Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Photo: Manny Hernandez

NEW AMSTERDAM COFFEESHOP New Amsterdam Coffeeshop has closed after three years at 1952 University Ave. Its owners sent out a letter to customers and posted a sign on the door explaining they wanted to “spend more time with their boys.” “We never imagined that our little homemade restaurant would be so busy or popular or loved,” they wrote. “But as we grew busier and busier the focus on business and lack of sleep and the intensity that we put into it began to take away from our family. We never had enough time for ourselves, or our kids, and we were unhappy.”

They go on to say people came in on the coffeeshop’s last day and wept. “People begged us to stay open. People told me how my salads changed their health, their eating habits, made them lose weight, lowered their blood pressure … thanked us, sincerely and deeply, for feeding them good food all this time. It really made us realize how much of a community we had created. The wave of love that we received today was epic and humbling. Thank you all so much…. On to greater and better things.” The coffee and sandwich place was part of a group of popular food spots, including Slow restaurant, Brasa (formerly eVe), and Chocolatier Blue. The neighborhood has seen a renaissance over the past few years thanks partly to the restoration by property owner/realtor John Gordon of the Victorian homes behind the stores. The rose garden there is used by customers of the cafés to eat their meals al fresco. [Hat-tip: Manny Hernandez]

Screen shot 2013-01-08 at 9.57.04 AMCOLORFLOW Color-grading facility Colorflow has opened a new 7,500-square-foot studio at the Saul Zaentz Media Center on 10th Street in west Berkeley. The studio includes three grading and finishing suites and a 22-seat theater. Among Colorflow’s recent projects are the suspense thriller Heatstroke from Bold Films and the 2013 Sundance documentary A River Changes Course.

Roman style pizzaBUILD PIZZERIA The Roman-style pizzeria in the works for 2286 Shattuck Ave. has had a name change prior to its planned 2013 opening. Originally going to be called A90 after Rome’s ring-road highway, the eatery will now be known as Build (as in “building” your own pizza), according to Inside Scoop. The fact that San Francisco restaurant A16 is planning a Rockridge opening this year may well have had something to do with the switch. The restaurant is being developed by Lisa Holt and David Shapiro of the Rustic Restaurant Company as the flagship in what is hoped to be a global chain.

Pizza Moda PIZZA MODA Pizza Moda, the restaurant formerly known as Divino (and, before that, Fellini) looks set to open, Jan. 9, at 1401 University Ave. Divino closed in late summer. Pizza Moda aims high: “think Dopo, Pizzaiolo, Gioia, Boot & Shoe and the café at Chez Panisse. The menu will be built from local, seasonal, fresh ingredients with a focus on uncomplicated and delicious.” [Hat-tip: Tom Lent]

Screen shot 2013-01-08 at 12.22.55 PM7-ELEVEN 7-Eleven is hoping to move into the space currently occupied by Bombay Music at 2000 San Pablo Ave. on the corner of University Avenue, and has applied to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board for a use permit for a retail convenience market with 24-hour operations and an indoor ATM. No alcoholic beverage sales are proposed. Some local residents oppose the move and plan to meet at the site to discuss the development tonight, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. The permit will next be discussed at ZAB’s Jan. 24 meeting.

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.

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  • Charles_Siegel

    There is already a 7-11 a few blocks up University Ave. at Sacramento, which I suppose they might close if they open this one on San Pablo.

    I am surprised that they would want to move from the current location, with a parking lot, to this location without a parking lot. Maybe it is a good sign that 7-11 is thinking about pedestrians.

  • Chris

    7-11 is not moving. They want to open another store.

    I live in the neighborhood, and the addition of the only 24-7 store in the hood is not welcome by me. I encourage anyone else who has an opinion on the matter to voice their concerns this evening at 7pm – 2000 San Pablo @ University.

  • Chris

    There will be parking – they will be using the parking lot behind the store – in between it and the cheesesteak shop.

