About Greg Wilson

A software engineer/Mobile app development evangelist/Technical writer who enjoys books, Disneyland, and the slow pace and backyard vistas you only get when traveling by train.

What’s Up With Main Street?

Before I launch into this week’s subject, I thought I’d mention that the long-awaited (by me, if not by anyone else!) opening of Mademoiselle Colette, our newest Parisian-inspired pastry shop, is imminent. Their website proudly boasts “Redwood City location coming in September!” which they clearly just missed, but I went by today and noted that the shelves were being stocked. Thus, it may be open as soon as tomorrow, October 5. Mademoiselle Colette, in case you don’t know, is moving into the space formerly occupied by Pamplemousse, at the corner of Broadway and Winslow Street. Redwood City will be the third Mademoiselle Colette pastry shop; the other two are in Menlo Park (on Santa Cruz Avenue) and in Palo Alto (on Lytton Avenue). Do keep an eye on their space and be sure to drop by and welcome them to Redwood City once they do open.

Also, while I was out walking this week I was interested to note that the restaurant space formerly occupied by Fortune Restaurant is finally getting a new tenant:

In case you can’t read the writing on the windows, Zareen’s Pakistani-Indian Kitchen aims to move into this space, which is directly across from LV Mar. Zareen’s currently has locations in both Mountain View and Palo Alto (on California Avenue); this apparently will be their third location. From poking around on their website, I have to say that this place looks like a winner (they’ve apparently been listed in the Michelin Guide for three years running). I just may need to pay a visit to one of their other locations, to get a jump on what should be coming soon to 2039 Broadway in Redwood City.

Recently there seem to have been a disturbing number of small business closures in Redwood City. For instance, Woodside Deli, on Woodside Road, is on the verge of closing. Their lease ended on September 30, and they plan to close sometime this month, whenever all of their existing stock has been sold. According to a Palo Alto Online article by Elena Kadvany, Kyle Vogel, the owner of Woodside Deli, was hit with a proposed 52% rent increase, which was simply too much. Thus, the closure of this long-time, much-loved Redwood City business.

Similarly, The Striped Pig, on Main Street, has also closed because the proprietor was simply “unable to renew their lease.” Their last day was Sunday, September 29, and although it sounds as if they don’t yet have plans to open elsewhere, they haven’t ruled that out. So perhaps The Striped Pig, or something similar, will pop up again either in Redwood City or in one of our neighboring communities.

Continuing the trend, Dhaba Xpress, the (mostly) take-out Indian food restaurant on Broadway near Marshall Street, also closed on September 30, after an 18-month run. Owner Nazreen Mohd Ayub noted that she’s hoping to reopen in a new location, but probably not on the peninsula. Although she declined to state the reason for the closure, the fact that when I went by two days later, on October 2, the interior had been completely cleared out and was seeming being made ready for a new venture, plus the fact that there already was a liquor license application notice posted in the window for that new venture, indicates that the new restaurant slated for this location may have been willing to pay a higher rent, and thus rent may well have been a factor in the closing of Dhaba Xpress.

Regardless of the reason for Dhaba Xpress’s closure, I’ll look to the future and keep and eye out for what’s coming next. I did check up on that liquor license application, and other than the fact that we’ll be getting a restaurant that will also serve beer and wine, I was unable to definitively learn the new venture’s name, or what type of food they will be serving. However, some digging on the Internet revealed that one of the principals of this new restaurant may well be associated with BBQ Factory in Fremont, a place which serves Chinese BBQ. So just perhaps these folks are opening a second BBQ Factory in Redwood City. We’ll see…

Lastly, we come to Ralph’s Vacuum and Sewing Center. Owner Ralph Garcia had previously mentioned to me that he was having problems renewing his lease, and that he would close if he was unable to find an acceptable location elsewhere. Fortunately, he did just that — he found a new location — and so although he will be leaving his Main Street location (next July; he’s still got some time in his current space), Redwood City can continue to rely on Ralph’s for sales and service of vacuum cleaners and sewing machines for years to come. I know that my wife, for one, heaved a big sigh of relief on hearing the news: she has a small Etsy shop that keeps her sewing machines humming, and every once in a great while we have to take those sewing machines (our vacuum cleaner, which we bought at Ralph’s!) in for a tuneup or for some sort of repair. Thus, we depend on Ralph’s, who has always given us great service, to help keep our household functioning.

Clearly, I’m a fan of this long-time Redwood City business, and I’m happy to see that his new location may be, if anything, even more convenient than his old. Ralph’s Vacuum and Sewing Center is moving to Woodside Plaza, off Woodside Road. And when I say “off Woodside Road,” I mean that pretty literally: they’re moving into a space on the Woodside Road side of the building anchored by Lucky supermarket and Pet Food Express, a space that previously was home to Helen’s Cleaners (who themselves relocated to another storefront in Woodside Plaza some time ago). This space:

I believe that the street parking in front of their soon-to-be front door is often available, which is convenient. And if it isn’t, there is of course ample parking in the Woodside Plaza parking lot. So, whew.

