Category Archives: Local business

How Quirky is Berkeley? Ace Hardware’s relocation

Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif. on March 26th, 2016.
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When Berkeley Ace Hardware leaves 2145 University Ave., an era will end. The store closes for the last time in its current location today, Monday. Generation upon generation of Berkeleyans have known and loved Ace Hardware. As it prepares to move to the northwest corner of Milvia and Addison streets (the Tioga Building), I have composed a list of what I love about Berkeley Ace, aside of course from the merchandise. … Continue reading »

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Maker’s Common to ‘geek out’ on local producers

Cheese plates like this one will be served at Maker's Common. Photo courtesy: Maker's Common
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Sarah Dvorak, Oliver Dameron and Eric Miller weren’t thinking of Berkeley when they first began planning the expansion of Mission Cheese, their popular Valencia Street cheese and charcuterie bar. They expected to open their new spot — called Maker’s Common — somewhere in San Francisco.

But, as has been the case with other restaurants like Millennium, which relocated to Rockridge, and Pal’s Takeaway, which opened in Uptown Oakland, finding affordable space in San Francisco proved impossible. The three founders started looking further afield in the East Bay. And when they had a look at the large, light-filled space at 1954 University Ave., just east of MLK Jr. Way, in downtown Berkeley, they were sold.

With plenty of space to build out both a market and a restaurant, plus outdoor dining space and zoning permits already in place for beer and wine service to boot, the Rose Garden building was too good to pass up.

“When we first saw the space its layout just said ‘THIS IS IT!,'” wrote the founders on the company’s blog. “We all walked and and knew where the retail market would be and where the kitchen would go for the eatery. When we brought an architect in they said the exact same thing — we knew we were onto something.”

Plus, as Dameron says, “It’s a great time to come to Berkeley. There’s lots of change going on here.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High student saves the day after bee swarm lands on campus

Cole Huster shakes the bee swarm in order to have them drop in a bee box. Photo: Karen Kiyo
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Many Berkeley High students had their heads down concentrating on end-of-term exams when an intercom announcement from Principal Sam Pasarow broke the silence Friday afternoon. A swarm of bees had come onto the campus, he said. He asked that teachers close windows and students stay calm.

For BIHS freshman Cole Huster, the news held particular interest. Huster has been a beekeeper since he was in the 7th grade. Not only do he and his mother, Karen Lowhurst, maintain several hives in Lowhurst’s backyard, they also run an informal business, Locole North Berkeley Honey, selling the honey they harvest to friends and neighbors.

When he heard about the swarm, which had many students nervous, Huster said he thought, “Uh, I’m a beekeeper, I wonder if I can help out with this situation.”

After classes had ended, Huster made contact with BUSD maintenance engineer Akbar Shakoui who told him the district has a beekeeper on contract, and they were expecting him to deal with the situation once he could get to the campus. It turned out it wasn’t the first time a bee swarm had chosen to make Berkeley High its temporary home. Caution tape was placed around the swarm, which had settled in the branches of a tree about seven feet off the ground, according to Huster. … Continue reading »

Romeo’s Coffee headed to former Shakespeare & Co.

Romeo's Coffee will open in the former Shakespeare & Co. location at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way.  Photo: Ted Friedman
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After sitting vacant for close to a year, the former location of Telegraph Avenue bookstore Shakespeare & Co. will see new light. Highly caffeinated light, that is.

Starting in June, a new coffee shop — Romeo’s Coffee — will begin to take shape. Its name was serendipitous, said owner Dino Micheletti. He had already ironed out the concept, which revolves around “lovers of coffee,” before visiting the location with Ito Ripsteen, who is managing the remodel of the building at 2499 Telegraph. “I went to meet with him and looked up and saw the Shakespeare sign,” he said. “I said to him, ‘Do you know what our name is? It’s Romeo’s Coffee.'”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley names iCANN as next cannabis dispensary

There was a full house at the Berkeley City Council on Tuesday night for the selection of the city's fourth medical cannabis dispensary. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council unanimously named the iCANN Health Center on Sacramento Street as the city’s fourth medical cannabis dispensary.

In what was to many a surprise move, council also voted to have city staff and the Berkeley Planning Commission look at changing the law to increase the number of dispensaries in Berkeley from four to six. Officials said there were so many qualified applicants, which evidenced such a strong need, that an increase would make sense.

iCANN, which is focused on providing medical cannabis to seniors, was among six dispensaries to present applications to the city Tuesday. Their supporters also had a chance to lobby council during public comment.

Read complete Berkeleyside coverage of medical cannabis.

Several council members expressed strong support — if the law is changed to allow for more dispensaries — for an application from Amoeba Music’s owners to open the Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective on Telegraph Avenue next to the iconic record store.

