<![CDATA[Sunnyvale Downtown - Blog]]>Sun, 10 Dec 2017 22:00:40 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[North Bay fires bring out best in people, State Farm agent McDonald says]]>Thu, 09 Nov 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/north-bay-fires-bring-out-best-in-people-state-farm-agent-mcdonald-says
In the movies, insurance agents are often portrayed as, let’s say, less than cool. Think of cringe-inducing character Ned Ryerson in “Groundhog Day,” constantly pestering weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) to buy life insurance, ultimately earning himself a punch in the face. Or nerdy small-town agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) in “Cedar Rapids.”
 
In real life, of course, you may not love it when someone makes you think hard about your own mortality by trying to sell you life insurance. But when life turns ugly, you really, really want your insurance agent at your side to help you and your family get your lives back on track.
 
Cutting insurance checks near fire zone
That, says real-life State Farm agent Paulina McDonald, is the most gratifying aspect of her job. Paulina, whose agency is at 107 S. Sunnyvale Ave. in downtown Sunnyvale, recently returned from serving State Farm customers whose lives were torn asunder by the devastating wildfires in the North Bay, which by some measures was the worst disaster in California history.
 
Cutting those checks right on site that will help people replace the clothes and vehicles and homes, gives them some hope for a normal future. And it made her feel proud of State Farm and her work.
 
As terrible as the fires were, she said, the most amazing thing was seeing the way an entire community pulled together to help one another through the dark days.
 
“It was a reminder that there’s a lot of good people out there,” she said. “It was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
 
Paulina got into the insurance business almost 27 years ago, leaving commercial banking at the urging of a friend and State Farm agent who was nearing retirement. A couple of years later, she moved her agency downtown into the historic district, where she’s remained ever since. In that time, she said, much has changed in the field, as so much business is conducted online and by phone today.
 
Building relationships
Nevertheless, Paulina prides herself on her personal touch, on building relationships with clients over many years. She said she’s even served three generations of some families, helping them through “life events” in times of joy and sorrow — as parents die, and their kids grow up from babies, through graduations, and become young parents themselves.
 
She’s proud that her business and personal insurance products give people some peace of mind as they anticipate and encounter the inevitable bumps and misfortunes of life.
 
If that sort of career sounds cooler than the Hollywood image of insurance agents, Pauline urges you give her a call at (408) 749-8045 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. She’d love to give someone else a start on a satisfying insurance career, just as someone did for her 27 years ago.
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<![CDATA[Firehouse Grill and Brewery: Fun, food and sports]]>Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:00:05 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/firehouse-grill-and-brewery-fun-food-and-sports
Sports bars aren’t exactly as rare as hens’ teeth, but most of them don’t offer fresh, award-winning beers brewed on the premises. The Firehouse Grill and Brewery does.

That’s one of the things that distinguish Firehouse from run-of-the-mill game-day gathering spots.
 
Plus they offer a sweet happy hour every Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m., with appetizers served by the lovely, all-female staff.
 
But the best reason to check out Firehouse, located on historic South Murphy St. in Sunnyvale, is the chill, “Cheers”-like vibe that goes along with the cold beer, says house manager Leticia Jensen.
 
“We wanted to create a unique atmosphere that was both casual and fun,” she adds, “with a menu to satisfy everyone from the casual to the serious business diner. That was our main goal.

“We think Firehouse is the perfect place to meet with friends or make new ones.”
 
Firehouse parties and events
The lush back patio is often reserved for parties or corporate events. On a recent day, groups of Google and Walmart employees were mingling on the shady patio.
 
There’s also an upstairs space, with a separate bar, that can be reserved for groups.
 
Jensen says one of the ways they keep it loose and fun is by having the staff wear outfits to fit special occasions. If your group wants the staff to wear all black to keep things a bit buttoned-up, for example, all you have to do is ask. If you prefer something a little sexier, that’s cool, too. They also wear the green for St. Patrick’s and dress up for Halloween, as well.
 
Sports for all
 If there’s any spot in the place where a patron can’t get a view nice of whatever selection of sporting events may be on the many plasma TVs, it’s certainly not a big spot.
 
Naturally, the local and pro and college teams are popular attractions, and so are UFC bouts and soccer. “It’s going to be packed next year for the World Cup,” Jensen says.
 
The Firehouse Grill and Brewery is at 111 S. Murphy Avenue and is open every day. Your home away from home in downtown Sunnyvale where you can chill with friends and family.
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<![CDATA[Silicon Valley Classical Guitar School makes plucky existence in downtown Sunnyvale]]>Sat, 07 Oct 2017 23:03:17 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/silicon-valley-classical-guitar-school-makes-plucky-existence-in-downtown-sunnyvale
​Scott Gossage was a young man when he and his band-mates from Baltimore came to San Francisco to seek their musical fortunes.
 
“I moved here with two guitars and a cardboard box,” he recalls with a wry smile about the band’s naivete regarding the odds of success.
 
The band didn’t last long at all, but Scott’s love for the Bay Area did.
 
Many years later, he’s the owner and one of three conservatory-trained teachers at the Silicon Valley Classical Guitar School in downtown Sunnyvale.
 
The school is located in a corner space inside a low-slung, unassuming post-war building on South Mathilda Avenue, across the street from and practically in the shadow of high rise offices occupied by Nokia.
 
Inside, the school’s not much to look at, but it’s what comes out of it that really matters: students who have a solid musical foundation on which to build, if they should choose so. One former student, he says, went on to win one of the world’s most prestigious international classical guitar competitions, and others have gone on to study at the competitive San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s pre-college program.
 
Musically speaking, he says, “We specialize in taking people from nothing to something.” ​Most of his students are little kids, but he teaches teens and some adults, too. Most of his students come from referrals from other students and their parents.
 
It’s a myth, he says, that you have to be a kid to learn an instrument. It’s just that adults typically don’t have enough time in their days to devote the necessary practice time. “It takes time. You have to work at it no matter what age you are.”
 
First lesson free
The school offers the first lesson for free so that potential students can see if they like it. Lessons are offered in either group or individual formats.
 
Younger children are taught through the Suzuki method, which was originally developed for violin. It was a former employer of Scott’s who had the method certified for classical guitar.

The method grew out of the realization that if everyone can learn to speak their first language, they should be able to learn music by applying the same sort of environment seen in a good home.

“The ideas of parent responsibility, loving encouragement, constant repetition, etc., are some of the special features of the Suzuki approach,” according to the Suzuki Association of the Americas website.
 
Loving his work
It wasn’t easy getting established in such a niche business as a classical guitar school, Scott acknowledges. In other words, while he knew the strings, he hadn’t learned the ropes.
 
He had been teaching at another school in the area for several years and finally, in late 2009, went out on his own. Luckily, he was able to take some of his students with him, but today he remains grateful for a couple of people who helped him get established and provided business counseling. Because of them, he says, “I get to do what I love to do, all day long,” he says.
 
So, things are looking pretty good right now. He just signed a three-year lease, and his place in what he calls a “hotbed” of classical guitar is secure for now. A long way from a couple guitars and a cardboard box but still doing what he loves to do.

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<![CDATA[Sunnyvale wine bar City Place: Top choice pairings of food and drink]]>Thu, 07 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/sunnyvale-wine-bar-city-place-top-choice-pairings-of-food-and-drink
For Theron Kagnoff, one of the best aspects of his job at City Place in downtown Sunnyvale is surprising patrons from faraway lands with delightful wines from their own country. It’s even better when those patrons didn’t even know their homeland made wines worth trying.
 
Theron, the sommelier (certified wine expert) at 2-year-old City Place wine bar, samples every wine before he selects it so that he can accurately advise guests before they order. He looks for the best wines, craft beers and spirits the world has to offer, most of them made in small batches.
 
“We focus on some very unique wines from places like the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe, including the Republic of Georgia, Armenia, Hungary, Croatia and countries you wouldn’t even know produce great wines, like India,” he says.
 
