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Cafe chain moving into vacated Bargain Box space in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Jul 21, 2014
South Bay bakery/café chain Le Boulanger has snagged the California Avenue spaces vacated by two longtime tenants, 58-year-old thrift store Bargain Box and Avenue Florist, according to planning documents submitted to the city.

Le Boulanger Senior Vice President Jeff Brunello has applied for a conditional use permit to sell beer and wine at 341 California Ave., as well as a request for staff-level architectural review for various upgrades. The vacant building ? which includes 341 California, formerly occupied by Bargain Box, and 347 California, vacated by Avenue Florist on June 30 ? allows for what seems to be a more ambitious Le Boulanger concept.

Plans include replacing exterior windows, painting the exterior of the building and the existing awning/overhangs, installing planters along California Avenue to create a "green screen to soften the sidewalk experience in the walk way between buildings" and installing an energy-efficient roof, among others. Inside, plan drawings show bar seating that faces out onto California, a pizza oven that sits behind a 10-seat bar, a large dining room and an outdoor patio with seating and an "indoor/outdoor" fireplace.

Above: A drawing of the proposed remodel for 341-347 California Ave. Courtesy City of Palo Alto.

Brunello did not return requests for comment. The project's architect is Berkeley-based Kahn Design Associates, according to the planning application.

Family-owned Le Boulanger operates 17 cafes throughout the Peninsula and South Bay, including in Mountain View, Menlo Park, Redwood City and Los Altos. View a menu here.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by resident, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 21, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Le Boulanger = white bread sandwiches. Vastly inferior to the similarly named La Boulange chain.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Why on earth do we need yet another cafe/bakery on California Street? And one that is inferior to both the existing bakery and the several other coffee houses already extant on it?
We need places to SHOP, not an endless row of eateries! Bargain Box was excellent, so was the flower shop - both gone - and who knows what the next shop to go will be! Maybe the stationery, the camera/photography, the art store, the cobbler's, or the one and only boutique? For goodness' sake, when will this nonsense cease, and Palo Alto return to its previous, useful, shopper-friendly self?

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Parent, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm

We would love to see a bicycle shop on California Ave. Why are most of the city's bike shops on streets that are dangerous for bicyclists (like El Camino)?

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jay Park, a resident of Jackson Park,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 10:21 am


I believe the main reasons are real estate prices and availability of suitably sized property.

Bikes take up a lot of floor space, even when they are stacked high in two-level display racks. Unlike t-shirts, one can't just squish bikes together or one risks damaging the finish of some very expensive products.

Bikes are often shipped to the store in large cardboard boxes, again bulky items that require a significant amount of space. What does a bike shop owner do? Devote retail floor space to storage of extra inventory?

Lastly is the issue of the bike repair workshop. Again, this takes a considerable amount of area. The repair stands have to been placed far enough apart for the technicians to be able to work on the bikes. The repair shop area is not a suitable display area for retail products.

Personally, I'm not sold on the convenience of a downtown bike shop, but admittedly my bike is for occasional pleasure rides, not commuting.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by frank, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Don't see the reason for the all the heartache over Le Boulanger, which is a local, family-owned company. They make good sandwiches and sell pretty good pastries too. The Le Boulanger in Menlo Park is always busy. I totally disagree that they are inferior to the Starbucks-owned Le Boulange on University.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Idea is to create space for alternative uses. When I lived in London, trains were elevated with ground floor lock ups under the tracks. Space wasn't that expensive compared then leasing space on the High (main) Street.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by PAmoderate, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 5:12 pm

PAmoderate is a registered user.

"They make good sandwiches and sell pretty good pastries too."

Hope they maintain it better than the San Mateo outlet. Place is looking mighty sad.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Steve in Menlo, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Jul 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm

"Le Boulanger = white bread sandwiches. Vastly inferior to the similarly named La Boulange chain."

You're out of your mind if you think La Boulange is better! Le Boulanger has something like 10 different kinds of bread, all of which are baked fresh. I'm not certain anything is fresh at La Boulange, since *$ took them over. All you have to do is ask for a different bread. Far better IMO.

Also, Peet's Coffee is better, which is a bonus at Le Boulanger.

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