Shop Talk: Molly B to close original store; Papyrus and Urban Outfitters shutter

WIndow display at Molly B in North Berkeley
Molly B on Vine Street, known for its creative window dressings, is closing after 32 years, but its Fourth Street store remains open. Photo: Molly B

MOLLY B Passers-by over the years won’t have failed to notice the distinctive and elaborate window dressings at Molly B, a women’s boutique on Vine Street in the Walnut Square shopping complex in North Berkeley. Now, however, the shop’s window is covered with a sign announcing that the store is shuttering after 32 years in business at that location. Its Fourth Street store will remain open, however.

“I am closing the Vine Street shop because I am getting older and need to concentrate on just my Fourth Street store where the traffic is brisk and customers come from all over,” owner Susan Trefethen told Berkeleyside. Trefethen said the retail market has changed because customers don’t always go to brick-and-mortar stores to shop, which has had an impact on sales.

Molly B’s signature window dressings were what many people will remember the store for.  “My fabulous windows are done by stage set designer Nina Taylor. She is the most creative person I have ever known. Every one of her windows is a work of art!” said Trefethen. “Many people walking late at night, having had dinner at Chez Panisse or browsing neighboring stores, have encountered Nina on her ladder in the window in various stages of creation. The windows have been as intriguing as the unique clothing sold inside.”

Trefethen opened the first Molly B in North Berkeley in 1985, having already had an earlier business, Rosebud, in that location. “I opened my first Rosebud on Piedmont Avenue in 1978 with a wonderful partner, Diane Wyatt. We ended up opening two more, one in Walnut Square and then in Trumpetvine Court, originally as lingerie stores,” she said. Subsequently, Trefethen opened up a fourth shop in Montclair. All four stores closed together in 1985.


After opening Molly B, named for her daughter Molly, on Vine Street, Trefethen opened up a second shop on Fourth Street about five years later. The business owner gave a shout-out to all the assistance she has had running the business. “I have had the help of so many talented women over the years who have worked so hard and are responsible for the success of the store,” she said.

There is no official closing date for the Vine Street store and Trefethen will be open until every piece of merchandise is gone. A closing sale is underway with 50% markdowns at press time.

Molly B, 2112 Vine St. (near Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley. Phone: 510-843-1586. And 1811 Fourth St. (near Hearst), Berkeley. Phone: 510-548-3103. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Connect on Facebook.

Papyrus on Fourth Street is closing its doors, along with its College Avenue store and all locations nationwide. Photo: Papyrus

PAPYRUS Greeting card, paper products and gifts retailer Papyrus is closing all stores nationwide, including its two shops in Berkeley. The locations on College Avenue and Fourth Street have been in business for decades. Papyrus was founded in Marcel and Margrit Schurman’s Berkeley kitchen in 1950 and operated as a wholesale business until they opened their first store in Walnut Square in Berkeley in 1973. The couple’s daughter, Dominique, took over the business in 1982. Its parent company, Schurman Retail Group, plans to close all California stores within four to six weeks. In a statement released by email to CBS MoneyWatch, Schurman Retail Group’s CEO, Dominique Schurman, said, “Despite our Herculean efforts to realign our Papyrus and American Greetings stores to fit today’s shopping environment, Schurman Retail Group had to make the difficult decision to close all 254 of our stores in North America, which will impact our workforce of about 1,400 employees. We want to thank all of our loyal customers for their patronage of our proud family business started by my parents 70 years ago.” Papyrus, 1793 Fourth St. and 2924 College Ave., Berkeley

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URBAN OUTFITTERS The clothing and lifestyle retailer has closed its store on Bancroft Way to make way for an eight-story student housing complex on Bancroft Way that was approved in 2018. Urban Outfitters had been there since 1991 and expanded in 1998 when a tanning salon vacated the adjacent space. According to Dana Ellsworth, president of Rue-Ell Enterprises, Inc. the commercial property broker for the unit, “the store contacted us in December for a mid-January walk-through and did not return calls to discuss a further extension of their lease. They had vacated by the time of the walk-through. They told us in 2016 that sales were declining at this once prosperous location and, in 2018, the decline was more severe. We cut their rent and terms to see if they could turn it around. We are sorry to see them go.” Founded in 1970 across from the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, Urban Outfitters operates more than 200 stores in the United States, Canada and Europe. Urban Outfitters has three other Bay Area stores, including one in Emeryville. Urban Outfitters was at 2590 Bancroft Way, Berkeley

If you’re a Berkeley business with news to share, or you’ve noticed a new or closing business in Berkeley, email editors@berkeleyside.com. Read more Shop Talk columns. Catch up with food- and drink-related business news on Nosh.