Infusion of money should spiff up remaining Andronico’s

Andronico's has slashed prices in its Telegraph Avenue store to move goods. Photos: Frances Dinkelspiel

Starting in January, shoppers at Andronico’s Markets should start seeing upgrades in the chain’s remaining five stores, including new refrigeration cases, revamped displays, and shelves stocked with additional goods.

The revamp is part of Renovo Capital’s quest to capture a greater market share of the high-end grocery business, a sector Andronico’s competed well in until money troubles and a lack of capital forced the chain into bankruptcy.

“The specialty market segment is very competitive,” said Adam Alberti of Singer Associates, a firm hired by Andronico’s to talk to the press. “There is a whole host of upstart companies, as well as the more established ones like Whole Foods. Andronico’s has a strong brand and a significant loyal customer base and we think we can compete successfully in that environment.”

The shuttering of two Berkeley Andronico’s – one on University Avenue and one on Telegraph Avenue – will allow the chain to concentrate its resources on its remaining stores, and “improve the customer experience,” said Alberti.

“Many of the Andronico’s have not kept pace with the improvements its competitors have put in,” said Alberti. “That will begin to change this January when (Andronico’s) begins to improve their stores.”

Renovo Capital bought the bankrupt chain for $16 million in late October, around the same time it acquired another bankrupt business, A.G. Ferrari, the Italian specialty chain, for $1.2 million. Alberti said at some point A.G. Ferrari goods might be sold at Andronico’s.

The bankruptcy and bailout resulted in the shuttering of two Andronico’s stores in Berkeley and the layoff of about 55 unionized store workers, said Alberti. Another 45 employees lost their jobs when Andronico’s closed its Palo Alto store, but that was before Renovo Capital was involved, he said.

“It’s been pretty rocky,” said Mike Henneberry, a rep for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, which represents Andronico’s employees.

After Renovo Capital took over, all the employees had to reapply for their jobs.

Candles and other household goods are 40% off at Andronico's

The Telegraph Avenue store is slated to close in a few weeks, depending on how fast Andronico’s can liquidate the merchandise, said Alberti. Most things in the store are 20% off. If what happened at the University Avenue store is any indication, the discounts will get deeper as time passes.

City officials believe that the Telegraph Avenue location will not be vacant for long. Both CVS Pharmacy and Fresh & Easy, a chain owned by Tesco, the huge British multinational, are interested in the site, according to officials who asked not to be named.

Andronico’s on Telegraph Avenue to close [11.25.11]
As Andronico’s on University closes, huge sale in progress [10.25.11]
Andronico’s to shutter University Avenue store [ 10.17.11]
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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  • But the real question: are they ever going to start carrying Dr Pepper again? 

  • Texan

    Dublin Dr Pepper!

  • Geech

    Wow, Telegraph is hurting right now.

  • If only! But they do have it at Soop in Epicurious Garden, of all places. 

  • Dia

    Meanwhile those of us near the University Ave location still have no supermarket in walking distance….sigh.

  • Alan Tobey

    In what sense is Andronico’s a “specialty” market, unless that involves specializing in charging more than any of your competitors for the same general-grocery goods?

  • Bryan Garcia

    At a mere 20% off, most things will probably still be more expensive than Berkeley Bowl or even Whole Foods, given Andronico’s normally exorbitant prices. It’s no wonder that this place is finally going under.

  • Disgruntled LOYAL customer

    Mike Henneberry says all employees had to reapply for their jobs…..what he doesn’t say is that a lot of those employees, who had worked for Andronicos for years were not offered positions after re-applying. Andronico’s then hired seasonal workers. Andronico’s is supposed to have great customer service and speak of loyalty but how can “seasonal” help offer the same great customer service that the former dedicated and loyal employees did. I understand about the economic times but I feel these employees were loyal to Andronico’s (They stayed throughout this difficult time)They could have left but they were told to bear with Andronico’s through this time only to be treated unfairly.

