Mountain View Voice

News - February 24, 2012

New grocer seeks city's help

by Daniel DeBolt

Anne Origel, co-owner of Ava's Downtown Market and Deli, asked the City Council on Tuesday for some financial help as the market struggles to undergo a transformation into a neighborhood grocery store.

Council members appeared receptive to the request, having considered up to a $2 million subsidy to lure a grocery store downtown in the past. That was before Anne and Juan Origel said they would create a market with broad appeal when they purchased the once-popular Asian food market almost five months ago. But finances have been more of an issue than previously thought,

On Yelp, the new store gets rave reviews for its growing selection of organic produce, wines, meats, house-made sausages and even Mountain View-baked Acme Bread, previously only available downtown at the Sunday farmer's market. But while the business has grown, there are major hurdles keeping the store from making money. After drawing up new plans for the store, the couple was given quotes of around $300,000 for new refrigeration, and Anne says the store needs a new deli to keep the business alive by bringing in new lunchtime traffic.

The couple say they also did not expect the state-ordered dissolution of the downtown Revitalization Authority, which was potentially a source of as much as $100,000 for a new facade for the store and more.

Several downtown residents familiar with the situation spoke in support of the Origels, who mortgaged their house to buy the market and renamed it after their newborn daughter Ava.

Downtown resident Max Hauser said the market has received a number of positive testimonials on the neighborhood's email-list, and suggested that the city dig into its coffers to help the market.

"Our community really wants them to succeed," said Robert Cox, vice chair of the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association. Cox praised the Origels as "quintessential small business owners" whose business is "going through growing pains."

"We are asking the council to be a partners in the effort," he said.

City Manager Daniel Rich said city staff members have been meeting with the Origels on a fairly regular basis. "The challenge is that there is no Revitalization Authority and no identifiable pot of money for assistance," Rich said.

Council members were interested in exploring the city's options, and Mayor Mike Kasperzak asked that city staff continue to work with the Origels, "to see if there is anything we can do to help them."

"Hopefully we can work together to make this dream for a walkable downtown market come alive," Cox said.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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