<![CDATA[Sunnyvale Downtown - Blog]]>Tue, 24 Apr 2018 21:39:00 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Bernardo Shoe Repair: Proprietor follows in father’s footsteps]]>Mon, 09 Apr 2018 07:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/bernardo-shoe-repair-proprietor-follows-in-fathers-footsteps
Matt Zampella is serious about his shoes. As a high-end real estate agent, he has to be. After all, would you buy a house from a guy who wears funky shoes?
 
That’s one reason why, for more than two years, Matt’s been rolling into Bernardo Shoe Repair once or twice a week for a fresh shine, and why he trusts proprietor Benito G. Melo to handle any repairs they may need.
 
“He does a great job, and the price is right,” Matt says during a recent visit. “He does all my work. … He’s honest, I trust his judgment, and he always makes time for me.”
 
You’ll see lots of similar praise for Benito’s work on Yelp. One woman, Kaytlin K., says she drives in from Santa Cruz to get her shoes fixed. More than one raved that Bernardo Shoe Repair made their beat-up boots look as good as new. A.L., of San Mateo, stopped by on a Monday, when the store is closed. The person didn’t notice the sign and knocked on the door when it was locked. Then the person saw the sign. To the customer’s amazement, Benito opened the door and took care of the shoe problem right then.
 
But maybe the most striking Yelp review was submitted by sports car enthusiast Alan L., of Mountain View, who came to Bernardo Shoe Repair with “an unusual request—installing a short zipper in a gear shift boot for my Alfa Romeo Spyder. The work done was meticulous, accurate, and professional. A plus is that the owner is not only smart, he's a jovial gentleman, and fun to do business with.”
 
Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that Benito was able to fix the hood for the gear shift lever. After all, doctors recognize his abilities and often refer their patients to Bernardo. For example, people whose legs are of somewhat different lengths may need their orthotics repaired, or specially built soles to make sure their gait is comfortable and stable.
 
"I get a very good feeling when I see that people with really bad foot problems are happy that they can wear their shoes again,” he says. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.”
 
A born cobbler
Benito has been in the shoe repair business his whole life, learning the craft at his father’s cobbler’s bench in Mexico. “I’ve never done anything else,” he says.
 
In the U.S., he worked for someone else for a while, but he likes being his own boss. So, he opened his own place in late 1996, at Bernardo Avenue (thus the name of the shop) and El Camino in Sunnyvale. He moved to Town and Country for a while, but when the venerable downtown shopping center failed, he set up shop where he is now, at 245 Mathilda Ave.
 
Outstanding service
In the finest tradition of cobblers everywhere, Bernardo Shoe Repair will never be mistaken for a gilded Trump Tower and Casino. But the shop’s humble looks shouldn’t deter anyone looking for quality materials and top-notch craftsmanship.
 
“I use the best materials out there that I can get,” he says. “They do cost me more, and I could get cheaper ones. But I don’t like using those. I could save a few bucks, but the customer loses. So, I use the best materials and give the best service. Plus, I clean and polish every shoe that comes in, no charge.”
 
Stop by and see for yourself.
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<![CDATA[Hardy’s Bavaria: A mainstay of German home cooking in historic downtown Sunnyvale]]>Thu, 29 Mar 2018 06:27:33 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/hardys-bavaria-a-mainstay-of-german-home-cooking-in-historic-downtown-sunnyvale
Edith Lauren is that rare restaurateur who worked her way up from waitress to owner. She’s also unusual in that she hasn’t had to change much about Hardy’s Bavaria since she took ownership 16 years ago, in 2002.
 
Hardy’s has now been a mainstay of historic downtown Sunnyvale’s ever-evolving restaurant scene for over a quarter-century.
 
In a valley where business agility is the order of the day, perhaps Edith’s constancy to the original owner’s vision — serving traditional German food and drink in a traditional German setting — is a form of counterintuitive innovation in itself.
 
