Mountain View’s folksy, European-style Milk Pail Market, which has stood the test of time in fast-changing Silicon Valley, will shut down after 45 years in business.
Closing day will come within a few months.
Owners Steve Rasmussen and family posted a letter to longtime customers headlined, “The End of an Era,” in which they tick off the reasons for selling the property at the corner of California Street and San Antonio Road. Chief among them are the long, grueling hours and a loss in business because of nearby construction.
“This has been an incredibly difficult and emotional decision for me,” Rasmussen wrote on Facebook. “I understand that this news will be very disappointing for many.”
Indeed, community reaction to the news was fast and fierce, with more than 250 customers posting comments by midday Wednesday.
“So, so sorry to hear this!!!” customer Tien Chiu said. “One of my favorite shops. I’ve been a loyal customer for over 20 years and will miss you terribly.”
“You will forever be a part of Mountain View history!” the Mountain View Historical Association posted.
Even relative newcomers were devastated.
“Respect! For most of the French people living around, Milk Pail Market is a reference for French cheese and various French products,” customer Cyrille Daujean wrote. “We arrived 6 years ago in the Bay Area, and you became instantly a mandatory stop for shopping. This is big loss for the community and another bad sign — IMHO — of what is going on in the Bay Area with small businesses.”
What’s now a European-style open-air market began its life in 1974 as a “drive-through” dairy, Rasmussen noted — long before the correct spelling gave way to today’s commonly used “drive-thru.”
The business survived a threat to its future just five years ago, in 2014, when the Rasmussens reached an agreement deal with Merlone Geier Partners to share parking with the revamped San Antonio Shopping Center.
Steve, Lian and daughters Kai and Erika Rasmussen were approached about an acquisition and decided instead to keep the business going. Unfortunately, Steve recounted for customers, longtime manager James Liu died that year, and “his tenacious ability to bargain for produce prices could never be imitated.”
Plus, business never quite rebounded after construction started in the area. “For almost three years, the Milk Pail stood alone, surrounded by hard hats, bulldozers and truckloads of dirt,” he said, with loyal customers forced to deal with limited parking, increased traffic and “torn-up city roads and sidewalks.”
In the end, running a seven-day-a-week family business for years on end has taken its toll, Steve said of himself and his wife. “Cutting the cheese, slicing the meat and moving boxes of bananas hasn’t always been easy. And today, it really is getting harder.”
He figured they have done this work for about 16,000 continuous days.
Make that 16,000 days and a few months.
Details: Until the official closing, the Market Pail will remain open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays, until 7 p.m. weekends. 2585 California St., the Village at San Antonio Center, Mountain View. 650-941-2505; www.milkpail.com.
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