Last week a friend and I met to enjoy lunch at Restaurant Asa, which opened a few months ago. It was the first time there for both of us and we were anxious to give it a try since we’d only heard good things about it. The eatery’s location is super convenient and is a big plus: Asa sits just across from the Los Gatos Lodge, adjacent to the Best Western Inn of Los Gatos – at the corner of Alberto Way and Los Gatos-Saratoga Road. This is the same location where Grill 57 was until this summer. There’s no shortage of nearby parking, which cannot always be said of restaurants in town.
An attractive, inviting patio dining area sits behind the planters in the photo above.
Inside, a waiting area features two comfy couches. A well appointed wine case is to the right and a full bar to the left. The room is open, clean, quiet (while fairly full), and offers pleasant decor.
Perched at a slight angle on Winchester Boulevard, the Cornucopia Fruit Stand is a celebrated remnant of the town’s agricultural heritage that you can still enjoy. Established in 1976, Cornucopia continues selling seasonal produce almost year-round. Spring and summer mean fresh fruit and veggies, and for the holidays it’s a great spot for top-grade Christmas trees.
This weekend my family and I stopped by the Cornucopia Fruit Stand in Los Gatos to stock up on some Halloween pumpkins. If you’re still looking for a squash for your porch, Cornucopia has a plethora – from Sugar Pie Pumpkins for carving to the fancy Cinderella pumpkins! And what would a pumpkin patch be without some festivity? Los Gatos’ Original Great Pumpkin Patch (as they proudly call it) is decorated with painted pumpkins (also for sale), instagrammable photo spots, friendly scare crows, and classic Halloween stand-in cutouts for the kids.
Art lovers, this one’s for you! JCO’s Art Haus, an appointment-only gallery on University Avenue in Los Gatos, will be open to the public for one weekend only selling their curated collection at studio prices. The Very Very Rare Affordable Art Fair will take place at the studio and will represent local and international artists in a warehouse space.
The irony is not lost on the locals that our town is named for cats (Los Gatos is Spanish for The Cats) and yet the townsfolk and the area’s businesses seem to cater to dogs and their human friends and family. Much of Silicon Valley is dog-friendly, but Los Gatos seems to be especially supportive to dogs.
If you are new to Los Gatos, and you have a canine companion in your home, you may be delighted to learn that there are many places where Fido will be welcome (even if left outside).
A stroll down North Santa Cruz Avenue or nearby streets reveals that this is a dog-friendly community. You can’t miss the number of dog water bowls available!
A few places, like Wells Fargo Bank and Pizza My Heart, have leash holders.
Los Gatos even shares a dog park with our neighbor to the north, the City of Campbell. (Here’s a list of a number of local dog parks, not just the Los Gatos & Campbell one.)
Patio dining is easy to find in Los Gatos. I believe that most or all of the restaurants, cafes, wine bars, etc. permit dogs in the outdoor areas. I’m a little surprised that the chain restaurant, Lazy Dog, has not found a way to open a restaurant in Los Gatos. As far as I know, the nearest one is in Cupertino.
Periodically, there are doggie events, such as the Paws & Pedals fundraiser (or in the past, the Howling Halloween dog costume party – which sadly has been discontinued).
Due to health code reasons, the Los Gatos Sunday Farmer’s Market is not one of the happenings which can welcome pets. Luckily, if you bring along a friend, it is easy enough to spend time with your pooch at the adjacent Town Park Plaza and to have someone else visit the food stalls and make your purchases for you. The same is true for grocery stores or inside eating establishments. While service dogs or other animals are welcome, pets are not, again due to health codes.
Love fine art? A fun place to stop in and get tempted by the work of creative people can be found in downtown Los Gatos at JCO’S Place, located on University Avenue (address is near the bottom of this article).
A few years back, when JCO’s was located on N Santa Cruz Avenue near the theater, I was strolling past this gallery with my daughter, plus my visiting niece and nephew, who hail from Boston, and noticed some beautiful, over-sized paintings. I did a double take when I saw one of Tom Brady, # 12, as you don’t normally find a lot of Patriots art here in Los Gatos. Stepping in, that wasn’t the only piece from the Northeast. It was a surprising find!
