Category Archives: Local business

Premier Cru owner had penchant for expensive cars

John Fox, the owner of Premier Cru, holds up his hand at the Feb. 24 meeting of the company's creditors and pledges to tell the truth. He then proceeded to take the Fifth Amendment 50 times. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The embattled owner of the Premier Cru wine business who filed for bankruptcy has declined to provide information about his own financial status because it might affect the FBI criminal investigation into his business dealings, but court records show that he has a taste for fine cars.

   Catch up on the Premier Cru story.

During the last two years, presumably while his business racked up $70 million in debt, John Fox leased a $199,264 2014 Ferrari, as well as a $90,000 2016 two-door Corvette ZO6 with a 650-horsepower engine, according to court documents. Fox stopped making his $2,206 monthly payments on the Ferrari in November, and the company that owns the car, Ferrari Financial Services, is trying to get it back. Wells Fargo Bank is also asking to repossess the Corvette. There will be hearings on those motions on March 16 and March 30. … Continue reading »

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Oscar’s sign to OSCARS home at Berkeley Lab

The iconic Oscar's sign has a new home: ESnet at Berkeley Lab. Photo: ESnet
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Did you wonder what happened to the iconic Oscar’s sign once the restaurant closed for good after flipping burgers in downtown Berkeley for 65 years? Well, we have the answer.

The sign was bought by Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), a research and education network that is managed from Berkeley Lab. Why you might ask? Linda Vu at ESnet explained that the organization provides high-bandwidth connections that link scientists at national laboratories, universities and research institutions around the world, allowing them to solve some of the world’s most important scientific challenges including energy, climate science and the origins of the universe.

The Department of Energy network “is optimized for transferring large scientific datasets,” she said.

One of ESnet’s major achievements in the last couple years has been the development of “OSCARS,” which stands for On-Demand Secure Circuits and Advance Reservation System.

“This software essentially allows researchers who are using ESnet to reserve bandwidth on the network to move massive, time-critical datasets around the world,” she said. … Continue reading »

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Photos: Berkeley’s Nabolom Bakery back in business

Nabolom back in business on Monday Feb. 2016. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Five months after it closed, Nabolom Bakery reopened on a foggy Monday morning, with an enthusiastic line of long-time customers.

“I like supporting a local business, so when it reopens, it’s a joyful thing,” said Jeannie, who didn’t want to provide her last name. She hoped to find the blueberry apricot bran muffin (not today) and the cinnamon twist that she enjoyed in Nabolom’s earlier incarnation.

“Congratulations!” said another customer to new co-owner Julia Elliott. “Still standing!”

“Barely,” said Elliott, who had been working around the clock with her partner, Sabra Stepak, to reopen Nabolom. Elliott and Stepak bought the bakery (including its recipes) from the collective that owned it for four decades.

“I’m excited,” Elliott said. “But I’m so tired, I’m out of my mind. But people love Nabolom.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Nabolom Bakery to reopen Monday

Aron Ford (left) will share baking duties at the new Nabolom Bakery. Here Ford and Julia Elliott discuss  details about the bakery. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Julia Elliott hasn’t been getting much sleep lately as she prepares to re-open Nabolom Bakery which shuttered in August 2015 after nearly 40 years operating in the Elmwood.

For the past few weeks, Elliott and her business partner, Sabra Stepak, have been on overdrive as they stripped away decades of grime from the space at 2708 Russell St., refurbished old but reliable baking equipment, updated the electrical systems, painted, and worked with two bakers to perfect recipes long loved by the community: cinnamon twists, cheese Danishes, challah, multigrain bread, and peanut butter, chocolate chip, and Snickerdoodle cookies, among other goods.

“Who sleeps?” Elliott, 48, said on Monday shortly after placing a large order with the rep from Challenge Butter. “I am working on two hours of sleep a night.”

The push is necessary because opening day is Monday, Feb. 29, at 7 a.m. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: Svensson, Sal’s, MSC Custom, Convert

