Vintage views of El Cerrito Plaza, which opened this month in 1958

ec plaza promo card 1961a

The original El Cerrito Plaza shopping center was dedicated this month 58 years ago.

el cerrito plaza dedication 10 23 1958

The opening came two years after an arson fire destroyed the historic Castro adobe on the site that allowed construction of the shopping center to begin.

Here, through the courtesy of the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce, are views of the center’s dedication on July 9, 1958, along with photos and promotional material from the center’s early years. Our thanks to the chamber for sharing its archives.

el cerrito plaza dedication 07 09 1958

el cerrito chamber plaza long view040c

ec plaza opening albert lovett

el cerrito chamber plaza courtyard 1971

ec plaza promo card 1961b

el cerrito plaza fiesta 1961

capwells ec plaza ca 1970

ec plaza sports car spectacle 1961a

kirbys el cerrito plaza

el cerrito chamber plaza long view039a

ec plaza courtyard

ec plaza directory 1961053

ec plaza aerial

ec plaza 1961b


Remembering Adachi Florist and Nursery in El Cerrito

adachi nursery 1992
Adachi Florist and Nursery in 1992, shortly before the site was cleared for construction of a The Home Depot store. (Click for an enlarged view.)

There was no ribbon-cutting when the enterprise that grew to become Adachi Florist and Nursery, straddling the border of a new city called Richmond and an unincorporated portion of West Contra Costa that would become El Cerrito, was established in 1905. But by the time it closed and was torn down to build The Home Depot in 1992, the venture was among the oldest businesses in the West County region, dating to just three years after the opening of the Standard Oil refinery in Richmond in 1902.

adachi 1940s
The Adachi family business as it looked around 1940.

The business was founded by brothers Isaburo and Sadajiro Adachi with a single greenhouse a year before the great San Francisco earthquake. It grew to 12 greenhouses and survived challenges such as state exclusion laws directed at Asians and the Japanese internment during World War II. Extension of the Eastshore Freeway and construction of the new BART line claimed portions of the Adachi property.

adachi oshima nurseries 03 1939
Ads from 1939 for Adachi and Oshima florists and nurseries.

japanese evacuation 1942a RI
“Scores of florists, farmers are hit” by the evacuation of Japanese Americans in February 1942, reports the Richmond Independent.

adachi 1957
Adachi commemorates El Cerrito’s 40th anniversary in 1957.

adachi makeover 19 68
Adachi Florist and Nursery before and after a remodeling in the mid-1960s.

Some of the family greenhouses were razed during a mid-1960s remodeling that modernized the business as it is now remembered by most who saw it in its commercial heyday.

The remainder was finally torn down in 1992 for a joint retail project by El Cerrito and Richmond.

adachi demolition 1992a

adachi demolition home depot 06 1992


TBT: Once-familiar El Cerrito building had a link to black Americana

spring chicken

Winner, winner, chicken dinner —
Here is the ID of the once-familiar building in El Cerrito and its background, which we asked about last week. The building is best known (see photo above) from its decades attached to El Cerrito Mill & Lumber, with the lettering growing more faded as the years passed.

The building originated around 1929-30 as Mammy’s Place, a plantation-themed attraction for travelers on the newly rerouted Lincoln Highway (San Pablo Avenue), just south of Cutting Boulevard, “near the large Carquinez Bridge sign,” according to the menus given out to customers as a souvenir. The proprietor was Harry Bottger, who may have also operated the food concession on the Richmond-San Rafael ferry.
Mammy’s Place boasted a “fine hardwood dance floor and music,” though the establishment once ran afoul of the authorities over the use of its jukebox, according to news accounts of the day.
Bottger later opened another restaurant on the southern end of San Pablo in El Cerrito and Mammy’s closed.
With demand for housing at a peak during World War II, contractor Elmer Freethy purchased what was then El Cerrito Lumber at 1206 San Pablo Ave. (now 10812 San Pablo Ave.) from John Carrick to secure a supply of building materials. At some undetermined point, he also purchased the abandoned Mammy’s Place building and had it moved and attached to El Cerrito Lumber. There was a sentimental attachment. Freethy, in a 1990 interview about the “chicken dinner” building, referred to it as “the chicken shack,” and said he had purchased and moved the building because he used to take his future wife dancing there.
Elmer and Marjorie Freethy were married in 1930 and he started his contracting business the next year, according to an El Cerrito Wall of Fame profile in the city newsletter. One of his early big contracts was construction of El Cerrito High School from 1939-41.
The old chicken dinner building was torn down when El Cerrito Mill & Lumber underwent a major remodel by Elmer’s son, Jack Freethy, in 1996 as noted in this earlier post. The business, which had grown over time to include major portions of several blocks, closed in 2000 and the remodeled original El Cerrito Lumber building, redesigned in Victorian style, was moved across San Pablo and is now the Vitale Building.
Mammy’s Place is long gone and even though original owner Bottger was of European extraction, those free menus once given out to travelers are now rare and prized pieces of black Americana. A menu listed on eBay about in 2011 sold for more than $120.
Elmer Freethy died in 1998. Marjorie Freethy, a native of Point Richmond, died in 2013 at age 105.



elmer freethy el cerrito lumber
Elmer Freethy at El Cerrito Lumber.


