Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Alko Office Supplies on Shattuck Avenue: closing after 104 years in Berkeley

POOR SALES FORCE ALKO CLOSURE  Alko Office Supplies, which has been operating in one form or another at 2225 Shattuck Avenue for 104 years, announced Tuesday that it is shutting its doors. Gary Shows, president of the Cliff Radston Company, said in a press release published in the Daily Planet that the store is closing because of declining purchases from UC Berkeley, changes in the shopping patterns in downtown Berkeley, and the perception of shoppers that chains offer better deals than small, locally owned businesses.

“We sincerely regret disappointing loyal retail customers,” Shows said in the release. “We are appreciative and grateful; there just are not enough of them to sustain us.” The retail operation will remain open and “fully stocked” until the building is sold. After that, the company will continue to supply business and Internet customers in a “less costly location.”

Staff on the job at Picante’s new curbside pickup service Photo: Tania Schwartz

PICANTE LAUNCHES CURBSIDE  Tania Schwartz, self-described Berkeley resident, mom and Picante fan, writes in to tell us of a novel idea from the popular Mexican restaurant: curbside pickup service. “I think this will be fabulous for parents,” says Schwartz. “I still remember the days of driving my son around in the car for his naps, wishing that there was some decent drive-thru in Berkeley where I could get a snack or pick up dinner. And now, finally, there is.” Picante’s general manager Charlie Cotton says the service, which is available in the evenings only, 4:30-8:30pm, was introduced to make customers’ lives easier. If you have ordered your food to-go you can come and pick it up and pay for it curbside — in Picante’s green parking space — without having to find somewhere to park, he says. “If you have kids in the car or it’s raining it should be particularly useful,” he adds. Attendants provide utensils and napkins with the food order and can process payment curbside too. Picante is at 1328 6th Street, inside and out. Tel: 510-525 3121.

Shop Talk is Berkeleyside’s 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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  • Alexander

    Zaika on University Ave closed down as well last week. This totally sucks as they were  the best place to watch a sports game in Berkeley. They had great TVs, food and friendly staff Would always switch a game for and turn up the sound. Service was really good and this is such a shame. Alko great as well. Luggage store downtown last place worth shopping at.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_N64EZT6OKABEJYUUVXCU2PV544 Gina

    THAT is a horrible TRAGEDY. Alko is the ONLY reason I EVER go to downtown Berkeley. They have GREAT products that Staples never has and never will have. I get Moleskine and Rhodia notebooks there, Lamy pens, decent folders, etc. I guess there’s no reason left for me to cross University besides to get on BART to SF (to Flax, for example, while they’re still in business.)

  • Ormond Otvos

    Parking costs and vicious enforcement, anyone? I avoid Berkeley like the plague. The stoplite cameras were the last straw, with their illegally short yellows. NIMBY wins, Berkeley loses. Shop Amazon Prime free shipping for a third the cost of one parking ticket. Not to mention the snotty bicyclists and zombie pedestrians.

  • Jacob Lynn

    “I think this will be fabulous for parents,” says Schwartz. “I still remember the days of driving my son around in the car for his naps, wishing that there was some decent drive-thru in Berkeley where I could get a snack or pick up dinner. And now, finally, there is.”

    Can someone unpack this quote for me? Is Schwartz saying that she would drive in circles for hours while her son was napping?

  • Jejacobs

    So clear that you’re not a mom. Believe me, you don’t want to criticize.

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzanneyada Suzanne Yada

     WHAAAAT? Zaika closed? I just ate there last week, I swear it! Wow…

  • Meliflaw

    “Can someone unpack this quote for me? Is Schwartz saying that she would drive in circles for hours while her son was napping?”  

    Yes, I’m afraid so. My child was, very thankfully, a good sleeper, but I had a friend who did the driving thing; I guess the putting-the-kid-in-a-basket-on-top-of-the-dryer technique didn’t work for her. (The idea is that driving, dryers, etc., echo the rhythms of the mother’s pregnant body. It’s weird, I know, but some babies are terrible sleepers, and parents do whatever they have to, or they’d go mad.)

    Meanwhile, that is awful news about Alko’s. They are such a good store, and I hope they flourish on-line.