The voters of Berkeley approved the idea of a fourth dispensary with Measure T in 2010.

(In the video below, iCANN supporters, including proprietor Sue Taylor on the right, react to the unanimous vote. Taylor, a Berkeley resident, sits on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging.)  … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: Huckleberry; architects merger; Hella Yoga

Cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of Huckleberry at 2424 Telegraph Ave. Photo: courtesy Huckleberry
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HUCKLEBERRY BICYCLES Huckleberry Bicycles, which has been on Market Street in San Francisco since 2011, has just opened a second location at 2424 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley (which, until they closed in February, housed MSC Custom Bikes). Huckleberry sells Cannondale, Brompton, All City, Surly, Masi, Salsa, Faraday, Shinola and Spot Brand new bikes, as well as a selection of bags (think Brooks England), apparel (Levi’s, Cadence Collection, Swrve) and shoes. There is a full-service repair shop onsite. The owners are Jonas Jackel, Brian Smith and Zack Stender. Jackel tells us they chose Berkeley because “it’s a great bike city with excellent bicycle infrastructure and strong roots in cycling culture.” Himself a Berkeley resident, Jackel sees potential for another good bike shop here. “The population is growing, and many of the new residents ride their bikes every day,” he said. “We saw an opportunity to succeed here with our unique assortment of products. We have a lot of customers from the East Bay who frequent our SF store, so we thought expanding into this market was a good fit for our business. Asked why Telegraph, Jackel said: “We’re in a great spot to serve the needs of the students, families and young professionals who live in the area. Telegraph has a high volume of foot traffic, and this neighborhood and the adjacent downtown area have high population density and bicycle ridership. All good things for a bike shop.” Huckleberry is now in soft opening and plans a “grand opening sale” May 14-22. All bikes plus select categories will be on sale at both of its stores. Huckleberry Bicycles,  2424 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley 94704  Tel: 510-900 1133. Open Mon.Fri. 11am-7pm  Sat.Sun. 12am-5pm. Connect with Huckleberry on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.Continue reading »

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Local business

Downtown’s Games of Berkeley to move to Telegraph

Games of Berkeley has been in the Shattuck and Center location for 19 years. Photo: Lance Knobel
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After 36 years downtown and 19 years in its current location, Games of Berkeley is moving to the old Tower Records site, just east of Telegraph Avenue.

“We’ve outgrown the possibilities of this space,” said Erik Bigglestone, managing owner. “I’ve wanted to do bigger events and we need more space.”

Games of Berkeley calls itself the Bay Area’s “oldest tabletop game store.” It started on Addison Street in 1980 and moved to Shattuck near University, before settling in its corner location on Shattuck and Center in 1997. The new location, 2510 Durant Ave., whose latest occupant was Earth’s Bizarre, will have just over 11,000 square feet, up from the current 8,900 square feet.

Bigglestone said that Games of Berkeley will stay open downtown until the end of the year, while the Durant store should open in the fall. The final move of everything to the new store is planned for January 2017.  … Continue reading »

Bankrupt Premier Cru not run in ‘reliable fashion’

In December 2011, John Fox was all smiles as he held large scissors to cut the ribbon for the grand opening of Premier Cru's new retail store at 1011 University Ave. Photo: Premier Cru
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An analysis of the books and inventory of the bankrupt Premier Cru wine company shows that it collected $45 million in wine orders but had no bottles associated with those orders in the warehouse at 1011 University Ave in Berkeley, according to court documents.

In addition, the company had $42 million in customer deposits on hand in December 2014 — most of which was no longer there when the company filed for bankruptcy in January 2016, according to court documents.

Those two startling numbers, along with some statements from a former employee and an accountant hired to examine the records, reveal chaotic business practices at the Berkeley wine company owned by John Fox and Hector Ortega. Those dealings have prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate whether Fox ran a Ponzi scheme.

Court documents also show that Fox managed a company that often sold bottles it did not have, mortgaged its building at 2011 University Ave. to the max, and deliberately tried to prevent its bank from attaching some of its funds. In addition, business records were sloppily kept.

“For the most part, I have determined that the Debtor’s books and records were not maintained in a reliable fashion,” Richard Pierotti, a certified public accountant hired by the bankruptcy trustee, wrote in a court declaration. … Continue reading »

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24-hour East Bay giving blitz to help 500 nonprofits

East Bay Gives
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Get out your phone. Ready your finger. Open up your wallet. Don’t worry, it’s all for a good cause.

On Tuesday, May 3, hundreds of people are expected to participate in East Bay Gives, a 24-hour online giving blitz in support of 500 nonprofit organizations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It’s the third time the East Bay Community Foundation has organized the fundraising campaign as part of Give Local America. The event has raised $850,000 in the last few years.

