Apr 252008

Oakland Tribune – April 2008

YOU GO to your pharmacy for your prescription drugs, and when you’re looking for alternative remedies, you seek out an herbalist, naturopath or homeopath. But a new holistic pharmacy expanding in the Bay Area combines the best of both those worlds, offering traditional pharmaceuticals and alternative medicines as well as experts capable of dispensing advice on the use of Western, Asian and alternative medicine products.

Barry Perzow, chief executive officer and chairman of the rapidly growing Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy _ eight have opened in the Bay Area inthe last year _ has been in the natural food business for 40 years.

He started with a chain he founded called Capers in Canada.

Several transformations later, he moved to Boulder, Colo., and founded Pharmaca.

“I realized that one segment of the retail industry that has not changed in 40 or 50 years was pharmacies,” he said. “I thought the time had come to start a new model that was ready to adapt to the aging population and changing demographics and lifestyles.”

A 2004 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 36 percent of U.S. residents over 18 use some form of complementary or alternative medicine — therapies or practices not currently considered part of traditional Western medicine.

In the last year, Pharmaca has opened stores in the Rockridge district of Oakland, as well as Berkeley, Los Gatos, Mill Valley, Monterey, Napa,Novato, San Francisco and Sonoma. It has three stores so far in Southern California, in Irvine, La Jolla, and Pacific Palisades.

Perzow could be on to something. His other main competitor, Elephant Pharm, has only four stores in the Bay Area. Besides its Berkeley base, it has opened stores in Los Altos, San Rafael and Walnut Creek.

Pharmaca boasts a wide array of products, and everyone on staff is a specialist, Perzow said.

“Our staff is made up of professional health care practitioners, from the pharmacists themselves to the naturopathic physicians, nutritionists, herbalists, homeopathic doctors and aestheticians,” Perzow said.

Pharmaca’s naturopathic physician, Dr. Suen Sohn, said she and her colleagues do not diagnose. Their role is to advise on dosages of herbal and mineral supplements and counsel on whether these complement prescription drugs customers are already taking.

“Prescription drugs may deplete nutrients and that customer may have extra needs for supplements,” Sohn said. “Also, people often read something about a herbal product and they come in curious for more information, so we offer guidance.”

She also said that the pharmacy offers the full range of Chinese herbal formulations in capsule form.

Sleeping aids, aromatherapy remedies, Bach flower essences, dietary supplements, lotions and shampoos are among the offerings on the shelves. Many products are formulated to eliminate toxins and stimulate the body’s internal cleansing process to counteract substance abuse, unbalanced diets or exposure to pollution.

The company accepts most major insurance programs for prescription products.

Along with traditional over-the-counter products, the store sells specialized products called professional lines, which are typically offered for sale only in the offices of doctors or alternative medicine practitioners.

Products such as Metagenics, Pure Encapsulation and Thorne are kept in closed glass cases since purchase is based on a practitioner’s advice.

Pharmaca also sells beauty products sold in spas and high-end salons, and Perzow promises its own line of beauty products will be out in June. Much of the store’s products — from greeting cards to Pharmaca’s brand of chocolate — are environmentally friendly and organic. He plans to add expanded selections of organic baby and pet products in the future.

Three Pharmaca stores in the Bay Area, including the one in Rockridge, are partnering with the Teleosis Institute in Berkeley in a pilot program that disposes of unused or expired medications in an environmentally safe way.

Perzow plans to open one store a month throughout the West until the current 20 stores number 100. He is looking at several sites in Sacramento, San Jose, Menlo Park and Danville.

His expansion plans have depended on venture capital. Pharmaca recently received an infusion of $20 million from Highland Capital Partners in Le

xington, Mass., and Physic Ventures in San Francisco.

Tom Stemberg, Highland Capital’s managing general partner, said Pharmaca was an attractive investment because research showed it has “potent customer appeal.” Pharmaca stores had healthy profits and are part of a fast growing market, he said.

 Posted by at 7:52 pm
Apr 152008

Oakland Tribune – April 2008

Rescued dogs, cats put up for adoption at store near Lake Merritt

OAKLAND — Lisa’s Passion for Pets is doing its part to rescue animals from Central Valley shelters that euthanize dogs and cats.Every Saturday, the pet supply store on 17th and Madison streets near Lake Merritt offers for adoption 30 dogs and five cats taken from shelters within an hour’s radius of Fresno — shelters that don’t follow no-kill policies for the animals they take in. The adoptions are offered in conjunction with a nonprofit called California Underdogs.

