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What's on your wish list for downtown Menlo Park?

Original post made by Renee Batti on Mar 6, 2008

There are a number of empty spaces on Santa Cruz Avenue now, including the impressive new building at the site of the old Menlo Camera Shop. If you could hand over the keys to those storefronts to any specific business or type of business, what would your choices be?

Comments (43)

Posted by Anna, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 7, 2008 at 7:05 am

In my opinion downtown Menlo Park is one of the saddest and oldest downtown of the area. I think it really needs to be revitalized with new retail stores, cafes and restaurants. The proximity of the Stanford mall makes the choice of the retail stores somehow tricky, but with careful consideration, it can work and become attractive again.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2008 at 8:09 am


But what happens when a good idea for a store arrives and the owners don't care anymore? Their stores have the same display for months on end and the customer service leaves something to be desired. There are at least a few. That means we have to have two things... stores that don't make downtown any sadder than it is, and as a subset, stores owned by owners who care about retail.

I sure would appreciate a library drop box on this side of El Camino! It is good for the environment because pedestrian attempts to get to the library are very dangerous. Anyone who has tried knows what I'm talking about. ;-)

Posted by Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2008 at 8:22 am

I would love to see the parking spaces improved -- widened and angled better.

Posted by Allegra, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 7, 2008 at 8:43 am

I'd like to see a CD store -- one that has a wide choice of CDs to listen to before buying. Don't know if that would be economically viable in such a high-rent area, but it's on my dream list.

Posted by 30 Something, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2008 at 12:31 pm

More outdoorsy casual, restaurants, sandwich shops, a wine bar...
People love to eat outdoors, especially with their kids and dogs!
There aren't a lot of options for that. 2 tables on a crowded sidewalk doesn't count.

Baby and kids clothing that is NOT premium priced (ala Circus)

I like Santa Cruz ave, mostly.

Posted by 30 Something, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 7, 2008 at 12:34 pm

I'd love to see a Gymboree Gym, MyGym, pumpit up type place downtown, esp that has some open hours that you can walk-in.

We've been dying for places to take our kids for fun when it's raining, or dark in the early evening.

Posted by Dreamer, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 7, 2008 at 2:47 pm

My dream shop for Santa Cruz Avenue is A.G. Ferrari. And as long as I'm dreaming, the shop would have daily wine tasting, and a deli that would include reasonably priced take-out food. Mamma mia, I'm tearing up just thinking about it.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 10, 2008 at 7:33 am

Joanna, I like your idea about a book drop. You should run that one by the library management. The city maintains landscaping on Santa Cruz Ave., seems someone could also be dispatched to pick up books.

Posted by Josephine, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 10, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Personally, I think that the biggest challenge for retailers and business oweners in Menlo Park is the incredibly short-sighted and restrictive parking. It's hard enough for retailers to survive in downtown Menlo without the parking meter people constantly prowling around and giving out tickets and upsetting everyone. I have met friends for lunch in downtown recently who have sworn NEVER to eat or shop in Menlo again because they got hit with $37 tickets. These are affluent people from all over who would love to hangout in our pretty town, but feel they do not want to spend their dollars in a place which is so small-minded.

Secondly, if you have a business in downtown, daily parking permits are impossible to get. This means your employees have to move their cars every two hours or face fines. It's disruptive, anxiety provoking and a major deterrent for people wanting to open any kind of small, new, innovative company.

Overall, until the city council and city manager tackle this issue, we will never see a wide range of vibrant businesses in our city and I am not sure we even deserve to do so.

Posted by Mr. Parker, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 10, 2008 at 2:01 pm

I think the council should change the 2-hour parking to 3-hour parking, to encourage shoppers and spa-goers to linger.

I'd love to see a child-friendly casual restaurant move in to fill the gap caused by JZ Cool's transformation from casual organic eatery to chi-chi wine bar. Also: a bagel place that sells decent bagels and a Mexican restaurant that sells good, authentic tacos. Don't mention Mex-to-Go -- I hate that place. Una Mas doesn't even bear mentioning.

I'm not in favor of chain stores, but a children's clothing store with prices that are more like Old Navy and less like Neiman Marcus would be great.

Posted by Sugar, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 10, 2008 at 2:04 pm

I see loads of foot traffic on Santa Cruz Ave. on Sundays, but only a few businesses are open. I wish downtown merchants would re-think their store hours and open on Sundays.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 10, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Josephine and Sugar,

I hear you! First, Menlo Park has lots of employees who are overpaid. Think about this: Redwood City has three times the population and half the employees! Unfortunately, the parking patrol will have to continue to ticket cars around businesses. They need to get that money.

