Long Time on the Avenue for Many Merchants: More Years of Merchants' Service, Part 3

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Following is the third in our series of businesses in business on College Avenue at least 25 years. There are more to come. If your business has been on the Avenue (or adjacent to it) that long, email editor@rockridge.org. We want readers of The Rockridge News to know about you and to stop in to see what you offer.

Claremont Day Nursery opened in 1942 and is one of three daytime nursery schools owned by Tom Morabito. The location at 5830 College Avenue, near the intersection with Chabot Road, was a miniature golf course prior to becoming a toddler day care program and retains vestiges of that past. For example, the front counter where golfers picked up a putter is now a reception area for youngsters. To care for 30 children from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., including lunch, snacks and a good nap, the toddler day care center has dedicated providers, some of whom have worked there more than 25 years. Children come primarily from the neighborhood, although that is not a requirement. Judging by the number of strollers I see on College Avenue these days, Tom can expect to remain full for many years to come; I am sure the parents of today's babes-in-arms are happy to hear that he'll be there waiting for their call when the time comes.

The Graduate bar, 6202 Claremont Avenue just up from College Avenue, began life in 1963, possibly named after the book also published that year, and a few years before Dustin Hoffman brought the movie to life. The East Bay Express voted it "the best dive bar" in 2010. You might not think that a compliment, but it is. The term defines a bar's clientele, its free popcorn, and its atmosphere, but what the bar must have is "dirt-cheap drinks." During the day, the establishment hosts an older crowd which gets younger as the evening wears on. The place can be especially crowded on the weekends with students and discount beer. Hungry? You can have a nice meal delivered while you enjoy your beer. The bar is conveniently located next door to the Claremont Diner at 6200 Claremont. The two establishments have a common owner, Javad Parsa, who will arrange for your lunch or dinner order to be brought over to the Graduate by a server.

Today's Claremont Diner sits on the site of a one-time Baskin-Robbins ice cream store. Javad purchased that business, remodeled it to a diner and opened in 1989. The menu is traditional American fare such as pork chops, BLTs, and patty melts, but Javad blends in a few of his home country's specialties, such as Persian Kebabs, as well. One of the diner's unusual features is the model train running on tracks close to the ceiling. Javed added the HO Gauge model trains himself. They often run on weekends and holidays. The vintage radios also make you feel like you are in a '60s diner anywhere in America.

First Federal Savings & Loan, 6058 College, opened its doors in 1972. Its focus has always been as a community bank, involved in local activities. It does offer ATM services and loans to small businesses and for multi-family residences, as well as that personal touch that many people want from their neighborhood bank. Unlike many other banks, First Federal keeps your loan for its full term; if problems develop, borrowers can meet personally with a bank representative. Beverly McArthur manages the branch and is active in Rockridge activities.

Mr. John's Dog Grooming, 5361 College Avenue, has been owned by Debbie "Reynolds" since 2011, but the business has been in the same location since 1970 when it was started by John Catanho. John is still active at 94, and can be seen sweeping up the front area just about every Sunday. John, who was in the Marine Corps during WWII, was stationed at Camp David (then known as Shangri-La) where he took care of FDR's famous dog Fala plus a few others when the president would visit. When John returned to Oakland, he began to work with Dr. Murray at the current Claremont Vet site until 1970. Debbie "Reynolds" (she says that is not her real last name but it's easy to remember) has retained a staff of three that stays busy caring for and grooming dogs. Debbie says her nursing skills have been a big help in the business as she caters to owners' pets and when she helps owners work through the grief of losing a pet.

Congratulations to Claremont Veterinary Hospital, serving Rockridge customers for over 100 years. Located at 5331 College Avenue, Claremont Veterinary has served the neighborhood since 1912. It was originally owned and named by Dr. Murray, until the early 1960s. Then, John Catanho (Mr. John's Dog Grooming, above) ran the practice. However, John was not a licensed vet - a requirement since drugs are kept on premises - and had to sell the business. In came Dr. Ken Hansen, who brought in Dr. Taylor. The old veterinary hospital building was replaced in two stages in the mid- to late-1960s and early 1970s. My family and I began bringing our pets to Claremont Veterinary in the mid-'70s. Dr. Frizell, who joined the hospital in 1979, bought the practice in 1981 and has been there since. While the waiting room is usually busy with dogs and cats coming and going amid the sounds of phones ringing, our pets have always received great care from all four veterinarians on staff.