Hardy’s Bavarian: ‘Like a time machine’ 
After all, why mess perfection?
 
Here’s Matvey N.’s recent observation on Yelp, after eating at Hardy’s again, 10 years after moving away.: “It was like a time machine — nothing changed: same great beer, same tasty food, and same amazing ladies provide the same great service.”
 
Indeed, the food is still being prepared by the original owner’s chef.
 
Even the decor has barely changed. Original owner Gerhard ”Hardy” Steiner designed it his eatery as a little slice of Germany. When customers come in, they don’t have to worry too much that someone has monkeyed with the menu. The traditional dishes — spaetzle, schnitzel, schweinshaxe, potato pancakes, strudel, German cheeses and beers — it’s all here, and it’s all from the same supplier it’s always been, Edith says.
 
David K., a Yelper with 550 reviews to his credit, gushed about the experience.
“In all of my different restaurant excursions, I've never felt as if I were in someone's home as much as I did in Hardy's Bavaria,” he wrote. “The service in this simple German restaurant in Sunnyvale was so warm and friendly, and the food was so typical of comfortable and delicious German home cooking!”
 
Parties and catering 
Hardy’s can entertain parties of up to 60 or 70 people in the restaurant, and also offers catering on a selective basis.
 
Although everyone is warmly welcomed at Hardy’s — Edith doesn’t insist on some formal dress code, within reason — she says she doesn’t see the need to do a lot of marketing to bring in new clientele. She just relies on her reputation for serving good northern European food, and the customers keep coming.
 
“We have very loyal customers, and we are loyal to them, too,” she says.
 
A woman from Braunschweig 
As we mentioned, Edith never owned a restaurant before this, but rather learned the ropes just by working as a waitress, starting as a young woman in Braunschweig, a small city in north-central Germany. When she immigrated to the U.S. many years ago, she said, she hired on as a waitress with Hardy and continued her informal business education with him.

​When he decided to get out of the business, he offered to sell Hardy’s to her. And he still checks in from time to time to see how things are going.
 
The answer never varies: Oh, about the same.

​You can count on Hardy’s Bavarian restaurant to deliver traditional German beer served alongside sausages, sauerkraut and strudel in a relaxed atmosphere. You’ll find it on Evelyn Avenue right next to Murphy Square.
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<![CDATA[Gumba’s Italian Restaurant: A Sunnyvale tradition carries on legacy]]>Tue, 06 Mar 2018 22:30:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/gumbas-italian-restaurant-a-sunnyvale-tradition-carries-on-legacy
Like many people before and since, Gumba’s Italian Restaurant owner Tony Valle moved to Silicon Valley in 2000 to make a living in high tech.
 
An electrical engineer, he joined a startup. It went under after about three years later, but not before Tony became familiar with the charms of Gumba’s, which had been around since 1989 or 1990. When Gumba’s opened, there was but one other operating restaurant operating in what is now a thriving foodie paradise in historic downtown Sunnyvale.
 
When the startup folded, Tony switched gears and started selling investments. That was OK until 2008, when the subprime mortgage crisis hit.
 
The housing market went into the tank amid rampant foreclosures. Suddenly, even Silicon Valley didn’t have a lot money floating around. The capital dried up, and the few investors out there were skittish, not knowing where the bottom was. However, Tony knew the crisis also couched opportunities for those wise enough to exploit them, and he was looking for them.
 
A baker’s son buys Gumba’s 
When one of his connections told him Gumba’s founder Bob Sadri was looking to bail out of his restaurant amid the hard industry slowdown, Tony — who grew up working in his parents’ bakery — saw his opportunity to fulfill a dream.
 
“I always wanted to own my own restaurant,” he says. So, he bought Gumba’s at what he calls a “fire sale” price in 2012. It was losing money, but he was confident he could turn it around as time slowly improved.
 
