A.G. Ferrari Foods to close Solano location

Tony Zhou/Staff

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A.G. Ferrari Foods closed its Solano Avenue storefront Sunday as part of efforts to cut back spending after the company filed for bankruptcy, selecting the location for closure in light of the area's expensive leasing costs.

The Italian food market closed the North Berkeley location after 13 years of business, along with its Sunnyvale store, while operations continued normally at the company's remaining 11 establishments.

According to a statement from A.G. Ferrari Foods CEO Paul Ferrari, the company is now in the process of renegotiating the leases of its other stores.

A.G. Ferrari filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oakland, allowing executives to financially restructure the business under the protection of the court, though specific ways for how the company will stabilize its finances have yet to be decided. Danielle Caponi Bolla, director of marketing for A.G. Ferrari Foods, said the company is in the process of creating a timeline in which it plans to restructure, but that the court will control much of the restructuring process.

In the statement, Ferrari said closing the two stores will improve the company's financial practices and that it plans to offer the six employees at each of the closed locations transfers to remaining stores.

Bolla said the company does not anticipate its customer base to dwindle, as stores on College Avenue in Berkeley and those in Los Altos and Palo Alto will remain open to serve the communities that lost the two markets. The lease agreements at these locations are less expensive than those at the closed Solano and Sunnyvale stores.

However, Jill Martinucci, legislative assistant to Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, said the North Berkeley community is very concerned with the closure of A.G. Ferarri as it adds to the growing number of empty store fronts on Solano.

Allen Cain, Executive Director and Events Manager of Solano Avenue Association and Stroll said many properties on the west end of Solano remain vacant because landlords do not want to risk devaluing their property by lowering the high rent.

"The Association feels that 2011 will represent significant change for this district, and without significant, immediate action, Solano Avenue as we know it is in jeopardy," he said in an email. "Goodwill wants on and our 'anchor' stores are leaving."

Jessica Sarber moved her store, Sarber's Cameras, from the Berkeley end of Solano to the Albany end of the street - reopening the store Thursday - after 15 years of business. The move was prompted by being unable to negotiate a financial plan to restructure the physical layout of her store with her landlord.

"We would have to invest more money into the business," she said. "There were lots of empty stores around us in Berkeley. The Albany location is very inviting."

Sarber said that although the store's new location in Albany is just five blocks north of its original location, business has grown to where the company is investing more time in education and photography classes.

In December 2010, Capitelli sponsored a measure to stimulate economic development on Solano that proposes suspending the food service quota - which currently allows 12 food service establishments in the business district - postponing zoning fees, increasing the store hours of operation to 11 p.m. and motivating property owners to not leave their buildings vacant.

Capitelli's office was informed by the city of Berkeley's Office of Economic Development through an email Monday of A.G. Ferrari Food's closure.

"We were really disappointed," Martinucci said. "Something substantive needs to happen on Solano Avenue."


Contact Amruta Trivedi at [email protected]

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