  • Berkeley Resident

    If you are not far from San Pablo you might consider trying Mi Tierra for basic items.  A couple of weekends ago I forgot to shop in preparation for having friends over for brunch.  I woke up at 7:00 and tried to think of options.  Trader Joe’s and Berkeley Bowl don’t open until 8 or later.  So I decided to walk over to Mi Tierra.  I found organic coffee and milk, okay bread and very nice veggies AND they were open at 7:45.  They may not have everything you need but definitely a great option for basics at a fair price.

  • Chris

    I frequent Mi Tierra for just these reasons – and for their meat which is very reasonably priced for the quality.

  • oki

    Andronico’s = Safeway quality products at Whole Foods prices.  Nicer shelves and displays won’t help. Never gonna succeed w/ that business model.

  • Anonymous

    Mi Ranchito also, mid-block between University and Addison. Its hard to keep track of what to get at which, but theres some things (huge bulk bags of beans) that I buy at Mi Ranchito always.

    Theres also the Country Cheese Store, which has a good selection of bulk stuff. No reason to go all the way to Berkeley Bowl for bulk rice, etc.

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    mi ranchito is way better than mi tierra. mi tierra guys are RUDE. Mi ranchito all day.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, yes and yes!  Unless they change their business model at a core level vs. Green-washing it or attempting thus, we here near it are going to stay with the new TJ’s and the Berkeley Bowl West.  This group just does not get it either.  Maybe, I am wrong. In time all will be told.  I’ll be watching…..  It does not sound like they have a remote clue about the neighborhood demographics and their needs or preferences. Hint:  Watch for the leaking roof or pipes in the usual places that where oddly never ever fixed during the older remodel in the ’80s.  Just don’t call it Andronico’s unless you desire to file for bankruptcy in 18 months all over again.  However, people are doing to do what people are going to do. 

  • Chrisjuricich

    I wish them luck in their new cash-infused endeavour. I used to shop fairly regularly at the University store, simply for the convenience and the quality, though I never loved the pricing. Our own family’s finances went through a whirl in the past three years finding me getting laid off from my long-time corporate sales rep job to working at Berkeley Bowl, Peet’s Coffee, and even running a comic book store. No, I’m not complaining about those latter jobs, but none of them paid what I had been making earlier, so I had to eschew Andronico’s high-priced spread and hit Mi Tierra, Berkeley Bowl West or even Safeway on occasion for my grocery needs.

    Yah, Andronico’s is indeed the ‘high priced spread’ when it comes to groceries, and if they want to continue to market to that well-heeled crowd of which, even here in Berkeley, is getting a bit thinner, I wish them luck as I said. I like their merchandise and their quality but circumstances have priced me out of their market–literally.

  • Chrisjuricich

    True dat–but they also have a wide variety of other items you won’t find elsewhere…particularly if youre a foodie type.

  • Chrisjuricich

    Yah, if you’re near Andronico’s at Acton/University, switch up your gears and shop at Mi Tierra, Mi Ranchito, Spanish Table (well, I work there…), Country Cheese (if you can find anything that isn’t stale–sorry!) and Berkeley Bowl West. Lots of options! Even all the pre-packaged TJ stuff…which is priced right, but…

  • Chamelean75

    I hope Fresh and Easy moves in.

  • Bola

    Have you actually checked Safeway prices lately? Way high, and they regularly “run out” of supposed sale items, leaving only their own branded products to choose from. And  beware their “buy one, get one” promotions–they simply increase the base prices.

  • Berkeley Resident

    And the Middle Eastern Market across the street closer to University had delicious bread and other basics and some interesting treats as well.

  • Berkeley Resident

    At this point most of what they carry CAN be found elsewhere.  Try Trader Joe’s, Berkeley Bow, smaller markets mentioned above, etc.  In the 80s and early 90s they had unique items, now those items are found in many other stores for much better prices.

  • Berkeley Resident

    That would be fine.  I don’t know if I would shop there much but if if helps the neighborhood and also fills in an empy space, why not!

