Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

T&C then and now: The evolution of Town & Country

Jeslyn Chen

As soon as the lunch bell rings, hordes of Palo Alto High School students flock to the Embarcadero crosswalk between Paly and Town & Country. The moment the light changes, they spill across the street to get their lunch.

From an early morning drink from Peet’s Coffee to an after-school snack from Trader Joe’s, hundreds of Paly students shop and dine at Town & Country nearly every day. This upscale mall has undergone much change over the years. Remember Brandy Melville? Tin Pot Creamery? New stores have been moving in whilst others move out, changing the content of the mall.

In 2003, the Cold Stone Creamery at Town & Country was the franchise’s second busiest location in the U.S., according to owner Kathy Yang, yet that location has now been closed for almost nine years. Yang said that the proximity to Paly and Stanford University was a deciding factor in the franchise choosing to come to Town & Country.

“It [our customer base] was everyone, depending on the time of day,” Yang said.   “During the day, we had a lot of families and young children, then after seven o’clock we had more adults and college students.”

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I’m really glad that I see people from all ages come into the store.”

— Antoine Tang, Antoine's Cookie Shop owner

According to Yang, the demographics of Town & Country customers have shifted.

“When I [the Cold Stone] was there, we had more senior citizens come to the shopping center because the stores catered to more of an older audience,” Yang said.

According to owner Antoine Tang, Antoine’s Cookie Shop also receives a wide range of customers ranging from young children to older people.

“I’m really glad that I see people from all ages come into the store,” Tang said. “People bring their 3-year-old kid in and then we’ll get an 83-year-old person coming in for the cookies.”

Paly’s proximity to Town & Country allows students to easily access the stores and business during lunch and prep periods. Paly junior Heather Song, who visits Town & Country every school day for lunch, said she appreciates student-sensitive food pricing.

“It’s about $10 for an average-sized meal, which I think is pretty reasonable,” Song said. “Most of them have Paly deals [and] they have saved me a lot of money with their discount.”

Jenny Bernabe, the manager of Tin Pot Creamery, an ice cream shop that closed in December 2022, said Paly students were a large part of the customer base in her shop and helped her predict the busyness of the shop each week.

“We had to be very aware of what’s going on with the high school [Paly], as well as Stanford,” Bernabe said. “We have to be very aware of when they’re going to have a short day, so we could prepare beforehand.”

One of the many causes of closings are the strict rules and regulations enforced in Town & Country that stores need to comply with in order to have a successful business.

“If you’re closed any day, like December holidays, you’d be shocked,” Tang said. “There are $1,000 per day [fines].”

Although these rules and seem strict to Tang, he has seen them benefit Antoine’s.

“Their [management] logic is if you want to participate in this mall [Town & Country] … you have to be congruent with the rules,” Tang said. “We benefit from that too, from all the stores being open, because if other stores are open … that’s a good experience for the customer.”

It [the pandemic] really impacted us when you guys [students] were totally out of school.”

— Jenny Bernabe, Tin Pot Creamery manager

The manager of the Blue Mercury location at Town & Country, which opened in April 2023, Carwin Brice, has also found the strictness of Town & Country to be a negative aspect of residing at this mall but can see how it helps the customer.

“You’re not allowed to have signs outside of your door and  you will get fined if you open or close early,” Brice said. “That’s just a negative for me as someone that works here, but that’s more a positive for the shoppers.”

Another major factor that affected the success of stores was the pandemic. Bernabe said that the pandemic was the biggest cause of Tin Pot Creamery shutting down, especially considering how many previous customers were students.

“The way the consumers are purchasing … [is] a lot more going into online business,” Bernabe said. “It [the pandemic] really impacted us when you guys [students] were totally out of school.”

According to Brice, both shop owners and the customers benefit from the community aspect of Town & Country, which creates a pleasant atmosphere.

“We’re surrounded by other wonderful retailers,” Brice said. “There’s also some delicious food like Telefèric and Wildseed and I really liked the clientele here … people are usually in a really, really happy mood and that just makes for a wonderful experience in store.”

Despite the many changes Town & Country has undergone, it remains a quintessential part of the Palo Alto community.

“Since my first year here, I’ve seen a lot of restaurants have come in and gone out,” Song said. “I think, no matter what, Town & Country will always be a staple for students.”