Elmwood Store, Founded in 1921, Closing Doors

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A longtime College Avenue store will be closing its doors later this spring, citing slow business and high rent.

Elmwood Health & Mercantile, located at the corner of College Avenue and Russell Street in Berkeley, will be closing its doors at the end of April or the middle of May, shop owner Victoria Carter said.

"Business has just gotten too bad," she said.

College Avenue houses an upscale variety of eateries, retail stores, and salons, but Carter said she is concerned that the neighborhood is getting too commercial.

"The services that people used to depend on here have gone. The bank is still here, but the shoe repair is gone, the hardware store is gone. These are businesses that used to be the core of the neighborhood commercial center," Carter said.

Elmwood Health & Mercantile, formerly the Elmwood Pharmacy, was founded in 1921. Carter's father, Charles, who owned a separate pharmacy on the corner of College and Ashby Avenue, bought the Elmwood Pharmacy in 1961. When her father died in 1986, Victoria Carter took over the pharmacy, which housed Ozzie's Soda Fountain.

Carter said she had to close the pharmacy in August 2004 because of difficulties with insurance companies.

Now the store sells over-the-counter medicines and other pharmacy items, but business has gotten increasingly worse in the last year, she said. Ozzie's Soda Fountain closed last May.

Carl Bridges, a long-time customer, said he remembers coming to the counter at Ozzie's with his daughter after her ballet practice.

"There was a whole group of people on Saturday mornings," he said. "It's been a real institution here, for longer than I've been around."

The same building which houses the Elmwood Health and Mercantile also contains Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore. Building owner Hal Brandel said he did not know what will replace Elmwood Health & Mercantile.

Victoria Carter said the closing of her store marks the end of an era in the Elmwood district.

"I feel eventually this neighborhood will be just chains and restaurants. They are the only businesses that can sustain themselves with these rents."


Contact Anna Widdowson at [email protected]

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