TBT: Can you ID this once-familiar El Cerrito building?

mammys tease

This building was once a familiar sight for a long time in El Cerrito, first at its original location and even longer at the property where it was moved and attached to an existing building and given a new use. By then in rundown condition, it was ultimately torn down during a major remodeling of buildings on the property that became its second home.
Can you identify its original and/or later locations, as well as its original name and use from this photo detail?
Feel free to click the comments button above and post guesses or memories of the building.

Our thanks to the El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce for sharing this photo from its archive.


Crockett: C&H will douse the lights on its famous sign for an hour

Crockette American Sugar

C&H Sugar will turn off the large sign at its refinery in Crockett for an hour on March 19 in the name of promoting sustainability during the World Wildlife Fund’s annual Earth Hour.
The company, which installed lower wattage LED bulbs in the sign last year, issued this announcement:


C&H Sugar refinery joins thousands of landmarks around
the globe commemorating 10th annual Earth Hour

Crockett, CA (March 18, 2016) – On Saturday, the C&H Sugar refinery in Crockett will take part in the 10th annual Earth Hour by turning off its iconic “C and H Pure Cane Sugar” sign for one hour starting at 8:30 pm.

Earth Hour is a worldwide grassroots movement in which people and businesses turn off lights to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and to inspire positive environmental action in their communities. An initiative of the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour has grown since its inception in 2007 to engage residents, businesses and governments in more than 7,000 cities and 172 countries across the globe.

“Earth Hour’s commitment to a more sustainable planet is consistent with our values and efforts here at the refinery, especially when it comes to conserving energy, waste and water,” said C&H Sugar Refinery Manager Derwood Brady. “We hope that our participation will encourage others across the Bay Area to join us in continuing to make sustainability a priority, not just during Earth Hour but throughout the year.”

Last spring, the C&H Sugar refinery, owned by ASR Group, replaced 900 40-watt incandescent bulbs in the sign’s 22-foot tall “C” and “H” letters with eco-friendly LED light bulbs that require 80 percent less energy, resulting in an annual reduction of 90,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The C&H sign celebrates its 60th anniversary as a Bay Area landmark in April. The refinery in Crockett has been in operation for 110 years. It employs 455 people and produces 14 percent of the nation’s cane sugar.


Richmond restaurant Salute holding event Sunday to launch new charity fund

A public gala will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23 at Salute e Vita Ristorante, 1900 Esplanade Dr. in the Marina Bay area in Richmond to kick off a new charity being created by restaurant owner Menbere “Menbe” Aklilu.

Aklilu has already received recognition for holding free annual Thanksgiving feasts for veterans and others in need at the waterfront restaurant and the launch party on Sunday will benefit the new Menbe’s Way Fund.

Entertainment will be by Oakland-based jazz quintet the Clifton Street Regulars and several wineries will offer tastings, according to an announcement.

“Donations to support this year’s Thanksgiving meals are optional but greatly appreciated, and there will be a small silent auction at the event.”

Akilu has provided more than 3,000 free, Thanksgiving meals over the past four years and hosts free etiquette courses on manners and life skills for young people at the restaurant.
“She also donates to the Richmond Rescue Shelter, sponsors girls who attend Northern Lights School, and contributes to Delta Academy, which educates underprivileged boys and girls,” notes the event announcement.

The Menbe’s Way Fund will be managed by the nonprofit Richmond Community Foundation and will support current efforts in the community as well as new programs.

“Aklilu has suffered unspeakable hardships in her life, including witnessing the murder of her mother in Ethiopia, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and giving birth to her son in a homeless shelter.

“Today this remarkable woman is an inspirational community leader in the East Bay. Earlier this year, she was honored with the prestigious Jefferson Award for her outstanding achievements in public service.

“The Menbe’s Way Fund launch party is one of several events being held this year to raise funds for Thanksgiving meals and other programs. For more information, please call (510) 215-0803.”


Berkeley market hosting Aug. 26 benefit event for national park in Richmond


The Whole Foods Market on Gilman Street in Berkeley is hosting an event on Aug. 26 to benefit the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond.

