Moved North Shattuck
A Priori finds new spot on same street after sewer backup
The day before reopening A Priori on Nov. 18 in a new location at Shattuck and Vine, owner Lisa Tana and manager Amy Rosenfeld pulled the paper off the plate glass windows, rolled up the gate in front of the doors and spent the next half hour turning away well-wishers and customers eager to return.
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“I can’t wait!” one woman gushed.
The beloved North Shattuck store was just shy of its 10-year anniversary in July when a sewer backup flooded the 2112B Vine St. store. A happy ending, however, was right around the corner — at the site of the recently shuttered Earthly Goods, a women’s clothing store.
The new, 4,000-square-foot location down the street at 2100 Vine triples A Priori’s size.
The store is known for home decor accessories — tabletop and gift items with a focus on the handmade, fair trade and locally sourced. While it stocks museum store favorites like Chilewich placemats and Chive vases, A Priori also promotes the work of Berkeley artists like Rigel Stuhmiller, an illustrator whose birds, botanicals and fruits and vegetables adorn tea towels and notecards, and Sabine Herrmann, whose Plantillo brand includes a line of pillows depicting succulents.
“We always sold jewelry and accessories but never apparel,” says Tana.
That’s changed in the new store, which includes a fledgling assortment of boutique brands emphasizing quality and ease. Such offerings include loose-fitting separates in natural fibers by Cut Loose, a San Francisco line, tops and skirts in bold prints by Salaam and sweaters by Alashan Cashmere. Tana credits former Earthly Goods owners and Brigitte Whitlock, of the now-defunct Persimmon boutique on Solano Avenue, with brand selection.
“I’m hoping we can attract some of those customers who miss those stores,” Tana says.
Moved North Shattuck
Leaky roof causes kids’ clothes boutique to relocate for holidays
Another North Shattuck shuffle took place when mid-October’s atmospheric river caused a leaky roof at Dimples, a children’s clothing boutique at 1506 Walnut St.
Luckily, A Priori’s former location on Vine was repaired by that time and Dimples moved in. The store will remain in its temporary location for the holidays and move back to its prior home the second week in January. Dimples carries gift-worthy children’s clothing ranging in size from newborn to age 12, plus books, art supplies, toys and some women’s apparel.
Dimples, 2112B Vine St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-647-9949. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Connect on Instagram.
Closing Southwest Berkeley
Nordic House will close at end of year
Fans of Husmor Fishballs and Toms Finks Lakrids will no longer be able to get such popular Scandinavian foodstuffs from Nordic House, which will close on Dec. 31.
The 59-year-old family business moved from Oakland to Berkeley in 2010 but could not survive strict import laws, according to owner Pia Klausen. Berkeleyside first reported its closure in February 2019, but it’s taken a while to wind down. Klausen said then that the closing date depended on the sale of the building. A going-out-of-business sale with deep discounts will be held Jan. 3-15.
Nordic House, 2709 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-705-1932. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Closed Christmas.
In the spotlight Telegraph Avenue
Moe’s Books workers sign first union contract
Moe’s Books, the iconic Telegraph Avenue bookstore, ratified its first union contract on Nov. 22. The move reflects the growing popularity of unions in general — a direct result of the pandemic — and the unionization of book store workers in particular.
The Industrial Workers of the World Moe’s Books Union organized in early 2021, lobbying for better working conditions, pay and benefits. The most contentious debate surrounded worker safety during the pandemic. Workers also complained that the store was management heavy and that more workers were needed to ensure their safety under pandemic protocols.
Shop Steward Owen Hill told Industrial Worker, the union’s website, that “the company has pushed back at times, attempting to loosen standards, but for the most part we have maintained worker and customer safety. This is a constant battle.”
The contract provides a $20 per hour starting wage, dental benefits and more holidays off—including International Workers’ Day.
“The time is right,” Hill told Industrial Worker, about the staff’s solidarity. “Workers everywhere are organizing and fighting back.”
“Supporting our workers is part of Moe’s Books 60-year legacy, and we are proud to continue in that tradition,” Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe’s Books, said in a statement. “If a small, independent used bookseller can accomplish this while keeping the doors open during a global pandemic, there is no reason for more lucrative companies to claim labor organizing will shut down their business or harm their employees.”
Closed North Shattuck
End of an era for Beauty & Attitude
Was it the pandemic? Hiring difficulties? Or, as the closure of hundreds of Victoria’s Secret stores may seem to show, has the idea of a lingerie shop simply gone out of fashion?
