“Al the Barber” Bids Farewell

Posted on April 16, 2014 by  
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Al the BarberThe business Al Galedrige built is older than Los Altos itself. He opened Al’s Barber Shop in 1948 – four years before Los Altos was incorporated.

But no one can claim that Galedrige cut his career short by retiring last week at age 88.

The Los Altos resident sheared his last strand of hair this month – 67 years after opening the downtown shop now run by Greg Giedt. There was no grand exit: Galedrige simply posted a handwritten thank-you note on the door at 365 Central Plaza.

Although retirement will allow him to spend more time on the golf course and in the garden with his wife, Carol, Galedrige admitted that he would miss his regulars. One haircut at a time, he’s witnessed boys grow into men and has made many friends along the way.

“It has been a pleasure serving the city of Los Altos and the most wonderful customers in the world,” he wrote in the note.

While the downtown has changed over the years, with the small-town feel giving way to upscale shops and restaurants, the striped barbershop pole remains out front as an invitation to those in need of a trim – or even a buzz cut. The furnishings inside the shop have changed some, but not the antique barbershop chairs featuring thick tan leather covers and metal foot stands with intricate metal castings.

Adding a sense of nostalgia, Galedrige and Giedt use a brass cash register for transactions. Memorabilia from World War II cover the shop walls – Galedrige served in the U.S. Navy during the war – and photos of patrons add a personal touch.

Galedrige studied to become a barber soon after returning from the Battle of Iwo Jima. After learning his trade in San Francisco, he secured employment at one of the three barbershops in Los Altos in the 1940s. When the opportunity arose, Galedrige purchased the barbershop on Main Street in which he worked. Al’s Barber Shop was born.

Sitting comfortably in one of the barber chairs with his feet propped up, Galedrige reminisced last week about his customers. While talking politics, war memories and lighter subjects like fishing, Galedrige noted that he’s cut the hair of the late David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard; Bill Krause, philanthropist and former 3Com CEO; and the late Sen. Alan Cranston.

Although Galedrige will miss his job, he’ll be back at the shop occasionally – for a trim.

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Downtown Pop-up Park Returns

Posted on April 2, 2014 by  
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Los Altos Pop Up ParkThe State Street Green pop-up park is making a comeback this summer. The park debuted mid-July last year as a joint effort between the city, Passerelle Investment Co. and some downtown merchants. It occupied most of the 300 block of State Street for six weeks while streetscape improvement work closed the nearby intersection at State and First streets.

This year, the park concept will be relocated to Third Street between Main and State. One possible option would extend the park from the edge of the city’s parking plazas to the corner of Main and Third streets, near Satura Cakes. A second option would place the park between the edge of the parking plazas and the corner of State and Third streets, near the Costume Bank.

The decision came after members of the Stanford Prevention Research Center presented the results of its survey of those who used last year’s park and nearby merchants. The survey indicated that more than 70 percent of the users had positive reactions to the park. In addition, 74 percent of the 147 individuals polled favored a permanent park in the area.

Interviews with 95 individuals at local businesses within an eight-block area around the park found “no discernible overall impact on business sales” – without offering specific data. The group noted that 38 percent of the businesses favored a permanent park, with 24 percent supporting a temporary one. A lack of parking in the downtown area was among the top concerns cited by business representatives.

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Voyageur du Temps (Time Traveler)

Posted on April 1, 2014 by  
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Voyageur du TempsThe downtown building that formerly served as a stop along the Southern Pacific Railroad – among several other uses throughout the years – is now a bakery cafe.

Voyageur du Temps (“Time Traveler” in French) opened its doors March 15 after nearly a year of “extremely painstaking” construction on the former train depot at 288 First St., according to owner Rie Rubin. She said the finished product – a French-style bakery and cafe – as well as its name is a tribute to past and modern times locally. Overall, Rubin noted, the project to renovate the 1913 Craftsman-style structure took approximately two years to complete “from conception to birth.”

“This is an ode to the Silicon Valley community and its history,” Rubin said of the building, which in the past was a pizza parlor, restaurant, bank and antique retail store after serving as a train stop into the 1950s.

