Breaking: Andronico’s to shutter University Avenue store

Andronico's on University facing closure

The new owners of Andronico’s Markets announced Monday that they will close the  store at 1414 University Avenue, but will not shutter the other three locations in Berkeley.

Renwood Opportunities Fund, a partnership between Rosewood Private Investments and Renovo Capital, took over the bankrupt grocery chain last week, buying the seven-store business for a reported $16 million. Andronico’s, founded 82 years ago in Berkeley, had filed for bankruptcy in August.

City officials learned of the closure on Monday and have already been in contact with the building’s owner, Berkeley Bazaar Partners, to discuss bringing in another grocery outlet.

“The city of Berkeley is fully aware the neighborhood wants another grocery operator,” said Dave Fogarty, project coordinator for the city’s Office of Economic Development. “It’s a top priority to work with the owner to bring in another grocery operator.”

A Berkeleyside reader said a cashier at the store told her that all the employees would have to reapply for their jobs. Attempts to reach the corporate headquarters of Andronico’s and Renwood were not successful by press time. The $50 million Renwood Fund was established last year to invest in “distressed middle-market companies and special situation opportunities”.

The University Avenue store had the weakest sales of of the four Berkeley stores, according to reports. The other comparatively weak store, on Telegraph Avenue, has been spared closure in the current round of restructuring. The Solano and Shattuck stores have considerably greater sales.

Andronico’s and A.G. Ferrari saved from the brink [10.12.11]
Andronico’s files for bankruptcy [08.22.11]
Andronico’s plans recapitalization with new lenders and investors [05.25.11]
Four Berkeley Andronico’s face difficult conditions [05.24.11]
A.G. Ferrari closes Berkeley store, company bankrupt [04.05.11]

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  • Local Yokel

    Right, instead of walking a couple of blocks, Lisa has to sit and wait 1/2 hour for a bus each way and have to schlep her stuff on that bus?  Add to that she has to pay bus fare. 

  • Local Yokel

     Sharkey, the thing about a lot of little stores is what I’d call “hedging your bets”. If one store fails due to mismanagement, the other stores remain. Also, in terms of zoning and the nearby neighborhood, smaller shops is more workable. If the stores are not competing with each other, they can actually complement each other. Someone may go to the meat store for meat and get lured in by a store nearby.

    Berkeley’s been, for the most part, anti-big box. (It appears to be changing) One of the rationales is that they’re hedging their bets on tax revenues. If you have 100 stores, you are safer than if you have 5 or 6.  A remote corporate office in Arkansas does not care what happens in Berkeley. A corporate office in Berkeley cares very much what happens in Berkeley.

  • Charles_Siegel

    If there are lots of small stores, more people have a store within walking distance or a short drive of their homes.  The result is less auto-dependency, less gasoline consumption, less greenhouse gas emissions, more convenience – particularly for people who cannot drive.

    Think about how Trader Joes are scattered around this area: one in Emeryville, two in Oakland, one in downtown Berkeley, one in El Cerrito.  Lots of people have easy access to a nearby Trader Joes.

    Now, imagine that Trader Joes had superstores instead of these modest size stores.  There might be one store of over 100,000 sq ft at the freeway exit in Emeryville rather than these five stores of 20,000 to 25,000 sq foot.  As a result, the average person would have a longer drive to buy groceries.  Seniors and others who cannot drive might have trouble getting groceries at all, but with smaller stores, they are more likely to live near a store.

    This is a standard point that environmentalists often make about Wal-Mart and other superstores.  One huge store near the freeway exit replaces many stores in neighborhoods, and the result is more auto-dependency and a harder time for people who cannot drive. 

    These huge stores cannot fit into walkable neighborhoods. To attract enough customers, they must be located near freeway exits so they can draw customers who drive a long distance.

    Environmentalists say that one step toward controlling global warming and high gasoline prices is to build walkable neighborhoods.  That means building moderate sized stores that can fit into walkable neighborhoods. 

    This is a point that I have made many times.  I hope I am getting through this time.

    (Note that this is not an issue of chain vs. small business. Moderate sized stores like Trader Joes and Fresh and Easy can fit into walkable neighborhoods.  Even Wal-Mart is now opening smaller stores that can fit into walkable neighborhoods.)

    (Note, also, that I am only talking about the size of stores and its effect on transportation.  Someone always misses the point and replies that Trader Joes doesn’t have good produce.  But I am just using Trader Joes as an example of a good size for a grocery store.  Obviously, it would be possible to have stores of the same size that do have good produce.)

  • Charles_Siegel

    Once again, Thomas Lord shows that he is indifferent to and ignorant of the environmental impact of city planning decisions. 

    This is just about as bad as his long-winded posts saying that the late, unlamented State Department of Health building on Shattuck and Hearst was the most beautiful place in downtown Berkeley.

  • Bruce Love

    Hey, Chuck,

    That’s a non-responsive personal attack that additionally gratuitously mis-characterizes my comments from an earlier and largely unrelated thread.   I’m not sure what your point is beyond that.