  • Charles_Siegel

    I was interested to see that the Radston Company owned Alko.  The other old office supply store in downtown was Radstons, at Berkeley Way and Shattuck, which closed a couple of years ago.  I wonder if and how they were connected. 

  • GC

    BTW you wouldn’t necessarily drive for the entire nap; just long enough to get the baby to sleep.  And then… you’re stuck in a car with sleeping baby for 1+ hrs…. and hungry…  

  • GC

    We loved that place!  What a shame.

  • guest

    AGREED!! 

  • Greg Merritt

    Maybe you’re just bitter that the happy cyclists & peds don’t share your parking issues. Glad to have you out of my downtown. :P

  • Greg Merritt

    Jacob might be a dad. Almost anyone might be a parent.

    Yes, I understand that until the invention of the automobile, 13% of the world’s children suffered sleep deficit. Currently, in New York City, 10% of taxi cab trips at nappy time are just rides around the block of carless families trying to get some shut eye for junior. My neighborhood daycare puts all the tots into a van and drives them around until they nod off; now they don’t have to fuss with cots any more.

    Puh-lease.

  • guest

    I’m pretty sure he is not a dad yet.
    If he one day would like to be a dad and chooses to be a dad he will appreciate the importance of a nap.  A nap is a nap regardless of how the kid gets there!

  • Ormond Otvos

    Is it parochial or provincial I’m looking for…
    Tribalism would do it.

  • http://www.flickr.com/parksdh D. H. Parks

     I just walked by and it was open.

  • http://www.nahuli.blogspot.com cjcris23

    This is great news about Picante — as a parent, having to park far down the street, haul a baby (sleeping or not) in to grab dinner meant I just didn’t do it that often. Now? Yes, please!

  • guest

    Hmmmm….  It seems like you don’t live in Berkeley.  If that is the case why are you so concerned about what goes on here?  Don’t shop here, don’t eat here, no problem specially if you don’t liver here.  I hope your town has lots of free parking and no traffic lights to annoy you.

  • Jacob Lynn

    I’m not a parent. And, I get it, criticism of parenting techniques is totally out of bounds. But it still seems like a really expensive nap…

  • Anon

    It’s been more than a “couple of years” since Radston’s closed now?  And hasn’t that storefront remained vacant since then?

  • TizziLish

    I believe, Jacob Lynn, that parents only resort to car naps (my sister called them snuise cruises) when their kids don’t nap without the car movement. Sometime a crabby kid really really needs sleep but for various reasons, can’t or won’t. Teething can keep a kid from napping and a snuise cruise distracts the kid. Or an ear infection can hurt and the movement seems to sooth the kid.

    My sis and I spent many afternoons hanging out on snuise cruises, her baby in the backseat. My kid?  She went down for naps like clockwork, except when she had ear infections and then, hell yes, I took her for car drives. Sleeping upright in the car seat also helped sooth the ear; laying prone on a bed moves the ear’s moisture and balance and can make the pain worse.
    It’s not about being expensive (as in the cost of gas). It’s parenting.

  • TizziLish

    Once, when my niece was three, the excitement of Xmas day and me and her cousin visiting after not seeing us for six months cause she and her mom had moved to N. Mexico, she just flipped out and then she was so tired she couldn’t enjoy herself. Her mom was busy with the feast so we stapped her in the car and I drove out into the N. Mexican desert (they were living in N. Mexico that year). Man, that kid screamed and resisted her name. I drove in one direction until she fell asleep and then turned around and drove home.

    She needed that nap and we all needed her to have it. She was wired and worn out. I have never heard a kid scream like that. She was so angry that we had trapped her in the car.

    But when she woke up, she was her happy self. SHe needed that nap It was worth the cost of gas.

    And, quite frankly, I enjoyed the break from the family visiting.. . once my dearly beloved niece conked out.

  • TizziLish

    Losing Alko’s is a real loss for downtown Berkeley. Besides selling great, increasingly hard to find products and providing actual customer service, it is an unusual building with fascinating details. I hope that whatever happens to it next maintains its unique architectural character. Stop in and look if you don’t know what I mean.

  • Tor

    Parking is actually way too cheap in downtown Berkeley. That’s why it’s so difficult to find a space. It’s a straightforward supply/demand problem that’s distorted by parking rates that are too low. 

