Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Proposed site of Biondi's Cafe. Image: Google Maps

Proposed site of Biondi’s Cafe. Image: Google Maps

FROM CLOTHES TO PIZZA Landlord Ken Sarachan has applied to open a new “family and student oriented” eatery — serving salads, gourmet pizza and pasta — named Biondi’s Cafe, at 2360 Telegraph Ave. You may remember it as Wet Seal, which has closed. (Thanks to Charles Siegel for the tip.) Architect Mark Thieme said, in his application to the city, the space “will feature a bar and restaurant seating with a bistro style atmosphere.” Interior improvements will include “a new commercial kitchen, open seating areas, bar type seating, accessible restrooms and a production lift” for storage on the existing mezzanine. The cafe will seat about 80 people, with a capacity of 150. The space has applied for permission to be open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, and could offer live music. The application is set for review before the Zoning Adjustments Board on Jan. 10.

A meal from The Toaster Oven. Photo: Janet Choi

A meal from The Toaster Oven. Photo: Janet Choi via Facebook

SANDWICH SHOP ADDS SEATING After a somewhat extended Zoning Adjustments Board discussion in November, The Toaster Oven on Telegraph, which opened in January, has gotten a permit to add a small amount of seating. The owner of the sandwich shop, at 2309 Telegraph Ave., said she was having trouble competing with nearby sit-down cafes because of her lack of seats. The business won approval to change its permit from a carry-out-only spot to a “Quick Service Restaurant,” even though the area is already well over quota for quick service venues. The business plans to add up to 15 seats, but will not make any other changes to its existing configuration or operations. See the application here for more details. According to the findings made by the city: “Less than 25 percent (46) of the approximately 200 ground-floor commercial spaces in the District are devoted to this use, and the addition of one more Quick Service Restaurant would not cause this use to dominate.”

Grainger street view courtesy of Google Maps

OUT OF BUSINESS After 23 years in Berkeley, Grainger, a national business-to-business industrial supply chain with more than 700 stores, shut its branch at 2950 Seventh St. at the end of November, according to spokesman Joseph Micucci. The closure was part of a chain-wide shuttering of smaller branches, according to a current employee who asked not to be named. Micucci said that contractors and other businesses “are changing the way they do business and want a company that can manage their inventory on site, has same day availability, and can deliver a product when and where it is needed. Our goal is to provide the right local mix so we continually adjust based on how our customers want to do business.” Grainger will still service its customers in Berkeley with one of its Bay Area’s 79 sales representatives  or 41 stores in California. According to the company website, Grainger still has branches in San Leandro, Hayward and San Francisco.

Grazzy Burgers in AlbanyLOCAL BURGERS SET FOR SAN PABLO Albany has a brand-new grass-fed, locally-sourced burger restaurant set to open on Jan. 15. Grazzy Burgers is moving into a San Pablo Avenue location that eventually, owners hope, will open onto a beer pub next door. Owners say all the restaurant’s produce and meats will come from Bay Area farms. Learn more on Grazzy’s Facebook pageGrazzy Burgers, 747 San Pablo Ave., Albany; 510-526-2999. Hours: Monday to Thursday & Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday & Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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.

One of this week’s Shop Talk items was first published on Berkeleyside NOSH, our online East Bay food magazine. Follow Berkeleyside NOSH on Twitter, and on Facebook.

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  • serkes

    Perhaps Whole Earth will move back into the Grainger site – I bought my Mac IIcx (not 32 bit clean) with Radius Pivot grayscale monitor from their computer store across them street.

  • The Sharkey

    The business won approval to change its permit
    from a carry-out-only spot to a “Quick Service Restaurant,” even though
    the area is already well over quota for quick service venues.

    Why do we even have quotas like this?
    If the market will support it, let people build it.
    I’d rather have “too many” restaurants than more empty storefronts.

  • Completely_Serious


    Are you nostalgic for Whole Earth? Do you miss the double page ads in the Chronicle? Do you live in the most nostalgic place on earth?

  • serkes

    Just fond remembrances of things past, without being homesick, wistful or having excessive sentimental yearnings to return to the past.

    I lived on Dwight @ Shattuck when I came here in 1974. Whole Earth “used to be” in a small, crowded store on the west side of Shattuck. Perhaps a berkeleyside weekly series “that used to be” would be fun for those of us with similar memories.

    Santa Fe Bar + Grill, The Dead Center, Northside Theaters, Lenny’s Meats … oh – the places I’ve been or seen.