Rubin said she incorporated old redwood panels from Moffett Field’s Hangar One, using them as wall siding along the cafe’s indoor seating area as part of the redesign. Construction crews, she added, discovered the depot’s original “Los Altos” sign – which faced what is now Foothill Expressway. It now hangs over the business entryway fronting First Street.

An original loading-dock door previously used to transfer goods from trains to horse-drawn buggies, meanwhile, now adorns the building’s facade. Other preservation and repurposing efforts included turning salvaged wood from the depot’s former train platform into bench seating for customers.

Rubin noted that her preservation efforts aren’t limited to the building itself. She said her business, at least in part, is her personal quest for the “perfect croissant.” She added that bakery staff is trained to use traditional Parisian-style methods to create made-from-scratch breads and pastries.

“If you hear ‘homemade’ these days, it’s usually shaped and then frozen,” she said. “But going back to older days, things were simpler and more delicious because we didn’t shortcut anything. … Sometimes simpler is just better.”

Rubin said her bakery cafe is currently operating on limited hours – and serving a limited menu – as she adds additional staff. Voyageur du Temps will eventually open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., offering coffee drinks and light breakfast and lunch menus.

For more information, visit voyageur.com.

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Forest On First: Good Food

Posted on March 19, 2014 by  
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Forest on FirstFor all those not entirely monopolized by the elaborate wooden play structure ringing its walls, the new downtown eatery Forest on First offers plant-heavy breakfast, lunch and snacks in the mode of upscale home-cooking. The H&H Co.’s latest offering, at 129 First St., boasts a menu of fresh-pressed juices and smoothies and offers take-home “Family Fare” dinners of locally raised roast chicken, potatoes, salad and seasonal vegetables on the side.

“We’re taking stuff we like to eat – old classics – and twisting them a little bit,” chef Tyler Morrish explained, describing an olive-oil-poached Tuna Conserva inspired by the familiar tuna melt.

Watch for his house-made sauces, sodas, cheeses and sweets on the menu.  “My whole philosophy is, there’s no reason to order stuff when you can make it,” Morrish said.

He uses himself as a test subject for new projects like a bespoke protein powder of hemp, flax and chia seeds added to smoothies like the Green Kiwi (kale, banana, kiwi, coconut milk). Slimming down for an upcoming wedding, Morrish wanted to find a cure for daytime “munchiness” and found that a subtle dose of the ground seeds was a “simple little addition that you’re not going to taste, but it will help fill that void.”

When not practicing restraint, diners can dig into pastries like the olive oil, polenta and pistachio muffin Morrish bakes using a refigured cake recipe, and griddled English muffins in the plump, crumpetlike style of the U.K. The sticky buns derive from the doughnut-like Italian “zeppole” pastry, spread with powdered sugar, butter and cinnamon, rolled up and baked topped with pecans.

The sweets case caters to all ages, with a special featuring triflelike layers of pretzels mounded with whipped cream and mascarpone cheese, topped with red strawberry Jell-O. Morrish’s grandma is to thank for the “Strawberry Surprise” that joins macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly empanadas and spaghetti on the children’s menu.

Spring vegetables like asparagus are already crossing the counter at Forest, and Morrish noted that the season will be quick this year, due to the warm winter. He visited a farm last week to discuss a partnership in which Forest buys its vegetables and then returns juicing compost for the next season’s soil.

Forest on First is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.  For more information, visit forestonfirst.com.

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Main Street Coffee Bar Emerges

Posted on March 15, 2014 by  
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Red BerryFor Jeff and Lisa Hampton, more than 18 months of anticipation finally came to an end last week.

The couple opened the doors to Red Berry Coffee Bar March 5 at the former home of Andiamo Salon at 145 Main St. The coffee bar’s debut comes after the couple – originally profiled in the June 2012 issue of the Town Crier – endured contractor problems and other delays as they worked to complete the 1,500-square-foot business. Lisa noted that she and her husband are pleased to know that those obstacles are now a thing of the past.

