Popular Elmwood Soda Fountain To Close at End of Month By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday May 13, 2005

After four years of trying, Mike Hogan is giving up on his effort to save Ozzie’s, the popular soda fountain at 2900 College Ave. in the Elmwood district. 

“I have done everything I could, and I have made a lot of good friends and I’ll miss everybody terribly,” he said Thursday morning. 

On June 1, the fountain will close. 

Economic pressures have forced the fountain’s closure before. It had been vacant for months when Hogan took over in 2001, intrigued by the notion of running a vanishing institution—the drug store fountain. 

It was also economic pressure that forced Victoria Carter, owner of the Elmwood Pharmacy which houses the fountain, to give up the prescription drug business and turn the pharmacy into a gift shop with over-the-counter medicines. 

Hogan said he had hoped that Carter would expand her hours to allow him to open before 9:30 a.m. so he could serve the breakfast crowd. He also hoped Carter would allow him to remain open on Friday evenings and weekends to catch the evening and weekend dinner crowds drawn by other Elmwood eateries. 

The last straw, he said, came when Carter presented him with a lease earlier this month that raised his rent by $100 a month and his utilities by about $200. Carter said she hopes she can find someone else to run the soda fountain, but she’s considering other options as well. 

She blamed Hogan for his failure to generate profits. 

“He’s just not much of a businessman,” she said. 

Carter said she wouldn’t consider changing the hours of the shop to accommodate the fountain. 

“That’s what they’ve been for 84 years,” she said. 

Hogan insists that the hours were the real killer. 

Business was bad during the winter he said, “but it’s really been picking up lately, and I’m confident we would continue if we had better hours.” 

Elmwood Health & Mercantile, as Carter’s business is now known, is open between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Those hours, Hogan points out, miss both the early breakfast and dinner crowds. The business is closed on Sundays. 

“I hear people daily complaining that there’s no place in the Elmwood to get a good, cheap breakfast, and that’s what I was hoping to offer,” Hogan said. “On Friday and Saturday nights, I see people lined up for the restaurants, and we could get a part of that, especially when the Elmwood Theater reopens.” 

Although he is calling it quits, he says he leaves with no hard feelings against Carter. “Whatever happens, I wish the best for the business,” he said. 

Ozzie’s, named after Charles Osborne, who ran the fountain for four decades after taking over in 1950, has long been a favored gathering spot of Berkeley’s writers and activists. 

As Hogan walked down the street, talking to a reporter, passers-by offered friendly greetings and short conversations. 

“I’ll really miss it,” Hogan said. 

After he closes for the last time at the end of the month, he said he’ll move to Sacramento and do nothing but rest for the month of June before deciding what to do next.›