Town Square

A store for the lost and found

Original post made on Jun 20, 2014

Bargain Box volunteer Gina Mastrantonio sat at the for-sale round table where customers sometimes gather to relax. Gazing at the vintage china, clocks, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, paintings and used designer clothes, Mastrantonio — athletic and effervescent — reflected on the relationships that for decades have been part of the thrift store's culture.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, June 20, 2014, 12:00 AM


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Posted by Jo
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:51 am

Sad to see this place close. Their customers are not the average computer-gazers of Silicon Valley, but everything in this article is true about the affectionate old ladies who have run the place always, with a sense of community. I first discovered Bargain Box when I arrived as a student at Stanford from half way around the world over 25 years ago. The meager student budget meant that anything I could not get at the Woolworths (at Stanford shopping center & University Ave -- yes they had bargain stores in these locations back then) I had to get at Bargain Box. I did not even have a car to get to Goodwill, so could only shop where Margurite shuttle would go. Over the years, I have always taken my donations to this store because it got me started when I did not have enough. It is a sad loss, not just of the thrift store, but more of the space for misfits to find welcome. The old ladies greeting me with a smile when I was a foreign student, conversing joyously and really meaning it when they said 'have a good day" to the old ladies who resemble me now and still offer up a healthy dose of warmth that makes me drive there simply to drop off whatever I don't need after my spring cleaning.

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Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 20, 2014 at 10:57 am

Palo Alto is becoming ugly. Ostentatious, condescending, snobby and alienating.

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Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 11:48 am

Sparty is a registered user.

Times change. The Rite Aid that used to be there on CA Ave was a lot more useful. Certainly more useful than the junky chaotic art store that replaced it.

Bargain Box did have some cool magazines in the free pile once in a while. But let's face it, overall a lot of the items were pretty oddball.

"Palo Alto is becoming ugly. Ostentatious, condescending, snobby and alienating. "

Becoming? The old hippy vibe that comes from the houses with 8,000 potted plants on the porch certainly has gone down a bit... but not every change is bad. Not every change is good-- some are a "push." Like the horribly dirty chinese restaurant near CA Av that became fast food "chinese." At least it is clean now...

And another Chinese restaurant right on CA Av--delivery only. I liked it...good chow fun. Good house chow mein. But if you ever went in for a pick up....really really dirty. Years of dust on most everything.

Christian Sci Reading Room...eternally empty...

Know Knew Books... eternally "going out of business"

People screaming all night outside Antonios on weekends ...and every year (yes, EVERY year) when a certain festival would come, their idiot workers THROWING the tent/canopy poles off the trucks on the asphalt til 2 or 3am--easily heard a few blocks away. So at least it was only once a year.

The weird day trading office that was around the corner from Keeble for a while.

The "special" massage parlor-- who remembers that? Palo Alto PD renting an office across the street for THOUSANDS of dollars to spy on who was coming and going... good times. I wish I had known about it, I would have done my own Code 5 just to see who was coming and going...

Some things I missed when they left. Some things I won't miss now that Ive left.

The cheap barber is still there

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Posted by Lytton Gateway
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Bargain Box is the kind of non-profit that should have gotten subsidized GROUND FLOOR RETAIL space at the Lytton Gateway. Instead that will be GROUND FLOOR OFFICE space for the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce. While the Chamber is a good organization, it doesn't deserve subsidized retail space rent that was a PUBLIC BENEFIT of building that project.

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Posted by FundBuyingNotRenting
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 20, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Rising rent is one of the biggest reasons to try to buy rather than rent. Yes, it takes a down payment (more now than in years past). But at least some of your monthly payments are going into equity. And your rent does not go up. You can only evict yourself (when you cannot make payments). You do run a risk that property values will go down, so you do have to be careful. So perhaps we who bemoan "a group of rich investors buying property and booting out the renters", we should work towards creation of a (partly-charitable) investment group which provides or finds the down-payment for groups or small businesses to purchase their space. It would need a way to recoup its funding (perhaps refinancing as value goes up?). But until there is a way for organizations and small businesses to come up with down payments on property, they will always be at risk.

