Category Archives: Local business

Amazon opens new store on UC Berkeley campus

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Amazon opened a sleek, modern, brick-and-mortar store on the UC Berkeley campus Thursday and it promises to ease package delivery and return for students, faculty, staff and the community.

But Amazon hopes the store, located in the refurbished Martin Luther King Jr. building facing Sproul Plaza, will be more than that. There are couches and chairs scattered around the 3,500-square-foot space, as well as a large television screen for students to watch movies or play video games. A large table holds Kindle e-readers, Fire Tablets and Fire TV devices, creating “an interactive Amazon device experience,” according to a press release.

The idea is to be such an inviting environment that students “turn into lifelong customers,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

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BAUBLES & BEADS TO CLOSE Baubles & Beads in North Berkeley will be closing its store, probably in March, after 25 years of serving the city. Owners Lisa and Jim Kaufman say the reason is partly due to rising expenses. As they write in a letter to customers: “We have struggled with this decision since the recession of 2009, the closing of our San Rafael location in 2012, and again today with rising costs of rent and operational costs. The success of our website, BaublesAndBeads.com, allowed us to keep our Berkeley bead shop open over the past several years. The decision to close the store was never taken lightly as we fully understand the impact it will have on the local beading community.” Meantime, there are lots of discounts being applied to merchandise. Baubles & Beads is at 1676 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709  Tel: 510 644-BEAD. Connect with Baubles & Beads on Facebook for updates.Continue reading »

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Sponsored post

Berkeley start-up gives away profits. It’s Truly Mad!

The Truly MAD team (l to r); xxxxxx. Photo: Sarah Gerber
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You’d think that for a small, recently launched e-commerce start-up Black Friday would be a pretty important sales day. But Truly M.A.D. founder Abhi Vallabhaneni and his staff weren’t checking sales or patrolling social media last Black Friday. They shut down their site for the day and set off to volunteer with a local non-profit to decorate and write holiday cards for seniors living in support homes.

Vallabhaneni’s company, Truly M.A.D., is a new online retailer that sells everything from headphones to sweaters and gives anywhere from 20 to 100% of the profit it makes on each product to charity. It’s what Vallabhaneni calls a “conscious marketplace” and it joins a growing number of other companies who are balancing doing social good with a sustainable business model. (See website at www.trulymad.com and connect with Truly M.A.D. on Facebook.)

“Everyone wants to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves,” Vallabhaneni said. “That’s essentially what we’re doing, in an environment that works for us.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Premier Cru files for bankruptcy

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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Update 1/19: The FBI is now fielding customer complaint calls about Premier Cru, according to spokesman Prentice Danner, after the Alameda County District Attorney’s office asked it to intervene. That does not mean the FBI has launched an investigation into the workings of Premier Cru, he said. The number to call is 510-808-2600.

Original story:

The customers of Berkeley’s Premier Cru who were hoping to get delivery of wine they paid for but never saw delivered are probably out of luck.

The wine company run by John Fox filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy on Jan. 8, claiming it had more than $70 million in debts but only $7 million in assets – most of it wine.

The city of Berkeley is one of the entities that might get left in the lurch. Bankruptcy court filings show that Fox – doing business as Fox Ortega Enterprises – owes the city $175,000, although the papers do not state why. Fox also owes money to the IRS, the Franchise Tax Board, and California’s Employment Development Department. … Continue reading »

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Café Clem revamps to cope with labor, food costs

Cafe Clem at 2020 Kittredge St. will reopen today after being close for three weeks. Photo: Café Clem
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For the last three weeks, patrons of Café Clem at 2020 Kittredge St. in downtown Berkeley have gone to the restaurant, only to see a sign on the door reading “Café Clem will be closed until further notice.”

Many worried that the much-loved restaurant was shuttered for good. But at 7:30 a.m. Monday, the café will reopen, something that the owner, Dorothée Mitrani-Bell, wasn’t sure would happen again.

Mitrani-Bell, who also owns the French restaurant La Note on Shattuck Avenue, shuttered Café Clem during the holidays to rethink its existence. The café, while popular, was under serious financial pressure. In fact, in September, Mitrani-Bell addressed the Berkeley City Council and said: “I can’t survive.” The recent rise in Berkeley’s minimum wage, coupled with increased wholesale costs, meant the cafe’s margins were not large enough, said Mitrani-Bell.

However, after mulling over the situation, Mitrani-Bell decided to revamp aspects of the restaurant, rather than close it. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Savers Thrift Superstore to close on Jan. 16

Savers Thrift at 1414 University Ave. will close on Jan. 16, about two years after it opened. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Two years after it opened to fanfare – and controversySavers Thrift Superstore at 1414 University Ave. will shut its doors on Saturday, Jan. 16.

