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Facing closure, downtown Mountain View's Red Rock Coffee asks for community support

Original post made on Jul 20, 2020

Mountain View's Red Rock Coffee has been a lot of things to a lot of people, but the downtown institution is in financial trouble. Now it's asking the community for a help surviving after crushing losses due to COVID-19.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, July 20, 2020, 1:41 PM

Comments (26)

Posted by Bruce England
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:36 pm

This is another sign of what we're almost certainly going to face once the pandemic is over (whenever that will be is anyone's guess). That is, a city with far fewer services and places to gather available. Mountain View has already been suffering from this due to the high cost of running businesses and retaining employees here. And now a bad situation is becoming far worse. While it's not easy to fully fix problems like this where we're right in the middle of the crisis, it should be a matter of great concern.

Posted by PaulC
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 20, 2020 at 2:44 pm

I'm confused. I was going to Red Rock when I moved here over 20 years ago. How can it be 15 years old? Is that a mistake, or did it change owners?

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 3:05 pm

PaulC, I have a similar recollection and I think you hit on something with your question.

What you hit on is how much less grounded people's sense of history can be, outside of personal experience. From the article, "Boulanger said. . .staff at Red Rock have been like a family since she started working there 12 years ago." And Kevin Forestieri -- though a senior Embarcadero writer -- may not go back much farther. So the article's statement "Red Rock Coffee began about 15 years ago" looks like someone's offhand guess, not real research. I remember Red Rock 15 years ago, and it was a well-established place already, with some already longtime employees. That is, if MY memory serves.

Posted by Here 33 years
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 20, 2020 at 3:33 pm

@ PaulC

"I was going to Red Rock when I moved here over 20 years ago. How can it be 15 years old? Is that a mistake, or did it change owners?"

The Red Rock Coffee building has been around since the early 1900's and was a bank among other things.

A church group bought the Red Rock Coffee house from the prior owner in 2005 and turned it into a non-profit and opened the upper floor to customers. Prior to 2005, the upper floor was being used by the church group. So, it's been a non-profit for 15 years.

But, yes, it was operating on the ground floor only as the Red Rock Coffee house, as best I can recall, even before we moved here in 1998.

The place I seriously miss is the old St. James Infirmary.
That got burned-down.

Posted by Proud Taxpayer
a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 20, 2020 at 3:53 pm

I'm surprised and disappointed that the rent payments and landlord were not mentioned in this article. Yet there was blame tossed at Mountain View's minimum wage. It would be interesting to hear how much Red Rock's rent has increased in past 10-15 years and that compares to how much minimum wage in Mountain View has changed. From talking to various business owners on and around Castro rents are outrageous and landlords are not being flexible. It feels like the landlords would rather have an their building be empty for months than reduce the rent during this time of pandemic.

Posted by Rebecca
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Red Rock Coffee was started back in the early to mid 90s, and a former manager from the Menlo Park Peet's was one of the founders. Their focus was on locally roasted and expertly prepared coffee and espresso drinks. I lived in Palo Alto at the time, but a trip to Red Rock was always worth it for coffee talk as well as excellent coffee. There was also a tiny Taiwanese tea house behind where Doppio Zero is now, which was my (and I'm sure many others') first exposure to Pearl Milk Tea, with "pearl-look tapioca".

Posted by Old Mtn View
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:06 pm

Didn’t they exist here in the 90s?

I like this place and have been here a few times since the pandemic.

That said, it’s like $6 for a medium latte for long before this crisis and if you can’t be making huge amount of cash and have deep pockets from that I think the business is flawed. It’s crazy expensive but I still supported them but asking for donations is too much.

Posted by Red Rock Freeloaders it's PAYBACK TIME
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:06 pm

Techie Freeloaders have used Red Rock as their personal workspace and conference room for years. Each table on first floor would have one occupant, huddled over their laptop for hours, upstairs, business meetings. No consideration at all for other customers. The tech crowd, for the most part, is weathering this COVID storm on full pay, it's PAYBACK TIME, if every person who used Red Rock as their personal work space (at no charge) donated $100+ they would be flush with cash.

Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 4:58 pm

I don't even drink coffee, but if it's from Red Rock I'm willing to make an exception.

That said, if this place closes we should all be prepared for what it will inevitably turn into; another empty storefront on Castro. St.

Posted by It's Your Fault
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Interesting. With the Dems in control for 30 yrs, you might want to think that things like excessive rents would have been fixed by now. Instead, Castro will soon look like the many other boarded-up failed inner cities where they have been in charge since forever.

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 6:02 pm

So sad that our multi-trillion dollar Federal bailout that was paid for by our tax dollars wasn't used to help small businesses like this. Does anyone know what happened to that money?

Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 6:48 pm

Truly frightening.

So much money and time wasted regarding COVID.

The Pandemic Plan called for a FREEZE of all money (stocks and banks) and to provide free home, utilities, information, food, and other resources while requiring a COMPLETE Shelter In Place and Social Distancing Protocols to be strictly enforced. People were REQUIRED to stay at home and not travel into other areas via road blockage and having the military control passage between counties.

This was demonstrated in the movie Contagion, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was one of the Doctors that consulted in the film.

And now he is watching us completely botch the process. This is going to completely devastate our economy. The FREEZE would have preserved it. Because stocks would not have lost value, banks would not be forced to endure loss due to no payment of loans. Housing providers would not lose money because they have no costs as long as the disease is being researched and eventually treated.

Our failure to deal with this correctly is going to destroy so much we built.

All because the RULING class couldn't and refused to act the right way when it came to the REAL thing a REAL pandemic.

Posted by GoFoolMe
a resident of Slater
on Jul 20, 2020 at 8:22 pm

Really! Coffee and related items can be sold out the door. There is even seating outside. How much did this business already consume in federal (taxpayer) assistance?

Posted by Downtown Abbey
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 20, 2020 at 9:41 pm

Forget its church ownership, that it's allowed freeloaders to squat at tables and whether it got federal bailout money. As downtown businesses go, Red Rock has a certain personality, a vibe, an atmosphere that few others can claim. And unless you want an empty ground floor -- or possibly worse, some generic chain business -- at that spot, go there tomorrow and buy a coffee and pastry, and/or donate to the GoFundMe campaign. *Invest* in our downtown!

Posted by GoFoolMe
a resident of Slater
on Jul 20, 2020 at 10:00 pm

The article is a bit confusing. Who owns Red Rock? Who will get money donated? Who owns the space? What is the status of lease payments? Would money donated be used to close or to keep this place open? How would the business change to address the current rules of operation? Why not just take your money, convert to small bills, and throw the money out of your vehicle as you drive down El Camino. Maybe someone who gets the money will do something useful with it. Maybe not.

Posted by JimBerkman
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2020 at 11:58 pm

I'm saddened by all the negative comments here from people that don't know the facts about Red Rock. First, as the article mentions, Red Rock existed as a coffee shop prior to 15 years ago, however it was purchased at that time by the Highway Community. The previous management was using marginal quality coffee beans from Costco, and the space was limited to just the first floor (and was in pretty dubious condition). Under new management, they spent significant money to upgrade the space; replace failing equipment; expand into and built-out the second floor, which drives a lot of their business, from people working, doing school work, and the many evening events; and began using ethically sourced and artisanally roasted coffee beans. Additionally, Red Rock as a non-profit, was employing almost 30 people, and had been donating 10% of profits back to the community each month. If you ever found joy or delight in a perfectly crafted latte, or used the space to get work done, I hope you will consider supporting them.

Posted by GoFoolMe
a resident of Slater
on Jul 21, 2020 at 12:27 am

I see online at the CA Secretary of State's Office that "Highway Community" is a so-called "non-profit" religious corporation. "Non-profit" means no money left over for investors. Tell us about what you do with money. Publish your budget. If you want people to donate to your religious group, explain what it advocates. Does your group support any social agenda - or just money for its leaders and other employees?

