other ways of reaching out to the community that is personal and inviting. Its a pity, I like the idea of a market at the end of the street.

9 people like this
Posted by Carlie
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:52 pm

It's ironic that the overbearing, controlling people insisting that a Grocery has to be here are the same people who go shop at Grocery Outlet because they are comparatively poor and were just kidding about the need for a store here. I think think they live in a fantasy world.

21 people like this
Posted by fed up neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Couldn't agree with Robert Smith more. Let's stop making deals with developers, they always seems to win and we are left with oversized, ugly buildings without any real public benefit. The new complex in College Terrace has completely changed the neighborhood and not in a good way. The little public benefit was never intended to actually succeed and guess what....

20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:56 pm

With the alleged huge influx of immigrants into Palo Alto in recent years, can some explain to me why no local grocery stores are trying to cater to this demographic?

People that want to spend the money for high-end foods want a high-end selection, so a high-priced mini-store is doomed to fail. On the other hand mini-stores that focus on fresh ingredients for Japanese or Chinese or Korean meals seem to be doing great in Cupertino and Sunnyvale or San Mateo. Those cities are too far to drive from Palo Alto in rush hour traffic, so why not start a market here?

9 people like this
Posted by Carlie
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Also crazy ironic in one of the most very expensive neighborhoods in the ENTIRE PLANET EARTH people are griping for the need to accept EBT. [Portion removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Again, thank the beat writer of the article to provide nonsense gossip.

12 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:19 pm

Miki missed the nature of the market and the competition with the Alma market and he's doing it again! Those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Overpriced goods don't sell in Palo Alto. They is any prestige attached to a bottle of milk. Just because I can buy a Tesla doesn't mean I'd pay a fortune for tomatoes.

8 people like this
Posted by Captain Von Awesome
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:26 pm

SUCH NONSENSE: "But the City of Palo Alto also is allowing a competitor to open in the center: First Republic Bank"

The bank has the right to provide food to its employees. This is no different than any tech company in Palo Alto. Should the City mandate how an business should operate or provide any amenity to its employees? NO! Its the bank's right to decide what they provide or don't provide to their employees. Is the bank a competing “use”? NO! Can the bank serve food to the public? NO!

13 people like this
Posted by Two Words
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Another Miki's

11 people like this
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:35 pm

I find the posting by resident rather strange -- why should Palo Alto markets CATER to immigrants? If a US citizen were to move to Japan, China, or Korea, would one expect their local markets to CATER to us? Would you ask "Why do you serve only rice and not a choice of lemon cream raviolis" for instance?

13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Annette is a registered user.

VERY disappointing to read about the bank's cafeteria as that could well defeat the market. I suspect there's more to the story than Gitelman's explanation. There's got to be a reason why the City chose to not do all that it can to not hinder this market's success. Maybe having a cafeteria was key to the bank signing the lease. Or maybe the owner and developer (and the City?) have no expectation that the market will survive and wanted to position themselves favorably vis-à-vis the bank's lease. Better to build a cafeteria from the get-go than to re-tool a space.

16 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:04 pm

Shame on the city for approving such a confusing hard-to-find non-intuitive entrance to the market's parking garage. Not only is it tough to find, but it slows down El Camino traffic. It took us 2 tries to find it and that's with one passenger looking very carefully and directing the driver.

They should have required an entrance on the side street, not off El Camino.

The drive-in entrance is almost as dumb as the one for Philz on Middlefield which is right BEFORE the traffic light -- not off the side street or at the intersection -- so you get to fight traffic on several fronts.

18 people like this
Posted by 2nd Generation Californian
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:04 pm

To Carlie - I find the content of your comment objectionable! All grocery stores should by law take EBT - And it's only money in their pockets. [Portion removed.]

32 people like this
Posted by Stephen Peeps
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:15 pm

Such a sad thing to read all of these negative epistles. I can only take solace in the fact that the unhappy among us are more prone to complain than the many happy are to praise.

I've lived in College Terrace for most of the past 40 years. I loved JJ&F and knew John, Joe and Frank personally. The Garcias were a great family and JJ&F was a treasure. But folks, that was a while ago and we need to get over the past -- and appreciate what we now have, altogether missing for the past couple of years.