Convert store in San Francisco. A new Convert Collections store will open Feb. 23 in the former Convert Shoes space at xxxx Fourth St. Photo: Convert
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SVENSSON AUTOMOTIVE CLOSING AFTER 50 YEARS Svensson Automotive, which was founded in Berkeley by Rune Svensson in 1966, has closed up shop at 1740 San Pablo Ave. Current owner Baljeet Pal, who most customers know as BJ, said the business is closing as the property owner intends to turn the land into apartments (Berkeleyside has not been able to confirm this yet). The auto shop originally specialized in servicing and repairing Swedish car makes, such as Saab and Volvo, but subsequently expanded to include Toyotas. BJ immigrated to the U.S. in 1977 from India, and began working at the auto shop with his father, who then owned the business, in 1980, according to Jerome Solberg who spoke to him recently. BJ bought the business in 1985. “I really want to thank all of the loyal customers I have had over the past 35 years, they made my job enjoyable and rewarding,” BJ said to Solberg. “I am proud to say that my business put all three of my children through college and all of them pursued postgraduate educations. I now plan to semi-retire, play a lot of golf, and tour the world!” BJ will spend the non-leisure part of his retirement at Svensson’s second location in Lafayette which he opened in 1994. … Continue reading »

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Van with $350,000 of rare books stolen; man arrested but books are missing

Berkeley police lead away Joshua Anderson, whom they arrested in connecting with selling stolen rare books at Moe's. The books came from a stolen van that contained $350,000 worth of books. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Berkeley police have arrested a man linked to the theft of $350,000 in rare books, but the books and the van they were housed in are still missing.

Police arrested Joshua Anderson, 30, of Concord after he and a companion allegedly tried to sell four of the stolen books — worth an estimated $13,000 — to Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. Anderson, who had two outstanding warrants for his arrest, was arrested on suspicion of possessing stolen property. He is being held on $45,000 bail in the Berkeley jail. His companion has not been apprehended.

The books belong to Lawrence Van De Carr, a Chicago rare-book dealer. Van De Carr had driven a 2008 silver Ford Econoline XLT van with 30 boxes of books to Pasadena last weekend for an antiquarian book fair. On Monday, he drove to Oakland to stay at a friend’s house. He parked the van outside the home in the 200 block of Whitmore St., near 51st and Pleasant Valley. When he got up Tuesday, Feb. 16, around 10 a.m., the van was gone, he said. … Continue reading »

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Heyday names Steve Wasserman as new publisher

Steve Wasserman will take over as publisher of Heyday in July. Photo: Yale University Prss
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Heyday has selected Yale University Press editor and Berkeley High graduate Steve Wasserman to be the company’s new publisher and executive director.

The selection of Wasserman, who is well respected in the book world, represents a monumental shift for the 41-year old company, which was founded by Malcolm Margolin in 1971. Margolin, a brilliant and idiosyncratic man whose book, The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area, was named as one of the 100 most important books of the twentieth century by a western writer by the San Francisco Chronicle, shaped the press through his humor and interest in nature, native culture, and California history. Margolin was famous for “adopting” people, inviting those he found interesting into the family of Heyday. He would mine everyone for their thoughts on what was important in the world and the state and he often converted those thoughts into books.

Wasserman also has deep roots in the West, although he has spent the last decade on the East Coast. He was editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review and was a chief architect of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, considered one of the most prestigious book festivals in the country. Wasserman is happy to be returning with his family to California, according to a release put out by Heyday. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

People's Café at 2015 Shattuck Ave. is now closed. Photo: Sharon Hahn Darling
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PEOPLE’S CAFÉ CLOSED People’s Café, at 2015 Shattuck Ave. (at University) in downtown Berkeley has closed to make way for two new businesses moving into the ground floor of the WeWork Berkeley building. As we have reported, Ippudo NY ramen restaurant and Blue Bottle coffee shop are moving in there. With its late opening hours and selection of cheap eats, from bagels through sandwiches, People’s Café was a favorite among Cal students. Its lease expired about a month ago, according to architect Ben Farrell who is responsible for getting the two Soma Capital-owned spaces ready for their new tenants. Farrell said the café was given an extended grace period until construction began at the corner spot. Ippudo will be at 2118 University and Blue Bottle at 2015 Shattuck. Farrell added that, if all goes well, Blue Bottle may be able to offer outdoor seating on a widened sidewalk, depending how quickly the Shattuck Square improvement project, which calls for a more pedestrian-friendly environment in the area, is implemented. … Continue reading »

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From Berkeley startup incubator, a ‘smart’ vibrator is born

Liz Klinger is CEO and co-founder of Lioness. (UC Berkeley photo by Anne Brice)
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By Anne Brice / Berkeley News

These days so many of our devices are smart. Our phones are smart. Our cars are smart. Our TVs are smart. And now, even vibrators can be smart.

That’s right. Now a vibrator can provide the data a woman needs to reach her destination free of detours, traffic tie-ups and road rage.

