Shop Talk: Ambassador Toys calls it quits, chocolate shop on its way | News | Palo Alto Online |


Shop Talk: Ambassador Toys calls it quits, chocolate shop on its way

The latest in local retail news

In order for all area residents to have important local information on the coronavirus health emergency, Palo Alto Online has lifted its pay meter and is providing unlimited access to its website. We need your support to continue our important work. Please join your neighbors and become a subscribing member today.

In the latest Shop Talk column, read about the closure of one of the area's last toy stores, a new chocolate shop and the end of a longtime boutique.

AMBASSADOR TOYS CALLS IT QUITS ... For more than a decade, Ambassador Toys at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto has been a destination for just about anyone looking for retro games, books, puppets, crafts and toys for babies through middle schoolers. It's among the last of the toy stores left in the area, and now it's leaving, too. The owner is apparently retiring, according to a giant yellow sign posted in the window last week, which reads: "Retiring. Store closing. Everything on sale." An employee at the shop said he did not know when the store's last day will be and declined to comment further. The Palo Alto store is not the only Ambassador site set to shutter. According to, two San Francisco shops are closing. Owner Linda Kapnick, who could not be reached for comment, founded Ambassador Toys in San Francisco in 1997. She opened the Palo Alto site in 2008. During its 12 years at Town & Country Village, the shop was voted "Best Toy Store" or runner up multiple times by Weekly readers during the newspaper's annual Best Of edition. Ambassador Toys is the third notable toy store to close its doors in Palo Alto in the past four years. Educational toy store Gray Matters on California Avenue closed in 2019, and longtime toy store Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World closed in 2017 after operating downtown for 87 years. -- L.T.

CHOCOLATE COMPANY COMING ... Cacao 70, a Montreal-born chocolate company, is opening its second U.S. location at Town & Country Village this spring. Cacao 70 has taken over the former Biondivino wine shop space in the back of the 855 El Camino Real shopping center. Cacao 70 was born as a chocolate drinking bar in downtown Montreal in 2011. There are now franchised locations throughout Canada and spinoff concepts, including a public chocolate factory, a full-service restaurant and an ice cream counter. The Palo Alto Cacao 70 is a franchise. "Cacao 70's quest to transform chocolate into exciting flavor adventures has led down the path of cocoa bean sourcing, product development and new store concepts -- all tracing back to the first store opening in Montreal nine years ago," said Mila Zhu, who works in the company's California office. The Palo Alto shop will serve hot chocolate, chocolate frappes, milkshakes, waffles, crepes, other desserts and all-day brunch dishes, she said. Other locations' menus include over-the-top waffles (one is topped with sugar, graham crackers, fruit and chocolate-covered ice cream and served with dark-chocolate dipping fondue and marshmallows), chocolate pizzas, Nutella crepes and chocolate fondue, among other desserts. -- E.K.

LONGTIME BOUTIQUE CLOSES ... Berkeley-based boutique Bryn Walker reportedly closed its doors at 212 Homer Ave. on Sunday, Feb. 2, according to a sign posted in the window. The women's boutique, which has eight other company-owned stores and sells to nearly 1,000 boutiques throughout the country, had operated in Palo Alto for 22 years. The company reportedly plans to make its items available online. The shop first opened at 515 Cowper St., where it operated for 17 years before the building was scheduled to be demolished to make way for a three-story office complex in 2016, forcing the boutique to relocate to the historic Thompson's Bakery site on Homer Avenue. At the time of the shop's relocation, store manager Diane Kelley told the Weekly: "I just hope they won't be tearing that building down too!" -- L.T.

Compiled by the Weekly staff; this week written by Elena Kadvany and Linda Taaffe. Got leads on interesting and news-worthy retail developments? The Weekly will check them out. Email


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?


5 people like this
Posted by Justin Bacchus
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2020 at 8:42 pm

There is something kind of grotesque about the fact that the only kind of retail that seems to be able to make it in Palo Alto involves people cramming something or other into their pie hole.

4 people like this
Posted by lrock
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 12, 2020 at 10:40 am

More additions to the ever-growing list of victims of the new retail reality. Sad.

3 people like this
Posted by Julie armitano
a resident of University South
on Feb 12, 2020 at 12:24 pm

it is sad.
I am happy for the chocolate shop

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Stay up to date on local coronavirus coverage with our daily news digest email.

'A devastating impact:' The coronavirus claims Clarke's Charcoal Broiler, Mountain View's oldest operating restaurant
By Elena Kadvany | 29 comments | 10,374 views

Coronavirus Food Safety Update + New! Insider Tips
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 3,501 views

Can you stay healthy without making more trash?
By Sherry Listgarten | 7 comments | 3,245 views

Think about helping others in our coronavirus-affected area
By Diana Diamond | 7 comments | 2,950 views

The University of California’s flexible policies during COVID-19
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 6 comments | 1,537 views



The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details