  • What a shame. As if the 10 other convenience/liquor stores that line San Pablo in Berkeley weren’t enough. Honestly, I’m surprised that there’s even enough demand for another store like 7-11.

  • The Sharkey

    Are you sure it would be a 24-hour establishment?
    I don’t think any of the other 7-11 locations in Berkeley are open 24 hours.

  • Chris

    You are correct that the other 7-11 stores are NOT 24 hours. This proposal is definitely requesting the store to be open 24/7.

  • The Sharkey

    Maybe Lo-Cost Liquors’ prices on liquor aren’t lo enough?

  • Chris

    There is no request for a liquor license, but one can be applied for in the future.

  • The Sharkey

    My thoughts exactly. Move in strictly as a convenience store, and then apply to add a liquor license later. Easier than just applying for the liquor license from the get-go.

  • I suppose it’s not just the liquor sales that would bother me, but everything else that 7-11 sells, which can be summed up in two words: junk food. These goods are already widely available in that neighborhood.

  • Chris

    And easier to sneak it under the neighbors noses…

  • Chris

    Also easier to sneak in w/o the neighbors noticing…

  • eza

    I say darn to New Amsterdam closure, 2 ‘big salad’ places gone in 1 year… poo

  • franhaselsteiner

    I walked by the True Value hardware store and saw their notice about the 7-11, which said the new store would be open 24/7 and expressed concerns about drug dealing and loitering.

  • Mike Duigou

    The 7-11 on Solano (which is Albany by a few feet) is open 24x7x365 and does sell alcohol. It hasn’t brought about any apparent decline in the neighborhood.

  • EBGuy

    Secure Amazon Lockers for West Berkeley.

  • EBGuy

    I am still lamenting the closure of the Coffee Source and had finally adapted to the Intermezzo salads (heresy, I know). Didn’t even know New Amsterdam had a big salad. What other options are left in Berkeley (central or otherwise?)

  • Chris

    The difference at night between Solano Ave in Albany and Univ and SP in Berkeley is quite stark. My guess is it’s not very easy to buy your drug of choice in the residential streets behind the 7-11 you mention. The residential streets behind Univ and SP? Purty darn easy. Not to mention that there have been 2 murders within 3 blocks in the last 3 years.

  • Biker 94703

    Jupiter and TripleRock are as good as it gets; I’ll be mourning New Amsterdam for months. Isn’t there a market for established clientele businesses? Maybe the books were bad, but if not someone else should reopen it asap.

  • Biker 94703

    Nor is anything else in this ridiculous excuse for a college town.

  • The Sharkey

    As good as it gets for salad? I find the food at Triple Rock to be pretty bland, but I’d never thought to try the salad there.

  • The Sharkey

    Pffff!!!! With Lo-Cost Liquors and Bing’s Liquors just down the street on either side (and further off the main and more out of the way of prying eyes) I doubt a 7-11 there would attract anything the neighborhood doesn’t already have.

  • The Sharkey

    True, but that makes me wonder if it would really get any worse with a 7-11 there.
    That corner is a really tough retail spot to fill, as evidenced by the space that’s been empty for years directly across the street.

  • The Sharkey

    While the owners may deny it it would be hard to imagine a future in which they wouldn’t eventually apply for a liquor license since every other 7-11 I know of sells liquor.

    From that standpoint I think some opposition is totally justified, considering the blight that nearby liquor stores bring to the area.

  • eza

    heres a list to explore for meal salads: Smart Alec’s, Hippie Gypsy, SF Soup Co (Bancroft), Actual Cafe, Lanesplitter, Mixing Bowl, Homeroom, Crepevine & Plutos (SF). but I preferred Intermezzo to all, still waiting/wanting their return.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Speaking of which, I passed by Hippie Gypsy earlier today and it looked like it was out of business. Anyone have more news about it?

