Berkeley’s citizens grow fierce at the very thought of big chain stores invading their precious downtown area. A few have succeeded, but you’ll still find a variety of funky independent shops on Telegraph Avenue (btwn. the 2300 and 2600 blocks).
One of the best bookstores in the area is Shakespeare & Co. (2499 Telegraph Ave., 510/841-8916, Mon.–Thurs. 10 a.m.–8 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–8 p.m.). This new-and-used store definitely has an old-school vibe, complete with the dust and the semi-organized shelves and the musty smell. True bibliophiles can spend hours browsing for treasures.
A shopping experience in Berkeley just wouldn’t be complete without a quick browse inside of a head shop. (Don’t know what a head shop is? Go ahead and skip it.) Whatever your pleasure in the semi-legal realm, Hi Times (2374 Telegraph Ave., 510/486-0988, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–8 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–7 p.m.) can hook you up. Employees tend to be friendly and attentive, so feel free to ask for whatever you need.
Clothing stores run to funky foreign stuff, like the apparel sold in Kathmandu Imports (2515 Telegraph Ave., 510/665-8970, Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. noon–6:30 p.m.), which specializes in Tibetan arts and crafts. Secondhand stores such as Mars Mercantile (2398 Telegraph Ave., 510/843-6711, daily 11 a.m.–7 p.m.) are another option. While it bills itself as a “vintage store,” the selection actually feels more like a downscale thrift shop. The provocative window displays lure shoppers inside, where a few solid basic items can be had for a reasonable price.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition