The Cheese Board Collective collaborates on new changes

Priya Sundaresan /Staff

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The Cheese Board Collective is looking to expand its operations in Berkeley.

The organization, which includes a bakery, cafe and pizza shop, plans to take over the Berkeley Produce Center on Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street. The group does not have any specific plans as to what the space will look like, according to Cathy Goldsmith, community liaison for Cheese Board.

Cheese Board is operated and owned by its workers, which means that the group will collectively decide the plan for the expansion together, Goldsmith said. According to Goldsmith, the group is in the early stages of planning renovations for the Produce Center, adding that it will be at least a year before the community sees any changes.

Although Cheese Board does not have specific plans for the layout of the new space, Goldsmith said it has been working with an architect on the project. She said the new space will not be a produce center and will most likely include a commercial kitchen. Goldsmith said the current space was cramped and that the new space could allow for more “products and variety.”

John Bates, who has been a customer at Cheese Board since the 1970s, said he is happy that Cheese Board is making changes “if it makes the line less long.”

Ani Mac, who has lived in a space above the collective for 30 years and frequents the store, said she was excited for Cheese Board’s expansion, as it is an organization that cares about the community. She praised its willingness to communicate with her as a neighbor and called it the “first successful collective in Berkeley.”

“It’s a working collective. They are real human beings, they know the community, they work out real-world problems, and they know how to talk to me. They care. That’s the bottom line,” Mac said.

The collective, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, includes about 60 owner-workers. It began as a small cheese shop on Vine Street in 1967, according to The Cheese Board Collective website, before expanding to its current location, Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith said the new space for Cheese Board will allow newer owner-workers to have a chance to “create something good.”

Ross Waterer, a owner-worker at the Juice Bar Collective, which operates at the original location of Cheese Board on Vine Street and has a long-term partnership with The Cheese Board Collective, said he was excited for its expansion.

Waterer said running a collective is more difficult than being an employee at a traditional restaurant, as it requires more critical thinking, creativity and responsibility. Waterer also said collectives are the best way to make capitalism work.

“People should care about where and what they support with their money,” Waterer said.

Contact Mary Kelly Ford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MaryKellyFord1.