April 14, 2024

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The Berkeley jeweler favored by rockstars; Berkeley Garden Club turns 90

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 [email protected].

Open Northwest Berkeley

David Giulietti once thought jewelry was silly — but it ‘crept up’ on him

David Giulietti at work in his San Pablo Avenue jewelry shop. Credit: Joanne Furio

What do John Mayer, Katy Perry, Jackson Browne, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and mandolinist David Grisman have in common? They all own a piece of David Giulietti jewelry.

“Most of the celebrities found me through the musical instruments I engraved,” Giulietti said. “Except for Jackson Browne. He just came through a jewelry store.”

Giulietti is among a handful of Berkeley shop owners whose openings went under the radar because they took place early in the pandemic. David Giulietti Designs opened on Small Business Saturday in December 2020.

“It was challenging at first, but it’s been picking up steadily ever since,” he said.

Some of the custom jewelry on display. Credit: Joanne Furio

A native of Schenectady, New York, Giulietti has worked with metal since high school, making armor for the Society for Creative Anachronism, a living history group promoting medieval culture. At the Atlanta College of Art, he studied sculpture.

“That got me really excited about working with metal and using torches and melting things,” he said. “I wanted to make big sculptures. I thought jewelry was kind of silly, but it just crept up on me.”

After moving to California in 1992, he worked at a bronze foundry and then for National Guitars as an engraver before he started “playing around with jewelry.” He took a jewelry-making course at Santa Rosa Junior College in 2001 and by 2005 was working as an engraver for Bay Area high-end jewelry stores. Prior to opening his store, he sold at high-end craft fairs and select shops.

Giulietti’s jewelry is not of the sleek and shiny variety, but meticulously detailed with hand engraving and treated surfaces that create texture. Some of his techniques date to ancient Egypt.

“The engraved surface has more of a handmade feel,” he said. “It makes it richer and sweeter and vibrates with old-world magic.” 

The minimalist displays at David Giulietti’s new shop on San Pablo Avenue. Credit: Joanne Furio

Inside the 600-square-foot storefront, sleek displays feature all types of jewelry, but rings tend to be the most popular. Prices range from $90 for a pair of simple silver earrings to $8,300 for an 18-karat gold ring with sapphires and diamonds. One of the more unusual items in his collection is the Sakura, inspired by the fittings on Samurai swords, an oxidized sterling silver ring with 18-karat gold and diamonds, its surface engraved with tiny flowers and multiple textures. 

“You have to be obsessed to be good at it,” Giulietti said of engraving. “It entails a very high level of attention to detail.”

David Giulietti Designs, 1645 San Pablo Ave., (at Cedar Street) Berkeley. Phone: 510-558-2356. Hours: Friday, 2 to 6 p.m.; Thursday and Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Connect via Facebook and Instagram

Open Southwest Berkeley

Ninth Street bike shop is co-run by coach of Berkeley High mountain bike team

Nick Hoeper-Tomich and his business partner, Jonah Thomas, at their new Ninth Street bike shop. Courtesy: Stay True Cycles

Nick Hoeper-Tomich and his business partner, Jonah Thomas, have been friends since they were both at Berkeley High School, classes of 2008 and 2010, respectively. Both were on the mountain bike team. Since then, they have spent years working as bike mechanics and often bounced around the idea of opening a shop together.

“Neither of us wanted to spend another day working for somebody else,” Hoeper-Tomach said. “We wanted to be more intentional, not just a money-making business, but something more community-oriented to get more people involved in cycling.” 

They opened Stay True Cycle two years ago, which sells new Rocky Mountain and Marin mountain bikes and Cervelo road bikes. Most of the business, however, comes from servicing high-end bikes. The 800-square-foot shop has three workbenches, where the owners and another employee work as mechanics. 

“Anything that can fit through the door — except for a motorcycle — we’ll work on,” Hoeper-Tomich said. 

Ajax, the shop dog, inside the 800-square-foot shop. Courtesy: Stay True Cycles

The partners say they are also hoping to diversify cycling through internships and community rides. 

“The goal is to get more people involved,” Hoeper-Tomich said, “to give everyone the same fair shake and not be the classic bike shop that is pretentious and elitist. We’re trying to be as welcoming and inclusive as humanly possible.” 

For the second year in a row, the shop is sponsoring unpaid summer internships for eight to 10 high-schoolers, with a focus on attracting female-identified students and students of color. Many of the students will likely come from Berkeley High’s mountain bike team, which Hoeper-Tomich has been coaching since 2013. The team recently made the news when some members became victims of a carjacking; Hoeper-Tomich set up a GoFundMe that has raised more than $26,000 to replace their van and stolen bikes.  

