Berkeley business owners face challenges despite increase in customers

photo of businesses on Telegraph Ave
Anthony Angel Pérez/Staff
The return of students to campus in August has brought success to many businesses in Berkeley. However, Berkeley business owners continue to face challenges in getting supplies.

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Although there is excitement in the air after students returned to Berkeley in August, many of the city’s small business owners are frustrated with the many challenges still left to face.

Erik Bigglestone reported that his business, Games of Berkeley, already made more than the entirety of 2020’s gross revenue just last month.

Bigglestone said in an email that he is still requiring masks for all people over two years old and proof of vaccination for entry into gaming events. He also is keeping the store’s maximum capacity restricted, as he previously told The Daily Californian.

Game of Berkeley’s sales in August were high, and the events that he previously described as usually full of laughter and camaraderie have begun again, Bigglestone said in an email. Additionally, Games of Berkeley utilized the time during the pandemic to complete improvements to the store. He credits his employees and managers, who he said “think of themselves of a family,” for their hard work.

“(We’re) working together to make things work, and I trust them implicitly,” Bigglestone previously told the Daily Cal. “They’ve done an amazing job and we wouldn’t be there without them.”

One big issue is that shipping containers are scarce and publishers’ and suppliers’ prices are increasing, Bigglestone previously said. Many other businesses are also currently struggling with national shortages.

Flacos on Adeline Street experienced a small increase in business and is operating at 60% capacity, according to Anthony Magana, the restaurant’s operating manager. Flacos closed for two months and then reopened with limited patio use for the past six months, he added.

Magana said the amount of daily tasks has changed with increased rotation schedules for COVID-19 safety. Flacos’ biggest challenge is a lack of inventory, with employees having to travel to up to three grocery stores to get supplies for the week.

“I hope we can stay open and know that we are in a safer spot until everything goes back to normal,” Magana said.

Similarly, Nabolom Bakery and Pizzeria is experiencing the impact of these shortages, as supplies are limited and prices are going up, according to owners Sabra Stepak and Julia Elliott. Elliott noted that flour prices in particular have gone up 45%.

Taking this in stride, Nabolom is continuing serving food-to-go style and enforcing masking, as Elliot said “the pandemic isn’t over.” While most customers are supportive, Nabolom is dealing with some customers not wearing masks correctly and being rude to employees, according to Stepak.

For now, Bigglestone said that Games of Berkeley is looking forward to and preparing for the holiday season as it builds up inventory to circumvent the impacted supply chains.

“There is a lot of uncertainty,” Stepak said. “This is still a service business and they expect some kind of service, and we are having a hard time doing that because of the current situation.”

Contact Dina Katgara at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @dinakatgara.