The idea of confronting that sort of sophistication, he says, may sound intimidating for some people, but at City Place there’s no need to worry. He says the staff puts patrons at ease with old-fashioned, personalized service. Rather than promote the wine being pushed by a broker or distributor, the friendly staff will try to find out what each patron might like.
 
Local wines, craft beer and spirits
The wine menu is split roughly evenly between Old World selections and wines from the Bay Area and Central California Coast. Most of the wines are made the by growers themselves in small batches, which tends to make the product more idiosyncratic. At any one time, City Place has about 40 wines available by the glass (starting at $6) and about 200 by the bottle (up to a few hundred dollars).
 
Regardless of what libation a client may favor, City Place will also be able to hook patrons up with perfectly paired tapas — including the currently popular raw oysters, as well as charcuterie and craft cheeses. In addition to being a sommelier, Theron says he also has been trained by some of the best chefs in San Francisco on fine cheeses and charcuterie.
 
Friendly atmosphere
Another reason no one should feel intimidated, he says, is that ambience is designed to feel as familiar and welcoming as your grandmother’s living room.
 
“We’re not a hipster place,” he assures. “In fact, we’re the exact opposite of that. It’s well lit, very unassuming and a great place for first dates.”
 
City Place is located at 279 W. Washington near Frances St, in downtown Sunnyvale. Follow City Place on Facebook and drop in to share a moment for a wine and food pairing or simply to unwind, any day of the week including Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m for very happy hours!

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<![CDATA[Sunnyvale’s Pure party palace: Las Vegas with a corporate Silicon Valley twist]]>Thu, 31 Aug 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/sunnyvales-pure-party-palace-las-vegas-with-a-corporate-silicon-valley-twist
If you worked for a major South Bay company and were in charge of planning an unforgettable corporate celebration, where would you start your search? Swanky venues in San Francisco, probably — the kind of place you might see Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson hang out.

Let’s face it: You probably wouldn’t start looking in Sunnyvale.  As awesome as the city may be, as wonderful as its downtown bars and restaurants may be, it’s not exactly famous for Vegas-level glitz and glamour.

But it should be. So says Monica, the manager of corporate and private events at Pure Silicon Valley/Pure Nightclub.

To the extent that people do know about Pure, it’s probably because they’ve been to the venue on Friday and Saturday nights between 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., when it usually operates as a high-end dance club with top-notch DJs like 50 Cent, with premium bottle service and a killer light show. And yes, the Splash Brothers have been known to drop in, Monica says.

Custom corporate events
But Pure is also available for booking parties and other private events seven nights a week. (Want to book on a weekend night? Clients can buy out the usual nightclub event, and take the place over for themselves.)

What makes the place so great for corporate events? Well, a lot of the same things that make it a great nightclub. It’s got 8,000 square feet of floor space spread between multiple levels. The DJ’s sound system is lit.

And the place has a “very next generation,” fully programmable LED 3D lighting system that Monica says is not currently available at any other venue in the U.S. The owners installed it three months ago after they took a trip to China to see it in action. It can make giant projections of virtually any shape, from a shark to a face shooting laser beams from its eyes — whatever a client wants, according to its corporate brand.

“Corporate clients have a very specific vision of how they want to style their event, Monica says. “And we can put together everything they might need under one roof.” Of course you’ll want catering. But do you want some Cirque du Soleil performers? No problem. An oxygen bar? Done that. A world-class musical artist? Just say the word.

Growing reputation
That level of customization, scalability and flexibility is gradually earning the venue a name in the corporate world, as Monica says bookings have started to take off. This winter, in fact, a Silicon Valley company in the network services space — she won’t say which one — will be throwing the biggest party Pure has ever put together.
“It’s really going to take things into the stratosphere,” she teases.

Intrigued?
Call Monica at 408-732-2121 to book your extravaganza for up to 650 people, whether it be a product launch or a wedding reception. Pure is at 146 S. Murphy Ave. in the historic district of downtown Sunnyvale. Go to purenightclub408.com for more information.

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<![CDATA[Goodbye Sunnyvale Town Center; hello CityLine Sunnyvale: On the cusp of a new era]]>Wed, 16 Aug 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/goodbye-sunnyvale-town-center-hello-cityline-sunnyvale-on-the-cusp-of-a-new-era
The long-awaited, now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t redevelopment of Sunnyvale Town Center is underway. And, making a clean break with the project’s troubled past, it even has a new name: CityLine Sunnyvale.
 
The developers express confidence that the $100 million, 36-acre project — crucial to existing businesses in the immediate area and important to the city of Sunnyvale as a whole — will be completed, this time, with no more surprises.
 
Of course, the previous developer repeatedly said the same, yet the project failed. That’s why the new developer, a well-financed consortium called STC Venture, understands the skepticism of business owners who learned the hard way that confidence and ironclad guarantees are two very different things.
 
This time, at the very least, STC vows not to leave the members of the Sunnyvale Downtown Association in the dark.
 
“We plan to be completely open, even to the point of being overly communicative, if that’s possible,” says Josh Rupert, the project manager in charge of the nonresidential parts of the plan.
 
STC is a joint venture of Hunter Storm, Sares Regis Group of Northern California and a set of institutional investors advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Devcon Construction is the general contractor. Last year, the joint venture closed on a $100 million escrow, making it much stronger financially, backers say, than the previous developer’s.

Building and improving on historic Murphy Avenue

How bad was the dismay of the city and downtown merchants when the original developer ran out of money for the Sunnyvale Town Center project and went belly up amid the Great Recession, after the housing market crashed and credit markets dried up?
 
The lawsuits and resulting years-long delays that followed offer one big hint. But it was also bad enough that the project’s old name, Sunnyvale Town Center, has been unceremoniously jettisoned and the project rebranded as CityLine Sunnyvale.

Dropping the sleepy word “town,” the new name evokes an image more in keeping with today’s fashionable urban lifestyle, reflecting the vision of a vibrant, walk-able, transit-connected neighborhood of fun, food, work and city-style living.
Yet, more important to the existing businesses, the plans aim to preserve the historic nature of the area including and surrounding South Murphy Avenue.
 
“The idea is to expand and improve on what we have now, not start from scratch and lose the restaurant-and-entertainment culture that has taken root,” says Mike Johnson, executive director of the 12-year-old Sunnyvale Downtown Association, which by law represents the interests of the nearly 200 businesses in the area.
 
Many existing businesses — about three-quarters of them restaurants and bars —  fear getting lost and forgotten amid the arrival of new businesses coming downtown, and can’t quite shake their skepticism.
 
Derek Gruell, owner of Irish pub Lilly Mac’s since 2015, is one such man. “Developers love to talk about integration and harmony, but in my experience with other communities in this situation, the existing businesses more often than not end up fighting an uphill battle because what’s coming will be seen as new and exciting,” he said.
 
While Gruell says Johnson has been doing a “great job” advocating for the existing merchants, “we’re going to have to band together and make sure we’re not being taken advantage of.”
  
If you build it, they will come

As the founding director of the business association, Johnson left the position a decade ago thinking the redevelopment was on track. Now that he’s back, he’s eager to see it come to fruition and will work to ensure everybody comes out ahead as a result of bringing new blood to the area.
 
Although the idea of redeveloping downtown Sunnyvale has been mostly talk for more than a decade, construction has been going on for months, mostly behind the scenes.
 
The most noticeable progress so far has been the demolition and removal of the two steel structures east of Macy’s, the unsightly remnants of the old redevelopment plan.
 
More recently, workers have been erecting scaffolding on the exterior of the residential buildings extending along Washington and McKinley avenues. These were built under the previous developer, but the interiors were never finished. Now those are currently under construction, and soon more visible work will begin on the facades.
 
More disruptive work is also in the offing. The current jog in Murphy Avenue where it intersects with East Washington Avenue will be straightened out, and Murphy will instead extend straight across to run through what’s now the Macy’s parking lot to connect at the far end with McKinley Avenue.
 
