Find out which stores have opened, closed or moved and what’s new in Berkeley’s small-business communities. If you have Berkeley business updates to share, send an email to

Closing North Berkeley

Ease of online shopping spelled doom for 35-year-old Animal Farm Discount Pet Foods

John MacNeil and Gail Irwin have owned Animal Farm Discount Pet Foods for 25 years. Credit: Joanne Furio

Romie, the African gray parrot, will no longer be talking to customers at Animal Farm Discount Pet Foods. 

“She saw the writing on the wall,” said John MacNeil, co-owner of the store, which will be closing as soon as it sells its remaining inventory at discounted prices. “She’s home now. She won’t even step into her travel case.”

Romie was just one of the charms customers appreciated at the store, a mainstay at the corner of San Pablo and Cedar for the past 35 years. MacNeil has owned the store with Gail Irwin for 25 of those years. 

May K. of Berkeley, a customer for more than three decades, wrote on Yelp that she was “heartbroken” to discover that the store was closing when she went to pick up her monthly supply of cat food. Several Yelp commenters told of how they shopped there to support local businesses. 

Animal Farm has been at the corner of Cedar Street and San Pablo Avenue for 35 years. Credit: Joanne Furio

The store’s closing symbolizes another David-versus-Goliath example of a small, independently owned business that began to flag when shoppers switched to online sites like Amazon and Chewy. 

“A lot of places put you on monthly ordering,” MacNeil said. 

While he understood how such a service can be convenient, when such shoppers showed up to buy a can of food to tide their pet over before the internet delivery arrived, it felt like an insult added to an injury. 

“We can’t keep our doors open being the fill-in for Chewy,” MacNeil said. 

Though sales of pet products increased during the pandemic, reflecting the number of new adoptions, internet sales also increased as shoppers avoided in-person shopping. According to, internet sales now make up 36% of the market. By 2025, internet sources like Amazon and Chewy will make up 54% of the market, while brick-and-mortar retailers like Animal Farm will represent only 11%. 

MacNeil said small pet food retailers are also facing competition from veterinarians, who increasingly recommend so-called “prescription diet” brands like Royal Canin and Hills and sell them through their offices. 

“That’s big competition for us now,” MacNeil said. 

On a recent afternoon, many of the shelves at Animal Farm remained empty, along with Romie’s cage behind the cash register. As MacNeil and Irwin posed for a closing photograph, MacNeil had one more thing to add. 

“We want to thank our customers,” he said. 

Animal Farm Discount Pet Foods, 1531 San Pablo Ave. (at Cedar Street), Berkeley. Phone: 510- 526-2993. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Moved North Shattuck

Modena Salon moves into former Wrecking Ball Coffee site

Owner Kim Louise in her salon’s new location: Credit: Joanne Furio

Modena Salon, at 1722 Solano Ave. for nine years, moved Jan. 3 into the former Wrecking Ball Coffee location on Shattuck Avenue. Owner Kim Ruiz said she decided not to renew her lease on Solano because she was looking for a more “inspirational space” for her growing business.

“The space here really suits us a lot better,” Ruiz said. “There’s lots of natural lighting and high ceilings; the aesthetic of the building is beautiful and the location is busier than where we were.” 

The new location also happens to be larger: 1,900 square feet, as opposed to 1,300 on Solano. 

Ruiz named her salon after Modena, Italy, renowned for its balsamic vinegar, because she wanted a name that included her family name (Dena), but not in an obvious way. Modena was also neutral in the sense that it didn’t apply to only women, and is also the plural of the word “fashion” in Italian, she said. “The name can be looked at in so many different ways,” Ruiz said. 

Ruiz, a master stylist who’s been in the business for 20 years, is joined by five other stylists at the salon, which uses only sustainable product lines whose packaging is made from recycled plastics. 

The salon cuts all types of hair, from straight to tightly coiled. Cuts range from $88-$121 and color from $109-$148, both depending on the experience level of the stylist. 

Ruiz said the single most important aspect of her business is customer service. She sees the airy,  plant-filled interiors as a respite for clients.

“I want people to be comfortable,” she said. “It’s about getting away and relaxing and feeling taken care of.” 

Modena Salon, 1600 Shattuck Ave., Suite 100, Berkeley. Phone: 510-524-9944. Hours: Tuesday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wednesday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Connect via Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

Closed Elmwood and Solano Avenue

Berkeley residents apparently not interested in Therapy

The Solano Avenue Therapy Store is one of two that has closed in Berkeley in recent months. Credit: Joanne Furio

Therapy Stores, what one Elmwood resident called on Nextdoor “a great place for cute gifts,”  has nevertheless closed its two Berkeley locations: Elmwood around the middle of January and Solano Avenue at the end of 2022. 