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Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2014 at 2:27 pm

@Sparty - Good comments. I DO remember as a kid, the so-called massage place across from Campus(?) barber shop and sometimes their "staff" would visit the barber shop at the same time I was getting a rare "modern cut". California Ave. was still more like Mayfield, then. It's true that Palo Alto is more about the new, shiny and rich; who would have thought that normal people would become "misfits" in their own city? This is a question for city government to answer but they never will (they apparently do not agree). For some reason, this all looks like an old movie that would have suited Peter Sellers, who, in his disgust from the shallow popularity of his town would invent a fake, even more disingenuous city of callow values to lure the bourgeoisie away, ala the Pied Piper. Perchance to dream, right? ;)

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Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 20, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Thank you very much, Sue Dremann, for painting such a lovely picture of these wonderful volunteers and their heartfelt work.

This is terribly sad. The Bargain Box should have been able to stay at that location, or somewhere close by. To see such places disappearing is hard to watch. Not all change is for the good.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I share Nora's comments. I've loved the Bargain Box since I was a kid, and will greatly miss it. Thank you for the fun, funky, fruitful memories created for so many!

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Posted by Larry
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

As someone with a day job, it seemed to me like the bargain box is always closed when I was in the neighborhood.

I'm sad that people are sad it's going, but I cant relate, because the shop was never meant to cater to those of use who could only visit California Ave after working hours.

By contrast, I can stop by Goodwill on El Camino way, or Empire clothing in Mountain View, and they're open when I can shop.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 20, 2014 at 8:41 pm

That Goodwill was Rick's Swiss Chalet. Things have been going downhill for decades. My teeth, eyes, and other parts will attest to that.

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Posted by Sondra Murphy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2014 at 9:46 am

Sue wrote a wonderful article. I have one correction thought. The Bargain Box supplied one, not all, of the chairs for the Women's Club and the Pacific Art League's Painted Chair event. Most chairs came from under the stage of the Women's club. Beautiful!




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Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 21, 2014 at 10:01 pm

We will have to pass legislation for our city to acquire commercial property and designate its use only for a percentage for non-profits like bargain box, art stores, Drappers Music Stores, used book stores, laundry stores, small theaters, non-chain coffee shops, and donut stores! Otherwise, we lose all the cool services that make for a community instead of a collection of high tech firms and overpriced boutique stores. It's finally come to that.

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Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

Don't we have enough places targeting kids? Come on. Does anybody know of a similar charitable store that sells the quality of good that Bargain Box did? over the years, I've donated many rather expensive items I wouldn't give to GoodWill to be dropped in their bin with everything else. Unfortunately I've drug my heels on a few items for the Bargain Box that now I don't know what to do with. This is such a loss.

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Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 22, 2014 at 1:47 pm

ChrisC is a registered user.

Why is Bargain Box depicted as funky? Who said they only found old magazines. And there were open Saturday, so I don't see why working people could never go. This was a place people would donate entire sets of expensive China, vintage jewelry, beautiful furniture, antique crystal. I bought the most beautiful embroidered linen napkins, among other things, there for a song. I'm confused. Are we talking about the same place? I've donated Royal Copenhagen Xmas plates, a whole collection of antique salt and pepper shakers silver items very expensive clothing and shoes, and more. They requested clothing items be clean, unlike other places.

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Tend to agree with Palo Alto Native that cities should buy commercial property to prevent change or lost of favorite retail shops.

Keep out new restaurants, trends and styles change so no new stores to reflect those changes.

I don't like change myself but I do understand someone younger then me wants new, trendy and exciting up to date. I was young too, desired new, trendy and exciting places.

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Posted by Dorothy Black
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Working at the Bargain Box was a chance to meet other members of the community, wonderful people. A chance to chat with a neighbor who was looking for one of our bargains. An opportunity to learn how to work cash registers! We finally entered the computerized, digital world. Our manager Chrissy Holmes taught us the art of marking and much about maintaining a sense of humor through some difficult times. What a day of celebration it was when we moved to California Avenue proper from one a block away! I simply loved my volunteer time at BB. Where else could I, as a grandmother, a retired housewife, have found a place to shine in the working world! Thank you, BB and thanks to the Children's Health Council and Dr. Esther Clark. You made my day!