In 1922, two brothers who had immigrated from Greece, Nick and Jim Pappas, founded the Star Grocery on Claremont Avenue.
It quickly became one of Berkeley's most beloved businesses. During the Great Depression the Pappas brothers extended credit to hundreds of families who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford food and wrote off thousands of dollars of unpaid bills.
In 1974 the business passed to Jim's son Nick. It's a terrific store and a pillar of the community, a place were the local high school kids have traditionally gotten their first jobs.
But in the early morning of Sunday, August 27, somebody smashed the plate glass windows in front.
Within hours, an organization in Florida called "Bite Back," which claims to support animal rights, posted pictures of the broken windows on its website, along with a manifesto from someone zcalling himself "veganarchist lone wolf," who says he did it because Star Grocery sells meat.
Never mind that all of Star Grocery's beef, pork and chicken comes from animals that roam free instead of being cooped up like sardines on feedlots or in cages that are too small for them to turn around. Or that they eat their natural diets - real grass and grains - instead of chemicals and leftover animal parts.
"Cage free, organic, murder is murder and death is death," he says piously.
Well, maybe. But I have one question: Dude, do you really think smashing the windows of a mom & pop store made converts for the cause?
To the contrary, the neighbors are hopping mad. Not at Star Grocery, at you.
"Who the hell does he think he is to come into our city and hurt our store?" said one woman. Several people said they plan to patronize Star Grocery even more, just to show you they can't be pushed around.
Nice going, dude. I just hope people won't assume all animal rights activists are like you.
* * *
In happier news, congratulations to Tony La Russa for his well-deserved induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 27. But I think future generations will remember him even more as the man who made it cool to be kind to animals.
Instead of using his celebrity to make money, he used it to raise consciousness. And as founder and co-director (with his wife, Elaine) of the Animal Rescue Foundation - ARF, for short – he has saved 8,824 cats and dogs to date, and still counting.
I don't remember the first time I met Tony, but I sure remember the second time. His first words to me were "How's your baby?" I didn't understand what he was talking about for a moment, but then I realized it was my cat, Eliza. I thought, "This guy really gets it!"
The next time I saw Tony, he and Elaine, along with their daughters Devon and Bianca, were in Walnut Creek picketing a store that was selling animal furs.
Out came the store owner, who unleashed a stream of profanities - right in front of the girls, who were both less than 10!
"You blankety-blanks!" he said. "You can blankety-blank my blankety-blank, and you can also – wow, you're Tony La Russa! Hey, Tony, sign this baseball for me, willya?"
Tony dutifully signed.