We enrolled seventy new subscribers this month – some of whom discovered us when Inside Scoop shared our report about Grand Fare Market. The lion’s share of the credit, however, belongs to one of those new subscribers, Emily Finch, who did the same. More about Nextdoor and Grand Fare momentarily, but let’s begin with a big welcome to all the new subscribers and also a big thank-you to all our long-time readers.
GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
One Medical announced their opening with a “Now Open. Say ahhh” billboard and their first few weeks have gone quite well. The physicians and other staff members are delighted with the community response – especially since patients here in the neighborhood are happy to be able to walk to and from their appointments. Apparently, the staff has also been receiving lots of compliments for the way they’ve transformed the building – which was exactly my reaction when I stopped in the other day to shoot some photos. Pediatric care will be available beginning Monday, May 2 and parents can register their children in advance using THIS LINK beginning in mid-April.
I believe that the majority of the response to our report on Grand Fare Market was quite positive. There were, however, a lot of questions raised about the potential for building a parklet out on the street and for moving their streamlined trailer curbside. In all fairness to Doug, yours truly was the one enthusiastically encouraging him to consider the latter. In any case, this past Saturday, I had a chance to talk briefly with Doug’s wife, Freya, who is the resident florist. She indicated that they might end up selling the trailer or alternately, it could remain in the patio where it could be used to dispense beer and wine. As for the parklet, it’s on the back burner for the time being but something they’d definitely want to pursue at a later date. For the benefit of anyone concerned about a loss of parking spaces, the parklet would be constructed in the red zone adjacent to the existing pedestrian bulb-out.
Things are bustling over at Alchemy Bottle Shop. Alexandra Blatteis will be continuing in her role as Alchemy’s Store Manager but, in her spare time, she and her sister are going into the bourbon business – as reported in this column by Luke Tsai in the East Bay Express.
And as yet another example of how time flies, Peter and Tova will be celebrating the Second Anniversary of Alchemy’s Grand Opening on April 9. From 2:00 – 5:00 p.m., Barr Hill will be pouring samples of their gin and vodka. From 5:00 – 7:00 p.m., there will be an Opening Night Reception for a curated exhibit of 35mm photographs entitled, “Ship Without a Rudder”.
As a personal aside, I mistakenly typed, “Whip without a Rudder”. Fortunately, i caught my typo. Otherwise, they would have been perplexed by the large turnout liberally sprinkled with folks in heavy leather.
Alyce on Grand had a blockbuster event planned for this Saturday, April 2. Yahshimabet Sellassie-Hall, the 12 year-old from Oakland who was one of the finalists on the Food Network’s “Kid’s Baking Championship”, was scheduled to sell her cupcakes and cookies – but, unfortunately, she came down with a bug and had to cancel. Tentatively, Yahshi will be re-scheduled for sometime in May. Meanwhile, Alyce is going ahead with a scaled-down event on Saturday from Noon to 6:00. She’ll have a DJ, complimentary Mimosas and a big sale on accessories.
Bell and Iron Tattoo Studio has only been open for a month – but they’ve already settled in and owner, Joe Paul, tells me that they now have three tattoo artists and are looking for a fourth with East Bay connections. Beginning April 7, they’ll be joining (in a big way) the growing list of merchants participating in the Grand Avenue First Thursdays Art Walk. They’ll be selling $5 raffle tickets good for a $100 Gift Certificate redeemable for a Joe Paul tattoo. In addition, artist prints (including some signed and numbered limited editions), men’s and women’s t-shirts and other select merchandise will be 1/2 price from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. only. They’ll also be serving complimentary wine, snacks and refreshments.
Better Homes and Gardens Realty‘s new office at 3923 Grand is now open. Manager, Melissa Case was planning to participate in this month’s First Thursdays Art Walk but, at the time of publication, they hadn’t yet confirmed a featured artist. Tentative plans from 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. include refreshments and a free drawing for a gift basket. Preparations for their Grand Opening celebration on April 28 from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. are far more definitive. They’ll be serving food and will have a guest speaker from the real estate industry. All are welcome but reservations are required. Please email Melissa@MelissaCase.com.
