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Open Southwest Berkeley 

Greener, prettier Solar Express Car Wash opens on San Pablo Avenue

Cars lining up under an all-caps Solar Express Car Wash sign
The new Solar Express Car Wash was packed during its first week, when it offered free washes. Credit: Joanne Furio

Like trickle-down economics, Shark Week and the basis of four Pixar films, the idea for the new Solar Express Car Wash was sketched out on a napkin. The sketcher, Seth Zweben, then handed over the napkin to the Berkeley architect Daniel Smith of DSA Architects, which specializes in green design. 

“It came out even better than I expected,” said Zweben, who has owned a car wash at the location with other members of his family and the Givens family since 1974. “We’re very proud of this site.”

Car getting sprayed in a carwash
A car going through the process at the new, more ecological Solar Express Car Wash. Courtesy: Solar Express Car Wash

The Zweben and Givens families own six other car washes in the East Bay, including the Solar Car Wash at 1198 University Ave. (at Curtis Street). 

Sitting on almost an acre, the new, more ecological facility on San Pablo opened on Sept. 2, offering free car washes for a week to lure in potential customers. More than 3,000 cars ran through the wash that week, as the owners and their family members waved signs and cars lined up along San Pablo Avenue.

The new facility is partially powered by a 67-kilowatt solar array, with electricity powering part of the process, like the blowers. Zweben’s not sure yet how much the new system will rely on the electrical grid, but said the owners tried to be as ecological as possible. 

Mom and two kids taller than her in matching blue Solar Express polos
It was a family affair when the Solar Express Car Wash reopened on San Pablo Avenue. One of the owners, Bonnie Zweben, is flanked by her children, Brady and Taylor. Courtesy: Solar Express Car Wash

What he does know for sure is that all the vegetation on the property, including a couple of lemon trees, is irrigated using greywater from the car wash process. The new design also includes a masonry wall on its west side to alleviate noise that residential neighbors had been concerned about. 

Washes range from $12 to $24 with discounts available by using the Solar Express Car Wash app. Eighteen vacuums are also on site, operated by coin or credit card. 

“It’s an art to wash cars really well,” Zweben said. “The facility is really amazing. I just walk around still in a little bit of shock.”

Solar Express Car Wash, 2434 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 888-614-6664. Hours: Daily, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram

Open Poet’s Corner

Band T-shirts, trucker hats are in vogue at Old Earth Vintage

Thompson throws up the peace signal with his hand, elbow resting on a pile of shirts
Tristan Thompson in his first brick-and-mortar store, Old Earth Vintage. Credit: Joanne Furio

Old Earth Vintage opened up a year ago, but probably flew under the radar because it doesn’t have a sign, just a sandwich board outside. The 400-square-foot space that had previously been home to an art gallery is in an industrial-looking building that also includes another vintage clothing/record shop, B League, next door. Old Earth’s front door is a garage door that, when open, creates somewhat of an indoor-outdoor shopping experience. 

Vintage Open 12-5 sign in front of big industrial garage door with clothes visible inside in the dark
Old Earth Vintage’s facade is a garage door that opens up the shop to the outdoors. Credit: Joanne Furio

Owner Tristan Thompson has been selling vintage in the Bay Area (and on Instagram) for about six years. This is his first brick-and-mortar shop. 

Most of the merchandise is from the 1970s through the 1990s, with an emphasis on the ’70s and ’80s, but he’ll usually have a rack of clothing from the ’60s and earlier, like the half-dozen or so vintage women’s coats (one with a fur collar) that range from $50 to $120. 

Vintage T-shirts “go the quickest,” he said, with band or concert images or logos a trend that’s still going strong, along with trucker hats ($15-$25). Like most vintage sellers, Thompson buys what he likes, which includes an assortment of vintage denim and work jackets from the ’80s and ’90s, which sell in the $40 to $80 range.  

Lots of vintage clothes hanging and propped on a tables and stands
A view of the offerings at Old Earth Vintage, specializing in vintage from the 1970s-90s. Credit: Joanne Furio

“I can always work with people on price,” he said. 

One favorite item Thompson’s not quite ready to part with: a hoodie featuring a Keith Haring image, likely worth about $800, that’s on the store’s Instagram page but not in the shop.

“I’m just holding onto it for the time being,” he said. 

