Berkeley Bowl Make-over Bowls Over Shoppers; Who Moved Our Cheese?

By Ted Friedman
Friday June 08, 2012 - 01:10:00 PM
New look at South side Berkeley Bowl. Produce is moved-about.
Ted Friedman
New look at South side Berkeley Bowl. Produce is moved-about.
New look at Bowl, facing South.
Ted Friedman
New look at Bowl, facing South.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the Southside Berkeley Bowl got made-over to resemble its corporate big brother to the West. Anything Southsiders may have considered homey at the bowl now resembles the sterility of the bowl's mega-market in Berkeley's industrial area. 

As a public service, we will here attempt to explain the re-positioning of produce. The cheese section has not moved, but a customer service rep said that it will be remodeled. Beer is un-moved, as were many of the aisles. 

Its when we enter the produce and bulk foods section that bananas fly. Yes, they have bananas in many varieties, but they have been moved hither and yon. The re-arrangements give the appearance of more space, but it's only illusionary. 

The organic produce section has made a big move, from the rear of the store to the front, and you may not find the bulk foods section, without exploring. 

There seems to be an emphasis, which was already underway, of packaging more produce. My favorite tomato, of the vast bowl varieties, has been boxed and cello-phaned, making inspection difficult. Single-stem bananas, formerly discounted, are missing in action. 

Freshly ground bison is now frozen in bulk only. 

But for shoppers seeking great produce prices and variety not available even at pricier Farmer's Markets, the Bowl has it all. The guys in the fish department are talented thespians, and most of the bowl staff is friendly. 

Bowl management does not talk to the press, it says, after a reporter, some years ago, charmed it into cooperating for a piece which was a hatchet job. 

Perhaps the hatchet-job was about staffers who voted themselves out of the union, after years of alleged corporate union-busting. 

Our local markets don't like publicity. 

Changes at the Bowl had been underway for months, but this complete recent shuffling of produce changed everything. Now if they just don't move the cheese. 

Friedman has shopped the bowl since it opened in 1977, at the Berkeley Bowl, now hosting Any Mountain, at Shattuck/Stuart..