Berkeley Small Businesses to Love and How to Support Them!

telegraph ave
Telegraph and Bancroft

When you first come to Berkeley, you might be bombarded by how much there is to do and see here. From the quirky bookstores to the vegan cupcakes, the city of Berkeley is teeming with unique and cultivated experiences. Working as the lead business and economy reporter for the Daily Californian has allowed me to have the opportunity to get to know some of the really amazing small businesses here in Berkeley! My name is Dina and I’m going to be your virtual tour guide through some of the best small businesses in Berkeley!

The history of each establishment runs deep, and it’s fascinating to learn about. Being situated in the city of Berkeley connects our campus to a larger community of love, freedom, and creativity. Not only that, but our city and our atmosphere here at Berkeley constantly look to the broader world around us and try our best to make our positive mark.

 1. Le Bateau Ivre

Craving French Onion soup? Or maybe you’d like to try some salmon-cakes? Le Bateau Ivre is situated on College Avenue on the way toward the cute shopping and eating area of Elmwood. 

The French bistro has been around since 1972 inside a house built in 1898! Owner Arlene Giordano began the restaurant in the 70s with her husband who she met at Berkeley. It’s a love story for the ages. Berkeley just seems to be the new city of love (sorry Paris), as you can even sometimes see wedding receptions occurring on campus! After your marriage, I recommend heading over to Le Bateau Ivre for a lovely meal under twinkling lights. 

In the wintertime, the cozy vibes are off the chart, with a Christmas tree and holiday decorations decking the cottage home. 

During the pandemic, Arlene baked cookies for her neighbors’ dogs and try to stay in touch with the community she fostered. Her heart and soul are in her business, and the students here at Berkeley recognize and admire that

2.  Cupcakin’

cupcakes in a box from cupcakin
cupcakes in a box from cupcakin’

I hate to break it to you, but you haven’t had a real cupcake until you’ve had Cupcakin’! They offer vegan and gluten-free options with rotating flavors like Chocolate Raspberry and the famous Red Velvet.

Embodying the real heart of Berkeley, Cupcakin’ started out as just a small at-home cupcake business in 2007. Now, its owner, Lila Owens, competed on “Top Chef” in 2021!

cupcakes in a box
the best cupcakes!

Cupcakin’ has a few different locations, but the one I frequent is on the famous Telegraph Avenue, across from Sproul Plaza. I used to go after almost every class during my first year here in Berkeley. Thankfully, my addiction has subsided and I can now consider it an occasional treat.

3. Games of Berkeley

Walking into Games of Berkeley on Durant Avenue, you find yourself truly believing that childhood never has to end. I remember walking by the storefront one night during my Freshman year. I saw a Pusheen cat and was simply compelled to enter. As soon as I walked into the business, it was obvious that it cared deeply about its customers. Managing owner Erik Bigglestone cultivates an atmosphere of belonging by offering communities for gamers of all sorts. 

When things went online, Bigglestone pivoted to online ways to continue game nights such as using programs like Discord. The creativity and passion behind his business are tangible. 

I also want to mention the array of street merchants on Telegraph who sell everything from handmade rings to one-of-a-kind clothing. I look forward to continuing to learn about Berkeley businesses and focusing on even smaller creators.

During the pandemic, all of these businesses had to close down for a period of time. The pandemic disrupted everyone’s lives immensely, but these business owners couldn’t work from home like many of us could. They thrive on human interaction and the communities they foster. The best way to support these businesses is to bring them business! Go check them out! Plan to visit and support the hardworking business owners of Berkeley!

Author: Dina Katgara

I'm an incoming sophomore from South Florida majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. I am a news reporter for The Daily Californian and I love cats!