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All the News that's Fit to Eat

Henry's Burgers closes; Fairmont San Francisco's executive chef comes to Hamilton; and the latest Fresh Choice rumor.

The closure of has created another vacancy at beleaguered Square Shopping Center on Novato Boulevard. Henry's owner Teddy Attell said lease negotiations with the landlord did not work out and the burger joint closed about two weeks ago.

In parting, he had some severe criticism regarding the number of vacancies and the very large hole left in the shopping center when DeLano’s Market closed in August 2009. A CVS store anchors the shabby-looking center that serves the city's western neighborhoods.

Attell said that while he had a loyal customer base from the surrounding neighborhood families, that it was a struggle to grow that base with customers from greater Novato.

“There is no large tenant to draw people up there,” Attell said. “I still meet people who never heard of us — that’s very frustrating.”

He added that something special was needed for the shopping center and suggested that a Smart & Final store might be a good fit.

A call to the leasing agent Horizon Properties was not returned but a Notice of Eviction was taped to the shop’s window and it appeared that some but not all  of the furnishings and fixtures had been removed from the space.

Attell is looking for a new location and said he is even considering burger truck because it would come without a landlord.  He asked Novato Patch to pass along a message to his customers and thank everyone who supported Henry’s Burgers for 20-plus years.

Fairmont  Executive Chef at Hamilton

has played host to some amazing chefs at its in Novato. Demonstrations and classes are open to the public and benefit the program, which helps its students to transition from homelessness with training in the culinary arts.

This month Executive Chef J.W. Foster of the Fairmont San Francisco will have a demonstration of a spring menu. Foster is a devotee of locavore cooking (using locally grown ingredients) and will focus on seasonal ideas.

The three-course menu includes: barbecued quail with a tamarind-honey glaze, salmon carpaccio and chèvre cheesecake.

I’ve been to several of these demonstrations and it’s kind of like being in the audience of a cooking show with lots of laughs and plenty of tasting.

The cost is $49 per person and does not include wine. Wine is available for separate purchase by the glass. For more information and to sign-up online, visit the Homeward Bound website.

Fresh Choice Rumor Debunked

One of the best parts of our job at Novato Patch is running down a rumor to see if it’s true or false.  It’s a little bit like a journalistic scavenger hunt.

The latest rumor to hit the foodie circuit was that Sally Tomatoes, the Rohnert Park restaurant and catering company, was moving into the spot at Vintage Oaks that was formerly held by.

It was plausible. The source said the owner of Sally Tomatoes had been on Craigslist looking for kitchen help. The Fresh Choice location would suit the Sally Tomatoes cafeteria-style format and Novato is part of the company’s extensive catering territory, according to the Sally Tomatoes website.

This is a long build-up but a quick call was made to co-owner Gerard Giudice who was quite amused.  He “emphatically” denies the rumor. But he understood how it came about.

Guidice was helping his good friend Michael Dormer with the opening of his restaurant, . The two go way back to when they were waiters together and Guidice helped with designing the menu for Muscio’s, working the test kitchens and hiring the kitchen manager on Craigslist.

Guidice is a Novato High grad (‘80), so he doesn’t completely rule out a scenario that someday might bring him back to the area.  

If you’re ever at Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park, check out the Sally Tomatoes café and event center and see why it would have been a good fit for Novato. Or you can read this review from the Rohnert Park Patch.

