Local effort to preserve memory of Fosters Freeze in Menlo Park


Last week, the doorbell rang at Menlo Park City Councilman Ray Mueller's home.

On his doorstep were several community members who alerted him that Fosters Freeze, a community institution they held dear, would be closing.

The current owner, Sung Lee, who operated the beloved soft-serve and fast food shop for more than 30 years, had announced that he and his wife were planning to close the shop and move because of the high cost of living.

The visitors asked Mr. Mueller if there was anything he could do to help them find Fosters Freeze a new location, or at least preserve its memory in Menlo Park.

The mention of Fosters Freeze brought him back to memories of his childhood hometown's soft-serve shop, called Pepper Tree, in Vista, California. To him, the shop represented not just a place to indulge in ice cream and fries. It was also a multigenerational gathering place, a time-lapse of lives lived in chocolate-dipped, soft serve increments.

It was the place parents brought their young children to teach them that ice cream always makes Little League's sweet victories a little sweeter and its bitter defeats more palatable, Mr. Mueller said.

It was the place where nervous teens in braces grinned in delight when they showed off their new driver's licenses to their friends. It was where countless pairs of high school sweethearts went on awkward first dates.

It was also the place where some of those couples continued to go with their children once they became parents themselves, he said. Mr. Mueller explained that he and his wife, then his high school sweetheart, often went out as teens there. Now that they live in Menlo Park, they continued the tradition by taking their children out for ice cream at Fosters Freeze.

"I understand the cultural significance that these places have," said Mr. Mueller. "I'm happy to get involved."

Around the same time that he stepped forward to see what could be done, he found himself surrounded by a dedicated crowd of about 15 to 20 supporters who expressed a commitment to devote time and resources to preserving Fosters Freeze in some way. Mr. Mueller also learned that the Menlo-Atherton Little League had been looking for a way to expand the Burgess Park kitchen and snack bar in the Menlo Park Civic Center.

He got an idea and decided to share it with the Menlo-Atherton Little League executive board members, including Jeff Phillips, Bryan Wise and Marc Bryman. The idea was this: Expand the Little League's snack bar, but do it in a way that incorporates Fosters Freeze's small-town wholesomeness and nostalgia, preserving its legacy for the next generation.

"They liked the idea immediately," Mr. Mueller said.

Mr. Mueller has asked the City Council to pass a resolution that an expanded Little League snack bar serve as a "living monument" to Fosters Freeze, incorporating its vintage aesthetic alongside a photo gallery of what the place has meant to the community during its more than 50 years of operation.


Goodbye party: Sung Lee, who has owned Fosters Freeze in Menlo Park for about 30 years, is closing the business on Wednesday, Sept. 30. The community is invited to a goodbye party from 5 to 7 p.m. on that day in the Fosters Freeze parking lot at 580 Oak Grove Ave., about half a block east of El Camino Real. Free ice cream cones will be served.

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11 people like this
Posted by John W.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 8:03 pm

Sheesh, puff piece much? How about noting that Ray has been consistently supportive of moving the Greenheart 1300 El Camino Real project along, and that the destruction of this building has ALWAYS been part of that project. If he didn't know Foster's Freeze would be leaving Menlo Park until some friends came by to tell him, he needs to maybe read a staff report once in a while.

22 people like this
Posted by John X
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2015 at 8:49 pm

@johnw tries to blame the 1300 El Camino Project for Foster's Freeze closure. It's a distortion of reality.

First, they ignore the fact that Mr. Lee announced, according the Almanac and various other news organizations:

"he and his wife were planning to close the shop and move because of the high cost of living." Where in that statement is the 1300 El Camino Project being blamed by Mr. Lee?

Second, they ignore the fact the City Council still hasn't approved the 1300 El Camino Project, and no one knows for certain what it will look like when it finally is approved.

It's convenient to ignore both facts, so they can just keep on piling on and vilify.

30 people like this
Posted by Foster's fan
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 25, 2015 at 12:02 am

@ John W.: Seriously? Mueller supports developing the abandoned vacant lots at 1300 El Camino that have been a blighted embarrassment to our city for over a decade--and so does everyone else in Menlo who is not an anti-growth zealot! Obviously, Mr. Lee simply decided to close his business...that does happen, you know? How in the heck can you find fault in a guy who devised a solution to help the Little League and also pay homage to a magical part of our city's history which has long since passed? Mueller is simply well-liked by most everyone, and while the article does in fact sound a little 'puffy', I'm thinking that's because writers are no exception. So, find someone else to pick on.

Like this comment
Posted by John 2
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Nobody is knocking on my door regarding this issue. I'm fine with that.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbors
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 25, 2015 at 8:47 pm

Mr Lee, and all of us, who were concerned about the future of Fosters saw the writing on the wall after the muddled mess that was Measure M.

(Part removed. If you have evidence for this statement, please email it to

Like this comment
Posted by Park Theatre
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2015 at 9:07 pm

A few years back, there was a similar effort to save the Park Theatre. Web Link

11 people like this
Posted by Baseball and Apple Pie
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Who knew that a project to expand the little league snack bar using pieces of an old Foster's Freeze with money from charitable donations could evoke such animosity from the Trolls and Measure M crowd?

You have to labor pretty hard to get angry about something this wholesome.

1 person likes this
Posted by measure m supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 28, 2015 at 6:59 pm

@ Fosters Fan, and Baseball - please rise above such pettiness, false labeling of fellow residents, and inventing anger that doesn't exist.

There were many sound reasons to support measure m. I am not at all alone in NOT being against growth, and I still strongly supported measure m. That may be too nuanced for those who want any kind of growth regardless of its impacts on housing, traffic, and retail. So be it.

As a parent, I'm thrilled to think of expanded snack facilities, and for luring Fosters Freeze to move there. Surprise! I can be for both m and the snack bar!

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