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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Bellhops logo BELLHOPS Moving just got a little easier. In May, Bellhops set up operations in Berkeley. Using a business model akin to Uber or Lyft, the company hires local college students, or “bellhops,” to provide customers with moving help. The company started three years ago in Auburn, Alabama, and rapidly expanded to 145 cities across the country. Currently, around 80 UC Berkeley students are available for customers within 15 miles of campus, according to co-founder Matt Paterson. Operations are decentralized, and the company doesn’t own any trucks or garages, but its employees can rent moving vans if the customer requests it. As Patterson puts it, Bellhops is perfect for those who don’t need a professional service and instead could just use some helping hands. And the company recognizes that letting strangers handle your possessions can be nerve-racking, which is why it sends customers pictures and profiles of bellhops before they arrive. Trust and exceptional customer service are central to the company’s mission, said Patterson. 

BoxbeeBOXBEE Local storage company Boxbee has come to Berkeley and Oakland, according Allyse Sanchez, its public relations representative. The company offers storage services to urban dwellers tight on space. Boxbee sends customers a box in which they can store their items, and Boxbee picks it up and takes it to a secure storage facility. When the customer needs to retrieve their things, Boxbee will deliver the box back. Customers can track their box, schedule a delivery or pickup time, or send boxes to a friend using the company’s website. Rates go from $5 to to $20 a month, depending on the size of the box. The company was started by Kristoph Matthews last year and also operates in San Francisco and New York.

Philz Coffee logoNEW PHILZ COFFEE COMES NEXT WEEK The local coffee chain will open its Gilman Street branch on Tuesday, according to a representative from Philz. This will be the second store to open in the East Bay, with the first located in North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Coffee connoisseur Phil Jaber started the company back in 2003 with the goal of combining delicious coffee with great customer service. His core mission is to make people’s day better, according to the Philz website. The coffee shop is opening in the new Gilman Street shopping district, which will be anchored by Whole Foods and Office Depot, and also house Roadrunner Sports, Soccer Pro, Doughnut Dolly, and Farm Burger, which plan to open in the coming months. Speaking of Whole Foods, the company announced its opening date — Nov. 4 — on Tuesday, and Berkeleyside had the scoop.

fable

LA FABLE OUT The French bistro in the Gourmet Ghetto at 1508 Walnut St. — which was Chester’s Bayview Café until it became La Fable last year — closed its doors Sunday. It offered a variety of dishes, including french onion soup, filet mignon and scallops, as well as several breakfast options. The new owners plan to open a family-run vegetarian restaurant in the coming months, according to members of the Live Oak/Codornices Creek Neighborhood Association. Said one local resident: “They plan on offering something different and running the entire restaurant themselves with the help of their children and some staff. ” Stay tuned for details.

Townie has its soft opening in Berkeley tonight, July 18. Photo: Townie
Photo: Townie

TOWNIE NOW OPEN IN BERKELEY As we reported last week in Bites: University Avenue’s newest neighborhood bar and restaurant, Townie, had its soft opening Friday. Owner and manager Nima Shokat said there was a great turn out and that he is looking forward to word about the business spreading. Heading up the kitchen at Townie is chef Dana Ryan, who formerly worked at Gather, State Bird Provisions and RN74. Said Shokat, who has run Berkeley’s Missouri Lounge for years: “We’re hoping to be a neighborhood bar where people can just come by for a drink and hang out, but also get some exciting food.” Townie is located at 1799 University Ave. in Berkeley, where Venezia used to be located until it closed last year. Connect with Townie on Facebook.

Executive Chef Barry Horton. Photo: Sanctuary Bistro
Executive Chef Horton. Photo: Sanctuary Bistro

SANCTUARY BISTRO SET TO OPEN Also from Bites, the space formerly occupied by longtime Berkeley favorite Sushi Banzai — which closed in May — is about to open again. According to its website, Sanctuary Bistro is “a compassionate environment created for your mind, body and spirit, the animals and the earth. Sustainable, local, organic, food. Five percent of our profits will be donated to local animal sanctuaries.” The vegan restaurant is described by owners as a “fine dining, plant-based bistro,” and is brought to you by the catering team behind Local Love Catering. The grand-opening prix fixe menuwill feature five courses, and includes items such as “crab-less cakes” with ajalapeño kumquat gelée, and southern tofu served with a “twice baked cashew potato.” The menu is set to change regularly, but the business plans to serve lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Sanctuary is located at 1019 Camelia St. in Berkeley and can be reached by phone at 510-917-0190. Connect with the business on Facebook. And stay tuned to Nosh for a longer feature coming soon.

TANDOORI NITE GETS GOOD REVIEWS An Indian restaurant that opened in Berkeley earlier this year is getting solid Yelp reviews and has just secured its beer and wine license from the state. We gave readers the skinny in Bites last week. We first tipped you about Tandoori Nite, at 2160 University west of Oxford Street, in March before it opened, but thought it was time for an update. There’s a $10 lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and diners say it’s one of the freshest around. One recent Berkeley reviewer raves that the eatery is “consistently awesome (I end up ordering from them like 90% of the days I’m too lazy to cook). The food is as good as or better than most Indian restaurants’ fare in Berkeley, the prices are great, the staff is very friendly and professional, the menu offers tons of options and the delivery minimum is $15. You really can’t ask for much more from a downtown eatery.” The restaurant still seems to be a bit below the radar, so let us know what you think if you check it out.


Shop Talk is our regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses. 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, and check out Bites for the latest East Bay restaurant news.