Shop Talk: One bookstore opens, another one closes; more local business news

RABANA A new pot shop has opened in Berkeley. No, not that kind of pot shop, but a venue for imported ceramics. Rabana Ceramics of Mexico opened on Aug. 3 on San Pablo Avenue (at Virginia) in West Berkeley. The store sells tableware, garden pots and planters, vases, tile and gifts, all from the state of Guanajuato in north central Mexico. For the past 14 years, owner Tom Palmer has been using an office in the Sawtooth building at 930 Dwight Way for his various endeavors, including publishing books showcasing contemporary artists across the country and maintaining an online art gallery,  AmericanArtwork.net. Palmer had been looking for a space near his home and office to open a store and made it known by talking to retailers on the block in West Berkeley that he thought the area would be a great location for his new business. When Palmer found the spot at 1645 San Pablo, Berkeley Stereo was running a “spin-off” record store there. Previously, it had been occupied by a gift shop called Social Studies. “It’s an interesting building,” said Palmer, of the collectively owned corner. “The architect Dan Smith on the Virginia Street side is part owner, as is Jessie of Far & Fewa vintage collectibles boutique. Another owner is a Mexican American artist named Aida, who manages the building and has a studio in the back where she creates artwork, often relating to the violence in Mexico and at the U.S. border,” Palmer said. “Two people also have a space who work as art conservators. And there’s the jewelry school Silvera, on Virginia. There’s tenant parking and a big, beautiful, communal courtyard in the back.” Palmer, who has a son at Claremont Middle School who will be heading to Berkeley High in 2019, aims to support the local school community through his business. “Anyone in the Bay Area with a child in elementary, middle or high school can elect to have 10% of their purchase donated to their school’s PTA,” he said. Rabana, 1645 San Pablo Ave. (at Virginia), Berkeley 94702. Tel: 510-309-4638. Open Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment.

Sleepy Cats Books has moved from Orinda to Berkeley. Photo: Sleepy Cat Books

SLEEPY CAT BOOKS A new bookstore has arrived on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue. Selling new and gently used books, Sleepy Cat Books closed its Orinda shop after ten years to relocate to Berkeley. “I love Berkeley, it’s such an engaged community,” owner Jeff Koren said. The store opened on Aug. 20 in the space that was previously occupied by clothing boutique Upper Playground, which closed its doors after nine years. Koren said the space  was recently renovated but maintains its original vintage charm. As a bookseller with inventory across all genres, Sleepy Cat Books has an emphasis on literary fiction. “We’ll have literary events, including regular open mic poetry readings,” Koren said. The store will also provide special-order titles for customers, and accepts books by donation, for cash or store credit. The store’s name is inspired by Koren’s  lifelong fondness for books and cats. “My two cats, Oliver and Lyla, are at the store, usually sleeping in their pet beds at the counter. They love meeting people when they’re awake,” he said.  Sleepy Cat Book Shop, 2509 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley 94704. Tel: 925- 258-9076. Open daily 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Connect on Twitter.

COSE BELLE BOUTIQUE A new Italian- inspired boutique has opened in the space previously occupied for many years by Body Time, followed more recently by Yogofina Frozen Yogurt, in the Elmwood neighborhood. Cose Belle Boutique is owned by Julia D’Alo, along with her adjacent pop-up called The Sicilian. D’Alo previously ran the successful business in the Italian neighborhood of North Beach in San Francisco for ten years. She had to close up shop there recently due to illness. “I became really ill from undiagnosed Lyme disease. I am in recovery now after stem cell transplants. So this was a beautiful thing to be be able to reopen my store again,” she said. The shop, which opened on Aug. 20,  offer an eclectic collection of cose belle, meaning beautiful things, including women’s fashions, accessories and jewelry, antiques, gourmet foods, ceramics, eyewear and a little men’s section, too. D’Alo aims to keep the price point very reasonable. “I was lucky enough to find a good landlord who offers decent rents on this side of the block and I can extend that to my customers,” D’Alo said. “I want people to come back and have a good feeling about my store.” D’Alo added that Elmwood neighbors, local merchants and Cal students will always receive 10% off in her store. The Sicilian, the other part of the business, carries Sicilian gourmet food items as well as handcrafted jewelry and folkloric art made by her family from the island,cooking classes with D’Alo’s “Mamma Rosa”, special events, pop-up dinners through eatFeastly.com and tours to Sicily twice a year. “I chose the Elmwood in Berkeley because it is the area where my family has had our flagship restaurant for 25 years called Trattoria La Siciliana,” D’Alo said. “My new shop is a block away from my family and that makes me really happy because I love this neighborhood and the people here. I have many sweet memories,” she said. “We also have Agrodolce Sicilian Bistro in the Gourmet Ghetto. Needless to say, we are a family that loves Sicily and Berkeley.”  Cose Belle will have an opening party after the Elmwood Wine Walk on Sun., Sept. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.  Cose Belle Boutique, 2911 College (near Russell), Berkeley 94705. Tel: 510-575-8370. Open Wed. through Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fusion Academy will open in the former Blick Art Supplies on University Avenue in January. Photo: Fusion Academy

FUSION ACADEMY A new site of the nationwide Fusion Academy will open in Berkeley in January 2019, making it the seventh location in the Bay Area. “We have many families from the Berkeley area that commute to our other Fusion campuses and we wanted to serve the local need,” said Head of School Daniel Wright. Fusion is an accredited private school for grades 6-12 that offers education through a relationship-based, one-to–one model. “Fusion Academy is more than a school. We strive to be a resource to the community. We will connect with local professionals and host events of community interest around topics of education, wellness, post-secondary planning, mental health and more,” Wright said. Fusion Academy was founded in 1989 by innovative educator Michelle Rose Gilman in Solana Beach, CA, and has expanded to over 50 locations across the country. The school will take up residence in the former Blick Art Supplies on University Avenue. “Our campuses are unique, so we wanted to find the right space to create our school community. This building fits all our requirements and is in an accessible area of Berkeley,” Wright said. Fusion Academy, 811 University Ave. (at Sixth), Berkeley 94710. Tel: 866.414.5099. The School will be open weekdays from 7:30 a.m.  to 7:30 p.m. Check website for updates on schedules and more information. Connect on Facebook and Twitter.


Lewin’s Metaphysical Bookstore has closed. Photo: Sean Rouse

LEWIN’S METAPHYSICAL BOOKS Lewins’ Metaphysical Books, the esoteric bookstore on Ashby Avenue in the Elmwood, closed earlier this year and the business is for sale. According to Claudia Hunka, owner of the nearby Your Basic Bird on College Avenue, and a member of the Elmwood Business Association, the bookstore’s owner, Yvonne Lewin, died in mid-January. The store closed its doors on Jan. 15, posting a notice on the window. Lewin’s niece, Marlene Murphey, is the heir to the business but the future of the store is uncertain. Lewin opened the store in 1965 and, in 1985, her partner, Bennett “Bud” Hassink, a well-known bohemian persona in the Elmwood, joined her in running the store until he passed away in 2008. Lewin’s is located at 2644 Ashby Ave. (near College), next to Supercuts in Berkeley.

VERSAILLES NAIL SPA Moving just feet away from its previous location, Versailles Nail Spa and Waxing in the Elmwood is crossing the street from its current location at 2980 College Avenue to 2973 College in the space formerly occupied by Beauty Center, which closed last fall.

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 editors@berkeleyside.com. Read previous Shop Talk columns. And catch up with all food and drink related business news with our Nosh coverage.

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