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.