A.G. Ferrari closes Berkeley store, company bankrupt

Closed: A.G. Ferrari on Solano Avenue

The Solano Avenue outpost of A.G. Ferrari, the Italian delicatessen chain founded in 1919 in San Jose, has closed after the parent company filed for Chapter 11.

“It’s the last thing I wanted to do,” said A.G. Ferrari Foods’ CEO Paul Ferrari. “We love Solano Avenue and we were hoping we could ride out the recession. But the street needed a certain vibrancy to make the business viable, and upper Solano has been horribly hit by the economic downturn. We weren’t making any money.”

The Solano store had its last day on Sunday. Ferrari said all of its employees have been given jobs elsewhere in the company. High rent was also an issue, Ferrari said. “We were paying way over market rent.” Ferrari believes that, eventually, the neighborhood will come back, but that rents will have to come down.

With the closure, A.G. Ferrari now has a total of 12 stores across the Bay Area, including its College Avenue deli in the Elmwood, which Ferrari said he has no plans to close. All 12 stores are operating as usual, although Ferrari said the company may close more stores in the South Bay.

“The Solano Avenue Association is highly concerned about the closing of A.G. Ferrari,” said Allen Cain, Executive Director and Events Manager of the Solano Avenue Association and Stroll. “We are concerned for A.G. Ferrari as a company and hope that the effects on its workforce are minimal. Solano Avenue, primarily on the west/Berkeley end has been hit hard with vacancies. Filling them will be difficult and, like a virus, vacancies only spread without ‘treatment’. Rents are high, landlords do not want to risk devaluing their property and so they stay vacant. The Association feels that without significant, immediate action, Solano Avenue as we know it is in jeopardy.”

The loss of A.G. Ferrari from Solano is a blow to a street where there have already been many departures: Sarber’s Cameras moved from its upper Solano site to a new location down the street in Albany just a few days ago; and the Oaks Theater went dark, perhaps for the last time, in January. And not everyone was happy with the news in February that Goodwill might move into vacant retail space on Solano.

Residents are concerned about the direction the street is taking. Jane Tierney, President of the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association (TONA), said: “We are working with representatives of the city to streamline requirements for entrepeneurs, in hopes that the Solano Avenue business district remains a vital neighborhood resource which adds to the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.”

City issues such as permitting, quota systems, and rent and parking regulations are seen to compound the problems caused by the financial downturn. Late last year, councilmember Laurie Capitelli conducted a poll among Solano Avenue residents and merchants which led him to propose to the city what he called a “mini economic stimulus plan” on behalf of the shopping district.

But any such move came too late for A.G. Ferrari. “I knew this was in the works. And it might have made a difference had it worked,” said Ferrari. “But right now the street is just too quiet.”

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  • Andrew

    At some point the law of supply and demand has to kick in! Eventually, with more and more vacancies competition must surely lower lease rates.

    BTW we were on College Ave in Elmwood on Sunday. Talk about vibrant… And the food options were delectable. And they even have a movie theater. What is the difference between Elmwood and Solano? Is it the rental rates, the quotas, the populations? What are the distinguishing factors that make Elmwood thrive and upper Solano seemingly barely survive.

    On a related note, the new iScream is not even close to Ici. Sad but true.

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com lknobel

    Andrew, I was wondering the same thing.

    Channeling my inner Jane Jacobs, I suspect the far narrower street produces
    a better urban outcome on College. Solano is so broad (which is great for
    the Stroll) that it is dominated by cars. Pedestrians can seem an
    afterthought.

  • Andrew

    True that College in Elmwood is more self contained. Perhaps Lower Solano is the vibrant portion Solano.

    What if Solano was reinvented as a classic boulevard?

  • Dan Alpert

    I agree about iScream. In my view, it is hard to compete with Ici in quality, which gets an A+. I could live with iScream’s quality grade of B, but from my one time in there, they are charging more money and giving a far smaller portion than Ici.

    I seem to remember that Ici had some similar issues when it first opened and tweaked their portions/cost. I hope iScream follows suit.

  • http://www.davosnewbies.com lknobel

    I think Solano is a boulevard. By classic boulevard, do you mean with an allée of
    trees, or a median parkway (like the Ramblas in Barcelona)?

  • Bruce Love

    I encourage you to go (re?)read Jacobs’ “The Economy of Cities”, and (sure) “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, and — “Dark Age Ahead”.

