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Banana Sam's closes doors because of owner's health, financial problems

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JULY 17, 2015

Banana Sam’s, a smoothie shop and cafe on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley, has officially closed its doors.

A decade after its opening, Banana Sam’s closed because of its owner’s health problems and because of financial problems resulting from persistent problems with landlords. The store was recently sold to another cafe.

Banana Sam’s opened in 2005 as an extension of Hummingbird Cafe, which is still open and located on the same street. The shops, just a few stores away from each other, offered the same food and drink items, including smoothies and sandwiches.

According to Jamal Fares, the owner of Banana Sam’s and Hummingbird Cafe, both stores were doing well and attracted many customers. Over the past several months, however, the landlords’ alleged negligence became detrimental to the success of the business, leading Fares to surrender his lease in June, he said.

“It was a great business in a location with great neighbors, but it was a tough market,” Fares said. “Plus, the landlords were trying to collect rent and did not really care about the maintenance of the place.”

The landlords wanted to increase rent and would not give Banana Sam’s a renewed lease, according to Fares. The landlords also failed to address a recurring sewage problem that caused sewage to build up in the store and move onto the streets, which posed “a real health hazard,” he added.

Fares was also struggling with his own health. He said that going up and down the street 20 to 30 times a day to work at both of his shops — all while struggling with bankruptcy — eventually caused him to give up.

The storefront where Banana Sam’s was previously located was sold July 1 to Abe’s Cafe, a small sandwich and coffee shop that opened its doors to customers Monday. Abraham Rodriguez, the owner of Abe’s Cafe, said that he did not know of the problems Banana Sam’s was facing but that he was happy to open his shop in North Berkeley.

“It’s a great location, and I like the atmosphere and the people here,” Rodriguez said.

According to Aman Mahal — owner of Urbann Turbann, a restaurant located down the street from where Banana Sam’s once was — the area around Euclid Avenue has a history of employees of existing businesses leaving to start competing businesses in the same area.

Mahal said Fares, for example, worked at Brewed Awakening, a coffee shop across the street, before opening Banana Sam’s and Hummingbird Cafe. Rodriguez said he worked at both Northside Cafe and Nefeli Cafe before opening his shop.

Fares is now working at Hummingbird Cafe. Though he wishes he didn’t have to sell Banana Sam’s, he said that staying at one location allows him to have a better attitude and be less stressed.

“Everyone is happy I am here, and we are starting to get busy again,” Fares said. “It means a lot to me to serve a lot of good people and smart kids that are here, like we used to.”

Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that Banana Sam's did not sell sandwiches. In fact, it did sell sandwiches.
Contact Shagun Khare at [email protected].

JULY 20, 2015

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