The Daily Californian Online

Store Operations Board Negotiates With Local Business Owner to Fill Lower Sproul Space

By True Shields
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Category: News > University > ASUC

Josh Shaeffer, a Maoz Vegetarian franchise owner, is currently in negotiations with the ASUC Store Operations Board to open an organic food store on campus.

Working to fill a vacant space in Lower Sproul Plaza, the ASUC Store Operations Board has begun negotiations with a Maoz Vegetarian franchise owner, Josh Shaeffer, to open an organic food business at UC Berkeley, though the business would not be affiliated with Maoz Vegetarian.

The property, empty since the Credit Union for Berkeley Students' relocation at the beginning of the 2009 academic year, was originally slated to be leased to a Panda Express franchise before its proposal was rejected in May 2009. If a lease agreement is completed by February, as projected by the board, Shaeffer's move to campus will mark the first time in nearly a decade that every one of ASUC Auxiliary's Lower Sproul properties are occupied.

Prior to a Nov. 22 board meeting, protracted negotiations with Panda Express initially deterred other franchises and small businesses from inquiring about the space, according to Director of the ASUC Auxiliary Nadesan Permaul.

"Because we allowed the auxiliary to work directly with the businesses (during the meeting), we were able to talk with them in ways that would get them interested," he said.

Five businesses, including AT&T and Amanda's Restaurant, were considered by the board as candidates to fill the vacant property. At November's board meeting, Shaeffer was given the green light.

Store Operations Board Chair Yishi Zuo said Shaeffer's willingness to examine the start-up costs for the new business - including thousands of dollars in renovations to the property to bring it up to food-service standards - and the business's affordable prices make it a good choice for a largely student demographic.

In May 2009, the board forgave The Daily Californian a portion of its rent for the office it leases. As part of the agreement, a nonpolitical student member of the board, currently Zuo, sits on The Daily Californian's Board of Operations, which has no control over the paper's editorial content.

While still in the initial stages of negotiations with the board, Shaeffer said he is optimistic about the opportunity the property presents but is worried about how overlooked Lower Sproul often is.

"We want to know what's going on with the Naia space during the (upcoming) meetings," he said. "Being on campus is more dangerous than being on Telegraph because you are tied to the school year."

Fresh Choice Organic Restaurant will move into the space formerly held by the Naia Lounge by the second week of January, according to Zuo.

Permaul said that in order to ensure the success of any new businesses on campus, the ASUC prioritized those willing to accept certain standards - such as accepting Cal 1 debit cards and presenting sustainable, healthy food options - in their considerations.

In addition to Shaeffer's business, which would be opened in March if negotiations are successful, a Subway franchise and Saigon Eats are slated to open in the Bear's Lair by the second week of January.

The ASUC Auxiliary hopes the new businesses will induce more foot traffic in Lower Sproul and revitalize the area, Permaul said.

"The product that Saigon Eats offers created a line around the block at Taste of Berkeley," he said. "The presence of students on (the board) ensured that we only looked at businesses that students would be interested in."

A meeting between Shaeffer and auxiliary members including Permaul is scheduled for Wednesday to discuss the leasing agreement.

Clarification: A previous version of this article suggested that Shaeffer's new business will be affiliated with Maoz Vegetarian. In fact, the new business is a separate venture unaffiliated with the franchise.

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