“The thing that was most attractive to me about Gumba’s,” the Sunnyvale resident says, “was that it’s been kind of an iconic place in Sunnyvale for generations. … I wanted to continue the legacy of the founder — good food and good service.”
 
That’s pretty much what he’s done — often under the watchful eye of Sadri, who was a regular morning customer for years after he sold Gumba’s to Tony.
 
Good food and good service, of course, pretty much never go out of style, so Tony hasn’t much tinkered with the menu or service model. The fresh ingredients and homemade pastas and sauces, as well as the checkered tablecloths, remain intact. He did add delivery and catering, online ordering and a few more options to the already extensive menu.
 
Pasta, pizza, salad and seafood
Other than that, a visit to Gumba’s is pretty much same experience Sunnyvale residents and downtown workers have long loved. Pasta, pizza, salads and seafood dishes, he says, still account for 85 percent of his business.
 
Guests can also order beer and wine, and Tony offers a few promotional specials and a selection of signature dishes.
 
If you’ve missed out on the Gumba’s experience, or haven’t been back in a while, why don’t you come by and see what the fuss is about? It’s a delightful rock of tradition standing strong against the surging waves of change that characterize Silicon Valley. Say ciao to Tony.
 
Gumba’s Italian Restaurant is located at 176 S. Murphy Av​e., Sunnyvale. Call 408-737-8384. Breakfast served from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Live music the first three Thursdays of every month from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. www.gumbas.com
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<![CDATA[First Auto Service: Local service from a hometown guy]]>Tue, 20 Feb 2018 22:07:55 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/first-auto-service-local-service-from-a-hometown-guy

​Sam Lee caught the car bug at Sunnyvale’s Homestead High School, in automotive class, and now the longtime resident offers honest auto service to the folks in his hometown.
 
In about 2012, after many years of working as a mechanic (they call ‘em technicians nowadays) for auto dealers and other repair shops, Sam went out and bought his own place. What better location, he figured, than in the neighborhood where he lives — historic downtown Sunnyvale.
 
So now he’s the owner of First Auto, a little shop on East Washington Avenue at South Sunnyvale Avenue, where he and another guy or two keep busy working on the cars of people who live and work in the immediate area.
 
Luxury import auto service
First Auto is happy to service most any brand of car, but Sam allows that it’s the luxury imports — Mercedes, Infinity, BMW, Audi and the like — that get his personal engine revved up. “They’re more of a challenge,” he says, “because of the engineering. In fact, he owns several such cars himself, in part because he loves the different driving experiences and in part because what he learns about the cars helps him in his work.
 
Back when Sam was at Homestead High, there was a boom in drag-racing imports. It was his interest in that sport that got him involved in the auto shop class. That passion only grew, and he remains involved in racing to this day. He’s into open-wheeled kart racing these days (“like Formula One without the cost”).
 
Time to winterize
Despite his interest in racing, Sam makes it clear that First Auto Service isn’t trying to break into the race-car market because his two-bay shop is too small to work on modified cars. Rather, he says he’s strictly after regular cars in the local market.
 
Now that it’s winter, Sam says, it’s a good time to come in and take care of a few things to keep you safe in the rain: replace the wiper blades and any burnt-out lights, fix the brakes, rotate the tires, replace cracked windshields and the like. They don’t do heavy body work.
 
Most of Sam’s business comes from friends, repeat customers and his 4.5-star rating on Yelp. Lots of reviewers love how First Auto won’t try to pressure customers into fixing things that really aren’t a problem yet, or they mention the fast, friendly service. First Auto offers free engine diagnostics and a year-round special on synthetic oil and filters, and Sam finds that to be enough incentive to bring in new customers. He doesn’t really have to advertise, lest he get more business than he can handle.
 