The owners of Beauty & Attitude don’t want to say why they’re closing their North Shattuck boutique at the end of December after 15 years. Remaining merchandise is 75% off. Even if you didn’t shop at the store, which sold lingerie, loungewear and a men’s line, passersby were treated to its often funny and provocative window displays, including a “Get out the Vote” campaign featuring red-white-and-blue undergarments around Election Day.
At press time, pairs of thigh-high stockings remained in the window.
Reopened Southwest Berkeley
Home furnishings store reopens in new location amid remodel boom
Like many interior designers, Michael Garig and Robin Helbling of Influent Home saw a burst of demand for their services during the pandemic.
“Everybody and his brother and his sister wanted to remodel their home office or a bathroom or a kitchen,” says Helbling, who joined Garig, the store’s owner, in 2017. “And that is a trend that’s continuing.”
What didn’t survive the pandemic, however, was Influent Home’s San Pablo Avenue store, which closed in March 2020. The store reopened in October, but is now half the size and farther south on San Pablo. Little else has changed.
The shop’s offerings continue to reflect an “upscale eclectic” aesthetic, Helbling says, “with an earthy and sophisticated bohemian vibe.” The shop carries high-end furniture from MadeGoods, known for unusual finishes like shagreen, Global Views and Urbia, and rugs by Feizy. Accessories include what Helbling calls “truly quirky” items from Gold Leaf Design Group, like ceramic alligators that hang on a wall, Indaba pillows and throws from India and handmade Graf Lantz wool felt handbags, electronics covers and coasters.
As for design services, Garig and Helbling can help with window treatments, upholstery and floor coverings, as well as remodeling. “One thing we’re up against is the supply chain,” Helbling says. Upholstered and made-to-order goods will likely take longer than usual.
SockPop opens for third time on College Avenue
In 2014, The Atlantic chronicled the rise of statement socks for men, part of a trend that has marched into womenswear. And this April, Harper’s Bazaar credited the “comeback of the humble sock” to the popularity of lockdown leisurewear.
Reflecting that trend, a pop-up called SockPop opened in November for the third time on College Avenue, down the street from its previous spot.
The shop offers dozens of patterns in almost every stripe — including stripes — but those with images are the most popular. Berkeley resident Nicole Chabot, who runs the business with her husband, Scott Regan, says the shop’s recurring bestseller has been Significant Otter, depicting two otters holding hands. New this year are socks with licensed images of Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou and the notorious RBG, along with a collection featuring designs by the late Berkeley artist Laurel Birch.
In keeping with tradition, the family donates a percentage of profits to their sons’ schools. This year’s donation will benefit Berkeley High’s jazz program and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. The pop-up is open through December.
SockPop Berkeley, 2926 College Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-859-7222. Hours are noon-7 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon-8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Connect on Facebook.
Reopened North Shattuck
Berkeley’s archive of ‘curious scents’ reopens after lockdown
This time of year we’re reminded that frankincense and myrrh made for precious gifts in the ancient world, but what, exactly, did they smell like?
“They are spectacular smelling — with an uplifting quality and notes of lemon and precious woods,” says Mandy Aftel, a renowned fragrance expert, historian and natural fragrance perfumer.
You can sniff both fragrances, in resin form, at the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, the nation’s first (and likely only) museum dedicated to natural fragrances. The museum reopened in November.
Housed in a cottage behind Aftel’s home, the archive represents her world-renowned collection of over 200 natural essences derived from fruits, flowers, trees, grasses and resins.
The $25 admission includes indoor exhibitions, outdoor smelling in the Garden Annex of some 40 different essences, including the historical animal scents, 100-year-old essential oils and the legendary oud oil, plus six scent samples to take home.
Aftel Archive of Curious Scents, 1518½ Walnut St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-841-2111. Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday (including Christmas and New Year’s Day); 5-8 p.m. Wednesday. Connect on Facebook and Instagram.
Bohemia Skin & Body, a holistic boutique, returns to Claremont
Chloe Poulter chose the name Bohemia for her skincare and body boutique because to her it connotes the creative, artistic and holistic.
“I envisioned it as a place of healing and gathering,” where local experts would come in and give talks, she says.
Such hopes were dashed when the licensed aesthetician and massage therapist closed her Claremont shop due to the pandemic, two months after opening. She reopened the boutique in February, providing facials, massage and waxing services, along with so-called “clean beauty” (chemical-free) products in a retail shop. Offerings include skincare by the Berkeley-based Marie Veronique, Manuka honey from New Zealand, which Poulter uses in treatments, pajamas, candles, sunblock and jewelry by Oakland-based Marisa Mason.
“Hopefully, my original vision will come to fruition after this crazy COVID situation,” she says.
Bohemia Skin & Body, 2842 Prince St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-817-4555. Hours for treatments are daily by appointment. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Connect on Instagram.
