Shop Talk: Brandy Melville; Boss Robot Hobby; Azalea

Brandy Melville brings its controversial One Size clothing to Telegraph Avenue. Photo: Brandy Melville

BRANDY MELVILLE The young women’s clothing retailer Brandy Melville opened on Dec. 22 in the space previously occupied by American Apparel at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way. Founded in 1970 in Italy by retailer Silvio Marsan and his son, Stefan, the store opened its first location in Los Angeles in 2009, and now operates brick-and-mortar locations worldwide. Brandy Melville has been taken to task over its “one-size-fits-all” merchandising, which appears not to fit all, or even most women, except the smallest and thinnest. (Its website offers many clothes in a Small size only, some also come in Extra-Small or Medium.) Fashioned for teens and younger women in a “California girl” style, the brand attributes its e-commerce achievements to what it says is its global success. Sales people in the store said they were not authorized to divulge any information about the retailer, but one can safely presume that the location was chosen for its proximity to the Cal campus. Brandy Melville, 2305 Telegraph Ave. (at Bancroft), Berkeley 94704. Tel: 510-570-2136. Open Mon. – Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

BOSS ROBOT HOBBY After 15 years of doing business in the Elmwood neighborhood, owners — and husband and wife — Johnny Williams and Doris Moskowitz (of Moe’s Books fame) closed the doors of the Boss Robot Hobby shop on Jan. 22. Boss Robot, a unique and beloved shop, sold radio control toys, educational kits, comic books, model airplanes, vintage and art toys. Originally slated for a Feb. 1 closure, with two consecutive weekend sales, the store liquidated over the first weekend, leaving a farewell letter on the door.

“Boss Robot Hobby was small but mighty,” the owners wrote. “When we opened 15 years ago we had no idea how many people we would meet and share time with and how wonderful it would be to learn together while having fun. We focused on bringing products into the community that could have a long life that could be passed on — an idea which reflects, we believe, the Berkeley ideal of ‘re-use’.” The store stated its closure is due to unforeseen changes with its main supplier, which was one of the last employee-owned and operated Hobby companies in America.

Said Williams: “This business has been a personal success and also an incredibly positive reflection of our community. It has shown that people like to learn, grow and change and impart the ideal of lasting value to their children. It was wonderful to see the things we believe in come to life, to encounter so many like-minded people and watch them spend time with their kids enjoying our products.” For those who mourn the passing of the shop and would like a memento, a Boss Robot Hobby poster, designed by Gregoire Vion — currently displayed on the door of the shuttered store — is available for purchase, priced at $5, at Moe’s Books (2476 Telegraph Ave.) or online at Boss Robot Hobby, 2953 College Ave. (near Ashby), Berkeley 94705. Tel: 510-841-1680.

Azalea — formerly Welcome Stranger — in the Elmwood is closing this month. Photo: Tracey Taylor

AZALEA After less than a year operating under its new name, Azalea, on Ashby Avenue (at College) is closing on Jan. 31. The Elmwood boutique, which specializes in apparel by up-and-coming and local designers, was formerly known as Welcome Stranger. It switched to its parent company name of Azalea in March 2017 after deciding to add women’s wear to its line-up of men’s clothes. Welcome Stranger opened in 2014.

“The retail landscape is changing with a shift to e-commerce gaining a lot of traction. Evidently the foot traffic in this neighborhood is slowing down so we are consolidating our stores and plan to focus our resources on building our brand digitally,” co-owner Corina Nurimba said when asked why they were shuttering. She added that the store’s lease is almost up as well and, although they “really like” their landlord, they decided not to renew.

The Elmwood store has already had two huge sales and plans to liquidate its remaining inventory, including its tables and fixtures, over the final weekends with deep discounts. Azalea opened its first store in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley in 2002, followed by a second store in the Mission. The company continues to operate both stores and its first Welcome Stranger men’s clothing store, also in Hayes Valley. Azalea, 2633 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 94705. Tel: 415-682-6988  (Hayes Street) and 415-861-9888 (Valencia Street). Visit the stores in San Francisco or connect on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Shop Talk is Berkeleyside’s regular Berkeley local business column. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleyside reader who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details at Read previous Shop Talk columns. And catch up with all food business news with our Nosh coverage.