Old Earth Vintage, 1075 Dwight Way (at San Pablo Avenue), Berkeley. Phone: 501-952-8763. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. Connect via Instagram

Closed North Shattuck

Sumito Tsuizaki, floral designer who worked in the Ikebana tradition, will retire after 37 years

Sumito Tsuizaki, a native of Japan, was known for his sublime Ikebana-style arrangements. Credit: Joanne Furio

According to his wife, Sharon, Sumito Tsuizaki often used the expression, “live with the Japanese touch.” That philosophy came to life in the sublime, minimalist flower arrangements he created at his Shattuck Avenue store, Sumito’s Floral Design, in the Ikebana tradition. 

To accommodate more American tastes, Tsuizaki also designed big, full arrangements and bouquets that incorporated seasonal flowers, his wife said, “not just carnations and roses.”

After 37 years on Shattuck, Tsuizaki will stop taking orders around Sept. 23 and will close the shop about a week later. “The owner gave him time to clear out,” Sharon said. 

(Tsuizaki had asked his wife to speak on his behalf.)

A native of Saitama, Japan, Tsuizaki studied floral arrangement in Japan and worked at flower shops and hotel flower shops in Tokyo before emigrating to the U.S. in 1980. Initially, he worked for the legendary Adachi Florist and Nursery in El Cerrito in El Cerrito, part of a Japanese-owned family business dating to 1905 that once had 12 greenhouses and several East Bay florist shops. 

Sumito’s Floral Design will soon be closing after 37 years. Credit: Joanne Furio

Tsuizaki went out on his own in 1986, with his wife working alongside him. She also did the books for the business until about five years ago, when she bowed out all together. 

“I was sad to hear of the retirement but happy for him as well,” said René Siguenza, who discovered Sumito’s a decade ago when looking for a florist who could deliver arrangements to his wife’s office on the UC Berkeley campus. 

“I like to send her flowers on her birthday and for other special occasions,” he said. “Sumito would always come through with something special.”

His wife, Martha Flores, said his arrangements received many compliments from co-workers when they arrived at her office. “I could see the arrangements coming in from way down the hall,” she said. “They were always stunning.” 

Sumito’s Floral Design, 1708 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-548-2344.

Closed South Berkeley

Standford Market shows no signs of reopening

Closed one-story building boarded up and with a fence blocking windows. Sign says Standford Market: Liquor Wine Lotto Produce
Standford Market, partially covered by a tarp, has been closed following the winter storms. Credit: Joanne Furio

To some of its customers, Standford Market, also known as Stanford Liquor, sold more than just beer, wine and spirits. According to Yelp reviewers, it also sold “munchables,” like snacks and packaged baked goods, and household items, making it more of a neighborhood convenience store. 

A customer reported that the store has been closed for six months following the winter storms and half of it is covered in tarps. One of the owners has not responded to requests from Berkeleyside about the store’s future. A store’s been at that location since 1948. 

Standford Market, 3400 Adeline St., Berkeley. 

In Brief

Biz Buzz: Artist’s medicine cards, handyperson membership service

Mel Hofmann in front of her South Berkeley studio. Credit: Eli Zaturanski
  • Mel Hofmann, an artist with a backyard South Berkeley studio she has occasionally opened to the public, was attending a womens’ circle in 2016 where the leader recommended she consult with a stick diviner who used a technique from Burkina Faso for guidance. He told her that the spirits were telling him that she needed to create a deck of medicine cards. She said she “wasn’t someone who read cards or did tarot,” but she heeded his advice. The result: Sacred Journey Medicine Cards, a 54-card deck featuring Hoffman’s original art. She sells them on her website for $29.95, which includes an instruction booklet.
  • Vishwas and Avantika Prabhakara of Lafayette founded Honey Homes after they were unable to find trustworthy vendors to complete home repair and maintenance projects on their to-do list. Their membership-based service is now available in Berkeley. For a flat fee starting at $167 a month, Honey Homes provides homeowners with a dedicated handyperson who comes by at least once a month to tackle home upkeep and maintenance. Unusual in the industry: The company provides employees with full health benefits, paid time off, parental leave and professional development opportunities.

Correction: A previous version of this story used an erroneous first name for Solar Express Car Wash owner Seth Zweben.

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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...