Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Comal restaurant at 2020 Shattuck: slated to open on May 2 very soon

VIVA MEXICO It’s countdown time to the opening of a “big” new restaurant in downtown Berkeley. Comal, a Oaxaca-inspired Mexican eatery which will seat around 160 customers both inside and at an outdoor patio area, is slated to open its doors on May 2 very soon. Last week, its new Cor-Ten steel façade, designed by Berkeley architect David Trachtenberg, was unveiled. Currently a shimmering silver, the steel will gradually turn a rusty burned orange color as it oxidizes. Former Delfina chef Matt Gandin will be running the kitchen, and its name, according to Eater SF, comes from the restaurant’s namesake comals, or Mexican griddles, which take pride of place in the restaurant’s exhibition kitchen. Berkeley firm Abueg Morris has gutted the 1927 building at 2020 Shattuck Avenue, and used reclaimed wood floors, wainscoting and poured concrete walls to give it a clean, contemporary feel.

Scout: closing Claremont Avenue store

DESIGN SHUTTER Scout, the home decor and staging company, has closed its retail store at 3088 Claremont Avenue less than 12 months after moving there from Temescal. The company will continue to operate its home staging and interior decorating service from the studio in the same spot. Scout will also offer furniture and lighting, as well as Farrow & Ball paints.

Sonam: closing. Photo: Nancy Rubin

SO LONG SONAM Tibetan gift shop Sonam, at 2903 College Avenue in the Elmwood, is closing down and is holding a sale before it shutters for good. The store, which is sandwiched between A.G. Ferrari and Sweet Dreams, sells gift items, jewelry and accessories.

Shop Talk is our regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses — openings, closings, new directions, relaunches, relocations. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns here.

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out All the News.

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  • More Mexican food in downtown? Caramba. I’ll say it again: you can get anything you need in downtown Berkeley…as long as what you need is a falafel, a taco or a cell phone.

  •  Is there such a thing as a Falafel taco? Cause that might be pretty good.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    And if Tacocopter ever becomes a reality, you’ll only need the cell phone to summon the tacos (and perhaps falafel) to your location.

  • Completely_Serious

     I’ve been eating kim chee burritos at HRD in SF.  That’s pretty good.

  • EricPanzer

    There’s a lot more to Mexican food than burritos–which are pretty much the main event at most Downtown Berkeley Mexican places. I’m looking forward to a Mexican place with a larger selection. Considering that off the top of my head I count four sushi places, six Chinese restaurants, and seven Thai restaurants in Downtown Berkeley, we could do worse.

    I definitely agree that Downtown needs an improved retail selection and I sorely miss having Paper Heaven at this location; but I think that there’s more to Downtown Berkeley than people typically give it credit for. Two pharmacies; Ace Hardware; Staples and Alko Office Supplies; Crossroads and NorCal Sportswear; Half-Price Books and Pegasus; Games of Berkeley; the DollarTree; three optometrists; two tailors; Fantasy T-shirts; Berkeley Shades; Unique Images and Scandinavian Designs; Berkeley Vacuum; that unusual, independent semi-Apple store. I could go on. I’m not saying there ain’t room for improvement, but we help matters any when we give ourselves short shrift.

  • TizziLish

    Is there any chance Berkeleyside reporters could find out how repairs are going at Great China? They had a fire a few months ago, then immediately posted signs they would re-open in April. Occasionally, their window shadows pop up so I have looked closely into the windows when the shades were up:  not one single thing has changed in there since they removed all the furnishings after the fire. I have not seen a single sign of any work.

    I know that it can take time to work out insurance issues, settle on new kitchen design and appliances and maybe they decided to undertake a fuller scale remodel. I could understand such choices.

    But I sure hope the delays are merely delays and not a sign that the joint is shutting down. They are said to have the best Peking Duck to be found outside China.

    I’d love to read news about this great Chinese retaurant.

  • TizziLish

    Increasingly, the Gourmet Ghetto seems to be creeping downtown, and along University.

    I welcome Comal. as others point out, most Mexi joints downtown are burrito/taco focussed. Comal sounds like it is going to offer ‘real’ Mexican regional cuisine, something far beyond burritos.

    And, since I’m talking Mexican food downtown, let me plug Cancun on Allston. Although Cancun is known for their burritos, Cancun has a fabulous Mexican menu that goes far beyond burritos and tacos. It’s not Cancun’s fault is most customers stick to a narrow range. Cancun offers lots of great menu items not often seen at burrito joints:  real Mexican meals. And  they have their own farm and do mostly organic and mostly free-range meat.

  • TizziLish

    I can also ‘definitely agree that Downtown needs an improved retail selection. Please, whoevever might be reading this, trust that I ask my question with sincereity and not any snarking or sarcasm or anything dimissive: what retail would be likely?

    I don’t think retail is ever ‘coming back’ the way it used to be. I think Berkeley has the range of retail shops it is likely to see in the next several decades. There will likely be more and more food service places as people eat out more and more and people stretch to make a living in ways that used to provide livings in retail. Shoe stores barely hang on these days. Amazon put an end to retail book stores. Card shops? Is there still a tiny card shop on Bancroft, east of Telegraph across from the campus?  I am steadily amazed that place stays open. I haven’t send a u.s. mail card to anyone in, gosh, maybe ten years?  I sent email cards.