    The issues here are not particularly “architectural” and the degree of car favoritism difference ‘twixt Solano and College is very minor. (For that matter, the notion that Solano pedestrians are an “afterthought” is not really defensible.) You can’t build or rebuild your way out of this. You are engaging in cargo cult thinking, in my opinion – and nothing that really reflects Jacobs’ approach.

    I think the most important thing you should look at in Jacobs (aside from the entirety of “Dark Age Ahead”) is her application of the concept of import replacement to cities. And then go compare that to Berkeley’s pro-land-banking public policy. Both street corridors discussed here are struggling because our regional economy is very poorly structured – largely by exploitation of real estate bubbles and somewhat by fairly corrupt exploitations of federal money via Cal.

  • Jetierney

    This is what I said: TONA strongly encourages all neighbors to  support local businesses, while encouraging landlords to adjust rents to be commensurate with current economic climate. We are working with representatives of the city to streamline requirements for entrepeneurs, in hopes that the Solano Ave business district remains a vital neighborhood resource which adds to the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.” TONA has long felt that landlords have raised rents while merchants have borne the effects of the recession. There is something wrong with this picture, and we hope the Council will respond accordingly by adopting a fee for landlords who keep stores vacant for more than two years, rather than adjusting rates to what the market can support. Right now, residents and merchants are affected by some long term property owners who would rather remain vacant than lower rents. This, or some other incentives have been suggested in Capitelli’s proposal.
    Jane Tierney

  • Dan Alpert

    College in the Elmwood appears to be thriving not struggling.

  • Guest

    I’m a near-neighbor who cares about upper Solano, as a High Street shopping area and a reflection of our wonderfully diverse community. But the smell of greed and opportunism is unavoidable lately. Consider what’s been forced out of the top of Solano in the past few years, and what’s come in…and for how long.

    I’ve been meaning to learn a little about the ownership and leasing agencies involved in those first few commercial blocks; this may be the impetus do actually do it. At very least, I can vote with actions and my dollars.

  • Abby

    Maybe the neighborhood association should allow upper Solano to stay open past 9? I’m new to the neighborhood, so I’m not fully informed yet, but lifting operating hour restrictions could help the district a lot, right? With minimal effect on nearby residents, in my opinion.

  • Anonymous

    “…adopting a fee for landlords who keep stores vacant for more than two years…”

    Two *years*? I have no experience with what other municipalities do, nor do I know what is typically considered a reasonable period of time that a space could remain vacant, but at the pace our economy changes two years is an eternity. In my mind two years isn’t reasonable — it would be a death knell for the neighborhood.

    I applaud TONA for taking a strong stand with the city of Berkeley- the city has to make the environment more amenable to businesses, landlords and the community. As a small business owner I’m appalled at how difficult the planning department makes it for new businesses on Solano.

  • Eschmitt3

    “…we hope the Council will respond accordingly by adopting a fee for landlords who keep stores vacant for more than two years, rather than adjusting rates to what the market can support”. This is exactly what should be in place. It is in everyone’s best interest. Once the area is perceived as in decline people will stop visiting it. A negative cascade that is hard to stop once it starts.

  • Andrew

    Yes : ) and more pedestrian friendly.

  • Eschmitt3

    Regarding the vibrancy of College Avenue vs Solano. I lived in the Rockridge neighborhood for years before moving to N. Berkeley and it has one major thing Solano doesn’t, a major transit hub. The Rockridge Bart station attracts thousands of people every day to the heart of the shopping district. I used to get off the train and go to the wine shop, the butcher, and the produce stand on my way home. At night I would meet friends for dinner and a few beers at one of the may restaurants and bars. College Avenue has a vibrant texture to it that is unique and hard to find in America.

    If the rail cars that used to run up and down Solano still existed it would be a much more vibrant area (even with the ridiculous nimbyism that keeps out bars and other night life). I often fantasize about how wonderful N. Berkeley would be if all the rail lines still existed.

  • Andrew

    I think 10 is the closing requirement. And there is a restaurant quota that is currently at capacity so essentially no new restaurants can open in the current vacancies. I used to live very close to the top of Solano. These issues are raised again and again. The area has changed over time (it’s still great). There has been a gradual decline without any new love, new ideas, new ways of looking at things.

    If Berkeley is “progressive” then let’s get progressive with urban planning to, as some might say, “realign” Upper Solano to new realities.

    Some claim the landlords are holding out for better times ahead. Aren’t we all? But without change sometimes better times never come. It is in the landlords interest that the Upper Solano corridor change and be revitalized. They must participate in that process to create change and not just sit and wait for boom times to come to them.