  • ??

    One should never make assumptions until one does his/her own research

  • this and that

    I think by having to reapply with new owners is fair and equitable.  Should new owners have to “grandfather in” employees those new owners are signing the paychecks, right?  Shouldn’t they have a say in it?  If every person had to reapply I see that as being completely fair.  And where are all of those jobs to leave and go to, cause I’d like to know!!

  •  The decline of Telegraph is a totally predictable result of decades of pandering to anti-business and pro-homeless kooks. It hasn’t been a hospitable place for shoppers for a long time, and it’s probably going to get a whole lot worse before it gets any better.

  • Unfortunately, a lot of Berkeley’s old guard retired hippies think they should.
    It’s the same mentality that says that someone who buys a building (even a single family home) should automatically have to honor the rental agreements of everyone who was living in it, even though they had no say at all in drawing up those contracts.

  • Fresh & Easy, or a satellite of Berkeley Bowl.

    I know BB won’t actually do it, but man oh man would it be great if they expanded their operation to include that location too.

  • TN

    Umm.. A new landlord assumes and is bound by the leases signed by the previous landlord everywhere. This isn’t special to Berkeley or California.

  • Moobmeister

    Another right-wing troll — where do these people come from?

  • Moobmeister

    You buy a building with full knowledge of the rental contracts in place at the time. Unless you’re a brain-dead right winger who feels he has a God-given right to evict everyone in sight.

  • Moobmeister

    Fresh and Easy, the Walmart of Europe!

  • Mike Farrell

    I hope not; I wouldn’t want to see them follow their over-expanded predecessors.

  • Obviously. But why should the new owner have to in the first place? Why should a new owner be beholden to contracts that he or she had no part in drafting? What’s *fair* about screwing over the owners in favor of the renters?

  • I know. My point is simply that it is unfair to force a new owner of a retail store or property to be beholden to contracts that they had no part in drafting or approving.

  • Eh. Berkeley Bowl does so much business that I doubt starting a third location would bankrupt them.

  • I know it’s easy to crap on other people’s ideas, but do you have a better suggestion, Moob? A suggestion based in reality, for a business that might actually be able to move into that awkward space and do the very expensive and much-needed improvements the site needs?

  • Charles_Siegel

    Let’s say that a retail store borrowed $100,000 from the bank for construction.  Then it was sold to a new owner.  The new owner goes to the bank and says “I am not going to pay back that $100,000, because “it is unfair for a new owner of a retail store or property to be beholden to contracts that they had no part in drafting or approving.”

    Sharkey, would you agree in the case of this contract with a bank?

  • @ Charles — The person who took out the contract is the one who is responsible for it. They should pay it off with the proceeds they get from selling the store. If you take out a $100k mortgage to buy a house, and then sell the house, you don’t get to transfer your mortgage on to the new owner. You still have to pay it yourself.

  • ho chi minh park

    Someone who “knows” told me that CVS already signed a lease.  I despise CVS and will never, ever go there, even though I live two blocks away.  Too many miserable shopping experiences with them.  MANY.

  • Go Bears!

    Yup, CVS is moving in.  I hear that they might take over the Andronicos on Shattuck in North Berkeley too.

  • Mike Farrell

    Safeway announced that it will close the Shattuck Avenue store at the end of February and re-open sometime in the summer. It will be interesting to see if and how Andronico’s new owners go after this orphaned market.

    Personally I’ve always disliked Andronico’s; I have always felt that my pocket had been picked.
    As for the employees I’ve dealt with many have been pleasant and helpful; others have been surly seem to feel put upon if I ask for help. Those are actually worse than the employees at the Co-op were as it circled the drain.

    We’ll see what happens, but if Andronico’s doesn’t change their focus and improve employee attitude they’ll miss a golden opportunity to improve their market share in North Berkeley. How they approach Safeway’s South Berkeley market will also be revealing.

    Best of luck to the new venture. I sure won’t miss the old one.