Faces of Menlo

Nona and Erik Ybarra, business owners at Menalto Corners in Menlo Park

Menalto Corners is a small, local business community tucked away in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park that has become part of the fabric of the neighborhood. After a rough year, a wonderful thing has happened — something very much in keeping with the area’s family-friendly vibe: Menalto Corners now boasts a husband and wife who own adjacent businesses. Erik Ybarra, the new proprietor of West Bay Cleaners, moved in right next to his wife Nona Ybarra, owner of Captivating Dance by Nona and coach of the Menlo-Atherton Dance Team.

Nona was initially drawn to the commercial strip after Be Yoga relocated. She rented the small studio and began running some of her classes and rehearsals there. Many of Nona’s dancers live close by, and quite a few were already customers of some the other businesses, such as Café Zoe, Habibi’s Hair Salon, La Hacienda, Twig and Petals and Studio Cake.

When the larger corner space became available, Nona was able to rent it as well and transfer more classes over to the area because she now had enough dance space for her diverse, multi-age students and company members. Her husband, Erik, opened A Step Above, a dance-oriented clothing, shoe and accessories shop in the front of the original studio space.

Erik quickly realized how nice it was to be around his wife and her students in such a warm environment. The couple and their three kids then moved to Menlo Park. Erik notes that though he’s lived in the Bay Area all his life, he’s “never felt more at home or part of a community than in this town.” He enjoys being part of the close-knit neighborhood, participating in National Night Outs and spending as much time as possible at Menalto Corners with his wife and children.

While away for a brief family vacation this winter, Erik and Nona got a chance to talk about their future goals. He mentioned an interest in trying his hand at running the dry cleaning business next to her studio. In her typically supportive and upbeat fashion, she told him to “go for it!” Upon their return, Erik called Patrick Farris, the landlord who owns half of the storefronts in the development, including Nona’s larger dance studio. Because of his strong community ties and willingness to work hard to keep a dry cleaning business afloat in the Willows to serve the community, Patrick agreed to make a deal with Erik.

Nona and Erik are running two very different businesses, and they try not to step on one another’s toes. Yet, they are one another’s closest confidantes, and now see each other more than ever. It is great for their three kids as well. As their ten-year-old son notes, “I can help my Mom with classes and then go out and do deliveries and pick-ups with my Dad. I am learning how hard they work for what we have.”

Erik loves the family-oriented working environment, the ability to look out for his wife and her dancers, and the chance to interact more regularly with members of the community. This year, the dynamic duo of Menalto Corners will celebrate their thirteenth wedding anniversary and they feel very lucky indeed.

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Frances Reneau draws on her experience as ranger for MPOSD in her first book, Rangerchick

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When Menlo Park resident Frances Reneau graduated from Stanford with a degree in Germanic Linguistics, she viewed herself as a studious and academic person. That translated into some indoor pursuit, which for her was initially classroom teaching and then teaching ESL. Now after 15 years as a Ranger for the MidPeninsula Open Space District, she looks […]

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Water has always piqued Menlo Park resident Leah Rogers’ interest. “People are curious about the quality of the water they are drinking,” she said. She pursued a career as a hydrogeologist until a few years ago when she stopped working full time. “I’d spent my career writing a lot of papers that nobody read and decided to go in […]

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Jesse Cool and Mitchell Johnson share art, food and admiration for each other

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Think of them as bookending the stretch of the Alameda in Menlo Park between Sharon and Walsh roads. One a restaurateur feeding the body. The other a painter feeding the soul. Jesse Cool, owner of Flea Street Cafe, and artist Mitchell Johnson are joined together in what has been a mutually beneficial partnership for about five years with the […]

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One day a year or so ago, husband and wife Omar Piña and Monica Pilotzi were having lunch at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park and looked across the street at the largely take-out restaurant, Mex to Go. “We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have that space?’,” recalled Monica. “And today we do!” The couple, who also live […]

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One picky eater’s experience leads to book “Suffering Succotash”

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Let’s be clear. Menlo Park resident Stephanie Lucianovic looks nothing like Sylvester the Cat, who’s known for exclaiming “suffering succotash.” But suffer succotash she did, along with just about every other vegetable on the planet, which she refused to eat until late in her 20s. “I was so picky, I used to fear eating at people’s […]

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Ken Kurose staging fundraising campaign for Nak’s Market in Menlo Park

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Ken Kurose, the son of the Nak’s Market founding owners, Sam and Ikie, is staging a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to save — and potentially expand the scope of — the distinct market in downtown Menlo Park known for its Asian and Dutch products. Explains Ken on the fundraising page: “Our existing very small Menlo Park location has achieved consistent […]

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M-A freshman Jerry Liu’s composition recognized in Reflections themed art competition

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A grand piano fills up much of the living room at Jerry Liu’s home. That’s not surprising, given that the Menlo-Atherton High School freshman has been studying piano since he was eight years old. What surprised us was that his award-winning composition in the PTA-sponsored Reflections arts competition is written for stringed instruments — a […]

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Nick Turner turned from tech to eco-system garden consulting

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Elise Kratzer receives Certificate of Excellence from Prudential for starting Service Club at Hillview School

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Hillview Middle School eighth grader, Elise Kratzer of Menlo Park (pictured, left), was honored recently for her exemplary volunteer service with a Certificate of Excellence from The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, and with a President’s Volunteer Service Awarded granted by the program on behalf of President Barack Obama. Presented annually by Prudential Financial in […]

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Girl Scout Fun Run made its debut today at Fleet Feet in Menlo Park

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The first Girl Scout Fun Run took off from Fleet Feet in Menlo Park this morning with many participants sporting green. Fleet Feet co-owner Lisa Taggart gave us a heads up: “It’s a 2-mile run for Girl Scouts, their families, and supporters in the community, all followed by Girl Scout cookies and other treats at the […]

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