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Not Closing Fourth Street, North Shattuck

Siamese Dream and Molly b. decide to stay open

Siamese Dream planned to close in March but longtime customers returned and the store’s owner was able to renegotiate her lease and now the shop is staying open. Credit: Joanne Furio

Two Berkeley stores both announced recently that they were closing, held sales and then decided to stay open for different reasons. 

In North Shattuck, Siamese Dream’s owner Srisuda “Jay” Romero previously told Berkeleyside that she planned to close by March 15. She said she needed to take better care of herself, spend more time with family and focus on her flagship store in Rockridge. 

Siamese Dream sells women’s clothing, jewelry and other accessories from India, Nepal, Thailand and Morocco.

News of the closing on Berkeleyside brought many longtime customers back, “which made me stronger,” and Romero. Plus, she recently renegotiated her lease. So Romero has decided to stay. 

Romero hopes to one day pass on the business to her son, who while in high school worked Saturdays during the pandemic to keep the store going.

“I really love North Berkeley,” she said. “I’m thankful it worked out.”

Diana Garcia recently took ownership of the longtime Berkeley boutique Molly b. Courtesy: Diana Garcia

Meanwhile on Fourth Street, owner Susan Trefethen announced on April 12 that she would be closing Molly b., the longtime women’s boutique known for its dramatic window displays and art-to-wear clothing. A closing sale began with 20% off.

Trefethen opened her first Molly b. on Vine Street 35 years ago, which closed two years ago. The Fourth Street location has been around for 26 years. 

“It was 43 years and I’m 81,” Trefethen said, referring to how long she’s been in retail in Berkeley. “I have a wonderful manager [Diana Garcia] and hoped she could take it over.”

While the women had agreed to terms weeks earlier, paperwork wasn’t finalized until April 24. The next day Garcia emailed customers, notifying them of the new ownership. 

Though she is planning a refresh of the store’s interior in mid-May, which will close the store briefly, longtime patrons shouldn’t expect any dramatic changes. Garcia plans to keep the funky aesthetic in place. 

“Susan and I have been buying together for the last five years,” she said. “We’re pretty in sync when it comes to our buying decisions. She’s trained my eye.” 

Trefethen, meanwhile, is looking back wistfully. “I will miss all the friends I’ve made over the years,” she said.  

Siamese Dream, 1527 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-428-9989. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, noon-5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram.

Molly b., 1811 Fourth St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-548-3103. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram. 

In the spotlight North Shattuck

Bar Method, fitness studio franchise opened by lawyer, is celebrating 10 years in Berkeley

Helen Liu (back row, center) and her staff at the Bar Method. Credit: Ashley Batz

Ten years ago, Helen Liu was living in San Diego with her husband when he accepted a teaching position at UC Berkeley. At the time Liu had been taking classes at the Bar Method, a boutique fitness studio.

Liu was happy to return to the Bay Area. She had gone to Cal as an undergraduate and met her husband, Hillel Adesnik, while she was in law school in San Francisco and he was in grad school. The move presented an opportunity. 

“It was time for a career change,” Liu said. 

She had been a civil litigator and found the process to be “emotionally draining,” even when she won cases. She also knew it would be challenging to find a legal position that would grant her the flexibility she wanted to start a family. The solution: make her workout her work. Liu opened a Bar Method franchise in May 2013.

“The idea of building a community appealed to me,” she said, “and the idea of helping people on a daily basis feel like their best and strongest selves.”

The Oakland architectural firm of Tierney Connor transformed what had been 3,000 square feet of offices on Rose Street into two exercise studios, one small and one large, the latter with a double-height ceiling and natural ventilation. Bar Method opened with about 200 students who took advantage of an introductory offer. 

The studio now has about 250 members who pay a monthly fee. On a daily basis, some 150 exercisers pass through its doors. (Disclosure: I’m a member.) Individual classes are $35 and unlimited monthly memberships, $199 a month, with the first month at $99. 

Helen Liu teaching a class. Credit: Ashley Batz

When Liu bought the franchise, it was the 74th to follow founder Burr Leonard’s original San Francisco studio. Now the franchise is owned by Self Esteem Brands of Woodbury, Minnesota, and has 85 studios nationwide. 

Bar Method’s signature technique involves small, isometric movements that utilize a ballet bar combined, light weights, a few props and stretching. The original method has expanded to include Bar Flow, with a vinyasa yoga-inspired sequencing, and Bar Cardio for a more aerobic workout. Bar Strength, with a muscle-building focus, is coming soon. 

Bar Method, at the corner of Rose Street and Shattuck Avenue, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. Credit: Joanne Furio

Diversity has always been important to Liu, who was “one of the only Asian kids growing up in Lexington, Kentucky.” That comes across in the studio’s clientele and its teachers, who vary by race, gender and body type. Most members are women in the 30- to 60-year-old age group, while men make up around 1%, though Liu said “we would love more.”

“At the core of everything we do, our goal is to create an exceedingly welcoming environment,” Liu said. “Everybody can participate in this exercise.” 

Liu credits the studio’s success to her instructors, known for their micro corrections to ensure good form. Becoming an instructor requires 10-15 hours a week over four to six months of training, which includes technique, anatomy and muscle function. Liu herself teaches and is frequently on the premises.

