Shop Talk: Essence of Tibet; Paco Collars; Empress Vintage

Essence of Tibet on College in the Elmwood is consolidating into one smaller storefront. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

ESSENCE OF TIBET — The Tibetan gift shop on College Avenue is downsizing. Dolma, the current owner, and her ex-husband opened the business 18 years ago. In 2012, they took over the adjacent space that was formerly Sweet Dreams Party Store and operated out of two spaces. Citing increasing rent each year, Essence of Tibet is downsizing its inventory through a sale and consolidating into one space at 2903 College Avenue. Dolma hopes to make the final transition in July. Essence of Tibet, 2903 College Ave. (at Russell), Berkeley, 94705. Tel: 510-665-5889.  Open Mon. – Sat., 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Connect on Facebook

Paco Collars on Shattuck Avenue is moving to West Berkeley in July. Photo: Harold Adler

PACO COLLARS — After 10 years on Shattuck Avenue, the dog collar store is moving to West Berkeley. Co-owners Ana Poe and Leslie Sullivan will close their doors at 2905 Shattuck Ave. (at Russell) on July 6. The new location in West Berkeley at 2245 Fifth St. will open on July 16. The business makes and sells hand-crafted leather dog collars and was created in 2002 when Poe couldn’t find a collar that was both strong enough and attractive for her pit bull Paco. Working initially in alternative spaces in basements and warehouses, the business moved into its current space on Shattuck in 2009. The five-person team said they are proud to be a local small business, centered and grown in Berkeley, with a global customer base. “We are also a queer, women of color owned business,” Laur Freymiller, head of retail sales, said. Paco Collars will have a moving party in early August. The business will be shifting to an appointment-only model.  Paco Collars, 2245 Fifth St. (at Bancroft), Berkeley 94710. Tel: 510-848-7226. Connect on Facebook.

Empress Vintage is in danger of losing its lease. Photo: Empress Vintage

EMPRESS VINTAGE — The vintage clothing boutique in the Lorin district of Berkeley is at risk of displacement. Janina Angel Bath, the owner of the shop, has been in business at this location for five and a half years and has had a storefront in the neighborhood for eight years. Bath, who is on a month-to-month lease, said her landlord, Jennifer Chen – a small business owner in San Francisco – wants her to leave but is not providing a reason.  “I have paid insurance for the business for 2019 and have full stock of fall, winter and holiday items in the store now. To be forced to leave with no explanation as to why would be a disaster for the business” Bath said. Chen did not return Berkeleyside’s request for comment.

Empress Vintage is in a duplex space, shared with tech startup non-profit, Replate, which moved next door in September. Replate, which pioneered an app to facilitate the transfer of unused food from corporate events to nonprofits helping the hungry and needy, has hired a contractor to renovate its side of the shared garden. Replate is not interested in taking over Bath’s space, the company told Berkeleyside. “We moved from a WeWork to the Lorin District to be closer to the community because as a non-profit that is core to our values,” said Maen Mahfoud, the CEO of Replate.


Empress Vintage specializes in all-gender vintage clothing and products for health and spirituality. The store hosts classes, workshops, trunk shows and performances. Connect on Facebook and InstagramEmpress Vintage, 1757 Alcatraz Ave. (near Adeline), Berkeley 94703. Tel: 510-542 – 6196. Open Tues.,  2 – 7 p.m., Wed., 2 – 6 p.m., Thurs., Fri., Sun and Mon.,  Noon – 6 p.m., Sat., 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. 

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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