“It has been a long road. It’s been one of those things where everything that could go wrong did,” said Lisa, adding that she’s anxious to introduce Red Berry’s offerings to customers, including fair-trade coffee from the likes of Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz) and Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters (Redwood City).

“We’re just really excited,” she added later. “Jeff is just so happy to be back working on his espresso machine again.”

The Hamptons’ establishment – which they first opened in downtown San Jose in 2009 before opting to relocate to Los Altos nearly two years ago – is still in some ways a work in progress.

Jeff said Red Berry is currently offering a limited menu of espressos and other coffee drinks, as well as scones and croissants from local bakeries. In the next few weeks, however, the coffee bar plans to offer breakfast and lunch fare, including gluten-free options, homemade pastries and soft-serve ice cream.

The couple recently hired a culinary consultant to help refine the coffee bar’s final menu – a step Jeff conceded that he’s anxious to begin. Above all, Jeff added that he’s simply looking forward to introducing local residents to his selection of high-quality coffees, which he plans to rotate to keep the drink menu fresh and exciting.

“I’m happy with the response we’ve had so far and I just love this community,” he said. “It’s a place where people are really cognizant of small mom-and-pop shops. They seem to appreciate them, and we enjoy having them come around.”

For more information, visit Red Berry Coffee Bar’s Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Red-Berry-Coffee-Bar/107527979282303.

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“Project Los Altos” Moves On

Posted on March 12, 2014 by  
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Project Los Altos - InsideAs blossoms emerge from buds, a colorful street painting at State and Fourth streets remains nearly unaltered by the change of seasons. The first project unveiled for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Project Los Altos,” Jessica Stockholder’s vibrant street painting will soon disappear as the community’s rendezvous with modern art comes to an end.

“The exhibit was another thing that brought the town together,” said Los Altos Hills resident Julia Leighton. “It took guts for SFMOMA to leap to little Los Altos to do this.”

After 114 days and more than 20,000 visitors, “Project Los Altos” bid farewell March 2. Just one day after closing, the giant inflatable question mark at Village Park was packed up and hauled away. By Thursday, SFMOMA representatives said the playful doors installed at Lincoln Park and the photo and video installations at four State Street storefronts would be disassembled and other sites returned to their original states.

“At a time when SFMOMA is undergoing a transformation, it was exciting to take a nontraditional exhibition approach by siting contemporary art within the fabric of Los Altos’ downtown, treasure-hunt style, where the works could either be sought out or just discovered,” said Janet Bishop, SFMOMA’s curator of painting and sculpture, who helped coordinate “Project Los Altos” and other installations for “SFMOMA on the Go,” the temporary exhibits traveling while the museum undergoes renovation.

When the city of Los Altos, Passerelle Investment Co. and SFMOMA joined forces to produce the collaboration last year, Los Altos not only became the canvas for a giant creative experiment by SFMOMA, but also the palette from which commissioned artists derived inspiration for their work. Exemplifying one of the reasons modern art is difficult to define, the creative interpretations that materialized were as diverse in content as each of the six participating artists.

Some artists created work that reflected the technology and science that thrives in the region: Spencer Finch took inspiration from scientific innovators to create a colorful grid that showcased the range of human perception; Christian Jankowski highlighted tech-speak in a series of talks by community members; and Mike Mills merged Los Altos’ history and predictions for the future in his mixed-media installation.

Taking the prompt more literally, Stockholder translated the triangular shape of downtown streets into an abstract pavement painting, “Cross Hatch,” that protruded into the sidewalk. SFMOMA’s visitor supervisor Travis Warren, who was onsite for most of the exhibit, said the piece provoked a healthy mix of responses from guests, as well as a fair number of questions.

“It started dialogue on what is art, what is public art,” said Warren, adding that nine out of 10 people reacted positively to the piece. “This was a perfect example of why we are doing outreach.”

Other artists turned the tables, reflecting the culture of Los Altos. Katerina Sedá’s “Everything Is Perfect” project accentuated the competitive spirit she observed in Los Altos. In a bit of a juxtaposition, she invited visitors to submit “ordinary” records for the “Los Altos World Record Book.”