  • Tizzielish

    I don’t know about ALL 7-11’s but I lived in MN for, altogether, about 25 years. In non-liquor stores, full blown stores with license to sell alcohol including wine, hard liquor and regular beer, stores like 7-11 could only sell 3-2 beer.

    Once, on a day, when my then-fiance and his friend were moving my things on a hot summer day, I bought gas at a 7-11. I had two twelve packs of ‘regular’ beer with full beer alcohol content on the front seat. Some kids swiped them when I went in to pay for the cash. By then, it was after 8 p.m. when no liquor was sold anywhere in MN (things may have changed but I bet liquor stores still can’t sell liquor after 8 pm. and I bet liquor/wine departments in grocery stores still can’t sell liquor after 8 p.m. and this was also true in some other Midwestern states I have lived in . . and some states used to have zero alcohol sold on Sunday — we called them ‘blue laws’. I remember driving through Iowa to get from Chicago to South Dakota to see my maternal grandmother and my aunt-the-lush whining all day on Saturdays to be sure and stop at a liquor store to stock up for Sunday. Even as a little kid, I was perplexed that my aunt couldn’t go one day without booze.

    I knew the guys moving me on that hot day in MN wanted “real” beer. I had stopped for beer first cause I was aware of the 8 p.m. closing issue. With the ‘real’ beer gone, I went back into the 7-11 and replaced it with 3-2 beer cause that was the only beer on sale anywhere in the state after 8 p.m. My husband’s friend very angrily refused to believe me. He was certain I had deliberately bought the less alcoholic beer because I judged him as an alcoholic. He was two weeks out of treatment at hazeldon, a renown center for alcoholism treatment but I had reasoned it was his business and I really had bought regular beer and it really had been stolen. I was angry cause I lost the money!

    Man, I got grief for that beer situation.

    CA does not have to allow liquor to be sold all the time. Several states limit the hours alcohol can be sold. I don’t drink any alcohol so I don’t pay attention to the laws — I used to know more when I practiced some criminal defense, cause driving-while-intoxicated cases sometimes turned up in my office and I needed to earn a living.

    Just as we don’t have to allow automatic weapons that can mow down 20 humans with one well aimed spray of bullets, we don’t have to let liquor be sold up and down San pablo.

    Gosh, some states only sell booze through state liquor stores. If it is constitutional in some states, I am confident CA would regulate liquor sales more than it does.

    Even when liquor stores close at 8, fools can always get drunk in bars until closing time, but quite a lot of fools who drink would be slowed down if they could not buy retail booze after 8 p.m. Most drunks do not plan all that far ahead. (Planning a party is different).

    Giving neighborhood stores that happen to sell beer, wine and even hard liquor limits on when they can sell hard booze is not unconstitutional. We don’t have to permit endless liquor stores. We can co-create a better world. We choose not to.

    I predict that 7-11 will end up seeling booze and Berkeley city staffers, folks with free YMCA memberships, fat pensions and generaous health care packages will let it happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if those same city staffers, as well as our elected leaders, scored all kinds of indirect perks such as jobs for relatives, liquor at ‘cost’ or free for election fundraising parties and all kinds of stuff. We allow ourselves to be sold.

  • Tizzielish

    On Hippie Gypsy Cafe’s Facebook page, there is a note stating it is closed, that they were unable to make the rent. They did not have enough customers. It was a very big, expensive-looking space for what she dreamed to do. I am sorry it folded but that place always seemed destined to. Big salads or no.

    I had met her in the neighborhood before it opened and she was so warm, friendly and so joyful to be realizing her dream and I suppressed my certainty that the big space looked too expensive for an affordable ‘hippie’ cafe. I stopped in a few times but never ordered cause I would stand at the counter and no one would approach me so I would just go.

    It’s gone. Sadly. I know it was that woman’s dream to own a cafe in Berkeley. She told me so. She even came here to do it. I can’t help but wonder if she had launched her dream in her hometown, wherever that might be . . …the name hinted to me that she was living in the past and being unrealistic about her contemporary food retail market.