Norma Dawson April 05, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Great, another empty space in the Square. How can that landlord be held accountable?
Laura Bertolli April 05, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Well, the Savemore liquor store is the winningest vendor of lottery tickets, so it can't be all bad luck there. I only hope we don't lose Tag's . .
NS April 05, 2012 at 06:44 PM
I miss Henry's Burgers. I was hoping they had just moved to another location because they were the best!!!
Margaret Stafford April 05, 2012 at 08:26 PM
There must be some kind of a city ordinance that requires shopping centers to be kept up and maintained. The Square Shopping Center needs desperate help. It's beginning to look like Inner Detroit.
Demosthenes April 05, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Woah, don't be so harsh! Detroit has really turned around and doesn't deserve to be disparaged like that.
Margaret Stafford April 05, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Disparaged like The Square Shopping Center? Yeah, maybe I was a little too harsh on Detroit - LOL....
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 April 06, 2012 at 04:42 AM
I would like to give a wonderful shout out to Frest Start Catering. I had them provide the food for an event at Frank Howard Allen and they did an excellent job. Reasonable prices too! I think the program is a fantastic one and hope others who haven't used their food services yet, will. Great job Paul Fordham and Fresh Start! Support Novato! Shop local!
Tina McMillan April 06, 2012 at 08:24 AM
Last summer Henrys was full of young people and families. It appears that the owner of the Square is turning it into a blighted property by driving off the remaining tenants. After an extensive internet search there was no sign that Mr. Chang is even trying to lease out vacant stores. The city said that there were no regulations that would stop the owner from turning the Square into a blighted property regardless of the effect on the surrounding community. Perhaps it's time for a letter writing campaign. We need regulations that prevent commercial property owners from intentionally destroying assets through neglect and misuse. My suspicion is that the Square is slated for mixed use development much like the Marinwood Plaza Shopping Center as it would provide tax credits if it were to focus on affordable housing, mixed with retail development. The question is whether its current zoning would allow it to qualify or would the city have to ask neighbors for approval…. "The sale fulfills the County of Marin's "conceptual master plan" for Marinwood Plaza.... calls for the redevelopment of the site as a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented village center with 90-100 affordable residences. Bridge Housing officials say they're anticipating about a year to complete the master plan environmental review process and secure financing for the project." http://www.pacificsun.com/news/show_story.php?id=4035
Susan Clark April 06, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Mr. Grimes, not everything is flat and dry like you speak. I am sure you have heard of CC& R's / rules and regulations. When an owners neglects their property it negatively effects neaby properties and neighborhoods. Even without CC&R's the city still has a saybecause there is a ordinance that applies to single family dwellings. This needs to apply for commercial buildings as well.
Roger April 06, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Tina, I agree the owner is not seeking new tentants for a reason. Tax credits for affordable housing are strong drivers to do things that look odd to most Americans used to free market forces. Chang has a lot of income that could use some tax credits. Good for him. He has a right to use the laws his business sector lobbied to get into place. Apathetic voters deserve what they get in the way of laws.
Tina McMillan April 06, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Roger I can't speak for anyone other than myself but I am not apathetic about voting and it is still a maze trying to make sense of bills that are being passed every day. That's why at a local a level it makes a difference to educate, inform and act. Mr. Chang lives in Novato. Perhaps he would feel differently if he knew how many of his neighbors want a thriving center at the heart of the Square. Like many who post here I remember the days of Roger Wilco, Tagliaferi's and all the other stores that made the Square vibrant. One by one I have watched them whither due to neglect of the center. Perhaps it's time to change the laws. I know the Square is zoned for a mixture of retail and commercial. You can find this information on the cities website. I don't know if it is zoned for housing. I was suspicious when Villa Roma closed, now that we are losing Henry's it seems pretty obvious that the owner does not want to retain tenants. I would like to know why.
Tina McMillan April 06, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Susan It does no good to talk to JLG (or any of his other incarnations.) His names change but underneath the person posting is just a "troll flamer" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_(Internet) that wants to start a fight. Having been on the other end of his angry rants I can tell you there is no light at the end of that very long tunnel.
Susan Clark April 06, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Tina I agree, JLG sounds angry and combative. Thank goodness I can choose to ignore his angry rants!
Michael Reyff April 07, 2012 at 03:15 PM
It is apparent that Mr. Chang is positioning The Square to be redeveloped. Leases are being allowed to expire with out renewing. Mr. Chang is not actively buying out the leases because he does not want to incurr the cost of paying tenants off to have them leave early. The question is when do the rest of the leases expire? This will approximate the timing of when he will attempt to redevelop the center. Unfortunately the best economic use is affordable housing because of the multitude of tax credits, government subsidized rent payments and lender incentives due the affordable housing status. How do I know this? I work in real estate management and development. It is now time to start putting the City Council on notice that this center/site will not be tolerated to be turned into a high density affordable housing site.
