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Problems at Allied Arts Guild

Original post made by Allied Arts Member, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park, on Mar 14, 2007

Allied Arts' Dismal Future

I'm concerned about the future of the Allied Arts property. As a longtime member of the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary, I believe that our leadership has done an excellent job of restoring our wonderful buildings and beautiful gardens, and in the process lost Allied Arts' soul. Since reopening, we have been unable to retain retail tenants which attract traffic to our site, we have closed our popular gift shop, and have just thrown out the strongest draw our facility has ever had, the Palo Alto Auxiliary volunteer-staffed restaurant.

I know our donations to the Children's Hospital from Allied Arts operations are down, and that our Tally Ho revenues are also below par, but does our leadership really think that hosting meetings, conferences and other events will bring in any significant money? Will businesses come to this neighborhood site? Will the neighbors stand for it?

We've tried without success to attract business customers since we re-opened. What's changed? I understand the Palo Alto Auxiliary restaurant contributed nearly $100,000 a year to Children's Hospital. We have essentially destroyed that business. Our new "for profit" caterers won't make any donations, especially when they have labor costs to pay, and just how long will any restaurant or retailer survive at Allied Arts with a steadily diminishing flow of visitors and the usage limitations imposed by Menlo Park?

I think it is time to recognize that our Woodside Atherton leadership is not pursuing a winning strategy. Our rank-and-file member opinions have no apparent affect on business decisions, and revenues and contributions to the hospital continue to fall. Why did we accept millions in donations to renovate Allied Arts, when it appears the money would have been better spent going directly to the hospital? We now have an empty, unused, attractive facility. How sad.

How will the neighbors feel when we are forced to sell the property for who knows what use. How will the hospital feel as it loses yet another source of financial support. And how will we feel, knowing we let it all slip through our fingers.

Over the years I've happily worked on the Tally Ho and in our Traditional Shop, but now I'm a very discouraged volunteer. What do other people think?

Discouraged

Comments (8)

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Posted by Diana
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2007 at 11:52 am

I felt really discouraged, too, when I visited Allied Arts on a beautiful day a couple of weeks ago and found that there were hardly any other people there, aside from the shopkeepers. It's hard to believe that such an exquisite place to visit attracts so few. But if the restaurant's patrons had also been dwindling, I'm not sure what good it would have done to keep it open, especially if the number of volunteers to run it was also dropping. Wasn't that the case? Or was that the auxiliary leadership's spin?

I can understand why Discouraged is so distressed, but is there any solution? How can the auxiliary attract more people to this enchanting spot?


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Posted by Me2
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 15, 2007 at 2:50 pm

I too feel very sad at what has happened to Allied Arts and Tally Ho. I remember when Allied Arts was a destination because of the beautiful gardens, the lunches made and served in the Tea Room by the wonderful women of the Palo Alto Aux, and the never to disappoint Traditional Shop, always filled with beautiful seasonal floral arrangements and all the little things you never knew you needed until you saw them there.

I remember when Tally Ho was a wonderful event known for it's fabulous cocktail hour/fashion show, set before spectacular yearly themed backdrops made by the husbands, sons, and friends of the members that left us in awe every year. I remember how after dinner, some people danced, while other guests made the trek in all their finery, cocktails in hand to watch the beautiful evening horseshow.

I remember the friendships that developed between members as we all watched our event come together. Then one year the powers that be decided that the event needed to be updated. The event began to morph into every other charity event in the area...we stopped being unique. The women that had poured hundreds of volunteer hours, not to mention their hearts and souls not just into Tally Ho, but the Traditional Shop stopped having fun because of the change in leadership. This new group of women established what Tally Ho seems to have become today...a party for the dwindling membership, not the surrounding community and Peninsula the way it used to be.

I wish someone could wave a magic wand and bring back the simple days of the Allied Arts Guild and Tally Ho. I'll bet you'd be hard pressed to find a single person that worked on, or attended the event back in it's hey day that doesn't have at least one fond memory of Allied Arts, or Tally Ho.

How about readers posting some of their favorite memories of Allied Arts and Tally Ho...I doubt it will change the minds of the powers that be, but it will be a nice trip down memory lane!




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Posted by Also Troubled
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 15, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Well, I'm glad someone has finally spoken up! I should have, and didn't. Shame on me. Our wonderful Allied Arts complex, as noted by "Discouraged," is on the verge of disaster. The roses will soon be in full bloom, and there will be no one to see them. The shops are empty, the restaurant gone, and few visitors are to be seen on the grounds.

As a result of these conditions (and others), many of our Woodside Atherton membership question the direction our president, on her own, seems to be taking us. It's almost as if the opinions of the rest of the members of the auxiliary don't count, so we're neither asked nor informed. Art galleries, meetings, conferences, a return to our "roots," all have been identified as our future, but what good is it to pursue plans and strategies that didn't work in the past? Nothing new has been proposed for the site, and some of us feel there must be something else she has in mind. What is it? Selling the property? It's an inevitable result if we can't make money and pay our bills, let alone contribute to Children's Hospital.