Not everything is Brady, Patriots, and Boston – there was plenty of other football art on display to keep in the theme of the game for this season and the multiple celebrations of SuperBowl 50 here in Silicon Valley. To get a better sense of the diverse offerings, check out the blog portion of her website: http://www.jcosplace.com/art-blog .
Why the Tom Brady and Patriots focus? I wish it were because they would have been in an upcoming game. Instead, it turns out that the proprietor of the store, Julie Jenkins, hails from Boston. I had a fun talk with her. She is very warm and welcoming, and I’d love to come back to see what she brings in next.
The shop also had an artist painting and visible from the window, Nick Brown, a very talented guy. What I saw looked quite a bit like our eastern foothills, but I didn’t get a chance to talk much as my younger relatives were ready to continue our walk through downtown Los Gatos.
Next time you are out for fun in downtown LG, take a few minutes and stop by JCO’s Place. I think you will enjoy it!
One of my favorite shops in downtown Los Gatos is Black Cat Hats, which features all kinds of accessories in addition to hats for men and women. The folks there are friendly and knowledgeable and take a personal interest in helping customers to find just the right item they want or need.
Yesterday I paid a visit to Aileen Larson, a co-owner of and buyer for Black Cat Hats, and got to browse the tempting inventory and ask her a few questions about her experience and working in the shop.
A little history
The business was established in 2007 by Janet Dashiell, whom Aileen met in 2008 at an exercise class at the JCC in Los Gatos. In 2014, Aileen stepped in as a co-owner with Janet. Janet now does the books and buys inventory with Aileen, but is mostly behind-the-scenes. Aileen is the warm proprietor you meet while browsing the offerings: jewelry, scarves, some clothing, handbags, umbrellas, but most of all, chapeaus of every kind for both men and women. There are Stetson hats for men, newsboy caps, knit hats, wide brimmed sun hats, pill box hats, and millinery of all types.
There are also some great employees, with low turnover, who seem to be like family to Aileen.
Prior to Black Cat Hats, Aileen had 30+ years in retail sales, including women’s clothing and makeup. That background has helped her to be comfortable working in close proximity to customers and to develop an eye for what will work well for each one.
Hats are important and sell well year round, whether for health reasons (keeping warm or keeping out of the sun), to cover the head when hair’s been lost due to cancer or other medical issues, and just for fun. Interestingly, the biggest season for the shop is Christmas and second is the Kentucky Derby. The latter surprised me, but Aileen explained that there are many themed parties and events around it, so people come in to snag the perfect apparel items.
Future trends anticipated include more items for outdoors recreation, such as hiking.
Fun & challenges
I asked Aileen about the things she enjoys most about Black Cat Hat, and the biggest challenges she faces.
“I am always excited about going to work every day. I love working with the customers, getting the right look and fit for them.” She does get a lot of repeat customers, but also tourists, so it’s a nice mix of people coming through the doors.
There are two main challenges. First, as with many stores or shops, there’s a risk that people will come in, try on the merchandise, and then go home to buy the same item online. Aileen called that the showroom challenge. (It’s a little similar in real estate when we show people homes, and at the last minute a different Realtor steps in to write the contract – truly frustrating.)
Second, sometimes people aren’t used to wearing hats, and initially they feel a little silly. In the worst cases, people get the giggles or put down others trying on hats or other merchandise. That can set a bad tone for the store, of course. Aileen tries to transform the mindset so that people find hats and accessories that do look good on them, and that in turn helps them to feel comfortable and better about themselves.
The atmosphere at Black Cat Hats is attractive but also homey and caring, which makes it a pleasant place to shop. If you have the opportunity to visit North Santa Cruz Avenue, do stop by Black Cat Hats and check out the wares.
Black Cat Hats
(Near the intersection of N Santa Cruz and Bean, across from We Olive)
On Saturday, March 3rd, Southern Kitchen marks an impressive 25 years of service*. This family-owned restaurant has been providing savory and sweet flavors with a touch of the South on E. Main Street for years – if you don’t know them you should!
Southern Kitchen invites you to celebrate with them, with a ribbon cutting and champagne toast from noon to 1pm (details on the Los Gatos Chamber events page). The restaurant’s web page does not have any information on the event, but it is advertised some on their social media pages. Regular hours should still be in effect, so if you can’t make it Saturday at noon, drop by weekdays from 7am to 2pm and weekends from 7am to 3pm for a scrumptious meal.