The development along that extension is intended to be of a compatible character with the existing historic area, says Dave Hopkins, senior vice president with Sares Regis Group of Northern California.
 
The landscaping on the existing part of Murphy will be largely undisturbed, including the trees that add so much character to the place. New medians and traffic signals will be installed at the intersection, and the new part of Murphy will be lined with trees. That’s all part of $20 million in public improvements.
 
Project co-manager Rupert says that work should be completed by the end of 2017, while the rest of the development should be completed in phases through June 2019.
 
When the first phase is done, there will be about 200 new housing units with “green” design features and within easy walking distance of the Caltrain stop at the north end of downtown. New retail establishments comprising about 85,000 square feet will anchor the bottom floors of those buildings.
 
In addition, at the new southern extension of Murphy Avenue, a Whole Foods Market and a 1,200-seat movie theater, will be completed, along with additional parking. Redwood Square Plaza, long closed, will reopen as a park, though it will be developed later.

STC Venture, added Hopkins, feels comfortable with the financing of CityLine Sunnyvale and has every reason to want the project to succeed this time.
 
“We’ve put together a conservative financial structure to mitigate the risk of any impacts that market changes might cause,” he said. “We’ve closed escrow and purchased every square foot in an all-cash acquisition.”
 
Project manager Rupert says the developers are proud of what CityLine Sunnyvale will become.“We know that people had come along before us and made promises,” he says. “We’re here to take what has been done and finish it. We recognize that this is super-important to Sunnyvale, and we’re excited to be part of it.”
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<![CDATA[Lilly Mac’s: An Irish pub with a friendly vibe]]>Thu, 27 Jul 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/lilly-macs-an-irish-pub-with-a-friendly-vibe
 
Lilly Mac’s is an Irish pub in Sunnyvale’s entertainment district, but owner Derek Grouell wants everyone to know it’s not all about the drink.
 
Derek Gruell, owner/manager since 2015, shared that “pub is short for public, as in public house. I want Lilly Mac’s to be known as a gathering place for people to come together with friends and family and enjoy themselves together. We want everybody to have a great experience when they come in here.”
 
There’s all kinds of stuff going on, but no matter when you come in, the chill vibe is apparent. Derek says it all starts with a friendly staff, good customer service and terrific food ranging from your standard Irish stew to burgers.
 
Special events
 
Entering the elongated, high-ceilinged, tastefully lighted space dominated by a long, dark-wooden bar and plenty of mirrors, you may find yourself in the midst of a small special event, ranging from a wake to a quinceanera to a birthday party. Or it may be a business networking group, or a Toastmasters group.
 
Saturdays, you may stumble into a chapter of UCLA Alumni Association cheering boisterously for the Bruins on the big screen TVs. NFL football rules the screens on Sundays.
 
Sports, live music, trivia and happy hour
 
Toward the back of the room, a second-floor space overlooks the main bar and the rest of the first floor. Some of the private events are held up there, served by a separate bar. On Saturday nights, though, the house band sets up on the second floor and spices things up with Latin-flavored rock, the live music bookended by a DJ.
 
On Monday nights during the summer, Lilly Mac’s runs a friendly but competitive pub quiz, while the rest of the year, the trivia game is on Wednesday nights. We won’t quiz you on that though – just come both nights.
 
After work, during the 3-7 p.m. happy hour, local families in for some chow join techies from nearby employers like Apple, Nokia, Kayak and Broadcom, enjoying a dollar off house wine, well drinks and beers on tap or in the bottle. They offer about 10 food choices for $6.
 
Lilly Mac’s is open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s located at 187 S. Murphy Ave., in the historic district. Phone: 408-732-0200. Check out their website and follow at: www.lillymacs.com.

Stop in and you’ll find a public house that welcomes all.
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<![CDATA[Aloft: European-style hotel in downtown Sunnyvale]]>Thu, 06 Jul 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/aloft-european-style-hotel-in-downtown-sunnyvale
Business travelers are the primary weekday guests at the Aloft Sunnyvale hotel, but you certainly don’t have to work for one of the many big tech companies in the area to enjoy a little taste of modern European-style hospitality in city’s historic downtown area.

Weekends are the perfect time for South Bay residents to make a quick getaway there, or for folks in town for a wedding  or other event to relax and rest their heads. General manager Victor Reynoso says he and his crew will bend over backwards to make your stay a pleasant one.

Modern European design in Silicon Valley

The Euro experience starts, of course, before you ever set foot inside the hotel, at 170 S. Sunnyvale Avenue near the historic Murphy Avenue.

From the front, one will see much two tones of horizontal wood siding, as well as large, tall, rectangular windows looking into the big exercise room and the public areas of the hotel. Block like structures containing the guests’ rooms jut skyward to varying elevations, but generally stepping back progressively away from the street.

Inside, the stark angularity continues, conveying a cool elegance. Artwork is minimal and modern, and sleek surfaces abound. The leather seating is rectangular and comfortable, but unadorned by patterns. Completing the feeling is the abundant use of natural light in the daytime and careful use of colored accent in the bar and lounge, which also features a fireplace.

Comfort  and hospitality

There is live entertainment every Thursday night, with happy hour from 5 to 9 p.m. every weeknight. Reynoso says the friendly young bartenders will make you comfortable by engaging in chit-chat.

“They like to talk,” he said. “We want to engage with the guests.”

Although some food is available in the lounge, there’s no full-service restaurant or room service. But there’s no shortage of eateries to walk to or from which to order takeout.

In the end, a hotel experience, of course, comes down to a guest’s room. The 85 rooms  come in three sizes, from a cozy 190 square feet to a generous 280-square-foot suite. Regular weekday rates are competitive for a comparable experience in the Bay Area. The rooms are simple in design, but comfortable. Apple TV and all its amenities are available in every room, including the ability to teleconference. Your stay will also earn you Marriott, SPG reward points.

Reynoso says the thing he likes best about his job is that he gets to meet people from all over the world. Many of them are surprised and delighted with the experience of being in Silicon Valley, and downtown Sunnyvale in particular.

Phone 408-730-0300, or for reservations call 866-716-8143, or visit www.aloftsunnyvale.com, and recommend to family and friends for a Silicon Valley experience - or better yet join them and treat yourself to a weekend getaway.
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<![CDATA[SAJJ Mediterranean: Shawarma + falafel = Shawafel]]>Mon, 26 Jun 2017 21:47:17 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/sajj-mediterranean-shawarma-falafel-shawafel

The long, slow long ways making the ancient foods of West Asia and North Africa will finally work for busy, gotta-have-it-now Americans on their lunch or dinner break — because now they can get it fast at SAJJ Mediterranean.
 
Hungry workers can now have their pita and eat it, too
Anyone in or near downtown Sunnyvale can just head over to SAJJ and, within a few minutes of walking through the door, be savoring flavors born near the cradle of civilization: shawarma, falafels, hummus and more. A popular SAJJ innovation is a combination of shawarma and falafel, humorously dubbed shawafel.
 
Since opening in January at 145. S. Frances Street, Sunnyvale, a growing crowd of techies and others have discovered the place, open for lunch and dinner, says manager Hazem Karadsheh. SAJJ is open every Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m. 9 p.m., and every Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
 
But people don’t necessarily have to go to SAJJ to enjoy its generously portioned eats: The two food trucks that inaugurated the company several years ago are still active and available for booking. For catered events, whether corporate or private, call 650-322-SAJJ or email contact@sajjstreeteats. To order from the Sunnyvale location  — the latest of five SAJJ sites to open — go to the website sajjstreeteats.com or call 408-746-5970.
 
Dining perfection
The name SAJJ comes from the Arabic word for the convex utensil (often spelled saj) — a metal dome, shaped like an inverted wok — traditionally used by nomadic Bedouins to bake flatbreads. There is one SAJJ in every store.
 
Buffet style
“In this day and age,” Hazem says, “restaurant food is moving towards customization.” SAJJ's response was to serve its dishes buffet style, allowing for tens of thousands of combinations, with each plate having its unique tastes and aromas. One can have a meal at SAJJ every day for months and never have the same thing twice.
 