Michael Bauer’s annual list of the Top 100 restaurants in the Bay Area includes a good sampling of Oakland establishments – two of which are here on Grand Avenue: Camino and Boot and Shoe which is paired with Pizzaiolo.
A March 9 article by Esther Mobley in the SF Chronicle described Ordinaire as a “Shrine to Natural Wine”. If you’re into wines, it’s a really good read and I recommend it highly.
While I was up on that end of Grand on Wednesday taking photos at One Medical and BG&G, I decided to pop into Siegel’s Tuxedo Shop and proceeded to introduce myself to Bruce Johnson who has owned and operated the shop for twenty-six years. Bruce agreed to my taking a couple of photos – including one with his “Silent Partner” – which, in this case, is quite literal. With prom season approaching, he expects to be quite busy as that typically represents up to 40% of his annual business. The balance is from weddings and corporate affairs.
As we reported last month, Flamenco dancer and instructor, La Tania has signed on for a one-year residency at Studio Grand. Her first performance/workshop sold out immediately but another has been scheduled for May 29. If you’re interested, tickets are now available online and I’ll guarantee that they will sell out quickly.
In April, there are twelve concerts listed in Studio Grand’s Event Calendar and the one I’m eyeing is a “A Night of Hungarian and Romanian Music” on April 19th. This past month, I attended two concerts – a night of Brazilian Music performed by “Tres Meninas” and two weeks later, a string quartet (minus one member) accompanied by flute and clarinet. Both events were fantastic and what’s amazing is that it’s happening right here in the neighborhood within walking distance. Tickets, on a sliding scale, typically range from $10 to $15 and it’s a very intimate environment. There were less than twenty people in the audience the two nights I attended and there’s easily room for twice that. And, if you’re not already aware of this, Studio Grand is a non-profit run entirely by volunteers (none more dedicated than Vanessa) and most of the ticket receipts go directly to the musicians.
Shiffen over at Baraka Gallery on Santa Clara has been on a buying spree lately. Her shop is full of new merchandise including a very few remaining Mexican pinatas, textiles from India, jewelry from Morocco and various treasures produced by artisans world-wide. In addition to her usual hours, Baraka Gallery will be open for Grand Avenue First Thursdays.
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LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
Last week, Cholita Linda‘s Murat Sozeri phoned me in response to my earlier offers to help facilitate outdoor seating in the immediate vicinity of the vacant space at 3256 Lakeshore that was slated to become their newest location. Murat said they had just signed the lease and that he and his architect were now in a position to explore outdoor seating options. Less than a week later, I learned from BID Director Pamela Drake that the property owners had instead chosen a later offer from a restaurant called Falafel Stop in Sunnyvale.
Falafel Stop may very well turn out to be a popular, perfectly fine addition to Lakeshore Avenue. But the response we heard months ago, when we learned that Cholita Linda was coming to the Grand Lake district, was akin to what happened when we heard that Pizzaiolo was expanding to Grand. Both have the kind of loyal following that only exists with restaurants that provide the kind of exceptional food and service that Alix Wall described in this review in Berkeleyside.
I’ve since talked to Murat and expressed my own disappointment, as well as my empathy for the loss of a project they’d nurtured for many months. I did tell him about the vacant restaurant space next to Camino – hoping to somehow keep them here in the Grand Lake but doubt that it’s suitable for their purposes. In any case, Murat is more philosophical than I, which may be largely a function of age. I’m old and cynical. He’s young and optimistic. I’m hoping his optimism prevails.
Subscriber (and former East Bay Express reporter) Julie Feinstein Adams alerted me to an unfortunate snafu at Trader Joe’s. Someone in store management or the corporate offices wanted a small section of the wall mural replaced with signage. The painters working in the middle of the night painted over the entire mural. Julie told me that Trader Joe’s intended to replace at least a portion of the art work employing the original artist. One of the store managers confirmed the basic details but wasn’t sure that they would duplicate the original. If you had your druthers, would you prefer an entirely different subject and, if so, what?
If you’d like to emulate Shakewell’s Jen Biesty, here’s your best opportunity, thanks to Passport Magazine which has recently published her recipes for Croquetas de Bacalao as well as Chicken and Almond Albondigas.