The new market is, in my opinion, quite wonderful. Yes, it's specialized. The meat and seafood are beyond compare (truly, try them), the same thing that people went out of their way to get at JJ's. The staff here, to a person, are delightful and eager to please. Isabella's deli produces from scratch every day some of the finest pastries, pastas, meatballs, salads (when do I stop?) you will get anywhere. And you can actually meet Isabella!

I know that the new market's prices are higher. But so is the quality. And all of us should understand that a small local business can't compete cost-wise with enterprises the like of Millie Stone's (yes, there is more than one of them) or juggernauts like Safeway and Trader Joe's.

Folks, we can't have it all. But we can have a friendly and high quality outfit right here in our neighborhood that serves us in a special way. Please give them your support -- and business. The alternative is to go back to the time when JJ's was a pale version of its former self and then we had nothing.

Finally, as usual, our city has disadvantaged the little guys (us) with its crazy allowances for big business (First Republic, of which I am a customer). The signage they allowed this wealthy banking enterprise is crazy given that the building is not a branch but, rather, corporate business offices. There's no reason for FR to advertise, because there's no reason for us to go there -- not even an ATM which you'll have to go to across El Camino to use.

Please note that today's College Terrace Market sale item is PRIME rib-eye steaks at half price. They're trying, and God bless anyone who is willing to rally on behalf of our little, specialize market. Otherwise, let's face it, we will have nothing again.

Thanks for reading. Given this Trumpian age, I stand ready to be savaged!

1 person likes this
Posted by Anon
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:36 pm

[Post removed.]

21 people like this
Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Barbara - they are called ethnic markets for to any city in the bay area (except maybe palo alto) and you will find these stores. There is certainly a demend for them. Not sure why palo alto has none.

I felt that miki was the wrong person for this place given his previous experience.

9 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2017 at 2:57 pm

john_alderman is a registered user.

In a car oriented suburb like Palo Alto, a grocery store needs to sit at the back of a large parking lot. It is effectively the definition of the grocery store: a building in a parking lot with foodstuffs for sale. The lack of a visible parking was a big part of the problem for the Alma market, and now for the College Terrace market. Even the Los Altos Whole Foods which has most parking underground put a row of street level parking right in front along El Camino.

12 people like this
Posted by Adam Smith
a resident of another community
on Aug 11, 2017 at 3:55 pm

I suspect you all are okay with higher medical costs from the affordable care act; all want $15 plus for minimum wage and higher fast food costs; what's wrong with paying more for the convenience of shopping in your neighborhood?

11 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Aug 11, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Palo Alto does not have Asian grocery stores because they pay LOW rent.
There is definitely a market for Asian grocery stores in Palo Alto if the residents are willing to subsidize rents.

If the whiners in CT really want a neighborhood grocery store, why don't they assess each resident $1,000/year. The neighborhood assn could use the proceeds to keep the market afloat.

By the way, the parking situation does not seem to be an Impediment to the Grocery Outlet on Alma.

9 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 11, 2017 at 6:09 pm

I'm disappointed with the overall design of the CT Center. Seems like if it's a local grocery store then the entrance should have been on college like JJ&F was. Nothing they can do about that now though. I would like to see more bike parking added. Last time I biked there all the racks were taken even though no customers were inside.

3 people like this
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 12, 2017 at 12:26 am

Miki's [portion removed] market on Alma didn't fail because it abutted a road, wasn't obvious from the street, and had limited parking. It failed because his costs were too high and his sales volume too low. Grocery Outlet is, like, my favorite store ever -- and it looks like it's thriving from a business perspective. Miki did not have a clue why his store failed, or at least never admitted it to a reporter.

I went to the market once, by bicycle, found the things I thought were interesting and reasonably priced and went home. Have not felt the need to go back because I do my shopping at proper markets. A basket full of groceries: Safeway, Grocery Outlet, even Whole Foods. A handful of cute things like a bag of pasta and a squeeze bottle of Dijon mustard all the way from France. There's a lot of mustard left, so it will be a while before I return. I am betting that it will be closed before that happens.

8 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2017 at 8:45 am

I checked back to see if Miki had joined this conversation to express his interest in getting feedback and making his store a success. Notably, he has not taken this opportunity to engage with the community. He could have invited everyone in for coffee and a discussion session to get ideas and to explain what he's doing. But instead, radio silence. Very bad business instincts here.