We need some answers, Ms. President. Where are we going? Why? Don't give us vague platitudes. It's time to be candid with your fellow members.


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Posted by Palo Alto Supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 16, 2007 at 1:41 pm

I'm not with either Woodside-Atherton or the Palo Alto Auxiliaries to Children's Hospital at Stanford, but I do volunteer with another Hospital auxiliary group and I have friends in both organizations. My question or concern is: Where was the Association of Auxiliaries or the Hospital Liaison to the auxiliaries when all the changes at Allied Arts occurred?

I thought the actions of one auxiliary weren't supposed to affect another, or if that possibility existed, cooperative efforts would minimize any impact. My friends in both Woodside and Palo Alto tell me it didn't happen there! It was more like, "Be gone in 60 days! Sorry!" Why wasn't Palo Alto given more than the minimum time to close their restaurant if Woodside knew months before that it didn't want them there anymore. Give them a chance to find a new location!

The Association and Liaison must have known earlier. Why didn't they tell Palo Alto so they could consider other alternatives? Who let the $100,000 or more annual contribution from Palo Alto's restaurant be stopped dead at the end of February? I think that someone didn't do their job, or that some unidentified political factors played a decisive role in this fiasco. Someone should find out how and why this all happened, so it never happens again. If we can't trust the hospital Liaison or our own Association to look out for the interests of all the auxiliaries, who can we trust?


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Posted by Debbie
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 16, 2007 at 7:40 pm

While I am not familiar to the inner workings or costs, it seems if you provide below market rents to artists filling the guild should not be an issue. If a portion of the profit from sales was set aside for charitable works, things should turn around. It may be neccessary to keep interim costs lower while business re-establishes.

Rebuilding will take time.


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Posted by Very Sad
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 24, 2007 at 3:52 pm

In response to Debbie's comment, I am an artist constantly in search of a better studio space so I can do my brush painting, and perhaps make an occasional sale. I contacted the real estate agent in charge of leasing at the Guild and when they heard what I was going to use the space for they were less than enthusiastic, even though:
1. I live 2 blocks from the Guild.
2. I am a member of PAA.
3. I have been renting a studio elsewhere for 2 years and I have been an artist for 10.
4. I am willing to provide financial proof of my credit.

I have no idea what is behind most of these decisions made, but financial does not seem to be the concern here. I can only come to a conclusion that it is more politics than anything.

My mother-in-law introduced me to the Guild a few years ago. She told me that back in the days when she was in college, she and her friends often went to the Guild to enjoyed Tea and many other events. Because of that trip to the Traditional Shop and the garden, my husband and I fell in love with Menlo Park and eventually moved here. It is unfortunate that what used to be the "it" place is now slowly fading away. In time it will fall prey to the hands of those with an unquenchable thirst for monster homes where owners retreat to their bunker basement focusing inwardly to themselves rather than reaching out to ones neighbors, learning the town's history and sharing a community spirit through a place like the Guild.


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Posted by Menlo Park resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 25, 2007 at 10:46 am

I have not been to Allied Arts and have no plans to go. I don't much care for what's on display there, but I think I understand how important it is to people who do value it and I think I have a sense of what would be lost if it goes under.

The Allied Arts' slow demise is not happening in a vaccum, is it?

How does a flower garden, fountains, charming architecture and an opportunity for reflection and hours of unhurried conversation compete with blogs, the web, movies at home, phone calls received anywhere and everywhere, scheduled lives and personal priorities that don't suffer gladly the messiness of real friendship?

What is happening to us, to our culture, and what if anything can we do about it?


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Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2007 at 5:10 pm

Something is definitely rotten in Allied Arts! The new website says nothing about "corporate retreats," which was the reason given for not renewing the Palo Alto Auxiliary's lease to run the restaurant. Did the PAA worry about filling the volunteer demands of the restaurant? Yes, AND volunteers were beginning to come forward. After being closed for 2 years, people found different ways of expressing volunteerism. It takes time to recruit for a renewed enterprise. One must suspect Woodside Atherton of nefarious doings. They've changed their name, now the Allied Arts Auxiliary. They've engaged a restauranteur of note to serve lunches from 10 to 5 M-Saturday. How did they manage that with only a month's notice? The new website even revises history, leading people to believe that the restaurant begun 75 years ago is now the Cafe! What can be done? Write to the Packard Auxiliary Board and register your complaint. Should you patronize the cafe, insist that your tip go directly to the Packard Children's Hospital as was the custom for 75 years. Patronize one of the other enterprises run by Ms. Cool and express your dismay that she is being used by Woodside Atherton Auxiliary for their own dubious purposes. Hold Woodside Atherton Auxiliary accountable to the Menlo Park City Council for "baiting & switching" their use permit. Purchase Tastes, Tales & Traditions, the Palo Alto Auxiliary award winning cookbook. Finally, make a donation to Packard Children's Hospital in honor of the 75 years of exquisite service from the Palo Alto Auxiliary.


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