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Opening North Berkeley

A lover of beautiful things brings her boutique back to Berkeley

Julia D’Alo, who grew up in her family’s East Bay restaurants, with her mother, Rosa, in D’Alo’s latest boutique. Credit: Joanne Furio

“I’ve always been passionate about fashion,” said Julia D’Alo, who has Bay Area restaurant blood coursing through her veins. D’Alo’s parents, Rosa and Guiseppe, ran Trattoria Siciliana, their third restaurant, on College Avenue in Elmwood, from 1998 until October 2020. Her brothers, Angelo and Gerry, who, like her, grew up working in their parents’ restaurants, are now part owners (with some members of Green Day) of Agrodolce in North Berkeley. 

So perhaps it was inevitable that she would combine those influences in Cose Belle, which means “beautiful things” in Italian, a boutique featuring affordable fashion, home goods and Italian specialty foods. 

The store’s grand opening Saturday will feature special events from noon-6 p.m., along with prosecco, antipasti and dolci. D’Alo, who suffers from chronic Lyme Disease, says some of the proceeds from her store will help pay for her treatment.

In 2004, D’Alo opened her first Cose Belle in North Beach, but it “got battered” during the recession, she said, and closed in 2009. Her second was a pop-up she ran at 2911 College Ave. in Elmwood from 2017-19, before opening “a massive store,” her third, in Benicia, in August 2021. Though the store was “super successful,” and got glowing reviews from the local press, she closed it on Oct. 31, a date she chose intentionally. “The place was haunted,” she said. 

D’Alo would arrive to find mannequins and racks moved and often heard banging from the empty attic. The cable show “Ghost Adventures” ended up doing an investigation and documented the paranormal activity. 

“Everything had to go into storage,” D’Alo said. “I wanted to open again. I just didn’t know where.”

Then she saw a 750-square-foot storefront for rent (the former Foxglove boutique), a couple of doors down from Agridolce and pounced. Renovations were a family affair, aided by friends.

Cose Belle features clothing, lingerie, shoes and jewelry from around the world. Price-wise, it’s “a place where you can come in and buy a complete outfit for under $100,” D’Alo said. 

Because both her parents are from Italy, and she has spent almost every summer there, her inspiration is a Sicilian style that is “flowy Bohemian, feminine and sexy,” but also laid-back and comfortable. 

Dresses range from $48-$120 and include brands like Love Stitch, Angie, Nomad and Nostalgia. D’Alo’s also importing Swedish clogs ($88-$136), jewelry made by her family in Sicily and jewelry she makes herself ($35-$100). 

On the home side, there are Sicilian ceramics made by her family (prices to be determined), a bath line and Italian specialty foods like sauces, capers, anchovies, olive oil, pistachios, chocolates, jams and honey. 

D’Alo is also carrying over a concept that was popular in her North Beach store: a lounge area with an espresso machine.

“Men can come and sit down and have an espresso or children can sit down with a coloring book while the women shop,” she said.  

She also offers private shopping by appointment, trunk shows and spa-and-shop events for groups of friends. 

“We’ll be playing Italian music all day,” she said. “I’ll be driving my brothers insane.”

Cose Belle, 1746 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-705-1443. Hours: Wednesday-Thursday, noon-6 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, noon-8 p.m. Connect via Instagram

Open Solano Avenue

Old-time barber — complete with swirling pole and leather chairs — replaces garden gnomes

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Guillermo Estrada cuts Will Gurfarro’s hair at Estrada’s new shop on Solano Avenue. Credit: Joanne Furio

Every occupation has its coveted objects. For writers, it can be a manual typewriter; for nurses, comfy clogs. For Guillermo Estrada, a barber, it is a vintage barber pole and chairs built like a ’57 Chevy.

Both of these items can be found in Estrada’s new shop, his first, which opened on Jan. 1 in what used to be a Solano Avenue store selling garden gnomes. The shop has undergone extensive renovations (floors, walls and bathrooms) and now boasts a clean, no-frills interior with whitewashed walls that recall classic barber shops of old, complete with a 1936 William Marvy electric barber shop pole that Estrada says “every barbershop should have” and Takara Belmont leather barber chairs from Japan. 

Estrada has been cutting hair since he was 18 in barber shops in Richmond, El Sobrante and San Pablo. Now 31, he thought it was time to take it up a notch.

“I wanted something different for myself,” he said. “It was time to experience having a shop.” 

Solano Ave. Barber Shop specializes in cuts (starting at $45) like the fade (shorter around the ears and the back of the neck) tapers (short around the ear and back) and shears (scissor jobs) as well straight razor shaves ($20) that start with a hot towel. The shop does kids’ hair, too ($35). 

