News

The end of an era: Ann's Coffee Shop to close

Downtown diner was a Menlo Park mainstay for 75 years

Nicki Poulos, co-owner of Ann's Coffee Shop, speaks with customer Steve Mercer after his meal on April 7. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

After 75 years, Ann's Coffee Shop, known for its 1950s atmosphere, bottomless carafes of coffee and homemade soups and pies, is set to close April 19, according to Nicki Poulos and George Paplos, the mother-son duo that has run the diner for the past 13 years.

The building housing the 772 Santa Cruz Ave. coffee shop, along with the adjacent Menlo Bazaar at 780 Santa Cruz Ave. has been sold by Allan Aldrich, a landlord who kindly didn't collect rent in the months that the shop was closed over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduced rent when the shop faced reduced capacity due to limited outdoor dining availability, Paplos said.

Ann's Coffee Shop co-owner George Paplos prepares an order on April 7. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The pandemic hurt the vintage cafe, which is as old as the San Francisco 49ers and has been open during nine decades – from the 1940s to the 2020s, Paplos said. The coffee shop was only able to keep one cook and one waitress on staff, and could seat less than half of its indoor capacity outdoors, he added. But the final nail in the coffin was the building being sold, he said.

Because of the skeleton crew still working at the cafe, including Poulos' grandchildren, visitors coming to say goodbye to the coffee shop and the family that runs it are encouraged to be patient and accept a more limited menu than usual, Paplos said.

Poulos said the family asked whether the coffee shop might be permitted to remain open while the new owners decided what to do with the property, but the request was declined.

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According to the Menlo Park Historical Association, the shop was first opened in 1946 at 728 Santa Cruz Avenue, where Le Boulanger is now. The shop relocated to 772 Santa Cruz Avenue around 1962.

Pete Pappas bought the location in 1992, where his son Nick and cousin, Danny Kevetos ran it for many years, according to the association.

Nicki Poulos, co-owner of Ann's Coffee Shop, smiles at a customer in the Menlo Park diner on April 7. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

In 2008, Poulos and Paplos bought the cafe.

"I always wanted to run a coffee shop," Poulos said. Over time, her son went on to pursue other work opportunities, leaving her to run the coffee shop, she said.

"It was exciting," she said. "I would go and listen to the regular customers there."

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Over its decades of operation, it has developed a following of loyal regulars that spans generations. "It was like a home to them," Poulos said. "It was a loud place, a gathering place."

On Wednesday morning, April 7, the diner was bustling as families, couples and individuals were served hearty breakfasts with pancakes, bacon and eggs.

Julie Mercer eats breakfast with her son, Steve Mercer, and her grandsons, Levi and Zach Mercer, inside Ann's Coffee Shop in Menlo Park on April 7. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Julie Mercer was there with her son and two grandsons from out of town. "It's a gem of a place to come to," she said. "I feel nostalgic to be here." Her husband and his friends had a long tradition of going there every week to talk and pray together, she added.

"I needed to come and experience it one more time," she said.

Dorothy Hersey, another regular who has been coming to Ann's for six years, said she likes the unpretentious atmosphere, the friendliness and the service. It's somewhere she's felt comfortable dining alone and called it her "favorite breakfast stop."

Diners Patty and Terry, who have been frequenting Ann's since 1994, described as the last of the old-school diners in Menlo Park following the closures of Ken's and Jason's Cafe. Ken's, a pancake house on El Camino Real, shuttered in 1999, and Jason's Cafe closed in 2019 after being hit with lawsuits claiming the facility did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Poulos described another regular, a woman over 100 years old whose family brings her to the coffee shop several times each week. Faced with its closure, the family has asked to buy a booth and place settings from Ann's to install in their grandmother's garage, Poulos said.

She added that the place has long been popular with mothers who called first thing in the morning to order breakfast for their kids before school.

There have also been plenty of high-profile visitors to the shop, she noted: Shirley Temple Black, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, former quarterback Y.A. Tittle and football coach and former quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

And several years ago, she said, the cafe also worked with a security detail to serve then-Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner.

The diner has also been a mainstay for generations of Poulos' family.

Vasili Panagiotopoulos, Nicki Poulos' grandson, buses dishes at Ann's Coffee Shop on April 7. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Vasili Panagiotopoulos, Poulos' grandson who grew up around his family's diner since he was 3 years old, said it'll be "strange not having it in my life."

"It's very, very bittersweet," said A'lex Paplos, Poulos' granddaughter, about the closure of Ann's Coffee Shop.

She said she began working at the shop at age 16 – now she's a lawyer nearing 30. She said she enjoyed interacting with the wide spectrum of seniors, young people and families who were customers. She especially liked working at the 1950s-style counter, where she'd often fall into conversations with customers.

"It was always like, every day I got a new story from someone," she said. "You just get to hear a lot of interesting things from the community."

