Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer, Quality of Life
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.
Still, 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.
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer, New Construction
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.
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Family Fun, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer
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.
Filed under Featured Story · Tagged: Downtown, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer, Quality of Life
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
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Family Fun, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer
The event is scheduled for a 9 a.m. start Jan. 1 at Community Plaza, located at the corner of Main and State streets in downtown Los Altos.
The free, noncompetitive Fun Run welcomes runners and walkers, strollers, skaters and dogs on short leashes. Bikes are prohibited.
“Rain or shine, the Los Altos community turns out in force,” said Recreation Director Beverly Tucker. “The community event draws as many as 1,500 participants of all ages, from babies to seniors, who gather downtown to jump-start their New Year’s resolutions.”
Tucker added that the event “illustrates the Los Altos community’s enjoyment of the outdoors, socializing with family and friends – and it creates a great community feeling. It truly is a great start to the new year.”
Fun Run sponsors include Whole Foods Market, Hobee’s Restaurants, De Martini Orchard and Starbucks on Main Street, which will be open during the holiday run.
The Los Altos Youth Commission and Boy Scouts from Troop 37 will distribute water and fresh fruit along the route. Community volunteers will direct participants along the course.
No preregistration is required. For more information, visit losaltosrecreation.org
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer, Quality of Life
The city of Los Altos announced last week that it will again partner with the Los Altos Village Association and the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce to provide complimentary valet parking service for downtown patrons.
The free valet parking program is scheduled to run Monday through Dec. 24 in Central Parking Plaza 5, located between Second and Third streets and Main and State streets, except for Dec. 22 because of the lower demand for Sunday parking last year.
A statement released by the city last week noted that the valet parking program aims to “maximize the available parking spaces in the highest-demand area of town and facilitate easy parking for customers shopping downtown this holiday season.”
City-hired Corinthian Parking is slated to operate the valet parking 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily in Central Parking Plaza 5. The plaza will be closed to motorists seeking their own parking spots until 4 p.m. each day. The valet parking area will be accessible via the Third Street entrance to the parking plaza.
Customers who use the valet service will not be subject to the two-hour time limits normally posted in the plaza. The city strongly discourages employees from using the valet service because it will not displace any “white dot” employee permit spaces. Employees who park in Plaza 5 are encouraged instead to purchase quarterly employee parking permits from the Los Altos Police Department for $12.
For more information, visit losaltosca.gov
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer
“So far things are steady,” said Belinda Chung of BK Collections, a specialty gift and jewelry shop in business in Los Altos for 35 years. “People are picking things up and buying them.”
Chung’s regular customers are already visiting the store to purchase hand-blown glass ornaments for their children and grandchildren, but she said it’s a little too early to predict overall sales for the holiday season.
Consumer spending in Los Altos has remained relatively steady year-to-year at just below $2,000 per capita, according to the city of Los Altos’ sales tax data for the second quarter of 2013 (April through June).
Restaurants and consumer-goods sectors saw the highest increase over 2012 numbers at 23 percent and 26 percent, respectively.
Family apparel, women’s apparel, sporting goods and restaurants serving no alcohol all experienced increases in sales of more than 20 percent – a number that exceeds county and state increases by more than double digits.
The city’s revenue data rings true for many retailers, including Jim Daley, co-owner of Present, an artisanal food, beauty and spa business that has been in Los Altos for just more than a year.
“We tripled what we did last year,” said Daley of sales during the Holiday Stroll in comparison to last year.
The Holiday Stroll was the shop’s busiest day of the year, and Daley is struggling to get products out of boxes and onto shelves fast enough. Even though he ordered three times more inventory this year than last, he’s already had to reorder more product for the holiday season.
High-end businesses, including jewelry retailer Smythe & Cross, are also experiencing indications of a positive holiday sales season. President Khatchig Jingirian Jr. reports a steady increase in shoppers and sales. More customers are making early seasonal purchases, a trend that is unusual for his business. Khatchig expects a fair share of men rushing into the store to purchase last-minute gifts in the two to three weeks before Christmas.
“I want to be in the position to have to camp out back because business is so good,” he said.
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Family Fun, Los Altos, Volunteering
Kick of the holiday season with the Annual Festival of Lights Parade, scheduled 6 pm this Sunday in downtown Los Altos.
Originating in 1978, the Festival of Lights Parade Association, a non-profit organization, is made up solely of community volunteers.
