News

It's all but over for Fosters Freeze in Menlo Park

Landmark burger and ice cream shop to close at end of month

For almost 30 years, Sung Lee has been managing his Fosters Freeze burger and ice cream joint, a Menlo Park landmark at 580 Oak Grove Ave. But the end is near.

Fosters Freeze will close on Sept. 30. The pending closure was first reported by the online site InMenlo.

Mr. Lee, who says he pays $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in San Jose, said he will be moving to a community where living is more affordable.

Business is "a very little bit down ... but there's not enough sales to make a living around here. I decided to close (and) move out of the Bay Area," he said. "The middle class can't stay here. The living costs are so high."

His shop has just two employees now, down significantly from its heyday, but Mr. Lee has been there pretty much every day to unlock the doors at 10 a.m. and lock them again at 8 p.m. "I've been doing that for 30 years," he said. "It's about half my lifetime working here."

While he has had no lease, Mr. Lee has also had no pressure to close, he said. But the landlord will not allow him to transfer ownership of the business, so he will sell what equipment he can to friends, he said.

The decision to close has been on his mind for maybe 10 years, he said.

Fosters Freeze has 87 independently operated shops in California, with locations also in Boulder Creek, Campbell, Berkeley and Alameda, according to the company's website.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by Shellie
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:23 pm

I'm sad to hear Foster freeze is leaving, yet I understand the move completely. Not only are renters leaving the area in droves, small business owners are having to move away also due to high rents and competition. Gone will be the era of walking over for a sundae, so reminiscent of the 1950's. I will treasure my memories of Foster Freeze along with so many from my youth. Good luck Mr. Lee, we will miss you.


9 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I am so sad to hear this. Our family has such fond memories of stopping here after our children's soccer, baseball, or basketball games. We have been faithful patrons for the 30 years Sung Lee has owned it and we are incredibly sad that he will be leaving the Bay Area. We wish him well. This is a real loss for our community.


8 people like this
Posted by Erin
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:27 pm

I am so sad to hear this; my children have been going to Fosters Freeze after school for a special treat for years. Menlo Park is losing a great childhood memory for many!


12 people like this
Posted by Flynn
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 14, 2015 at 12:49 pm

The fact that the landlord will not allow transfer ownership of the business is also sad. It's a win for the landlord, I guess, but not the community.


10 people like this
Posted by elsie@18media.com
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Mr. Lee, we will all miss you. You were a symbol of a different time, of my childhood, and I'm sure, of many others'. It was actually nice passing your little place all these years,and seeing the kids lined up waiting for their turn. I'm sure we all wish you well. All the children who grew up with you as a friend will miss you. Collectively, though, we send tons of good wishes for your next incarnation. I've always believed things happen for a reason, and you may have a surprise waiting for you in the future, making you wonder why you didn't do this a long time ago. We send you much appreciation and good wishes for your future.
Elsie


4 people like this
Posted by Arla
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Arla is a registered user.

How sad, but very understandable. Fosters Freeze has always been such a happy memory and a sweet sight as I pass it on the road. Thank you for all those good years Mr. Lee. The entire community and past patrons wish you nothing but the best in the next chapter of your life. Thanks for the memories!


4 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm

really? is a registered user.

Soon to be replaced by over-priced Gelato in the Greenheart Development


4 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:34 pm

How disappointing to see a local landmark close. Gone are the "good ole days". I guess it was only a matter of time. Fosters was such a great place to get a shake or malt. Thank you for 30 years and good memories -- it's hard to say good by but I wish you well in your next endeavor.

I'm sure this location will give way to a condo complex or something similar....


8 people like this
Posted by Meg Davis
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

This is so sad. My kids loved Fosters Freeze, and now my grandchildren are fans. I understand Mr. Lee's decision, but it seems so wrong to loose another family business to developers. First Nak's, and now Fosters. Menlo Park is heading in the wrong direction once again.


4 people like this
Posted by Ice Cream
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Looks like there is an effort underway to relocate the building and have it continue to operate it as an ice cream shop.

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please explain how this building in any use could generate enough profit to pay the market ground rent in Menlo Park?


5 people like this
Posted by alan
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 14, 2015 at 3:52 pm

I echo the kind reflections about Fosters and the lovely gentleman who runs it. It is sad to see a happy landmark disappear [portion removed; Mr. Lee made it clear the rent on the Menlo Park site is not what is driving him out] ... happy retirement Mr. Lee. A chocolate dip cup will never taste the same, and that is truly sad.


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 14, 2015 at 4:41 pm

really? is a registered user.

The sad irony of course is that with the Greenheart Development on that block, Foster's Freeze goes by Jason's stays!


12 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 14, 2015 at 6:24 pm

It's a shame that some people's outlook seems to be focused just on the $$$$ when there is more to value that just revenue. I guess some people just want MP to be a real grown up town -- here comes HSR there goes Fosters. Look at RWC with all its up and coming high rise condos.
Fosters was a touch of nostalgia that will soon be leaving in the name of progress.


