GREAT CHINA RESTAURANT Fourteen months after a grease fire ripped through Great China restaurant on Kittredge, forcing it to close, construction is set to begin on a larger, more modern restaurant in a new location. Work should start in the next two weeks at Great China’s new space at 2190 Bancroft Ave. near Fulton, said the architect Tai Yu, whose family owns the restaurant. (His father Michael Yu and brother James Yu run the actual restaurant.) The new space (former site of Old Looney’s) will be 4,600 square feet — much larger than the old space — and will have a more modern look, recycled finishes, and sprinklers. “The food will remain the same,” said Yu, as the former chef and line cooks will return. The new restaurant, however, will place more emphasis on improving service. “We are going to try and provide a better ambiance for our patrons,” he said. Yu said the family hopes the new Great China will open in August.
THE OTHER CHANGE OF HOBBIT After 36 years in Berkeley, the science fiction and fantasy bookstore The Other Change of Hobbit, has moved to El Cerrito. The store, founded in 1977, was located in Shattuck Square in downtown Berkeley until three years ago, when it moved to 3264 Adeline St. Dave Nee, the owner, always thought he would move back downtown, but the owner remodeled the building for the restaurant Comal. Although the Lorin neighborhood was nice, the store never really flourished there, Nee said. The space was too big and too expensive and city policies — like putting in parking meters for a while – meant the store wasn’t earning enough. Nee fell behind on his rent and was evicted. But he has landed in a great space — the former El Cerrito City Club at 1600 Kearny St., not far from the Del Norte BART station. Nee is next door to another former Berkeley bookseller, Michael Hackenberg, whose Hackenberg Books specializes in rare books. “I regret having left Berkeley,” said Nee. “It’s my hometown but I don’t feel the climate there is right anymore for a bookstore, I’m sad to say.” Hours at The Other Change of Hobbit are currently from 4-7 p.m. on weekdays and by appointment on weekends. Call 510-848-0413 for more information.
UNIVERSITY PRODUCE Ali Sholan has been running University Produce at 1700 University Ave. since 1992. In the first 20 years, his rent only increased from $1,300 to $1,700. But a new landlord came in recently and hiked up Sholan’s rent to $2,500 a month and then rented the space next door to a merchant who plans to put in an almost identical store. Sholan decided to close and University Produce’s last day was Sunday, March 25. Notes reader Lilybear: “It’s been our neighborhood little corner store for years…. I am sad. University market made sandwiches and always had long lines at lunch time.” Sholan plans to start driving a taxi and look for a new space, he said.
Shop Talk is Berkeleyside’s regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses — openings, closings, new directions, relaunches, relocations. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns here.
If you’re interested in restaurant and food businesses in particular, check out Bites, Berkeleyside Nosh’s regular column in which we post updates on East Bay food news.