Project Los Altos - Outside

While early efforts to solicit community participation were challenging for Sedá, who advertised in the Town Crier, posted flyers to telephone poles and reached out to local schools, she recorded more than 250 entries by the deadline. A May 5 ceremony is scheduled to award certificates and copies of the “Los Altos World Record Book” to participants.

“Even as some have expressed that they may not fully understand or appreciate some of the works, in the same breath they have noted that contemporary art, while often challenging, is nevertheless a welcome new experience that stimulates dialogue and a new way of looking at downtown Los Altos,” said Brooke Ray Smith, Passerelle’s community development director.

Los Altos experienced its 15 minutes of fame. From mentions in The Wall Street Journal and on the online Daily Beast to feature pieces by KTVU TV 2 and the San Francisco Chronicle, buzz abounded. “Project Los Altos” videos on the museum’s website generated more than 32,000 views.

“The positive community response and engagement have been the biggest benefits as far as the city of Los Altos is concerned,” said Erica Ray, the city’s public information coordinator. “The project also brought a lot of new visitors to town that would likely not have visited otherwise.”

As streams of visitors trekked downtown for the exhibit, some businesses benefited. The Assistance League of Los Altos’ Costume Bank at 169 State St. experienced a notable uptick in visitors during the show. Designer and filmmaker Mills intentionally selected the Costume Bank to host his “Project Los Altos” creation in homage to the area’s historical transition.

“As a nonprofit business, it was huge … You could have never paid for this amount of publicity,” said Catherine Taylor, head of marketing for the Assistance League.

The community supplemented the exhibit with a variety of creative initiatives. The Los Altos History Museum sponsored a juried exhibition, Linden Tree Books opened its doors to youth art programming, the Los Altos Library hosted lectures by SFMOMA docents and local businesses welcomed new visitors to town during First Fridays. The Town Crier got in on the act by collaborating with SFMOMA and encouraging readers’ creativity via a series of do-it-yourself prompts, “Let’s Do This!”

Passerelle invites local residents to weigh in on “Project Los Altos” by completing the Los Altos Visitors Survey at http://bit.ly/1exu6ie. Local businesses can complete a survey at http://bit.ly/1o79d2R.

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What Defines Village Character?

Posted on March 1, 2014 by  
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There are as many descriptions of Los Altos, as there are resident.  Carol & I enjoy hearing about the characteristics residents use to define this community they love so much. The most common title used is that Los Altos is a Village.

There are a number of projects underway around the community.  During each planning phase, the community has had the opportunity to participate in framing what they would like to see improved, and/or retain.

So, what exactly defines Village character?  Well, the Town Crier dove into the subject, and below is a slightly edited version of their article.  Enjoy …

As construction moved toward completion on streetscape improvements in downtown Los Altos, the disruption to traffic – autos and otherwise – became a distant memory after the newly planted flowers began to bloom and pedestrians replaced detour placards.

After all, the impetus for infrastructure improvements was to boost business, draw developers and create a lively and vibrant village for visitors. But before the streetscape construction began, city officials adopted Downtown Design Guidelines, outlining architectural and design elements for the residential and commercial areas within the triangle bordered by Foothill Expressway, San Antonio Road and West Edith Avenue. Read more

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Los Altos Hardware Celebrates 30yrs

Posted on March 1, 2014 by  
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Los Altos HardwareFor Sue and Henry Nesmith, the seeds that led to the founding of Los Altos True Value Hardware can be found in a fixer-upper Menlo Park house, of all things.

The Los Altos Hills residents last week celebrated the 30-year anniversary of their store at 441 First St. and pointed specifically to the purchase of their first home as college students in Menlo Park as the eventual motivation behind their hardware store. They purchased the home, Sue recalled, for $30,000 – but it needed some renovations. Lo and behold, the young couple set their sights on doing all of the work themselves. Not long after, they began flipping houses locally.

“We just got familiar with how to fix things and, I don’t know, we just decided we wanted to start a business,” Sue said. “We were sitting around the table with my folks one night and my dad said, ‘I think you should start a hardware store in Los Altos. There’s no hardware in Los Altos.’ We just looked at each other and thought, ‘Hmmm, OK.’”

