One year ago, news hit that Mission Cheese, the Valencia cheese shop hit, was expanding its operations into a bigger spinoff. Called Maker’s Common, the concept was one-third retail space and two-thirds expanded restaurant, in the vein of Mission Cheese’s current offerings. Founders Eric Miller, Sarah Dvorak, and Oliver Dameron have been searching in vain for the right space since, and they have finally found one. The trio has just signed a ten-year lease at 1954 University Ave. in Berkeley in a 2,300-square-foot building with abundant outdoor space. The original plan was to sign in San Francisco, but the lure of Berkeley rents — 65 percent less than SF prices — hooked the team in the end.
"We always had this fantasy of finding a spot that was an analog to The Mill, where it's freestanding with fairly high ceilings," Miller told Eater. "This is the closest thing we've come across, and for us it has a lot of character already, so it really fits the bill." A bonus is that the space is already permitted to serve food and booze, which will cut down time and costs in the buildout. ABMO Architects (Comal, Nopalito) is behind the project, which needs a full redo. "It’s basically just a cold, dark shell right now," Miller said.
The team’s plan for the space is to have — of course — tons of cheese, plus charcuterie, wine, bread, and beer to go. The restaurant portion will be in line with the offerings at Mission Cheese, but with an expanded in-house charcuterie program, family-style dinners, and more. Starting in June, Maker’s Common will pop-up at Mission Cheese on one or two Sundays a month to start testing out the concept.
The goal is to open by October or November, and Maker’s Common is still continuing its unusual fundraising efforts — it’s issuing a direct public offering of promissory notes to investors (starting at $1,000) that will pay an annual interest rate of 4 percent. The tactic has so far raised nearly half of the $600,000 goal.