Hoeper-Tomich has also led weekly community rides, which began and ended at the shop. The rides have been temporarily put on hold since the birth of his first child in December.

Looking back, Hoeper-Tomich said that opening at the start of the pandemic was somewhat of a trial by fire. He’s still amazed the shop survived. 

“If you can open and run a business during the pandemic, you can weather most events,” he said. 

Stay True Cycles, 2743 Ninth St., (at Pardee Street) Berkeley. Phone: 510-725-6281. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram

In the spotlight 

Berkeley Garden Club celebrates 90 years doing the dirty work of beautification

Members of the Berkeley Garden Club at the Rose Garden. Courtesy: Berkeley Garden Club

Though it did start with a few women who met over lunch, the Berkeley Garden Club “was not founded as a club for ladies who lunch,” said current president Mindi Lassman, but rather for those not afraid to get their hands dirty. 

Since its founding in 1932, civic improvement projects have been the public face of the club’s many efforts and you can literally see its work all over the city, most notably at the Berkeley Rose Garden, Aquatic Park and Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.

As the organization celebrates its 90th anniversary, it is also preparing for its annual art and plant street sale, on Saturday, May 7, at the Arts and Crafts Cooperative Inc. (ACCI) Gallery, which co-hosts the event.

“From the very beginning, the club was responsive to not only the needs of the community but the whole Bay Area and the state,” said Patricia St. John, a 20-year member and past president who also works as a landscape designer. 

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Berkeley Garden Club president Mrs. L.F. Phelps presenting Eleanor Roosevelt with an orchid corsage before Roosevelt gives a talk at the Oakland Auditorium in 1947. Courtesy: Berkeley Garden Club

The BGC’s first civic beautification project took place in 1935, when it installed a Deodar cedar and dozens of roses, Fremontodendron californicum, a native plant, and perennials at Fremontia Park, a triangular strip bounded by The Alameda and Monterey and Marin avenues. The park made way for a firehouse in the 1950s, but the cedar remains. 

The club has also used its power to lobby legislative bodies and its budget to support causes it believes in, like Save the Redwoods. It was the BGC that recommended that the City of Berkeley adopt the fuchsia as its official flower in 1938 — and the city agreed. The club also lobbied to have the redwood become the state tree, which came to fruition in 1937, and in favor of Proposition 20, which created the California Coastal Commission in 1972. 

In 1985, BGC collaborated with the Berkeley parks department to create the Berkeley Beautification Project, a garden contest. After the public submitted nominations, BGC members voted on four winning gardens. Winners received prizes and signs in their front yards. 

Berkeley Garden Club members admiring a flower arrangement in 1972: Mrs. Lawrence Lynch, Mrs. Harry Neis, Mrs. Addison Fordin and Mrs. James Moyn. Courtesy: Berkeley Garden Club

Despite its name, the BGC is not limited geographically in terms of its work and its membership. In fact, most of its regular (pre-pandemic) meetings were held at Albany Community Center, where it is also working with the city to install plantings. 

Increasingly, the club’s work has reflected state-wide concerns, like the promotion of native and drought-tolerant plantings in a changing climate.

“Everybody’s been more interested in water conservation,” Lassman said. “We have to help people figure out how to do more drought-tolerant adaptive gardens.”

BGC meetings have featured experts in butterflies, geraniums and flower arranging. The club also offers specialized interest groups for those who want to take a deeper dive into topics like succulents, propagation, herbs and spices and floriculture. Membership is $55 a year. 

The club’s founding members — and many members well into the 1970s — referred to themselves by their husbands’ names. Now the club has at least 11 male members. Because meetings are held during the day, most members are retired. 

“We have a wide spectrum of avid gardeners who can give you advice,” Lassman said. “It’s a great place to commune with fellow gardeners and work collegially in multiple ways.” 

Berkeley Garden Club. Connect via Facebook

Open Soon Fourth Street

Electric car company chooses Berkeley for one of its first American showrooms

A new retail showroom for VinFast, a Vietnamese electric carmaker, is coming to Fourth Street. Credit: Joanne Furio

A Vietnamese electric car company has chosen Berkeley as the site of one of its three American showrooms. The VinFast showroom will open on Fourth Street on May 25, the same day it opens its other locations in Santa Monica and San Diego. 

Located between BoConcept and Athleta, the Berkeley showroom will double as an information center for its fleet of electric vehicles. 