    Nostalgia isn’t quite the word .. but not sure what would be. Oh learned readership … what would be the appropriate word?


  • Charles_Siegel

    I think you made an excellent and learned suggestion for the appropriate word with “remembrance of things past.”

    Who knows the real origin of this phrase? It was used for the English translation of Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (which actually means “in search of the lost time”), but where did the translator get the phrase?

  • EBGuy

    Speaking of Santa Fe Bar and Grill, does anyone know if the West Street Pathway is open between University and Addison (next to the Berkeley School). The city’s website said it was supposed to be complete by the end of 2012.

  • Bill N


  • The Sharkey

    I wasn’t around when Whole Earth was here, but it seems like a pretty cool thing to me and the sort of thing that makes Berkeley interesting.

    If we could get a similar store, but updated for the current age, I think it would be a great thing for the City. A store that specialized in off-the-grid stuff, helped people set up their own solar or wind farms at home, carried supplies for pickling, canning, urban farming, etc. We have a few stores that help with one or two of those things, but a single store dedicated to all that (and that had knowledgeable employees who could help out clueless homeowners like me) would be great.

  • The Sharkey

    Nope. Close, but not quite done.

    I was on a walk over there on New Year’s Day, and the section from Virginia to Cedar is still blocked off. The concrete is there, but I don’t think they had painted on the lines or finished the lights.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Shakespeare, Sonnet 30

  • TN

    We had a Real Goods store in the small shopping center near Gilman. Real Goods and its neighbor Smith & Hawkens carried exactly this type of stuff after the demise of Whole Earth.

    Both businesses are now long gone. Maybe there’s insufficient market here in Berkeley for the kind of store you envision.

  • David D.

    Close but not quite. The concrete has been poured for both missing blocks (Addison to University and Virginia to Ohlone Greenway) but they are still fenced off. I would not get my hopes up for another month or 2; the stretch of the trail in front of my home sat complete but fenced in for 2 months before it finally opened over the summer.

  • David D.

    Absolutely agreed! Things like quotas are what encourage businesses to open in Oakland instead of Berkeley.

    Telegraph Avenue is as a go-to spot for quick, cheap food, so more options are always welcome as far as I’m concerned. I tried the Toaster Oven a while ago and didn’t “get” it, but if the Melt (which came after the Toaster Oven) can have seats, then why not the Toaster Oven?

  • Guest

    I want a Target. I go to Target in Albany or Oakland and see my neighbors. It may be big box but it would provide affordable stuff for low income people (unlike Walgreens and CVS) and it would provide tax income for the city and our schools.

  • Mary

    Just out of curiousity, is this related to Blondie’s Pizza? “Biondi” means blonde in the masculine plural.

  • The Sharkey

    Well, Smith & Hawken was upscale (overpriced) garden gadgets, and I was thinking more of a store that would help folks latch on to some of the Portlandia-style trends that the hipster youth are currently pursuing. But just because I think it would be a nice thing to have in the area doesn’t mean it would be economically viable.

  • John Holland

    Yes, Ken has owned Blondie’s for decades, and still does, unless this Wikipedia article on Rasputins is up to date.

  • John Holland

    4th Street Grill! And what was it after that? Langoon or something like that?

  • John Holland

    Does anyone know the status of the lawsuit against Ken for back taxes?

  • Albanyan

    My husband and I called Whole Earth Access the “Yuppie General Store”.

    That said, we still have, use, and love the toaster oven we bought there.

  • The Sharkey

    El Cerrito, too.

    I would trade 5 Walgreen’s for 1 Target.

  • Berkeley Resident

    I agree. Not nostalgic. Having those memories seems just a part of moving forward in time, aging like fine wine, and besides, those memories are like having a photo album not on the bookshelf, but in the recesses of our minds. I remember the small wood burning stove at the small Whole Earth on Shattuck. The creaky wooden floors at Hinks. Treats at Edies. Numerous films at the Northside. Whole Earth redux? Yes, it’s probably time.

  • serkes

    We were just there tonight -Zutl! I recall Ginger Island but can’t remember what it was before Zutl!

  • John Holland

    I don’t really want a Target (Emeryville and Albany seem close enough for me), but this is the most convincing argument in favor of a new Target that I could imagine. I’d vote for bonds based on this argument. I’d donate money! Sad, as Walgreens used to represent the local spirit of its flagship store on Piedmont Ave.

  • John Holland

    ~Ginger Island~. That was it! Thanks, forgot the name. I loved that era of Berkeley restaurant evolution.