Category Archives: Local business

Berkeley’s Counterpoint Press marks 20th anniversary

Charlie Winton Photo: Counterpoint Press
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When author Karen Bender shopped around her 2013 novel, A Town of Empty Rooms, she initially had little luck. By the time she sent it to Berkeley-based Counterpoint Press, she had received something like 25 rejections.

At Counterpoint, editor Dan Smetanka immediately took a liking to Bender’s book. The company published it, as well as her latest short story collection, Refund — which is up for a prestigious National Book Award this week. Counterpoint is the only independent publishing house with a nomination.

Counterpoint, whose office is on Ninth Street in West Berkeley, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Its writers praise the company for two decades of a sharp eye for literary talent and genuine support for its authors. … Continue reading »

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Equity Residential to sell 8 Berkeley apartment buildings

Four of the Berkeley properties Equity Residential is selling. Photo: Eastdil Secured
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Equity Residential, which owns eight buildings with 452 apartments in Berkeley, as well as the entitlement rights to build the 205-unit Acheson Commons complex on University Avenue, is putting its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale.

No price is mentioned on the listing documents prepared by Eastdil Secured, Equity’s advisor and broker, but the sale should be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That could mean millions of dollars in transfer taxes for Berkeley’s general fund. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s newest parklet opens outside Saul’s Deli

Photo: Saul's Restaurant & Delicatessen
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Berkeley’s second parklet is now open for visitors. The outdoor seating area in front of Saul’s Delicatessen in the Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood was unveiled today. It comes on the heels of the recent move of the Thursday Farmers Market to its new location in the off-road strip in front of Saul’s and neighboring businesses.

The parklet was funded in part by a successful $15,000 Indiegogo campaign earlier this year. Saul’s owner, Peter Levitt, hopes the space will be a boon to farmers market shoppers, in addition to regular day-time foot traffic.

Saul’s parklet, at 1475 Shattuck Ave., was designed by Berkeley architect David Trachtenberg, who is also responsible for the building that houses Saul’s, as well as many other buildings in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley votes to phase in minimum wage increases

Small business owners who opposed raising the minimum wage in Berkeley attended the special City Council meeting Nov. 10. Photo: Lisa Tsering
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The Berkeley City Council approved revisions to its contentious minimum wage ordinance late in the evening of Nov. 10 after a rancorous special meeting at Longfellow Middle School.

“Si se puede! Stand up! Fight back!” shouted around two dozen protesters demanding a higher minimum wage. Many of the protesters were organized by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, and had marched for higher wages in Sacramento earlier in the day and rallied in Oakland in the afternoon.

The new proposal will increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018 for larger businesses employing more than 55 full time workers, and will allow smaller businesses to phase in “tiered” increases, reaching $15 in 2020. … Continue reading »

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Lush Berkeley garden at center of tenant-landlord dispute

A Berkeley police officer monitors the scene at 2401/2403 Virginia St. on Nov. 10. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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For the past 36 years, Wally Gorell has been tending a garden outside his apartment at 2401/2403 Virginia St. just north of the UC Berkeley campus. During that time he transformed barren beds into a space many neighbors call “magical,” with fragrant bushes, tall palms and exotic greenery that forms a canopy over the sidewalk.

But on Tuesday, Gorell and some of his neighbors stood outside the building near Scenic Avenue, ready to defend the garden from a crew from Donado Tree Service, which had been ordered by the owner to chop the greenery back four feet from the white-stucco building. The owners of the property, the Anderson family, want to paint the structure, one of three they own in the immediate vicinity, on Nov. 16. To do so, they say they need to clear space to set up scaffolding – even though it is only a one-story building.

“In order for the painter to paint the building, all ground plants must sit at least four feet away from the sides of every building structure,” Daniel Bornstein, of the law firm Bornstein and Bornstein, wrote in a certified letter to Gorell. “If this landscaping work is not completed prior to November 9, 2015, the property’s owner group will contract to have the work performed by a tree and or landscaping contractor.”