So, anyone who’s looking for a fast, fresh, healthy, exotic meal with a taste of the Mediterranean would be wise to consider SAJJ.
 
“You’re not waiting for your food; you're designing your plate!"
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<![CDATA[Music for the soul, food and drink for the body]]>Thu, 15 Jun 2017 01:40:01 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/music-for-the-soul-food-and-drink-for-the-body

Whether it’s delighting in the heady improvisation of urban jazz or just getting down to rock or R&B, just about any fan should find something to feed the musical soul at this summer’s free concerts in downtown Sunnyvale.
 
Once again, the Sunnyvale Downtown Association and its partners proudly present two weekly series of outdoor shows on historic South Murphy Avenue: the Summer Series and Market each Wednesday evening beginning June 21, and Jazz and Beyond every Saturday evening beginning July 8.
 
In either case, families, friends and friends-to-be can feast together on all manner of culinary options from the dizzying array of restaurants and bars in the immediate area.
 
Yet the two series offer two very different experiences.
 
Summer Series and Market
 
Think of the Wednesday evening Summer Series and Market, which runs weekly from June 21 to Aug. 30, as chance to unwind after work. Meet friends and family for a meal and a drink at your favorite restaurant in the area, if you like, then come outside and boogie away to the music until dark.
 
This will be the Summer Series’ 19th year of Wednesday night partying to local rock, soul, Latin and R&B acts, depending on the week. Murphy Avenue is closed each night for the event and for the closing June 30 concert will be at the nearby Plaza del Sol!
 
Jazz and Beyond
 
On Saturday nights, downtown Sunnyvale goes a little more uptown. The eighth consecutive year of the Jazz and Beyond series, which runs from July 8 to Aug. 26, presents somewhat more sophisticated musical acts to the Murphy Avenue stage.

Whether it’s the straight-ahead jazz of Mason Razavi, sometime-Santana singer Tony Lindsey, the sultry vocal stylings of Jessica Johnson or the ambitious urban jazz of Times 4, it’s all great music from bands that regularly gig at the Bay Area’s hottest jazz venues.
 
But what makes Jazz and Beyond stand out even more is the food setup. There aren’t many other cities with an area as densely packed with restaurants and bars. This allows for an opportunity for Jazz and Beyond attendees to sit at a table and order items, including beer, wine by the glass or bottle and dessert, from almost 20 participating establishments. Mix and match to your heart’s delight. It’s like going to 20 restaurants at once. Restaurant staff will deliver orders right to the table, where patrons will call in orders from a common menu and pay with a card without ever having to miss a tune.
 
“Jazz and Beyond is an intimate, very personal event,” says Sunnyvale Downtown Association Executive Director Michael Johnson “We create a unique ambiance. There’s nothing like it anywhere in the area.”
 
Oh, speaking of paying: Both series are easy on your wallet. Park for free in several places around town including Plaza de Sol. And, again, there’s no admission charge to the music area. There’s not even any need to buy food or drink if you don’t wish to – just come and enjoy the music and community.

Check out the Line-up of Summer Music Events!

What’s new
 
The musical acts always vary a little from year to year. But what is different is the man behind the plan: Mike Johnson, who returned to run the Sunnyvale Downtown Association earlier this year after a decade-long hiatus during which the association was ably run by Joel Wyrick.
 
Mike’s glad to be back to represent the interests of the existing downtown businesses as the area finally appears ready to launch downtown’s massive overhaul. When he left as director a decade ago, those plans were just expected to begin taking off. But when the economy tanked, those plans fell apart.
 
With a new developer in place and financing seemingly secure, there are major changes ahead.
 
But Mike says the annual summer concerts are not going anywhere. In fact, he hints that the series might even be expanding next year.
 
“I’m excited to be back to continue to deliver great events, and bring more visibility to downtown in an atmosphere of enjoyment,” he says.
 
Music and food to fill the soul and body, all for free, plus the opportunity to share it all with the Sunnyvale Downtown community. Let’s get this summer started!
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<![CDATA[The don of The Don’s Deli]]>Tue, 09 May 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/the-don-of-the-dons-deli
People who have been around downtown Sunnyvale for a while may have noticed that the former Sandwich Spot has been converted to The Don’s Deli. What’s up with that? Turns out that’s a more interesting story than one might expect.
 
Fact is, the Sandwich Spot was doing fine. It’s just that the franchisee, Chris Shawwa, decided he wanted to flip the script on traditional franchising.
 
Chris concedes that The Don’s Deli customer base isn’t radically different from the Sandwich Spot’s: people looking for a quick made-to-order lunch or dinner — nothing fancy, just tasty and simple.
 
The key difference since The Don’s Deli opened in January 2017 is an expanded menu, which now includes soups and various sides and salads, not just sandwiches and chips. It’s about a little more variety and some healthier choices. A little less hard hat, a little more office attire.

What customers won’t see is the deeper meaning behind the changes.
 
Employee-based franchising
 
Chris, who is 33 now, was fresh out of college when he landed an internship with a financial brokerage house. He was in his element. But when he injured his back and had to go on strong pain meds, Chris was told he could no longer work there for liability reasons.
 
Luckily, a friend at the firm took a big chance on him and cosigned a loan enabling him to buy a Sandwich Spot franchise. With time and hard work, he started more.
 
Looking back, Chris never forgot he couldn’t have accomplished what he has — a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle — without that friend.
 
Finally, he decided to convert his Sunnyvale Sandwich Spot and launch The Don’s Deli so that he could run the business his own way. This would allow him to help some other smart, hardworking people set up their own Don’s Deli franchises, giving them a hand up just as his mentor did.
 
But here’s what makes Chris’s vision so different: He plans to set up his own best employees as franchisees. The idea is to hire good workers, spot the best of them, and train those how to run a business. If things go well, he will gradually grant them equity in the shop where they’re working. Over time, they’ll own the shop. He’ll use the profit to open the next Don’s and start the process over.
 
Faith in people
 
Heartwarming, isn’t it? Helping someone get into owning their own business who would otherwise never be able to do so? Definitely touching.
 
But there’s a glaring weakness in this plan. What if he puts his faith in the wrong people and the prospective franchisees don’t work out? That’s a lot of Chris’ money, time and effort down the drain.
 
But Chris is banking on his managers being attracted to the idea that one day they'll have the respect that comes with ownership of a successful business. "Thus, the name," he says, referring to "The Don's Deli." In Spanish-speaking cultures, a don is an honored member of the community.
 
The plan, of course, is to do well by doing good. He’d like to retire early and travel a bit.

Chris acknowledges that he’s taking a big personal risk with employee-based franchising. In fact, he doesn’t know of any other business using a similar model. Neither, he says, do any of the traditional business investors he consulted: “They tell me I’m crazy.”
 
The Don’s Deli is open daily 10 AM to 7:30 PM, and is located at 121 S. Frances Street, next to Philz Coffee on the Plaza del Sol. Drop in and meet the Don and his crew - you’ll be changing lives over a great sandwich.
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<![CDATA[Gem of a Jeweler]]>Thu, 13 Apr 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/gem-of-a-jeweler

​When that piece of jewelry you want exists in your mind and hopes and dreams, and not on a shelf in a mall jewelry store, treat yourself to a hidden gem in downtown Sunnyvale: Goldfields’ Jewelers.

The small space is more artisan studio than store: unlike retail jewelry shops, you won’t find cases of shiny baubles and rows of rings. Instead, you are most likely to find owner Steve Chang with a pair of jewelers magnifying glasses pushed up on his head. Perhaps a chain or a ring he’s working on. Maybe the hand-sculpted form of a ring he is designing.

For many, it’s the best place to bring watches for batteries and jewelry in need of repairs. Others come because Steve is a knowledgeable appraiser. But for more than 35 years, Steve’s joy has been designing and creating jewelry.
 
