Small business closures represent citywide tragedies

CITY ISSUES: Consumer consciousness could just be the only way to preserve Berkeley’s unique small businesses

Willow Yang/Senior Staff

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For Berkeley small business owners, you never know when you’re going to get the axe.

After years of providing the East Bay with an expert selection of science fiction books, Dark Carnival is the latest Berkeley small business set to close for good. “I’m pretty much just heartbroken,” store owner Jack Rems bemoaned in an interview with The Daily Californian. “This is what I did with my whole life and it’ll be forgotten pretty soon.”

Blondie’s, Remy’s, Flacos, even the historical landmark Caffe Mediterraneum and now Dark Carnival have each gotten the axe in the face of growing competition, among other pressures. The story is almost always the same, yet just as devastating time and time again. Every small business that closes in our city has a community member behind it, pouring everything they have into making their business thrive.

The only hope one can have lies in conscious buying choices on the part of the community. Students must decide to buy from local stores instead of on Amazon. Community members must be conscious of our collective buying power.

It’s tragic that we lose access to local expertise whenever a business in Berkeley goes under. We all lose out on rich culture and on unique city experiences when experts in these niche businesses in our local community go out of business.

Niche local culture is a dying breed, especially in Berkeley, a city with so much to lose. While the internet has helped to create opportunities for small-fry artists and businesses to put themselves out on the market, local culture is falling by the wayside.

Meanwhile, with the unveiling of a new Amazon publishing house and its recent takeover of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, Amazon has been quietly and rapidly growing. How could any local business hope to compete?

Some of the onus should be on city officials and business owners. Even more should sit on the shoulders of the federal government to ensure that big corporations can’t use underpaid labor irresponsibly to undercut competitors. Small businesses have little recourse against huge companies with hidden labor practices and piss-poor wages.

Asking students to support local businesses may seem unfair. The Bay Area is outrageously expensive and demanding. Housing is so overpriced, not to mention textbooks and groceries and every other little living expense!

But while online buying may take far less effort, many students certainly have the means to take part in maintaining the community.

If students and residents care about maintaining the rich culture of this city, every purchase counts.

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  • ESPM360

    I wonder if the City of Berkeley minimum wage ordinance has any thing to do with it?

    • Killer Marmot

      Indeed. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 / hour. The City of Berkeley minimum wage is $12.53 / hour, and is scheduled to go to $15 / hour next year.

      That may seem like social justice to some, but to others it means unemployment and business closures. Government does people no favours by pricing their labor out of the market.

  • Nunya Beeswax

    Explain to me why the failure of a Ken Sarachan enterprise should be the cause for anyone to mourn.

    Blondie’s pizza was crap, and Sarachan is a delusional cokehead who is singlehandedly responsible for much of the blight on Telegraph. No sympathy.

    • Jorge Carolinos

      Blondie’s got more and more average over the years.

      • lspanker

        I never trusted Blondies when I saw some of their hired help in action back when I attended Cal. If I had to eat pizza, I went to Fat Slice, as at least the employees there tried to practice some semblance of daily personal hygiene.

  • Man with Axe

    Merely exhorting consumers (students) to buy local will not work if the local prices are higher than the competition, unless the local store offers something worth the price difference.

    The only solution is for the powers that be in California and in particular the bay area to recognize that so many of the decisions they make raise these prices. Taxes are too high. Zoning is too restrictive, keeping rents high. The minimum wage is too high. And so on.

    Only changing these basic factors will help to save local businesses.

  • Killer Marmot

    California is known for its red tape, high taxes, and costly housing. Many companies have moved their headquarters in recent years to avoid them.

    Small businesses get a bit of a break in these things, but California is still one of the toughest states to start and maintain a business. Business News Daily, for example, ranked California as having the fifth highest tax burden for small businesses,

  • Caterina Sforza

    The costs of doing business in California, in general, and the Bay Area, in particular, are way too high!

    Solution, vote the Democrats out of office.