Two more Emeryville small business owners have announced their departure from our city and a third is in limbo. The popular Farley’s Cafe on 65th is the latest on a growing list of establishments to announce its decision to part ways with our city since the adoption of our experimental Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO). Emeryville, despite our council’s view of itself and density, differs dramatically from our more pedestrian-trafficked, transit hub neighboring cities that can support a robust and thriving small business culture. Getting Businesses owners to speak on the personal impacts of the ordinance to their business remains a challenge (particularly those looking to sell their businesses) but personal conversations are revealing of the deepening resentment between them and our council. I’m personally aware of at least one more small business owner looking to unload their business and another that might just flat-out retire.
Emeryville had a well-established reputation as a business supportive city but this has dramatically shifted since the 2014 election of the Martinez/Donahue slate. After enacting an experimental version of a minimum wage increase, they are now looking to fast-track another EBASE-initiated scheduling ordinance being marketed as Fair Work Week. Some business owners have to be contemplating what Martinez and EBASE have in store for them next. Some of these policies can be offset through city incentives, credits and other creative policies but the city has yet to initiate the small business forum that it first indicated back in April. The question remains for me how much more small business “bloodletting” will occur before our council responds.
Farley’s on 65th
Farley’s listed their establishment for sale back in May and made the official announcement of the sale on August 11th. “It is with joy and sadness that we announce the closure of Farley’s on 65th.” announced Owner Chris Hillyard of his decision to sell his Emeryville Business after opening six years ago. “We have been running three Farley’s locations for six years now and it is more work than we can do to maintain the standards that all Farley’s cafes deserve.”
Farley’s was a gem of the area with an open atmosphere and dog-friendly patio seating. Hillyard and his wife Amy were impassioned community supporters organizing and donating to events. They were early supporters of this news site and had been working on bringing Emeryville its first Parklet through a city program.
Hillyard, like many business owners, was supportive of Oakland’s measure FF wage increase and advocated for a regional minimum wage approach with our council citing competition with chains like Starbucks and the complexity of administering three unique models in three different cities. Councilmembers Martinez, Asher and Donahue spoke in behalf of this regional approach prior to the 2014 election before shifting their stance without explanation.
Farley’s will reboot under new ownership as “Dee Spot Cafe” beginning Tuesday August 23rd. Hillyard will maintain ownership and operation of his original San Francisco and Oakland Uptown locations.
Ebbett’s Good to Go
Ebbett’s owners Suzanne Schafer & Shari Washburn recently alerted us that she had sold her food truck that has been in operation since 2009. Ebbett’s has been a fixture of Emeryville where they were founded.
Washburn was active in the fight to defend small business and, like most, advocated for a regional model [1:52:47]. “We’ve always believed in paying our employees a decent wage, a living wage in order to attract and retain employees.” Washburn noted that based on her businesses margins, the scheduled $14.44 would cause her to close her business and her 10 employees would lose their jobs.
“We started in Emeryville and were based there so really think of it as ‘home’ ” noted Washburn through email. “We will miss all of our customers at 64th & Hollis.” The food truck business was sold to a friend who plans to continue to operate it as Ebbett’s and are optimistic of a seamless transition.
In June we reported that the shuttered Basic Cafe at 5000 Adeline would reboot as “Estelle Restaurant” with a plan to open by the end of the year. One reader has reported that the “Coming Soon” sign has been removed and we have confirmed through the owner George LaFrance that they have pulled out of the space. He noted that he’s not completely giving up on Emeryville though and will be looking at a few larger spots around our area that “would be suitable for the new concept.”