People’s Bazaar, opened on Adeline Street in 1972, has closed. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

People’s Bazaar, a South Berkeley store that was more of an overflowing attic full of antique finds and old furniture, has closed after 47 years in business.

The absence of upholstered chairs and coffee tables in front of Sam Dyke’s Adeline Street shop is conspicuous.

Owner and co-founder Dyke “has been a staple in the community forever,” said City Councilman Ben Bartlett, who grew up in and represents South Berkeley. “That store has been such a big, bright symbol of his work and presence. It was a real cultural landmark.”

A sign on the storefront says “sale pending.” Grant Yeatman, vice president of JLL said “someone local who’s been in Berkeley their whole life” is purchasing the property and intends to run a business there.

Dyke could not be reached for an interview either, but he continues to live in South Berkeley and retains a legacy throughout the neighborhood. In the 1980s, he and others started Berkeley’s Juneteenth Festival. Bartlett also remembered him hosting a youth poetry event at the Black Repertory Theatre.

For decades, Dyke could be found inside his store, which was an early member of what’s now the South Berkeley antiques district. In People’s Bazaar, countless items were stacked on top of one another, creating a seemingly precarious mountain of mirrors, dressers and knickknacks.

The store embraced and promoted that chaotic identity.

“People’s Bazaar isn’t an antiques shop,” the website still reads. “It’s Ali Baba’s cave, and you won’t even need a magic word to get in. We’ve a veritable treasure trove for you to search through for your perfect find…Looking for a Mille Flore paperweight? You might have to move a tournament chess set, a Chinese basket, go around a Victorian lamp, and climb over a couple of Persian rugs to get to it.”

The site says Dyke started the shop with his late partner and mentor R.D. Bonds in 1972. (Bonds was another founder of the Juneteenth Festival.)

At the Berkeley Drop-In Center a block away on Adeline, Director Alejandro Soto-Vigil said Dyke would hire his clients to move furniture and perform other tasks at the store.

Now the large space sits nearly empty.

Earlier this year, Bartlett was preparing to propose that the city purchase the People’s Bazaar site, turning it into a new African American Holistic Resource Center. That would have been an expensive endeavor, including a large upfront cost for a seismic retrofit. The councilman said he withdrew the proposal when he learned Dyke was already in talks with another potential buyer. Now a city-owned property on Alcatraz Avenue is under consideration for the center’s location, Bartlett said.

People’s Bazaar was also representative of an era when South Berkeley was home to a much larger black population and thriving business district.

“It’s a bummer also to lose this symbol of African American prosperity,” Bartlett said. “So much of the talk on that corridor is about this sense of poverty we’re trying to address. People forget this is also a place of black prosperity and business, and [Dyke] really is a shining example of that cohort.”

Bartlett said he has pieces from People’s Bazaar, including a “crazy lion-maned, gold-frame” mirror.

Other customers weren’t as enthusiastic about the shop, with several complaining online and off about steep prices and sharing fire safety concerns about the stacked wooden furniture.

Bartlett said he isn’t sure why Dyke closed People’s Bazaar, but guessed that the owner is entering “another phase of life,” and noted that he owns other properties in Berkeley still.

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Natalie Orenstein

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...