Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

The owners of Premier Cru, a high-end wine store on University Ave., have shuttered the shop. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
The owners of Premier Cru on University Avenue have shuttered the shop. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

PREMIER CRU SHUTS ITS DOORS Premier Cru, the subject of numerous lawsuits over the alleged non-delivery of wine, has shut the doors of its retail store at 1011 University Ave. “We have transitioned to ONLINE SALES only,” reads a sign on the front door. “We apologize for the inconvenience.” The sign says to email pickups@premiercru.net to schedule a time to pick up past orders. The closure is only the latest blow for the high-end wine business owned by Fox Ortega Enterprises, a corporation formed by John Fox and a partner. Premier Cru moved its operations from Emeryville to Berkeley in 2011 and opened a 29,000-square foot, state-of-the-art wine shop designed by architect David Trachtenberg. Premier Cru sold wine through the store, but conducted much of its business through online sales. There are currently $130,000 in unpaid taxes on the building and it has been listed for sale. Gordon Commercial is offering the property, made up of three parcels and three buildings, for $6.8 million (down from $7.5 million). In late October, Berkeleyside reported that seven people had filed numerous lawsuits claiming they were owed more than $3 million. The plaintiffs all said that they had purchased wine from Premier Cru that had never been delivered. Since then, numerous disgruntled customers have come forward and contacted Berkeleyside and other news outlets to report similar issues. Others have filed additional lawsuits. Premier Cru’s owner, Fox, did not respond to a request for a comment. Some unhappy customers have been given refunds. Andrew Matarese, a 25-year-old wine aficionado from New Jersey, received a $12,000 refund from Premier Cru shortly after Berkeleyside ran its article. However, other customers have been repeatedly promised refunds but have received nothing.

A caketopper made by PocketMe, which has moved to San Francisco. Photo: PocketMe
A caketopper made by PocketMe, which has moved to San Francisco. Photo: PocketMe

POCKETME STUDIO LEAVES BERKELEY PocketMe, a portrait studio that makes 3D full-body portraits that opened at 2225 Shattuck Ave. in May this year, has closed its Berkeley location and opened up a new store in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. “Berkeley was a great place for us to iron out and prove the PocketMe concept, co-founder Allison Saloner said in an email to Berkeleyside. “The great response we got here gave us the confidence to make the leap to Fisherman’s Wharf. We invite Berkeleyans to visit us at our new location at 77 Jefferson St.” The studio uses 72 cameras to take pictures of the subject from all angles, and PocketMe sends the 3D printout to the customer.

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Cruz Skate Shop

CRUZ SKATE SHOP CLOSED Cruz Skate Shop at 2505 San Pablo Ave. shut its doors for good on Dec. 20. The roller-skate shop had opened in March 2013, partly in response to the uptick in interest in female roller derby. But the Bay Area market proved too challenging. “We have loved putting you lovely people into skates and gear that propelled you into a life of skating and general awesome-nocity,” the owners Sandy “Motley” Cruz and Marci Daniels wrote on the store’s website. “But as most of us are well aware, the Bay Area just keeps getting more pricey, too pricey to sustain a little niche labor of love like this one and we don’t want to live anywhere else because why the hell would you? …. We hope you’ve had as much fun raging with us as we’ve had being idiots in the service of skatedumb.”

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Patelco. Photo: Tracey Taylor

TWO FIRES CLOSE LOCAL BUSINESSES A fire at the Chandler apartment building at Dwight and Telegraph on Nov. 22 has shuttered both Reprint Mint and James Rowland. Other affected businesses (Bleecker Bistro, Gifts of Tara, Lhasa Karnak, and Moe’s) were able to stay open. Check with both the stores to see if they have reopened and support the residents who were displaced from their homes. And the fire that destroyed Mandarin Garden in downtown Berkeley also shuttered next-door-neighbor Patelco Credit Union at 2033 Shattuck Ave. indefinitely. “We do not have an estimated time to reopen at this point, but will keep members who frequent this branch updated as work progresses,” the managers said in a release. The two closest “shared branch network” locations are USE Credit Union, 2350 Shattuck Ave. and Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union, 2001 Ashby Ave. As of Dec. 22, BFD had still not concluded its investigation into the Mandarin Garden fire. The property has been released back into the hands of its owners, but the restaurant was completely destroyed.


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.