He recognized early in life that he had talent in his hands. His parents were both jewelers, and he fell in love with the craft of working with precious stones and metals while he was still in high school. He went to work at Goldfields’ in 1988 and bought the store in 2001.

Custom creations are a personal passion

Ask to see pictures of work Steve has done and you’ll discover a world of wedding and engagement rings, necklaces, pendants, earrings and more. You’ll see beautifully set sapphires, diamonds and rubies. Intricate work done in gold, silver or platinum.

​The store’s display cases may be lacking typical mass-market offerings, but his photos tell stories of people’s lives: their loves, their losses, their hopes, and on occasion, their sense of style or whimsy. He’s crafted a pair of earrings to look like California bears and a ring in an elegant 17th century setting.
 
 “Most jewelers don’t like custom orders,” he says, explaining what it means that he is an artisan, craftsman and goldsmith. “Custom work is time consuming and requires patience, talent and artistic ability. But it’s my passion.”

Whether you’re ready to create your own special piece, or just need a repair, Goldfields’ Jewelry is at 141 E. Washington Avenue and (408) 730-1344, goldfields141@sbcglobal.net
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<![CDATA[Fibbar Magee’s Irish Pub: A South Bay Institution]]>Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:08:14 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/fibbar-magees-irish-pub-a-south-bay-institution
Desmond Nolan and Liam Balfe hit the lottery back in 1993 or 1994. No, not that lottery. The U.S. immigration lottery.

That’s how the two young men from the Republic of Ireland found themselves in the Bay Area. And, in the immigrant tradition, they started their own business, a construction firm, that’s still in operation today.

But a man enjoys a pint or two with friends, now and again, after a hard day’s work, does he not? The watering holes the lads found were OK, but they missed the pubs from back home in County Carlow and decided to build one for themselves, just the way they like it.

Today, that place is a South Bay institution: Fibbar Magees, at 156 S. Murphy Avenue, in downtown Sunnyvale, and the two still own it to this day.

St. Patrick’s Day preparations
Back in Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day, until relatively recently, wasn’t such a big deal. But here in America, just about everybody finds the Irish in themselves on that blessed day, and many feel compelled to don the green and go out celebrate it.

Well now, Nolan and Balfe aren’t a pair of eejits. So Fibbars has gotten with the grand Irish-American tradition, and even now is gearing up for the big day, March 17 (2017). On the day dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, it’ll be all hands-on deck for the staff.

“We’re expecting it to be busier than normal because it’s a Friday,” says manager Irene Balagot Murphy.  “Four o’clock is the height of happy hour.” Naturally, they’ll be serving up corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie, fish and chips. There will be a cover charge after 4:00 PM on St Paddy's Day to fund all the fun.

Irish hospitality
As always, patrons will have 50 lines of beer and wine to choose from, including the revered Irish ales and lagers like Guinness and Harp. When Nolan and Balfe started the place, and for many years thereafter, Fibbar’s offered lots of imports. But in the era of craft beer, the beer list includes lots more American-made brews, many of them local (plus California wines), Murphy said.

Fibbar’s has also added more TV screens over the years to keep up with the explosion in televised sports offerings (Hurling! Gaelic football! Authentic football! NFL football! Sharks, Giants and A’s!).

Of course, Fibbar’s — (408-749-8373, open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.) — is not just about food and drink, Murphy says. Not by a long, um, shot. It’s also about entertainment (check the @Fibbars Facebook page for DJs, trivia contests and more) and good old Irish hospitality.

In fact, Murphy said, she met her husband there about 15 years ago, out on the back patio. Both were just customers at the time. “Quite a few of our current and past staff started their relationships here,” she said. “Just amazing.”

Irish inspiration
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, owners Nolan and Balfe must be blushing. Murphy shared that several customers have been so inspired by Fibber’s that they opened their own Irish pubs, some on the East Coast, and one in the South Bay.

In fact, Nolan and Balfe inspired themselves, and decided to open a second pub, Molly Magees, in Mountain View.

Which brings us to how the name of the places came about. Murphy says they named their pubs after an American radio show that was popular in the 1940s and 1950s, “Fibber McGee and Molly,” because they thought it “sounded super Irish.”
 
Everyone is Irish on March 17 and treated with the welcoming charm every other day at Fibbar Magee’s on Historic Murphy Avenue in downtown Sunnyvale.
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<![CDATA[Comfort Food in a Fine Dining Setting]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/comfort-food-in-a-fine-dining-setting
“There’s a reason we’ve been here so long,” says Dottia Bilic, co-owner/founder of Tarragon Restaurant. “We’ve got really good food. We’ve got a comfortable setting. We have the most comfortable bar in the South Bay.”
 
The most comfortable bar in the South Bay? 
 
Upscale Comfort
Dottia doesn’t back down when pushed on that claim. Yes, the restaurant is terrific. It is food like mom made (assuming mom is a great cook). Yes, people have been returning time and time again since it opened on July 28, 1998. They love the warmth and comfort. They love the big space upstairs for weddings, birthdays, meetings and other personal and corporate events.
 
“But just look at that bar,” she points out. “Brass, copper, wood. Curved just right. Enough TVs to engage you but not so much that you are distracted. An incredible Happy Hour with bar food and drinks 50% off from 4-6 p.m.
 
“It absolutely is the place you want to come and have a drink.”
 
A Family Business
Originally Dottia and her husband Tony were going to open a bar and billiards hall in the location. Dottia credits Tony, (who also owns the classic dive bar Paul & Harvey next door) with first realizing that an even better idea would be fine dining in downtown Sunnyvale with a really good atmosphere, upscale but welcoming to families, and priced right.
 
The concept was spot on. Many regulars have been coming more than 10 years, and have become like family. As some patrons grow older or move away, others come in. The restaurant has seen a lot of life’s changes, and changes in the Valley, over 18 years.
 
Their kids (now 14 and 15) “were practically raised here. It’s a family business,” she says. “As they get older, I want them here helping out and I like that they know where money comes from. I hope they’ll want to take it over one day. And,” (she smiles) “I hope they read this so they know what my dream is.”
 
Is it really the most comfortable bar in South Bay? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Whether you decide the best feature is the restaurant or the bar, there’s one thing Dottia has to say:  “Come on in. You won’t be disappointed.”
 
To do that, head over Tarragon Restaurant, 140 S. Murphy Ave, or call ahead at 408-737-8003, for a reservation or help with your next event.
 
You won’t be disappointed and you’ll find a very comfortable bar there as well as a local business ready to treat you like family. Be sure to join the Tarragon family on Facebook too!
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<![CDATA[Find a Reader’s Haven at Leigh’s Favorite Books]]>Sat, 04 Feb 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/find-a-readers-haven-at-leighs-favorite-books

Leigh’s Favorite Books is a book-lovers haven, brimming with titles from economics to science and from parenting to cats. There is also an eclectic assortment of gifts. “If I see something that puts a smile on my face, or especially if it gets a good chuckle,” says owner Leigh Odum,“ there’s a good chance you’ll find it in the store.”

All this plus a staff of book people who love books and discuss them intelligently.

Young Ignorance Led to a Winning Strategy

Leigh opened the store in 2004, a fulfillment of her background in urban planning/small business and supported by a dream she and her husband had to be part of a thriving community. In their 20’s, they were undaunted by the challenges of a new business, and “were full of bravado and confidence.”
 
12 years later, her business, her dream, and the result of what she calls “young ignorance,” have thrived, bolstered by three key commitments:

  1. Know your customer, listen to your customer. Each book is selected to appeal to people who live and work in Sunnyvale – curious, educated, urban, often inclined toward thought-based books or science and math. “We hand pick every book. Yes. Every book.”

  2. Shopping is entertainment. At times you want a quick trip via computer, but if you love to read, book buying should be fun. Browsing titles and exploring what’s available is wonderful. Talking to others who love books is even better.

  3. Shopping in small local businesses is crucial to a community’s quality of life. “We have an active and vibrant downtown in Sunnyvale, with a diverse selection of shops and restaurants. When you eat and shop here, you support the tax base, you support the services that make your home more valuable, and you provide employment to your neighbors, their kids and their parents.”
 
