Shop Talk: Furniture stores opening downtown

Two new furniture stores are opening in downtown Palo Alto within two blocks of each other. The first, West Elm, is taking over the corner location at 180 University Ave. After nearly three years of temporary tenants at the site, West Elm grabbed the 11,000-square-foot space and is doing a major renovation. Owned by Williams-Sonoma, West Elm sells contemporary pieces and housewares, with a sustainable-furniture division. Developer John McNellis said: “We are absolutely delighted to be bringing West Elm to University Avenue. It … will perfectly complement the other home-oriented uses, like Restoration Hardware, already on the Avenue.” The store is expected to open around Thanksgiving. A second furniture store, also renovating its corner location, is called Inhabiture. At 248 Hamilton Ave., it will sell “eco-friendly” furniture. Inhabiture grew out of Vox Design Group, a 9-year-old Mountain View company that creates green residential and commercial buildings and renovations. Ken Arends, vice president of sustainability for Vox, said the retail portion will be in the front of the building and the Vox Design offices will be in back. “We’ll be buying materials from local vendors. We don’t want our cabinetry coming from sweatshops in China,” he said. A Sept. 1 opening is planned.

THAI CITY OUT, HONG KONG IN … Thai City, a family-owned and -run Palo Alto restaurant, closed its doors in late April, enabling another family restaurant to move in. Hong Kong Restaurant opened last month at 3691 El Camino Real after painting and removing a wall in the 1,900-square-foot space. It had to leave its previous location (inside the San Antonio Inn at 2650 W. El Camino Real in Mountain View) after a 12-year run. “Our lease was up and the entire property was sold,” owner Jimmy Chow said. He said the restaurant’s loyal clientele followed him and his restaurant to Palo Alto. “Business has been pretty great here and we’ve only been open a few weeks. It’s a good location; it’s bigger than our old place; and we’re still using the same menu and prices,” he said. Lunch items are in the $6 range. “We may eventually change the menu, but not yet,” he added.

24-KARAT-GOLD SHOES AT STANFORD … The high-end shoe store Stuart Weitzman is stepping into Stanford Shopping Center. The company bills its shoes as “equal parts spectacle and sculpture,” using unusual materials such as 24-karat gold, gemstones or crystals, and reports that it sells 2 million pairs of shoes annually. The shop is set to open July 11 in a 1,300-square-foot space between the Microsoft Store and the Apple Store. “When the opportunity arose to expand the business within the city, I jumped at the chance,” Stuart Weitzman spokesperson Karen Ferko said, calling Palo Alto a place of “fashionable charm.” The store will also sell handbags and baby shoes.

A SHOUT-OUT FOR MOLLIE STONE’S … Mollie Stone’s Markets was named Outstanding Specialty Retailer last month by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, recognized for its excellence in areas including customer service. There are nine Mollie Stone’s markets in the Bay Area, including the Palo Alto store at 164 S. California Ave. The chain is featured in the May/June issue ofSpecialty Food Magazine.