“We are excited to once again rally thousands of people to raise money for the local nonprofits that make the East Bay a special place to live, work and thrive,” said James W. Head, CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation. “This year, we are aiming to ignite the generosity of even more donors and inspire them to give back and give local.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council votes to put minimum wage on ballot

The turnout was sparse for Tuesday night's council meeting, which included a vote on the minimum wage. Photo: Mark Coplan
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A Berkeley City Council majority voted Tuesday night to put an alternative minimum wage proposal on the November 2016 ballot they say will be more moderate than a community measure announced last week.

Councilman Laurie Capitelli — mayoral hopeful — put forward the alternative proposal and asked city staff to come back with a resolution city officials could put on the ballot. Council had been slated to vote to revise the city’s minimum wage ordinance Tuesday night, but instead voted in favor of the substitute motion from Capitelli.

Read more on the minimum wage from Berkeleyside.

The Capitelli proposal would take the minimum wage for all businesses in Berkeley to $15 an hour by October 2019. It is already slated to increase to $12.53 in October of this year. Under the proposed resolution put forward Tuesday night, this would be followed by annual increases each October to $13.25 in 2017 and $14.05 in 2018.

The initiative put forward last week would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by October 2017.

Unlike many prior Berkeley council meetings focused on the minimum wage, the turnout Tuesday night was sparse. A handful of speakers asked council to move faster to help workers, while others asked for more time for small businesses to weigh in and adjust. … Continue reading »

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New incubator signals growth in city’s tech ecosystem

The Batchery occupies a 12,000-foot space on the third floor of 2036 Bancroft Ave. Photo: The Batchery
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Michelle Calloway is standing in front of a group of potential investors holding a microphone. The rules of the pitch are strict: no videos, no samples, nothing in fact that could make it simple to describe the product she plans to launch onto the market. Instead, she has the simple power of words.

So Calloway takes a deep breath and launches into a description of the augmented-reality greeting card company Revealio that she and her husband, Jerry Bowden, hope will disrupt the greeting card industry. People are craving connection, she tells the group, and a personalized, emailed video card could shorten the emotional distance between a soldier overseas and his sweetheart, for example, or a grandmother and grandchild.

“It’s a printed card that comes alive before your eyes,” says Calloway. “It’s amazing.”

Read more about Berkeley startups.

Calloway was giving her practice pitch at The Batchery, Berkeley’s newest tech space, located at 2036 Bancroft Way, near Shattuck Avenue. Calloway was hoping the feedback provided by The Batchery’s partners – all of whom have deep experience either starting or running companies – would refine her delivery. … Continue reading »

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Berkeleyans to be asked to accelerate $15 minimum wage

Steve Gilbert (holding the mic) announces at a press conference on Monday that the coalition, Berkeley for Workign Families, has collected enough signatures to place a measure on the Nov. ballot raising the minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Photo: SEIU 1021
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A coalition of unions, politicians and community activists, fed up with what they perceive to be the slow pace of change coming from the City Council, appears to have collected enough signatures to place a measure on the November ballot raising the minimum wage to $15.

The group, which calls itself “Berkeley for Working Families,” turned in around 4,400 signatures to the City Clerk’s office on Monday, well above the 2,638 required.

If adopted by voters, the measure would raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $15 by Oct. 2017. Then the wage would be raised each year by 3% + inflation until it hits $16.37, which is considered Berkeley’s official “livable” wage. The measure would also require employers to provide sick leave – up to nine days a year for large employers, and six days a year for companies with fewer than 10 employees.

“People are working and working and working but they can’t keep their heads above water because the cost of living is higher than in the rest of the state,” said Steve Gilbert, a retired mechanic with SEIU Local 1021. … Continue reading »

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24-year-old Cal grad launches $6M start-ups fund

Jeremy Fiance. Photo: LinkedIn
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A 24-year old Berkeley alum who raised funds for start-ups while still in school announced Monday that he has started a $6 million fund for companies connected to UC Berkeley.

Jeremy Fiance has launched The House Fund, which will seed very early stage companies with anything from $50,000 to $250,000.

Financial backers and advisors (most of whom are UC Berkeley grads) include Shervin Pishevar, an early investor in Uber and now a managing partner at Sherpa Capital, Jeff Brody, managing partner at Redpoint Ventures, John Burke, the founder of True Ventures, and Prakash Janakiraman, the founder Nextdoor, and others, according to Venture Beat.

“We believe a University ecosystem is an ideal place to start up and Berkeley’s is one of the best around,” said Fiance in an article he posted on Medium. “But there’s still a huge need for strengthened community and funding support.” … Continue reading »

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