The Quirky, Wonderful Market that is the Berkeley Bowl

When I went to Cal, I used to shop at the Berkeley Bowl (whenever I could find parking). So it's a pleasant surprise to find the quirky market featured in the Los Angeles Times.

Here's what John M. Glionna wrote about the place where nuts roam the aisles as well as sit on the shelves:

Outside, petitioners seeking signatures for ballot measures have come to blows with opinionated residents. In the tiny parking lot, nicknamed the Berkeley Brawl, frustrated motorists have been known to ram one another's cars. At the checkout, people have thrown punches and unripened avocados at suspected line-cutters.

When one shopper was told she couldn't return a bag of granola, she showily dumped its contents on the floor. Culyon Garrison, who works at the customer-service desk, recently had a loaf of bread thrown at him.

The produce emporium -- one of the nation's most renowned retailers of exotic fruits and vegetables -- creates its own bad behavior. Kamikaze shoppers crash down crowded aisles without eye contact or apology for fender-benders. So many customers weren't waiting to pay before digging in that management imposed the ultimate deterrent: Those caught sampling without buying will be banned for life -- no reprieves, no excuses. (Not even "I forgot to take my medication.")


(Photo: Randi Lynn Beach / LA Times)

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I'm originally from LA area..used to the nuts and nasties...but live in Berkeley now and have shopped at Berkeley Bowl for a long time and have NEVER seen fights or people being crazy. The worst is a woman with a very loud voice who shops their regularly and tries to make conversation with all the people working in produce. they are polite to her but go on about their business. I love this store because it offers just about EVERYTHING and carries exotic fruits and veggies and many varities of all that is in season from around the world... everything is fresh and the prices, especially in produce, are great. There are many nationalities that shop here...they are quiet and respectful, and do their shopping and leave....just like I'm doing now....
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I miss Berkeley Bowl and the awesome bakery across the street from it. Sure, it was always chaotic at best, but it had a sense of character I've never found at another grocery store, and I never had a problem with sampling. I feel like that part of the article is being played up in a lot of places, and I think it's misleading. There'd always be produce guys around who would be happy to give you a taste of something if you asked if they weren't already handing out slices of whatever impossibly fresh peaches or mangoes or whatever they had handy. I used to buy more produce from the farmers markets, but there was always something wonderfully breathtaking about coming into the store and seeing a truly massive amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.
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