Two businesses open on Solano Avenue

Photo: Two businesses have opened on Solano Avenue.
Jeff Totten/Staff
Two businesses have opened on Solano Avenue.

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Despite the opening of two businesses on Solano Avenue, the number of empty storefronts on the commercial strip remains the same, as the new businesses take over two adjacent lots previously occupied by Sarber's Cameras photography store, which relocated earlier this month to a larger space on the west end of the avenue.

The opening of the new shops next month will prevent any additional storefront vacancies, which have become all too common on Solano in the past, according to Allen Cain, executive director and events manager of Solano Avenue Association and Stroll. He said he has noticed that east end vacancies in Berkeley far outweigh vacancies on Albany's west end of the avenue.

"Solano should hold no bar, we just need businesses, period," Cain said. "The vacancy situation is highly volatile. Vacancies are like viruses - if you don't treat them they will spread."

One of the new stores, Bay Area's Spiritual Shop, is set to open later this month, according to Mike Irwin, son of the prospective owner. He said the retail store will sell supplies to help customers meditate, such as candles, books, bath oils and scented crystals. The spiritual healing shop will also provide space for meditation and meditation education, he added.

"We'll offer different things to help people relax and be more calm about life, and how to deal with everyday stress," Irwin said.

Irwin and his mother have previously owned similar stores on University Avenue, with their most recent shop closing in 2009 after four years of business, according to Irwin. His mother's health forced them to close, but the opening of the new shop follows her recovery.

The space for the shop was made available when Sarber's Cameras relocated to 1483 Solano Ave. in a move to gain a bigger space, according to owner Jessica Sarber. She added that the photography store had used its previous space at 1749 Solano Ave. as one storefront, converting two allocated spaces into one store. Its relocation now has allowed for Bay Area's Spiritual Shop to move in at 1749 Solano Ave., while Jacqueline's Boutique will open at the adjacent 1751 address.

Jacqueline Stuart will open the boutique next to the Bay Area's Spiritual Shop in one month, following construction on the site, according to Stuart. The boutique will sell vintage recycled clothing, jewelry, handbags and shoes along with collectible items.

For the last 20 years, Stuart has consistently provided merchandise through garage sales and the sale of wholesale clothes to local retail shops, she said.

"I see my stuff in other people's windows," Stuart added. "I'm really looking forward to having my own space."

According to Stuart, the boutique will have an area that she designates as her "healing garden," where customers can receive massages and undergo different methods of healing. She said she does not think these services will conflict with the spiritual shop opening next door.

"I'm going to do what I'm going to do, and I'm going to do what I was going to do before they came," she said. "I hope it works out for everybody."

Stuart added that she is not afraid of competition from the proposed Goodwill that may occupy a storefront two blocks away.

Cain said he feels serious changes are in store for Solano, in terms of the number of vacancies and the types of businesses attempting to fill empty spaces. He added that Solano is known for its diversity of store types and owners.


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