Longtime dim sum spot, Cho's on California Avenue, to close

Property manager decides it's time to update the restaurant and neighboring insurance company

Cho's Mandarin Dim Sum, a 35-year-old hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant on California Avenue, will be serving potstickers, dumplings and other morsels for the last time on March 15.

The restaurant owners, a couple who live in Mountain View, received a 60-day notice from their property manager, Sue Ross, on Jan. 16.

The restaurant's namesake, Cho Yu, said he was not given the chance to renew or negotiate a new lease in order to stay.

"They don't give the option," Yu said of Ross. "Usually, the landlord will give (an) option, right? And otherwise increase the rent, maybe. … But they don't give me any choice. It's not fair."

Yu and his wife, Daisy, said they were shocked by the 60-day notice. Daisy said they have already purchased soy sauce, take-out bags and other supplies for the year, which will now go to waste.

"They should give us at least six months or something like that ... 60 days is not enough," she said.

Ross, who also owns the two spaces on either side of Cho's -- the Michelin-rated restaurant Baume at California and Park Boulevard and a Farmer's Insurance outpost at 217 California Ave. -- said that she and Yu have talked about his retirement several times. She decided to seize the moment and bring in her brother, who previously worked in construction, to supervise a remodel of 213 and 217 California Ave. Their family has owned that block of California Avenue for decades.

"We talked about it, and (my brother) goes, 'Well, I have the time this year.' I said, 'Well, you're still young enough; I'm still young enough; I think it's time,'" Ross said. "I know Cho has talked about the fact that he was going to retire so that's why we made the decision to give the notices so that we can start."

Prior to Baume, the tenants of the California and Park corner space -- Barbara Mora and Arthur Beale of Bistro Basia -- completely renovated their part of the block when they took over in 2008.

"Bob (Ross' brother) has the time to supervise gutting the inside and redoing it basically how it was done on the Baume side eight years ago," Ross said.

At Cho's, customers can order from a small counter in front of a tiny, open, makeshift kitchen. Three small pork potstickers go for $2.25; chicken and beef, $2.50. Egg rolls are a dollar a piece, and a small pork bun, 85 cents.

Daisy said that at this point, it would difficult for her and her husband to relocate or open a new restaurant elsewhere.

"We're at retirement age," she said. "If we relocate somewhere else, it's too much, you know? Too much. (It's) a lot of money; a lot of time."

Both of the Yus commented on the increasing costs and difficulty of operating a small business, from paying for health permits to city requirements that didn't exist when they first opened decades ago.

Yogen Dalal, a Palo Alto resident who said he's been eating at Cho's for 30 years -- since his now 28-year-old daughter was in a stroller -- was finishing lunch there last week when he overheard that the restaurant was closing.

"It's like an institution here," he said. "It's really sad when institutions like this vanish. This is what makes (not only) Palo Alto, but also California Avenue, so much fun."

Ron Vierra, owner of the neighboring Farmer's Insurance store, also received a 60-day notice this month. He said he has contacted an attorney to try to get an extension on the lease.

"Basically, they're putting us out of business is what they're doing," said Vierra, who's been with the store since it opened in 1969.

Ross said she has "put out calls" to people who are already lined up for the remodel to ask if they can postpone 15 to 30 days, but no more.

"It's pretty saddening that one gets treated this way," Vierra said. "When I signed the initial lease when we first came into business, we basically did it on a handshake. That's how the original owner was."

Ross said Baume gets "first dibs" on the soon-to-be-vacant spaces per their contract, but owner Bruno Chemel said he does not have any plans to expand.

"My restaurant is big enough," he wrote in an email to the Palo Alto Weekly.

Baume, now a two-Michelin-stars restaurant, moved into the space in 2010 under the helm of Chemel, a former Chez TJ chef. The upscale restaurant is only open for lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday and dinner only on Wednesday and Thursday.

"It's a time for us to have that opportunity to upgrade the building," Ross said. "And of course that's a bonus for Palo Alto, too. Certainly California Avenue is really looking much different than it did 10 years ago."

She conceded that, although other buildings along the avenue have renovated their facades, she hasn't always agreed with the new looks.

"We're not changing the front of the building at all because that's the charm of Palo Alto, right?"


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

Palo Alto is evicting all their family-friendly "ethnic" restaurants. Glad that Mountain View is not so short-sighted.

3 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jan 29, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Is that an official description "hole-in-the-wall" because if they were to move I would hope it would get replaced with a service window.

3 people like this
Posted by Paolo R
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 10:45 am

This is SO sad. As a community we need to save Cho's. I've started a petition to try getting Susan Ross and her property management group to work with Cho's. Please share and sign the petition!

Web Link

3 people like this
Posted by RESIDENT
a resident of another community
on Jan 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Please be aware that there is a petition already started....

Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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