Category Archives: Local business

Grumpy Cat comes to Berkeley Humane in style, fanfare

Grumpy Cat, held by her owner Tabatha Bundesen, poses with City Councilmember Linda Maio and Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Polly Armstrong before the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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With a police-escorted motorcade fit for a foreign ambassador or an A-list Hollywood star, viral internet star Grumpy Cat rolled into Berkeley in style Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds of fans waited outside Berkeley Humane at 2700 9th St. to catch a glimpse of Grumpy Cat, who has a permanent scowl on her face and millions of fans on social media. Tucked in the arms of her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, Grumpy Cat oversaw the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Berkeley Humane’s new mobile adoption center.

Following the ceremony, Grumpy Cat held a private photo session with her fans. Tickets for an up close and personal were reserved long before Saturday. The opportunity to take a photo of Grumpy Cat — or with, for the lucky fans who registered for the photo session in time — drew residents from beyond the Bay Area. … Continue reading »

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Dollar Tree pulls soda off shelves after soda tax

The Dollar Tree chain pulled sodas and sugary drinks from its shelves following the passage of Measure D in November. Photo: Seung Y. Lee
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Shoppers at the two Dollar Tree stores in Berkeley will no longer find sodas and sugary drinks on their shelves following the passage of the soda tax last November.

In the Dollar Tree discount store on 2440 Shattuck Ave., the refrigerators once full of soda bottles are now stocked with water. The other Dollar Tree store in Berkeley, on 1284 San Pablo Ave., has also removed its sugary drinks.

Dollar Tree — which sells a variety of products for $1 or less and has more than 5,200 stores in North America — decided to pull out sodas in its Berkeley stores when the soda tax went into effect on Jan. 1, according to Randy Guiler, vice president of investor relations. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Hollywood comes to Berkeley for Steve Jobs movie with Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Michael Fassbender

The film set at La Méditerranée on College Avenue Friday night. Photo: Ted Friedman
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The 2900 block of College Avenue in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood was transformed into a mid-1980s scene on Friday night, as director Danny Boyle filmed a scene for a new Steve Jobs biopic at La Méditerranée.

Period cars from the 1980s were parked on the street, and the producers had put out a casting call for men with long hair and facial hair, and women with “natural hair colors” to match the 1980s to 1990s time period.

While scores of curious onlookers hung out on College, sightings of the film’s stars — Michael Fassbender (who plays Steve Jobs), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak), Jeff Daniels (John Sculley), and Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman), were fleeting, at best. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley tells cannabis collective to shut down

Toya Groves and Chris Smith listen at the Jan. 20 city council meeting. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Even though more than 40 people testified about the importance of the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers Collective to the black community, the Berkeley City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday night to declare it a public nuisance.

But the decision, which came almost four years after Berkeley officials first told its co-founder, Chris Smith, that his cannabis collective was operating illegally, may not be the last word on the operation. Lee Hepner, Smith’s attorney, said before the meeting that they would almost certainly challenge the action in court. Any legal challenge would join the three other lawsuits that Smith currently has pending against Berkeley and a number of employees.

Read more about medical marijuana issues in Berkeley.

Another possibility is for Smith to apply for the permit to open a fourth dispensary in the city. Applicants have until March 20 to declare they are interested. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to decide if cannabis collective must go

Chris Smith talked to a community group on Jan. 17, 2015 about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city of Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Almost four years after Berkeley first informed the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective that it was operating illegally in its San Pablo Avenue location, the Berkeley City Council will consider declaring it a public nuisance tonight.

The city has been tussling with Forty Acres and its co-founder Chris Smith for so long that the agenda packet with background information is more than 1,000 pages long. Berkeleyside has created a timeline (after the jump) with some of the highlights of the fight between Forty Acres and the city of Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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New Safeway on College Avenue opens to crowds

A new 45,000-square foot Safeway opened on College Ave. on Jan. 15. Photo: Celia McCarthy
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Hundreds of people jammed into the spanking new Safeway store on College Avenue on Thursday. Most were there to gawk at the shiny surfaces or taste a variety of free samples, but plenty of people were there to shop, happy to have a large grocery store back in the neighborhood.

The new store is 45,000 square feet and cost about $35 million to build, according to Chris Pattillo, chair of the Oakland Planning Commission, who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The store employs about 160 people, and 65 of those union jobs are new, she said.

“We’re excited,” Bernard Hardy, Safeway’s vice president of retail operations told the crowd that had assembled for the in-store speeches. “Tell your neighbors we’re back. We’re excited about being back in the neighborhood.” … Continue reading »

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Saul’s applies to build a parklet in front of deli

A rendering shows the canopied parklet designed by architect David Trachtenberg.
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Three parking spaces in front of Saul’s Deli at 1475 Shattuck Ave. could soon be replaced by greenery and public seating.

