Public Comment

Telegraph Ave., Past and Present

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:17:00 PM

Hearing the sad news that La Fiesta Restaurant on Telegraph Avenue will close its doors in a couple of months, my friend Joy and I had dinner there last evening. We were a decidedly morose pair, lamenting the many changes that have occurred in the years we’ve lived in the area. Losing Mario and Rosalinda Trejeda is in itself a great loss, although this wonderful couple will happily still operate their beautiful Banquet Hall on Haste Street. 

Ordering a couple of margaritas to lighten our melancholy spirits, Joy and I began making a list of the fine stores that once graced Telegraph Avenue. For starters, there were those lovely gift shops, Fraser’s and Roger Barber, displaying exquisite crystal, china, silver and oriental objects, all beautifully gift-wrapped. Further along the street was Garard’s Stationery Store, offering fine leather goods, brief cases, fountain pens and monogrammed stationery. 

On the same block was Sather Gate Book Store, to be replaced later by the much loved Cody’s Book Store, where best-selling authors and celebrities spoke to rapt audiences. I still remember standing on a crowded street to see Bill Clinton, who graciously stepped outside to greet the hundreds of people unable to squeeze inside the store. 

For women’s apparel there was Sather Gate Dress Shop, perhaps not high fashion, couture garments, but nonetheless high quality, high priced merchandise. 

Many longtime Berkeley residents will recall a small theater which offered classic and foreign films. This was the theater which launched the career of the nationally acclaimed critic, Pauline Kael, whose movie schedules and witty reviews could be picked up outside the theatre by passersby. 

Just around the corner from Telegraph Avenue, Bancroft Street offered its own popular attractions—most notably The Black Sheep Restaurant, which to my way of thinking has never been excelled for charm, intimacy and a great menu. There were also excellent apparel shops along that street—Roos-Atkins and Joseph Magnin’s. 

In mourning the loss of these departed stores and business enterprises, I hasten to add that present-day Telegraph Avenue still has many first-rate, longtime venues, such as Blake’s Restaurant, the Reprint Mint, Peet’s Coffee, the Berkeley Hat Shop (Remember Aretha’s hat?), and some fine bakeries and ethnic restaurants. Not to be overlooked is the Center for Independent Living, offering valuable assistance to the many disabled people in our community. 

Oh, but we’ll sorely miss La Fiesta, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this Sunday, Feb. 15 at both restaurants. Mind you, this will be a real celebration, with mariachi music, food and drinks, all free! This is an event not to be missed! So do make a date to stop by and offer congratulations and good wishes to our beloved Mario and Rosalinda. 


Dorothy Snodgrass is a Berkeley resident.