Los Altos Farmers’ Market returns, to delight of vendors

Marie Godderis/Town Crier

The Los Altos Farmers’ Market resumed June 25 after being canceled the prior week.

The day before the Los Altos Village Association canceled the June 18 Los Altos Farmers’ Market, Roli Roti was preparing to sell approximately 150 rotisserie chickens at that Thursday’s event. Instead, the veteran Bay Area-based food truck operation had to scramble to find another location, settling on a slot at DeMartini Orchard on San Antonio Road. The driver didn’t have to lose his hours, and the company could salvage some of the sales for the day.

Congregating customers pose problems for businesses

The Post” width=
Town Crier File Photo
A group of car enthusiasts gathered in front of The Post restaurant on Main Street May 3 as they waited for their takeout, prompting some onlookers to question their social-distancing protocols. Another instances of onlookers objecting to social distancing, or lack thereof, occurred downtown over the Memorial Day weekend.

This article was updated on June 4 to correct the caption and text of the story to clarify that the social distancing police calls made downtown over Memorial Day did not involve the same diners who visited the Post on May 3.

Two calls to the Los Altos Police Department over Memorial Day weekend resulted in officers reminding the owners and patrons of the downtown Amandine lounge of the importance of social distancing.

City, agencies host webinars for local small businesses

Red Berry Coffee” width=
Ryan Molinari/Special to the Town Crier
Red Berry Coffee Bar in downtown Los Altos displays a green-checkmark verification poster and a COVID-19 social-distancing protocol form, as required by the county’s health order.

Small businesses in Los Altos continue to adjust to evolving mandates amid the lockdown, and a series of city-sponsored webinars aims to address merchants’ ongoing concerns.

Restaurants cope amid lockdown – with varying degrees of success

Jan Unlu
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Jan Unlu, owner of La Scala on First Street in Los Altos, serves customers at his new “drive-thru” window. Unlu has been working to incentivize customers to choose his restaurant on their essential trips out.

Restaurateurs felt the immediate blow of loss of sales and the pressure to adapt to a new service model in the first few weeks that the coronavirus began to spread in Santa Clara County.

Now, they are experiencing varying levels of financial and emotional support thanks to customers, local leaders and federal aid.

When the county enacted its initial shelter-in-place order March 16, 1 Oz Coffee on Castro Street in Mountain View experienced a 90% sales drop, founder Yulia Kolchanova said. The shop quickly transitioned to online orders for pickup and delivery to stabilize operations, and Kolchanova applied for federal Economic Injury Disaster and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. She has yet to secure the funding, and said the future of her shop rests on how long the lockdown lasts.

“I think we can survive this way another month or two without generating profit,” she said. “This slow money bleeding is to keep our baristas employed and doors open for the community seeking ‘normal routine.’”

Sales at the Sandwich Spot on El Camino Real in Mountain View are down 50%, largely due to reduced foot traffic from surrounding businesses whose employees are now working from home, said the chain’s owners Vinny and Christina Ferrando. The Ferrandos applied for a loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and for other small grants, but so far have not received funding. They are determined to remain in business after the quarantine is over.

Maison Alyzee owner Laurent Pellet fears that some customers don’t even know his Castro Street bakery is open. Pellet applied for a PPP loan the day the portal opened and has yet to hear back.

“We definitely need more support and more customers to survive,” he said.

Adjusting to
the new normal

Sales are so low for La Scala owner Jan Unlu that he created a new to-go menu and installed a drive-thru window at his restaurant on First Street in Los Altos, an incentive for those who are not interested in curbside pickup. Unlu has applied for SBA and PPP funding and does not know the status of either application.

“How are small businesses going to survive with no business, (soon expected to be) paying their rents or mortgages?” he wrote in an email to the Town Crier.

A few restaurants have found their footing amid the new normal.

Sales at Eureka on Castro Street in Mountain View are consistent, according to marketing director Alexia Penna. She said the eatery “really hopes” to stay open after the shelter-in-place restrictions are eased. The restaurant has not been able to secure small-business funding.