First Auto, he says, is “like the best-kept secret downtown because it’s a little hard to find. … When you’re down there, you just have to come find us.” When you do you’ll be glad you did.
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<![CDATA[Dishdash: A taste and sight of the Middle East]]>Tue, 06 Feb 2018 07:36:40 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/dishdash-a-taste-and-sight-of-the-middle-east
When Emad Ibrahim and wife Nadiah Mshasha opened Dishdash in 2001 on Sunnyvale’s historic South Murphy Avenue, they had plenty of experience in the Middle Eastern / Mediterranean restaurant business. What they didn’t have was lots of dining space and plenty of employees.
 
Since then, the Palestinian immigrants have a lot more of both. Once a place with just 11 employees and one small room in which to serve their fine cuisine, they now have more than 70 workers and two more dining rooms. That doesn’t even count their opening a grill in Milpitas as well as three fast casual outlets (Dish n’ Dash) in Sunnyvale, San Jose and Fremont.
 
That kind of success doesn’t just happen. It comes from consistently serving up quality fare (locally sourced and sustainably raised whenever possible) with great service — and responding to customers’ ever-changing dietary needs and culinary trends, says Nadiah.
 
In the Sunnyvale Dishdash, the decor is comprised of black-and-white Middle Eastern photos, embroideries and artifacts hanging on the walls and embedded in the tabletops. The just-so lighting and the architectural touches complete the sense of transporting diners to Jerusalem or Beirut — not glitzy, but elegant and homey.
 
“The decor is special,” Nadiah says, “because we are from the Middle East, we are Palestinian. Many of the artifacts came from home, or we picked them up when we traveled to the Middle East.”
 
Downtown dining destination
Going into the food business wasn’t such a big leap for Emad and Nadiah. First off, Emad was raised by a mother who passed her extraordinary cooking skills to her sons. To put himself through business school, Emad worked in his brother’s Middle Eastern eatery in San Francisco’s Noe Valley as a waiter and in other capacities. Nadiah also worked there.
 
But the couple lived in Sunnyvale, as they do now, and after Emad graduated, the long commute to San Francisco just became too much. Armed with his business degree and an extensive background in the restaurant industry, Emad started poking around the South Bay for a place to launch their own restaurant, they found it in their own Sunnyvale downtown.
 
As Sunnyvale residents, downtown Sunnyvale looked good for a couple of reasons: the proximity to their home, and the prospect of the bustling, growing historic area’s redevelopment.

So, they took the plunge. Little did they know that the economy was about to tank. Needless to say, that made launching a new business that much more difficult. The redevelopment plan failed to get off the ground, people cut back on corporate lunches and dinners, unemployment rose.
 
 
Surviving and thriving
And yet, Dishdash came through it all and not only survived, but thrived. Emad and Nadiah are grateful that they’ve had the opportunity to employ lots of people and to nurture some of them for years, as well as to have earned customers’ respect.
 
“I’ll just say it’s been an adventure going through all the challenges and changes, but overall it’s great,” Nadiah says with a wry chuckle.
 
You’ll find Dishdash on Historic Murphy Avenue, near Washington Avenue. They are open every day but Sunday for lunch and dinner and welcome the opportunity to proudly transport you to the Middle East through their family recipes and treasures.
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<![CDATA[Eye Care That’s Good as Gold]]>Thu, 25 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/eye-care-thats-good-as-gold
Although Dr. Gary Gold & Associates Optometry, Inc. takes pride in its amazing optometric technology and high-end eyewear, nothing it offers would make you see cows grazing across the street when you leave the downtown Sunnyvale office wearing your brand-new spectacles.
 
But Dr. Gold says that’s precisely the sight that greeted the first clients of the practice he now owns. Initially opening its doors 1955, Dr Gold bought the practice from a retiring optometrist in 1981. He moved the office to its current location, at 130 S. Sunnyvale Avenue, between Washington and Evelyn Avenues, in 2008.
 
That makes Dr. Gary Gold & Associates one of the oldest continuing small businesses in downtown Sunnyvale, perhaps only behind Walt’s Cycles.
 