And Sugar, I couldn't agree with you more. The stores close early everyday and some aren't even open on Sunday. Sunday is when I can do most of my shopping!

Posted by truth will set you free, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 10, 2008 at 9:15 pm

I did a simple internet search and proved Joanna's point completely false. Redwood City has 559 employees according to its budget and Menlo Park has around 300. Also, Redwood City has 75,000 people to Menlo Park's 30,000, hardly three times.

Let's just it honest. Asking Joanna to be honest is like asking a fish to stop swimming.

I agree with many folks that parking leaves a lot to be desired. I do think that we should follow the likes of Palo Alto and begin looking at structured parking. I think Santa Cruz Avenue should have no street parking but wider sidewalks.

Posted by TruthLover, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 11, 2008 at 7:17 am

Hey, Joanna. Do you ever think about what your phony "facts" do to your credibility? If you can't figure it out, I can tell you: it's gone with the wind.

Posted by Sugar, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 12, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Yeah, the city employees are overpaid, but every good resident of Menlo Park who earns a six-figure income is totally earning what he/she's worth.

Um, this is about making the downtown more vibrant and attractive. Keeping parking spaces available by imposing time limits is what every city does for its downtown.

Joanna, honey, can you manage to stay on topic?

Posted by Jonana, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 12, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Dear Sugar,

I was addressing the vibrancy of downtown when I mentioned the parking. The one mile radius around downtown is (I think) relatively low density. That means that most will have to drive. If drivers are reluctant to visit because of tight parking rule$, then downtown will be less vibrant. I also was citing a reason why Menlo Park is very vigilant in citing parking offenders and how it might be highly unlikely for that to change.

I love the farmer's market on Sunday. We need more of that. Anyone ever notice the market in Palo Alto on California street? Maybe we can adopt some of that to get more visitors.

Mini concerts (string quartets) on side streets like the one in front of Carpaccios? That way it won't compete with the wonderful concerts in the park next to Pete's.

And seconding Mr. Parker's comment, I would like to see a children's clothing store that fits his description.

Posted by curious, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 13, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Why does Menlo Park have a double standard about parking? For some reason, people don't find it acceptable to walk several blocks as one MUST in Palo Alto. The new parking structures require a walk there, to almost anything. Why is it that a short walk isn't acceptable in our town but is a requirement there? I just don't get it. In my own experience, I have ALWAYS found parking in Menlo Park, but not necessarily in the same block I patronize that trip.

Posted by Ann, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 13, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Here, here "curious"! My thoughts exactly. I, too, have ALWAYS found parking in downtown Menlo Park at any time of the day or evening but, of course, not always at the door of the place I'm intending to go to. There's always parking lots with plenty of empty spaces. So, because people whine that there isn't enough parking (presumably immediately in front of the place they're going to) our money is supposed to be spent on new parking structures so we can have even more empty spaces?? Perhaps the problem is that there are not enough handicapped spaces for the folks that aren't able to walk half a block or so. Wouldn't it be far cheaper to add more handicapped spaces and save the money that would be spent on building and maintaing a structure for far better purposes?

With respect to farmers' markets, what we need is a mid-week evening farmers' market (as far as I know, only San Carlos has one in our area), so that we can have fresh produce all week long. What we don't need is another weekend market. We've got those all up and down the Peninsula. The evening markets in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are wildly popular (NB: in SLO the downtown shops stay open the evenings of the farmers' market). It'd be a regional draw here, instead of just watering down the market for the weekend farmers, and would give Santa Cruz Avenue its own unique stamp instead of being a wannabe Palo Alto.

Posted by dreaming, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 14, 2008 at 11:16 am

What about an electronics or some phone stores? I have been surprised to see that an AT&T store, at a very difficult-to-reach corner of El Camino and Page Mill in Palo Alto, is very popular. Such a store doesn't have to be large, and surely can pay decent sales tax dollars that could be very helpful. We don't seem to have such stores here, requiring trips to other cities.

A bigger dream would be having a Fry's somewhere in Menlo Park, but maybe not on El Camino. How about on Bayfront?

Posted by Sugar, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 14, 2008 at 6:36 pm

The mid-week evening farmer's market is a great idea. I, for one, would shop there.