11 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2015 at 8:23 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Sorry to hear this. I attended Menlo-Atherton in the 1950s. We used to go to Foster's Freeze at lunchtime. Great memories.


9 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 14, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Peter, [part removed}. Fosters is a landmark to those of us who lived here for many years. Its not always about the money, sometimes its about the tradition, the memories and Mr. Lee. Perhaps you should stop by and say hi and meet the man behind the window that has served so many people over the years with a smile. Hopefully he will relocate nearby and you can get yourself a root beer float and support small business.


3 people like this
Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:55 am

I'm saddened at the closing of this small piece of Menlo Park history. I go there a couple of times a month. I went there as a kid and take my children there too.

But, as much of as enjoy Foster's, I don't see a government role in saving this business or the building. Let's face it, the building is a dump. It's in desperate need of paint and the sign has been in disrepair for a long time. It's not an historically significant building and that would be the sole justification for government involvement in saving it.

The sad fact is the current owner can't afford to live in this area with the profits it generates. He's probably got a pretty fair deal in terms of rent for the property and a fully depreciated building. If he can't make it work with those favorable metrics, how could anyone make it work at a different location ... with the added expense of a relocated and remodeled building and presumably increased rent for the land? It's not coincidental that the majority of these franchises are located in areas that are less costly (Fresno has five).

It would be nice if a white knight were to come along and buy the franchise and move the building to another spot in downtown Menlo Park. But, let's recognize that it would be done for nostalgic purposes and the enterprise would lose money.


4 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 7:41 am

Reality Check

Yeah, just like Kepler's.

They're both food for the soul. But the Freeze offers it in such heavenly flavors.


2 people like this
Posted by Toastie
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:54 am

I'm so sad to see Fosters go, my family has enjoyed the tasty treats for 40 years! Let's save it, wouldn't some nostalgic wealthy person like to relocate it to maybe the old theater site, and upgrade? Yes, I know, I'm dreaming, and I wish that era was still here. Farewell Mr. Lee, we will miss you, along with Nak's and so many icons of another day in Menlo Park.


Like this comment
Posted by Elllie Mae
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Oh I shall miss thee,
Oh sweet Fosters Freeze,
In 1963 your flavors brought me to my knees,
That first sweet taste, that special treat,
Man I was cool, I was so neat!

Sadly some high rise will take the place of my favorite spot for so many years, could we relocate it to Stanford Shopping Center, a new building with a retro look? I'm sure it would do well there.


5 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:52 pm

really? is a registered user.

Boo hoo hoo!

All this nostalgia is sweet but also very salty. Was everyone regularly patronizing FF- eating fast food and ice cream on a weekly basis? I doubt that. Did everyone regularly say 'oh no, let's avoid the nice gelato and stroll in Palo Alto but go and stand in a parking lot and eat white glop instead?' And as for Nak's, who boycotted the 'Asian' aisle at Safeway to buy only at Nak's every week.

It will be a shame if Anne's Cafe goes the same way, but I ate there only once and was seriously underwhelmed, so won't be surprised when it does.

How about we start pushing McDonalds out of town and really make a clean run of it!


6 people like this
Posted by Gern
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 15, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Gern is a registered user.

@really, [Part removed. Please post on the topic without negative characterization of other posters.] ... but leave Foster's Freeze and Anne's Cafe to those of us who are less refined than you and who happen to appreciate these simpler things.

Gern


Like this comment
Posted by Et Alia
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Community rallies to save Fosters Freeze in Menlo Park Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Ron Wolf
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Aww, too bad. I had many a soul satisfying indulgence at this Foster's Freeze. Thank you Mr. Lee.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 11:03 pm


As a long time fan I hate to see another icon bite the dust, Last time I spoke to Mr. Lee he wanted to re open in another location. Anybody know of another place?


Like this comment
Posted by Patty Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Sep 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm

We lived close to Foster Freeze when I was a child and always recall fond memories of going there -- mostly for the orange flavored 'freeze'. Soooooo sorry to see it go.


2 people like this
Posted by Mary Leslie Fehrt
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 21, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Going back even before Sunny Lee was the owner, when Johnny's Smoke Shop was there, adjacent to Congdon Chrome Stationers and The Menlo Park Recorder newspaper, the owner of Foster's Freeze was named Frank. Back in the early '60's, we all knew him, and he knew many of us by name. I was the proud owner of a 1960 Hillman convertible as my first car. When other classmates would show off by peeling out in the parking lot, I found that the only way to get my underpowered English car was to put pocket aback books under the back wheels. SCORE!!! I did it, finally, in the Foster's Freeze parking lot!! Without a moment's hesitation, Frank appeared, thrusting a push broom to me. I cleaned it up with a smile on my face. Thanks for the memories...


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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