Therapy Stores started in 1994 in San Francisco, featuring men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, art and stationery. Both Berkeley stores had been open for over a decade.

In the window of the Solano store, a letter from co-founder Jing Chen thanked customers, adding that “the retail industry has been very challenging in recent years.”

She wrote that all returns, store credits and gift cards will be honored at the store’s other locations. 

Therapy Stores, 1575 Solano Ave., (off Peralta Avenue) and 2951 College Ave. (off Ashby Avenue), Berkeley. Connect via Facebook and Instagram. 

In the spotlight Gilman District

BAHIA’s new leader wants to return bilingual education nonprofit’s enrollment to where it was pre-pandemic

Martha Melgoza. Courtesy: BAHIA Inc.

“One of the things that I bring is being able to understand the community, having grown up bilingual myself,” said Martha Melgoza, who became executive director of BAHIA Inc., the Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement, on Nov. 14. BAHIA is a private, nonprofit corporation that provides care and bilingual education to children ages 2-10.

Melgoza has spent the past 35 years in early childhood education. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership with a focus on social justice and equity. Before joining BAHIA, she was director of Skytown Cooperative Preschool in Richmond for 13 years. Melgoza succeeds Beatrice Leyva-Cutler, who held that position for 42 years and was also a three-term Berkeley School Board member. 

As executive director, Melgoza oversees BAHIA’s two bilingual school programs. Its most popular is the Bahia School Age Program, for children ages 5-10, offered at its 1718 Eighth Street location. Centro VIDA, a full-time program for children ages 2-5 that was started in 1975, operates out of BAHIA’s 1000 Camelia St. headquarters. Both programs are subsidized by state and federal agencies and can provide fully subsidized tuition. 

BAHIA’s flagship program, Centro VIDA, for children ages 2-5, operates out of 1000 Camelia St. Courtesy: BAHIA Inc.

La Academia de Bahia, a morning program for preschoolers that was offered at Eighth Street, closed during the pandemic. Melgoza hopes it will reopen in fall 2025. 

BAHIA is open to all, but serves a mostly Spanish-speaking community. “There have been families who do not speak Spanish at home and have credited BAHIA with helping their children be bilingual,” Melgoza said. 

Like many after-school and preschool programs, BAHIA saw its 165-student capacity drop during the pandemic by a third. One of Melgoza’s goals is to get both programs up to capacity. 

“BAHIA has this fabulous reputation,” she said. “I’d like to get enrollment back and see what wonderful things we can do in the school and the community.”

BAHIA Inc., 1000 Camelia St., Berkeley. Phone: 510-525-1463. Hours: Centro VIDA, Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5:30  p.m.; Bahia School Age Program, Monday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. Connect via Facebook and Pinterest

In the Spotlight

Berkeley Public Library’s new deputy director has history of creative thinking

Henry Bankhead. Courtesy: Berkeley Public Library

Henry Bankhead, who joined Berkeley Public Library as its new deputy director on Jan. 17 after a nationwide search, has taken an unconventional approach to library science. 

In his previous position, Bankhead used the principles of design thinking to create a new mall library location in a former Payless shoe store in San Rafael in seven days. Prior to that, at Los Gatos Library, he was inspired by theatrical improvisation to implement techniques to improve customer service.

He’s been reviewing literary fiction for the Library Journal for the past 15 years and has partnered with Smashwords, a free self-publishing platform, which earned him a Library Journal Mover & Shaker award in 2014. 

His plans for Berkeley? 

“To help empower staff and the community as we engage in reflective work regarding racial equity and strategic planning to co-create an open and transparent approach that gives everyone a creative voice in contributing to the future of this incredible organization,” he wrote in an email. 

Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Phone: 510-981-6100. Connect via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Biz Buzz In Brief 

Disaster loans; Ohmega, not Omega

  • Berkeley businesses that have been unable to meet their financial obligations due to the severe winter storms that started on Dec. 27 may be eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Applicants can receive more information (and apply online) through the SBA’s Disaster Loan Assistance website or by calling 800-659-2955. And if your business was affected and you’d be open to talking about it with Berkeleyside, send us an email at 
  • After Berkeleyside reported that Ohmega Salvage plans to close after 47 years, some concerned customers of Omega Lighting misheard through the grapevine that their store was closing. It is not. The difference between the store names is the “h” the original salvage business owners added to connote the ohm of electricity and the “ohm” of meditation since they were meditators. As to Ohmega’s closing: It’s likely to close in a month or so, said owner Katherine Davis. 

Correction: Due to an editing error, the name of Modena Salon was misspelled in the headline of a previous version of this story.