Last year the company opened its U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, and in late March it was reported by Forbes that it would be opening a North Carolina factory and investing up to $6.5 billion in U.S. electric vehicle production. 

VinFast is the automotive arm of Vietnam’s biggest conglomerate, Vingroup, which is mainly involved in Vietnamese real estate, retail, hotel-resorts and smartphone manufacturing.

VinFast, 1733 Fourth St., Berkeley. Connect Via Facebook and Instagram

Closing Lorin District

Empress Vintage will leave the funky commercial strip it helped create

Janina Angel Bath at her soon-to-be-closing store. Courtesy: Empress Vintage

Janina Angel Bath, who helped bring small businesses back to a micro-neighborhood in the Lorin District, is closing her Alcatraz Avenue vintage clothing store, Empress Vintage, on June 30.

Back in 2019 Bath told Berkeleyside that her landlord, Jennifer Chen, a small business owner in San Francisco, wanted her to leave but would not tell her why. Subsequent rent increases mean her business is no longer viable, Bath said. So she has decided to pack up and move the contents of her store to her San Francisco shop in the Mission District. 

“I’m sad because I put over 10 years of my life into this neighborhood and tried to create community,” Bath said. She said she created First Tuesdays, evenings that entailed live music and other events in the neighborhood, timed to draw customers from the weekly neighborhood farmer’s market. 

In 2011, Bath opened what was originally called Tarot Woman Vintage Boutique in a 100-square-foot shop in what was then 3140 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Six months later, the Alchemy Collective Cafe moved in next door. 

In 2014, Alchemy moved to Alcatraz Avenue and a few months later, Bath followed, taking the storefront next door. That’s when she changed the store’s name to Empress, after the tarot card symbolizing nurturing, community and the divine feminine. She does tarot readings in the store.

“The magical part is that we were neighbors and both ended up moving two blocks away and are next door to each other to this day,” she said. “We are soulmate businesses.”

The block of storefronts between Adeline and Ellis streets where Empress is located now includes Hercules Records, Hoi Polloi Brewing and the restaurant Easy Creole, businesses that turned out to be “super complimentary,” Bath said.

“I’m hoping people will come and have their last couple of visits before I go,” she added. 

Empress Vintage, 1757 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley. Phone: 510-542-6196. Hours: Tuesday, noon to 7 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Instagram

Closed Fourth Street

Shoh Gallery’s satellite on Fourth Street is already cleared out. Credit: Joanne Furio

One door closes and another one … expands. That’s what happened with the Shoh Gallery. Owner Julie McCray closed the Fourth Street satellite of her Gilman Street location on April 24 because it got too hard to divide her time between the two. 

“I want to devote more time and attention to our shows,” McCray said. 

At the same time, she has expanded her 6-year-old Gilman Street gallery, adding an office and private viewing area on the second floor. On the ground floor, Shoh has about 1,500 square feet of exhibition space in two rooms.

Shoh Gallery, 1778 Fourth St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-504-0011. Connect via Facebook and Instagram.  

In Brief

Biz Buzz: Tinsel Trading Company, Bank of America

• In business for 90 years (84 of them in New York) Tinsel Trading Company at 1659 San Pablo Ave. (at Virginia Street) has seen many of its specialty trims appear in everything from Broadway shows to movies and TV series — “even Saturday Night Live,” says Maria Ceppos, the third generation to run the shop. The store’s most recent credit appears in the Steven Spielberg production of West Side Story. The store’s silver glitter stars can be found on a poster during the gym dance scene. Though the store now has Bay Area clients, like the San Francisco Ballet and opera, it still draws from New York and the rest of the world. “When we moved across the country in 2017, I was a little concerned that the costume, set designers and all the other designers might forget about us,” Ceppos said. “but happily they didn’t.” 

• Maybe because Bank of America announced the Aug. 23 closing of its North Shattuck branch at 1536 Shattuck Ave., rumors have circulated about the bank permanently closing its financial centers at 2347 Telegraph Ave. (at Durant Avenue) and 2546 San Pablo Ave. (at Parker Street) and perhaps pull out of Berkeley entirely. A spokeswoman said both locations are temporarily closed, with no dates set for reopening. As to pulling out entirely? That seems unlikely. In February, the bank opened a new teller-less location at 3001 Telegraph Ave. (at Ashby Avenue) and is expected to move its Berkeley Main branch from its temporary location (2151 Shattuck Ave.) into the lobby of the new Residence Inn By Marriott (2129 Shattuck Ave.) in June.

Joanne Furio moved to Berkeley because it has sidewalks. She specializes in design in all its incarnations, innovation and the arts.