Category Archives: Local business

Satellite post office at Berkeley Staples draws protests

Anti-Staples postcard made by Berkeley Post Office Defense
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For the last 19 nights, Mike Zint, 47, has been sleeping sitting up in a chair in front of the Staples store at 2352 Shattuck Ave. He has set up vigil in downtown Berkeley to protest the “privatization” of the U.S. Postal Service, as well as chronic homelessness in the United States.

Zint is part of a small group of homeless activists that has established a camp of sorts on the sidewalk. During the day, they pass out leaflets protesting the seven-month-old deal allowing Staples to run satellite postal operations in 82 stores across the country, including the one in Berkeley. They have a table piled with leaflets talking about the deal, as well as information about the U.S. Post Office’s plan to sell the Main Post office on Allston Way. … Continue reading »

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Local business

Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

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MISSION HEIRLOOM CAFÉ Gluten-free, grain-free and soy-free offerings will be available at Mission Heirloom Café, which opens this fall in North Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. The restaurant will move into 2085 Vine St. where much-loved vegetarian Chinese restaurant Vegi Food operated until 2012. The Heirloom Café will be serving organic, non-GMO cuisine and Intelligista coffee. The café will have outdoor seating. Mission Heirloom currently operates a takeout kitchen on Eighth Street, where you can get a preview of their offerings by picking up lunchtime meals Tuesday through Friday. … Continue reading »

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Is the tech boom putting pressure on Berkeley rents?

Rents have been going up at 1450 Fourth St., a complex of live-work spaces and some tenants believe the tech boom is putting pressure on prices. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Artist Leigh Wells still hasn’t gotten accustomed to the constant noise from the trains that run right behind her West Berkeley live-work space. And she tries not to think about the toxic emissions from the neighboring steel manufacturing plant. In fact, if it weren’t for the affordable rent, and the close-knit artist community at the 1450 Fourth Street complex, she’d never dream of living there.

But when the rent in a unit in Wells’ building went for $300 a month above asking price — and her own rent was given a $450 hike — she quickly realized that times are changing. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s iconic Caffe Mediterraneum up for grabs

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Berkeley’s Caffe Mediterraneum – the coffee shop that claims to have served the world’s first latte, was at the heart of the city’s free-speech and beat movements, and at whose window table Dustin Hoffman famously sat for a scene in The Graduate —  is up for lease (with a sales component).

Owner Craig Becker said he will maintain ownership of the building, but is divesting himself of the business to pursue other interests.

“I’ve been doing this for almost eight years, and there are other things that I’d like to do,” he said at the coffee shop on Tuesday. “We grew the business fast and we’ve reached sort of a plateau.” … Continue reading »

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La Farine on Solano in Berkeley closes abruptly

The La Farine bakery at 1820 Solano Avenue abruptly closed on Tuesday after failing to negotiate a new lease with its landlord. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The La Farine bakery at 1820 Solano Ave. in North Berkeley abruptly shut its doors Tuesday, July 1, after failing to reach a lease agreement after a protracted battle with its landlords.

A telephone message on the company’s phone line says the store had to shut abruptly because it could not renew its lease, but that it hopes to relocate somewhere else on Solano Avenue.

“We are very very sad to leave,” said Jeff Dodge, the owner of La Farine for the last 17 years. “Plain speaking, we don’t have a lease, and when you can’t work something out with your landlord, you have to go.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley sets new minimum wage; up to $12.53 by 2016

Labor advocates and other supporters of a $15 minimum wage attended Tuesday night's council meeting in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to officially adopt the city’s new minimum wage ordinance, setting hourly pay on a course to reach $12.53 by October 2016.

The city’s new law will raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to $10 per hour this October, then to $11 after one year. A statewide increase to $9 per hour takes effect July 1.

The journey to reach a consensus on the new law has been far from straightforward. After a lengthy review dating back to last summer by the city’s Labor Commission, council has struggled since April over how to structure its minimum wage plan.

Read previous coverage of the minimum wage debate in Berkeley.

Council initially pledged to adopt a more aggressive increase, but backed off from that proposal after members of the local business community said it moved too fast and might lead to layoffs or closures. … Continue reading »

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Much loved Berkeley nursery closes doors after 30 years

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Last Saturday, the Yabusaki family shut the doors of the Dwight Way Nursery for the final time after 30 years of serving the Berkeley community. Kenneth Yabusaki made the decision to close the business following the untimely death of his sister Emi Yabusaki from cancer in late April.

