Can My Loyalty to Cody’s Stretch to Downtown Berkeley?


I don’t know anyone who’s thrilled with the news that Cody’s bookstore is moving from Fourth Street (above) to Shattuck Avenue. Why? Because however much talk there is of the rejuvenation of downtown Berkeley, a visit to the area, particularly in the daytime, is never that pleasant an experience.

Cody’s’ hand has been forced by what it describes as “skyrocketing” rents in the increasingly chi-chi Fourth Street (and who knows what type of retailer will be able to afford to take its place). But my more pressing concern is how far my loyalty to this great bookstore will stretch.

After it closed its original Telegraph Avenue store, my Saturday morning strolls to buy the Financial Times and peruse its new fiction table were brought to a rude halt. I adapted, though, and began taking weekend family excursions to Fourth Street with Cody’s acting as the anchor store for us all. The kids would settle in with the latest manga tome in the children’s book section while we browsed the aisles. This would be followed by lunch at one of the street’s great eateries and possibly a dip into the more rarefied boutiques to contemplate the price tags of designer items we were unlikely to purchase.

I visit downtown primarily to go to Berkeley Rep which I think is a top-quality outfit. In fact the arts district as a whole is justifiably lauded—there are three theaters, a jazz school and a Brazilian capoeira club and at night the area does indeed have a buzz about it. I also like the city library with its magnificent art deco architecture and helpful staff. Other than that there’s an occasional trip to Games of Berkeley with the kids but that’s that. I don’t like the seediness of the place, the panhandlers and the lack of parking so I avoid the area when I can.

Whether Cody’s displacement will see me heading downtown more often, defecting to Amazon or—most likely—patronizing my more local book stores, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, for those who relish the idea of a central Berkeley home within walking distance of a world-class book shop, here are some possibilities:

1745 Allston Way: 3/1.5 brown-shingle, first time on market in 73 years, with original arts and crafts detailing and “lovely” gardens. Price: $799,000 ($318/sq ft).

2600 Grant Street: 4/1 bank-owned fixer with original features and “huge” backyard. Price: $584,90 ($255/sq ft).

1607 Martin Luther King Jr Way in central Berkeley is a recently rebuilt 6/2.5 Craftsman duplex with “huge developed” studio with separate entrance at street level. Price: $1,290,000 ($336/sq ft).

[Photo credit:]