Savers Thrift at 1414 University Ave. will close on Jan. 16, about two years after it opened. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Two years after it opened to fanfare – and controversySavers Thrift Superstore at 1414 University Ave. will shut its doors on Saturday, Jan. 16.

No-one from corporate headquarters would speak to Berkeleyside about the reasons behind the closure, but a spokeswoman confirmed the closure. The store manager said Berkeley has proved too expensive for the discount thrift store chain.

“The cost of doing business in Berkeley is not conducive for us,” said Reginald Batiste, the store manager. Savers wrote on a flyer being handed out to customers that “certain business conditions have made it necessary to permanently close the Berkeley store.”

Reginald Batiste has been working at the Savers Thrift on University Avenue since it opened. He will move to another store when Savers closes on Jan. 16. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

The building, which once housed Andronico’s grocery store, has also had some issues, and they were a factor in the decision to close, said Batiste. The plumbing, in particular, has been a problem, he said.

The store’s 55 employees will be offered the opportunity to move to another Savers store, but that might mean some will have to relocate, Batiste said.

The store will close at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16. All items in the store will be 50% off from Jan. 14-16, said Batiste. The store plans to send out an email-blast soon announcing the closure.

The news that Savers was closing disappointed some customers shopping on Thursday.

Sarah Reid said she comes by Savers weekly to find objects she can use in her interior decorating business, Small Victories Design. On Thursday, her basket was full with vases and other containers she said she might use as umbrella stands, garlands to decorate a little girl’s room, and small glass containers.

“I’m so sad,” said Reid, who lives in Oakland.

The Washington-based, for-profit thrift store opened its 330th store in Berkeley in November 2013 –one of the smaller stores in the chain — in a ceremony filled with balloons and music, but with the unusual challenge of trying to repair relations with its neighbors.

For years, Andronico’s, the previous tenant, shared a spacious parking lot with a string of stores known as Strawberry Walk that bordered the lot. But, in 2013, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that Berkeley Bazaar Partnerships (BBP), the owners of the Andronico’s building, had exclusive rights to the parking lot. BBP then restriped the parking lot and spray-painted “Reserved for Savers Employees,” on a number of spots. That angered nearby businesses.

The president of Savers asked BBP to remove those signs. BBP  then painted “Reserved for 1414 University.”

Despite that rocky beginning, Savers had a loyal customer base, which included some of the people who had originally been opposed to the store, said Batiste.

“That’s turned into ‘we love you guys,’ ” he said.

Savers declined to elaborate on why the University Avenue store was closing but encouraged shoppers to seek out other locations.

“Though unfortunate, we have made the difficult decision to close the Savers thrift store in Berkeley,” Sara Gaugl, director of communications at Savers, said in an email. “We are deeply grateful for the community that supported this store, and we sincerely hope that shoppers will visit our other Savers locations in Northern California.”

Excitement and concern mark opening of Savers Thrift (11.15.13)
Neighbors angry at parking restrictions at old Andronico’s (10.01.13)
Andronico’s to shutter University Avenue store (10.17.11)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...