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.
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.”
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.
“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?
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“No other city does this, or even something like this. It’s a totally unique dining experience. Actually, there are no other cities that I know of that could even pull something like this off.”
Executive Director of the Sunnyvale Downtown Association, Joel Wyrik, is talking about the return of the popular Jazz & Beyond Series, now back for its seventh year. Every Saturday, 5:30-8:30, from July 9 through August 27, South Murphy Street is closed, a stage and tables are set up, and diners can enjoy jazz while ordering food from 20+ nearby restaurants. The delightfully special appeal of this is that it is an actual sit-down, dining experience where everyone in your party can order what they want from any of the restaurants.
Order What You Want, From Where You Want
In the mood for a Middle Eastern appetizer, a Chinese entrée and a gelato for dessert? No problem. The kids want hot dogs, dad wants bar-b-que, and mom is looking for seafood? No problem. The menu and phone numbers are on the tables. You simply call and place your order and waiters will bring it to your table.
Sunnyvale is fortunate to have the perfect mix of elements to make something like this possible: 1) there is a one-block street with a dense concentration of restaurants, 2) the street can be closed without interfering with normal commerce and traffic, 3) there is good cell phone signal and wifi, and 4) there is an established business group that has the organization and desire to give customers a unique dining experience. The perfect Sunnyvale climate makes it that much nicer.
Of course, the key element in all this is that the jazz is terrific. Popular jazz musicians – known names from throughout the Bay Area – are booked for each week, and they perform while you eat and enjoy the downtown Sunnyvale experience.
Great food. Great Music. Altogether, a Great Time
“This is our way of saying thank you to the community, to our customers,” Joel explains. “It’s a wonderful way to spend a Saturday evening. A lot of fun and great music.”
Sponsored by Broadcom and produced by the Sunnyvale Downtown Association, Jazz & Beyond is fun, interesting, and perfect for families, dates, groups of friends, or even a special night out for mom and dad.
There is ample free parking at Macy’s, CalTrain and at Plaza del Sol. Beer and wine are available, as are the normal restaurant/bars along the street. Admission is free, and if you want to bring a stadium chair and enjoy the music without buying dinner, that’s fine too.
Check out this season’s 2016 entertainment lineup on the Sunnyvale Downtown Association website and Facebook page.
Jazz & Beyond is a great gift for our community and an experience as unique as Sunnyvale itself.
Stop by Gelateria Bella Roma, and there are three things you can count on: You will taste delicious Italian gelato, you will be greeted by the owner, and the gelato will be fresh and made in the shop.
Or more simply, as one Italian customer proclaimed, “Mmmm. It’s just like back home.”
“We’re not some big conglomerate or a chain or franchise,” says store manager Bali. “We are family run, family operated, and all the ice cream is made in small batches, right here, every day.” Dad Sam, son Bali and cousin Manjit are putting in seven days a week to make sure everything is perfect and to welcome you with a smile.
The Perfect Gelato
The perfect gelato, for those who don’t know, should never be hard like American ice cream or soft like frozen yogurt. It should be perfectly creamy and smooth. Filled with deep, rich flavors and served at a temperature that melts on the tongue.
For Manjit, who made gelato for 15 years at a well-known gelateria by the Tivoli Fountain in Rome, gelato is an art.
The Perfect Setting
“We love Sunnyvale for the diversity of cultures, and for the community. Everyone has been very welcoming.” says Bali. “We looked for nearly two years for just the right spot, the right size, a place with a lot of foot traffic, people of all ages. It’s great when people stop by to say they are glad we chose to locate here.”
The location at 127 S. Murphy took some time and preparation to have things perfect for the May opening but Sam said “it was worth the wait”. He added that it may have taken longer than expected but the other Sunnyvale merchants and the city were very helpful.
So stop by, welcome the new business owners and try a scoop or two, or maybe a milkshake. Several dairy-free and vegan options are available. Check out
Gelateria Bella Roma on Facebook or call at 669-246-5051.
Now is the perfect time to indulge in a delicious taste of Italy in downtown Sunnyvale.
Sunnyvale Summer Music Series + Market
Great live music. Awesome food. Outdoor dance floor. Amazing company! The Sunnyvale Summer Series Music + Market is back and ready for another terrific season!
