BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
After 45 years in business, the owners of the Milk Pail Market in Mountain View have sold their property at San Antonio Center and are planning to close the open-air grocery in the coming months.
The business started out as a drive-through dairy, which co-owner Steve Rasmussen says he and his father “rescued” from bankruptcy court in 1974. They continued to operate the drive-through until 1984, when they started to sell other goods, including local produce.
Now a European-style market, popular items include artisanal cheeses, fresh fish, hand-rolled croissants and milk in glass bottles. Rasmussen and his wife, Lian Rasmussen, estimate that they’ve sold 10 million pounds of cheese and 20 million bananas over the years.
Firth Griffith, a resident of Palo Alto’s College Terrace neighborhood, said yesterday (March 18) he’s been shopping at the Milk Pail for 25 years and considers the Rasmussens “kind of family.”
“The gnocchi is very fresh here. There’s a lot of fresh things here that I’m sure we can find, but we may have to go further away,” Griffith said. “We’re very happy for the family because this has been quite an ordeal, you know?”
Griffith’s kids grew up with the Rasmussens’ daughters Kai and Erika Rasmussen, who have each taken a turn as store manager since the sudden death of their uncle James Liu, the store’s former manager.
Liu and his 17-year-old son were killed by toxic fumes in their California Street apartment in September 2014. Police ruled that one of the two had died as a casualty to the other’s suicide.
Parking dispute with big neighbor
Around the same time, the firm Merlone Geier launched the second phase of its massive redevelopment of San Antonio Center, at one point locking horns with the Rasmussens over parking. The Milk Pail had leased 11 parking spaces from the BevMo and Ross stores to meet the city’s parking requirement.
Merlone Geier eventually bowed to public pressure and struck a deal with the Milk Pail on parking.
The Rasmussens haven’t said who bought the property, or what the sale price was.
The construction around that development, as well as the limited parking, led some customers to leave, according to Rasmussen. And even with the construction finished, business hasn’t bounced back the way he expected.
Some possible reasons may be the rise of online grocery shopping and customers eating out more and cooking less, he said.
But customers who still go to the Milk Pail said they would miss it.
Omeed Tehrani, who lives across the street, said he’s shopped at Milk Pail almost every week for the last 15 years. He said he knows the family and likes the store’s “coziness” and its unique products.
“The price is good. Some of the fruit that you find here, you can’t find anywhere else,” Tehrani said. “I come here just for the sweet lemon. You can’t find it anywhere else.”
Griffith said he thought the Rasmussens would stay in the area and wouldn’t be surprised if they got involved in another local business.
“They have the expertise to do it, if they want to do it,” Griffith said. “My sense is that they’re very happy to have their next chapter. I think it’s all good for everyone.”