Find out which stores have opened, closed or moved and what’s new in Berkeley’s small-business communities. If you have Berkeley business updates to share, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- New flower shop opens in spot where owner had her first job in 1997
- Berkeley startup’s system speeds up container-weighing process for refill shops
- 2 Berkeley businesses help Mexican artisans turn scraps of wiring into prized copper pots
- Dance studio seeks to offset pandemic malaise with movement
- Soap opera ending for Central Launderette after 74 years in the same spot
- Berkeley Indoor Garden, groundbreaking hydroponics supplier beloved by cannabis growers, withers away
- Walgreens pharmacy at Gilman and San Pablo is back open — but just on weekdays
New flower shop opens in spot where owner had her first job in 1997
Dorothy Kelley-Farias got her first job, a two-month summer gig, at a Claremont florist when she was 16. Now she’s 42 and has launched her own floral shop, Tulipán Floral, in the same storefront on Domingo Avenue. The shop opened Oct. 5.
“For me it’s like coming back and meant to be in so many ways,” Kelley-Farias said.
For one, Berkeley has been her home ever since she moved here with her family from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, when she was 11. She’s also loved flowers since she was a kid, and in college studied environmental science and then landscape design, horticulture and floristry. She had a flower cart at Mint Plaza from 2013-16 and did many arrangements for interiors, then worked from home for many years doing floral design.
“I always wanted to have my own brick-and-mortar shop in Berkeley,” she said.
When she learned that the site of her former summer job (an under-200-square-foot space in a courtyard next to Rick & Ann’s Restaurant) was available, she pounced.
Kelley-Farias chose the name tulipán, tulip in Spanish, because she likes the flower and it refers to the contribution of Holland, now the largest producer of cut flowers in the world, to the floral industry.
Tulipán sells “grab-and-go” bouquets ($30), along with custom arrangements you can design yourself or with Kelley-Farias’ help. The mainstay of her offerings, however, are everyday arrangements for home or office, which she sells in vases (starting at $70).
She also creates bridal bouquets (starting at $155) for more intimate weddings “or any type of celebration.” She’s been doing such work for more than 10 years, collaborating closely with the bride to select flowers that reflect the bride’s dress and personality.
Kelley-Farias knows that sometimes the floral industry is “not very clean when it comes to taking care of the environment.” So she sources some of her flowers from local sustainable farmers and incorporates sustainable practices into her business. Now, she said, the circle she began so many years ago is complete.
“I finally found a good location,” Kelley-Farias said. “I think it will be great.” — Joanne Furio
Tulipan Floral, 2918 Domingo Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-332-3284. Hours: Wednesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram.
In the spotlight North Berkeley
Berkeley startup’s system speeds up container-weighing process for refill shops
Up until recently, when you brought your own container to a refill shop, where you can buy laundry detergent, shampoo and other products sold in bulk to avoid buying such products in plastic, the container had to be weighed and then its weight deducted from your purchase. The process required staff to make the calculations and, if the store was busy, could tie up the scales. Berkeley’s Derrick Chao found that process to be a real time-waster.
“I thought I could build something to make this process more fun and faster and simpler,” he said.
Filljoy, a combination software and hardware system, was his solution. Here’s how it works: The staff uses a smart tag, equipped with a chip, to capture the weight of the container. The tag has an elastic band that allows it to be affixed to the container, which is then swiped at checkout, automatically deducting the container’s weight so customers only pay for the product itself.
One of the first stores to use the technology was Fillgood, which opened on San Pablo Avenue in 2019 and switched to the Filljoy system three months after opening. (Fillgood moved to Solano Avenue in 2020.)
“It’s so much easier,” said Fillgood’s owner, Stephanie Regni. “You don’t need to do any math, so it reduces any risk of mistakes. It’s a really great system.”
Filljoy’s now in 60 stores across the U.S., as well as Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand.
Filljoy just raised $150,000 from the TinySeed accelerator program, a venture capital fund, which will help further Filljoy’s mission to make plastic-free shopping more convenient for both retailers and their patrons. Chao operates the business out of his home.
Prior to launching Filljoy, Chao spent most of his career in big tech, in sales and digital advertising. In 2018 he embraced the zero-waste, plastic-free movement after visiting a refill shop in Vancouver, disturbed by the prolific use of plastic packaging in everything from fresh vegetables to shampoos. According to the United Nations, less than 10% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled.
Chao has become such a zero-waste enthusiast, he now buys all his laundry detergent, hand soap, spray cleaner, dishwasher powder, oxygen bleach, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and tooth tabs (a toothpaste alternative) at Fillgood.
“We’re shopping in a way that’s different from the mainstream,” he said, “but it makes so much sense.” — Joanne Furio
In the spotlight North Berkeley
2 Berkeley businesses help Mexican artisans turn scraps of wiring into prized copper pots
Earlier this year, Peggy Stein and her husband, Doug Wheeler, who have been selling handmade folk arts and crafts from Mexico for almost 20 years on their website, Mexico By Hand, decided to go solar. They hired Berkeley’s A-1 Sun to do the job.
Copper wire happens to be used in solar installation and 75 pounds of it was leftover as scraps. A-1 Sun gave the copper to the couple, who passed it on to a family artisans workshop they work with in Santa Clara del Cobre, which has been making copper products for 500 years in the state of Michoacan.