"It's been a big part of our lives. We feel very much like a part of the community. It's going to be hard to say goodbye," she said. At the same time, she added, she's looking forward to seeing her grandmother, who is almost 76, take the opportunity to retire.

As for what's next, Poulos said she plans to travel to her country of origin, Greece, and spend time with her family.

Charlie Schrader and Jacob Conroy-Falk dig in to their breakfasts at Ann's Coffee Shop on April 7. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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The end of an era: Ann's Coffee Shop to close

Downtown diner was a Menlo Park mainstay for 75 years

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 11:53 am

After 75 years, Ann's Coffee Shop, known for its 1950s atmosphere, bottomless carafes of coffee and homemade soups and pies, is set to close April 19, according to Nicki Poulos and George Paplos, the mother-son duo that has run the diner for the past 13 years.

The building housing the 772 Santa Cruz Ave. coffee shop, along with the adjacent Menlo Bazaar at 780 Santa Cruz Ave. has been sold by Allan Aldrich, a landlord who kindly didn't collect rent in the months that the shop was closed over the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and reduced rent when the shop faced reduced capacity due to limited outdoor dining availability, Paplos said.

The pandemic hurt the vintage cafe, which is as old as the San Francisco 49ers and has been open during nine decades – from the 1940s to the 2020s, Paplos said. The coffee shop was only able to keep one cook and one waitress on staff, and could seat less than half of its indoor capacity outdoors, he added. But the final nail in the coffin was the building being sold, he said.

Because of the skeleton crew still working at the cafe, including Poulos' grandchildren, visitors coming to say goodbye to the coffee shop and the family that runs it are encouraged to be patient and accept a more limited menu than usual, Paplos said.

Poulos said the family asked whether the coffee shop might be permitted to remain open while the new owners decided what to do with the property, but the request was declined.

According to the Menlo Park Historical Association, the shop was first opened in 1946 at 728 Santa Cruz Avenue, where Le Boulanger is now. The shop relocated to 772 Santa Cruz Avenue around 1962.

Pete Pappas bought the location in 1992, where his son Nick and cousin, Danny Kevetos ran it for many years, according to the association.

In 2008, Poulos and Paplos bought the cafe.

"I always wanted to run a coffee shop," Poulos said. Over time, her son went on to pursue other work opportunities, leaving her to run the coffee shop, she said.

"It was exciting," she said. "I would go and listen to the regular customers there."

Over its decades of operation, it has developed a following of loyal regulars that spans generations. "It was like a home to them," Poulos said. "It was a loud place, a gathering place."

On Wednesday morning, April 7, the diner was bustling as families, couples and individuals were served hearty breakfasts with pancakes, bacon and eggs.

Julie Mercer was there with her son and two grandsons from out of town. "It's a gem of a place to come to," she said. "I feel nostalgic to be here." Her husband and his friends had a long tradition of going there every week to talk and pray together, she added.

"I needed to come and experience it one more time," she said.

Dorothy Hersey, another regular who has been coming to Ann's for six years, said she likes the unpretentious atmosphere, the friendliness and the service. It's somewhere she's felt comfortable dining alone and called it her "favorite breakfast stop."

Diners Patty and Terry, who have been frequenting Ann's since 1994, described as the last of the old-school diners in Menlo Park following the closures of Ken's and Jason's Cafe. Ken's, a pancake house on El Camino Real, shuttered in 1999, and Jason's Cafe closed in 2019 after being hit with lawsuits claiming the facility did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Poulos described another regular, a woman over 100 years old whose family brings her to the coffee shop several times each week. Faced with its closure, the family has asked to buy a booth and place settings from Ann's to install in their grandmother's garage, Poulos said.

She added that the place has long been popular with mothers who called first thing in the morning to order breakfast for their kids before school.

There have also been plenty of high-profile visitors to the shop, she noted: Shirley Temple Black, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, former quarterback Y.A. Tittle and football coach and former quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

And several years ago, she said, the cafe also worked with a security detail to serve then-Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner.

The diner has also been a mainstay for generations of Poulos' family.

Vasili Panagiotopoulos, Poulos' grandson who grew up around his family's diner since he was 3 years old, said it'll be "strange not having it in my life."

"It's very, very bittersweet," said A'lex Paplos, Poulos' granddaughter, about the closure of Ann's Coffee Shop.

She said she began working at the shop at age 16 – now she's a lawyer nearing 30. She said she enjoyed interacting with the wide spectrum of seniors, young people and families who were customers. She especially liked working at the 1950s-style counter, where she'd often fall into conversations with customers.

"It was always like, every day I got a new story from someone," she said. "You just get to hear a lot of interesting things from the community."

"It's been a big part of our lives. We feel very much like a part of the community. It's going to be hard to say goodbye," she said. At the same time, she added, she's looking forward to seeing her grandmother, who is almost 76, take the opportunity to retire.

