BERKELEY -- Changes are in store for a pair of Telegraph Avenue properties, each involving longtime businesses, that are now on the market.

The iconic Caffe Mediterraneum -- synonymous with the Telegraph Avenue Bohemian scene and birthplace of the cafe latte -- is for sale.

But, building owner and current cafe operator Craig Becker said that if he has his way the café's character and tone, and even its renowned coffee, will stay.

The business, also known as Café Med, has been at 2475 Telegraph Ave. about four blocks from the UC Berkeley campus, since 1957, and Becker said it is not closing.

The block on which the cafe sits also includes the former Tienda Ho clothing store (now vacant,) part of a corner parcel at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way that is also on the market.

Craig Becker, owner of Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, poses in front of his Telegraph Avenue business on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (Doug Oakley/Staff
Craig Becker, owner of Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, poses in front of his Telegraph Avenue business on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (Doug Oakley/Staff file)

Tenants of that corner lot include Shakespeare & Co. Books, which has occupied that site since 1964; and Maxi Hair Care in business in its spot for four decades.

The corner property itself has not been on the market for 95 years, according to Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services in Berkeley, which is handling the sale.

The Telegraph Avenue commercial district has had its struggles and changes in recent years and Becker said the area is not for everybody. But he added he is staying on as the cafe building's owner.

Becker said he is looking for someone to lease the spot who can provide strong management and do some remodeling.

The cafe space has been put up for lease with a purchase opportunity, with the transaction also being handled through Gordon Commercial Real Estate Services.


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Becker said he has some control over who the next operator will be, and noted it is important to him that the character, tradition and history of the business be respected and maintained.

"We want to continue the tradition of the place," he said. "We'd like to get someone who can do that and also do some work here. It needs some physical improvements and a remodel."

Listed last month, the cafe has drawn some interest so far, but Becker said prospective lessees have "not been the right fit."

The two-floor Café Med, with its familiar blue-and-white awning, has witnessed much over the decades, such as the Free Speech Movement, Beat Generation poets, and the creation of People's Park just around the corner on Dwight.

Open daily until midnight, it draws scores of students, artists and others.

On hand recently was street poet and city poet laureate Julia Vinograd selling her latest Zeitgeist Press book called "Night."

Patrons often snag the window table where Dustin Hoffman appeared in a scene in the "The Graduate" filmed in 1967.

Becker said it's true the Café Med invented the cafe latte.

As the story goes, 1950s customers were not used to strong Italian cappuccino drinks.

So, co-owner Lino Meiorin would add more and more milk to make them more appealing, according to the cafe website.

"Finally he thought of putting a larger drink on the menu with the same amount of espresso but more steamed milk, and calling it a caffe latte," according to the website.

Becker, who has owned the building and operated the cafe for the last eight years, said one of his chief interests has been to maintain the latte legacy and serve great coffee.

He said he's done a lot of upkeep on the property himself, including some repairs and remodeling, upgrading coffee drinks and not allowing homeless people to store their items on the premises.

To maintain the downstairs as a spot for socializing, Becker said he installed numerous electrical outlets in the mezzanine to encourage computer users to camp out in the second-floor space.

Meanwhile, tenants of the corner lot at Dwight Way and Telegraph said they are awaiting word of their fate.

An official with Gordon Commercial Real Estate Service, which is representing the property, said he could not comment or answer questions at this time.

The company's website indicated the property contains four businesses: Shakespeare & Co. Books, Maxi Hair Care, Gypsy Trader, and the former Tienda Ho, which has been vacant for more than two years.

Berkeley Architectural and Heritage Association member John English said that at one time the corner boasted Hasletine's Corner Grocery, and Roger Barber Shop.

The property has been owned by a trust controlled by Frances and John Kessler, and Barbara Stern, according to the Alameda County Assessor's Office which listed an Auburn address for the trust.

Ellie Javid, longtime operator of Maxi Hair Care, and Jon Wobber of Shakespeare & Co. Books, both said they hope to continue operating in their Telegraph Avenue stores.

"I've been here 19 years. I feel like I grew up here," Javid said.

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