The copper was stripped of its plastic exterior, melted down and shaped into vases and pots. In August, the pots won awards at the region’s annual copper competition and fair, featuring the work of hundreds of copper artisans.
Mexico by Hand is now selling pieces made from the wire on its website. Vases are $40-$300; copper pots, $275.
“It’s nice because it’s all recycled,” Stein said. — Joanne Furio
Open North Berkeley
Dance studio seeks to offset pandemic malaise with movement
Because of the pandemic, “the social aspect of life is what we’ve all been missing,” said Carla Appleberry, a Berkeley native. So in June she opened Creations Berkeley, a dance studio, to fill that void.
Creations joins another creative space that recently opened in Berkeley, Aktivate, on San Pablo Avenue. Both venues also operate as event rentals.
Appleberry’s inspiration for Creations came after watching the effect dance had on children after dance instructors visited her fourth grade daughter’s school, Washington Elementary, where Appleberry volunteers. Appleberry’s first offering at Creations was a summer camp that included dance.
The 720-square-foot space has a dance studio’s requisite mirror-lined wall and hardwood floors, along with a long sofa for when class is not in session. Class offerings include hip hop for kids, Afro-Haitian, yoga for toddlers, a Friday night “Sip and Step,” featuring dance, drinks and finger foods, and “Heels,” a stiletto dance class with a San Francisco instructor.
Most classes are taught by dance instructors, but Appleberry herself leads a weekday morning fitness class from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
“We’ve all gone through a lot during the pandemic,” Appleberry said. “I wanted to provide a safe place for people to enjoy themselves and release those endorphins and happy chemicals in their brains through dance.” — Joanne Furio
Closed Downtown Berkeley
Soap opera ending for Central Launderette after 74 years in the same spot
According to online reviews, the Central Launderette — a downtown fixture known for its vintage neon sign and old-time ringer machines out front — was either a beautiful and beloved launderette, coin-operating out of the same location since 1948, or a poorly run business with rude staff who made inappropriate comments.
Such wildly diverse opinions continued even after owner Ron Gerhard recently closed the launderette. (He could not be reached for comment.) While one Berkeley reader wrote in to bemoan the launderette’s closing, others have complained about the difficulty in picking up their laundry or dry cleaning since staff are rarely there to pick up the phone.
Most customers learned of the closing from a sign in the window thanking customers for their patronage. “It is unfortunate that we have to make the difficult decision to close our doors, but we want you to know how much we have appreciated your business and support,” it read. The sign also told readers with laundry or dry cleaning there to call to arrange for a pick-up. When that number is called, there is no answering machine, so customers must keep calling until a staff member shows up.
The launderette, a British term for a laundromat, had the requisite rows of washers and dryers and also offered alterations, drop-off service and dry cleaning.
Kathleen Kovac described the launderette as her “beloved wash place.” She liked the old-time feeling and the photographs hanging on the walls going back to 1958. She has mobility issues and said the staff was sensitive to her needs.
“Nice community, inclusive, safe vibe,” she wrote. “What a loss.”
One thing online customers did agree on: the launderette’s convenient and long hours, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The last wash was at 9:30. — Joanne Furio
Central Launderette, 2462 Shattuck Ave. (at Haste Street), Berkeley. Phone: 510-841-1787.
Closed West Berkeley
Berkeley Indoor Garden, groundbreaking hydroponics supplier beloved by cannabis growers, withers away
Back in June, a Berkeleyside reader reported that owner Corrie Abraham was closing Berkeley Indoor Garden. At the time, Abraham could not be reached to confirm that. Over the summer, however, the store was rarely open and by September its contents had been cleared out.
One of the first of its kind in the country when it opened in 1984, the shop specialized in hydroponics, a process of growing plants indoors using water-based mineral nutrients instead of soil. The store had a large and enthusiastic following, especially among home cannabis growers before cannabis became legal for recreational use in 2016. A year later, The East Bay Express awarded the store a Best of the Bay Award in the cannabis category for being “The Best Place to Get Started Growing Indoors.”
Berkeley Indoor Garden operated out of one of three historic 19th-century commercial buildings on University Avenue that were once part of an old neighborhood called Ocean View, which like the store, has disappeared. — Joanne Furio
Berkeley Indoor Garden, 844 University Ave. (at Seventh Street), Berkeley.
Open Gilman District
Walgreens pharmacy at Gilman and San Pablo is back open — but just on weekdays
Pharmacy openings and closings are a big deal in Berkeley lately, with this critical service in a state of flux, here and nationally.
In a bit of good news, for as long as it lasts, the Walgreens pharmacy in the shopping center at Gilman Street and San Pablo Avenue is back open, after closing due to staff shortages, according to Fraser Engerman, a spokesperson for the chain.
Operating hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays only, Engerman said, adding: “Most of our other pharmacy locations in Berkeley are also operating on reduced hours due to staffing shortages.” It was the only Walgreens in Berkeley with weekend hours.
With regional staffing shortages, Walgreens tries to adjust its pharmacy hours to ensure at least one site in the Berkeley area is open, even if it’s not a customer’s first choice, he said. “In such instances, we will direct customers to other nearby Walgreens locations for prescription needs, care and support.”
When asked about customers who made COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the Gilman pharmacy only to get there and find it closed, Engerman didn’t answer directly but directed customers to Walgreens’ online store locator and mobile app. — Kate Rauch
Walgreens, 1050 Gilman St. (at San Pablo Avenue), Berkeley. Phone: 510-528-8274.