News

Community rallies to save Fosters Freeze in Menlo Park

 

News of the imminent closing of Fosters Freeze on Oak Grove Avenue in Menlo Park has given birth to a groundswell of support for finding a way for the community to continue to enjoy the shop's burgers and ice cream treats – whether by moving the building and its equipment, or reassembling the equipment at another location.

Fosters Freeze manager Sung Lee, citing the high cost of living for him personally in the Bay Area, recently posted a sign on the shop window announcing his intention to close at the end of September.

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 in an interview. "The middle class can't stay here. The living costs are so high."

Menlo Park City Councilman Ray Mueller is leading the effort to save Fosters Freeze and is looking ahead to a brainstorming session soon with volunteers.

"The challenge has been identified. There is a vision around what people would like to see," he said, adding: "I'm not Pollyannish about whether this will be difficult to achieve. ... I understand that this is going to be tough. I just feel that it's something that will be worth it."

"It's success will be determined by the strength of the passion of the community behind it," he added.

Mr. Mueller identified three options, in order of preference:

■ Find a location and move the building there and have it operate as an independent business.

■ Find a building with the space to take in the equipment and Fosters Freeze trim to recreate the shop's aesthetic, and put out a request for proposals to find someone to run the business.

■ Find an existing organization, perhaps a nonprofit, willing to recreate the aesthetic and run the business, perhaps in a park.

Any of these options might turn into opportunities to create jobs for youth, Mr. Mueller said.

Mr. Mueller said he's already talked with, and been rebuffed by, the owner of a downtown property. He said he has also spoken with and is waiting to hear back from a "youth-focused organization" on the idea of recreating the Foster Freeze aesthetic inside an existing building "within the downtown area."

"It's a connection to the past that you can enjoy with your family," he said.

"Today our family often frequents Fosters Freeze in Menlo Park for dipped cones and milkshakes," Mr. Mueller wrote in an email. "Places like this provide an intangible value to a community, tying a magic from generations past to our present."

The current owner of the property where the Fosters Freeze is now, Greenheart Land Co. of Palo Alto, will probably not be taking action within the next three months, Mr. Mueller said.

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:11 pm

Bravo! Save Fosters!!!


7 people like this
Posted by jmir
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 12:33 pm

We're in need of healthy snacks in the burgess area. So often impromptu gatherings there need to break up when people are hungry. With some menu changes, the building could be a great fit for that spot. Perhaps SRI could rent out a corner of their Burgess-facing land or maybe the church there?


8 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm

The cost of the land to put it on is worth WAY more than the business is worth to the owners or the community.....unfortunately as Mr Lee pointed out, it is NOT a viable business within Menlo Park.

Sounds like we should say good-bye

Roy Thiele-Sardina


19 people like this
Posted by Idea Guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Could the "refreshment/bathroom" building at Burgess Park, near the baseball field, be improved/expanded to host a "Foster Freeze" operation? What a great outing it would be to walk with the children to the park and get a milkshake or dipped cone. Maybe catch a ballgame or watch the kids skate, shoot hoops or throw a Frisbee.

It could be run by Mr. Lee (with no need to pay rent) or by a local youth group, as Mr. Mueller suggested.


8 people like this
Posted by Bill Harrington
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 1:47 pm

Like the Park Theater, another Menlo Park landmark is disappearing. Inevitable with as much money as is in the mid-Peninsula now, but gentrification has a cost that can not be compensated for only with dollars


5 people like this
Posted by Negotiate
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:11 pm

The developer is seeking extra building rights. The city can and should negotiate the best project for the residents of Menlo park, not to give in to whatever the developer wants for his profits. . The original FF building is of less interest to me than the fosters freeze business. There is no reason the new project couldn't provide Ff a home and a great site for FF customers to enjoy consuming this great/iconic food. The council should push for these things to be part of the project , and to have enough homes in the project to help sustain this business. It's what helps make Menlo park a homey place to live.


7 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:19 pm

really? is a registered user.

@JMIR

Healthy Snacks??? I can't believe that people see Fosters Freeze as a much needed community asset for healthy snacks


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" There is no reason the new project couldn't provide Ff a home and a great site for FF customers to enjoy consuming this great/iconic food."

And which other Menlo Park business would be granted this privilege?

And exactly who is really paying for it?

Hint - It is not the developer.


2 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 15, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Alan is a registered user.

Could The Almanac correct the obvious spelling mistake in the title ("Communtity")? Thank you.


10 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I'm sorry, everyone likes ice cream and burgers, but to use public resources to "save" a particular eatery is misguided.


11 people like this
Posted by Read the article
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:28 pm

No one is proposing using public resources.


1 person likes this
Posted by ARice
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Perhaps Mr. Lee would just like to go into a well-earned retirement, and not be "saved"?


31 people like this
Posted by Sensible Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 3:47 pm

It's entertaining to watch the trolls struggle to look for something negative to say about this. Facts never seem stand in their way.


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:18 pm

Fosters freeze menu needs updating with the times and local consumer and parenting preferences. Not a vegetable or vegetarian item to be seen. How about grilled fish sandwich, or sweet potato fries?

Sad to see it go, but I don't want to feed my kids junk and only go out for ice cream once in a blue moon.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 15, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Nostalgia for this kind of "food" is like nostalgia for the pleasures of smoking cigarettes. The memories and the feelings they invoke may be legitimate and fond, but there are reasons we changed our ways.