As for what's next, Poulos said she plans to travel to her country of origin, Greece, and spend time with her family.

Comments

pearl
Registered user
another community
on Apr 7, 2021 at 12:59 pm
pearl, another community
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2021 at 12:59 pm

So sad to see Ann's close. It has been the mainstay of many generations. Thanks for the memories. Ann's will be missed.


Ted Gruner
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 7, 2021 at 4:16 pm
Ted Gruner, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2021 at 4:16 pm

So sorry to see yet another great shop to go in Menlo Park. I graduated Menlo Atherton in 1959 and whet there many many times over the years. Hope the owners enjoy their retirement. Many good and bad changes to the entire area. But I guess that is what we all call progress. I only hope the Goose doesn't close.


Hmmm
Registered user
another community
on Apr 7, 2021 at 8:05 pm
Hmmm, another community
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2021 at 8:05 pm

Given their poor health department rating pre-Covid I’m not that disappointed they’re closing. Best wishes to the owners with this big life change.


Neighbor
Registered user
Portola Valley: other
on Apr 7, 2021 at 9:37 pm
Neighbor, Portola Valley: other
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2021 at 9:37 pm

So terribly sad. Truly amazing that the landlord don’t collect rent while COVID raged and they couldn’t be open. How heartless of the new owners to not allow a little time for reorganizing and grieving, after 75 years.


Maureen
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Apr 8, 2021 at 5:04 am
Maureen , Woodside: other
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2021 at 5:04 am

So saddened Ann’s Coffee Shop will close. For decades, it has been valued noontime gathering place for local retirees as well as family bkfst/lunch spot for parents & kids.
Menlo Park is losing many long time small businesses: Ann’s, Guild Theater, Village Stationers, The Pet Place, possibly Feldman’s Books. Whether because of pandemic or downtown redevelopment or simple inevitability of change, they will be missed. They were not just businesses; they were touchstones for the community. The midnight showing of Rocky Horror. A place to bring your new pup for “meet & greet”. Personalized holiday cards. An out-of-print book. That perfect piece of rhubarb pie.
A sincere thank you & best wishes to the owners & staff of these businesses. You made Menlo Park a better place.


pearl
Registered user
another community
on Apr 8, 2021 at 6:22 am
pearl, another community
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2021 at 6:22 am

Maureen:

I agree with you - so sad to see all those businesses gone. I suppose Pink's Pastry is gone, too? I was born and raised in Menlo Park; lived there for 50 years (1941-1991).

pearl


pearl
Registered user
another community
on Apr 8, 2021 at 6:28 am
pearl, another community
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2021 at 6:28 am

Ted Gruner -

I am a class of '59 M-A graduate, as well. I emailed this news article to Pat Parsons, and called her attention to your comment, :)

pearl (aka Laurel G.)


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Apr 8, 2021 at 9:58 am
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2021 at 9:58 am

There are SO many empty storefronts along Santa Cruz. Ann's will be another one.

This pandemic has caused so much hardship and financial loss to so many.


Alan
Registered user
Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 8, 2021 at 1:17 pm
Alan, Menlo Park: Belle Haven
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2021 at 1:17 pm

@Neighbor - according to the article, the landlord did not collect rent when the restaurant had to close, and charged reduced rent when they couldn't operate at full capacity. Although there was financial hardship, the new owner did not let them continue to operate; that prompted the closing.


gina
Registered user
Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Apr 9, 2021 at 8:37 pm
gina, Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
Registered user
on Apr 9, 2021 at 8:37 pm

I lamented in the loss of all the great mom and pop business's that have gone under for one reason or another. To many great restaurants on Santa Cruz avenue have gone under. Besides Anne's coffee shop there was Sams Restaurant on the corner of Santa Cruz Avenue and El Camino. It closed down one year and was replaced by another restaurant called Michaels. Both great places to eat at. Then their was Kens Family restaurant run by Ken Cunningham and after 40 years of running the place he decided to retire. he has long since passed away. Several restaurants tried their luck on the same site but failed. Just sad to see all these great places closing. As to who ever commented on the Pink Pastry shop that close down a very long time ago. But I was shocked because until I read all these posts I had know idea the Pet Place had closed down until now. It was mainstay for pet owners to go to as the owners were local people who supported downtown Menlo Park. Ran by a Husband and wife team. Fleagles home furnishing is still around they decided to downsize and moved to some small building in menlo park on El Camino. I have lived in menlo park 48 years now and it saddens me that one by one all the stores the locals frequent are slowly becoming dinosaurs. Pretty soon Downtown Santa Cruz Avenue won't look the same anymore. Or have the same home grown feeling people have come to love about Menlo Park. Anne's Coffee shop closing is just the latest death nell. There aren't too many places left to frequent and will be gone in a short time. all about greed and money. Sad, very sad.


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