    BTW Fonda on Solano is open late and to my understanding causes no problems.

  • Andrew

    So why’d you move? Just curious.

  • TN

    Not that I have any experience in the commercial real estate field, but it strikes me that the commercial real estate market is very “lumpy.”

    Potential tenants want a lease long enough so that start up costs and tenant improvements can be paid off out of revenues. Tenants want stable rent, of course as low as possible. The more tenant improvements that are needed, the longer the lease required. For instance if a retail store front is to be changed into a restaurant, the tenant will need a long lease if they pay for the improvements.

    Landlords want stable tenants too. But they want as high a starting basis for rent. They don’t want to get caught committed to a long term lease on a low basis if they feel that there will be a surge in demand for the property in the next few years.

    The costs of holding a vacant property probably aren’t very high, especially if they were bought a long time ago. Proposition 13 applies to commercial properties as well as owner occupied residences. So, the landlord with other resources can try to wait out the market at a fairly low cost.

  • shorty

    Sorry to hear that yet another ‘top of Solano’ quality business is about to close! I’ve been wondering for years now why the Elmwood is thriving and the top of Solano unable to match it. I’ve heard that Laurie Capitelli’s office has touted that there is a different demographic than in the Elmwood? Oh really?!!!? I don’t think so. That sounds like an answer for someone who doesn’t want to look at the realities plaguing the neighborhood.
    Walk down that short block of College at Ashby and it is bustling and vibrant, even with many shops closed after 7p. It’s a SHAME that Solano has the numerous vacancies, a shut-down movie theater, and can only boast its newest tenant: GOODWILL!!!! Yippee….that ought to revive the neighborhood!
    I wholeheartedly agree with Andrew’s comment: Ici far outweighs iScream (yes, sad but true). The population, quotas, and rents are not that dissimilar to the Elmwood. THat is what are elected officials use as an excuse to the ‘blight’ of Solano. I’ve talked with numerous small business owners who admit that the landlords are greedy and unwilling to work with their tenants to keep them in the neighborhood. This is Mr. Capitelli’s district, I believe? So much for his survey. He needs another job if he is unwilling to pay attention to his constituents and get his district thriving again.

  • Sbon

    I agree with Jane’s assessment that the landlords have nothing to lose by keeping properties vacant. They should have a tax penalty for empty storefronts! Berkeley is happy to levy taxes for all kinds of nuttiness, how about doing something that provides incentives for landlords to react to the market by lowering rents and maintaining existing tenants or bringing in new tenants in empty storefronts. Azul, one of the first stores to close in the downturn didn’t have a problem with its customer base – the landlord raised their rent to astronomical heights and wouldn’t negotiate! So it began and so it continues…

  • Anonymous

    I first moved to Colusa Ave. off upper Solano Ave. in 1971. It was still a slow, old-fashion neighborhood commercial avenue. There was a corset shop (I swear, there was), a milliner, the old much smaller Park and Shop, a hardware store that sold absolutely everything from toasters to plumbing supplies, two fine “liquor” stores (Bolton’s and Michael’s), a “beauty college” Athena at Solano and the Alameda, two gas stations that also did car repairs and the jewel in the crown Ortman’s (well, there was also McCallum’s, but Ortman’s was our ice cream of choice) and all of that was just in the first block! Thousand Oaks Jewelers and Sarber’s were, and still are, neighborhood fixtures. And, of course, Pegasus Book Store is a gem by anyone’s standards.

    Lower Solano was not, by any stretch of the imagination a “happening” place. Over the years, my former husband and I ran a small book shop, Sand Dollar Books. We rented in Albany since we could, even then, afford it and finally had our last storefront on the Berkeley stretch of Solano where Marvin Gardens Real Estate is now.
    We had buildings sold out from under us by outside investors and watched the entire landlord spectrum as it ebbed and flowed up and down the length of the street. I think that the problem becomes critical when outside interests control the commercial spaces. It is, in most instances, more attractive for landlords to keep spaces empty and take a tax loss than to work with small businesses and the community to foster a healthy business climate. One only has to look at Shattuck Ave. to see this mindset in action.

    Solano is still a great neighborhood. Having been affected by the chains and big box stores as well as the internet, I am acutely aware of the impact these business models have had on smaller shops. Especially in Berkeley, I still believe that people would rather walk to their local (fill in the blank) than trek to a chain or monster store. Until retail rents and conditions become more humane, we will continue to see the demise of
    local neighborhood businesses. My sons now tell their small children about the adventure of walking to Ortman’s by themselves for the first time. Where will that first time be for future generations?

