Category Archives: Local business

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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After Berkeley protests: Local merchants react to damage, looting at their businesses

Boarded up McDonald's Kim Aronson
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Berkeley’s major commercial districts are awash with plywood — some of it covers broken glass, some has been erected as a preventive measure to protect vulnerable windows.

Many of the protests that have taken over Berkeley streets this month, in response to police-involved killings of unarmed black men, have remained peaceful. Others have culminated in smashed storefronts and blazing trashcans.

Merchants’ reactions to the destruction run the gamut from patience and praise of the peaceful majority, to criticism of the hands-off approach taken by the Berkeley police Sunday, Dec. 7, the night local businesses sustained the most significant damage. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? From Lucky’s to Amoeba at 2455 Telegraph Avenue

1990 postcard from the collection of Tom Dalzell
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The quirky-looking building on the southeast corner of Telegraph and Haste, now Amoeba Music, has a colorful history that illustrates several chapters in Berkeley’s proud, independent history.

The building at 2455 Telegraph started life as Lucky’s Store No. 18.

It served the south campus neighborhood for several decades. In February 1964, the campus chapter of CORE (the Congress on Racial Equality) took action against Lucky Store 18 in an effort to pressure Lucky into hiring African-Americans. The actions included picketing and the “shop-in,” in which nicely dressed CORE members filled shopping carts with groceries but then refused to pay for the groceries until Lucky ended its discriminatory practices.

After ten days of picketing and shop-ins, Lucky signed an agreement covering its Bay Area stores, promising to end racial discrimination in its hiring practices. Shortly after that, it closed Store No. 18 on Telegraph. They blamed a high degree of shoplifting on the decision to close, but it is difficult to believe that there wasn’t some degree of retaliation for the shop-ins.

The next business to open at 2455 Telegraph was the Espresso Forum, one of the first two espresso shops on Telegraph. … Continue reading »

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Smoke’s Poutinerie opens first U.S. store in Berkeley

Smoke's Poutinerie, which has just opened in Berkeley. Photo: Shelby Pope
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By Shelby Pope/Bay Area Bites

The Canadians are coming, and they’re bringing poutine. Smoke’s Poutinerie opened on Durant Avenue in Berkeley on Monday, Dec. 8 (as first reported on Berkeleyside in September). The first U.S. location of a popular fast food chain with over 100 stores in Canada, the restaurant only sells poutine, the gloriously nap-inducing Quebec dish of fries tossed with gravy and topped with cheese curds.

Why Berkeley for the first U.S. store? Ironically, it’s all because of a few enterprising Southern Californians. Los Angeles-based film producers Robert Parada and Danny Rodriguez went out drinking one night during a visit to Berkeley, and when they left the bar, they were struck by the amount of people — and potential customers — out late in Berkeley. Along with a third partner, they approached Smoke’s founder and CEO Ryan Smolkin with the idea of opening a Berkeley location of the chain, which they had tried and loved during a visit to Winnipeg. … Continue reading »

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Business is swell at a much-loved East Bay button shop

Buttons
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By Karen M. Galatz

In the East Bay, if you’re looking for buttons, be they glass, wood, resin, metal, mother of pearl, Bakelite or other, you’d better go meet Mary Sortile, the proprietor of Exclusive Buttons on San Pablo Avenue. She has thousands and thousands of them.

Mary’s story is actually three stories in one. It is the story of a quaint business in the community; it is the story of an enduring partnership; and it is about aging with grace and purpose. … Continue reading »

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City of Berkeley told police to use restraint, avoid tear gas, on second night of protests

The doors and windows of Radio Shack on Shattuck were smashed repeatedly this weekend. Photo: Bernt Wahl
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By Frances Dinkelspiel and Tracey Taylor

The Berkeley Police Department deliberately held back from using tear gas during the protests Sunday night under orders from City Manager Christine Daniel, according to city officials.

Mayor Tom Bates said Monday that he and other Berkeley City Council members had been disturbed by the aggressive tone of the demonstrations Saturday night, when Berkeley police shot rubber bullets, other projectiles, and tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators who refused to leave Telegraph Avenue. He conveyed this concern to Daniel, who apparently was also concerned. She then told Berkeley police to refrain from using tear gas unless absolutely necessary.

Protesters smashed more than a dozen windows and sprayed graffiti on businesses up and down Shattuck Avenue, as well others on Telegraph Avenue, Sunday night. While a few businesses were damaged in the Saturday protests, including Wells Fargo Bank on San Pablo Avenue and Radio Shack on Shattuck, which was hit both nights, the damage was more severe the night of the stepped-back police response.

We regarded “the use of tear gas to be questionable,” said Bates. “We didn’t want to see it happen again unless absolutely necessary…. There was a backing off.” … Continue reading »

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Deal to buy Post Office fizzles; police clear encampment

Tents on the front of the building were not being taken down at lunchtime on Thursday. Photo: Lance Knobel
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The proposal by Berkeley developers Hudson MacDonald to buy the downtown Berkeley Post Office has fallen through after they were unable to reach agreement with the Post Office on a deal.

Meanwhile, police from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service prompted an orderly clearance of parts of the makeshift encampment at Berkeley’s main Post Office Thursday morning. Protesters, who call themselves Berkeley Post Office Defenders, and a homeless advocacy group, First They Came for the Homeless, have been camped around the building for four weeks.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, officers provided protesters with a list of federal regulations and criminal statutes that prohibit the encampment. No arrests were made.  … Continue reading »

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Cal students launch headphone start-ups, raise big bucks

Accent Wear headphones
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It may be happenstance, or the sign of a specialized talent pool, but Berkeley is home to two new innovative headphone start-ups, both of which have made their debuts via crowd-funding sites.

