Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Bookish Bookstore on Euclid has shut its doors but its owner plans to go mobile.
Bookish Bookstore on Euclid has shut its doors but its owner plans to make it a mobile business. Photo: Bookish

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.

The Taiwan Restaurant has shut after 42 years. Photo: Tzuhsun Hsu.
Taiwan Restaurant has shut after 42 years on University Ave. Photo: Tzuhsun Hsu.

TAIWAN RESTAURANT SHUTTERED Taiwan Restaurant at 2071 University Ave. shut its doors at the end of December after 42 years in business. The Lin family, which has run the place (well-known for its distinctive purple façade) told the East Bay Express that it was unable to secure a long-term lease with its landlord. That’s not the case, said John Gordon, of Gordon Commercial Real Estate, which holds the master lease on the building. The family was offered a long-term lease but turned it down, said Gordon. Regardless of the cause, the closure brings to an end an important piece of Berkeley history. When Taiwan Restaurant opened, it was the first in that part of town and the first to sell Taiwanese dishes like beef noodle soup and Chinese fried donuts. Jason Wu, a third-generation Lin family member, told the Express the family is planning to look for another location. Gordon said the space will be renovated and combined with a business next door.

Customers check our rugs at Istanbul Rug at 1551 University Ave.
Customers check our rugs at Istanbul Rug at 1551 University Ave. Photo: Istanbul Rug

NEW: ISTANBUL RUG Istanbul Rug, one of the largest carpet retailers and wholesalers in northern California, moved its main showroom from San Francisco to 1551 University Avenue a few months ago. Esref Teker, the owner, is a third-generation Turkish carpet dealer (the family still has a rug store in Istanbul) and his 20-something son is already active in the business. Teker completely redid the 9,000-square foot building, the former home of a martial arts studio. He installed struts of beautiful vintage wood on the ceiling and a warm brown cement floor. Istanbul Rugs imports hand-dyed, hand-tied rugs from Turkey, India, Iran, Tibet, and other parts of the Middle East and Asia. It also sells Oriental and modern rugs of its own design. The store’s mezzanine is filled with antique silk Persian carpets, (including one from the 18th century) kilims, as well as other carpets.

luna tea COMPANY
Luna Tea Company: Now open at 2493 Telegraph Ave. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

NEW: A UNIQUE TEA STORE Walk into the new Luna Tea Company at 2493 Telegraph Ave. and you will find teas not available anywhere else. The owner, Jenni Curtice, blends all of them herself – not a huge surprise, she says, because she grew up with a mother who was a certified herbalist. Curtice sells black, green, white and herbal teas, and the biggest seller is Tea.K.O, a blend of chamomile, passionflower, valerian, catnip and peppermint. It helps people relax, said Curtice, something that is at a premium in our rushed world. This is Curtice’s first brick-and-mortar store. For years she sold tea online and had dreams of opening a teashop in San Francisco. But skyrocketing rents made that idea unrealistic. Then one day she saw an ad for the Telegraph Avenue space on Craigslist, called up new owner, Ito Ripsteen, and in record time had signed a lease. She opened Luna Tea Company on Dec. 5. For now, Curtice only sells tea in bulk, but she would like to add a tea house. “I want to have a space where people can come in, sit down, relax and enjoy the whole experience tea brings,” she said. Zoning codes don’t allow that now (Telegraph Avenue has maxed out its quota for quick-serve spots), but Curtice plans to try and get city permission. Curtice, who studied painting at San Jose State, is also turning a portion of her store into an art gallery, and it should open this week or next. Her motto is “Brewing community through art.”


Shop Talk is our regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns, and check out Bites for the latest East Bay restaurant news.