But please, spare us another benighted Fry's store. Those places are a complete nightmare.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 16, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Downtown needs a HUGE face-lift.
--Better streetscape as in nicer, wider sidewalks with pleasant areas to sit, nice potted plants and trees. A city square somewhere on Santa Cruz Avenue with restaurants facing the plaza. Big fountain in the middle.
--We don't need any more chic-chic home stores. It caters to the old 'futziness' that this area is know for. Bring on some hip restaurants such as: a cool, trendy bar that serves tasty small bites & music; actually any trendy-type restaurants would do; cool coffee shop (as in Cafe del Dogge in Palo Alto); Fraiche yogurt (see Palo Alto)

Posted by Jenny, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 16, 2008 at 3:01 pm

The 'face' of MP is changing from an older-aged base to much younger residents (as in young families). Let's update the downtown area and change with the times!! Downtown MP is very unappealing and basically 'closes down' at 8pm any night of the week. I actually head to Palo Alto to shop and dine as it's lively and there's plenty of offerings. There's a huge opportunity here waiting for the right thing to happen! And I agree... no more home stores (excuse me while I yawn).

Posted by Donna, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 18, 2008 at 10:08 am

I'd like to see a Crate & Barrel or Sur la Table downtown. Seems the new building or the old Dal Baffo would be big enough for a store like that.

And a cafe along the lines of Borrone on Santa Cruz would also be great. Judging from the crowds at Borrone, there's enough business to support a similar place across the El Camino.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2008 at 12:34 pm

MP has it all wrong. There are too many "one-off" stores. Visit once and never come back (for at least 6 or 12 months).

New jewelry store? Do we really need another?
How many times will the average MPer need rugs, pricey kids stuff, furniture, kitchen appliances, chandeliers...

You see, we need less one-off stores and more Borone type places (except on the the correct side of El Camino). :-)

Posted by leo, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 18, 2008 at 1:44 pm

I think we could use the following, listed in order of priority:

Hooters Sports Bar

Liquor Store

Gun & Ammo Store

Fishing Supplies


of course

an adult theatre

Posted by Lucy, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 18, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Based on the whining I hear in Menlo Park, I would think downtown would be a prime location for a colonic therapy emporium.

That'll get the traffic flowing.

Posted by MP Visitor, a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2008 at 7:38 pm

I sometimes come to the MP downtown for shopping and restaurants. I have to agree with the parking issue. I have gotten 2 parking tickets over the past year. I did park incorrectly/over time limit, but unknowingly. I didn't notice the parking time limit sign in one case since I had never parked there and in the other I parked on the white line of the parking space and it was considered taking up 2 spaces. I decided I would not come back as I have never gotten a ticket in the ten years I have been parking in downtown San Carlos where I live. There aren't many shops/restaurants in MP that are worth that type of punishment.

Posted by jan, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 7, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Someone should organize a monthly outdoor event held the First Friday night of the month along santa cruz. Example art and wine walk sponsored by local merchants. Local businesses would stay open until 9 pm, and offer discounts, wine tastings and appetizers.

Posted by DownWithThat, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 8, 2008 at 8:57 am

Now there's a good idea. I think the city is planning a few downtown parties this year like the ones they started last summer, but Jan's idea sounds even better. Once a month, and on a specific night so people don't have to guess.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 8, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Definitely a library drop box on THIS side of El Camino. Driving to and from the library is dangerous. It will save gas and the environment.

I think parking tickets should be eliminated until city expenditures and salaries are audited and reduced. I don't mind paying a ticket when I am wrong. I just want to make sure that the fees are going to something worthwhile. Parking is important to downtown.

Cigar shop?

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 8, 2008 at 12:41 pm

I strongly believe that BevMo would be the best choice for Menlo Park. The opposition group headed by Beltramos didn't really have what's best for Menlo Park in mind.

BevMo had knowledgeable staff, a HUGE variety of wines, spirits, sodas, and more beverages without one huge thing... intimidation and pretense. Maybe they'll make another go at it. I will support it strongly.

You see, downtown Menlo Park needs something that attracts all kinds of people without a "club" feeling.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 8, 2008 at 1:17 pm

BevMo and cigar shops? Gimme a break. Go live in Houston if that is what you want.

We need more nightlife oriented business in downtown. Live music like a Jazz club would be great. Open mic stuff for high school musicians and pick up artists to hang out and play.

More open space is good, more plazas and areas to hang out around downtown. Structured parking is needed. BevMo serves the Costco crowd and it is not a Menlo Park type business. We can do much better and we will frankly. You don't see BevMo's in downtown Los Gatos or Burlingame. BevMo works in more thoroughfare areas, not Santa Cruz.

