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

Closing or moving Gilman Street

The end of the month may signal the end of the road for a 46-year-old auto repair shop

Walsh Brothers has been in this 6,000-square-foot garage since 1977. Credit: Joanne Furio

The clock is ticking for Walsh Brothers, a repair shop specializing in vintage Volvos that has been a mainstay on Harrison Street for 46 years. Owner Louise O’Connor has to be out of the 6,000-square-foot building by Aug. 31 and still hasn’t found a new location for the shop, which employs three mechanics. She’s asking for the public’s help finding a new space in Berkeley. 

“I’m terrified,” she said. “I haven’t been able to find anything. If we can’t find a place, we’re going to have to close. It’s gut-wrenching.”

Losing her lease is the latest in a string of recent setbacks that have left O’Connor shaken. Her husband, Jon Pszenitzki, died five years ago, causing her to take over the business. During the pandemic, she kept her mechanics on payroll with the help of the government’s payroll protection, but still ended up draining her retirement fund. In April, her Woolsey Street home caught fire, leaving it uninhabitable with over $1 million in damages. 

Three weeks after the fire, her landlady, Louise Cuningham, informed her that the Harrison Street property was sold and the shop would need to clear out within 60 days. The new owners, Albany Subaru, plan to use the 6,000-square-foot building for repairs. 

“When it rains, it pours,” Cunningham said. “I’m a little traumatized.”

Owner Louise Connor is asking the community to help her find a new location for the longtime auto repair shop, Walsh Brothers. Credit: Joanne Furio

O’Connor would like to remain in Berkeley because she has an auto repair license here, along with many longtime customers, some of them spanning three generations. Larry Roe has been a customer for 30 years. 

“They’ve been the go-to Volvo repair shop for all of Berkeley, especially for the older Volvos, when Volvo was the Berkeley car,” Roe said. “A lot of shops, if it’s 10 years or older, they won’t touch it.”

Over the years, the owners have been known for beyond-the-norm service, Roe said. One customer told Roe that she had been stalled on the freeway, and Pszenitzki fixed her car there, not charging her a dime and saving her a tow-truck fee. 

“It’s just a great family shop,” Roe said. “Louise loves her customers. She’s almost thinking more about what’s going to happen to her customers than herself.”  

Albany Subaru, seeing that O’Conner needed more time, extended her lease another month.

“We gave her an extension because she needed it,” said Mike Riise, Albany Subaru’s general manager. “You try to help good people who have been doing business a long time.”

Walsh Brothers, 1060 Harrison St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-525-3300. Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Connect via Facebook.

Open Fourth Street

Teak from reforestation projects grow a sustainable business

Some of the teak furniture offerings at MasayaCo’s new Fourth Street store. Credit: Joanne Furio

Some of the most promising new design companies combine a contemporary aesthetic with age-old craftsmanship and sustainable practices. MasayaCo, a teak furniture company, and its prefab ADU division, Masaya Homes, are one of them. 

With stores in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, MasayaCo has put down roots in Berkeley, opening its second U.S. showroom and retail store on Fourth Street on July 22. The 1,800-square-foot store showcases the company’s handcrafted teak furniture and ADUs.

Masaya relies on a “seed to seat” model to source the renewable teak it grows for its products and plants more trees than it uses. Since 2008, Masaya has planted over a million trees on deforested land. 

The company’s origins date to 2008, when Aram Terry became interested in sustainable businesses after serving in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and started a reforestation project that converted former cattle ranches into teak tree farms. He began using wood from the project to create teak furniture, mostly for local hotels.

The company was named MasayaCo in 2015, after the hometown of Terry’s wife, Abril Zepeda, who described the city as Nicaragua’s “cradle of folklore,” rich in traditional handicrafts. Masaya’s first product, a woven chair that utilizes Masayan hammock-weaving traditions, debuted on Etsy the same year. The company works with more than 300 artisans and craftspeople at its Managua headquarters. 

MasayaCo now has some 250 pieces — beds, dressers, tables, chairs and outdoor furniture — with an organic cum mid-century look that’s been popular in recent years. Prices range from $50 for a cutting board to $1,390 for a rocker with a woven seat and back.  

In 2021, Terry partnered with builder Olin Cohan of Santa Rosa to create Masaya Homes, a line of seven panelized and prefabricated ADUs and backyard studios that start at $49,500. All units are turn-key and fully outfitted. Because the panels are flat-packed and no wider than 4 feet, they can be carried into most backyards, eliminating the need for a crane. 

Terry said that teak exported to India and Vietnam for furniture making doesn’t contain any knots, a purely aesthetic choice, so much of it is discarded. He doesn’t consider that sustainable. Masaya’s processes utilize every part of the wood. 

“When you are making your own product, you care about your material,” Terry said. 

MasayaCo, 1911 Fourth St., Berkeley, Unit 104. Phone: 415-870-7059. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Connect via Instagram and Facebook.

Open Fourth Street

A new kind of animal in veterinary care

A puppy receiving care (and treats) at Modern Animal. Courtesy: Modern Animal

Like human health care, which now includes concierge medicine and telehealth as part of its post-pandemic offerings, pet care is also moving into new business models. 

Modern Animal dubs itself as a “veterinary membership made for humans.” In the works for the past two years, the Hearst Street location opened on May 1. The clinic joins 11 others in California, including four in the Bay Area and its Culver City headquarters. 

Modern Animal’s $199 per pet per year “all access membership” provides free exams, including urgent care visits, free shipping on prescriptions, 24/7 chat and phone support, as well as on-demand video consultations often used for follow-ups. 

