Business climate, retirement leads to closing of Crepes A-Go-Go

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On Thursday, customers looking for a savory treat at a local Telegraph Avenue mainstay instead found a sign announcing the owner’s retirement.

Crepes A-Go-Go, familiar to UC Berkeley students for its proximity to campus, abruptly closed the doors of its Telegraph location after more than a decade located less than a block from campus. The owner and founder, Linda Gilman, said Berkeley’s business climate and the chance to relocate closer to her son were major factors in the decision.

The restaurant’s Bay Area presence began in the early 1990s as a food truck at farmers’ markets, night clubs and catering events. In 1994, Gilman opened the first location on University Avenue with her former husband.

Students familiar with the convenient location remembered Crepes A-Go-Go for its affordability and casual atmosphere.

“The employee was really nice, and the food is really fast,” recalled Juanna Falcon, a first year UC Berkeley student, who added that other Berkeley restaurants didn’t offer the same expediency.

The menu — prided on quality and affordability — included savory and sweet options for less than $6. The King ‘Lias, named after Gilman’s son and proclaimed by the menu as the restaurant’s “sweetest,” featured Nutella, bananas, almond powder and coconut, which was all topped with whipped cream.

“23 years ago, crepes weren’t a big thing but people loved them,” Gilman said. “We had a lot of fun here.”

But Gilman said in time, city business regulations, such as a rising minimum wage, hurt her small business. She added that the mayor’s lift on restaurant quotas three years back contributed to an increasingly competitive atmosphere for new restaurants throughout Berkeley.

“Locals don’t support businesses other than restaurants,” Gilman said. “Everyone’s trying to cut that pie and your slice is just getting smaller and smaller.”

Annie Wong, assistant manager at J-Town Express, which opened next door in January, noted the challenges of its location.

“You have to pick the right price for college students,” Wong said. “Crepes work.”

Following a divorce between Gilman and her former husband, each retained operation of a Berkeley location. The University Avenue location, now named Crepes Ooh LaLa, retains the original sign and Parisian aesthetic, as well as a similar menu.

“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nobody (to compare),” Gilman said.

For some students, the restaurant’s sweet selections will not be missed.

“I have enough sugar in my diet already,” said Galileo Perricone, a campus sophomore, a sentiment echoed by other students.

The space’s next tenants are currently working on the lease, according to Hamburger Properties, which rents out the first floor of the Crepes A-Go-Go building. Gilman said that the next tenants will also be a restaurant, specializing in quinoa bowls.

“I appreciate everybody who supported us,” Gilman said. “They were wonderful, I laughed a lot, and I learned a lot. What more can you ask?”

Alexander Barreira is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @abarreira_dc.