2015 marks a year of change in Menlo Park (at least in regard to landmarks)

by Linda Hubbard on December 30, 2015

Over the course of 2015, we’ve noted some changes to the landscape of Menlo Park. Here’s our list of the top five.

#1: Foster’s Freeze closes. The landmark first opened in 1946, so by closing on September 30th of this year, it just missed celebrating its 70th anniversary. For a period in the late 50s and 60s, Foster’s was “the place” to gather for Menlo-Atherton High School students.

On an early dismissal day a couple of weeks before it closed, there was once again a long line of teens waiting for their cones and shakes. On the last day there was a closing party where City Councilman Ray Mueller snapped a photo of Foster’s owners of three decades, Mr. and Mrs. Lee, posing with former 49er quarterback Steve Young. The Lees are retiring.

Sunset lease sign

#2: Sunset moves to Oakland. It was a year ago that Time, Inc., parent of Sunset Publishing Co., sold its seven-acre gardens and Cliff May ranch-style buildings to Embarcadero Capital Partners, a San Francisco real estate investment and management company.

In June, it was announced the magazine’s new headquarters would be at Jack London Square in Oakland beginning this December. The popular self-guided tours of the Thomas Church-designed gardens ended on October 30.

Now there is a “For Lease” sign on what Embarcadero is calling Willow Park (80 & 85 Willow Rd.), described on the website as consisting of “two, single-story creative office buildings sitting on 9.85 acres of land. The project is designed for maximum indoor-outdoor usage, lush landscapes, and plenty of settings to meet in large groups or take a quiet break. Willow Park is centrally located in vibrant Menlo Park with easy access to amenities, transportation, and the Bay Area.”

Chef Kwan's

#3 Su Hong yields to Chef Kwan’s. In a story echoing Foster’s Freeze, long-time Su Hong owner — of the take out as well as the shuttered restaurant — Bee King, announced she was retiring after 38 years and selling both locations to Jason Kwan, who owns Jason’s Cafe in Menlo Park. The ownership transfer occurred the same day Foster’s closed, September 30th.

The Su Hong restaurant on El Camino opened in 1977; the companion take out branch in 1991. The take out menu remains the same, and there are plans to re-open the restaurant featuring dim sum.

Menlo Church

#4 Menlo Park Presbyterian Church morphs into Menlo Church. The big change came not this past year but rather in 2014 when the 142-year-old Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, the first Protestant house of worship in Menlo Park, left the national Presbyterian Church USA and aligned with ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians.

This summer came another change. Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, which has been at its current location on Santa Cruz Avenue since 1950, changed the name at its four campuses to simply Menlo Church with a rebranded logo and new website using the .church domain name.

Explains Executive Pastor Scott Scruggs: “As a multisite church, we are committed to being one church in multiple locations. We currently have four campuses, one in Menlo Park, one in Mountain View, one is San Mateo and as of March 2015, one in San Jose. And we hope to launch at least four more in the coming years.

“In launching new locations, it had become challenging to communicate who we are as one church family, primarily because of previous
campus names. We were MPPC, Open Door Church San Mateo, Open Door Church Mountain View and Menlo San Jose. So in August, we unified our campuses together under the brand Menlo Church to impart our Menlo Park Presbyterian legacy and vision in each location outside of Menlo Park.”


#5 Yoga/Pilates studio set for Just Add Water location. Polling a number of people on just how long the swim wear store, Just Add Water,  has been closed, the consistent answer is “a really long time.” A few people remembered the business owner’s dispute with the Menlo Park police department and district attorney, as chronicled in a 2007 Almanac article.

But there is an end to what has become a somewhat blighted sight on the corner of Menlo Avenue and El Camino Real. The space is undergoing a remodel, and Barre3 fitness studio will open. According to the website, “Barre3 Menlo Park features a beautiful, light-filled space with lockers, two restrooms, a changing room, shower, and organic toiletries.” But, alas, no swim wear!

Top photo by Ray Mueller; all other photos by Linda Hubbard (c) 2015


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