For years I walked past Jong Ga House, the popular Korean restaurant at 372 Grand Avenue owned by Byung and Kyung Oh. I often observed clusters of Korean diners overflowing onto the sidewalk while waiting for their tables. But I was unfamiliar with Korean food beyond hearing cautions that Western palates may recoil at kimchi, a super spicy fermented Korean side dish made of Napa cabbage and other vegetables that is a staple of Korean dining. Last month, I saw the world premiere of Julia Cho’s “Aubergine” at Berkeley Rep Theatre. In her review in the Mercury News, Karen D’Souza called this play, “A comforting stew of family, food and memory [that] has an unexpectedly bracing bite” and it was wonderful. So I decided it was time to bravely try the foods at Jong Ga House -and they were delicious.
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
Cloudy skies but no rain are predicted for the April 7 First Thursdays Art Walk . Hours are 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.
San Francisco Fiber: (3711 Grand) Lou Grantham extends an open invitation to try your hand at weaving and spinning.
Baraka Gallery: (432 Santa Clara) New stock of Tribal Textiles from India. “The tea kettle is always on.”
Bell and Iron Tattoo Studio: Raffle for $100 Gift Certificate + 50% off artist prints , t-shirts, other select merchandise. Complimentary wine and refreshments. 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. only.
Urban Furniture: No featured artist this month but open to 8:00 p.m. 15% off regularly priced merchandise.
For additional information, visit the Grand Avenue First Thursdays website.
SPLASH PAD PARK
The California Native Garden at Splash Pad is even more colorful now than it was last month when I posted most of the photos in the above photo montage. In the interim, the Carpinteria has also bloomed. By this time next year, we’ll have even more flowers if we complete landscaping of the additional large plot adjacent to the eastern end of the plaza.
The next major step to achieving that goal is to weed that bed and then install a cardboard weed barrier which is high on our to-do list for Splash Pad’s annual Earth Day Volunteer Work Day on Sunday, April 24. Mary Jo Sutton, the “Grand Cru” leader and Native Plant guru, will likely have some new plants to fill in holes in the existing landscaping and also oversee weeding in the established beds. We’re also expecting a big contingent from Judith Kahn’s Beatie Street School. In the last couple of years, the four year-olds have been very adept at removing the date pits that litter the decomposed granite beneath the Canary Palms.
Partly, as our way of turning Earth Day into an educational opportunity, Mary Jo will be leading a brief tour of the gardens focusing on why we choose to plant drought-tolerant California Natives and how those plants support birds as well as the bees and butterflies that serve as pollinators. We hope you can join us on the 24th regardless of your gardening experience or physical limitations. The work day begins at 9:00 and concludes with lunch at Noon. In past years, we’ve dined extremely well thanks to donations from Farmers Market vendors, Ken Betts Chevron, Chao Thai, Arizmendi, Lanesplitter, Miss Saigon, Ikaros and last but not least, Lin Jia Asian Kitchen – which this year also donated sufficient funding for most of our upcoming landscaping.
If you’re planning to participate, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can be sure to have enough tools, food and water. Also: no shorts or open-toed shoes, please.
ODDS AND ENDS
At the very top of the page, I mentioned, in passing, the Nextdoor neighborhood website. I confess that I was initially reluctant to sign up because I figured the last thing I needed was yet another source of information or another venue for disseminating information. The other concern was over reports that individuals preoccupied with crime issues were using it as a platform for racial profiling. My concerns over the latter issue have gradually abated – hopefully with good cause.
In terms of using the site for neighborhood communication, it’s hard to dismiss an opportunity to reach 10,000 families in the greater Grand Lake area free of charge. Eileen Morentz and I have, as one example, just encouraged Studio Grand to start using Nextdoor to better publicize their event calendar – knowing that 95% of the residents in this area still aren’t aware of their existence. The site also has built-in flexibility that will allow you to pinpoint your own individual neighborhood which is, for another example, what you’d prefer to do if you’ve lost your cat.
My final conversion, however, hinged on a much more mundane necessity. I’ve been busy liquidating my inventory of antiques and collectibles on eBay and was running short of styrofoam packing peanuts. One post on Nextdoor almost immediately elicited half a dozen offers including two shocking pink plastic bags-full donated by subscriber, Caryn Combis Barclay. Once those bags are emptied, I’m stashing them away in case they become collectible and, if not, some special occasion will arise.