Lars Smith, owner of State of Mind Pizzeria and Public House on Plaza North in Los Altos, reported that business remains stable. He said he believes he will stay open over the long run and expects a PPP loan to be coming through soon from the second bank he’s worked with to obtain one.

“We have been brought to tears on multiple occasions during the (shelter-in-place) by the kind words and generosity of our customers,” Smith said. “We have put our hearts and souls into this business, and it is an incredible feeling to be appreciated by so many customers.”

Even though State of Mind is holding its own, Smith and his fellow restaurant owners are calling on local leaders to continue their efforts in securing more funding for the small business community as a whole.

“I hope city leaders have seen the value that small businesses add to the community and how fragile many are,” Smith said. “I hope moving forward that city governments and small businesses can have more amicable relationships and that when opening a small business, we may get more support (from) local leaders than we did before this.”

Many local restaurants are offering discounts and special promotions including family meals, new desserts, gift boxes and meal kits. For more information, visit the linked websites.

For the Town Crier’s lists of open eateries in Los Altos and Mountain View, visit our "Open for Business" box on the homepage at losaltosonline.com.

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Fitness studios, gyms combine creativity with technology to keep students hanging on

 Vera Szepesi
Courtesy of Vera Szepesi
Esprit de Core owner and instructor Vera Szepesi watches her student for form during a Pilates session on Zoom. Szepesi has been offering one-on-one trainings during the lockdown.

Owners of local fitness studios and gyms face a loss of revenue during the pandemic while still expected to pay rent, overhead and maintenance fees.

Vera Szepesi, owner of Esprit de Core Pilates Studio in Los Altos, negotiated with her landlord while her studio is closed to defer April’s rent, but her other operating expenses were simply pushed to May.

“We have applied for (a Small Business Association) loan to help with those costs, but no funds have been distributed yet, so we are really on our own for now,” she said.

But Szepesi’s primary concern remains her clients. In addition to workouts, she and the owners of other fitness studios strive to instill a sense of community during a quarantine expected to last for at least another month.

Szepesi said personalizing fitness means no pre-recorded livestream classes, but she checks in with the 65% of her clients still receiving instruction via text, call or Zoom conference.

“Pilates is a great way for seniors and people recovering from injuries to stay active, and many of our clients are in those categories,” she said. “We believe that keeping classes small and interactive is important, both at the studio and in our virtual classes.”

Jen Donat of Transform Fitness in Mountain View said she tries to keep her clients engaged through impromptu services such as Zoom “Whine Wednesday” happy hours. She hosts games of quarantine bingo that feature fitness challenges to give people a sense of purpose while sheltering in place and encouraging activities like posting “quaran-scene” photos – shots that are real and messy, not posed to look one’s best.
Each Transform Fitness instructor has his or her own method for checking in with clients, such as posing a question of the day.

“I find our instructors and members are all feeling stress in a different way,” Donat said. “We are not in the same boat at all. Our experiences and how we choose to deal with them are all very different and very personal. … Instructors are here to lift us up and remind everyone to be kind to themselves.”

Keeping spirits up

Reena Vokoun, owner of Passion Fit in Los Altos and a Town Crier columnist, offers free Instagram and Facebook live classes for those worried about their finances and need stress-relieving strategies. In an Instagram Live session last week, Vokoun discussed feeling burned out during quarantine and offered tips for how to work through it in one’s personal and professional lives.

“This is a tough time for everyone, but you’re not alone and we’ll all get through it and come out stronger together,” Vokoun told followers on her social media.

F.I.T. owners Thom and Tracey Downing have created an entirely new website – Focused At Home – for customers during the lockdown that includes free online kids PE classes, guided meditations for anxiety, resources with new workouts, activities and ideas for uplifting tasks to do.

“Amidst everything going on, we want to ensure you have what you need to stay healthy and sane,” F.I.T.’s website reads.

The Downings are also holding virtual office hours, including a “hump day happy hour.”

Several other local studios are offering online classes, including Alkalign Studios, Barre3 and Yoga of Los Altos. Alkalign is conducting a four-week parenting program during the outbreak, and Barre3 is offering journal prompts so that students can maintain their mental as well as physical well-being.

Momentum Cycling in Los Altos remains closed.

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