Since 1998, this weekly summer fest has become a community tradition. Families, new residents, and nearby workers all know that this is the place to be every Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 8:30, through August 31.
Bands, Beer, Wine, Food, Friends and Fun
Check out the 2016 line-up of bands on the Downtown Sunnyvale website. Thanks to community sponsors, you can enjoy beer/wine, and many vendors, in addition to great music. The event is organized by the Sunnyvale’s Downtown Association.
According to Joe Antuzzi, the event is like a yearly reunion of friends. Lots of new people come, of course, but local residents and former Sunnyvale residents love to attend to catch up. Everywhere you go you see bear hugs as friends reunite and hear a lot of greetings like, “Hey! How's it going, long time no see!” As well as work groups and whole families enjoying summer nights.
It Takes a Village
Owner of il Postale, a founder (and current Chairman of the Board) of the Sunnyvale Downtown Association, Joe has been among the core group of business owners who make the event come about. “The City of Sunnyvale along with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Specialty Waste, Coors Light and @WalmartLabs, sponsor the event and it is the downtown business owners that donate thousands of hours to make this great event happen.”
“We were among the first of the northern California cities to do a weekly summer music series,” says Joe, comparing the event to a great outdoor dining and
Bring a lounge chair if you like and children of all ages are welcome but please leave your four-legged ones at home (service and therapy dogs are of course welcome). Outside beverages are not allowed so take advantage of the local options. Beer and wine are available for $5 (chardonnay, white zinfandel, and cabernet all from The California Winery).
Free parking is abundant in three nearby lots: Macy’s lot, CalTrain parking structure (after 6 p.m.) and three levels of parking beneath Plaza del Sol.
So every Wednesday this summer, head on over to Washington and S. Murphy Avenue, have a drink, a meal, a dance or two (or more) and celebrate summer Sunnyvale-style.
Like many startups, the idea for PhoEver blossomed from a passion. “We LOVE to eat. We LOVE to cook,” co-owners Kim and Lana say when asked why they opened a restaurant. “Our food is filled with LOVE. We love working with fresh, healthy ingredients and we love having people eat here. It’s like family.”
A Crazy Idea
The two are mothers, busy working-women, who met at West Valley College nearly two decades ago. They can’t precisely pinpoint when they decided to open a restaurant. “The idea just came to us,” they agree. “It was a crazy idea. But crazy in a good way.”
They traveled to Southeast Asia to explore tastes that would fit well with their Vietnamese culture and heritage. They tried out recipes at home.
Beyond Vietnamese Food – Asian Fusion
The dream became reality in January, 2016 when PhoEver opened. Lana creates all the recipes, artfully blending flavors that go together to create a fusion of cultures. “You don’t have to love Vietnamese food to love her dishes,” Kim says.
The extensive menu includes appetizers, entrees, sandwiches and desserts. Fish, chicken, steak, and of course, several pho offerings with deep, rich broths that are slow-cooked overnight. Sometimes Lana’s best ideas come from what’s seasonal in the market. Other recipes are the product of trial and error. Her hand-crafted marinades and sauces are already attracting interest from caterers who want to incorporate her creations in their menus.
PhoEver is MSG-free, offers several gluten-free offerings and has a page on the menu with vegetarian and vegan choices, including a tofu roll that Lana said is a favorite.
Like any Silicon Valley start-up, Kim and Lana find themselves working around the clock. The restaurant is open six days, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Closed Sundays).
Their passion is clear, and now it’s up to the customers. “We want feedback and ideas from everyone,” Kim said. So take your family, your work group, your significant other, or just go by yourself. Say hi, and check out what Sunnyvale is discovering about food cooked with passion, and presented with love.
PhoEver is located at 321 W Washington Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086. Drop in or give them a call at 408-962-0669. You can also contact them by email at: Info.email@example.com
When Tan and his wife Thy bought Lucky Shot Billiards in 2004, they set out to provide a welcoming environment with a comfortable atmosphere and top-of-the-line equipment. Tan said he would like this to be a fun place for players at all levels.
