A Few Prominent Businesses Abandoned Berkeley in 2006
If Cody’s Books and Radston’s Office Plus cited poor sales and an expensive lease as respective reasons to close down their much-loved stores in Berkeley in 2006, there were others such as PowerBar and Clif Bar who felt the need to leave the city in order to grow.
Andy Ross, owner and president of Cody’s Books Inc., announced in May that he was closing down the chain’s oldest store, on Telegraph Avenue, on July 10 with a heavy heart.
Ross blamed big chain and Internet booksellers and a lack of help from the city.
In a statement Ross informed people of the 15-year sales decline in the south-of-campus area, which he said had led to Cody’s Telegraph Avenue, doing only one-third of the business it did in 1990.
He noted that the company’s attempt to keep the Telegraph store open had caused a loss of over $1 million.
“Cody’s is an idea, not a building. That idea will endure in our other stores on Fourth Street and in San Francisco,” Ross said in his announcement.
For many Bekeleyans, the closing of Cody’s Books signaled the end of an era. Long-time patrons remembered the 1960s when Cody’s was part of the great anti-war movement that had its roots in Berkeley and how in 1989, the store had been bombed for carrying Salman Rushdie’s controversial novel The Satanic Verses.
In September, a Tokyo-based company,Yohan, Inc., purchased the two remaining Cody’s bookstores on Fourth Street in Berkeley and Stockton Street in San Francisco.
Radstons Office Plus, which celebrated its 98th birthday in 2006, also closed the doors to its 1950 Shattuck Avenue retail store on July 14.
Diane Griffin, president and third- generation owner of the stationery store, had told the Planet in June that it was difficult to point a finger in any particular direction for the store’s closure.
“Let’s just say that it’s all things Berkeley, topped off with the fact that our lease ran out,” she said. “We just couldn’t afford to pay the prohibitive increase in rent any more, as there wasn’t enough profit out of our downtown retail store. I hope both my father and grandfather who ran the business before me are looking down and understanding the decision we had to take.”
Speaking to the Planet at that time, Mayor Tom Bates had said that while he was sorry to see Radston’s leave Berkeley, he was looking forward to positive changes such as condos, boutique hotels and jazz clubs that would help make Downtown more attractive.
Currently, Radston’s is focusing more on its core delivery business in Hercules, which accounts for 90 percent of the company’s sales and caters to public institutions and small- to medium-sized, independently owned businesses.
Another big loss for Berkeley last year was Nestle USA’s decision to move its PowerBar business from Berkeley to Glendale.
The move, however, received mixed responses from the community. While city officials said that they’d rather that the business had stayed in Berkeley, there were those who greeted the news jubilantly.
Ever since it was first installed in December 1997, PowerBar’s controversial 26-foot-wide sign atop their downtown office on Shattuck Avenue had been a source of constant complaints from residents who called it an eyesore.
PowerBar spokesperson Vanessa Wager told the Planet that it was not space constraints but the need to be close to its headquarters that had initiated the move.
Not long after PowerBar’s move to Glendale, rival company Clif Bar announced in August that it would be moving its Berkeley headquarters to Alameda after the company’s current lease expired in July 2008.
The need to expand its facility was stated as the main reason for leaving its West Berkeley site. Berkeley residents were sorry to hear about the loss of this green company, as Clif Bar had been known for its all-natural and organic energy snacks for athletes (such as Clif Bar, Clif Shot and Luna) and its environment-friendly approach.
The proposed site for Clif Bar’s new facility in Alameda is a waterfront location at the Navy’s former Fleet Industrial Supply Center across the estuary from Jack London Square, which is part of the 777-acre Alameda Landing Project.
In an interview to the Planet in August, chief of staff to the mayor, Cisco De Vries, said that while the City would have wanted both PowerBar and Clif Bar to stay, citizens should not get alarmed by the moves.
“A lot of companies are interested in moving into downtown Berkeley. The mayor’s office gets calls from interested parties all the time,” he said.