Soon after, Henry said, the couple placed their hopes and future in a “sleepy” downtown area and established what is now known as Los Altos True Value Hardware. The property was attractive at the time because it offered plenty of parking and a building large enough to suit their needs.

“What it’s come down to is that we made a really good guess,” he said with a chuckle. “We’re really happy to be here. The town has really grown up.”

“You do kind of take a leap of faith when you’re starting something new like that,” Sue added.

A Los Altos IconStill, the Nesmiths conceded that it has taken more than just luck to remain in business for 30 years. Henry said the key to earning the trust of customers is offering knowledgeable and dependable service – or what he described simply as an “awful lot of just getting up and doing the same thing day after day.”

“Everybody who walks into our store pretty much has a problem – and they don’t want to relive that problem,” he said. “They just want to get something, get home and get it done with. They don’t want to go through a whole lot of change to fix that problem.”

Henry credited his employees – some who have remained with the Nesmiths for more than 10 years – with being familiar and trusted faces for Los Altos customers looking for advice on anything from fixing a water leak to which rake they should purchase.

“People are very loyal in this town. It takes a long time, but once you reach whatever threshold that is, then you’re here to stay,” said Henry, who added that the store saw a boost in customers when the Rancho Hardware and Garden Shop closed in 2007.

And staying is exactly what the Nesmiths plan to do when it comes to their business. Henry, 59, said that retirement on his terms is far from its conventional definition – it’s simply reducing his workload from five or six days per week to three or maybe four days.

“People have offered to buy the business and the building, but that’s not really our interest,” he said. “Our life would not change because of that. We want to stick around. I want a small business in town.”

The Nesmiths agreed that they also feel a sense of duty to maintain the status quo as the neighborhood hardware store for all Los Altos residents.

“We have an obligation, not only to our offspring, to stick around, but also an obligation to the community,” Henry said. “I know that sounds corny, but every morning people walk into my store expecting me to be here with stuff. You can’t push that aside.”

For more information, visit ww3.truevalue.com/latvh/Home.

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Construction update: First Street

Posted on February 21, 2014 by  
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First Stree ConstructionFollowing are brief updates on the individual projects.

100 First St. condominiums

With the roof finished and exterior and interior work progressing, Randy Lamb’s 48-unit condominium complex at 100 First St. is nearing the homestretch.

Although residential units won’t be ready for occupancy until late summer if the project remains on schedule, sales manager David Dacus noted that interest from potential residents is growing. He said pricing would be released to individuals with reservations in March. Sales contracts could follow shortly thereafter.

First Street Safeway

Construction has progressed smoothly at the future 45,000-square-foot Safeway at 160 First St., according to Bill Carrozzella, Safeway’s Northern California Division real estate manager. Interior work on the new store is expected to begin in early March, when the structure is fully enclosed.

If construction continues apace, the new Safeway will open its doors to shoppers at the end of June.

First & Main streets mixed-use project

Cars and pedestrians heading west on Main Street can now spot the rust-red steel frame of the 32,000-square-foot mixed-use project that bows out to fill the corner of First and Main streets.

Property manager Ron Labetich said the retail and office project at 400 First St. is on schedule for completion in the fourth quarter. Potential tenants are expressing interest in the project, according to Labetich, especially restaurant owners who want to be near the corner courtyard that will bring light into the building.

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Linden Tree hosts ‘Let’s Do This!’ event

Posted on January 8, 2014 by  
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A Los Altos flex their creative muscles at Linden TreeLinden Tree Books has scheduled readings and creative activities for families with children ages 4-12 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the bookstore, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Inspired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s “Project Los Altos: SFMOMA in Silicon Valley,” the “Let’s Do This!” project encourages local residents to respond to art actions prompted by artists participating in “Project Los Altos.” New art challenges are scheduled for publication in the pages of the Town Crier every Wednesday in January. A selection of the best responses will be published in print and online at the “Let’s Do This!” website at sfmomalive.tumblr.com.

For more information, visit lindentreebooks.com.

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