What with Ralph’s upcoming relocation from Main Street, the closing of The Striped Pig, the failure of anyone to take over the shuttered Aly’s on Main restaurant, and the seeming lack of construction activity on the former Young’s Auto Parts building at 925 Main Street, I got to wondering: just what the heck is going on over on Main Street? That spurred me to take a walk down Main Street, paying close attention to the eastern side of the two blocks between Broadway and Middlefield Road, where all of this activity is taking place.

Ralph’s relocation frees up his space for someone new, but Ralph has in the past mentioned to me that the space can be a challenging one, with low ceilings and inconveniently place support beams. Having been inside the store on multiple occasions it does appear that it may be tough to refit the space for another business. It’ll be interesting to see who eventually moves into Ralph’s digs in the historic IOOF building.

Next door (well, two doors down) the Alhambra Irish House, which is located in the former Martin’s West restaurant location in the historic Alhambra building, seems to be doing well, if the Yelp reviews are any indication. I’ve been meaning to give this place a try for some time, and just may pay them a visit this weekend. In any case, the transition from Martin’s West to Redwood City’s new Irish Pub seems to have been relatively seamless, which is a very good thing in my book.

Heading the other way, I mentioned the closure of The Striped Pig. That now-empty storefront joins its next-door neighbor, which has been sitting empty for over a year, when Aly’s on Main closed. For a time it looked as if another restaurant, “Mezes,” was going to move into the space at 911 Main Street, but after a year of no visible activity I’ve given up hope for that. At least the restaurant on the other side of The Striped Pig, Ranzan, seems to have survived its first year. Ranzan is a Japanese Kaiseki restaurant that serves full multi-course meals (no à la carte items) for a rather high-end price. I haven’t tried the place myself, but the Yelp reviews sure seem mixed: they have a number of five-star reviews, along with a number of two- and three-star ones. I’ll have to let others pass judgement on this restaurant, I’m afraid.

Next door to Ranzan, on the other side from The Striped Pig, is the historic building that last housed Young’s Auto Parts. An attractive-looking remodel of this building at 925 Main Street was approved a full two years ago, and demolition started shortly thereafter. It came to a screeching halt, however, and the building has sat, mostly unchanged, since then. From this week’s visit, however, it has become clear that work has resumed on this nearly 100-year-old building (it was built in 1922). Here is the building’s front:

The key seems to be that banner affixed to the top of the facade, in the center: it indicates that E.A. Davidovits & Co. has taken over as contractor from the firm that was originally associated with the project: Cody Brock Commercial Builders. That banner has been up for a while, though, and I have seen little sign of activity until now. But by going around to the rear of the building, I was able to see that additional demolition had recently taken place:

That pile of rubble — which is all that remains of a small concrete bump-out that used to be affixed to the rear of the building — plus the bobcat and that corrugated metal construction office are all new since I last paid a visit to the site. Up until recently that bump-out had still been part of the building. So work seems to be going on, albeit somewhat slowly.

For the curious, I also took a shot of the interior through the dusty front windows, looking towards the open rear doorway you can see in the above picture:

Here’s hoping that progress continues to be made; until the building is completely refurbished the owner isn’t going to be able to get a retail tenant or restaurant of some sort into this great historic space.

Back down by Ralph’s Vacuum and Sewing Center — immediately next door, as a matter of fact — work continues on the “remodel” of the historic 851 Main Street building. I put the word “remodel” in quotes because although it technically is one, what is primarily being preserved is the building’s front facade (which will become the ground-floor face of the attractive new four-story mixed-use building that is being constructed on the site). So far, beyond carefully preserving that historic facade, work has concentrated on the digging and construction of the building’s two-level subterranean parking garage. The contractors have made it extremely difficult to get a good view into the project, but I keep trying. The best vantage point seems to be from the rear; this week I managed to get a small glimpse into the pit that will become that garage:

It isn’t the greatest picture, but it does tell me that the work has nearly risen to ground level, at which point progress should be much easier to monitor.

So that’s it for the east side of Main Street, at least between Broadway and Middlefield Road. There are some clear vacancies that desperately need filling, but near the two ends there are two historic buildings being rebuilt that, once complete, should add life to this currently moribund section of Main Street. It appears that Brick Monkey has plans to move into the retail portion of 851 Main Street; if an equally powerful retailer can be coaxed into the rebuilt 925 Main Street (the Young’s Auto Parts building), that would go a long way towards attracting pedestrian traffic along these two blocks, which would then make the intervening spaces, whether they be occupied by retail or by restaurants, that much more visible and popular. We’re likely a couple of years away from seeing these two under-construction buildings completed and occupied; I sincerely hope that the remaining tenants along both sides of Main Street can hang on until then.