Gorell believes the painting can be done without removing large portions of his garden. A painting company he consulted with told him that the painting could be accomplished without removing the plants, he said. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

YJM Photography and Gallery of Fine Arts. Photo: Yves Mozelsio
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NEW: GALLERY OF FINE ARTS Yves Mozelsio has just opened YJM Photography and Gallery of Fine Arts at 1865 Solano Ave. (a few doors west of the Oaks Theater in the former KNA Copy Center). Monday was the first day for the gallery which, Mozelsio says, he opened as a way to provide people with an alternative to online shopping, as well as a space for him to continue practicing his photography (a third of the space is devoted to his photography studio). The gallery has a lovely turn-of-the-century style décor, with Mozelsio’s personal collection of European paintings (dating from 1850-1950) on the walls. The gallery sells paintings by local artists and Mozelsio himself, sculptures by Mozelsio’s uncle, and 11 Queen Anne-style cases of jewelry, mostly silver, crafted by local jewelers. “This is a dream space for me,” said Mozelsio shortly after he made his first sale of a bracelet to his first customer. He said he hoped he has created a feel-good environment for people to enjoy, surrounded by wonderful art. He is happy to hear from local artists who might want to collaborate. Connect with YJM Photography on Facebook. … Continue reading »

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6 groups vying for dispensary permit hold meetings

Amoeba Music. Photo: Tom Dalzell
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When David Prinz goes before a gathering of Telegraph Avenue neighbors Thursday to talk about the cannabis dispensary he would like to open at Amoeba Music, he will emphasize how his experience selling records will help him create a welcoming spot for cannabis patients. Plus, it will help revitalize the street, he will argue.

Salwa Ibrahim, in contrast, part of a group of female cannabis entrepreneurs, will tell attendees at a community meeting Nov. 20 about the boutique dispensary she and her partners want to open at 2067 University Ave. Berkeley already has three dispensaries, and the Blum Boutique would focus on products that may not be available in those spots, such as “ACDC” or “Sour Tsunami” – strains that are high in CBD and lower in THC, she will say.

The month of November in Berkeley might be dubbed “cannabis month,” as the six groups who are finalists in the competition to open a fourth dispensary are all holding public hearings. One meeting of iCann, already took place; the other five meetings will happen over the next 11 days, including one tonight, Nov. 10. The meetings are a required part of the application process. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley merchants: New minimum wage proposal would ‘decimate’ businesses

Elmwood by Sharon Hahn Darlin
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Berkeley business owners say a new proposed minimum wage hike will quite simply drive them out of business and, in the process, destroy the unique flavor of shopping districts such as the Elmwood, Telegraph Avenue, downtown and Fourth Street.

At the same time, given that the city is at the forefront of progressive politics on so many issues, many merchants fear they will appear politically incorrect for opposing a higher minimum wage.

“A living wage is a great and lofty goal, but the business community feels very, very intimidated,” said Ky J. Boyd, proprietor of the Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. “People feel they will be retaliated against. Somebody’s got to stand up and speak out about this.”

The current minimum wage in Berkeley, which took effect Oct. 1, 2015, is $11 per hour. Last year, the Berkeley City Council voted to increase the minimum wage annually to $12.53 by October 2016, but the city’s Labor Commission is calling for a higher wage than that (annual increases up to $19, to take effect in 2020) and has called for local enhancements to California’s new paid sick leave amendment.

Council will hold a special meeting to discuss proposed changes to the minimum wage and sick leave policy Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at Longfellow Middle School Auditorium, at 1500 Derby St. … Continue reading »

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Deepa Natarajan: Ethnobotanist and natural fabric dyer

Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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In the fourth part of a series on expert craftspeople in Berkeley, Melati Citrawireja, who was a photography intern with Berkeleyside in summer 2015, visits Deepa Natarajan, a natural fabric dyer and ethnobotanist. (Read Citrawireja’s stories on Klaus-Ullrich Rötzscher and the Pettingell Book Bindery, David Lance Goines at the St. Hieronymus Press, and coppersmith Audel Davis.)

“I call myself a plants person,” says Deepa Natarajan, a young mother, natural fabric dyer, and ethnobotanist. “Ethnobotany implies academia but that’s really what I love – plants and how people use them.”

I am chatting with Deepa in her softly lit, powder-blue living room while her two labradors excitedly compete for my affection with charming wet kisses. As Deepa talks, she keeps a wary eye on her adventurous 10-month old confection of a boy, Loka, to make sure he doesn’t knock down or swallow any of the colorful little objects that make up the household’s golu, an altar that celebrates Navratri, a South Indian holiday.