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Posted by sunshine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2017 at 9:16 am

To answer some comments: New immigrants in the local area often would be expected to look for Kosher food. Mollie Stone's has a selection of Kosher food and appears to be unique in this regard. Their meat counter is very good and the butchers are happy to do special cuts to your order. Butchers Steve and Tony are excellent and friendly.
Many basic items, especially 365 house brand, at Whole Foods are priced very competitively and the quality is very good.
Cheeses from around the world can be found at Mollie Stone's, Whole Foods, and Milk Pail.
Now, where can I find a really good NY style light rye bread with a good cruse and not already sliced close to home? There is Esther's, but it is a pain to get to on San Antonio and they want to sell you the whole 5 lb loaf. Old Country Deli on Cambridge used to sell quarters of the loaf--just the right size for one person.

1 person likes this
Posted by Brit
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2017 at 9:28 am

I remember being able to buy beef kidneys at JJ&F (as well as at Piazzas and occasionally Safeway) many years ago. In fact, JJ&F at one stage would order them for me specially when the others stopped. Eventually they told me they could no longer get them as the pet food industry had prevented all the abattoirs from selling offal to anyone other than themselves. I really miss making a good steak and kidney pie.

It seems that there used to be lots more opportunities to buy unusual foods 25 years ago than there are nowadays. Sigh!

2 people like this
Posted by Cheeseguy
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 12, 2017 at 10:58 am

Those above who say that this is "another Miki's" are incorrect. Miki's was quite high end, the cheese department rivaled the best in the Bay Area (Cheeseboard in Berkeley), the staples were deep in gourmet items. It failed because PA is not Berkeley or SF, people here eat at Google or FB, and there is limited depth of interest in high end food (and the location also was less than perfect, though that hasn't stopped Grocery Outlet).
Other than some depth in decent prepared foods there is nothing "high end" about CTM. High end is Draeger's. At CTM the cheese dept. is industrial trash (not nearly as good as Whole F or Piazza's), there is no depth in staple foods, no decent bread (like no Acme), and a lousy wine dept. that can't compare to all the competition . The prices are high (e.g., about 50 cents more than anywhere else for 1/2 gallon of milk) on everything even though nothing is special or unique.
What is the niche for CTM? It's not a destination market (think Draeger's), not an ethnic market, not deep in organic produce, and not cheap. It's not the old JJF (which had the best butcher in town, a great and well priced wine dept, and a staff who knew you by your first name). The only niche CTM fills is convenience for College Terrace residents who are not concerned about prices. It will not last long with that being the target customer.

4 people like this
Posted by WSGR
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2017 at 12:05 pm

I am amused that a Wilson Sonsini (WSGR) lawyer is "kind of horrified" that a bank has a cafeteria in its building: WSGR has a cafeteria in its building. When I practiced at WSGR, I often had free meals there.

Also, what a shame for WSGR when one of its lawyers--wordsmiths by trade--associates any extent of horror with the presence of a cafeteria.

3 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2017 at 12:38 pm

I don't know why the city and developers agree to these sorts of requirements, most people don't care, and the usual (loud) malcontents will never be satisfied anyways.

4 people like this
Posted by R. Winslow
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2017 at 1:49 pm

The old Co-Op grocery stores were the closest we had to a 'people's market' in Palo Alto. And like the others (e.g. Pool Brothers, Farmer's Market, Purity, Midtown/Duca Hanley and good old JJs) all are long gone.

The EBT/SNAP accessibility is a reasonable request/offering. While some have issues with certain so-called 'entitlement programs', people have to eat and no one should be starving in America. The only consideration here is that at more expensive grocery stores, an EBT allotment will not cover as much as shopping at Safeway so some saavy shopping perspectives are important ot consider.

This new CT grocery store sounds like a poor decision right from the start as it has apparently priced itself out of the broad demographic in addition to excluding certain shoppers due to overpricing.

11 people like this
Posted by Sue R.
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 12, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Both my husband and I were raised in Palo Alto and now live in Los Altos. We had dinner on Calif. Ave Wednesday night and later drove to CTM to see what all the hub bub is about. We parked on the side-street steps away from the front door and were warmly greeted when we entered. We both are fiercely supportive of family run businesses so they had us at hello!! The Kansas Creekside beef was terrific (no hormones or antibiotics). One steak is enough for two and was delicious. Isabella's bakery goods will make you drool. Her fame in S.J. precedes her and she deserves 4 stars.The chocolate chip cookies made with Guittard chocolate are so huge we had to share it!! We will be back to pick up the old fashion carrot cake for a family birthday.