This is the event announcement from the nonprofit Rosie the Riveter Trust:

You helped us bring over 1,000 people to the Rosie Rally…

so making a grocery run should be a piece of cake!

Please help spread the word! Whole Foods Market and the Trust are working together to support the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park!

WHAT: Community Support Day to Benefit the Park! Rosie the Riveter Trust will receive 5% of the store’s net proceeds for the day!

WHEN: Wednesday, August 26th from 8 AM to 10 PM… open to close!

WHERE: Whole Foods Market on Gilman St. in Berkeley. Driving directions here.

WHO: You! Support the Park just by making your regular grocery run.

Click the Forward to a Friend button below to help us spread the word!


Visit our table and you could win
a Rosie the Riveter Lunch Box with a
$25.00 Whole Foods Market gift card!

Please help us support amazing Park programs like the Rosie Rally, Rosie’s Girls Summer Camp Program, and the hundreds of ranger talks, docent lectures, expert presentations and documentary screenings that the Park provides to the public completely free each year!

No donation needed- all you have to do is shop, and Whole Foods Market will contribute 5% of the day’s proceeds to Rosie the Riveter Trust!


Richmond: Urban Tilth offering fresh produce market stand at Catahoula Coffee on July 5

Agriculture group Urban Tilth will host a market stand offering fresh locally grown produce and plant starts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 5 at Catahoula Coffee Co, 12472 San Pablo Ave.

Celebrate your independence day weekend by getting your share of our locally grown bounty! & thank you as always for supporting our non-profit.

Veggies: Lettuce!, Kale, Swiss Chard, Onions (YUM!), & Herbs

Plant starts: cabbage, kale, lettuce, sticky monkey flower, & echinacea

Garden products: herbal bath salt, lavender & sweet orange hand salves & our Garden Party Soap & our

Freshly harvested and made this week:


Get some of our special small batch jam while it lasts!

happy 4th!


El Cerrito store grand opening Saturday to feature former Oakland Raider Raymond Chester

A new store selling batteries and light bulbs will hold its grand opening on June 20 with former Oakland Raider tight end Raymond Chester as the featured guest.
The Batteries Plus Bulbs store at 10770 San Pablo Ave. will host the Chamber of Commerce at the ribbon-cutting and invites the public to the festivities — including food, product giveaways, promotions and a raffle — from noon to 5 p.m.

According to a news release, “Gordon Messer, age 53, decided to launch a new career in franchising after working over 30 years in the food industry. A UC Santa Barbara graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, he held several managerial and senior-level positions at Quaker Oats and Fleischmann’s Yeast. In 2006, Messer became a consultant to national wholesale bakeries and formed his own company, Yeast Systems LLC. This job demanded extensive travel, which grew tiresome as it kept him away from his family, which prompted him to use his retirement savings to open the El Cerrito Batteries Plus Bulbs store.”
The store offers more than 50,000 battery and light bulb products, along with battery rebuilds and installation, in-store recycling and local business assistance programs.


El Cerrito announces road closures on Fairmount and Manila avenues

El Cerrito has announced road closures on Fairmount and Manila avenues this week for paving work.
Fairmount will be closed between Richmond Street and Colusa Avenue from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Manila will be closed between Richmond and Kearney streets from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday.
Traffic will be detoured around both work sites.
The announcements from the city:

Fairmount Ave – Temporary Road Closure & Detours
Thursday, June 18
The City of El Cerrito, Public Works Department is completing a paving project on Fairmount Avenue between Colusa Avenue and Richmond Street. On Thursday, June 18th, this section of Fairmount will be closed to vehicular traffic from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Vehicles will be detoured to Colusa Avenue, Eureka Avenue, Ashbury Avenue, Central Avenue and Richmond Street. Garbage, Recycling and AC Transit, as well as, local traffic will be allowed through the work zone with minor delays. Emergency vehicles will always have access. Please expect minor delays. Thank you for your patience during this construction work. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact the Public Works Department at (510) 215-4382.

Manila Ave – Temporary Road Closure & Detours
Friday, June 19

The City of El Cerrito, Public Works Department is completing a paving project on Manila Avenue between Richmond Street and Kearney Street. On Friday, June 19th, this section of Manila will be closed to vehicular traffic from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Vehicles will be detoured to Richmond Street, Schmidt Lane and San Pablo Ave. Garbage, Recycling and AC Transit, as well as, local traffic will be allowed through the work zone with minor delays. Emergency vehicles will always have access. Please expect minor delays. Thank you for your patience during this construction work. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact the Public Works Department at (510) 215-4382.