Faces of Berkeley
Soda Fountain Makes a Comeback

Contact Alex Kogan at [email protected]

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When Ozzie's Soda Fountain reopened its doors Monday after several months of employee conflict, Berkeley restaurateurs Rosa Mendicino and her son Dov Sims were ready to continue the establishment's long, family-friendly tradition as the restaurant's new owners.

The mother-son team has been bringing food to the Berkeley community for 26 years, operating several local restaurants and catering businesses together. Sims, 28, said the welcoming Berkeley atmosphere has been especially conducive to the restaurant, located in South Berkeley at College Avenue and Russell Street.

"Berkeley has been awesome," Sims said. "It's one of the only places in the world where you can be who you want."

The new owners have already seen their fair share of eccentrics in the first few days after the reopening.

"A kid ordered a banana split, ate that, then ordered an ice cream shake

and drank that," Sims said, describing his most "amazing" customer thus far. "He was 5 years old."

Mendicino and Sims will also be adding bits of their own personalities into Ozzie's long-standing local lore, but promise to preserve the restaurant's nostalgic appeal.

Returning customers will find that Ozzie's familiar offerings-ice cream, coffee and all-day breakfast-have remained intact. However, the new owners are considering expanding operating hours to accommodate Berkeley's early birds and nocturnal citizens.

"(Longer hours) would really illuminate Ozzie's because you're getting a crowd here at 2 a.m.," Sims said.

Mendicino and Sims will also draw from their experience in catering and restaurant operation to introduce several new elements, including a takeout window, Sims said. An espresso machine has already made its debut in the restaurant.

Sims likened the community's reaction to Ozzie's return to the joy of rediscovering a long-lost toy. Past employees and adults alike have been flocking to the restaurant with their kids to relive the days of their youth when Ozzie's was their after school ice-cream stop.

"You're going to be so busy, I'm going to jump behind there and start washing dishes," a former employee told Sims while stopping by to welcome the new owners.

To handle the crowds, Mendicino and Sims have been joined in the restaurant by several other family members, Sims said.

Ozzie's, which has served Berkeley patrons for more than 80 years, closed in June after disputes over business hours and operating expenses drove former soda jerk Michael Hogan to leave the establishment.

Mendicino and Sims struck an agreement with Victoria Carter, who owns the Elmwood Health and Mercantile, which houses and sublets Ozzie's. The agreement allows them to run the restaurant for a three-month trial period before a long-term agreement is finalized, Sims said.

The first few days after the reopening have seemed promising, Sims said.

"I think it's a huge underlying factor to the community," he said. "This is Ozzie's, it's here and it's a happy place."


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