    Now that we have a clear understanding of just how bad cars are for the earth, implicit public subsidies for privately owned automobiles – such as cheap street parking and parking mandates for new development — are going the way of the dodo. 

    Besides, there’s a BART stop in the center of downtown, and many stops for crosstown and intercity bus lines. It’s difficult to imagine how downtown Berkeley could be more accessible via public transportation. Your attitude is from the last century. Get out of your car. 

  • Charles_Siegel

    They spent a long time remodeling the one store space into three restaurant spaces, which they are now trying to rent.  Maybe there will be more need for restaurants after the Helios Center opens.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Moe’s has Moleskine. The display is in the basement.

  • Anon

    Thanks for the update.  FYI, per the BDP, Radston’s shuttered its Shattuck location in July 14, 2006.

    So, that makes SIX years now of a vacant corner storefront on our main commercial shopping strip.  If that doesn’t bespeak something profoundly dysfunctional with our retail scene, I don’t know what would…

  • Charles_Siegel

     The entire adjacent block has also been vacant since 2006, when the State Dept of Health moved out.  I hope the Helios Center (opening this month) helps nearby retail a bit.  And I hope Acheson Commons (opening maybe in a few years) helps even more.  And I hope the university builds out the rest of the block soon, which should help even more.

    You can see that I live on hope.

  • Anon

    Yes, I know a post-doc whose lab is moving this week into the Helios building. 

    But the old Radston’s office space is not “open for business” yet…  And, given the onerous permitting process for opening food establishments in Berkeley, plus all of the associated non-pop-up start up expenses, I don’t foresee any type of short economic bounce from Helios or other development projects in the neighborhood.  Maybe in the long run.

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    Dude, go complain about richmond where you live instead of riding on a city you are obviously infatuated with!

  • berkeleyhigh1999

    iIactually agree and thought the same thing when i read it.

    I have a 2 year old and nothing beats a daily 1 hour stroller walk for nap time. It is free and safer/healthier for everyone. You need one of the buggy type stollers that are comfortable. 

    But I though better not to say anything as to not start a comment wildfire.

  • Andrewpl11

    Ormond you are the very reason this country is going down, All people want to do anymore is buy cheap crap made in China and sold dirty cheap in places like Amazon and Wal-Mart.
    People like you will only be happy when everyone works for these company’s and gets paid about $2 a hour.
     and make no mistake about it Amazon is as bad as Wal-Mart if not worse.

     

  • Guest

    But look on the positive side of things.  The multi-billionaire founder of Amazon, in lieu of paying his employees decent wages or benefits, has the extra millions to donate on behalf of saving gay marriage in Washington State from the initiative process.

  • Anonymous

    I find it mind-boggling that the owner of Alko’s did not mention the #1 threat to businesses in America today: Young people sitting the sidewalk!

  • The Sharkey

    I know several people who work at Amazon, and you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

  • The Sharkey

    Hi, Sky.

  • Anonymous

    Bye, ground!

  • Anonymous

    nice edit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzanneyada Suzanne Yada

    OK — now I’m gonna have to go in and see for myself! Alexander, how did you hear Zaika was closed?

  • Mousepad

    oh, your friends work in an Amazon warehouse? http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor?page=1

  • Guestero

    Those awful gays, always draining resources that rightfully belong to the Noble Working Man so they can have their special rights. 

  • guest

    Interesting, I read this comment after edit and it didn’t seem problematic. Curious why it is flagged. 

  • The Sharkey

    Wow, that was awful — Not the description of the working conditions (which don’t sound so great) but the oozing condescension of the author.

  • The Sharkey

    It was flagged because, for some reason, the moderators seem to dislike people pointing out the fact that “sky” is trolling the comments using multiple Anonymous/guest profiles.

  • Guest

    No silly, he knows the rich executives.

  • Anonymous

     Well, that’s good magazine writing. She does a great job of getting their target demographic to be able to imagine that they imagine what that job is like even though the closest they’ve ever come to it is weeding their little herb and vegetable garden on a hot day.

    The thing that amazed me the most is that it’s clearly a job that’s nearly completely automatable but it’s still cheaper to burn through people.

  • guest

    odd.

  • guest

    I guess that you are trying to say you are Sky….