Owner of JJ&F grocery store eyes Miki's Market space | April 5, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 5, 2013

Owner of JJ&F grocery store eyes Miki's Market space

As Miki's leaves Alma Village, another grocer looks at taking over the spot

by Sue Dremann

Joe Khoury, the patriarch of the family that owns JJ&F Market in Palo Alto, says he is considering taking over the Alma Village space recently occupied by Miki's Farm Fresh Market, which closed this week after just five months.

Miki's opened to great fanfare last October, following seven years of blight at the plaza near East Meadow Drive. But after months of poor sales, Miki's closed on Wednesday, leaving owner Michael "Miki" Werness with $1 million in debt.

JJ&F, a 65-year-old market located at 520 College Ave., is part of the planned College Terrace Centre redevelopment at College Avenue and El Camino Real. The center would include 40,000 square feet of office space, 5,580 square feet of other retail and eight units of affordable housing.

But the economic downturn brought the project to a standstill, according to people close to the development. Project architect Tony Carrasco said in March that developer Adventera Inc. is "still trying to get it financed."

City officials have given the project a one-year extension to submit plans for a building permit, said Curtis Williams, the city's director of planning and community environment.

Khoury said on March 26 that he is dissatisfied with the situation. There is garbage around the abandoned adjacent property, the roof leaks and the business is not getting adequate customers to make money, he said.

Adventera President Patrick Smailey did not return requests for comment.

So now Khoury is considering opening a store in Alma Village, he said. Whether he would close the College Terrace grocery remains to be seen. If conditions stay as they are, "We'll have to leave. We're wasting our time here," he said.

The Khourys looked over the Alma store last Thursday.

Werness, however, said he wasn't sure whether any other operator would be successful in the space. The store's struggles were in part based on the Alma Village project itself, and the political climate in which it was built. People didn't like the project, and some were resolved not to shop there, he said.

Asked on Tuesday if any deal had materialized between him and the Khourys, his answer was short and to the point.

"No. I'm finished," he said, shaking his head.

Property owner John McNellis said in an email that he hasn't heard anything about the Khourys' interest.

"Even if I had, I wouldn't comment on it, as we never comment on leases or potentials until a lease is actually signed — bad luck to do otherwise," he said.

Staff Writer Sue Dremann can be emailed at sdremann@paweekly.com.


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