Annual fundraising events, such as the ’50′s Family Dance Party “Rock Back the Clock”, held at Rancho Shopping Center in September, the sale of glow-stick necklaces on Parade night, and donations from businesses and the citizens of Los Altos, help cover the cost of staging this exciting event.
Watch the Parade as it winds through downtown, starting on State Street, up Main, across First and down Whitney. Colorful floats and costumed storybook characters, illuminated with thousands of tiny lights, join marching bands to welcome the arrival of Santa Claus’ sleigh and reindeer.
This year’s Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade will offer a new entry among its lineup. “Penguin Palooza,” two years in the making, features penguins in colorful winter clothing enjoying a party with ice skating, fishing and roasting marshmallows. The new float was created on the bed of “It’s a Small World,” one of the parade’s oldest floats.
The parade’s 60 entries, including high school bands and choruses, costumed characters and 24 illuminated floats, all lead up to the grand finale – an appearance by Santa and his reindeer. For more information, including parade routes and guidelines, visit losaltosparade.com.
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Los Altos, Los Altos Town Cirer, Shopping
Pendleton Woolen Mills opened its doors Nov. 5 at 231 Main St., the former home of Lussori, offering residents a colorful array of men’s and women’s wool clothing.
The Portland, Ore.-based company, with roots dating from 1863, arrived in Los Altos after ending a five-year stint as a retailer in Menlo Park, which followed 10 years at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto.
“So far, its reception has been warm and fuzzy. It’s been very positive,” said store manager Daniel Guiteras, who noted that the store quietly opened its doors before its official opening celebration Friday. “We’ve received a warm welcome from the many merchants here, as well as our customers living inside and outside of the area.”
Guiteras said that before the store even opened, they had several people walk by, look through the windows and give a thumbs-up.
“We’ve also had a lot of people just come by, curious as to what Pendleton is – so it’s been really good,” he said.
Guiteras described Los Altos as an ideal fit for Pendleton, which created product lines for several department and specialty stores before establishing its own retail division in the 1980s. Specifically, he pointed to the city’s demographics as proof that the company anticipates success for its Main Street location.
“The feel of Main Street is very similar to Pendleton itself. It just feels like Pendleton,” he said, adding that the company’s fabrics are still woven in Washington and Oregon. “This is us – this looks like us.”
Guiteras feels fortunate to open the store alongside 16-year Pendleton employee Fatima Freitas, noting specifically her popularity among longtime customers.
“She has an incredible following,” he said of Freitas. “Some people will only shop with Fatima.”
Guiteras added that he’s wasted no time trying to immerse the store into the local scene. Pendleton Woolen Mills participated in the recent First Friday and Holiday Stroll events and plans to stay open late for the Festival of Lights Parade.
Guiteras is pleased that the local search for a new Pendleton location is finally over.
“We were looking for the right location for some time,” he said, “and I think we’ve found it.”
For more information, visit pendleton-usa.com.
Filed under Blog · Tagged: Downtown, Los Altos Town Cirer, Quality of Life
Burrus and Nelson, owners of former longtime Palo Alto fixture Know Knew Books, opened the doors to their new home at 366 State St. Oct. 20. The move to Los Altos comes after a 24-year stint on Palo Alto’s California Street – a tenure that ended shortly after learning that their lease renewal would include a significant bump in monthly rent. The used-bookstore duo discovered their new Los Altos home, formerly the site of flower shop Alabasta, after venturing to the downtown triangle to scout for potential store locations.
Overall, Nelson deemed the store’s first week in Los Altos fruitful, with plenty of curious customers coming by to check out some of the store’s 35,000 titles. Nelson added that her new merchant neighbors have rolled out the welcome mat as well. Among other things, Nature Gallery owner Carol Garsten, herself a Palo Alto transplant, welcomed the new store with a gift – geode bookends for some of the bookstore’s most prized collections.
“People have been very friendly, excited and warm to us,” said Nelson, a book enthusiast who one year ago purchased a stake in the store as it faced financial challenges.
Similar to their “all are welcome” approach in Palo Alto, Nelson and Burruss noted that they aim to turn their new retail home into “the place to be” downtown. The store is in the midst of planning several events – from poetry readings to local music performances and anything in between. Nelson and Burruss plan to keep the store open regularly until 10 p.m. in order to give downtown visitors a place to hang out.
“We just want to give people a place to go at night – a place to browse and pick up a book before going home or simply as a place to go at night in Los Altos,” said Nelson, who is soon rolling out a Know Knew Books e-newsletter to keep customers informed of new arrivals and upcoming store events.
For more information, visit knowknewbooks.com