The days of pastoral old Sunnyvale are gone and replaced with the much-loved, historic Murphy Avenue, and Dr. Gold’s business has certainly changed with the times.
 
High tech, high style
“We keep pretty high tech here,” Dr. Gold said. “We keep ahead of the curve as best we can.” The practice is actually two businesses in one, Style Eyes Optique and Dr. Gary Gold & Associates Optometry. Through Style Eyes Optique the office provides many exclusive frame lines in addition to prescription and non prescription sunglasses such as Maui Jim and Oakley.

​The optometry side offers a wider range of vision services than found in most offices, from routine eye examinations, prescribing glasses and contact lenses to the treatment of eye infections. They also treat ocular diseases such as glaucoma and manage macular degeneration enhanced by Zeiss imaging technology. In addition, the practice also co-manages refractive surgeries such as LASIK and cataract surgery by working with outside ophthalmologists.
 
Services are available Monday through Saturday. To make an appointment, call 408-736-3802, and visit drgoldeyes.com for more information.
 
The practice also makes a great effort to keep up in the style department and to offer great variety of choices. So much so, Dr. Gold said “since we really love and are continually adding new and exciting frame lines, it becomes challenging to decide which designer lines to keep and which ones to give up.” 
 
Six optometrists
Dr. Gold did his undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley where he developed an interest in optometry. He was attracted to optometry, he said, because it’s “a medically oriented people business without the downside that medicine sometimes presents. By choosing graduate school at UC Berkeley’s School of Optometry I also got to continue going to school at Berkeley where their optometry school was considered the best.”
 
With six optometrists on staff, mostly from UC Berkeley, he says it’s one of the larger practices in Santa Clara County. While most of their patients come from the surrounding neighborhoods and nearby computer industries, there are many who travel from out of town, out of state, and even as far as Hong Kong to continue to be seen by Dr. Gold. 
 
In 2014 Dr. Gold was awarded the Outstanding Business Person of the Year Award by the City of Sunnyvale. As if Dr. Gold’s longevity doing business in the community and his sponsorship of local youth organizations weren’t proof enough of his commitment to downtown Sunnyvale, the San Jose native has taken an active role in the Sunnyvale Downtown Association Board and appreciates being a part of the innovative and growing Sunnyvale community. 
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<![CDATA[Vitality Bowls: Fast, casual food — with a twist of health]]>Thu, 11 Jan 2018 08:00:00 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/vitality-bowls-fast-casual-food-with-a-twist-of-health
​After years as a “road warrior” for several Big 5 consultancies, Anil Nair was looking to invest in a retail franchise as a way to be home more on nights and weekends, and to partner with his wife in business.
 
One of his criteria was to integrate his family’s social values into this investment. The search led him to buy into Vitality Bowls. “Serving the community with something we can be proud of — that was very important for us,” Anil says. “It was one of the few businesses we could live with.”
 
He says the couple feels good about selling Vitality Bowls’ fresh, quality food — something he and his wife insist upon at the family table. So good that, in May, he opened the Vitality Bowls, in downtown Sunnyvale, with two friends he’s known for 15 years.
 
For those not familiar with the growing, San Ramon-based chain, Vitality Bowls offers 12 kinds of bowls, most of them based on organic acai berries and topped with organic granola and other “superfoods.” While bowls are the main emphasis, the Vitality Bowls menu also includes smoothies, juices waffles, soups, salads and an assortment of panini.
 
What ties it all together?
 
“It’s all healthy, vegan-friendly natural food with no added preservatives or sugar, no yogurt, no GMOs (genetically modified organisms). It’s seasonally organic, as well,” he says. “And it’s good for any time of day, breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack. It’s quite filling and gives you the energy to go the whole day.”
 
Allergy fighters
It’s not so hard to get fast food, or to eat in a casual environment. But tasty and healthy, too? That’s what makes Vitality Bowls stand out from the crowd, Anil says.
 