In the Spotlight West Berkeley
Truitt & White, Berkeley purveyor of lumber, windows and doors, turns 75
In 1946 there was no such thing as Home Depot.
America was in the middle of a building boom, so demand was high, yet supplies scarce. George Truitt and Robert White, who had worked together at the Oakland naval supply center during the war, opened a lumber and hardware business on a 1.5-acre site on Second Street. Their first purchase: military surplus fencing and tools bought at an auction in Stockton.
Such scrappy entrepreneurship helped turn Truitt & White into a third-generation family business on six acres straddling both sides of Hearst Street. The business has expanded to include a window and door showroom.
“Our focus is on remodel contractors for residential construction,” says Warren White.
Truitt & White’s 9,000-square-foot West Berkeley hardware store is likewise geared to the builders, the bulk of its clientele. The company prides itself on its customer service and automated systems that were in place long before they were standard.
In addition to surviving the advent of big-box retailers, Truitt & White has also beaten the odds of family business survival. According to familybusinesscenter.com, most family firms last 24 years.
The Truitt family sold their interest when George Truitt died in 1977. After co-founder Robert White died in 2002, sons Warren and Dan took over. Both started at the store before they were teenagers.
“We worked on weekends and in the summertime doing everything and anything,” Warren White says. Their children have already followed suit, with a fourth generation pitching in.
Truitt & White Lumber & Hardware, 642 Hearst Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-841-0511. Hours: 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Truitt & White Window and Door Showroom, 1831 Second St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-649-4400. Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Connect on Facebook.
In the spotlight Northwest Berkeley
The Potters’ Studio celebrates 50th birthday and nonprofit status
This year represents a landmark for The Potters’ Studio, one of the East Bay’s largest pottery organizations. The studio is celebrating its 50th anniversary and new nonprofit status as it opens its doors this weekend, starting Friday, Dec. 3, for its third annual holiday sale.
The studio began in 1971 when activist Jules Seitz began a community service organization offering a weekly class for blind teenagers. When Seitz decided to close the school six years later, a group of potters formed a corporation to run the studio as a collaborative community space. Its mission was to provide an affordable space for those “curious about clay,” as well as more seasoned potters.
The nonprofit status allows the studio to become more involved in the community. “We can apply for grants to extend our educational outreach,” says executive director Bobbi Fabian.
In addition to its annual parking lot sale in July, the studio will hold a pre-Mother’s Day sale. Other events are also in the works.
Now in its third location, a 6,000-square foot studio in the Gilman Arts District, the studio offers classes and memberships that provide 24/7 access to its 275 members. “They share facilities and equipment and community,” Fabian says.
As a testament to its popularity, the membership waitlist numbers 150. The holiday sale kicks off Friday, Dec. 3, with a potluck with food and beverages provided by studio members and live music from three bands. The work of more than 50 potters will be represented, from functional wares, like platters, teapots, mugs, pitchers and vases, to more decorative items, like jewelry and sculptures. Proof of vaccination and masks required.
University Avenue Goodwill gets a facelift
After closing eight thrift stores in the East Bay due to the pandemic, Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay reopened its downtown Berkeley location — one of its busiest — in October.
To look more like a store (and attract the many students in the neighborhood), the branch has gotten “a small facelift,” says store manager Mercedes Jackson. Such improvements include a newly painted blue facade, window displays designed by a visual merchandising team from Goodwill in San Francisco (complete with mannequins) and interior decorations. Also new is a jewelry department — the only one in an East Bay Goodwill. Note: The location no longer accepts donations of furniture like sofas, desks and chairs, but other home items like lamps, housewares and electronics are still OK.
Goodwill Industries of the Greater East Bay, 2058 University Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-649-1287. Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily (Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Christmas Day, closed).
- Forty is an important number for International Contact, a women- and minority-owned small business in Berkeley that provides translation services into 40 languages and is celebrating its 40th year. The company can do things like translate brochures into Arabic, websites into Mandarin and provide live interpretation.
- What’s the upside of an ecological disaster? Former UC Berkeley grad students Mike Mitchell and Sam Bordia work with rural fishermen in Mexico to harvest the invasive devil fish, or armored catfish, and turn it into Pezzy Pets, dog and cat treats made from 100% wild-caught Mexican devil fish, with no fillers or chemical preservatives. The partners launched Pezzy in August. Available at The Animal Company in SF and online.
- For the price of a latte, you can move your office from the kitchen table to WorkBistro, a flexible workspace that describes itself as a cross between a coffee shop and a library. Opened in September, WorkBistro offers ergonomic workspaces on a pay-as-you-go basis, starting at $5 per hour.
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.