Formerly an accountant, store co-founder Lisa Robie was surfing the Web site PetFinder.com when she came across the picture of a dog whose caption read that it was going to be euthanized that day.

“I e-mailed the site, crying, and asked her to hold the dog for me,” Robie said. “I drove three hours to Lemoore to get the dog for a friend of mine.”

The person she e-mailed was Kara Johnson, the founder of California Underdogs, http://www.caunderdogs.org, in Lemoore, in Kings County.

Johnson had been rescuing dogs and cats from her local shelters and exporting them from the San Joaquin Valley since 2005 to shelters in the Bay Area with “no-kill” policies.

Robie and her boyfriend, Eric Hayes, who already own several pets and are obviously suckers for more, were hooked by this contact with Johnson. The storefront across the street from Hayes’ apartment was empty, and they decided to start a pet supply store there. They opened Lisa’s Passion for Pets at the end of 2006.”We had no business plan or anything,” Robie admitted.

But they are not doing badly because they have just broken even after their first full year of operation.

Robie and Johnson are in constant contact about the Saturday transfer of animals to the shop. Either Johnson drives the 30 dogs and five cats to Oakland, or Robie meets her halfway in Los Banos. The trek starts at 7 a.m. every Saturday, early enough that the animals, in cages, are in the store by 11:30 a.m.

By the end of the day, 10 or 12 of the animals are adopted, Robie said. Those that aren’t are fostered until Robie and Hayes can find human guardians.

Prospective owners must fill out an application and sign a contract pledging not to give the animal to anyone else, and to return animals they can no longer care for to Robie or California Underdog.

“If they don’t answer these questions correctly, we deny the adoption,” Robie said.

The adoption fee is $200 for a dog and $80 for a cat.

To make sure the animals are adopted out, Robie spends a lot of time marketing.

“I’m on Craigslist 24 hours a day,” she said. “I have my own three dogs at my house and usually we are keeping three fostered dogs as well. Everyone in the neighborhood who had one dog before, they now have two dogs. And I’m their dog walker, so it works out.”

Of course, offering dogs for adoption has helped her pet supply business, which now offers double the amount of product it did when it opened.

When somebody adopts a pet from her store, it’s likely they need a leash, a kibble bowl and food, and those supplies are right there. Lisa’s Passion for Pets will order products for her customers and deliver for free in Oakland.

The store also hosts a Yappy Hour from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, when the store’s neighbors and their retinues of Maxes, Fluffys, Harleys and Pookies gather to socialize with bottles of Two-Buck Chuck or soda, Robie said. It’s probably the only time the store sees packs of animals running around loose.

Merritt Clifton, editor of the monthly Animal People News, available at http://www.animalpeoplenews.org, said Central Valley shelters have high euthanasia rates for animals.

According to Clifton’s figures, San Francisco destroyed 2.2 animals per 100,000 people — or about 16,500 animals — in 2005. That’s compared with Fresno’s rate of 40.9 animals per 100,000 residents — or 32,100 animals — in 2006. Figures for the same year were not available, Clifton said.

Robie knows she rescues only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands or animals that are put down yearly. Nonetheless, she reasons, she has at least saved many.

“It makes me feel wonderful to see a dog go home with somebody,” Robie said. “Frequently, they cry.”