Solano Ave. Barber Shop, 1637 Solano Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-529-4365. Hours: Monday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.  Sunday by appointment only. Connect via Instagram

Open Downtown Berkeley

U.S. Bank — another bank that’s short on tellers but long on tech — opens first Berkeley branch

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Two windows where customers can take care of business at the new U.S. Bank in Downtown Berkeley. Courtesy: U.S. Bank

“We don’t really have tellers anymore,” said Josh Foster, the manager at U.S. Bank’s first Berkeley branch, the day before its grand opening on March 9. “We have mainly ‘client relationship consultants’ and bankers. You know when you walk into a bank and everybody is on the teller line? We don’t take that approach.” 

The branch is the first U.S. Bank branch in the Bay Area to debut its latest design concept, a high-tech approach that relies on mobile technology and encourages its customers to do so, too, part of an industry-wide trend. Foster calls it a “digital-first mentality.” 

“The way people are doing banking is constantly changing,” Foster said. “We want to show them that.”

The customer experience will be familiar to those who’ve visited an Apple store: Customers are greeted by a client relationship consultant who inquires about the type of transaction the customer wishes to complete.

“We can be in the middle of the lobby with the tablet and pull up your account,” Foster said. “Everything is run off of tablets here. We can move around.”  

Customers will either be helped at one of two (formerly known as teller) windows, whisked to a conference room for more complicated transactions, or urged to use one of two machines in the lobby: an ATM or an Interactive Teller Machine (ITM). The machines have similar deposit/withdrawal functions, yet the ITM has denominations smaller than the ATM, which dispenses only 100s and 20s. 

The sleek interiors include the Digital Discovery Center, a demonstration space that shows customers how to use online and mobile technologies, and a counter where customers can help themselves to bottled water or tea and coffee from a machine. 

Foster encourages customers to make appointments for more complicated transactions. “But if somebody walks in, we’ll definitely take care of them on the spot.”

At the grand opening, the Minneapolis-based bank announced that it would donate $3,000 to the Berkeley-based Girls Garage, a design and building program for girls and gender-identified youth ages 9 to 18. 

U.S. Bank, 2479 Shattuck Ave., Phone: 542-5887. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram

Moved Solano Avenue

Foxglove’s brand of earthy Bohemian is transplanted to Solano Avenue

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Formerly on Shattuck Avenue, Foxglove opened its doors on Solano Avenue on March 1. Credit: Joanne Furio

Even though Foxglove had a strong following after nine years at 1746 Shattuck Ave., many customers would tell owner Rachel Kinney that her women’s clothing boutique would be better off on Solano Avenue, where there’s more foot traffic and stores of a similar vein. 

Last year, when it was time to renew her lease, Kinney considered such advice, along with other factors, like a rent increase and a slowdown in business. At the same time, the pandemic created an inventory of empty Solano storefronts.

“I found a great spot,” Kinney said. “The time was right.” 

She closed the Shattuck store the second week of January and opened on 1597 Solano Ave. on March 1. The new shop is larger (1,100 feet versus 850 square feet), giving a more expansive feel to the displays of women’s clothing and accessories, home goods and gifts. 

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The exterior of Foxglove. Credit: Joanne Furio

Foxglove is one of those privately owned stores that mirror the taste and ethos of its owner. 

Kinney describes her store’s aesthetic as “earthy and a little Bohemian.” She focuses on ethical and sustainable brands, mostly from India, which keep her prices “accessible,” and incorporates local brands, too. The “earthy” feel comes from how many of the fabrics are made: using natural fibers in subdued palettes or prints created by age-old techniques like ikat weaving or hand block-printing. 

Clothing starts at $30 for a t-shirt and tops out at $148 for a dress by Field Day of Oakland. Another local brand is FluffyCo dresses ($72-$78) out of San Francisco. Jeans are in the $120-$140 range. 

The store boasts a substantial jewelry selection with local brands like Mind’s Eye Design of Sonoma ($20-$40) and Lauren Wolf of Oakland’s artisanal offerings in silver ($38-$164). Rounding out the attire offerings are leather bags, straw and felt hats and hand block-printed backpacks and totes ($75 to $120) from Julia Canright of San Francisco. 

In the home category, Foxglove carries ceramic flower pots, pillows and throws and is known for its many sizes of Senegalese baskets ($48 to $100), along with organic cotton napkins from India, in graphic block-printed patterns ($48 for a set of four). 

When she was changing locations, Kinney was taken aback by how much her store was missed. 

“People were emailing me and knocking on the door when we still had paper over the windows,” said the soft-spoken proprietor, who shied away from having her picture taken. “I felt very in demand.”

Foxglove, 1597 Solano Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-990-6789. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram. 

Open North Shattuck

Zaver & Mor reopens and celebrates 10 years on Vine Street

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Rada Sahney inside her jewelry store, now celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Credit: Joanne Furio

Like a couple of other stores on this commercial section of Vine Street, the jewelry gallery Zaver & Mor suffered some damage last year, in this case a ceiling leak, forcing owner Rada Sahney to close on Aug. 23. She reopened the shop on Dec. 4, with a new floor and new ceiling, but the same pillow-lined sofa and three chandeliers that give the place a sense of comfort and luxury. 

