Telegraph Avenue’s Caffe Mediterraneum, bracketed between Amoeba Music and Shakespeare & Company Books, is officially up for lease with a purchase component after the owner’s desire for a change in management.
The self-proclaimed “birthplace of the caffe latte,” Caffe Med has been a notable fixture in Berkeley for the past 57 years. Owner Craig Becker purchased the building 10 years ago and began running the coffee shop in 2006. When Becker took over, he revamped the space’s physical makeup and the shop’s popularity grew quickly, tripling in sales from what it had previously seen. While it will remain a coffee shop, Becker said the business has reached a plateau and is in need of major remodeling, something he feels can best be accomplished under new ownership.
“I’d like to get someone with a good plan that will maintain the traditional history of the Med,” Becker said. “Depending on the specifics of the menu of a new owner, it could take a little bit different shape.”
The space saw the inception of People’s Park around the corner and was frequented by beat poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Kevin Gordon of Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services agreed that the physical atmosphere of the cafe, with an older aesthetic style and infrastructure, could be enhanced with renovations. Still, Gordon said, the familiarity and history of the cafe hold value for the community.
Gordon said he and Becker do not have a specific deadline for leasing Caffe Med. Gordon added that he hopes someone from the community will lease the business.
“We’re very sensitive to the history and nature of Caffe Med,” Gordon said in regard to whether the new leaseholder will be an independent or corporate operator. “We’ll just have to see what the market bears and what the ownership decides.”
Owen Hill, an employee at Moe’s Books across the street from Caffe Med, had heard the shop was available for lease but said he was glad it was not closing down. With several vacancies on Caffe Med’s block and diminished student foot traffic in recent years, Hill said any business closing would be unfavorable for the neighborhood.
“It could be a good thing if they want to reopen it and clean it up,” Hill said. “Personally, I hope it stays independent.”
While he plans to pursue other ventures, Becker hopes with new management will come new clientele, in addition to the regular customers who have supported the business through the years. He credits a large part of Caffe Med’s success to his upgrading its coffee.