There are about 30 locations around the state, and at least one in 11 states. The first one opened in San Ramon in 2014, a few years after franchisors Roy and Tara Gilad discovered their young daughter had several food allergies. They decided they wanted to spread the health, and that’s a must for any franchisee, as well.
 
Anil says he and his partners chose the Sunnyvale location in the historic Murphy Avenue area, because there’s lots of foot traffic, a built-in customer base in the many tech companies located nearby and little competition in his niche. It has proved to be a great decision.
 
The Sunnyvale location is on the Plaza del Sol and also offers a fully catered menu. Call (408) 498-0074 or email downtownsunnyvale@vitalitybowls.com. They’re open Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Address: 115 S. Frances St., Sunnyvale 94086.
 
Be sure to follow on Facebook and Twitter for offers posted regularly Any way to help the community make healthy food choices is what Vitality Bowls is all about.
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<![CDATA[Sleep Health MD Helps People Return to Restful, Healthful Slumber]]>Fri, 29 Dec 2017 01:12:05 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/sleep-health-md-helps-people-return-to-restful-healthful-slumber
Sleep is not a luxury. Chronic sleeplessness should not be ignored.

These are the first two points that Sleiman Masri, marketing manager at Sleep Health MD, makes, and two of the key messages the medical team work with patients to understand and resolve.

Since opening the South Sunnyvale Avenue location regional sleep clinic in 2016, the doctors and staff at the facility have been taking this message to patients, businesses and civic organizations.
 
The medical team at the facility, led by Sleep Medicine Specialist and Adjunct Clinical Faculty, Stanford University School of Medicine, Shehlanoor Huseni MD, who grew up in Sunnyvale and graduated from Sunnyvale High School, have in-house treatments for insomnia, sleep apnea and other issues that cause chronic sleeplessness.
 
As part of the clinic’s effort to educate the community, Dr. Huseni shared her insights for our Sunnyvale community:
 
Q - Are people in Silicon Valley likely to be more sleep deprived than people of similar ages in other parts of the country?  

Dr. Huseni: I believe that people in Silicon Valley have incredible work ethic. But I often remind them that it is important to have to have work/life balance as this balance helps to regulate our sleep wake cycle. Anxiety about work projects etc. can certainly lead to a racing mind and if this occurs on a regular basis it can lead to sleep deprivation and insomnia. 
 
Q - We keep hearing that being on "screens" interferes with sleep. Are there two or three simple ways that people can do their jobs, and be on their phones to get their business done, and still have good sleep?
 
Dr. Huseni: When I talk to my patients about regulating their sleep wake cycle I often start with discussing the mnemonic “SELF”
  • S- Social interactions work out mind during the day and gets our MIND tired enough to be able to go to sleep at night.
  • E- Exercise during the day tires our BODY enough to be able to relax and go to sleep at night  
  • L- Light is the strongest “zeitgeber”. Zeitgeber is a German word for “time giver”. Zeitgebers are environmental cues that synchronize our internal biological clocks. I recommend, as hard as it may be, it is important to dim the lights 2-3 hours prior to bedtime (avoid blue light, and utilize smart phones and laptops features to dim the blue light) and expose yourself to the brightest light (preferably sunlight) for 20-30 mins when you wake up in the morning. 
  • F- Food too close to bedtime should be avoided. 

​Q - When is it time to seek professional help for sleep issues?
 
If a bed partner informs you that you “stop breathing” or that you have “pauses” in your breathing at night because of loud snoring it is important to see a sleep medicine physician. This is a very common finding in patients with obstructive sleep Apnea. 
 
If on most nights of the week it takes you >30 mins to fall asleep or you wake up in the middle of the night frequently and have trouble going back to sleep this may be insomnia. Especially if the lack of sleep is affecting your daytime/executive function (memory, concentration, decision making, mood) 
 
Q - How can we help our children develop healthy sleep habits?
 
