Slice o' victory: winning pie and International Pizza Expo help new restaurant State of Mind rise

Photos Courtesy of Amy Betz
State of Mind co-owner Amy Betz, above, holds her finished masterpiece, El Puerco Fantastico, at this year’s International Pizza Expo. El Puerco Fantastico, inset, is an apple-cider-braised pork belly pizza with pork sauce, jalapeños, pickled apples, kabocha squash, honey vinaigrette and mozarella and San Joaquin Gold cheeses. Owner Lars Smith said the pork pizza will most likely be featured on State of Mind’s menu in the next few weeks.

Foie gras and pickled cherries on a pizza may not sound like the average toppings at your favorite pizzeria, but they’re not supposed to.

The seemingly unique toppings are what helped Lars Smith, owner of Los Altos’ State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria, earn a world pizza championship title last year.

Toilet impresario has gleaned tales from the tank

This Old Toilet
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos resident Gary Tjader, above, matches vintage toilet tanks with homeowners in need of a fix through his business, This Old Toilet.

Los Altos resident Gary Tjader has presided over a nationwide empire of obscure toilet parts, but you’ll only know of him if the worst has happened: that cracking shatter of porcelain hitting tile as a bathroom fixture meets its end.

His home base in Loyola Corners, a 1940s home converted into office space by a previous occupant, houses row upon row of tank lids organized by brand, model and color in a rainbow backyard array. Take a tour of the Kohlers, American Standards and Eljers and you’ll see the iconic Ming green of the 1960s blend into the spruce green and sunflower of the 1970s. His oldest lid dates back to 1915.

Spring flowers spring up in a north Los Altos garage

As Los Altos hovers between winter and spring – with cool weather and rains to make it obvious – flower-market wares also hover between seasons.

Those early spring blossoms are in evidence if you wander by the garage of Los Altos resident Eryn Johnson, whose floral business Flowers by Eryn has just begun to bloom over the last year. She heads to San Francisco’s venerable SF Flower Mart at 6 a.m. once a week to browse the ever-varying selection of wholesale flowers. By the time the market opens to the public at 10 a.m., some vendors have finished for the day.

Human element sets the 'Standard' on 1st St.

Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier 
Standard Liquor owner Ramana Srirama chats with Paul Swanson.

The store known as Standard Liquor at 303 First St., across from Draeger’s Market, crams its tiny square footage with all the hallmarks of a bodega, corner store or mini mart. There are snacks, cold drinks, simple toiletries and the promise of little-to-no wait at the checkout counter – one of the definitional aspects of a convenience store.

Ramana Srirama anchors the shop seven days a week, first from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then, after a three-hour break when a co-worker takes the till, he’s back until 8 p.m., at which point his wife and son take over the final shift to 11 p.m. Srirama’s son, Druthi, is studying history at De Anza College by day and helping the family enterprise by night.

Los Altos Vault & Safe Deposit to close pending no new lease agreement with LACI

Megan V. Winslow / Los Altos Town Crier
Los Altos Vault & Safe Deposit Co. assistant manager Phil Van Poetsch, left, with manager Chris Lampe, run Los Altos’ “Fort Knox."

When the First Street Green project was pulled last October, employees of Los Altos Vault & Safe Deposit Co. thought they were getting a second chance. But with the landlord offering a six-month and then month-to-month lease, the Vault plans to close its doors permanently June 1.

Los Altos siblings sell first startup

Los Altos siblings Riley and Stephen Soward are proof that you’re never too young to start – or sell – your first company.

A few weeks ago, the brothers, ages 22 and 23, respectively, sold their marketing research firm, Campus Insights, to Harvard Student Agencies, Harvard University’s student-run company.

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