Business & Real Estate

Raising strong (business)women: How the Janes girls carried Cooks Junction through retail upheaval and back again


Courtesy of Katya Janes
Cooks Junction owner Linda Janes, center, and daughters Katya and Ilona are scheduled to host open houses at the Main Street shop Friday and Saturday to commemorate 35 years in business. “As her daughters ... we are proud of her small business first and foremost because it exists,” Katya said of her mother. “It exists because she did something incredibly brave; she chose to follow an idea, a dream, and got it on her own.”

Linda Janes, a woman once described in the Town Crier as a “prominent downtown Los Altos merchant,” and her daughters are spending this week celebrating 35 years in the cookware sales business. They invite local residents to come “toast and party” at their shop, Cooks Junction, noon to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Cooks Junction, located at 261 Main St., stocks approximately 5,000 kitchen items, ranging from classic silver pots and pans from Cuisinart to colorful fruit palm peelers from Chef’n. The store still sells the same food processor (albeit a different model) listed in its grand opening ad from 1984. Although Cooks Junction closed for two months in 2001 to undergo renovation, Janes’ business has survived multiple rounds of retail rotation in downtown Los Altos. She was not totally left unshaken, however, as she had to close her fine-china store, Janus, in 2009.

The experience of shopping at Cooks Junction, even in the wake of the online shopping boom, has kept the store afloat.

“The biggest thing is she listens to her customers, you know what I mean?” the youngest Janes, Katya, said about her mother and the way she runs her business. “I think that’s a huge thing just in retail. It’s not about what she necessarily wants, but it’s about what the customers want. When they come in and (request) something, she really takes it to heart and says, ‘Let me look into this.’”

The next generation

Katya, now Janes’ assistant store manager, reached out to the Town Crier as a way to honor the woman who adopted her and older sister, Ilona, from Russia at ages 4 and 5.

In a Town Crier article published in 1997, the then 52-year-old Janes discussed getting her newly adopted daughters settled in their Cupertino home and her initial hesitation to pursue adoption as a middle-aged, single woman with a full-time business. She mentioned always wanting children, “a houseful in fact, but it didn’t work out that way.”

After 10 years of considering adoption, Janes welcomed Katya and Ilona into her heart and home. Janes herself had once sought refuge – she was born in Yugoslavia and forced to flee the country with her mother, Emma Janes, brother and sister and settle in Austria during World War II. Janes’ father died during the war, giving her personal experience in growing up in a single-parent home. Janes went through Rainbow House, an overseas adoption agency, which sent her a video of the girls in 1996.

“The minute I saw that video, I knew they were my girls,” Janes said.

After studying criminal justice, changing her path and returning to school to study business, Katya now knows at age 26 that she shares her mother’s vision. She plans to take over the business from Janes, who is already semi-retired, and at some point in the future, adopt a child or two herself.

“She did this as a single mom. … I don’t know how she did it,” Katya said of her mother. “There’s a lot on me, but I think I can do this.”

It’s a learning process. Katya continues to absorb her mother’s business processes and philosophy. Beyond that, the mother-daughter pair are indebted to their loyal customers, who have visited Cooks Junction once or twice a week for years.

“It’s important for the community to know that we appreciate them, that we couldn’t be here today without them,” Katya said. “It’s so important to support local business.”

Cooks Junction is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays. For more information visit cooks-junction.com.

Schools »

Schools
Read More

Sports »

sports
Read More

People »

people
Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

photoshelter
Browse and buy photos