LastSundaysFest seeks to draw business to Telegraph Avenue

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Aisles of booths dotted Telegraph Avenue Sunday afternoon, selling everything from shaved ice to whimsical trinkets as the summer street fair LastSundaysFest came to life once again.

The festival — now in its fourth year — offered something for everyone, and accordingly, throngs of people from all over the Bay Area trickled into Berkeley to see what the annual festival had to offer this year in showcasing local wares, music and food.

More notably, this is the first LastSundaysFest since the devastating Haste Street fire last November, which resulted in the temporary closure of numerous nearby businesses and a decline in foot traffic on the avenue.

Al Geyer, chair of the Telegraph Merchants Association and owner of Annapurna, said he is hoping the festival will help bring in more people in the long run to counter the economic hardships plaguing the avenue in recent months.

“Ten thousand (people) come up,” Geyer said. “This festival is not a local festival — this is aimed at the entire Bay Area, so we get a lot of people coming from San Francisco and Marin.”

Festival-goers like Michelle Wong came from as far as Los Angeles to stop at the festival while visiting friends in the area.

“It’s interesting,” Wong said. “(LastSundaysFest) is really colorful.”

According to Geyer, who spearheaded the event, the festival brings in an increased profit of about 15 to 20 percent from a typical Sunday in his store.

Amoeba Music owner Marc Weinstein said that despite Geyer’s laudable efforts, the lack of sufficient city involvement prevents the festival from realizing its full potential.

“I very much appreciate it, but I feel, like many other things down here, it’s a very half-baked effort because there are no resources,” Weinstein said. “(Telegraph Avenue) is not very busy … it’s not well publicized, unfortunately.”

Weinstein said business has gone down 10 to 20 percent for Amoeba since the fire and that he has yet to recover.

“I heard these girls from Cal say, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know there was an Amoeba down here,’” Weinstein said. “It just speaks to how much people don’t wanna come down this way. The fire was devastating to everybody this far down the avenue.”

Still, the street is showing signs of rebounding. The grand opening of the grilled cheese eatery The Melt last Thursday drew in a crowd of more than 2,000 customers, according to Paul Coletta, the eatery’s chief marketing officer.

“We really feel like our business is a destination, and people will go maybe a little further to find us,” Coletta said.

Jaehak Yu is the lead city government reporter.