    Cameras, computers, even toilet paper, are increasingly sold online.

    Does someone envision new categories of stuff that will we magically begin to manufacture?

    I have not lived in N. California very long and I have never, in that time, shopped at a mall, other than Westfield in downtown SF. Are there shopping malls in the East Bay?

    I think the big box strip in Emeryville, with its Target, Home Depot, cheap food store, big sporting goods store are the kinds of retail that future holds.

    I happened to be in SF today, riding a Muni bus briefly along the stretch with Westfield Mall.  I guess some folks still think of spending an afternoon shopping as a form of recreationg but I think that behavior will soon go the way of the dinosaur.

    Retail is not coming back the way many remember. We have this new vehicle for commerce called the Inernet.

    I am amazed at all the denial in comments caling for more and better selection of retail in Berkeley. It’s over, folks.

  • JMW

    Does anyone know what’s going in the spot where Viva Taqueria was in the triangle between Claremont Ave., Claremont Blvd. and Russell? 

  • Guest

    Yes, the East Bay has shopping malls. Off the top of my head theres Hilltop, Ranch 99, and Bay Fair. Emeryville has a lot of big box stores.

  • Bruce Love

     TizziLish do you remember the story a little while ago about the Mom’s “hackerspace”?   You can parse it schematically as:  They have a cultural attraction in the front where a retail space used to be — retail culture, now.   In the middle where the office used to be is now the hacking space.   And in the back is a day care center.    So in what once was the kind of space used for a single retail establishment with inventory — they have a modern “mash-up” of three businesses …. sorta.

  • serkes

    “Retail is not coming back the way many remember. We have this new vehicle for commerce called the Internet”

    I wonder what will happen when stores-used-as-catalogs (i.e. Best Buy, many local book stores, some camera shops) disappear.

    WIll retail be limited to items which are best consumed in less time than it takes to ship them via FedEx … or which have shipping costs which exceed local sales tax rates?

    I’m attending a meeting and had to send them a check.  It’s so rare that I write checks (I realize I could have even done that online) and mail them that I just realized my USPO Forever Stamps … might actually last forever.


  • serkes

    Speaking of Mexican Food … is it time to add a little salsa to the restaurant polls and ask Las Berkeleysiders about their favorite Mexican Restaurant in Berkeley?

    Carol and I give two thumbs way up for La Mission on University at Chestnut.  Amazing Mole, chips, and horchata (and I’m not that big a fan of horchata)


  • serkes

    We have met the enemy and he is us.

    Pogo was right.

  • Guest

    Local bookstores are probably counting the days until September, when Amazon has to start collecting sales taxes from Californians. 

  • MFox327

    I can confirm: the Peking Duck is awesome. Can’t wait for them to return.

  • Guest

    Anybody know what “The Good Life” is going to be? Next to Subway in the 2600 block of Telegraph.

  • Biker 94703

     munchy munchy hippos performs that service presently

  • Mike Farrell

    I wonder how an auto showroom would fare where Pegasus Books is. The building is perfect for it and could perhaps serve as a place for several builders to show there wares. Perhaps “auto dealership” is not quite the right word. Super small electric town runabouts, electric bikes and scooters. Alternative vehicles in one place.
    I hope Berkeley Hardware survives the apparent loss of it’s parking. Currently it seems to be the only place downtown to buy kitchenware. A store with good (and apartment sized) pots and pans, tableware etc. might do well if we do in fact fill up the proposed housing.

  • Berkeley Resident

    I notice some changes in the Andronico’s (on University) parking lot.
    Any news of a new business taking over that space?

  • alina

     I still buy clothes and shoes at brick and mortar establishments.  But not the boutiques on Solano.  More like Old Navy and TJ Maxx.  I guess there used to be a Ross in downtown… what happened?

  • Bruce Love

      I guess there used to be a Ross in downtown… what happened?

    The archives are often quite helpful.   I really miss having a larger news outlet in this town.

    Their lease was up.  Renewal didn’t happen.–By-Judith-Scherr

    They apparently suffered from NQOCD syndrome:

    With The Spot, at 2175 Shattuck, and the Shoe Pavilion, at 2210
    Shattuck, also planning to exit Berkeley, “we look at Ross leaving as an
    opportunity to upgrade” the tenant mix downtown, Economic Development
    Director Michael Caplan told the Planet Wednesday. 


    Downtown Berkeley Associ-ation Executive Director Deborah Badhia said
    she was disappointed at the losses. “Ross fits a niche,” she said,
    whether it’s nannies out shopping or people running into the store on
    their lunch break for a tee shirt they’ve forgotten for their workout. 

    Brilliant minds were hard at work, though:

    Economic Development Manager Dave Fogarty underscored, in speaking to
    the Planet Thursday, that there is some good economic news, with the
    opening of Green Motors in the old Cadillac dealership at San Pablo
    Avenue at Jones Street. The company’s website highlights the
    all-electric ZENN and iT cars, which they call “the perfect
    zero-emission solutions for around-town driving.”

  • alina

     Thanks.  That’s too bad.

  • Pokey Poni

    Any news about the Oaks Theater space on Solano? There is a yellow development sign on the door with no information other than a real estate company name (Gordon?).

  • Guest

  • I would LOVE to attend a Mexican restaurant cook-off competition!!