Under a more traditional, pay-as-you-go plan, pet owners pay $80 per visit, with most of the all-access benefits but no video consultations. 

Under both arrangements, pet owners can request the same vet for each visit, pending availability and access to care at any Modern Animal location.

Clients must communicate with staff through the Modern Animal app. There is no phone in the reception area, but appointments with a vet can be scheduled via the app if needed. 

What makes this new model better?

“It all comes back to pet experience and member experience,” said Dr. Christina Marion, Modern Animal’s Bay Area medical director. “We try to do everything in a fear-free, calming environment.”

To create such an environment, the clinic provides free “happy visits,” where pets can be walked through the clinic and given treats to reduce anxiety. Owners are also allowed to stay with their pet through the stages of treatment, which Marion said can benefit both pet and owner. 

The Berkeley clinic currently has three veterinarians (with enough room for four), each with a support staff of two to three veterinary technicians. So far, the clinic has around 650 members. 

Next month Modern Animal will open in Dallas and Palo Alto in February, with more to come.

“We’re trying to make veterinary medicine better as far as we can go,” Marion said. 

Modern Animal, 760 Hearst Ave, Berkeley. Hours: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram.

In the spotlight Elmwood 

Australian publisher Hardie Grant turns a new page with its Berkeley office

Books in Hardie Grant’s fall lineup are all about food — and drink. Credit: Joanne Furio

Two years ago, Hardie Grant chose book publishing veteran Jenny Wapner to be the publisher of Hardie Grant North America, the first U.S. outpost for this Australian-based maker of illustrated books.

A year ago, Wapner chose a landmarked storybook-style building — with its own garden and kitchen — for its Berkeley offices, the ideal home for an imprint specializing in food, drink, design, interiors, popular culture and craft.

“I like this area,” said Wapner, who has lived in the East Bay for 17 years and lives nearby in North Oakland. “Berkeley felt like a central location. We have people coming from Walnut Creek, from Marin, from Emeryville. I also like being near the university.”

Wapner brings to her role a 20-year publishing background honed in Berkeley. She was most recently at Ten Speed Press, where she started as a senior editor and became executive editor, growing and shaping an internationally renowned cookbook program and leading the art and design imprint. At the University of California Press, she was an acquisitions editor for eight years in the natural history, environmental science and gardening category. As a freelance editor there, she edited Marion Nestle’s 2022 memoir, Slow Cooked, among other projects. 

Hardie Grant, which also has a U.K. division, is known for best-selling books by British interior designer Natalie Walton, along with two fish cookbooks by Australian chef Josh Niland that have won James Beard awards. 

This fall, books produced under Wapner’s tutelage will make their debut. All have a culinary bent. 

Rintaro: Food and Stories from a Japanese Izakaya in California is by Sylvan Mishima Brackett (who happens to be Wapner’s husband), a former Chez Panisse alumnus who is chef-owner of the San Francisco eatery. Sohn-mat: Recipes and Flavors of Korean Home Cooking by Monica Lee is based on the food served at her groundbreaking Los Angeles restaurant Beverly Soon Tofu. Slow Drinks: A Field Guide to Foraging and Fermenting Seasonal Sodas, Botanical Cocktails, Homemade Wines, and More is by Danny Childs, a former ethnobotanist. Preserved: Fruit and Preserved: Condiments are the first books in a series on preserving by Darra Goldstein, Cortney Burns, and Richard Martin.

For spring, Hardie Grant North America’s lineup will feature six books on food, along with those on gardening, interiors and crafts. 

“Food is always going to be part of the list because it’s something I’m really passionate about, but I’m also very interested in lifestyle books,” she said. “It’s nice to have a little diversity.” 

Hardie Grant North America, 2912 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-989-3943. Connect via Facebook and Instagram.

In Brief

Biz Buzz: Fencing Club receives trailblazer award, NaNoWriMo awarded $1M grant

  • In July, West Berkeley Fencing Club received USA Fencing’s Peter Westbrook Trailblazer Award in honor of the first African-American fencer to win an Olympic medal in the sport in 1984. The award recognizes the club’s efforts to engage the BIPOC community by offering free fencing classes to underserved youth in the East Bay. “They have partnered with local schools, community centers, and after-school programs to introduce the sport to children who may not have the opportunity otherwise,” according to the announcement. The club also provides financial assistance to those who need it and waives floor fees for members experiencing financial hardship.  

  • Amazon recently awarded NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program a $1 million grant, one of 100 nonprofits recognized for empowering diverse, marginalized and underrepresented voices. Based in Berkeley, NaNoWriMo —  National Novel Writing Month — has encouraged writers of all levels to pen a novel in November for over 25 years. (Berkeley author Grant Faulkner is its executive director.) Na-No-Wri-Mo plans to use the funds to help young writers and educators set ambitious creative goals and tackle projects year-round. Each year, 90,000 young writers and 7,000 educators in nearly 9,000 K-12 classrooms participate in the program nationwide.

  • The Ecology Center is now Berkeley’s third shop to offer refillable bulk home and body products, like laundry detergent, shampoo and body wash. The offerings began on July 18. 

  • So-So Supermarket, which closed its 2333 Telegraph Avenue shop on Jan. 6, 2022, reopened on March 10 at 2505 Telegraph Ave., next to Peet’s Coffee. The vintage shop is a haven for Y2K nostalgia and a perky anime vibe. “This has been an exciting time for the shop,” said Xitlaly Peña, who owns the shop with Melissa Willis. During the past year, they have opened locations on San Francisco’s Haight Street and in Los Angeles. 

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...