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Inside Maker’s Common, Berkeley’s Big Sister to Mission Cheese

The restaurant and market are open today

Patricia Chang

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Maker’s Common, the long-awaited expansion of Valencia Street’s Mission Cheese, is open today, July 13. Located in Berkeley at 1954 University Avenue, the new space is much larger than that of its San Francisco sibling, divided into a restaurant and a to-go market for stocking up on cut-to-order cheese and charcuterie.

With its larger dining area, bar, and full kitchen — which Mission Cheese lacks — Maker’s Common has a more expansive menu than the one offered at Valencia Street. Favorites from Mission Cheese, known for its salads, cheese boards, grilled sandwiches, and mac and cheese (served in an individual cast iron skillet), are all on the Maker’s Common menu. But so are new additions like “family-style” dinner plates and weekend brunch items. There’s also beer (8 taps) and wine of course, because — well, cheese.

Like the food at Maker’s Common, which focuses on American-made cheeses like Mission Cheese does, the new restaurant’s decor is local and personal.Stools at Maker’s Common were made by San Francisco’s Chairtastic, and ceramic lights were made by Jered’s Pottery in Richmond. One owner’s mom knitted a quilt for the space, and his cousin, the Portland-based artist Lori D, painted a mural mapping the movement of food from farms to cities. The space itself was designed by Berkeley’s own Studio KDA, the firm behind other restaurant spaces like Comal, Nopalito, Itani Ramen.

Maker’s Common was founded by Sarah Dvorak, Oliver Dameron, and Eric Miller, who opened Mission Cheese in 2011. But for their new restaurant, there are 165 others onboard with them. In a model that’s pursued less often, the trio funded Maker’s Common through a direct public offering, or DPO. 165 investors, all of them required to live in CA, put a total of $532,000 toward the business. Rather than just donating money, as with a Kickstarter, these investors — Maker’s Common calls them “founders,” too — are entitled to 4 percent annual interest on their $1,000 minimum investment.

It’s an investment structure in keeping with the Maker’s Common ethos, which is based in local community building. But it was also a lot of work, Dvorak says. “Each investment was a very personal interaction” she notes, and therefore, “people really liked seeing the concept come to life.”

Will other restaurants follow suit, pursuing direct public offerings to raise funds? Dvorak wishes they would. Her person goal is to invest in a DPO by the end of the year. “I hope someone is doing one — I think it’s amazing,” she says. “I want to be connected to the businesses in my community.”

The market at Maker’s Common is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Hours at the restaurant are 11 a.m to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

MCMenu by Caleb Pershan on Scribd

Maker's Common

1954 University Avenue, Berkeley, California
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