There were coffee and scones this morning at Peet's Coffee & Tea at the corner of University Drive and Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, but money did not change hands. The refreshments were free, following a devastating fire yesterday, but while the empty tables and chairs inside beckoned, you had to find a seat outside.
"Really, we don't know when we'll be here and when we won't be here," Peet's District Manager Ross Brandon said in an interview at the store's front door as the portable coffee dispenser was packed up and the last scone given away. "We hope to open soon to serve the people of Menlo Park."
The coffee shop is one of several commercial victims of a four-alarm fire yesterday morning that climbed through the walls and under floors.
The fire left Peet's, the Calla boutique, and the professional offices upstairs without power and uninhabitable until the building is examined by a structural engineer, rewired, and made structurally sound and free of the smell of smoke, according to Ron La France, the city building official.
As to when the building comes back on line for regular use, it depends largely on when the owner obtains building permits to do the necessary repairs and how quickly the repairs are done, Mr. La France said in an interview.
Given the character of the fire -- that it burned slowly overnight behind the drywall, charring the wood framing and floor joists -- the building's wiring, which is also behind those walls, must be tested for continuity, he said. That step, he added, generally leads to a rewiring of the entire building.
Once the drywall is off, the remaining framing must be coated to seal in the smell of smoke, Mr. La France said.
It's possible that Peet's could be up and running before the other activities, he said, because the water damage was slight compared with what happened to the boutique next door. Firefighters had to cut open the ceiling above the boutique to get at the fire in the floor above. Water from the fire hoses then flooded the store.
In the interim, Peet's customers are being invited to the coffee shop at 153 Homer Ave. in Palo Alto near the intersection with Alma Street, said Palo Alto store manager Jamelle McDowell.
It may well be months before Calla reopens, store owner Phil Bachler told The Almanac on the day of the fire.