Deepa’s childhood trips to visit family in Southern India has inspired much of her fascination with plants, color, and textiles.

“The culture there is very much alive with using natural materials and plants … from simple things like eating from banana leaves to wearing jasmine flowers in your hair,” she says. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Gina Fiorentino, assistant director
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TERRA FIRMA GALLERY: RELOCATED Terra Firma Gallery has moved from the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa to Shattuck Avenue in the Gourmet Ghetto. The gallery specializes in contemporary African art and features, among other things, a collection of Shona sculpture from Zimbabwe and works by “Smithsonian acclaimed painter” Wosene Worke Kosrof, who will be giving a talk about newly released paintings at the gallery on the evening of Nov. 12. There are also museum-quality masks, colorful Zulu wire baskets, as well as the work of several Bay Area artists. Terra Firma Gallery is at 1801 Shattuck Ave. (between Hearst and Delaware), Suite B. Tel: 510-486 9050. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley store sued over $3M of undelivered wine

Seven customers are suing Premier Cru, a wine retailer at 1011 University Ave., for not delivering wine they had purchases. Photo: Gordon Commercial Realty
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Seven disgruntled customers have filed lawsuits against Premier Cru, a high-end wine store on University Avenue in Berkeley, contending that the store purchased thousands of bottles of expensive French wine on their behalf, worth around $3 million, but never delivered it.

All of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits – many of whom live in Asia – say they paid Premier Cru to buy them “futures” of French Bordeaux (wine that is still aging in barrels and not bottled), but they have yet to see the wine. Some of the customers said they have been waiting  years for their wine. Whenever they call the store to complain, they hear a litany of excuses, they said.

Read more wine stories on Nosh.

“Premier Cru’s response to each inquiry … concerning the undelivered wine was essentially the same,” reads a complaint filed by attorneys for Mun Hei Li, a Hong Kong wine investor, in Alameda County Superior Court. “The wine was at a port in France waiting for shipment to China, or the wine was on board ships on their way to China. Such claims were false and Premier Cru knew they were false because the missing wine was never on its way to China,” reads the complaint. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Build Pizzeria owners file for bankruptcy

Build Pizzeria, Berkeley, CA, May 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The future looks bleak for the shuttered Build Pizzeria Roma and Berkeley Underground in downtown Berkeley after it has emerged that former owners Lisa Holt and David Shapiro filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

Berkeleyside has also learned that Holt and Shapiro sold their interest in Build’s holding company, Rustic Restaurants LLC, to the San Rafael-based Moana Restaurant Group last year. Moana operates more than 20 restaurants around the Bay Area including Redd in Napa Valley, Corner’s Tavern in Walnut Creek, and the Lark Creek, Piatti Ristorante and Yankee Pier chains.

Holt and Shapiro lost all their investment as a result of the sale, according to a source close to Rustic Restaurants who asked not to be named for legal reasons. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Oct. 6. The pair, who have not been involved in the Berkeley businesses since April, had hoped Moana would continue operating Build and Berkeley Underground under the umbrella group.

However Build, which opened at 2286 Shattuck Ave. in 2013, and Berkeley Underground, the nightclub the couple opened in late 2014 beneath the restaurant, have been shuttered since April. And it has come to Berkeleyside’s attention that prospective tenants are being shown the vacant property. … Continue reading »

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Lifelong Medical Care opens new clinic in South Berkeley

Lifelong Medical has opened its 15th clinic at the Ed Roberts Campus. Photo: John Sutton Photography
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Lifelong Medical Care will hold a grand opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Monday for its 15th health center, in the Ed Roberts Campus on Adeline Street in South Berkeley.

The new Ashby Health Center, a full-service clinic, will offer care to underserved populations covered by Medi-Cal, Medicare, managed care plans through Covered California, or people without insurance. LifeLong offers a sliding scale based on income.

The clinic will be serviced by physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified nurse midwives, mental-health providers, acupuncturists, social workers, and community health workers. There will be prenatal clinics, classes on diabetes management, chronic disease screening and management, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, acupuncture, and other kinds of group educational and preventive services.Continue reading »

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