I cannot see myself darkening the door of this place after seeing the menu and knowing what I know about junk food.


15 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

How about let's see more around fixing this: "The middle class can't stay here. The living costs are so high", rather than more around how we can save nostalgic burger/ice cream services (but not the actual business itself). I know that sounds callous, but there's a much bigger problem here, and FF's closing is yet another casualty in a community that is utterly failing to address the underlying issues that lead to such casualties. By the way, it's not just the middle class...there are plenty of people in the top 5-10% of household earners who simply cannot afford to live here any more.


Like this comment
Posted by Negotiate
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 16, 2015 at 12:23 am

The developer has not promised to retain or add a single inch of retail or food like FF. the city can require that.


4 people like this
Posted by bye bye
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 16, 2015 at 12:39 am

Nothing to do w/ FF but have lived in this area over 40 years. It only took the last 2 and the next 3 years to make it look like L.A. Not sure where yet but, Think I'll be moving on.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2015 at 11:52 am

Mom - they have veggie burgers at FF.


3 people like this
Posted by Time to Move On
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm

This has come up over the years and I agree that it time to let this one go. Our City will never get out of the "Village" rut it has been in for the last 15 years if people try to save everything. We are defiantly not L.A. or even S.F., but we are falling so far behind our neighbors when it come to having a vibrant downtown. Everything about FF looks tired, we are not in the 1950's anymore and stop trying to create a false image of a village that is just a joke.

Lived and worked here for almost 35 years and I too remember going there as a kid, but I am ready for something new. Funny how a place that takes so much pride in innovation doesn't want anything new. Off the Grid hasn't created any issues for the downtown restaurants like some people screamed would. Maybe an ice cream place like Salt and Straw in Portland, OR is in order.


2 people like this
Posted by Local resident
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2015 at 8:02 pm

The owners of the property got their way with the Measure M debacle. That whole block from Oak Grove north between El Camino and the tracks will be wiped out soon enough. That's when Mr. Lee and friends of FF and it's landmark building sadly saw the writing on the wall. I applaud Councilman Mueller's efforts and hope we can preserve something but it may be only in our memories.


3 people like this
Posted by Buried Ledes
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2015 at 10:28 am

There are two key nuggets hidden in this story:

1- An extremely hardworking, longtime Bay Area resident can't afford to make a go of it here anymore. Menlo Park has done more than any community to make this whole area expensive by stopping growth and driving up the cost of land. People are surprised why? Hey, how about the NIMBYs save Foster's Freeze by donating all of their excess home equity? Morris, Patti, Chuck- how about it?

2- Ray Mueller has been a big supporter of the 1300 El Camino Real project, but he somehow is just figuring out that the Foster's Freeze would be demolished? Fair-Weather Ray should pick a position and stick with it- our necks are getting tired watching you blow with the wind.


19 people like this
Posted by Reading Matters
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 19, 2015 at 11:26 am

@buriedledes, you should read the article closer and stop re-living the past through your myopic view of Menlo Park politics.

First, the store isn't closing because of the 1300 El Camino Project. The store owner decided to close because business is down and he can't afford to live in the Bay Area anymore. Mueller isn't proposing or even trying to keep the store where it is currently located. He is searching for a new location that makes sense. Word on the street is he working with the MA Little League.

Before you throw a grenade and claim to have found "buried ledes", you might try to bury your nose in the story, and just plain read.


18 people like this
Posted by Word on the street
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2015 at 11:45 am

I also heard that Mueller is working with the Little League to move Foster's Freeze. Great idea!

One of the reasons I like Mueller so much is that he doesn't get caught up in all of this pro/anti-growth nonsense. Most of the families in this community don't know/don't care about the political drama of the past. Mueller is one of us; leave him alone.


Like this comment
Posted by surprising
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2015 at 6:51 pm

It is surprising that "anonymous posters" don't know and don't care about the political drama.


Like this comment
Posted by Negotiate
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 19, 2015 at 7:36 pm

@BL housing prices are high because there are more jobs than housing being developed. Housing demand is higher than supply. A huge glut of more offices, as currently proposed, will make this situation even worse.

If more housing or food providers like FF are desired, talk with the council. They have not done their part of the biennial specific plan review. They can change the rules.


3 people like this
Posted by matt
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Sep 20, 2015 at 7:15 am

Has anyone considered that the best way to save this place would be to patronize it? There's no need to "save" a place like Refuge up the street because it's pretty good and lots of people eat there.

Fosters not so much.

Good restaurants stay open because they get customers. Bad ones close because they don't.


1 person likes this
Posted by I tried
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2015 at 2:42 pm

We tried to eat there today but the place was closed. No hours posted, no idea when it might be open. No answer or even an answering machine with an outgoing-only message on the phone. Just signes saying theya re closing for good on 9/30.

Looks like they already closed for good.


Like this comment
Posted by V. Host
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 24, 2015 at 11:36 am

I would also like them to incorporate Don's Hobby Shop, Toy and Party, and Roots and Shoots into the new development as well.


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

Camper opens for lunch in Menlo Park
By Elena Kadvany | 12 comments | 3,967 views

Couples: Child Loss, "No U-Turn at Mercy Street"
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 999 views

Which Cocktail Has the Least Calories?
By Laura Stec | 3 comments | 632 views