C.J.’s Old Garage was a doubly quirky joint on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, between Blake and Parker streets. To be known by the name of the former business is a good start for quirk. That, and the fact that C.J.’s Old Garage was for several years in the early 1970s an indoor mall for hippie craftsmen before the era of sidewalk vendors, is a second vote for quirk.
The space at 2566 Telegraph was a garage and car dealer from the early days of the automobile.
The photo above is from a 1923 edition of Pictorial California, showing the building as “University Garage” and identifying C.J. Felt (remember that name).
Several years later, probably in 1936, the business was renamed “University Motors” and was a a Pontiac dealership.
In 1965, C.J. Felt and John Bolander opened C.J. Motors, an English Ford dealership that also sold Triumph and Citroën cars. This was no ordinary garage or car dealer; between December 1965 and April 1966, C.J. Motors was a venue for an eclectic mix of live music performances, including jazz, the Loiellet Chamber Ensemble, the Laney College Chorus, and Berkeley’s almost-famous Loading Zone.
In the late 1960s, Felt sold the business and moved north, first to Oregon and then to Washington. C.J. Motor’s almost immediately became known as “C.J.’s Old Garage.”
In 1969, the Berkeley Gazette reported that a “creative shopping mall” with “a Berkeley flavor” was under construction by developer Larry Brooding in C.J.’s Old Garage. A combination of non-union hippie carpenters and a south-campus Christian group built 21 shops in “a two-tiered village … that’ll give the aura of a movie set.”
Crazy Dave, a Telegraph Avenue fixture, set up a fresh-squeeze orange juice stand. Chan More, “whose distinctive Indian foods have appeared at several fairs and festivals in the area,” opened an Indian restaurant. And more:
Several businesses started in C.J.’s Old Garage have gone on to mainstream success. Jane Saunders Short opened the original The Body Shop, now operating under the name “Terranova.” By Hand, a successful shop on Solano Avenue also started in C.J.’s Old Garage:
Other businesses were more ephemeral.
In the mid-1970s, hippie craftsmen migrated onto Telegraph Avenue, first in the setback in front of Cody’s bookstore at the corner of Haste, and then to the four-block stretch of sidewalk between Bancroft and Dwight.
The building formerly known as C.J.’s Old Garage now houses The Works Cooperative Exercise and Dance Studio and, in the former indoor village, are a few vestigial remnants of the glory of the early 1970s. Most are restaurants — Kiraku, Kabob and Karahi, Hi Mirchii Indian Cuisine, and Fondue Fred.
Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means. From time to time he delves into Berkeley’s quirky past, such as here. This is the eleventh installment in the series.
Dalzell is leading two guided walks in Berkeley in November: “Telegraph, Then and Now,” a Berkeley Path Wanderers’ walk, with co-leader Ted Friedman on Nov. 2.; and “Telegraph Avenue in the Sixties,” a Berkeley Historical Society walk, on Nov. 8.
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