I am taken back by all the negative comments about CTM, but like I said we were raised in Palo Alto and know the community is out-spoken and opinionated. That's a good thing, but not always fair if it hinders others from trying this great little market.

You may not be doing your weekly family shopping here, but it is truly worth a stop to pick up steaks, deli, and bakery items.

I am guessing they are reading your comments. They had several specials that they pointed out to us and then handed out samples - the Parmigiano Reggiano at half price was yummy. We wish them good luck along with First Republic which is our bank of choice in Los Altos.

5 people like this
Posted by John S
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2017 at 6:59 pm

@Sue R: I completely agree. Why all the negativity? Why try to keep your neighbors from trying it?

We don't do our 'staples' shopping at CTM, but we go to find something interesting.
I don't find the prices notably higher than Mollie Stones, at least not so much that I'm offended as some seem to be!
I would say the deli/bakery is the best I know of in our town. (The samples are my downfall.)
The meats are really nicely done as well. (If I don't know what to cook for dinner, I go to CTM on the way home from work.)
But the top of the line is the staff. If that matters to you, give it a try.

I hope the market can make it work.

11 people like this
Posted by Jeff Ingoldt
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

I'm not shopping in a building that is so ugly it has blighted the neighborhood.

1 person likes this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2017 at 11:44 am

@ John S......unfortunately, shopping for "something interesting" will not keep this store in business. They need regular,frequent shoppers who buy what they have on the shelves, in the deli, meat counter, etc., otherwise they will be forced to close soon.

9 people like this
Posted by Driveby
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2017 at 12:13 pm

I drive by quite often but haven't spotted where to park. Didn't even spot a sign for parking.
Ridiculous design.
Isn't the developer a local resident? Is he clueless about how people shop?
Who are the so called architects on the ARB that approved this?

11 people like this
Posted by Albert
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2017 at 8:40 pm

I feel for the store owner and employees. However, that the business is struggling is precisely the result predicted long ago as our elected and city staff voted for yet another screwed up idiotic 'Planned Community'. Well done.

Lately I can't help but notice another example of our employed and elected officials fawning over the wishes of developers, rather than people who live here. It's that new, giant concrete hemorrhoid behind the downtown Post Office.

2 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 14, 2017 at 9:40 am


I agree with a lot of what you say. However, it is not accurate to say that the wishes of the residents were taken into account. A significant number of residents, enticed by the claim "Only I can save JJ&F", lobbied the city for the PC ordinance.

What the city fails to do is to vet these things properly and add more requirements. Any expert on grocery stores would have been very skeptical of the business plan for the College Terrace Market.

@those who say the city should do this and that,
It is really up to the market and the developer to decide on their advertising, signage, outreach, products, pricing, etc, What the city must now do is to enforce the ordinance and require an ongoing grocery store.

It the market fails, the developer will try to escape from his deal, just like Sandhill Properties is trying to do at Edgewood. The city created this mess with the PC ordinance, now they must enforce the ordinance.

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Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

Sorry, important typo in my recent post: I should have said "it is not accurate to say that the wishes of the residents were NOT taken into account". Insert the NOT.


6 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2017 at 10:43 am

My husband is a sports fanatic. We periodically go to Giants games because he loves baseball. However, the availability of inexpensive tickets and the ability to bring our own food into the stadium make it an even more appealing option. We can bring a sandwich from the chicken/donut restaurant across the street! Yet, we still buy things in the stadium too.

If this market wants to succeed, they will need to price some items to give customers a motive to shop there. They can make up the difference via other items or point-of-sale selections. My husband goes to CVS quite a bit simply because he sees the 3-for-$10 ads for soda refrigerator packs and $2.99 for a gallon of milk. He buys other things while he's there since he's there for sake of convenience.

This market needs a reasonably-priced reason to get people in the door. Unfortunately, it seems like none of the prices are even remotely enticing.

3 people like this
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 15, 2017 at 3:36 am

It is our opportunity to let College Terrace thrive.

They have a great team, friendly and good service oriented.

They have good ice cream too.