  • Charles_Siegel

    My point is that I won’t waste time trying to reason with someone who is irrational.

  • DC

    Have you ever shopped there?  You don’t sound like you really know it.  I buy almost no processed food, cook everything from scratch, do my weekly shopping at BB East, and yet I still shop at Grocery Outlet from time to time.  You never know exactly what they will have, but they generally have good deals on canned salmon, wine, aluminum foil, and bread.  I don’t eat much bread (I’m by far a rice gal), but they seem to have an OK selection and some healthy brands. 

    Sometimes I’ll go there and find nothing, or don’t want to deal with the lines, but just as often I’ll find one or two things worth my time.

  • DC

    One site is far easier and cheaper to run (and deal with the real estate costs) than 3.  If BB had built three additional smaller sites instead of one larger one, it might have been nice for all of us, but likely they would have gotten over-extended (like Andronicos) and ended up closing some in the end.

    BBE and BBW seem very successful, so I’d say their expansion strategy – as opposed to Andronicos – is working.  At least so far.

  • DC

    I think the 51 goes there, but yeah I usually drive.  Sometimes I bike down the Ohlone Greenway to get there (cutting over at Carlson) too.

  • Bruce Love

    Way to double down, Chuck.

  • smart n final customer

    I live nearby.  I think this would be a great location for a Smart N Final.  The closest Smart N Finals are in Richmond to the north and Oakland to the south.  It would be different from the other nearby grocery stores so it would not be in competition. 

  • EBGuy

    Tuk, Tuk Thai could not make a go of it in the old Wild Oats space on University (now occupied by Three Stone Hearth).  That said, I think odds would be improved dramatically now that Andronicos is gone.

  • On reflection, it’s interesting how he responded to the comment

    BBW obviously would have given far more people access to affordable fresh food if it had built three stores, each one-third the size of the current store.

    with a response about the solar panels, loading dock, and product variety.

    He attacks your post without even bothering to respond to your central point at all. While his points are interesting and certainly good support to explain why they decided to build BBW the way they did, it does not in any way challenge your statement that three smaller stores would/could give more access to fresh food to more people than one mega-store.

  • I agree on many points, Charles.

    I understand the value of having walkable neighborhoods with shopping nearby and completely agree about the value of stores like Trader Joe’s and Mi Tierra as walkable neighborhood grocery stores. I guess what I’m wondering is what the practical difference between a megastore like Berkeley Bowl West and a small shopping area composed of many small centrally clustered stores like the Monterey Market area is. People can and do drive to both to shop. What’s the real difference between driving to Berkeley Bowl West to do one-stop shopping versus driving to the Monterey Market area to shop at several stores?

  • Interesting! I hadn’t considered the tax aspect.

  • Tuk Tuk was super gross compared to 99 Ranch.
    I went in there a couple times but all the dusty cans and lack of fresh produce were a real turn off.

  • Bruce Love

    Actually, Sharkey, my response was directly to that point.

    Three small stores instead of BBW could not provide as many people access to affordable, quality food as BBW because of the reasons I listed (considerations of warehousing, receiving, pricing power on wholesale markets, etc.).    By concentrating receiving, warehousing, and wholesale purchasing in a regionally located firm — BBW is able to locally “import” to Berkeley much more, much better quality, much more affordable food than is possible with just about any other business arrangement.  Those guys know what they’re doing and they do it pretty well.   Just ask the proud new owners of Andronico’s.

    Chuck’s point is valid that, hell, it’s ridiculous to think nearly everyone in Berkeley should rely on having to make car trips to BBW or some similar set-up.  That’s fine.   BBW offers standardized bulk discounts.  I’d bet if your bulk were bulky and reliable enough .. some things could be further negotiated.   For example, the “walkable grocery” can be built on foundations like BBW with a little creativity (e.g., my coop-food-bank suggestion — buying coops with storage are old hat everywhere and already quietly exist in Berkeley).

  • Bruce Love

    How (technically) does a farmer deliver to lots of small stores and how does that effect his bottom line and the price of food and the shop-keeps’ margins?   By implication, what does this imply about how agriculture is organized technologically and economically?   What implications does this have for sustainability and ecological quality?

  • jubrele

    A pharmacy?!  There are already too many pharmacies in Berkeley. 2 in the gourmet ghetto alone, plus 2 more downtown on Shattuck, one on Ashby, and probably others on Solano and in Elmwood that I’m not even aware of.

  • Baggetup

    You are right. Andronico’s never adapted to the times. Their prices are higher than Whole Foods despite having lower quality and far less selection. The owners have absolutely no one to blame but themselves. No one has suggested it yet, but Bill Fujimoto, who used to run/own Monterey Market is a possibility to start a venture similar to Monterey. That would be phenomenal.

  • JWong

    Grocery Outlet recently upgraded their shelving, and it’s much more
    attractive and nicer for shopping.  Was there yesterday and noticed lots
    of items suitable for gifts including: fancy soaps and other
    toiletries, chocolate, wines, tea, flowering plants, candy, etc.  And
    the clerks are so darned nice.