Last month, I provided a link to the raw results of the Grand Avenue survey. I can now also share a partial summation of the answers to Question 3: “What would you like in the way of new businesses?”

Of the one hundred thirty-one individuals who responded, fifty-three cited restaurants, cafes or coffee shops. Although there were five requests for a deli and three for a sandwich shop, fourteen people (like Oliver Twist) simply said, “MORE Please”.

Those wishes are, in fact, about to be realized big time. Susannah Blumenstock from The Star on Grand kindly gave me a quick tour of their dining area and kitchen last week. In keeping with their kid-friendly reputation, Susannah pointed out an area at the rear of the dining-room that will be partitioned off and used for birthday parties. Some of the elegant touches include custom woodwork over the bar and a set of thick glass window panes that were salvaged from the oldest library in Oakland.

Last month, I reported that The Star was “really close” and that a June 10 opening seemed like a “pretty firm date”. Under the circumstances, the only prediction I’m now willing to make is that you’re going to love their pizza and find the revamped interior, quite welcoming. As for an opening date, your best bet is to continue to watch for a formal announcement on their Facebook page.

Just down the street, I’ve been keeping tabs on Charlie Hallowell’s new project — Penrose & Sons Fine Meats and Spirits. The exterior work is pretty well complete while, on the interior, they seem to be rounding the home stretch. Peering through the open windows, my eyes were immediately drawn to the cast metal facade on the bar counter which was originally installed as wainscoting in a railroad depot. The other prominent feature is a massive grill which faces out towards the street.

The cheeses and other small plates that will be offered at The Red Whale wine shop and wine bar will help satisfy those thirsting for more food options — but their big contribution will be in “wine-drating” a populace that’s looking for a local establishment where they can sample, limited-release California wines and/or take home a bottle or two.

Red Whale’s owner, Bradford Taylor was quite pleased with the big turn-out for their “sneak peek” Open House on the First Thursday in June where I captured this photo of Bradford and his wife, Nicole. Watch The Red Whale’s Facebook page for an announcement of their opening date.

All  the galleries participating in the June edition of the First Thursday on Grand seemed equally enthused. Unfortunately, the First Thursday this coming month is July 4th and the participating galleries have opted to wait for the subsequent First Thursday which falls on August 1.

For the June 6 First Thursday, Urban Boutique and Urban Furniture chose to stage a sidewalk fashion show. I was quite impressed by the poise demonstrated by the four young models and also by the sense of pride radiating from their parents and from the Urban Furniture staff. For the August First Thursday, they’re planning an outdoor, 70’s Dance Party.

By the way, new to the shop this week is this 1940’s Mohair Couch and Chair in remarkably good condition. It’s priced currently for $400. In addition, they recently received a truckload of children’s books which they’re selling for fifty cents each with more being unpacked daily.

One last note about Urban University. Director Tracey Weaver can’t stop smiling as they were just honored as the Nonprofit of the Year by The Oakland Youth-Friendly Business Network AND they were similarly honored by the California State Assembly. Here’s a photo of the the latter certificate.

For  the June event, Panorama Framing hosted an opening night party for a show titled the “Lost Toys of Kevin Keul”. Here’s a photo of Kevin Keul and his wife, Lili Smith taken that evening. The show will be up until sometime Tuesday, July 2 when it will be replaced by “Distant Sun” — oils and collages by Raymond Wong. The opening night party for Raymond will be Thursday, July 11 beginning at 6:00 pm.

There’s more good news on the retail front. With very little fanfare, Knimble opened their doors to the public this past Monday. According to shop manager, Brittany Allinger, they will have a formal Grand Opening Party on July 12-14 with “DJs, Treats and Great Deals”.

When I was there earlier this week taking photos, I was pleased to see a constant stream of customers who were delighted to find an extensive collection of gently used men’s and women’s clothing plus shoes, accessories and home decor items. I’ve posted two photos. This one of the elegant and quite spacious ground floor interior and a second one of the recessed doorway which is flanked by display windows.

The one photo I didn’t get is of the second floor where the overwhelming majority of their clothing is displayed. With natural light streaming in from banks of windows on each end, it’s a great place to shop–but taking photographs is a bit more complicated. As an aside, Knimble has a lot going for it beginning with the building that the Saribalis brothers lovingly restored plus the inventory and the decor. Also, in their favor, clothing ranked quite high (with twenty-four comments) on the list of new businesses requested by participants in the Grand Avenue survey.

The Alchemy Bottle Shop (which has signed a lease for the space next to Knimble at 3256 Grand) will have its application for a Major Conditional Use Permit tentatively heard by the Planning Commission on July 17 at 6:00 pm on the first floor of City Hall. If you can’t attend in person, comments should be directed to Dave Valeska ( For more information about what they plan to stock and how Peter and Tova envision the entrance and interior of their shop, check out their updated Facebook page.

Andy Matinog’s Red Crow Yoga has a “For Lease” sign in the window but, for the time being, classes are still being offered for $10. The reasons for its impending closure were reported in this article in the Piedmont Patch by Michael Hsueh, the chief honcho at After reading the article, please consider posting your suggestions for the space via the included link.

As an aside, Michael Hsueh alerted me to this blog post by former Grand Avenue resident, Jennifer Pahlka who is the founder of Code for America and currently the Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Jennifer’s post was prompted by the closure of Ford’s Fine Furniture.

What she envisioned for the space was an old-fashioned, Bodega or neighborhood grocery — a vision not unlike that voiced by many in all of the surveys we’ve done over the last five years. While I’d quibble over some of the details (for example, the reason Ford’s Fine Furniture closed), it’s still a very thoughtful analysis with potentially a big impact — especially since it’s been viewed by over sixty thousand followers.

Here’s an excerpt from the Japanese edition of the United Airlines in-flight magazine. I assume it’s a glowing review but my Japanese is a little rusty.

Uhuru Furniture is celebrating its 25th year on Grand Avenue in mid-July with two events. The first will be at the Kehilla Synagogue (1300 Grand Avenue) on Saturday, July 13th from 6-9:30 pm. Shoppers, donors and volunteers are invited to what they’re calling a “give back” celebration featuring food, African culture and a silent auction. The second half of the weekend event will be an Open House on Sunday, July 14th from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Uhuru Furniture store.

Over on Lakeshore, the latest prediction was that Scarecrow Popcorn should be open in about six weeks but I’m not sure about the opening date for what I’ve been referring to as Petco — the new tenant in the Blockbuster space. For the record, the correct name is Unleashed by Petco which is a scaled-down neighborhood version of the original.

In her debut Grand Avenue, West of 580 blog, “LZ” writes about the Grand Lake Coffee House and the Oakland Municipal Band’s Sunday concerts.

Last month, I wrote glowingly about the Oaktown Spice Shop. For more kind words on the subject, check out this blog post by Doug Fuller.

Surveys have been a hot topic here for the last several months — but one that I haven’t mentioned recently is the poll Grand Lake Neighbors did when word got out that Good Vibrations was looking at the space on Lakeshore Avenue. Roughly two-thirds of the survey respondents supported their application for a Conditional Use Permit while those who were opposed predicted that awkward moments were sure to ensue.

Last week, much to my delight, I witnessed one such scenario as grandparents escorted their two grand-daughters down Lakeshore. The older child, who was about seven, stopped in her tracks while tugging at her grand-mother’s hand; pointed to the prominently-labeled box in the display window and excitedly announced, “Look, Grandma. They have a magic wand.” Awkward, yes — but funny as hell.