The Daily Californian Online

Beloved Local Flower Shop May Be Required to Close

By Arielle Turner
Contributing Writer
Friday, February 27, 2009
Category: News > City > Business

Iraj Misaghi, an owner of Ashby Flowers, arranges roses. The 50-year-old shop, located in what is now the Whole Foods Market parking lot, may close as Whole Foods did not renew its lease. A protest was staged on behalf of the shop. See page 2 for the story.

Whole Foods Market's decision not to renew the lease of a Berkeley flower shop operating on the company's parking lot was met with protest by residents Wednesday.

Owners and about 50 customers and supporters of Ashby Flowers, located at the corner of Telegraph and Ashby Avenues, gathered outside the market's Emeryville headquarters to advocate a renewal of the shop's lease.

The market decided not to renew the lease in April, citing space necessities and demand from customers for a convenient food service location.

"One of the options we're currently looking at is something with a local juice bar kind of a spot, a walk-up convenient to-go spot," said Michael Howard, a Berkeley Whole Foods employee.

Plans to replace the shop with a juice and coffee bar offering to-go bakery items and meals were not related to concerns over competition for business with the flower shop, Howard said.

"We have no intention of moving (our) flower stands out there (in the shop's place)," he said.

Although the market has offered to assist Ashby Flowers in finding a new location after their lease expires on July 31, Marcy Simon, an owner of the shop, said she hopes to negotiate and stay at the location.

"We don't have any plans to open another location," she said. "We have a plan to win this."

Halcyon Neighborhood Association members, who live near the location, said they will not support the market if it does not renew the shop's lease.

"My hope would be that Whole Foods comes to its senses and renews Ashby Flowers' lease," said Nancy Carleton, who spoke at the protest and is co-chair of the association.

Simon said community members were concerned that a cafe would create traffic, garbage and parking problems.

The shop has been at the location for 50 years, before the market opened its doors in 1989. Although the shop's current owners also run Telegraph Flowers near Haste Street, the shop near Whole Foods is their main location.

In November, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates sent a letter asking that the company not terminate the lease.

"The last thing we need is to have another small business in this community go out of business because of corporate decisions that no one understands," said Julie Sinai, Bates' chief of staff.

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