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Anybody Else Hate Berkeley Bowl's "Improvements"?

So now Berkeley Bowl looks, in the Cheese Dept. and that whole end of the store, like Whole Foods or Piedmont Grocery. I can't stand it. Actually, I wouldn't mind if I weren't afraid that this is a trend and that soon the whole place will have those stainless steel coolers and lots of packaged food to go.

Yuck!!! If I had any brains I would have gone to the Info counter and asked if this was it or if more "fabulous upgrades" were in the offing.

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  1. Yeah the cheese island is a space-sucking monster. The soup thing is an improvement although weird. I don't know, I thought they did what they did for the isle space and because cheese is a high mark-up item. Seems like there's less bread or the bread section is smaller. Any way, I'm still going. I'm not a cheeser and everything else is pretty much the same.

    1. I'll admit to having a "wtf" moment when I walked in there one morning last month
      and they were jackhammering up the floor for the new plumbing. But I think I like
      what they did. The main advantage of the new arrangement is when the 15-or-fewer
      checkout line snakes all the way back to the beer section, it's routed behind the cheese
      and far away from the bread. This makes things a lot less insane for bread shoppers.

      1. I hate it too. They came up with a way to make the store even more claustrophobic.

        The Bowl never was all that of a place to get cheese. And there is still the same disinterested staff as in the smaller comment. My highpoint there was trying to get a piece of cheese cut and them refusing because it was available pre-cut in the case. This is just a job to these guys and they care nothing about cheese and know even less.

        An aside ... the Crane Lake sparkling wine is an excellent inexpensive bottle $4.99. It has a nice crisp citrusy flavor.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rworange

          Wow! I've seen that Crane Lake wine by the checkout counters for it seems like years. Thanks for the info!

        2. I don't think they've dropped any breads or for that matter any products, they've just switched to taller shelves.

          I figure they wouldn't invest all that money in the cheese counter if they weren't going to improve their selection, but we'll see. Even if that's their plan, it's hard for grocery stores to retain first-rate cheese people.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Yeah, there's actually a few new breads lurking next to the narrow center refrigerated aisle. Some new pies too.

            1. re: rworange

              I was only commenting on the look of all the changes...reminded me just a bit too much of Whole Foods and what Piedmont Grocery has done to make itself into a cramped hellhole.

              1. re: oakjoan

                Piedmont Grocery has long been a cramped hellhole -- is it worse now? Honestly, I was at the Bowl a couple of weeks ago and never noticed a change. But then, that whole area was packed and I skirted around it.

            1. re: Agent 510

              Actually, I stopped by there and saw what they did. I don't think it's really any better or worse...at least during peak hours, that end of the store is going to be a crowded mess no matter what.

              The best "improvement" BBowl can make is building that second location to absorb those crowds.

            2. I agree. For me, their packaged cheese selection was enough even though I would usually buy cheese elsewhere. But the design does seem bad. That stainless steel counter that takes up space in an awkward way. And it does feel more like Whole Foods now, although I wouldn't have thought of it.

              1. >" I would have gone to the Info counter and asked if this was it or if more "fabulous upgrades" were in the offing."

                After the cheese renovation they put up a sign on the renovated cheese section
                saying something along the lines of "please pardon the mess while we remodel
                the store." It's still there. I'm guessing this wasn't the end. Various things are
                still going on over by the breakfast burrito bar.

                Their last couple of remodels (building out the northwest corner, replacing the
                old checkstands, that umbrella thing) about, what?, six years ago, went really well.

                1. Does anybody else here think Berkeley Bowl can't catch a break?

                  From everything I've seen and read, it has to be one of the top 10 best grocery stores in the country. It also happens to be in a crowded suburb of a major metropolitan area, ergo, it is going to be popular and thus crowded. Give the place a break. The staff are more than friendly and the store provides the best grocery-store produce section I've ever seen - bar none.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: grishnackh

                    You've got it right grishnackh, in the words of Yogi Berra "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

                    1. re: grishnackh

                      Agreed, I've said it before...there's a bunch of jaded complainers in SF-foodster land.

                      I like BB. Sure the cheese island is weird but it's not going to stop me from going. Sure it gets crowded, don't go when it's crowded. Overall, for my needs, I haven't found any place better. No it's not the absolutely-freakin'-best for every item but it does many things in the 90+ percentile.

                      I can get quality meat, fish and produce in one place like no other and things are well priced to boot. I could drive to 3-4 different places to get the absolute but who has the time? I happy to get quality stuff, reasonably priced and do it quickly.

                      The mark of it's "greatness" is how much it would be missed if it suddenly disappeared. As an old man once said, shut up and enjoy your food.

                      1. re: grishnackh

                        I was in Berkeley Bowl last weekend with a friend who was visiting town. I think that it is one of the best grocery stores in the country, and it's probably the best all-around grocery store I've ever been to. Even though we didn't really need to buy anything, it was a stop on the "Dave MP Berkeley Tour." So I think it's great.

                        That said, I didn't think the store seemed any better w/ the new cheese section and re-organization....and I also agree w/ ML800 that the bread section seemed smaller - but maybe they just split the bread section and some of it was in a new place that I didn't see.

                        Even though I didn't really need anything, I picked up some good local tangerines and a few bagels. Which is the bagel company that makes the everything breadsticks? I didn't see those this time, but I think they were just out.

                        1. re: Dave MP

                          I would hope the meat department would have been cleaned up since it stinks to hogh heaven all the time....buy new cooler cases, re-do the floors and train the staff behind the counters so that at least they can pretend they know what to do....it's 2008....

                        2. re: grishnackh

                          I agree. They had a lot of unused open space in that area, now they're using it. It was nice while it lasted but more shelf space = bigger selection.

                          I don't think they've dropped any breads.