A3Ventures has moved into the new UC building in downtown Berkeley. Photo: A3Ventures

A3VENTURES  A3Ventures, the innovation lab and investment engine of AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah (AAA NCNU), is putting down roots in downtown Berkeley. The company, based at Jack London Square in Oakland for the last three years, moved to the UC Berkeley-owned building at 2121 Berkeley Way (at Shattuck) in November, to give itself more space to expand. Having signed a 10-year lease , A3Ventures intends to recruit talent from UC while strengthening relationships with local communities. Kalpesh Joshi, Head of A3Ventures Innovation Lab, said it is the perfect space to grow the lab’s portfolio. The company’s first product, GIG Car Share, launched in Berkeley and Oakland in April 2017, is expanding to other parts of the Bay Area, and has plans for further growth in Sacramento using an all-electric fleet of vehicles.

“With this premier location in downtown Berkeley and our proximity to a world-class university, we’ll be able to recruit top talent, deepen our relationship with the local communities where we operate, and continue to innovate new products and services for AAA Members and the general public,” Joshi said. The new offices share the building with UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, the Department of Psychology and the School of Public Health, providing collaborative space designed to serve 900 students, staff and faculty.

AAA will also move its Autonomous Vehicle Strategy team to Berkeley, having recently acquired GoMentum Station, the largest autonomous vehicle testing facility in the United States. “AAA is committed to transforming our organization to be prepared for a driver-less future,” said Suna Taymaz, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for AAA NCNU. “Helping the public travel more safely has always been AAA’s priority, and our focus at A3Ventures and GoMentum Station will be ensuring these new technologies are developed smartly and implemented safely into our transportation system.” A3Ventures, 2121 Berkeley Way (between Shattuck and Hearst) and 1919 Shattuck Ave., 6th Floor, Berkeley 94704. Connect on Twitter.

Ethan Aragon at GameStop on its last day of business on Shattuck. Photo: Denis Aragon

GAMESTOP Gamestopan electronic gaming store in downtown Berkeley has closed. Berkeley resident Denis Aragon visited GameStop on its last day with his 8-year-old son Ethan (in photo). “We loved going to this Gamestop. He was pretty sad when they left,” Aragon said. The signage said the business was moving, but no new location was noted. According to a customer service representative for the business, customers who had pre-orders with the Berkeley store can fulfill them at the store in Emeryville. Founded in 1996, GameStop Corp. is based in Grapevine, TX, with over 50,000 employees at more than 5,800 stores worldwide. The business has several other locations around the Bay Area.  

Revere Glass in West Berkeley has closed. Photo: Revere Glass

REVERE GLASS Revere Glass, which offered glass blowing classes on Eighth Street in West Berkeley has closed. The studio was founded in 2006 by artist Dustin Revere and offered public classes, private sessions and YouTube instructional videos in glass blowing. The studio also offered hand-blown art glass pieces by Revere for sale who has been blowing glass for over 20 years. Classes specialized in pipe making (for use with cannabis) were part of the unique curriculum of the school.

Zoonie’s Candy Store has a sign in the window for a retail change. Photo: Zoonie’s
Zoonie’s Candy Store has a sign in the window for a retail change. Photo: Zoonie’s

ZOONIE’S CANDY SHOP Is the space at Zoonie’s on College Avenue changing hands? Signage on the storefront seems to suggest that possibility. In April 2018 we wrote about Powell’s Sweet Shoppe on College Avenue (at Alcatraz) re-branding as Zoonie’s Candy Shop. When the lease came up for renewal, the owners decided to become independent after being part of the Powell’s franchise since 2010.  Zoonie’s is co-owned by Shahrazad Junblat, her sister Zeina Hissen, and Zeina’s husband, Nabil Hissen, and they have a second  East Bay store in Lafayette. Recently, a zoning sign went up indicating a pet grooming business (see next post) is in the works. “Our lease is through 2020, so we are still here and a change is not 100% certain yet,” Junblat said. Zoonie’s, 3206 College Ave. (at Alcatraz), Berkeley 94705. Tel:  510-658-YUMM (510-658-9866). Open Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m and Sun., 11 a.m to 8 p.m. Connect with Zoonie’s on Facebook.

Healthy Spot, a new pet grooming retailer is a proposed project for the Zoonie’s Candy Shop site. Photo: Healthy Spot
Healthy Spot, a new pet grooming retailer is a proposed project for the Zoonie’s Candy Shop site. Photo: Healthy Spot

HEALTHY SPOT Signage indicates a proposed project is underway for the space currently occupied by Zoonie’s Candy Shop (see above). Healthy Spot, a pet grooming business based in Los Angeles, has begun an approval process for the retail space. The business is co-owned by Mark Boonnark and Andrew Kim who opened their first store in 2008 in L.A. Both attended UC Berkeley, graduating in 2001 and 2002, returning to L.A. afterwards. The two have been looking for a location in Berkeley to open another store for over a year. The business is a retailer for premium and ethically manufactured products for pets, best-in-class dog grooming services and engagement in pet-friendly community events. Dog daycare is available in some locations though not planned for the Berkeley store. “What Whole Foods started as and changed for the human experience, we do for pets. We do a lot of homework to bring higher quality products than the big pet store chains and take excellent care of the pets we care for,” Boonard said. He added that there is no target date for opening the business as they are undergoing a lengthy approval process. Shop Talk will provide updates as things progress. Healthy Spot. Fifteen stores in Los Angeles with a San Francisco location opening in Mission Bay in April. Connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

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.

Mary Corbin is a writer and artist who has lived in Berkeley for over 30 years. Mary moved to the Bay Area from St. Louis to attend California College of the Arts in Oakland where she completed her BFA...