Pretense? I don't even know what that means. Stop insulting people through that classic passive aggressive garbage.

Beltramo's is not intimidating and no one there has done anything but serve Menlo Park for years. It is a wine store. Good gosh.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 8, 2008 at 3:19 pm

We need some parking structured like downtown palo alto to attract better retail and restaurants

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 8, 2008 at 8:05 pm

I wonder (actually I don't) what you would call the people who buy two buck chuck at trader joes. They aren't what I would call the costco crowd as you crassly put it.

Anyway, one business is not going to change our downtown. Heck, one business won't change ANY downtown. You want real change? Bring on the lease terminations and do an overhaul. I just think it would be nice to have a store that appeals to a bunch of people.

We have franchises like Stone Cold, Baskin Robbins, Quiznos so anything goes I think.

Sorry again.

Posted by visionary, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 8, 2008 at 9:08 pm

I would love to see a downtown that did not have chain stores. No one needs to come to Menlo Park for Starbucks or Baskin Robbins, whereas stores like Kepler's or Cheeky Monkey draw non-residents to our city. Other towns have successfully prohibited franchises and chains, and I think we can accommodate plenty of diversity (does Santa Cruz truly strike you as clubby, Joanna?) without junking up the place.

I agree with the comments about nightlife and live music too. More restaurants, fewer rug and used clothing stores.

Posted by Nosher, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 10:47 am

A non-chain store version of a casual serve-yourself eatery, like Pluto's or Fresh Choice, would be great.

Posted by Marcy Magatelli, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 11:34 am

I both, live and work, in downtown Menlo Park. I own a retail store, and have done for over 18 yrs. So it is with great interest that I read everyone's comments about downtown Menlo Park. I am in complete agreement with the view of downtown, as a little dreary, in spots, and I am one of the merchants who has lost my enthusiasm for window displays, I'll admit. However, I would like to share with you, some of my experiences, which may not be known, unless you've been in a similar situation. 1)sunlight damages/ruins anything put in the windows & quickly, so it's easy to run out of ideas and enthusiasm for sacraficing new merchandise (not that I am excusing myself from trying) 2) Your comments about parking are sooo right on! There have been more than a few people, in the Planning Dept and or City Council, with really stupid ideas about how to prevent growth or traffic congestion, and making the parking better is always thought to only encourage these problems, so nothing is ever done to improve parking. I have been to meetings, sat on comittees, etc. for 20 yrs. and NOTHING IS EVER DONE. Every other town on the peninsula, has built downtown parking structures, but not Menlo Park.
3)A good way to get local merchants to improve their stores, offerings, attitudes, whatever, is to support them through the process. Give them your business and your comments, ideas, suggestions. Everytime you cross that little bridge, over the creeek to go into Palo Alto or Stanford Mall, you are not only taking your sales tax contributions out of town, but out of the county, as well. Sales tax dollars that go to roads, parking, schools, fire and police protection, parks & recreation. Lastely, and I admit, I am whinning a little here, but the rents are so high and the wages that have to be paid, so people can afford to come to work in Menlo Park, as so high, that you would be shocked at home little, some of us merchants are really earning, for ourselves. I am only speaking for myself, here, but really..I am in retail become I love it, it's all I want, but I am so..not getting rich, it's sad!
My landlord has made way more off my business than I have.

Posted by Nosher, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 9, 2008 at 12:04 pm

I think the key to an enticing window display is to change it every week or two. I always stop and gawk at 4 Clothing Solutions, because there's always something new and interesting. Otherwise, your eyes just pass right over the same old, same old that's in so many store windows.

Moving things in and out of the windows frequently would probably also minimize the sun damage.

Also, less can be more. There are so many things in that flower shop window that it's headache-inducing.

Posted by Neal, a resident of another community
on Jun 9, 2008 at 3:20 pm

I'm just laughing what Leo said.

Posted by Tyrone, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 9, 2008 at 8:50 pm

adult dvd shop
bail bonds

Posted by go north, a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 11:50 am

Web Link

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Thank you Marcy. It is good to hear from merchants like you.

Posted by home chef, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 16, 2008 at 10:48 am

I'd like to see a Crate & Barrel style store in the downtown. Maybe one of the new buildings on Santa Cruz would accommodate one.

I'd also like to see the city get serious about a parking structure. It seems nothing will be deemed appropriate for El Camino until more parking is created. Wasn't there a major study done on parking and possible parking structures a few years ago?

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