Saul’s owner Peter Levitt has applied for a permit to build a parklet, which would be the third approved under the city’s Parklets Pilot Program launched in July 2013. The first parklet opened in front of the Cheese Board Collective in August. A second one was scheduled to open shortly after the Cheese Board parklet, in front of Philz Coffee and Guerilla Café. That scheme ran into some obstacles but is back on track. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Berkeley Public. Photo: Ted Friedman
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NEW: BERKELEY PUBLIC FOOD AND BILLIARDS It has only been a couple months since Thalassa closed, Nov. 9, but now the owners of the beloved bar and billiards spot have opened Berkeley Public Food and Billiards on Durant Avenue, next to Smoke’s Poutinerie. For the time being, Berkeley Public does not sell alcohol —  there’s root beer and soda, along with bar food like burgers, pulled-pork sandwiches and mac n’ cheese. But the plan is that Berkeley Public will expand into a 2-story business next month, to include a German-inspired beer hall called Taphaus. The plan is to sell craft beer and liquor downstairs. When Taphaus opens, the upstairs Berkeley Public will close temporarily for further renovations, including the construction of an indoor stairwell to connect the two floors, according to Berkeley Public employee Kevin Shea. Berkeley Public is at 2518 Durant Ave.Continue reading »

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Berkeley Zoning Board considers community benefits of proposed downtown high-rise

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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As Berkeley officials grappled with what the concept of “community benefits” actually means, the developer of the 18-story high rise at 2211 Harold Way announced at a Jan. 8 meeting of the Zoning Adjustments Board that he is willing to financially assist both the Habitot Children’s Museum and Boss, (Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency) as well as other organizations who must  relocate when the building is constructed.

Joseph Penner, head of Hill Street Investments of Los Angeles, also announced that Landmark Theaters had redesigned its plans for new theaters in the complex. There will now be nine theaters instead of the six theaters previously announced. Landmark has decided it will no longer include stadium seating in the theaters, which frees up room for additional theaters. (There are currently 11 theaters in the Shattuck Cinema complex.) … Continue reading »

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Threepenny Review marks 35th birthday with new book

Wendy Lesser. Photo: Threepenny Review
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Wendy Lesser started The Threepenny Review in 1980 in Berkeley with the intent of highlighting art, literature, and music, not just in the Bay Area, but around the country. Over the years, the quarterly journal has evolved into one of the most respected, and idiosyncratic, intellectual publications in the country.

Each issue contains a broad spectrum of articles, from short pieces that look at television shows like “The Wire” and the Kirov Ballet, to longer meditations on opera, concerts in unusual places like San Quentin State Prison, birdwatching, and other pursuits. There are many poems, stories, and reviews of movies and musical performances.

The Threepenny Review is really a reflection of Lesser’s intellect and interests, according to observers. (Check out her blog, The Lesser Blog to see the vast number of opera, symphony, and other types of musical events she attends.) The author of ten books, Lesser was described in the New York Times as “an intellectual of unflinching dignity and gravitas.” … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Customers check our rugs at Istanbul Rug at 1551 University Ave.
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BOOKISH REINVENTION Bookish, that small, stylish bookstore at 1816 Euclid Ave., has shut its doors after just one year in operation. Gina Davidson, its owner, whose sense of whimsy permeated the store, said the neighborhood was challenging. She tended to get “coincidental” shoppers – those who were on the way to get pizza and stumbled on the store. But Davidson is not leaving the business entirely. She is turning Bookish into a mobile bookstore in an Airstream trailer and plans to do pop-up events. The idea came to her when she had a pop-up store at Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas in October last year. It was a huge success: she sold $2,000 worth of merchandise that day compared to $80 in sales at the store. “Doing a pop-up event made me realize I was in the wrong location to make sales,” said Davidson. She hopes to find an Airstream soon and be on the road by late January or early February. She has already booked a space for the Bay Area Book Festival the first weekend in June and is considering other venues, such as Off the Grid. The closure of Bookish is the end of an era for that stretch of Euclid. Signal Books occupied that space, which became Analog Books from about 2005 until 2012. Then Laurie Fox, a literary agent, opened Bookish and sold it to Davidson in late 2013. The space will soon become an eyebrow-waxing and threading salon, according to Davidson. … Continue reading »

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Protesters stage ‘Black Brunch’ on Berkeley’s Fourth Street

Black Brunch. Photo:  Blake Simons
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More than two dozen African-American students, many from UC Berkeley, tried to disrupt “business as usual” on Saturday by staging a protest in Berkeley’s upscale Fourth Street shopping district.

The students, as well as some community activists, started walking through various shops and restaurants around 11 a.m. chanting, “Which side are you on, my people? Which side are you on? We are on the freedom side.” Some carried signs that read: “Sorry 4 the inconvenience, We wanna change the world,” and “RIP” showing a drawing of a young man wearing a hoodie. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? The former Rivoli Theatre

Former Rivoli Theatre, 1941 San Pablo Avenue.  Photo: John Storey
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I venture to say that most people who have driven by the 99¢ Only Stores on San Pablo Avenue just north of University Avenue have never stopped and gone inside. I further venture to say that most people who have shopped at the 99¢ Only Stores have never stopped and looked up. Those who stop and those who look up are in for a quirky treat.

The 99¢ Only Stores at 1941 San Pablo is the former home of the Rivoli Theatre, built in 1924-1925. It seated 1,402 and changed shows four times a week. As a result of changing movie-going habits, the Rivoli first limited screenings to weekends, then closed as a movie theater in the 1950s. Since then, it has been a Long’s Drugs, a Smart and Final grocery store, and now – a 99¢ Only Store. … Continue reading »

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