Brown paper covers the windows and doors at the former Produce Center grocery store on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto.
The Produce Center, which closed early in 2018, will reopen as an expanded storefront for the Cheese Board. Photo: Sarah Han

In late 2017, news first emerged that The Cheese Board Collective had plans to expand into the space next door to its bakery and cheese store, then occupied by The Produce Center, a longtime Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood grocery store. In early 2018, the collective officially took over 1500 Shattuck Ave. when The Produce Center’s owner, Sam Hort, retired. At the time, the 60-member worker-owned collective was still deciding what it would do with the space. Since January, there hasn’t been much word about what’s going on inside and what’s to come. But recently, Nosh received tips that construction was taking place inside, so we decided it was time to check in with The Cheese Board for an update.

Over the years, the Cheese Board has greatly widened its footprint in Berkeley. The collective now occupies almost every single space on the half-block of Shattuck Avenue closest to Vine Street. But, when The Cheese Board first opened, in 1967, it was at 2114 Vine St. (Another collective-run business, The Juice Bar Collective, came after it; now, that tiny space is occupied by Fava). The group didn’t move to Shattuck until 1975. Eleven years later, it expanded when it acquired the former Pig-by-the-Tail Charcuterie storefront. Then, in 1990, the collective took over the fish market next door when it went out of business. Most recently, in 2007 — the year of its 40th anniversary — it expanded again, taking over the former University Plumbing and Hardware at 1512 Shattuck Ave., the official address of its popular pizzeria. Fifty-two years after its founding, The Cheese Board continues to draw in the crowds and could use even more room to grow.

According to Cheese Board member Cathy Goldsmith, “the space will be more of us: some new products, a reimagined cheese counter, more grab-and-go items, and more room for customers (but no significant additional seating). We will be using a third of the space as a production kitchen (both the bakery and the pizzeria have been bursting at the seams).”

Cheese Board Pizza and parklet at 1512 Shattuck Ave. Photo: Nancy Rubin

When asked what new products are in the works, Goldsmith declined to answer. “Can’t share the new products. We are in development stage,” she wrote via email. But, she did explain how the current store (at 1504 Shattuck Ave.) and the new space will be connected — a process, which she says has been “slow going, but very exciting.”

“The project has three phases. The first phase was to improve the structural aspects of the building (which were more extensive than we imagined).  That work is now complete. We have just begun phase II. The two buildings 1500 and 1504 Shattuck Ave. are not on the same level. We need to lower the floor [at 1500 Shattuck Ave.] so that we can connect the two spaces. During our closure [Cheese Board’s recent week-long summer break], we lowered the sidewalk and we will lower the floor so we can join the two spaces. Our phase III architectural design is complete,” Goldsmith wrote.

The Cheese Board is working with several East Bay-based designers and builders on the project, including architect Maurice Levitch (who worked with The Cheese Board to create the parklet outside of the pizzeria in 2014), designer Wylie Price (who’s designed restaurants like The Ramen Shop, State Bird Provisions and Asha Tea House), and contractors Alward Construction. Goldsmith said Cheese Board members are also “active in all areas of the project.”

When the floor is lowered, the plan is to cut through the wall and connect the two spaces. But, according to Goldsmith, the newly expanded Cheese Board will not be one contiguous storefront — the two distinct storefronts will remain due to “structural concerns.”

As for when the new expansion will be open, that’s still unknown. “The space may not be completed until sometime late spring 2020 or perhaps sometime in the summer,” Goldsmith said. “It is all so unpredictable. We are putting one foot in front of the other, making progress slowly but surely.”

Sarah Han was the editor of Nosh from 2017 to 2021. Previously, she worked as an editor at The Bold Italic, the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In 2020, Sarah won SPJ NorCal's...