Roger April 07, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Reyff, if you say no affordable housing on property owned by Chang, who wants it, then on whose property? In the current Novato cyle of AH draft site listings, the Council has picked some sites where the owners are totally opposed to the idea. Seems like a "taking" to me. The problem with the affordable housing law is it tends to pit neighborhood against neighborhood. Chang's property looks better for AH to me than the remote Black John site on the far north side of town. Also, there is no overall balancing against other social needs (e.g., road maintenance, police and teacher cuts) since these AH laws have there own funding mechanisms (tax credits) and bypass CEQA review for infill projects. It seems like there should be a study on what the final AH endpoint looks ...at what fully built-out AH case (eg, 30% of all units being AH?) does the lack of property tax payers make the city unsustainable? We should know the point way before we cross it. Voters may need to make corrections to the AH laws, such as make them into "full cost" accounting programs ....perhaps make developers contribute upfront to a future money stream for property taxes.
Tina McMillan April 07, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Roger Good question. At what point is a city overwhelmed by the need to provide services and a lack of property and sales tax revenue to meet the need? Here is a link to the 2011-2012 budget. http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/Index.aspx?page=1619 We are there now. Our city had to increase sales tax through measure F and still operates at a structural deficit of approximately $4.5 million dollars. We are being told that there will continue to be more cuts to services due to a lack of revenue. We must reconsider our tax and fee structure if we are to maintain infrastructure and services with the current budget. This does not include the added debt created by building more housing without a tax base that further burdens our schools whose budgets are all ready broken at the state level. Increasing the number of students is not sufficient when you're per pupil funding is $8300 per student per day compared to southern Marin districts where funding is $15,000 per pupil per day. The sites that were designated for affordable housing during the last housing element cycle are opportunities not mandates. If they were mandates then Ross would be forced to build the housing they designated for the Marin Art and Garden Center. The state requires zoning but does not compel property owners or municipalities to build. Novato continues to be a leader in the fight against homelessness by carrying 30% or more of the affordable housing in Marin.
Tina McMillan April 07, 2012 at 09:27 PM
continued The Square was specifically not on that list because many other sites in the same area were. To do an end run around the Ad Hoc committee and the last housing element by now building at the Square is deceptive. What is clear is that the owner of the Square is not leasing out or taking care of the property. Another approach to the housing problem would be to mandate a percentage of Workforce or Below Market Rate housing into any new residential projects along with a fee for commercial development that incorporates housing to accommodate extremely low income workers such as at Hannah Ranch. Both these plans would include revenue from property taxes to support the city and the neighborhoods in which they are built.
Tina McMillan April 07, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I believe CVS has an 11 year lease but I don't know when it ends. If neighbors want to have input we need to let Mr. Chang know and the council know. I believe the site is all ready designated for retail/commercial. Do you know if it also has the mixed use designation required to incorporate housing into the mix?
Michael Reyff April 09, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Roger: My point is that the AH mandates are blatantely unconstitutional and that local communities should decide what use they zone their communities. Not some elitist utopian bueraucrat from the Kremlin, excuse me, I meant Sacramento to decide how our communities are to evolve. BTW - a major reason why housing is not affordable is the blatant intervention by government imposing outrageous fees, design mandates and other extracuricular impositions that explode the cost of housing by $10,000s per unit. I completed a small in-law unit on my Novato property less than two years ago so that my elderly father-inlaw could live with us and the estimated excess cost due to ludicrous fees and code conformities was in excess of $36,000. This excess represented approximately 30% of the cost of unit. Did I or City of Novato get credit for affordable housing for the elderly - NO! Did I have to waste money on rediculous fees and demolition of an existing structure because "setback rules" - YES The bottom line is that the affordable housing mandates are a fraud being imposed by a group of corrupt elitist politician/bureacrats who are prostutiing themselves to desperate greedy developers who have lobbied for the tax credits, government subsidized rent payments and lender incentives. What a bleeping sham! Also BTW what is being done to provide quality jobs locally or statewide so that people can earn money to afford housing? Bernanke & Co can't conitnue to print money forever?
Eleanor Sluis April 09, 2012 at 02:04 AM
See article from the Wall Street Journal, April 6, “California Declares War on Suburbia.” My take on this: One part is about issues of transportation costs, for which people will be on the hook to pay for those who will live in future high-rise condominiums and apartments near highways and train tracks. In addition to not having enough money for buses and trains due to a lack of funds causes even more cars to be on the roads causing an increase in traffic congestion and more pollutants in the air causing more expensive health remedies and social problems. Policy planners and city/county governments need to be trusted to solve the problem of building, which fits into local visions and general plans. ABAG and the state need to back off on forcing the public to pay and accept more buildings not in compliance with current plans. This means more local control and education funding not less. Please contact your city council on what you think is necessary to do to change the state’s mandates. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303302504577323353434618474.html? mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion?

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