By all measures the vision has been a success. Whether people come for a company event, league play, or because they’ve just finished dinner nearby, the consensus among customers is this is the best pool hall in Silicon Valley. Lucky Shot Billiards attracts a crowd of regulars and competition players as well as casual hobbyists. It is a popular event venue for bachelorette and birthday parties. Groups from prominent Silicon Valley businesses have held events there such as Google, Apple, Nvidia and Cisco.
For Love of the Game
The secret of success is in large part because Lucky Shot is about the love of the game and the camaraderie of friends. According to Tan, it is a place for people to get involved in the physical (technical) aspects of the game and the intellectual aspects of the game. “Pool,” says Tan, “is not just banging the ball.”
Tan’s love of the game is especially evident in the high-end pro shop, on-call cue master, and the fact that every year since he’s owned the business, at least one team from the Lucky Shot has gone on to compete in the APA national competitions.
The camaraderie is evident in the community fostered at the pool hall. The customers respond generously to fundraisers sponsored by Lucky Shot Billiards (where the business matches money raised). Beneficiaries are many and have included Second Harvest, Red Cross, firefighters and police. All tips to staff are pooled and given to charity. In the winter, customers collect coats and blankets to help local homeless people.
Stop by Sometime
The next time you are in Sunnyvale, stop on by. All you’ll see on So. Murphy Avenue is a neon sign above an open door with a flight of steps going down. (An elevator is also available – call for information). But don’t let the small entrance fool you.
There’s a lot going on and if you love pool, or just think it’s a great way to spend an hour, there’s no better place in Silicon Valley than Lucky Shot Billiards.
Lucky Shot Billiards is located at 189 S. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, Ca. 94086. They’re looking forward to seeing you soon. Drop down and give them a shot!
Foodies: prepare to be delighted. The team at The Oxford intends to make every bite and every sip a palate pleaser.
“We are very, very, very serious about the food we are serving,” says Rahul, managing partner and general manager. “And we are very, very, very serious about the drinks we are offering.”
Rahul emphasizes that the food and drink offerings are chef-created and chef-prepared, but The Oxford is equally committed to creating a welcoming environment. The intent is that it be comfortable, casual and the “go to” place whether it is a family, a group of co-workers, or a few friends meeting for a drink.
A London Inspired Gastropub
Billed as a gastropub, The Oxford menu is inspired by London’s multi-cultural food scene and created with the California ethos of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, wine and beer. They are also proud that “as much as we can, and as much as possible,” the chef and staff make their own infusions and flavors.
The Oxford Mule, for example, was created with a sly nod to London: the vodka in this drink-with-a-kick is infused with just the right amount of Earl Grey tea. The ginger beer is brewed in house. The in-house hummus is made by roasting the chickpeas rather than soaking them in water. “It’s something the chef picked up in his travels,” explains Rahul. “It’s very good.”
A Work In Progress
The restaurant opened on St. Patrick’s Day 2016, and has tweaked and adjusted the menu based on suggestions from patrons. Rahul said he’s very happy to be attracting great customers who are genuinely excited about what The Oxford brings to Sunnyvale. “We’re very lucky to be able to get feedback. We could sit around and talk and talk, but what the customers want is much more important.”
Ideas are flowing, and the current menu will continue to change and evolve both before and after the May 7, 2016, grand opening. Rahul refers to it as “a work in progress.”
What won’t change is to work hard every day to present fine food in a unique and comfortable setting. To join the conversation, find The Oxford on Instagram and Twitter, @TheOxfordCA.
The Oxford is located at 195 S Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA. Stop by The Oxford on May 7, 2016, at their Grand Opening to meet the staff and sample the unique tastes and treats of this gastropub.
You might assume there is a Wilson at Wilson’s Salon. You’d be right. And wrong.
Before he opened a salon on the corner of Murphy and E Washington, stylist Dung Lam worked at a nearby salon and had a growing group of clients. But a customer who had become a friend told him it was hard to remember to pronounce his name. She asked, as a token to a popular movie of that year named “Cast Away,” if she could call him Wilson.
He liked it. And the name stuck.
Wilson’s Opens Its Doors
By the time he opened his own salon in 2009, he was Wilson to his customers. He decided that it would be Wilson’s Salon and it would be in Sunnyvale. Though S. Murphy wasn’t the hub it is now, Wilson already loved the location, the people and the community spirit.