 Posted by at 2:59 pm
Apr 142008

Oakland Tribune – April 2008

Here’s where the green meets the green – greenbacks and green business, that is.Earlier this year, four Oakland-based environmentally friendly businesses met an assembly of banks, equity investors and city officials, hoping to stimulate funding for their projects.    James Hurd Nixon of Sustainable Systems James Hurd Nixon, co-director of Sustainable Systems, a consultant firm that addresses sustainable business, convened the meeting. Mayor Ron Dellums inaugurated the Oakland Partnership last year, convening private companies and public entities to collaborate on stimulating Oakland’s economy. The group identified five clusters of industries in the city that the participants of the partnership could support.Besides health care and life sciences, biotechnology, international trade and logistics and the creative arts, the partnership identified the “green” industry.Nixon thought it would be a good idea to bring green businesses together in a network to seek investors. The second step was to invite investors, whether banks, funds or individuals, to consider these outfits for loans or equity investments.“It just struck me that there were a significant number of socially responsible sustainable finance organizations that are located in Oakland or are interested in Oakland but we had never gotten together,” he said.His office in the Rotunda Building overflowed during that first meeting, held in January. “There must’ve been over 60 people and they were standing outside the door,” Nixon said.Dellums promised that the city would develop a zoning plan to make land-use decisions for green businesses more predictable. He mentioned at the meeting the possibility of considering the Oakland Army base for the purpose.Four local companies gave presentations describing their activities and why they needed increased funding to boost their products, services and markets. One of those companies was CleanAir Logix, based in Oakland, which develops clean fuel to power oceangoing vessels, such as those that serve the Port of Oakland. Last summer, CleanAir demonstrated an electrical power generator, fueled by liquid national gas, that recharges a vessel while it is at berth.Another meeting attendee, Greener World Media of Oakland, provides an online information source for environmentally focused businesses. President Pete May was seeking more funding so the company could offer events and create research for the field. The company’s first event is July 12 and 13 in Alexandria, Va.Walter Allen, founder of Acumen Building Enterprise, performs project management for construction projects. Because his company is developing a new product, Allen said he needed more space and wants to buy property in order to expand.Allen said later that most of the faces at the meeting were white males and that such groups need more diversity. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Community Bank of the Bay, the Bay Area Family of Funds and venture capitalists were also in attendance.Elizabeth Y.A. Ferguson, executive vice president and managing director of the Bay Area Family of Funds – a league of banks, insurance companies, pension funds and other resources that invest in low income neighborhoods – said the network could be very productive for environmentally sustainable businesses.While there was talk among participants of possibly creating a fund for Oakland-based green businesses, Ferguson said such an effort was a good idea but would be a way off. Nixon said the Green Finance Network will meet again on May 29. E-mail him at jnixon@ctcluster.com for more information.

 Posted by at 2:49 pm
Apr 102008

Oakland Tribune – April 2008

In July, Oakland renter Cynthia Baumgarden found a tag on her door informing her the property she was occupying had been acquired through foreclosure.

“Please call within 24 hours or this property will have the locks changed and any personal property may be disposed of pursuant to Civil Code section 1988,” the notice read.

Baumgarden had the misfortune of being targeted by licensed real estate broker Craig Jarvis of Tri-County Properties, Walnut Creek.

The city of Oakland filed suit Monday in Superior Court against Jarvis for forcing tenants from foreclosed properties through intimidation and harassment. Oakland City Attorney John Russo said Jarvis’ citing of the Civil Code was bogus while the city’s Just Cause Ordinance expressly forbids eviction of tenants from a property that has been foreclosed.

Jarvis could not be reached for comment. The attendant who answered his phone said he was “in court on eviction hearings.”

Although Baumgarden said she had been paying the rent regularly, she reported Jarvis used the pretext of nonpayment of rent to manipulate her out of her apartment within a month.

Maria Manuela de Jesus Cavedo said she, too, was pressured by Jarvis to move from her apartment within two weeks or he would lock her out.

“I had to borrow money to move,” she said, through an interpreter.

Russo estimated Jarvis has targeted at least 10 families in similar ways. He said the bigger concern is how many other real estate brokers are doing the same thing — pushing tenants out so lenders can dispose of their foreclosed properties more quickly.

“This is the worst type of bottom-feeding,” from which real estate and mortgage brokers and banks win tremendous profits, Russo said.

The suit accused Tri-City Properties of engaging in practices that put honest practitioners at a disadvantage. It cited Jarvis’ violations, including intimidating tenants to take “cash for keys” offers that do not reflect the actual cost of the move for the tenant; turning off tenants’ heat and electricity; refusing to return tenants’ phone calls in reply to notices to vacate; refusing requests for information about the foreclosure or the identity of the new property owner; claiming to have instituted eviction proceedings against the tenant or threatening to do so if they do not comply with his demands; and citing incorrect legal authority to land an aura of legitimacy to his demands.

The suit asks the court to assess $2,500 for each violation, but amounting to no less than $10,000.

If the court rules in favor of the city, Jarvis will have to pay moving and attendant expenses to any tenants who cannot return to the address from which they were ousted.

Jarvis’ Web site, craigjarvis.net, states his “goal is to significantly reduce (the lender owner’s) carrying costs through the reduction of time from acquisition to disposition-holding time.”

Russo said Jarvis has been warned before about his practices and ceased them temporarily only to resume them. The city attorney said he was putting such real estate brokers on notice and that this practice will not be tolerated. His office is observing one other such professional for possible action, he said. The city attorney also has written to all the banks doing business in Oakland to inform them of the city’s Just Cause Ordinance. Russo urged Oakland tenants threatened in this way as well as homeowners who risk foreclosure to call the Oakland City Attorney’s hotline: 510-232-5378.

 Posted by at 3:03 pm