It’s called Lioness. It’s a sleek, sophisticated vibrator that works kind of like a running app on your smartphone, but instead of mapping the distance and terrain of a route, it records a person’s sexual arousal states.

Liz Klinger is the CEO and co-founder of Lioness. She and her team work out of SkyDeck, UC Berkeley’s incubator for startups. She says her upbringing inspired her to pursue a career in sexual health. … Continue reading »

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Troubles mount for Premier Cru as FBI steps in

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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The troubles of John E. Fox, the co-owner of the high-end wine company, Premier Cru, are mounting.

The FBI confirmed Wednesday that it is looking into the company, which filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 8 listing assets of $7 million and liabilities of $70 million.

Read more on the Premier Cru story.

“The FBI is investigating claims of a Ponzi scheme involving the Berkeley wine company Premier Cru,” said spokeswoman Michele Ernst. “It appears there is enough evidence that the FBI has determined an investigation is warranted.”

Ernst is asking anyone with complaints, concerns, or tips to email them at a specially created email address, premiercru.complaints@ic.fbi.gov. … Continue reading »

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Community helps plan new South Berkeley parklet

YSA mural. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
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After months of deliberating and design tweaks, last Thursday youth and community members put the final touches on plans for a new parklet alongside Alchemy Collective Café on Ellis Street and Alcatraz Avenue in South Berkeley.

Gathering in Youth Spirit Artworks, an arts and job training program that serves homeless and low-income youth, the meeting was the last of four community meetings and two workshops which hashed out a number of neighborhood concerns. The group plans to submit the parklet designs and apply for a city permit in the coming weeks.

Read more about the story of Berkeley’s parklets.

“We want the parklet to show what the South Berkeley community can produce,” said 17-year-old Rayven Wilson, one of several Youth Spirit Artworks youth leaders who took part in the planning process. Wilson said that, for YSA youth, the most important aspects of the parklet’s design was that it was colorful, versatile, and that it tied into the mural behind it that depicts South Berkeley community members and musicians.

“We want it to look like us,” she said. … Continue reading »

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Downtown Ace Hardware moving 2 blocks to Milvia Street

Ace Hardware will move to 2020 Milvia St. soon. Photo: Google Streetview
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Ace Hardware, which has been operating out of its space at 2145 University Ave. since 1945, will be moving sometime in the spring to 2020 Milvia St, just two blocks away.

Bill and Virginia Carpenter have to move their 16,000-square foot store because the building they are in is supposed to be extensively remodeled to make way for the 205-unit Acheson Commons apartment complex. (Equity Residential, which owns the entitlement rights to build Acheson Commons put them and its entire Berkeley portfolio up for sale last year, however.)

The Carpenters have been looking for a new space since 2012, even before the city council approved Acheson Commons in 2013. They almost moved into the old Andronico’s space on University Ave., but later decided it was not right for the store. Savers Thrift took over the space instead, but shut its doors in January.

The Carpenters wanted to stay in downtown Berkeley, where a version of the hardware store has been since 1895, said Bill Carpenter. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley commission shortlists 3 for cannabis dispensary

More than 50 people crowded into a room at City Hall on Feb. 4 to listen as the Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the fourth dispensary. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s Medical Cannabis Commission selected three finalists for the city’s coveted fourth dispensary opportunity Thursday. This despite the fact that a number of the commission’s members wanted to recommend all six dispensary finalists to the city council as a way to suggest that Berkeley needs more medical cannabis in the community.

The top vote getter was Berkeley iCann Health Center at 3243 Sacramento St. near Alcatraz Avenue. Its proprietor, Frances Sue Taylor, is a Berkeley resident who is on the board of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging. iCann would focus on reaching out to the senior community, she said. Six commissioners put iCann at the top of their list.

Read more about medical cannabis issues in Berkeley.

The next highest vote getter was Berkeley Innovative Health, which would be located at 1229 San Pablo Ave., between Gilman and Harrison streets. Its proprietors are Shareef El-Sissi and Soufyan Abou-Ahmed and the dispensary would be modeled after their Garden of Eden dispensary in Hayward. Five commissioners put BIH near the top of their lists.

The third recommended dispensary is Berkeley Compassionate Care Center, which would be run out of the Ameoba Records building at 2465 Telegraph Ave. The owners of that dispensary would be Marc Weinstein and David Prinz. Its manager would be Debby Goldsberry, a founding member of the Berkeley Patients Group, and a board member of NORML, a nonprofit that has worked to legalize marijuana since its founding in 1970. BCC got four votes. … Continue reading »

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