One company was started by Cal graduates, and the other by Cal dropouts who left to pursue their acoustical dream.

If high-tech feline attire is your music-listening thing, take a look at Axent’s Wear Cat Ear headphones, which launched on Indiegogo a little over a month ago.

“The latest fusion of fashion and functionality with external cat ear speakers and LED lights,” reads the description. “Presenting Axent Wear, glowing, badass headphones that let you blast your music and express your style.”

The headphone company were started “by two UC Berkeley alum with an idea,” the site says.

That idea seems to have hit a chord. In just a few weeks, Axent raised more than $2.9 million, far exceeding its stated goal of $250,000. … Continue reading »

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5 local cookbooks that will make great holiday gifts

cookbooks
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The front table of Mrs. Dalloway’s bookstore on College Avenue in Berkeley is brimming with cookbooks, a sure sign of the holiday season. Many publishers release cookbooks in October so they have time to build enough buzz to make them a must-have on every foodies’ holiday gift list.

A number of high-profile cooks and food writers released books this year, including a third tome from the popular Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi called Plenty More; How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman; and the ever-popular Joy of Cooking.

All good cookbooks, to be sure. But what is out there to buy for the devoted locavore? How about narrowing that down to authors with an East Bay connection?

Below are Nosh’s holiday gift recommendations: five fabulous cookbooks featuring local chefs or cooks with East Bay connections. And, as with much of the food in the East Bay, it begins at Chez Panisse.

Mention “Berkeleyside Nosh” at Mrs Dalloway’s and you’ll receive a 10% discount on any of these books!Continue reading »

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Solano Avenue: The pressure is on for North Berkeley shopping district to up its game

The Oaks on Solano, as of September 2014. Photo: Mary Flaherty
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When French-style bakery La Farine abruptly closed up shop on Berkeley’s Solano Avenue this summer, there was an outcry from local residents. Its departure also created another empty storefront on a street that has its fair share of them, particularly in its easternmost stretch, near The Alameda.

But La Farine owner Jeff Dodge said he misses the North Berkeley commercial district and is actively looking for a way to return there. And Gina Gould, the landlord of the building Dodge vacated, at 1820 Solano, said she’s confident she will sign up a new, likely food-related, business for the space before Christmas.

The new store will join a cluster of new businesses that have opened, or are about to, on the wide shopping street that stretches 2 miles east to west through Albany and Berkeley.

Will they bring new energy to a street that is known for its gigantic annual Solano Stroll event, but which, unlike Berkeley’s Elmwood or Gourmet Ghetto neighborhoods, retains a slightly folksy feel? … Continue reading »

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Berkeley preps new cell phone radiation safety law

Please destroy cell phones before entering: A front gate in Berkeley, Calif. Photo: Fragmentary Evidence
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The city of Berkeley is investigating whether to require retailers to hand out radiation-related safety sheets to customers who buy cell phones in town.

Last week, a Berkeley City Council majority — with seven in favor and two opposed — voted to have staff prepare language for the new cell phone law. But whether council ultimately will vote to adopt that law is unknown.

The cell phone ordinance — brought forward Nov. 18 by council members Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington — would require vendors to hand out an info sheet to consumers to remind them to study up on device-specific safety standards for radio-frequency (RF) energy emissions. In particular, customers could be advised not to hold or carry the phone close to the body while using the device, and directed to consult the manual to learn the “recommended separation distance” between the phone and one’s body. Anderson said he has been working on the law for several years. … Continue reading »

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Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

85C Bakery Cafe opening in San Diego
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LONGBRANCH SALOON San Pablo Avenue’s Longbranch is now open, according to tipster Amanda Fox. The restaurant, which took over the old Sea Salt location, describes itself as a “New American Restaurant/Gastro Pub.” It serves a range of comfort-food-style dishes and has an extensive list of beers, whiskeys and cocktails. Some dishes have a distinctly British-sounding spin, including potted pork trotter, the goat cheese and leek tart, and bangers and mash. Also on the menu: toasted farro and roasted cauliflower salad, pan-seared black cod and bone-in ribeye with béarnaise sauce. Longbranch is located at 2512 San Pablo Ave. (at Dwight Way) in Berkeley. Connect with the business on Facebook.Continue reading »

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Berkeley may consider new rules for cannabis grow sites

Cannabis being inspected at Berkeley Patients Group. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Update 11/19/14: The City Council voted on Nov. 18 to refer this item to the Planning Commission for further review.

Even though Berkeley residents voted in 2010 to allow six commercial cannabis grow sites to operate in the city’s manufacturing zone, none has opened – and none probably will unless the city changes its guidelines, according to a report that will be presented tonight to the City Council.

When Measure T was adopted in 2010, it restricted cannabis grow factories to the city’s M (manufacturing) zone. But space appropriate for operations of 30,000 square feet (the maximum allowed for each site) is extremely limited, according to the report prepared by the city’s Medical Cannabis Commission. Moreover, very few properties in that district come up for rent.

“In trying to relocate to expand our operations, we encountered scarcity of suitable space in the M District, compounded by apprehension from Berkeley landlords to lease to cannabis related businesses,” one cannabis businessman testified to the MCC in November 2013. His words were included in the report. … Continue reading »

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