His goal was to give people a place where their inner vision could come true. One customer came in with a self-drawn hair design that included three colors. It took several hours, but was perfect! Both client and stylist were thrilled.
“Whatever a customer wants, if they bring a picture, we can do it,” Wilson says.
It’s important to Wilson that stylists work with passion and love for their profession. They regularly go to training to stay ahead of fashions and styles. The shop is the only Sunnyvale retailer for Aveda products, and Bumble & bumble. Both of these upscale hair product lines require ongoing education in technique and hair care.
Feeling Good is Great
Beyond the hair style, it’s all about making people feel good. The salon has staff that can speak Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and English. And if words fail, there is a lengthy consultation using pictures and drawings. Straight-A high school students are rewarded with a free hair cut. Children are welcome. Walk-ins are accommodated whenever possible. Rushing to catch an Uber to the airport? Not a problem. Just tell the staff your timing.
Good business at Wilson’s reflects the owner’s attitude. “We love to please our clients. And when you love what you do, that’s easy.”
Wilson’s Salon is located at: 198 South Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086. Visit their website or give them a call at: (408) 245-8200
Imagine you find yourself in a theater—it is very dark—you can see a performer lit by spotlight on the stage before you, playing music you love with an exhilarating beat. The performer is not just a DJ, and you are not just sitting still. Your heart is pounding, your breaths come at an exhilarating pace, and you are connected with the performance, keeping pace. Then as you expected, it’s 3-2-1 and you are invited to push beyond yourself, to work to exceed the beats in the music for a short interval. You feel yourself break through your own personal wall.
This is not just any theater
The performer is an accomplished athlete and your coach. You are astride a stationary bike that you have adjusted for the resistance that is right for you.
Flywheel’s signature class is high-intensity interval training
Your ride lasts 45 minutes. You enjoyed the class at a pace that is comfortable for you, and your instructor encouraged you to reach your fitness goals. The resistance you set for yourself is recorded as Torq and your speed is measured in RPMs on a small computer on your bike. FlyWheel uses these two measurements to calculate and display your total energy output throughout your ride as your Power Score.
Along with your top speed and maximum Torq for each ride, your Power Score yields a lot of information, such as the total calories you burned and total miles; all of this is available to you on your account dashboard on the Flywheel iOS app and website. You can track your progress as little or as much as you want. If you are feeling a little more competitive, you can opt-in before your ride to have your Power Score posted anonymously on the TorqBoard during the class. Some riders enjoy knowing where they ranked, especially in the short races that instructors lead throughout each class.
Other ride options
Some classes are purely beat-driven, known as FlyBeats, where each rider stays on the beat of the music and plays with their resistance for a maximum workout. Other classes offer themed rides, such as 80s dance parties and East Coast vs West Coast hip-hop jams. Some riders prefer longer classes: 60 and 90-minute classes are offered throughout the week. Classes incorporate an arm workout for upper-body toning to give you a full body workout.
Regardless of your fitness level, your Flywheel team is there to provide plenty of support for you. They will prepare for you for your ride, setting a comfortable starting point for your resistance and helping you become confident with your bike.
Flywheel bikes are compatible with SPD cleats or Look Delta cleats, if you choose to bring your own shoes. Don’t worry if you don’t own cycling shoes; your Flywheel team will have a fresh pair of cycling shoes in your size waiting for you before each class. They can provide other little essentials, such as saddle cushions, hair ties and earplugs, as well. It’s easy to stow your personal gear; Flywheel can give you a seat bag for your class, or you can put everything away in a self-locking locker that includes a charging port for your cell phone.
Flywheel is convenient for busy people
Once you have completed your initial orientation, you can walk-in, on-time to any class: you use your Flywheel app or one of the laptops in their lobby to sign-up. After your ride, you can scrub down in one of several private shower rooms which are outfitted with soap, shampoo, conditioner from Bliss Spa. You will find everything you need to dry your hair at the blow-drying station.
Need a little more support?
Once a quarter, you can enroll in a four-week wellness program. You get one-on-one guidance from your instructor coach, who helps you stay accountable to yourself for a set number of classes per week as well as a nutrition plan to meet your health objectives.