Dr. Huseni: Healthy sleep in children requires adequate duration, appropriate timing, regularity, and absence of sleep disorders. To maintain good “sleep hygiene” in children I recommend: 
  1. Consistent bedtime and wake time. Even on weekends
  2. Consistent bedtime routine (i.e brush teeth, story time, lights off) 
  3. No television in the  bedroom
  4. Watch caffeine consumption (chocolate/sodas)
 
Maybe 2018 is just the right time to have more energy by sleeping better!
 
Personal consultation is the best way to diagnose your sleep challenges with the Sleep Health MD team and thankfully it is covered by most insurance plans. Follow Sleep Health MD on Facebook and visit their website to learn more.
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<![CDATA[Bean Scene Cafe: Serving Caffeine Nation for Decades]]>Tue, 19 Dec 2017 01:06:06 GMThttp://sunnyvaledowntown.com/blog/bean-scene-cafe-serving-caffeine-nation-for-decades
The Bean Scene Cafe has been seen in downtown Sunnyvale for more than 20 years. Despite competition and Silicon Valley’s obsession with the new, it remains a favorite spot to stop in for a cup of hot coffee and soup on a winter’s day. It has earned rave reviews recently on Trip Advisor and on its Facebook page, for its warm, down-home atmosphere and friendly staff.
 
That kind of longevity doesn’t just happen, especially in the cutthroat specialty coffee business. Although out-of-home U.S. coffee consumption equaled an all-time high in 2017, it’s getting harder and harder for independent outlets to compete against fast-expanding chains.
 
Kenny Lam, owner of Bean Scene Cafe, was aware of the trend when he bought the cafe from a buddy in 2005 and sensed the need to adapt. He switched up the menu to put more emphasis on healthier food: Out with the fried and oily, in with the vegan and organic options. The juice is squeezed fresh, and most items are made to order.
 
Another change, subtle but important, is brewing for early 2018. Kenny says he’s switching to organic beans, though they’ll be offered in all the same popular varieties he’s always had. The demand for organic is high, he says, but, “Taste-wise, customers shouldn’t notice the difference.”
 
Community vibe
Given their success, the big national chain is obviously doing something right. Those who appreciate something different, something special, will find a bit of that at the Bean Scene Cafe. It is located right on Historic Murphy Avenue near Washington Avenue.
 
Stop in a Saturday morning when the Sunnyvale Farmers Market is in full swing just outside the front door, and you’ll feel the community vibe inside. It’s the cafe’s busiest day, Kenny says.
 
On a recent pre-Christmas Saturday, we saw it for ourselves. Here, we saw people reading the newspaper or a book. There, young parents relaxed with a cup of a java as their bundled-up baby slept in her portable car seat on the floor a next to a sturdy cloth bag overflowing with fresh produce.
 
Maybe it’s just the time of year, but the constant flow of people in and out, chatting amiably and greeting friends and neighbors, brought to mind a lyric from Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”:
The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces

Of people passing by.
I see friends shaking hands

Saying how do you do.
They're really saying: “I love you.”

 
Coffee specials and belly dancing
It’s probably not reasonable to expect that kind of vibe at all times, but there are plenty of other ways the Bean Scene Cafe differs from the chain-store experience. For instance, Kenny rotates the works of local artists hanging on the wall.

​Occasionally he brings in a band for the later cafe hours of a Friday. Oh, and when is the last time you saw a belly dancer at Peet’s? Or picked up a small coffee and a muffin, bagel or pastry for $2? There are also lower-priced lunch and dinner specials.
 
Still not convinced to give Bean Scene a visit? We’ll leave you with this recent Trip Advisor review from Stella1001: “Love, love, love this place. It's so good not to be in a chain coffee shop for a change. The coffee here is lovely, and the atmosphere is comfortable and friendly. Food excellent too. We have been here a few times visiting from the UK and the staff always remember us. You can't get better than that!”

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<![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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