Dream team buys Palo Alto's My Gym site, fulfills long-awaited business ambition

My Gym
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Juakila “Kiki” McConnell, left, and Los Altos resident Helen Vallaeys are the new owners of the My Gym franchise in Palo Alto in the Midtown Shopping Center on Middlefield Road. They acquired the business last month upon former owner Bob Yanofsky’s retirement.

It’s My Gym and it’s your gym, but now it’s also Helen’s gym and Kiki’s gym.

Los Altos mom Helen Vallaeys and her friend and longtime activities instructor Juakila “Kiki” McConnell are now the owners of the My Gym in the Midtown Shopping Center in Palo Alto after realizing their dream of keeping the children’s play center a growing space for families.

Goat your back: LAH yoga classes boast practice with a 'baaa-mazing' twist

Goat yoga
Eric Davidove/Town Crier
A student practices her balance as a Nigerian dwarf goat climbs on her back during the “downward dog” pose, below.

The phenomenon of goat yoga has arrived in Los Altos Hills.

Shanti Farm owner Pam Carlton’s first class of goat yoga – which involved Nigerian dwarf goats running around or standing on participants as they practiced the mind and body exercises – was held last week on her 1-acre homestead.

Tough as nails: New Los Altos salon owner triumphs over hardship

Gig Nguyen
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The dream of Gigi Nguyen came true when clients encouraged her to open her own salon, The Nail Bar, in Loyola Corners.

Updated: April 10, 2 p.m.

After decades of hustling to make a living to support everyone’s needs but her own, Gigi Nguyen has settled in at what she calls her “baby,” The Nail Bar on Fremont Avenue in Los Altos’ Loyola Corners. 

Nguyen signed the lease for her first salon – which offers nail services, facials and waxing – last June after working as a nail technician downtown for 15 years. With support from her clients and fellow technicians Tanya Le, Susan Truong and T-Mai Nguyen, women whom she considers her sisters, she was convinced by her client and startup investor Jocelyn Goldfein that this was her opportunity to do something for herself.

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.

Mountain View High grads launch popular Genies avatar app


Courtesy of Akash Nigam
Akash Nigam launched an app he created, Blend, while a student at the University of Michigan years ago. Blend evolved into the avatar-customizing Genies, which has propelled the Los Altos native, pictured recently, and co-founder Evan Rosenbaum onto the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Consumer Technology.

On any given day, mobile app Genies CEO and co-founder Akash Nigam could be meeting with a famous pro athlete or social media influencer hoping to have his or her face transformed into a virtual avatar powered by artificial intelligence.

“The cool thing about this company is that a lot of these influencers or celebrities reached out to us themselves,” the Los Altos native said. “We were contacted by a number of people that range from (NBA player) Russell Westbrook to (musician) Shawn Mendes. When they learn more about the company, they end up investing. A lot of them have now become friends with (Genies), and a lot of them are just fans.”

In breath and silence: Yoga is Youthfulness studio offers sense of peace, lightness


Andrew Yee/Special to the Town Crier
Mojdeh, instructor at Yoga is Youthfulness in Mountain View, leads her class through a yoga practice Feb. 17.

After two decades in the same spot, Yoga is Youthfulness is relocating, but the impending move shouldn’t disrupt the Mountain View studio’s routine or deter its passionate regulars.

YiY is moving from 590 Castro St. to 1954 Old Middlefield Way in April. Longtime instructors such as Mojdeh, a practitioner of healing arts since 1975, have developed a faithful following.


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