Quality Service Extends to Price
Leigh applies customer service to pricing too. Most popular titles are at least 20% off and, for many books, you get a coupon for 50% credit to trade-in the book.

Leigh explains it is great for people who have limited space, or who appreciate saving money on their next read. “ Let’s see you walk into Amazon and say, ‘OK, I’m finished with this. Give me a 50% credit for my next purchase.’”

So, the next time you are ready to take a trip in the wonderful world of books, stop by Leigh's Favorite Books, 121 S. Murphy Ave or online at www.leighsbooks.com.
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<![CDATA[Authentic Family Recipes Bring Mexico to Sunnyvale at Roberto’s Cantina]]>Mon, 16 Jan 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/authentic-family-recipes-bring-mexico-to-sunnyvale-at-robertos-cantina
​Roberto Cervantes has been in the United States for more than 30 years, but he still remembers the recipes of his childhood in Ameca (a city in the central-western Mexican state of Jalisco). For holidays, festivals, weddings, baptism, there was always birria. His mother made it, his grandmother made it. “You didn’t get to eat it every day,” he remembers.

Now birria is one of several specialty recipes from home that he brings to Roberto’s Cantina. Here, the food is prepared following family recipes handed down for generations.

Quality, Authenticity, High Standards
Roberto credits the success he’s had since he opened in April, 2013 to the “quality, authenticity, high standards and original family recipes” that are his philosophy for running a restaurant. That, and the fact that everything tastes great.

To keep his recipes authentic, he gets his chilies from Mexico (“there’s something about the sun and soil that makes a chili with a special taste”) and offers more than 150 premium tequilas. His selection of mescal is all “small batch” – some come from batches as small as 20 or 60 bottles. “I’ve been in the restaurant business here for 18 years, and the brokers know that I have an eye for excellent mescal.”

Success Takes Work
The restaurant has a good selection of non-alcohol and alcoholic drinks (Roberto recommends his version of the Mexican Mule if you’re looking for a tasty drink with a kick), multiple TV screens, and is family friendly.

To accommodate tastes and food sensitivities, they can cook most dishes to order. “I really try to give personal attention to the restaurant and to the people who eat here,” he says. “If someone has an idea or feedback – good or bad – I want to know. I think of our customers as family.”

When your name is on the door, there’s always a lot at stake, and for Roberto, having his dream fulfilled in a restaurant with his name means a lot of work. “We work hard. My wife works here. My two grown sons come in and help. I’m here. The staff knows what I expect and supports that,” says Roberto. “I think when you work hard, do your best and take care of people it shows in your product and in your success.”

When you’re ready for something hearty and delicious, something grandma would have made if your grandma grew up in central Mexico, stop by Roberto’s Cantina, 168 S. Murphy Street or check them out online at www.robertos-cantina.

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<![CDATA[Drug-free pain relief is just around the corner]]>Mon, 09 Jan 2017 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/drug-free-pain-relief-is-just-around-the-corner
New parents grew concerned when their week-old baby would still turn her head only to one side. She had been injured during childbirth when the doctor used forceps to pull her out of the birth canal. 
 
The couple brought her to Dr. Scott Cady, a chiropractor who works out of a multidisciplinary medical practice in downtown Sunnyvale. Dr. Cady examined the child, and very gently adjusted her neck. Within a few minutes, the child regained full range of motion.
 
Such satisfying experiences are what attracted him to chiropractic in the first place. “We help people without prescribing drugs, and help them quickly,” said Dr. Cady, who accepts most insurance.
 
Back, neck and joint work
One thing that distinguishes Dr. Cady from many chiropractors is the range of problems he treats.
 
While many in his field just stick to treating back and neck pain, Dr. Cady works on many other joint problems, as well. Recently, he said, he treated a professional ballerina who had sprained her ankle while dancing on “en pointe” She recovered quickly and returned to her production of the Nutcracker.
 
He’s even become, through word of mouth, known as someone who can provide relief to people with TMJ and other jaw problems.
 
Dr. Cady said he’s pleased that he can often keep people from having to undergo surgery. While there are times that he’s not able to heal someone’s back or neck problem and surgery is necessary, he said that’s rather rare.
 
“We take a conservative approach,” he said. “And we treat the actual problem so the
problem goes away; medical doctors treat the pain and hope the problem goes away.”
 
Experienced hand
Dr. Cady has been in practice in Sunnyvale since 1990. In June he moved back to his current location at 260 S. Sunnyvale Ave. after years in an office a half-mile away that was scheduled for demolition. He is happy to now be in downtown Sunnyvale.
 
Some chiropractors have been criticized for trying to get their clients to buy into tests and treatments that really aren’t necessary. “I prefer to be honest upfront,” he said, adding that his practice is to inform clients of all their treatment options but never attempting to up-sell them.
 
When you need an experienced hand to get you moving with confidence, call Dr. Scott Cady at 408-739-2273 for an appointment and you’ll be pain free soon. 

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<![CDATA[il Postale has had Italian food lovers’ stamp of approval for 20-plus years]]>Sat, 24 Dec 2016 00:01:11 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/il-postale-has-had-italian-food-lovers-stamp-of-approval-for-20-plus-years
Remember when kale was but a humble garnish? Lots of people would no more nibble on it than gnaw on a T-bone. Now, of course, the leafy green is seen as a superfood best scarfed up by the handful.
 
Staying on top of changing trends is key to longevity in the cutthroat restaurant business, every bit as much as it is in the go-go tech firms a block or two away from Joe Antuzzi’s Italian-American bistro and bar in downtown Sunnyvale, il Postale. That’s why it’s still going strong after more than two decades.
 
“In 20 years, Italian food went from No.1 to possibly No. 3 or 4 now,” Joe says. He’s stayed in the game by tweaking mostly around the margins and, when necessary, more fundamentally. “We’ve pushed the envelope, but we don’t change the basic cookbook.”
 
Unwavering vision
What remains a constant at the neighborhood white-linen restaurant is the conviction that delicious, generous portions of Italian-influenced food offered at a moderate price, with top-notch service in a casual atmosphere will never go out of style. Fresh fish, hearty pasta, fine pizza, soups and salads. 
 
Sometimes, however, big changes are required. In August 2015, Il Postale relocated to 100 S. Murphy Ave. -- into a lovely, historic Del Monte drying shed -- after many years in the original Sunnyvale post office on Washington Avenue. The time was right because Joe had realized for some time that he needed more seating, including alfresco dining, and more bar space. (You can check out more pictures of the decor here on Facebook.)
 
He noticed years ago that patrons were more health-conscious and were no longer flocking to traditionally heavy Italian fare in big numbers, so he changed up the menu to offer more lighter entrees and appetizers, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes.
 
Lunch crunch
Another challenge requiring Joe to adapt was when the lunch crowds that famously flocked to restaurants during the dot-com era began to dwindle. Suddenly, the catering il Postale offered became a more important part of his business, as did gift cards. He also worked harder to spotlight the value of enjoying an il Postale meal. The new weekday $10 lunch deals are a good example where customers can choose two delicious items off a selected menu at a great value on the go or at the restaurant.
 
So, yes, much has changed at il Postale. But you should still call ahead at 408-733-9600, for a table reservation if you’re planning to come down with a party of five or more.
 
There is still one other ingredient that has remained in place since the very early years. Chef Santos Villa has been at il Postale for 19 years, cooking and adapting recipes, many of them handed down to Joe through his mother and grandmother.
 
With over 20 years of experience delivering family recipes that fit the neighborhood needs, il Postale is ready to serve you. Stay connected with il Postale on Facebook and visit www.ilpostale.com
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<![CDATA[At Sunnyvale’s Vino Vino wine bar, it’s all about putting you at ease]]>Thu, 01 Dec 2016 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/at-sunnyvales-vino-vino-wine-bar-its-all-about-putting-you-at-ease
If you’re like many Americans, you like wine but hesitate to walk into a wine bar because you don’t want to risk looking foolish by asking a lot of “elementary” questions that more expert people might scoff at. I mean, who likes to feel like they’re being looked down upon?
 
