Shop Talk: Persimmon; Etui; Neyborly; Mike’s Bikes; Sara Lisch Gallery; Dopp City Shoes

After 43 years in business, Brigittte Whitlock-Seelbach is closing Persimmon, her boutique on The Alameda near Solano Avenue. Photo: Nancy Rubin

PERSIMMON After 43 years in business at the corner of The Alameda and Solano Avenue, Persimmon is closing its doors. The women’s clothing boutique got its start in 1976 when Brigitte Whitlock-Seelbach and Ellen Otani got together to sell their own hand-made clothing, with other women-made apparel sold on consignment. The business began in the service house of a gas station that was on Solano at the time — where Venus restaurant is now located. When retail development began on the block, the store moved to its current location and eventually transitioned to ready-made merchandise as business blossomed. When Otani became seriously ill 20 years ago and could no longer work, Whitlock-Seelbach bought her out and took over the business herself.

The store is closing because Whitlock-Seelbach, who turned 70 earlier this year, is retiring and plans to do some traveling, she said. Whitlock-Seelbach came to Berkeley from her native Germany in 1972 when she met an American G.I. The two fell in love and she followed him to Berkeley. They are still married. Whitlock-Seelbach said she feels a lot of emotion over the closing of her business. “I have thoroughly enjoyed running Persimmon, and I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from my customers, who are like family,” she said. She hopes to see her many customers at some of her favorite local places like Monterey Market and The Cheese Board. “I will really miss my customers, many of whom come to the store now with their grandchildren,” she added. Whitlock-Seelbach is also grateful for her employees over the years, one of whom has been with her for 30 years. The store will be open until everything is sold, with everything marked at 30% off. Merchandise as of Wednesday, May 15 was sparse and Whitlock-Seelbach anticipates closing her doors by May 22, possibly sooner. Whitlock-Seelbach’s landlord is letting her out of her extended lease once everything is gone. Persimmon, 904 The Alameda (at Solano), Berkeley 94707. Tel: 510-524-3220. Current hours are Monday – Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.

Etui, a new boutique and crafts workshop space, has opened on San Pablo Avenue in West Berkeley. Photo: Kate Waterman-Rose

ETUI A new workshop and boutique has opened in West Berkeley. Etui offers classes and workshops in book arts, fine arts, paper flowers, fiber arts and print techniques. The space opened on May 1 to get classes underway while the shop fills out its inventory. The shop features supplies and materials that support its classes as well as items for general arts and crafts, antiques and handmade gifts. Etui is located in the space formerly occupied by Juniper Tree and, more recently, Neyborly. The business is co-owned by Alice Armstrong, Bethany Carlson Mann and Rae Steckler. Armstrong was former partner in the Aztec Cafe, and she and Carlson Mann were co-workers at Castle in the Air on Fourth Street, which closed in March. Steckler is former owner of  The Iron Dog, a shop in the Niles District of Fremont. “The Berkeley independent retail culture has long been our inspiration. We truly believe we offer something that will enhance and support that culture and community,” Carlson Mann said. Etui hosted a Mother’s Day Weekend event recently to introduce its opening. It featured a trunk show of local designer Alexis Berger’s jewelry and a pop-up shop by local florist Boden and Lilly. Etui2518 San Pablo Ave. (near Dwight Way), Berkeley 94702. Tel: 510-241-0213. Open daily except Tuesday, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Neyborly has closed one of its two spaces in Berkeley. Photo: Neyborly

NEYBORLY Having occupied the space where Etui has now taken up residence, the event rental space closed its doors on Oct. 31, 2018, when its lease expired. The business, which opened in 2016 with entrepreneurial brothers Ben and Andy Seidl at the helm, was originally conceived as a space for artists and designers to showcase their work and create community. Later, it transitioned into a community event rental space while continuing to provide a venue for local artists to display their work. Currently, it is cooperatively owned and operated, and continues to thrive in its second Berkeley location on San Pablo Avenue and University, called Neyborly-Poet’s Corner. The business also has locations in Jack London Square in Oakland, two locations in San Francisco and a space in Portland, Oregon. Neyborly, 2043 San Pablo Ave., (at University), Berkeley 94702. Tel: 707-867-1517. Booking requests can be made online.