    I am sure she will find new dreams and new income.

  • EarlyMorningCoffee

    Pizza Moda had a soft opening last night and it was great!

  • True, but there has been a recent inflection in the local junk food market…BPG just opened. It’s natural that 7-Eleven would want to share in the bounty the dispensary will bring. I wonder if there will be a day in the future when the Surgeon General starts referring to cannabis as a gateway to obesity drug ;-)

  • I agree with you about the neighborhood, which is why I will never understand why a cannabis dispensary moving into the neighborhood was a non-event for the neighborhood, yet everyone is acting like a 7-Eleven on a major intersection will make our neighborhood worse. Seems like cognitive dissonance to me. Maybe we should let 7-Eleven sell cannabis so the neighborhood would welcome it with open arms?

  • JW

    Hippie Gypsy served breakfast, but opened at 10:00am! Sorry, but the owner didn’t seem to have good business sense.

  • Chris

    BPG has 24 hour security, they have an active community liaison, they reached out to all the local stakeholders before opening, and they make all the members sign a contract that they will respect the neighborhood. These are all concrete steps to positively integrate with the neighborhood.

    At the meeting last night 7-11 sent a ‘consultant’ to inform us that 7-11 will not rule out future alcohol sales and have no intention of backing off from 24/7 hours. All of this on top of the fact that they never reached out to local residents.

  • Tizzielish

    I don’t remember where I read it but I just read a PR kind of story announcing that 7-11 has decided to sell healthier food!!! Here’s hoping. . . .

  • Tizzielish

    I agree with you. She rented an enormous space that sure looked expensive to me and she provided poor service.She told me, the one time we talked on the street outside her cafe (before it opened) that she had just completed a training program for lower income women wanting to start businesses. I thought the program musta been poorly run if they had not talked her out of renting such an expensive and large space for a sandwich/salad/coffee cafe. She was dreaming, she supposedly got professional business advice to open . . . I know you can’t stop folks form making unwise business choices but that space for a hippie cafe was doomed before it opened. She told me she invested her life savings in it.!!

  • Charles_Siegel

    She was a very nice person, and I am sorry that the business failed.

    This might be another argument for a vacancy fee. There are lots of vacant storefronts in those two buildings, and there is no prospect of filling them. According to basic market economics, the landlord should lower the rent to keep this tenant, rather than having another vacant storefront. But they seem to need some encouragement to lower rents to realistic levels.

    It doesn’t make economic sense to me that they would rather have vacancies for many years rather than lowering the rent, but that seems to be the way it works in some buildings.

  • irisandjules

    A community liaison or a highly paid PR person? And they did not reach out “to the community – not even to its bordering neighbors” until *after* they had put in for their permit. No consulting took place prior to see how their presence would impact the immediate neighbors So, it’s pretty much the same as 7-11.

    While I do not frequent 7-11 stores in general, although I might now since their ATM can be used for Patelco withdrawals, they are certainly not the most unwelcome addition to the neighborhood. Perhaps they will have security at night as well – if not, they will be robbed for sure. I think this corner will be safer with a 7-11 than what it has been so far. And they are open 24 hours – so what? Maybe it will be an easy spot for the police to catch the bad night owls at the 7-11 hotspot.

  • they reached out to all the local stakeholders before opening

    Not sure what you mean by that exactly, so let’s clarify for the sake of an honest discussion.

    Are you saying that BPG chose a location and communicated with the neighborhood stakeholders before filing permits with the city to move to that location?

    Are you saying that BPG provided residents with more notice than a permit application hanging from the chain link fence so that the neighborhood would know they could file an appeal with the ZAB?

    Are you saying that they canvassed the neighborhood in the spirit of true transparency and following a “good neighbor” policy?

    Think carefully and be sure you know the real sequence of events before you respond. I’m a lot more informed on this issue than you expect.

