The entrepreneurial neighborhood of Palo Alto

Something is in the water in the neighborhood surrounding Emerson Street in Palo Alto. View map of neighborhood.

This is the neighborhood that’s brought us Google. Paypal. Facebook. HP. Java. BarCamp. Among other things.

But the entrepreneurialism doesn’t end with the big tech names. Gordon Biersch, a popular chain of microbreweries, started on this street.

I first learned about some of the entrepreneurial activity happening in the shadows of bigger companies back when I first took my car to a little garage in this neighborhood back in the early 1990s. If you visit Ole’s Car Shop you’ll meet Ole Christensen. This is no ordinary mechanic. He was so sick of the management systems available to car mechanics that he wrote his own in Microsoft Access and Visual Basic.

He’s not the only guy who has a college degree that’s coming up with new ways to run small businesses in this neighborhood.

On Thursday I went roaming around the neighborhood looking for other entrepreneurial stories.

Mahmut Keskekci, Owner of Sumner Frames

I met up with Mahmut Keskekci. He’s worked in a small retail store, Richard Sumner Gallery, in this neighborhood for 23 years. He moved here from Turkey and has a degree in Electrical Engineering. What does he do now?

He frames Silicon Valley’s most expensive artwork at the shop he now owns, Richard Sumner Gallery. Just a couple of weeks ago he had a million-dollar Picaso in his shop. Today he’s hosting professional photographer Marc Silber, blog, who swears by Mahmut’s work.

Marc Silber, pro photographer

I met up with Mahmut and Marc in the shop and videoed them. Here’s Marc talking about his photography and why he loves Mahmut’s work. Mahmut told me he does framing for the local Stanford University hospital, and local museums, among others. The video gets a little choppy, cause I’m using my cell phone but you get an idea of Mahmut’s philosophy. I restarted the video and we continue the discussion of Marc’s photography and Mahmut’s framing work.

Marc Silber and Mahmut Keskekci

This afternoon if you drop by the gallery you’ll meet both Marc and Mahmut at 3 p.m. for the opening of Marc’s exhibition.

Jessica Gilmartin, co-owner of Fraiche Yogurt -- new Silicon Valley hot spot to hang out

If you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss the Fraiche Yogurt Shop where you’ll probably meet Jessica Gilmartin, co-owner. She gave up a job in finance to follow her dream of owning her own business. Instantly you’ll see that she has created something special. Just ask the customers, which includes famous Facebook employees and venture capitalists like Jeff Clavier, who says: “People, these things are SOOOO good. You have to try them out.” (I caught him eating one of Jessica’s treats).

Her store was packed the day I came in. I asked Jessica what her secret was (the shop has been open less than a year and it’s rare that such a new retail business gets so busy so fast). She said she was lucky to have a location nearby Facebook, which brings her lots of customers, but then she started talking about her product. Says she’s one of the only stores in the United States that makes their own yogurt on site. She also said that she spends almost every moment of her life in the store and watching her serve customers I realized that she not only is putting in the hours, but also pouring her soul into her work.

Fraiche Yogurt

Chocolate block in Yogurt shop

She told me that she wanted to make treats that were healthy, not just sweet. Even her toppings are pretty unique with a good mixture of fruit, nuts, and a block of chocolate that caught my attention.

Anyway, if you find me in the shop, now you know why. Damn these things are yummy!

Jessica Gilmartin serves at Fraiche Yogurt

More photos from my walk around the neighborhood are on my Flickr feed along with some snaps I made of Larry Lessig. Maybe I’ll see you over at the yogurt shop this afternoon. Who knows what kind of entrepreneur you’ll run into there!