Mike’s Bikes has moved from its location at the top of University near Oxford into the former Performance Bike building at 1824 University near MLK. Photo: Mike’s Bikes

MIKE’S BIKES The bike shop musical chairs in Berkeley continues. After 17 years in business at 2161 University Ave. (at Oxford), Mike’s Bikes closed its doors on May 14 and reopened the very next day just a few blocks down the street on University near MLK Jr. Way. The previous location is owned by the Regents of the University of California and the move was prompted by the university’s plans to build student housing at that location. The new store is in the former Performance Bike space which closed in November 2018. With several bike stores closing this year in Berkeley, how will Mike’s Bikes continue to thrive? “The key to success in the bike biz is just to remember that you can have the coolest stuff in the world, but customer experience is the most important thing,” said Mike’s Bikes general manager Sam Salzeider. The business has welcomed the opportunity to be in a larger space and is providing off-street parking in its rear lot for customers. Mike’s Bikes was founded in San Rafael in 1964 and operates 12 stores around the Bay Area. The original owner was Dave Kaplan who sold his business to his protégé, Ken Martin, in 1998. Martin then partnered with his friend Mike Gabrys to run the business. In 2005, then general manager Matt Adams purchased a stake in the company becoming a third partner. There are no plans for a grand opening, but a 10% discount will be granted to anyone who mentions the move announcement. Mike’s Bikes, 1824 University Ave. (near MLK Jr. Way), Berkeley 94703. Tel: 510-845-2453. Open Monday – Friday,  11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sara Lisch Gallery is now open in Trumpetvine Court. Photo: Sara Lisch

SARA LISCH GALLERY A new art gallery has opened in Trumpetvine Court — the cluster of shops behind Jupiter’s beer garden. Artist Sara Lisch held a grand opening for the space on May 11 with a show of her own work, titled “Forest Edge.” The gallery is in the space formerly occupied by Dopp City Shoes which was open for less than a year. Lisch, an Oakland native, has been an artist for 30 years. She is a member of artist-owned Mercury 20 Gallery in Oakland and has shown her work nationwide. She also runs Cedar Street Gallery, a street-level display case gallery on the corner of Shattuck and Cedar. Lisch plans to have regular gallery openings to showcase local artists’ work as well as poetry, music and private events in the space. “I have many memories of hanging out in my teens after youth group at Trumpetvine Court. It feels amazing, 30 years later, to have a gallery in a place that has given me so many wonderful memories,” she said. She described the current show of her figurative sculptures as being about “the emotional landscape of adolescence when everything has shifted and life feels both limitless and limited in the same breath.” Lisch chose the location for its proximity to the Arts District, heavy foot traffic and for the windows and natural light of the space. Lisch hopes to support artists and art appreciators with her new business. “I want to have a place for people to come and have the space to ponder, examine, laugh, question and appreciate the inner wealth of artistic  expression.” The current show is on display through June 15. Sara Lisch Gallery2115 Allston Way, #1, Berkeley 94704. Tel: 510-520-8697. Open Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m.-5 p.m. and by appointment.

Owner Sara Dopp at Dopp City Shoes before it closed on March 1. Photo: Anthony Rogers/Bob Cut Mag

DOPP CITY SHOES The boutique shoe store that previously occupied the Trumpetvine Court space where Sara Lisch Gallery has taken up residence closed its doors on March 1. Dopp City Shoes had its grand opening on August 5, 2018. Prior to opening her brick-and-mortar shop, local shoe designer Shayla Dopp ran her business from home and through pop-ups. Dopp said she had only been in business for a year before opening the boutique, which may have been too soon, citing a conflict of priorities. “I have every intention of opening another shop but I want to make certain I’m not the one that has to be there everyday so I can be on the creative side of things,” she said. She added that she also needs to be free to travel to the factory in Los Angeles that produces her shoes. While Dopp searches for a new showroom, she maintains a thriving business on the web, has expanded into wholesale and has her shoes featured at Galerie LA in the Row DTLA in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a children’s shoe design using leather scraps from her women’s line and a purse design using recycled plastic, both of which launch in June. For more information, visit Dopp City Shoes. Also on Instagram.

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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