BILL’S MEN’S SHOP A fixture on Telegraph Avenue for nearly 60 years, Bill’s Men’s Shop is closing this spring because long-time owner Marty Berg is retiring. The store was originally opened in 1961 by William Platt after he bought Farber’s, a men’s clothing store at that location, from a previous owner. In 1969 Platt expanded into the adjacent space that was formerly home to a children’s store. Berg began working at the store in 1966 while he was a freshman at Cal, and, in 1974, became part owner with William Platt’s widow after he died. Berg became full owner in 1979 and broadened the footwear collection for both men and women. Berg said he has loyal customers from the 1960s who still shop at Bill’s. He said he has mentored generations of employees with his signature motto, “work slowly and with accuracy.” His customer-service style is known to be thoughtful, respectful and attentive.
When asked what changes he has observed over the years from his vantage point on an iconic Berkeley street, Berg said Telegraph Avenue has always been vibrant, but things have changed over the years in ways that not everyone appreciates. The general vibe of the street has evolved, he said, from the days of Vietnam protests — which he called “a hectic but exciting time”— and which he believes made the neighborhood famous and infamous all at once. He noted that Telegraph became a destination — and retail hub — for tourists in the ’70s and ’80s because of its history and proximity to the university. In subsequent years, growing issues such as homelessness have made Telegraph less desirable to some demographics, like families, he said. Berg added that recessions, along with difficult permitting practices by the city, have also hit retailers hard on Telegraph, leaving vacant storefronts at times.
Berg has stayed to ride the ebb and flow. “When I first started working at the store while I was a student at Cal, there weren’t many other shopping areas. Then Hilltop Mall opened in Richmond and Fourth Street was developed as a retail center. Oakland, too, developed shopping districts. But I have always preferred running a business on an interesting street like Telegraph to being in a mall, so I stayed and weathered the ups and downs with faith. I’ve always been very hands-on; I enjoy that feeling, even in the lean years. And I have adapted to the changing needs of the shoppers,” he said.
Berg is planning on closing his store by March or April. He will miss the interaction with people, especially with his long-time customers and the renewal of young people each season from the university. He has enjoyed being involved in fashion and following the trends. As his retirement approaches, which coincides with him turning 70, he said he looks forward to being more spontaneous and to spending more time with his two grandchildren in Seattle.
The store is currently running a sale and is offering increasing discounts from mid-January until closing. Berg said he does not know what will happen with the property after he closes the shop. Bill’s Men’s Shop, 2386 Telegraph Ave. (near Durant), Berkeley. Phone: 510-848-5436. Hours are Monday to Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday, Noon-5 p.m. Hours may decrease as the store nears closing.
POT-POURRI Pot-Pourri, a Burlingame-based store offering artisanal and hand-crafted gifts, will open a second store in mid to late January on Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley. It will take the space formerly occupied by Kid Dynamo (which closed in August). Andy and Julia Diez are the original owners of the business which was first located in Oakland. Their son Max, who currently resides in Berkeley with his wife Ashley, will be the sole owner of the Berkeley store. Andy and Juliz Diez lived in Berkeley in the early years of their marriage and their two sons, Max and Chris, were both born here. The couple moved to Oakland in 1970. The first Pot-Pourri was opened in the Oakland hills in 1969 by Andy Diez, a member of the Mills College Ceramic Guild. It operated as a gallery selling his ceramics and the work of other potters and members of the Guild. Expanding the inventory to showcase other arts and crafts, the store moved three times within the same shopping area. In 1996, a second location was opened in Burlingame, where it continues to operate today. Julia joined the store in 1991 and their oldest son Chris began working in the store in 1996. Their younger son Max took over management of the Oakland store on Redwood Road in 2006 until its recent closing in 2019. Pot-Pourri, 2108 Vine St. (near Shattuck), Berkeley. Phone: 510-529-4424. Hours will be Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, Noon-5 p.m . Connect on Facebook and Instagram
RADBIRD FASHION & CONSIGNMENT The women’s clothing and consignment shop is moving temporarily to 2918 Domingo Ave. (in the alley near Peet’s Coffee) for January and February. The business will be closed Jan. 1 to 9 and will re-open Friday, Jan. 10 for normal business hours. The move is happening to accommodate a retrofit for the shop and the offices upstairs. According to owner Lori Tiedemann, the entire building has been going through an earthquake retrofit for several months to make the building more stable, temporarily displacing other businesses as well. Neighboring Amphora Nueva, an olive oil store, and home décor shop Ellington and French were also closed during the retrofit. They have reopened for business. Radbird Fashion & Consignment, 2938 Domingo Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-845-0142. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Connect on Facebook and Instagram
If you’re a Berkeley business with news to share, or you’ve noticed a new or closing business in Berkeley, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Shop Talk columns. Catch up with food- and drink-related business news on Nosh.