Business & Real Estate

Pharmaca departs, diners turn up to a Turn in limbo


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Pharmaca announced it was calling it quits this month with a liquidation sale that emptied shelves.

Pharmaca, the wellness and beauty store at 400 First St., called it quits this month after two years in the new development between Cetrella and Safeway in downtown Los Altos.

A retail-only offshoot of an integrative pharmacy founded in Boulder, Colo., Pharmaca’s opening in 2015 drew curious newcomers, but business petered in the months following. The store’s parent company announced the closing only days before inventory entered a liquidation phase, with 50 percent off everything in the store.

In an unsurprising but ironic turn of events, Pharmaca has been packed since then. The natural beauty care products, eco-friendly household goods, vitamins, snacks and gifts that didn’t move quickly at full price shot off the shelves, to the extent that within a few days, the store had been skeletonized. The morning the closing sale began, shoppers from around the region lined up before opening to fill baskets with marked-down essential oils and face creams – at one point a Town Crier staffer saw a line 19-women deep at the register.

“We had a record day on Saturday – it was like a month’s worth of retail sales,” said Laura Coblentz, Pharmaca’s vice president of marketing.

Coblentz said some aspects of the location didn’t help – confusion about how to get there and where to park – but overall, downtown Los Altos may just not have the scale of foot traffic and population density needed to support the store.

“We gave it our best and invested fairly heavily in marketing in Los Altos and surrounding communities, and we just couldn’t draw enough customers to make the location viable,” she said.

Coblentz added that the store would likely remain open through the end of August if inventory doesn’t sell out entirely before then. Pharmaca continues to operate nine other Bay Area locations, the nearest in Menlo Park and Los Gatos, as well as an online store at pharmaca.com. Los Altos shoppers might find a familiar face at one of the other locations if Los Altos’ wellness gurus stay within the company.

“We had a wonderful staff who worked tirelessly to make the store a success,” Coblentz said. “We hope to find homes for all of them in our (other) stores.”

Diners miss their turn at darkened Turn

Turn Bar & Grill at 295 Main St. closed in mid-July for what was at first labeled a summer vacation but extended into an undefined closure. Patrons keep turning up on the restaurant’s darkened doorstep due to an ongoing reservation system that books diners without any notification of the closure.

Longtime Los Altos resident Brian Korek made a reservation with his girlfriend and found himself standing outside the empty restaurant with another family.

“We heard that another family had booked a birthday party there – it seemed like (the proprietors) just got up in the middle of the night and left without telling anybody,” Korek said. “People should stop making reservations, because the online reservation system doesn’t say anything about that.”

Diners on online restaurant booking and review sites recounted dinner and party reservations throughout the latter half of July and August that culminated in frustrated diners milling around outside a closed restaurant. Open Table was receiving bookings for Turn as of Monday, despite a string of outraged comments from disappointed diners.

The restaurant’s voicemail still offered to take reservations as of press deadline but did not have a functioning way to leave a message. A sign appeared on the door late last week saying the restaurant was closed for a “new renovation and exciting changes” and would reopen “early this fall.”

The restaurant changed hands in November when Robin Berard assumed ownership from Jim and Julie Otis, who said they opened the “farm-to-fork” restaurant to realize a “longtime dream.”

Berard could not be reached for comment before the Town Crier’s press deadline.

Korek and his girlfriend ended up walking around the block to Pompeii for dinner. He said they’re also excited for two restaurants new to the Los Altos area: Asa and Mizu.

Restaurants now open and nearly there

Asa, the restaurant at 242 State St., appears poised to open.

The establishment is hiring, and the interior boasts tables and chairs but, most of the time, no sign yet of people.

Founder Andrew Welch proved his bona fides at Saratoga’s The Basin. Korek made it his go-to spot before concerts at the Mountain Winery, but soon he won’t need to travel far for Welch’s “small artisan expansion” in Los Altos, which promises Spanish/Italian-influenced fare.

Local diners who don’t want to wait to try something new can turn to Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill, a sushi specialist that serves Japanese and Korean food.

Mizu opened in Mountain View’s The Village at San Antonio Center in the space previously occupied by Cocina Central, which closed late last year. Mizu’s owners opened a San Jose location in 2008.

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