What foods pair well with which wines? Is the price of a wine a good indicator of its quality? If not, how do I know what to order? How do I even talk about wine? (Do I have to?)
 
Andrew Nguyen, the bar manager at Vino Vino in downtown Sunnyvale, just hates the pretension that often surrounds wine drinking in America -- and he’s doing something about it.
 
That’s why one of the first things a customer notices upon entering the store at 100 S. Murphy Ave. is the big block letters on the corrugated metal overhang: Wine Without Attitude.
 
Fixed price and on tap 
So relax, friend. Vino Vino, with its rustic design evoking a wine cellar, bends over backward to take the anxiety out of experimenting with wine and food. The great majority of the wine sold is on tap – 13 kinds – an unheard-of number in the industry. And every glass of tap wine is $9.
 
“They’re priced all the same,” Nguyen said, “because we want to keep it simplistic. We want people to choose what to drink based on what they want to drink, not based on price.”
 
Adding to the casual experience is the glassware. Instead of the typical stemware, the wines are served in a vessel that looks like the product a rendezvous between a hefty pint glass for ale (bottom half) and the sensuous bubble shape of a standard wine glass.

Vino Vino, which opened two years ago at Murphy and Washington avenues in historic downtown Sunnyvale, features only wines from the immediate area: Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, northern Monterey County and Livermore. “Localism is huge to us,” Nguyen said.
 
He personally selects all the wines and buys only those whose characteristics remain stable when served on tap. He works closely with the vintners to ensure quality and adequate supply.
 
He adapted a standard beer tap system specifically for wine. Why? Two reasons. First, buying and selling barreled wine reduces the cost – no bottling and corking. That’s how he can afford to sell all the wines at the same price. But Nguyen said sustainability is also a big part of the reason.
  
Chilled wine, chill staff 
The staff aims to keep things relaxed, too. Nguyen trains them to know their stuff, but they aren’t going to start going all oenophile on you -- unless you ask or they read in your body language that you have questions or comments. They’re trained to watch and listen discreetly, pick up comments about how guests are reacting to what they’re drinking, and pass along the info Nguyen, who closely monitors the product himself.
 
The staff will also happily recommend food-and-wine pairings. Luscious Italian-influenced cuisine dominates the the menu: panini, bruschetta, capocollo and more.
 
Dinner reservations are available at 408-675-8466. Happy hour, which includes $5 appetizers, runs Monday through Friday, 2-5 p.m. and Saturdays, 9:30pm to 1am.
 
With the arrival of the holidays – what better time to toast your friends? –
why not drop by Vino Vino for a relaxed, celebratory glass? 

 
Salute!  

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<![CDATA[‘Raining’ champs of Sunnyvale: Calderon Tire Service offers stuff the big boys can’t]]>Mon, 21 Nov 2016 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/raining-champs-of-sunnyvale-calderon-tire-service-offers-stuff-the-big-boys-cant
This is the time of year when business normally picks up for Maria and Jerry Moran, managers of venerable Calderon Tire Service in downtown Sunnyvale – especially with lots of people planning long holiday drives.
 
“When it starts to rain, a lot of the procrastinators find themselves slipping all over the wet roads,” Maria said. That’s when they realize it’s time to ditch those bald tires and grab some skins that will safe this winter.
 
The shop at 205 E. Washington Avenue has been in the Calderon family for more than three decades, where it’s become known for solid, professional service that has kept generations of customers coming back.
 
Maria is the daughter of the original owner, who started multiple Calderon tire shops in the San Jose area and beyond. She and her husband began managing this one six or seven years ago and have kept up the same great service on anything having to do with tires, alignment, wheels, suspension, struts and brakes. They don’t do any general mechanics.
 
David vs. Goliath
In a time when mom-and pop businesses can’t compete on price with the big tire outlets, that personal, community-focused touch is a mark of distinction that the little guy can offer.
 
That’s why the South Bay natives have sponsored local youth softball and baseball teams, for example.
 
Also unlike the big chains, Calderon Tire will service your car whenever you need it -- no long wait, no appointment necessary. Just drive on in. Oh, you’re short on cash? No problem. Maria and Jerry will give you 90 days to pay, no credit check required.
 
Plus, while you’re there, the Calderon crew can hook you up with snow tires or any other special tire or wheel you may want. If they don’t have it in stock, they’ll look high and low until they snag it for you.
 
Expanding Opportunities
All this doesn’t mean it’s easy to thrive, especially when people don’t have a lot of money. So the Morans have been trying to market their services to some of the South Bay’s big, employers, like Google, and to auto dealers, as well as to people who work right around the corner.
 
“I’d like to be the No. 1 tire business in the area,” Jerry says.
 
How well those ambitious efforts work remains to be seen, but one thing is already clear: Lots of people love the service, and the shop’s customers have let their views be known on Yelp, where Calderon’s rates high marks and glowing comments.
 
“We’ve just become known as a good family tire shop,” Jerry says.
 
So why not drive over to the shop on your slick tires right now, before the next rainfall? When you pull in, knowledgeable workers who are proud to offer personal service at a shop with a long Sunnyvale history will greet you.
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<![CDATA[Discover the Perfect Wine]]>Mon, 14 Nov 2016 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/discover-the-perfect-wine
From aerospace and high tech PR to wine shop owner was a natural step for Susan Walker. She fell in love with wine during a month-long trip to France in her 20’s and at a certain point in her career, realized that being a permanent hostess in her own wine bar would be a dream in the making.

There was never any question it would be in Sunnyvale, where she’s lived for more than two decades. “I love it here,” she says, “it keeps its small-town appeal and home town feel - no matter how big it gets.”

Intimate Atmosphere - Friendly Service
Founder and owner of Brandon’s on Murphy Avenue, Susan takes pride in the atmosphere at this 12-year-old wine bar and shop. “People come here because they can sit and have a quiet chat, they can enjoy the camaraderie of others if they choose, and primarily because it’s a lovely intimate atmosphere to drink very good wine.”

Brandon’s specializes in small, boutique wines not easily found outside the winery. Susan says that, “We serve wines that are bottled in lots fewer than 1000 cases, so they can be hard to find elsewhere. The stock is different every two weeks.” They also offer a selection of beers, ports and champagnes, which can be from anywhere as suits the season and the availability.

No matter where the drink is from, each is selected to please the customers that Susan has come to know so well. “I love our customers,” she says. “Some are CEO's of big firms who have grown with us over the past 12 years, others are relatively new to California but looking for a more personal interaction with wines. It’s a diverse group.”
 
On-Site by the Glass - Bottles for Sale
Brandon’s wines are available on-site by the glass and for sale by the bottle or case. Frequently they supply high-end, limited edition wines to corporations seeking something special for corporate events.

In the summer, there is music on Wednesday and Fridays, and throughout the year there are special events, most publicized via their Facebook page and a private client email list.

Closed Sunday and Monday, Brandon’s is the ideal place to sit and get to know someone, to share a quiet moment, celebrate a special event or to develop your personal wine palate. It is located at 165 S. Murphy Avenue, #D (at the opening to the ally) and you can reach out to Brandon’s at: 408-732-6387, and their vibrant Facebook community.

Like historic Murphy Avenue itself, this is a distinct destination, one that as Susan pointed out, is “always welcoming to people who want to share a moment with us.”
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<![CDATA[Invest In Your Body, Invest In Yourself]]>Tue, 25 Oct 2016 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/invest-in-your-body-invest-in-yourself
​“Invest in your body. Invest in yourself,” says Elaine Little, Studio Manager and Co-Owner of Orangetheory Fitness Downtown Sunnyvale. “The goal here is to change lives.”
 
If it sounds ambitious, that’s because it IS ambitious. Elaine points out that when you see improvement in your body, when you can conquer the roadblocks to your own health, it changes the way you approach mental blocks as well.
 