Posted by Haya Rubin
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 21, 2020 at 5:49 pm

I am interested in community spaces, but like other commenters it would be nice to see Red Rock Cafe post more about their expenses if we are going to support them. If WhatsApp got started here, perhaps its founder who sold it to Facebook could afford the whole 300K.

The landlord for the building should definitely be asked to chip in. Our federal government didn't seem to care about asking landlords to give up anything during this crisis; those not evicted are required to pay back every penny. We don't need to donate to landlords, which is what we would be doing if they haven't helped out yet.

I will probably go buy something there but don't know what since I really don't like their decaf coffee. Watery and tasteless Americano. tried 3 times, always the same. Almost anywhere else on the street is better for coffee. But the community space is a wonderful thing and I would like to see that survive.

Posted by Ron
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Jul 22, 2020 at 9:24 am

Dear Red Rock owners,

Thank you for reaching out and giving us the opportunity to support you guys, you are clearly an important business in our local community. I just donated on line, I hope things work out so that you are able to continue!

Posted by kehlar
a resident of another community
on Jul 22, 2020 at 11:02 am

I didn't go to Red Rock often because it's always so crowded and I hate waiting in lines. But each time I was there the vibe was great and I really appreciated them providing a welcoming space for the community. My son performed in one of their Open Mic nights which was a wonderful experience. I don't care who owns the shop, it's clearly a beloved space for many and I'm happy to contribute. It would be a loss to the community if it's forced to close doors permanently.

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 22, 2020 at 11:33 am

Asking for 300k without sharing any financial info is a little weird. I guess it's permitted on "GoFundMe" campaigns, but such disclosure is routine (or legally mandated) in other kinds of fundraising. It would show respect for the donors to tell them where that $300,000 figure came from, therefore what the earnest contributions are going to.

"If we don't reach our goals" [i.e. in the likely scenario], "the funds will be applied to Red Rock's current obligations." What are those obligations? Who gets that money? Are past mistakes being bailed out? In the Latin phrase, "cui bono?"

ALL downtown MV businesses are hurting, some have shut already. They could all use help and support, and some (Ava's Market comes to mind) probably benefit far more people in the local community than this one coffee house (though I personally like its coffee). That is the larger story here.

Posted by Heinz
a resident of Castro City
on Jul 23, 2020 at 11:14 am

Landlords need to give these guys a break- you can't charge 100% rent knowing that the business you are renting to makes 20% of the money they used to make in a month... some landlords are strapped with a big mortgage themselves while others own the building already and benefit from Prop 13 tax rates from when they bought... in effect, they are paying taxes like in the 1980's while charging restaurants and coffee shops rents like 2020 before the pandemic. These owners- especially those who own the buildings outfight- need to self regulate, realize the benefits to the community in keeping these places alive and give the small business owners a break until the pandemic lifts and things get back to normal...

Posted by GoFoolMe
a resident of Slater
on Jul 23, 2020 at 11:39 am

We don't know if the religious corporation that runs Red Rock has even been paying rent in recent months. Commercial evictions are not allowed. The leaders of this religious corporation just want your MONEY. We get it.

Posted by SmallCoffeeShoppes
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2020 at 8:07 am

Rebecca, that small business behind the alleyway was Lucy's Tea House that closed June 26, 2005. Lucy hand-crafted the most interesting, bold, calm Taiwanese-inspired teas. Her sitting area was equally inventive and artistic - a great place to withdraw if for just a few moments.

Posted by Samson
a resident of another community
on Jul 28, 2020 at 4:17 pm

It would be sad if it does go out of business. It's been there since the 90's. It helps out local organizations. Guess someone should create a GoFundMe page.

Posted by GoFoolMe
a resident of Slater
on Jul 29, 2020 at 9:38 am

[Post removed due to being off-topic]

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