The space at 1001 Dwight Way in West Berkeley has been a nursery since before World War II, according to Ken Yabusaki, who said it was owned by Italians until 1946 or 1947, when a pair of Japanese brothers took over. Yabusaki’s parents bought the business from the brothers in 1984. Then Kenneth and Emi began running the nursery together after the death of their father, Frank, from cancer in 1998.

In the last few months, after Emi’s death, Kenneth Yabusaki had been running the nursery with his mother, Tomoko Yabusaki. He has two sons aged 22 and 6 but, he said, the older one wasn’t interested in taking over the nursery. … Continue reading »

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New independent bookstore Bookish opens in Berkeley

Gina Davidson, Bookish. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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There’s a new bookstore in town, or at least a newly owned bookstore. After ditching a career in what she terms “corporate America,” Gina Davidson has taken over the former Analog Books at 1816 Euclid Ave., a stone’s throw from the Cal campus.

With a fresh stock of books and a stylish makeover, Bookish has been up and running under Davidson’s direction for about six months. Davidson – a novice at bookselling — says she is hoping Berkeley’s famously book-friendly community will support the business and help her fulfill her dream of running a bookstore.

It’s something Davidson has been thinking about for some time: while she was holding down senior jobs at companies like Motorola and PayPal, she would also surreptitiously be perusing Craigslist for available bookstores, and her eyes would light up when she found one. She remembers seeing two listings, one in Sebastopol and the other in Castro Valley, before spotting the ad for the Berkeley lease.

It took the death of a friend for her to take a leap of faith, however. “That was an impetus,” Davidson said recently in the pocket-sized Northside store. “I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘What if?’” The fact that Davidson’s husband joked he would leave her if she didn’t grab the opportunity after years ruminating about it may also have played a part. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Photo: Drew Jaffe
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OLD YAK BAZAAR A new fair-trade store is coming to town this fall. Old Yak Bazaar, self-described as an alternative trading company, sells up-cycled handcrafted designs from artisans around the world. Upcycling, for those that may not have heard the term before, is a process where low-value materials are converted into higher-quality products. These products include bags, home decor, jewelry, scarves and toys. The company is based out of Minneapolis and operates an online shop. It’s still unclear when and where in Berkeley the new place will open, but details should be made available next month when the lease is confirmed, according to co-owner Wen-Yan King. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley dismisses official who made ‘insensitive’ racial comment during cannabis collective appeal

Berkeley officials contend that Forty Acres operatied an illegal cannabis operation on the top floor of this building at 1820-1828 San Pablo Avenue. Photo: Google Street View
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The city of Berkeley on Thursday dismissed the official who was overseeing the nuisance abatement appeal by the Forty Acres medical cannabis collective after he made “insensitive” remarks concerning race during the hearing.

It is the fifth hearing officer to be assigned, and then withdrawn, from the case. Berkeley officials are now uncertain how to proceed. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley step closer to limiting number of large drugstores

Walgreens. Photo: Luke Chan
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Berkeley City Council last night adopted a first reading of regulations that will limit the number of large drugstores from opening in certain areas of the city.

The law, which prohibits the location of drugstores over 5,000 square feet from locating within 1,000 linear feet of each other in some commercial districts – including the Elmwood, Solano Avenue, and North Shattuck — would prevent a controversial new Walgreens from being built at 1830 Solano Ave., currently the site of a 76 gas station.

The Council was essentially approving the zoning change recommendation made by the city’s Planning Commission in March. The ordinance will likely be passed after a second hearing at the July 1 council meeting. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley City Council: Let’s add 4th cannabis dispensary

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The Berkeley City Council took a huge step Tuesday night towards the approval of a fourth medical cannabis dispensary, but deferred passing an ordinance until July 1.

The Council voted unanimously to adopt regulations put forth by the Medical Cannabis Commission, with some amendments, to set up a process to select a fourth dispensary and the guidelines for selection. The council also indicated they wanted to adopt new rules to better regulate both dispensaries and the smaller, less formal, cannabis collectives. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley 7th graders present 3-D project at White House

Sam with Brook Drumm, founder of Printrbot, at the San Mateo Maker Faire. Photo: Tales of a 3D Printer
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Berkeley 7th graders Jane Yarnell and Sam Schickler and their Black Pine Circle School science teacher Christine Mytko will attend the first-ever White House Maker Faire today as “honored guests.”

The three were invited after the BPC Maker Club showed its 3D-printing projects at the Bay Area Maker Faire, held in San Mateo in May.

The Maker Faire, described on the Maker Media website as “the greatest show (and tell) on earth,” is a gathering of hobbyists and professionals interested in hands-on, do-it-yourself crafts, often involving technology. … Continue reading »

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