Sunnyvale – Robust Community
Elaine, her husband Ty, and co-owners Antonia and John Rowdon knew they wanted to open an Orangetheory franchise, and when the possibility of Sunnyvale came up, the four owners were unanimously taken with downtown Sunnyvale. Elaine defines downtown as “robust, bubbling over with possibilities, a great community.”
 
“We wanted to be part of this community. We wanted to help make it even better.”
 
All the owners are engaged in the business, however, for Elaine, it was also a mid-career switch from senior marketing executive in the casino gaming industry.
 
“This is the best time in my life,” she says. She’s inspired by the community of members that has formed and feels like she is making a difference that matters. “My dad died, basically due to obesity, and I know the price people pay because it is so hard to get fit.”
 
Getting the Job Done
Since the December, 2015 opening, the scientifically-based fitness program has done more than attract techies who love the analytics and data that helps them track their workouts. There are people of all fitness levels, all ages. Some are post-surgery, others use walkers, and people come with a variety of health conditions. The program is adaptable and can work at any level.
 
“This isn’t some gimmick,” according to Elaine. “I think everyone has the same struggle when it comes to fitness. We all want to be fit. We just don’t want to do what it takes. I like that this program actually gets the job done and you can have some fun too.”
 
Anyone can drop-in to try a class with discounts for first-time visitors. Stop by Orangetheory Fitness at 155 S. Frances Street or call 408-508-6724. Information is available at www.orangetheoryfitness.com and you can join the Orangetheory Downtown Sunnyvale local community on Facebook.
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<![CDATA[Personal Service Prevails]]>Sat, 08 Oct 2016 06:31:07 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/personal-service-prevails
In an age when personal service is so hard to find, it’s no wonder the producers of Eden 2015 included “Special Thanks to Sunnyvale Travel” in the movie’s final credits. The team of this Sunnyvale-based travel agency arranged for an international cast and crew to arrive from various parts of the globe, on time, and on budget, to film the movie.

Old-Time Service Meets New-Time Needs
“We continue to change with the times,” says Aman Valani, manager and third generation of this family-owned business. For more than 30 years, the agency has been serving people from their downtown Sunnyvale location and now has a team of professional agents who speak English, Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi & Urdu.

The agents clearly enjoy what they do, and the office is a busy hub of planning, itineraries and working with clients to provide the best personalized service they can. “Sometimes,” one of the agents explains, “people are surprised at what having a good travel agent can do. Last year when there was severe flooding in India’s Chennai, a group of our customers had that region as part of their itinerary. We were able to work with the airlines to get people re-routed, re-booked if they preferred, or refunds if necessary. It’s hard for individuals to do that alone if they arranged every leg of a trip on an online ticketing site.”

Meeting Global Needs
It’s not just travel to Europe or India that occupies this business. They’ve managed the travel for a Bollywood singer who toured several U.S. cities; have arranged movie crews to travel to Capetown which is a popular shooting destination for Bollywood producers; and guided customers through the maze of vaccinations and visas necessary to travel the globe.

“The travel agency business is about adapting,” says Aman. “When my uncle started, it was about airlines and Amtrak. Now it is so much more, as people want to travel a lot, and there are so many choices and sometimes so much red tape. But for us, it’s still about service. We still listen to our clients and do our best to serve them, to be certain they get the best service.” The reward, the team agrees, is when a customer sends a note or card and says, “Thank you. It was a great trip.”

​Sunnyvale Travel is located at 251 Mathilda, online at www.sunnyvaletravel.net and is ready to serve your personal travel needs at 408-245-5090.
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<![CDATA[Healthy, Yummy, Made to Order]]>Wed, 14 Sep 2016 19:13:23 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/healthy-yummy-made-to-order
Bambu Desserts and Drinks on Washington has been there for two years, but new owner Oanh Ho has already made exciting changes since she purchased the franchise in June, 2016. "I love healthy food. I love great taste. And I love the Bambu concept," she says. "So I wanted this store to be very special.

From day one, she insisted on bringing in only fresh foods for the drinks they serve. No pre-frozen, pre-packaged. No powdered milk or juice extracts. "Every morning I inspect the food and make sure it's what I like, what I'd want to eat."

Customer Base is Rapidly Building
Oanh's love of tasty, healthy food is rapidly building a fan base, (as recent reviews on Yelp show). To a new entrepreneur, this is very exciting. "We're happy to custom make drinks, and one man came by to say, ‘Thank you, my toddler daughter loved the drink you made with coconut milk, avocado and no sugar.’ This is so wonderful; it makes my long days and all the work worthwhile."

Like a growing number of small business owners, Oanh says this has been a long-time dream. She had a business degree in her native Vietnam, but came to USA 10 years ago with little more than hopes. She worked two jobs while attending San Jose City and Mission College. In her early 30’s, she's a bundle of energy, loves interacting with customers, is mother of a 4-year-old, and is brimming with pride at her new endeavor.

"Taste this coffee," she says while making a strong, fragrant cup of Vietnamese coffee. "Or look at this fruit. We cut it just this morning, so it would be perfect for smoothies. Do you want vegan? Gluten free? Lactose free? Let us make it for you."

A Labor of Love
"You have to love food. You have to love working with healthy food. You have to love people, and hard work, and have big dreams," she says. "If I could say just one thing about the work so far, it would be 'THANK YOU' to the encouraging, wonderful customers who come by regularly."

For a great afternoon snack, or a lovely dessert after a meal in downtown Sunnyvale, stop by Bambu Desserts and Drinks, 189 W Washington. Check out the Yelp reviews at Bambu Sunnyvale, or view the menu at www.bambusunnyvale.com.
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<![CDATA[The Artisan Art of Shoe Repair]]>Thu, 04 Aug 2016 18:44:35 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/the-artisan-art-of-shoe-repair
Describing himself as an old-fashioned craftsman in a computer-crafted world, Souren Bagdasaryan is an artisan who brings skill, knowledge and patience to the art of hand-crafted repairs. As the owner of Souren Master Shoe Repair, he has been helping customers bring new life to shoes, luggage, purses, (and an occasional couch cushion or car seat) since 2002.

When New Won’t Do
Souren says that some people just don’t understand why they would want to repair rather than replace. It is especially true of people who grew up in a disposal age, when things are built to be replaced frequently rather than crafted for quality.

But sometimes, new just won’t do. Maybe it is that expensive brief case, a pair of favorite ballet toe shoes, a Birkenstock design that is no longer made, or the boots that have seen you through years of great adventures. Or perhaps it is a pair of costly dress shoes that deserve to be repaired rather than tossed aside.

Quality is His Specialty
Whatever the situation, Souren is an artisan. Yes, he said, some people just want to go to a shoe repair shop where they will slap some glue or nails on a new sole. “That’s not me. I work slowly, patiently, repair or rebuild, or assess what might be a basic flaw in the design of the item and work to correct it. It’s my biggest problem. I work as fast as patience, proper repair, and my two hands will allow.” He categorizes his shop as an “honest business” where every job is done with pride. My specialty, he says simply, “is quality.”

His customers know he’s an artist when it comes to excellence. The business has been built by word-of-mouth and a reputation for quality. He has no website, he has no Facebook page but great reviews on Yelp. Customers are encouraged to call before they come in and count on him as a valuable resource when it comes to keeping comfortable things comfy and restoring beauty to beat up or broken things.

Souren Master Shoe Repair also sells a good variety of insoles and arch supports, a large assortment of casual and dress shoe laces, and a broad array of shoe polishes. The shop is located at the end of the walkway at 165 S. Murphy, Suite A.

​Park right in front of the shop in the parking lot off Frances - the back of Tao Tao’s is a good landmark. The posted hours are Tuesday-Friday: 11 to 6, Saturday: 10:30 to 4, and closed Sunday and Monday. Drop in or contact Souren at: 408-992-0666.

When quality and craftsmanship are in order, you will find an artisan at Souren Master Shoe Repair.

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