No-one from corporate headquarters would speak to Berkeleyside about the reasons behind the closure, but a spokeswoman confirmed the closure. The store manager said Berkeley has proved too expensive for the discount thrift store chain.

“The cost of doing business in Berkeley is not conducive for us,” said Reginald Batiste, the store manager. Savers wrote on a flyer being handed out to customers that “certain business conditions have made it necessary to permanently close the Berkeley store.”

Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Black Oak Books to close after 33 years

Gary Cornell, the owner of Black Oak Books, in the store. Photo: Black Oak Books
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Black Oak Books, which has had a presence in Berkeley for 33 years, is shutting its doors.

Gary Cornell, the math professor and entrepreneur who rescued the storied bookstore in 2008 during the recession and who is still subsidizing its rent, said the store no longer makes financial sense. Its location, at 2618 San Pablo Ave. near Carleton Street, does not draw enough foot traffic and sales have been generally flat the past six years (Although they did go up by 1% in 2015). In addition, Berkeley has raised its minimum wage to $11 an hour, with more increases to come, making it more difficult to run the business.

Read more stories about independent bookstores in Berkeley.

“I wish I could have kept it open,” said Cornell, 62. “But, in the end, you have to say it’s not working.”

The store will close at the end of January, he said. Until then, all the inventory at Black Oak Books — both new and used books — is 40% off. The store is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky Was Berkeley? Bye Bye Birdie

The birdhouse truck. Photo: Gina G10
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Berkeley is less quirky today than it was a week ago. The gods and goddesses of quirk shed a tear. Three years in the leaving, Mike Parayno has now completed his move from Berkeley to the Philippines, maintaining Bay Area ties with the Birdland Jazzista Social Club at 4318 MLK Way, Oakland. According to Parayno, the building is now on the market and his famous birdhouse truck has been sold. (Read more about Parayno and Birdland in previous Berkeleyside coverage.) … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Totally Rad Gallery: opened on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Totally Rad Gallery
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TOTALLY RAD ART GALLERY A new art gallery has opened on San Pablo Avenue in the old Leslie’s Ceramics building. Totally Rad, run by Amber Mueller, is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary works by emerging local and national artists. On Jan. 9, 6-9 p.m., there will be an opening reception for the gallery’s new exhibition, “Daft Affect: “Dear Volunteers” showing work by Tra Bouscaren and John Schlesinger. Totally Rad Gallery is at 1212 San Pablo Ave. ( at Harrison St.). Connect with the gallery through its website and on Facebook.  … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Dick and Beany Wezelman’s love for Africa

African mud hut at 1026 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: John Storey
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On the residential leg of Shattuck Avenue, in the block just south of Los Angeles Avenue, tucked among the stately homes is a stucco house with African-themed designs.  And an African mud hut in the backyard.

Mark Bulwinkle steel work is installed beneath the railing leading up the stairs to the front door. … Continue reading »

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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
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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 is 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 $7.5m). 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 as well. The 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. … Continue reading »

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Scoop: Blue Bottle Coffee coming to Berkeley

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Blue Bottle Coffee is set to open its first Berkeley outpost in the street-level retail space of co-working offices WeWork at 2011 Shattuck Ave. (at University).

The news was confirmed by one of the building’s owners, Jordan Caspari of Soma Capital Partners.

Caspari said Blue Bottle would be going into the corner space, and added he was “very excited” about the opening next year.

A high-end ramen restaurant is expected to sign the lease for the other part of the retail space next week, Caspari said. Nosh will have details as soon as it is a done deal.

“We think the two tenants will have great synergies with WeWork,” Caspari said. … Continue reading »

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Urban planning

Zoning board approves new units on Telegraph, Shattuck

The Nexus at 2539 Telegraph Ave. has been approved. Image: Lowney Architecture
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Berkeley’s zoning board approved two largely car-free buildings Thursday set to add 92 new residential units to the city’s housing stock.

Both of the projects — 70 units on Telegraph Avenue and 22 units on Shattuck Avenue — were proposed by Patrick Kennedy’s Berkeley-based Panoramic Interests.

The Telegraph project, dubbed The Nexus, is set to take the place of a 1-story office building where the nationally recognized Center for Independent Living got its start. The center has since moved to a new home at the Ed Roberts Campus and representatives from the organization told the Zoning Adjustments Board on Thursday that a decision on the Telegraph property would help them move ahead with their own plans for the organization’s future.

The Nexus, which also has an entrance on Regent Street, is set to reach 6 stories on the Telegraph side, and include about 5,200 square feet of commercial space, some of which could one day be a café. Nine vehicle parking spots are planned for the retail area, and 144 bike parking spots are included. Building residents will not be allowed to seek residential parking permits under existing city rules. … Continue reading »

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