Sahney’s happy to be back and “being able to help people find pieces that are special to them,” she said.

Many assume that the store’s name represents the surnames of its owners — but no. Sahney, whose parents hail from India, named the shop after the Hindi words “zaver,” which means ornament, and “mor,” which means peacock, India’s national bird and Sahney’s favorite fowl. The peacock appears in the store’s logo. 

“Being Indian, jewelry is such an important part of our culture,” Sahney said. “I grew up with my mother wearing beautiful pieces and seeing her dressed up. It’s always been a huge theme in my life.”

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Zaver & Mor on Vine Street recently re-opened after a ceiling leak. Credit: Joanne Furio

Sahney chose finance as a career, but started thinking about a shop of her own after meeting her husband, who’s in the jewelry business. She left finance in 2010 and worked for a year in a Palo Alto jewelry boutique before opening Zaver & Mor 10 years ago. The shop celebrates its anniversary this month. 

Zaver & Mor specializes in handmade fine jewelry by female artisans, in particular those from the Bay Area. In addition to selling new jewelry, Sahney also helps many of her customers refashion vintage pieces they have inherited. 

Across from the original Peet’s, a longtime anchor in the neighborhood, Sahney has seen retailers come and go over the years. What’s remained constant is the vibe. 

“You get to see a lot of familiar faces, which is what I wanted when I was looking for a space,” she said. “It really feels like a neighborhood.”

Zaver & Mor, 2111-E Vine St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-9841291. Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4:30 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram

In the Spotlight University Avenue 

In pandemic pivot, Caviar & Cigarettes proprietor hits the road

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Blondie Wyatt at her University Avenue vintage boutique, Caviar & Cigarettes, earlier this year. Courtesy: Caviar & Cigarettes

When Blondie Wyatt closed her vintage clothing store, Caviar & Cigarettes, in March 2020, she performed a move known to many shopkeepers and entrepreneurs: the pandemic pivot. To keep her business going, she started doing pop-ups.  

“I’ve done a lot of pop-ups.” Wyatt said. “People know my thing.”

Wyatt opened her University Avenue store a couple of times during the pandemic, when restrictions were eased, “but it didn’t feel right.” The pandemic had changed her neighborhood: Target closed its University Avenue entrance, and surrounding stores and restaurants either closed early or closed down, reducing foot traffic. Though she can now open her store fully, she’s still playing it safe. 

“I know tons and tons of people who got sick,” she said. “I’m going to do everything I can to not get sick.”

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Some of the colorful vintage clothing in the store. Courtesy: Caviar & Cigarettes

A native of Los Angeles, Wyatt came to the Bay Area in the ’90s, moved to New Orleans and back to L.A. before deciding that “this is where I want to be.” For a while she ran a doggie daycare and had her own custom lighting company, creating fixtures for Bay Area stores like Berkeley’s Metro Lighting, before taking the plunge into vintage in 2003, when she also started doing one-on-one styling. She opened Caviar & Cigarettes in 2016. 

Her speciality is 1960s and ’70s fashion, natural fibers, hand embroidery, hand sewn and highly tailored pieces and one-offs. She calls her aesthetic, “Carnaby Street meets Bay Area Bohemian.” In addition to selling vintage, Caviar & Cigarettes also sells used clothing and some consignment. 

Until she reopens the store, Wyatt will bring a selection to two upcoming sales: on March 26 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. at Head West Marketplace, 1717 Fourth St. D, where she will be among more than 60 vendors; and April 16 from noon-6 p.m. at Pretty Penny, 2981 College Ave., in celebration of that store’s 16th anniversary, where she will be the sole pop-up, featuring “Leather and Lace.”

Caviar & Cigarettes, 1443 University Ave., Berkeley. Connect via Instagram.  

In the Spotlight Central Berkeley

Berkeley physical therapy practice seeks community funding

Berkeley Community Physical Therapy, a mainstay in the community for more than 35 years, has started a Go Fund Me page in the hope of raising at least $44,000, half of which it says it needs by March 30 to keep its doors open. The practice owes rent to its previous landlord and has been struggling due to the pandemic. 

“At this moment, I find myself turning towards the community that has taught me so much about the capacity to hold dreams and help each other across the finish line,” physical therapist Negeene Mosaed wrote on the fundraising page. “If I don’t raise these funds, I will find myself mired in a legal battle with the former landlord and potentially lose the clinic.” Berkeley Community Physical Therapy, 1834 University Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 549-2225. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Joanne Furio

Joanne Furio is a longtime journalist and writer of creative nonfiction. Originally from New York, she has been a staff writer, an editor and a freelance magazine writer. More recently, she was a contributing...