  • Chris

    Please don’t tell me how to think, thanks. Le sigh…

    I have no idea if they reached out to local residents, but they did reach out to city council members, local preschools, the merchants district, and BUSD.

  • Chris

    According to the 7-11 ‘consultant’ the store will not have a security guard.

  • Chris

    You are correct, I should have stated that they reached out to “local stakeholders” not “all local stakeholders”. However, as irisandjules notes above, I have no direct knowledge of this, that they did reach out local residents at some point. 7-11 did not. A few local residents heard about the plans and contacted them.

  • irisandjules

    BPG may have reached out to the City Council and schools – that is because they are not are not a regular business, and just got booted from one location by the Feds. The immediate neighbors of BPG found out about their plans on the day that loud sledgehammers were used to remove existing asphalt from the lot. Then the neighbors tried to talk to the working crew over there about what was going, and they did not even know. It took a little while to figure out who was behind it, and then neighbors called BPG. So please, do not use BPG as an example of reaching out the neighbors, important stakeholders, beforehand. It is the same as 7-11.

  • The Sharkey

    Good points. While I support local breweries and am happy about the explosion in popularity of craft beer in California, I wouldn’t mind a ban on hard liquor sales after, say, 9pm or something. Additionally, I would be happy if someone would propose a ban on very large bottles of malt liquor. Nobody buys a 40oz bottle of slop like King Cobra for any purpose other than getting fall-down drunk.

    I don’t generally support things like retail quotas, but I think there’s definitely a case to be made for quotas on liquor stores in Berkeley. There are too many of them, and almost every single one of them brings blight into the surrounding neighborhood.

  • irisandjules
  • Chris — I’m not telling you how to think. I’m simply urging commentary restraint on your part for an issue where you are grossly uninformed.

    By any definition of the term a “local stakeholder” would qualify as someone that shares a property line. I’d contend that anyone reading this would agree that those sharing a property line are at the top of the “local stakeholder” list & should be contact before local preschools, BUSD, and city council members.

    I’m so tired of the marketing campaign about BPG’s upstanding corporate citizenship. Did you or anyone else giving a big thumbs up to BPG even bother to canvas Wallace Street to talk with residents that shared a property line with them at the old location? I did and what I learned prompted a visit to a property attorney to protect my rights.

    7-Eleven is using the same playbook that BPG used when it went searching for a new location. Good luck.

  • Chris

    And if you read my reply posted 1.5 hours before yours, I said I should have said “local stakeholders” not “all local stakeholders”. Other than the use of the word “all” I stand by everything I said.

    Moving forward, both you and irisandjules have stated that BPG did reach out to neighbors at some point. Something 7-11 did not do.

    Irisandjules discounts the community liasion at BPG, but the fact is there is someone at BPG that you can walk to and talk/complain to in person. What about 7-11?

  • David D.

    It’s a shame to see New Amsterdam go. I just recently rediscovered it and found delicious coffee and food (with friendly but confused customer service). I know it would be asking too much for Au Coquelet to incorporate the menu from New Amsterdam, but a boy can dream…

    I look forward to trying Pizza Moda sometime soon. Let’s hope that they went for a fresh start. Divino was too similar to Fellini, and Fellini suffered from quality control problems towards its end.

    While I’m at it, I’ll note my surprise at the 7-11 proposal. There is already one at University & Sacramento. I am fine with the additional location, as only the closure of Bing’s would do anything to address the riff-raff. I am likely to use the new 7-11, especially if it’s open 24 hours. Berkeley is a big joke in that department.

  • Guest

    Living across from the 7-Eleven at 41st & Broadway in Oakland was a horrible experience. I had never heard so much shooting before. The owners shot at people. The police shot people. Our neighbor got shot. If they opened at 7 and closed at 11, you could have had all the convenience without the shooting.

  • Nick H

    Aren’t there enough Italian restaurants? (And crappy looking boba/yogurt places, exotic “Tibetan” goods, and other such saturated markets).