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S E C T I O N 2 D By Sean Howell | Community February 17, 2010 ■ News of local people and A LSO CO INSIDE M M UN I T Y A L E S TAT E 2 4 | C L AS S I F I E D S 21 eep in the Willows, a celebration of an eclectic neighborhood Almanac Staff Writer Michelle Le | Photographer hen en Kath- overlooked by most outsiders, leen en Daly first there’s Cafe Zoe, the coffee shop looked oked at the and eatery opened by Ms. Daly property where she would even- in the summer of 2008 that has tually open Cafe Zoe in Menlo since become a neighborhood Park’s Willows neighborhood, gathering place; an intersection she said she was “blown away” by of eclectic styles and disparate the neighborhood’s diversity. groups of people in an area Bordered by U.S. 101 and San defined by its diversity. Francisquito Creek, touching “I was open to starting a cafe Palo Alto and containing a sec- or a retail shop, but the area had tion of East Palo Alto, the Wil- to have a certain feeling for me,” lows is a fascinating study in con- said Ms. Daly, a blond woman vergences. Multi-million-dollar with a delicate smile and a recepmini-mansions give way to small tive, inquisitive gaze. She thought she had found wooden cottages and stucco Cafe Zoe has become that feeling in a space she looked ranch homes a gathering place in at in downtown as you tour the Palo Alto, but neighborhood’s Menlo Park’s Willows her bid to lease it winding streets. Situated at the neighborhood, shaped didn’t work out. She had kept an mouth of the by the disparate eye on the propMenlo Park VA, influences of the erty at the corner the neighborof Gilbert and hood contains community it serves. Menalto avenues law firms, a for over a year yoga studio and a Hispanic market, and boasts before her first visit there. When East Palo Alto High School, she finally dropped in, she knew the German-American Interna- almost immediately that she had tional School, and Willow Oaks found her cafe. “There was something special Elementary. And then, nearly in the neigh- about this place,” she said. “I felt borhood’s geographic center, immediately like, this is it. There in a modest shopping district was not a question in my mind.” W 19 |RE events in the community. After spending some time learning the ropes from the previous tenant of the space, who ran Cafe Espresso 1929, Ms. Daly invited the community in. She changed the name to Cafe Zoe, after her 15-year-old daughter (Zoe means “life” in Greek), and added a subtitle: “A place for peace, hope and community.” She invited local musicians to play on Friday evenings, hosted nights out for a hyper-connected group of Willows moms, hired babysitters on weekend mornings so that parents could enjoy a latte while their children played in the patio area out back. She knew she was on the right track during the first weekend the cafe was open, when two neighbors who had been out of touch for years bumped into each other while waiting for coffee. Another sign came when a man asked if he could set up a tab for his kids, students at the GermanAmerican A i SSchool h l who h wanted d to come in and hang out while waiting for the bus. “I said, ‘Yes, of course, please!’” she said. “That’s exactly what I wanted.” Ms. Daly’s efforts to bring the surrounding community in can be seen on counters and shelves inside the cafe, where she displays crafts and products by local artisans and businesspeople, and Top: Rueben Hale, left, catches up with his friend and local artist Tim Christensen, second from left, at Cafe Zoe in Menlo Park. Mr. Christensen’s art work is currently on display there. Above: Cafe Zoe owner Kathleen Daly chats with customer Whitney Quaresma. on its walls, walls where work by local artists hangs. It can also be heard in the various languages spoken by its patrons, including English, Spanish, and Silicon Valleyese. Of course, those efforts are not always successful. The babysitting program petered out after a few sessions, and while the place is packed on some Friday evenings with people there to hear music, crowd sometimes the cro d is so sparse that Ms. Daly ends up feeling sorry for the musicians. But her try-everything mentality fosters a sense of infinite possibility; you never know who’s going to come through the door next. Midway through an interview with Ms. Daly, in walked students in an art class at East Palo Alto High, followed by John Cadigan, whose intricately imaginative designed wildly imaginat designed, tive Ms. woodcuts hung on the walls. M pour Daly excused herself to help p students. hot chocolate for the stude short Mr. Cadigan gave them a sh talk about his art before chatting chatt with two women, friends of his He’s a mother, on the way out. He regular, he says; his studio is jjust around the corner. chocoFinished serving hot cho late, Ms Ms. Dal Daly was late as poised over o an ice cream cooler, asking me which flavor I wanted. She slipped a cookie onto the plate, and returned to serving customers, helping out with the afternoon rush. As I savored the ice cream — I had already eaten a fantastic mozzarella panino, and was on See CAFE ZOE, page 19 February 17, 2010 ■ The Almanac ■ 17

The Almanac 02.17.2010 - Section 2

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