After 26-year run, South Bay Judaica store closing its doors

Bob and Bob will soon close its doors. And this time co-owner Ellen Bob says it’s for good.

The Judaica store has been an institution in the local Jewish community since opening in Palo Alto in 1982. The twin body blows of increased online shopping and a freefalling economy forced Bob and her mother, store co-owner Shirley Bob, to make the tough call.

“We really had a dismal Chanukah season, with sales 20 percent below last year,” Ellen Bob said. “Looking to the future we didn’t see things getting any better. It’s possible there is still a place for a store like ours, but I think it would have to be rethought. I’m not sure what it would be.”

The Bobs have also scrapped plans to open a satellite store at the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, set to open in Palo Alto later this year.

Though longtime customers continued to patronize Bob and Bob, not enough younger families — which Bob calls the “bread and butter” of her business — picked up the habit of shopping retail for Jewish products.

Bob said customers may save in terms of convenience and price by shopping online, but they lose out in other ways when stores like hers disappear.

“What can’t be replaced is the community feel,” she said. “You come into bob and bob, see people you know, get advice. It’s not about the stuff. It’s about the experience.”

In early 2007, Ellen and Shirley Bob closed their Forest Avenue store in Palo Alto after more than 25 years in business. It seemed like the end of the line, but shortly thereafter, the owners found a new home four and a half miles to the south, at 4500 El Camino Real in Los Altos.

Though Bob hasn’t yet set a date, she expects the store will close sometime in February, with 14 part-time employees losing their jobs.

“I’m really sad,” she said. “This has been my life since before I was married. I’ve gotten married and had three children, then brought the kids to work with me. My customers helped raise them.”

A storewide clearance sale is now under way, with ever-bigger bargains to come as the end draws near. For loyal customers and friends of the store, Bob has one piece of advice.

“The best thing they can do to help us now is come spend money,” she said. “The good will is appreciated. I’m sure I’ll have a few good cries, but we have bills we need to pay.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.