Flywheel is not about intimidation
Unlike other cycling and workout programs, each class at Flywheel is open to anyone, regardless of experience or fitness level. Every ride is your very own, in an environment that is comfortable for you. To get started, your first class at Flywheel Sunnyvale is free. If you mention this post in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, you get your second class free, as well. Come out and join the Flywheel team at 331 West Washington Avenue, in downtown Sunnyvale.
A visit to Kabul Afghan Cuisine is every bit an authentic Afghan experience, but its food is prepared for a wide range of tastes. Each dish is uniquely prepared. For example, just among its offerings featuring lamb are ten different dishes prepared ten different ways, each using different spices, with spiciness that is not too much or too little, but just right. Its cooking is designed to bridge Middle Eastern and Mediterranean styles.
Fresh Ingredients Daily
Kabul Afghan Cuisine has no freezer in its kitchen: lamb, beef, chicken and fish are delivered several times each week. Its meat is served as fresh as possible and in larger slices than is traditional in Afghan-style cooking, to preserve its juiciness. Kabul’s signature rice servings, browned and white, are prepared twice daily, so that their stock of seasonings retain their flavor.
An Original Afghani Restaurant
When Kabul Afghan Cuisine opened in Sunnyvale 29 years ago, it was one of California’s first Afghan restaurants. Najib Naimi, its owner, learned traditional Afghan-style cooking from his mother back home in Kabul and he picked up extras from his cousins who launched one of the first Afghan-style restaurants in the US. His career in the dining business spans forty years. He started out at a five-star restaurant a few blocks from the White House. Following his move to the Bay Area, he mastered his craft at a four-star establishment in Santa Clara. Together with his brother, Adib, who has been chef at Kabul since it opened, Najib has learned what works and is necessary to ensure each of his guests has the best possible experience at Kabul.
Kabul Afghan Cuisine moved to its current location at 351 W. Washington Ave. Sunnyvale, Ca 94086, in February of last year. A new generation of diners has joined the guests that followed Najib to his new venue. Each of his guests appreciate the subtle differences his family brings to the fare of Afghanistan to make their dishes flavorful and pleasing to a wide variety of tastes. Give them a call if you have any questions or you’d like some additional information: 408-245-4350.
Spring has arrived early in Downtown Sunnyvale. If you have not visited here in a while, you will notice that as spring flowers and blooming trees have begun to appear in our neighborhood, new businesses have appeared along our streets. Now is a great time to get outside again and enjoy the warmer days and glorious colors. You will find as you amble along our storefronts, there are new places where you can find a fun spring outfit. If springtime has elevated your desire to really get moving, you can find new venues for working out.
After all that exploring whether on foot or on a stationary bike, you don’t have to go very far to take in a great meal, enjoy a coffee or imbibe a hearty beverage. The more pleasant temperature and longer days make it easier to linger here, and it won’t be difficult to coax your friends away from the office or off the couch. There is a lot going on in Downtown Sunnyvale that you can share with someone special and tell everyone you know what you were the first to discover.
Valentine’s Day ranks as the fourth most popular US holiday in terms of consumer participation. The December holidays, back-to-school and Mother’s Day may be bigger events, but Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most fun, and it arrives in time to help us all get through perhaps the dullest, coldest, dreariest time of year. February is the shortest month, for good reason.
Getting ready for this holiday can be almost as hectic as with the winter holidays. Downtown Sunnyvale makes it easy for you to prepare at a variety of wine shops, jewelry stores and even a chocolatier.
On the big day, you will find plenty of dining choices among restaurants, lounges, wine bars and night clubs. Take in a meal at one of your old favorites or try-out one of many new, trendy spots. Many restaurants in Downtown Sunnyvale will be open early for Valentine’s Day, but last minute decisions before heading to your romantic hideaway may lead to disappointment. Plan ahead, make reservations early and make your evening a memorable experience.
Even if you enjoy Valentine’s Day as a day to just pamper yourself, you can get a mani-pedi at a nail salon, enjoy a foot massage at a day spa, get a new look at a hair studio or you treat yourself to a new outfit at a boutique. There are many options choices within walking distance in Downtown Sunnyvale.
Sunnyvale Downtown Association