You want their morning drip coffee Italian flavor; for $1.75; its tasty and there is a patio upfront to relax. It's a great place to meet friends

Yes. they have good choices for meat. I started cooking at home with their reasonable meat prices.

Parking stalls are underground and there is plenty of parking.

Its give and take. Provide your input to management and see how we can mutually benefit.

Lets give a try.


3 people like this
Posted by Works at Stanford
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2017 at 11:31 am

Take a look at the glowing/grateful yelp reviews for Franklin Brothers Market on Bancroft in Berkeley. Sounds like everything College Terrace Market is not.

4 people like this
Posted by Mark Silverman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 15, 2017 at 1:16 pm

To all of the naysayers. Had Draeger's opened up a grocery store in College Terrace, everyone in PA would be raving about it and joyfully paying for their bags of overpriced groceries.

Human nature. Snob appeal. Name recognition.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2017 at 11:13 pm

Some of the expectations here are outrageous. Allowing people to sell or exchange produce? Seriously?

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Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 16, 2017 at 12:12 pm

"Had Draeger's opened up a grocery store in College Terrace, everyone in PA would be raving about it and joyfully paying for their bags of overpriced groceries."

Red herring. Draegers would never open in such a small place as CTM. This market is destined to fail. The economics of groceries is that you need to have buying power to get good prices from vendors and distributors. A single small market can't do that.

Geez, with all the vitriol, why would anyone want to serve Palo Alto residents? Oh I get it - if CTM were a bowling alley, everything would be great.

3 people like this
Posted by Carol Kersten
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 16, 2017 at 12:23 pm

A jewel of a market
The new College Terrace market is a treasure for the neighborhood and the larger community. The economics of small grocery stores is tough and they have to charge prices on the higher side. But their prices are in line with other larger high-quality groceries.

The staff are friendly, the items offered are high-quality, and it's a delight to shop there. Have now visited a number of times and each time been pleased with my experience. As a new store, we should give allowances and time for staff to learn the ropes and for shoppers to become familiar with the store.

The deli has delicious items I have not found other places. The bakery pics it's own stunning cakes, the cheese selection is amazing. This is a treasure and I hope those in the community who value having this resource close by will come together to be supportive. We need to give this place the opportunity to be a success. Carol

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 16, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Passed county health public inspections with flying green colors --
Not all Palo Alto facilities reach this level of compliance.
FIRST REPUBLIC can't find yet

Web Link -- enter College Terrace

100 = perfect; points deducted for poor cleanliness, food temp, water temp, hand washing, etc
Vermin tend to shut the place down. 72 closures in Santa Clara County in last six months.
Yes, there are hoops for everyone to jump through.
Food prep areas seem to be more strict than general groceries.


How would your home kitchen rate?

4 people like this
Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2017 at 12:34 pm

casey is a registered user.

There is a BIG difference between Miki's and Grocery Outlet. Miki's devoted a lot of floor space to fresh fruit and vegetables. With that model, he needed a lot of customers to turn around that produce and keep it fresh. Grocery Outlet doesn't have the same problem because it sells a lot of dry, canned or frozen foods. It wasn't just a pricing issue, but a completely different business model.

1 person likes this
Posted by Rita Algona
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 29, 2017 at 11:49 am

Miki Werness has failed several times in his career and seems to have learned nothing from the disasters. He always thinks the store will be a rocket from day one so he never has enough money to pay vendors even for the first order. He has no concept of margins and operating costs. He always blames signage, parking and lack of local support for the store going out of business but any real businessman would have planned for all this well before opening a store. There is always a sweetheart deal with the developers to get a big complex built that PA zoning requires a grocery store. When the store goes bust it is rented off or if the deal allows it becomes something else altogether. The plan for profit is for the store to fail. Werness declares bankruptcy gets away owning nothing and vendors, staff and the neighborhood pay the cost. PA needs to really start looking at how developers manipulate the zoning to their benefit, Developers who really want to have a successful business should vet their candidates more closely. Mr Werness should either learn how to really open a store or just retire. Overspending on store furniture, hiring designers that do not know how to build a store and forgetting about signage does not get the job done. There is always an excuse for failure and success does not need one.

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Posted by Isn't this run by the same guy who owned "Miki's Market?"
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 29, 2017 at 10:38 pm

[Post removed.]

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