    I live above Piedmont Ave. now (did I mention that I also was priced out of the housing market in the late
    1990s?) and we have a vibrant A.J. Ferrari’s, a watch repair, shoe repair, and dozens of fine small shops and fantastic restaurants. But, even here in the neighborhood that I like to describe as Solano as it was 25 years ago, we hear the march of commercial rent increases clipping at the heels of local small businesses.

  • Sbon

    Solano Avenue has, over the years, attempted to morph into the kind of street that College at Ashby is, but the problem is that it’s never been able to support the kind of high-end clothing and housewares shops that attempted to jump in over the past decade. We used to have a hardware store (where front row video/no sweat/post office is), some liquor stores, a large pharmacy, a bakery like Virginia Bakery: overall more of a small town Main Street than a fancy shopping street. I don’t really patronize anything beyond Peets, Andronico’s and La Farine because I don’t need a leather couch, oriental rug or wildly overpriced women’s clothing. I do not want more empty storefronts but I think looking to College Avenue isn’t necessarily the answer. I would love more practical stores or stores that aren’t unrealistic in their wares.

  • Sue

    I was on “Upper” Solano today and it sure seems busy. It is a shame so many businesses are not doing well. But, the last few times I either bought food or just browsed at AGF, it was what seemed to me too pricey for what you got. And I’m used to pricey, but I thought the quality there has gone downhill lately. Just me???

  • Anonymous

    Paul Ferrari said “the street needed a certain vibrancy to make the business viable, and upper Solano has been horribly hit by the economic downturn. We weren’t making any money.” … and “We were paying way over market rent.

    And that got me thinking … here’s what I came up with:

    MAKE A DIFFERENCE – QUICKLY
    The fastest way to help our favorite businesses is to patronize them. Some local or zoning changes can take weeks, months or years … we we can make a difference within hours. I’ll bet if AG Ferrari’s Solano Avenue store had lots more people shopping and dining there, the store would have been profitable even if the rent was over market.

    GET THE WORD OUT
    Have a favorite business? Tell your friends. Want to let the world know? Post online reviews.

    COMMIT RANDOM ACTS OF PURCHASE
    Visit a favorite (or new) store and buy something you or a friend could use.

    SHOP LOCALLY
    I read that John King’s new book “Cityscapes: San Francisco and its Buildings” had just come out … so emailed William Stout books, learned it was in stock, and went to Solano Avenue this afternoon and bought it. The book said that John King lives in Berkeley … just one more way we’re able to keep the money in local circulation

    While on Solano, I noticed how interesting the block between Peralta and Tacoma was … lots of things to look at. It seems about the same width as the top of Solano, but had a very different feel to it.

    One of the nicest sections of Solano (lots of trees) is between Ensenada and Modoc … and that also has many vacant storefronts. Why is one block vibrant and the other not … perhaps different owner expectations. 


    DINNER FOR 12?
    Awhile back Tracey Sichterman and I each noticed that the Kensington Circus Pub (spiritually Berkeley) a favorite of each of us, was pretty empty. We put the word out and a dozen friends joined us for dinner one night.

    I asked everyone to pay using cash – it cost us the same as a credit card and increased the restaurant’s bottom line.

    How about Berkeleyside readers gather a group of friends and once a month (or even once a week) patronize a favorite restaurant which would appreciate the business. Go on a slow night — it would be great if they had to turn away some business. And pay in cash.

    We could have Berkeleyside dinner groups all over town! I’m the guy wearing the “I’m Ira and love to talk about Art Deco” name tag.

    VACANT STORES
    Several people have referred to owners benefiting by keeping properties vacant.

    It may make sense to keep a place vacant while an owner waits for someone to pay a higher rent. After a reasonable period (months, years?) I think it makes financial sense to lower the rent and get the place rented. Keeping a place vacant because an owner charges too high a rent doesn’t seem like a very smart business model to me.

    Some places take longer to rent because size, zoning, restrictions have an effect on the kind of renter who it suits.. After awhile, though, the “Real Estate Rental Tribe” will have spoken … and if the store is vacant for months or years, the rent is too high.

    Income is better than expenses … and if the owner wants more deductions, they can simply make a tax deductible contribution. Owners do have something to lose by keeping properties vacant … income!

    What ideas do you have? Let’s keep the conversation going.