Though her elders didn’t initially understand her career move, Liu’s mother-in-law, Judith Rebecca Hauptman, a rabbi and feminist Talmudic scholar, told Liu that she got it after taking a class. 

“She said, ‘You’re like a rabbi. You’re building and supporting a community,’” Liu said. “That’s about the highest compliment I’ll ever get.”

Bar Method, 2095 Rose Street, Suite 102, Berkeley. Phone: 510-705-1534. Hours: Daily, with class times varying. Connect via Facebook and Instagram

In the spotlight

Two garden club events will bloom in Berkeley this May

Patrons at last year’s Art and Plant Street Sale. Courtesy: Berkeley Garden Club

Attention all plant lovers: The Berkeley Garden Club’s got two big events coming up in May. 

The annual Art & Plant Street Sale will be held Saturday, May 6 from 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The annual sale is held in cooperation with the ACCI Gallery at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Lincoln Street.

Lincoln Street will be closed to traffic and lined with booths featuring the work of ACCI artists and plants propagated, grown and/or arranged by Berkeley Garden Club members. The club invites the public to bring their gardening questions. Proceeds benefit the BGC’s community outreach mission, which includes civic beautification and local conservation.

A North Berkeley home on this year’s Art in the Garden Tour, sponsored by the Berkeley Garden Club and ACCI Gallery. Courtesy: Berkeley Garden Club

The Art in the Garden Tour, held every other year, will take place on Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Ticket holders will get to check out six North Berkeley home gardens within a mile radius and a model railroad garden that requires a drive. 

This event, too, is co-hosted by ACCI Gallery, which will open its back garden from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and sell works by more than 16 artists that will be on display in the tour gardens. Art demonstrations will also be included in the tour.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased through May 18 on Eventbrite. After that, tickets can be purchased at the ACCI Gallery, 1652 Shattuck Ave. (at Lincoln Avenue). Proceeds benefit BGC programs and for local non-profits that “protect, restore and enhance environments that benefit all life,” according to its website. 

In the Spotlight Southside

Friends raising money for longtime Telegraph vendor who suffered a stroke

A fundraising site has been started for longtime Telegraph street vendor Tamai Pearson, 71, who recently suffered a stroke. Courtesy: Jahrena Pearson

For almost 50 years, Tamai Pearson, 71, was a fixture at the corner of Telegraph and Durant avenues, selling the batiks, silkscreens and jewelry that he and his wife made by hand. 

Pearson struggled through the pandemic, telling Berkeleyside in September 2020 that Telegraph had become “a ghost town,” increasing his debt. At the time, his daughter started a donation page to help his business survive. 

Now he’s trying to survive.

Telegraph Street vendor Tamai Pearson. Courtesy: Jahrena Pearson

On April 3, Pearson suffered a massive stroke and will no longer be able to work again, said his daughter, Jahrena Pearson. This time friends have set up a fundraising webpage for Pearson, who’s convalescing at the Alta Bates Rehabilitation Center in Oakland. 

Jahrena Pearson said the $100,000 requested will cover his credit card debt, loans he has placed on his home over the years, medical bills and the home health care he will likely need once he is released. (Jahrena’s mother, Teri, is already a caregiver for her autistic son.) So far, around $3,800 has been raised. 

Pearson, who moved to Berkeley when he was 23, is “a people person known for his jokes,” his daughter said. “Being out on Telegraph, that was his zone. He enjoyed it so much.”

Pearson previously told Berkeleyside that he wasn’t looking for pity or special treatment. He hoped to be out of debt by the time he dies so his children won’t have to bear his burden.

“Time goes by quick, and we never know when the final call comes,” he said. 

In Brief

Biz Buzz: Heat pump installations soaring

  • Fast Company magazine has added Harvest Thermal, recently featured in Berkeleyside, to its list of the world’s most innovative companies for 2023. “More homes turning to all-electric heating also means dirtier and pricier electricity,” the magazine said, “But Harvest Thermal offers a smart electric heating, cooling, and hot water system that turns a normal water tank into a thermal battery, cutting carbon emissions and monthly heating bills.” Homes with Harvest Thermal’s system show at least a 90% reduction in carbon emissions compared to homes heated with gas, slashing monthly utility bills by up to 48%, according to the company.
  • Speaking of heat pumps, Berkeley’s Albert Nahman Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling reports a 188% increase in the number of East Bay installation requests for heat pump HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) systems over last year. The company said such customers are taking advantage of up to $3,200 in federal tax credits for energy-efficient upgrades. 
  • With the worst of the pandemic likely behind us, analyzing what took place seems to be on everyone’s minds. Based at Harvard University, Opportunity Insights’ Economic Tracker is doing just that, by combining data from private companies to provide a  “real-time picture of indicators such as employment rates, consumer spending and job postings across counties, industries and income groups,” according to its website. The data doesn’t get more granular than the county level. Among its findings: In Alameda, small business revenue decreased by 18.7% in February 2022 when compared to January 2020. On the plus side, during the same period, the number of small businesses that opened increased by 0.4%.

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...