    Ira Serkes

  • Szunderwood

    Agreed that IScream is a poor second to Ici, even without the lines. I do plan to patronize it from time to time in any case. I did have an excellent boysenberry ice cream there, but the coffee was very weak and insipid in flavor. They were also out of cones, several basic flavors, were desperately low on change, took cash only etc. Witnessed an amusing scene where someone not in a good humor exchanged his flavor for another one etc. Let’s hope that the portions do become a little more generous at that price point per scoop…
    One upper Solano merchant which does not add much (if anything) to the community is Jay’s Repair which recently damaged a friend’s expensive shoes with grotesquely incompetent work. On Yelp, they have ALL one star ratings (19 of them!):

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/jays-repair-berkeley

    How does it stay in business? I have never seen a Yelp page like this one.

    A.G. Ferrari’s did have some interesting and unusual products which were great to approximate authentic specialty or regional Italian dishes, but the prices were necessarily rather steep since there could not have been a huge economy of scale for many of their specialty products. The service was also fantastic, by and large. Friendly, knowledgeable and generous to a fault (especially to hungry kids!). What a shame that it’s closing. Sometimes, I feel like Berkeley is becoming East Berlin circa 1985.

  • Eschmitt3

    Stopped renting and bought a house in a lovely N. Berkeley neighborhood (which I love and could afford). I just wanted to point out that Rockridge is unique. It is also cited as an exemplar of successful “transit-oriented community development” in urban planning schools across the nation.

  • Andrew

    BTW Stout Books is an awesome bookstore! I recently spent $100 on a couple of amazing photography books partly because they were awesome and could not be found anywhere else (even Amazon!) and partly just to support them so they will stay around. Their bookstore in SF is even better but a far trek.

  • Eschmitt3

    The key difference is that Elmwood / Rockridge is transit oriented development and Solano isn’t. The Rockridge Bart station draws thousands of people to the area. Students flow from U.C. Berkely and CCA to the transit hub and locals commute using it. Elmwood / Rockridge is also a much more richly textured environment (restaurants and bars are open late drawing people to the area). My understanding is that Solano area residents fight to keep out businesses like these and restrict them to early closing hours. Without transit oriented development and with a local population focused on keeping the area quiet Solano will never be as vibrant as Elmwood / Rockridge.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eric.panzer Eric Panzer

    I completely agree with Eschmitt3: location, location, location–and transit. College Avenue is anchored by Cal at its north end and Rockridge BART toward its southern end; it also serves as a minor connection to downtown Oakland and Piedmont Avenue. Less prominent anchors include two nearby libraries, a middle school, and the California College of the Arts. Even for people who don’t live in the area, College avenue is a path to many important destinations; Upper Solano, on the other hand, is not. It’s about as far from a BART station as you can get in Berkeley and it is distant from major centers of employment.

    The neighborhoods adjacent to College are significantly more dense and diverse than those surrounding Solano–this means more customers. It’s also important not to discount the importance of students who patronize College Ave businesses and enliven the area. The greater diversity and availability of housing in the Elmwood/Rockridge area, as well as convenient transit access, is more attractive to students. In a similar fashion, one might hope that the benefits of developing the San Pablo corridor might reach even upper Solano. Solano’s mostly one-story retail strip could easily support new mixed-use housing which would provide a new “captive audience” of patrons. New housing, working in tandem with existing express transbay service and beefed up service on other bus lines–pipe dream, I know–would not only make the area more vibrant, it would be consistent with the city’s housing and climate goals.

    Unfortunately, the trends that have driven the decline of Solano will likely only worsen. Even as a member of Gen Y, I share in the nostalgia for mid-twentieth century commercial corridors. Nevertheless, twentieth-century approaches to restoring a twentieth-century streetscape are likely doomed to failure. A general approach that increases the number of residents and improves the walkability of the area will go a long way towards revitalization, but the city should also take a very targeted approach to find out what business stand to endure and thrive in the 21st century and then get them on Solano.

  • Eschmitt3

    Stout Books is a Solano treasure and exactly what the street needs more of. New, innovative, contemporary businesses like this will help to create some interest in the area. The city should be doing everything it can to encourage businesses like this to move in.

  • EBGuy

    I agree with those who have brought up transit, but I also think density is an issue. Could it be that it’s the unwashed masses to the west (and south) of College Ave that keep the area vibrant. Errr… excuse me — I mean Lower Elmwood.
    TONA’s rallying cry of “Give me two stories or give me death” does not exactly give one confidence that the commercial district will ever recover.

  • Anonymous

    Another important difference between Elmwood and Solano is density: according to the Census (American Factfinder site) the census blocks to the north and west of the Elmwood district are much more dense than those surrounding the Solano district. It makes sense, that’s where the students live, while Solano is surrounded by North Berkeley and Albany, mostly single family areas.

  • shorty

    I like your ideas, Ira….Thanks for the thoughtful suggestions. I might add that Laurie Capitelli should walk the neighborhood and talk to the merchants/small business owners to get the real dirt on what is happening. I would hope he would value their perspective. There have been many great shops that have been forced to close or relocate due to the property owner’s lack of flexibility, greed, or whatever you want to call it. THink ‘Stash’ for starters. College Ave in the Elmwood is thriving, and there is no justifiable reason why Solano cannot achieve the same success.
    We are supposed to celebrate a Goodwill as a means to bring business? I’m not against a Goodwill, but I don’t think this area is going to experience an increase in foot traffic, hence, patronage. In fact, it could do just the opposite.

  • Anonymous

    wow one less restaurant for tona and Laurie to worry about before long Solano will be a ghost town…good work guys Berkeley is becoming a joke most of the time I’m ashamed to tell people i live here!!!!

  • Alan Saldich

    I don’t know about the AG Ferrari on Solano, but I live in the Elmwood near AGF here, and I rarely go in there. Not sure why, but it doesn’t have much of an ambience in my opinion. In fact I was surprised to read one time about their venerable history as a local Italian grocer. It seems closer to a Starbucks-like atmosphere, as opposed to a place like Star Grocery on Claremont which makes a tremendous effort to stock high quality, interesting and locally sourced items, as well as odd items that their customers request.

    I’d suggest that perhaps AGF just got beaten in a very competitive food market – Berkeley is inundated with places to buy and eat food, and to stay in business you have to be better than the competition, and they are not better. Maybe they were decades ago, but things have changed. On College Ave., a number of businesses have opened recently and from what I can tell are seeing great success (Elmwood Café, Ici, Summer Kitchen) despite relatively high cost items. I just don’t think AGF offers a competitive product in comparison to those stores in terms of the feel of the place when you walk in, nor in their deli offerings. Sure they have a wide range of Italian products for sale, but so do many other grocery and specialty food stores. My advice would be for them to take a look in the mirror and see what they can do to improve their “product”.

  • Mike Farrell

    So how is Solano in Albany doing?

  • Heather W.

    Reading some of the comments here had me reminiscing about the upper Solano Ave of old, and having watched this strip turn from a neighborhood into a commercial district, up-scaled and all, makes me think that AJ Ferrari’s just didn’t stand a chance — way overpriced, nothing special in particular that you can’t purchase at either the Andronico’s across the street or at Genova in Oakland which retains some of it’s days-gone-by charms. AJ’s was just a corporate deli with high-end food at high-end prices and there are too many sources for this in many local stores that are owned and operated by local people — Country Cheese, Monterey Market, Magnani’s being just a few in close proximity to Solano. Andronico’s, though a larger chain now, is still family-owned and offers exceptional products. I’m not sorry to see Ferrari’s go when the Oaks theater couldn’t make it, and other smaller privately owned businesses haven’t been able to weather this economic storm.

    Does anyone remember Zarri’s in lower Solano Ave??? That was (maybe still is) a funky little deli worth supporting.

  • Sbon

    Zarri’s is definitely still there and I wouldn’t call it funky. It’s a family-owned, old-fashioned deli with people who know your order and name when you come through the door. I grew up going there with my mom and Mr. Zarri was a lovely man. I hope many people take the time to support a local business like Zarri’s (which also gives back to the Albany/Solano community).

  • Jane Tierney

    I’ve been on the board of TONA for more than 3 years, and involved much longer. Not once have I ever heard anything consistent with your comment. There are however, many extreme views attributed to TONA that are completely mistaken, and oft quoted. Among them are that TONA opposed iScream. Not true. That TONA opposed La Farine. Not true. People are quite fond of polarizing viewpoints. It would probably help much more if you became involved. That’s why I got involved and became better informed about the issues. Change starts with you.

  • Jane Tierney

    From all accounts it is thriving. Some possible explanations: 1. free parking. 2. lower rents. 3. more diversity of retail establishments. 4. fewer zoning restrictions. 5. easier for merchants and entrepreneurs to get businesses started.

  • barkwolf

    As of 4/12, I think they closed 3 more stores, and prob. the Elmwood one. We liked hanging out there eating until we moved to Alameda. The Coffee Beanery has great pastries is a good hang, too.