Many people assume that I know everything that’s going on in the neighborhood. Not hardly. For example, I had no idea that, several years back, a massage parlor on Grand (now closed) was busted for prostitution. Honestly, not a clue!
But what’s far more important since we mostly prefer to report on all the good things happening in the neighborhood, until I received a message several weeks ago from subscriber Jaime Jenett, I hadn’t heard of TIKKUN TOKENS – an initiative Jaime undertook when she turned forty. In order to further a culture of kindness, you can offer a token whenever you witness another’s good deed. As Jaime points out, this is also a very tangible way to engage strangers and help build a stronger sense of community.
As of today, Jaime had distributed 6,000 tokens – mostly here in the immediate neighborhood but some, as far away as Australia. An order for another 5,000 tokens has already been placed. You can get sets of tokens for distribution and/or more information on the Tikkun Token website. Individual tokens are available at these neighborhood shops: Holy Land, Namaste, Silver Moon, Pure 510, Rolling Dunes, Rose Quartz, Mirabel, Cana, SF Fitness, Grand Bakery, Oakland Kosher Foods, Adventure Toys, Kehilla Synagogue and Lakeshore Produce.
If you’ve ever been out in a boat on Lake Merritt, fear of drowning was likely secondary to an overwhelming fear that you’d end up covered with muck. The good news is that the water quality has improved thanks largely to the efforts of Dr. Bailey’s Lake Merritt Institute and the construction of the bridge that increased tidal flows into the lake. What would it take to make the lake “swimmable”? KQED has THE ANSWER.
The ballot for Oakland Magazine’s “Best of Oakland and the East Bay” survey is now online. Our neighboring Grand Lake businesses are heavily represented – so please take a look and cast your votes anytime before May 31.
In last month’s newsletter, I complained about the long delay in implementing variable parking rates in the Walker Avenue parking lot and the lot under the freeway on Lake Park. Both of which are extremely underutilized during the day. Lowering the rates to $1 per hour would make off street parking far more attractive and simultaneously (if fully utilized) would increase City of Oakland revenues.
The agenda for the next Grand Lake Neighbors meeting has not yet been announced but I’m hoping the parking lots are up for discussion. The one item that is always on the agenda is an OPD crime report. The news lately is that crime citywide is on the decline and that’s just as true (if not more so) in the Grand Lake district. The other constant is that the most common crime is auto burglaries. If you want to avoid becoming a victim, the rule of thumb is to leave absolutely nothing in view from outside your vehicle and, when you park, don’t get out of your car and place belongings in the trunk. The April GLN meeting will be Wednesday, April 20, at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church beginning at 7:00 p.m.
With the exception of Splash Pad Park, Oakland’s Earth Day is celebrated on Saturday, April 23. Citywide, there are approximately one hundred different projects looking for volunteers. The complete list is available on the website, but the nearest worksites are at the Morcom Rose Garden and at Lake Merritt. I just talked to Christian Boyle, the Crew Leader for the parks in this district and he promised to deliver a truck-load of compost for us to distribute at Splash Pad on the 24th. At the Rose Garden, in addition to weeding the rose beds, volunteers are going to be removing the lawn that surrounds the reflecting pool. This is part of their efforts to conserve irrigation water. The sprinkler heads have already been replaced with drip irrigation.
The City’s other annual environmental awareness event is Oakland’s Earth Expo in Frank Ogawa Plaza this coming Wednesday, April 6, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. I’ll be there representing DonateOakland.org, which is continuing to urge local residents to recycle everything possible and to make sure that donations of clothing, books and household furnishings stay in Oakland where they benefit those in need and help support local agencies and institutions.
Fairyland has a brand new event scheduled for Saturday, April 23 that’s sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and Chronicle Books. It’s a children’s book festival called “Turn the Page” and it features two dozen children’s book authors including our nearby neighbor, Daniel San Souci. Event details are available on this link. Adults must be accompanied by a child, but don’t despair. If you’re looking for an opportunity to enjoy Fairyland sans children, circle Thursday, June 2 on your calendar – the date for this year’s Gala Dinner. It’s an adults only costume theme party where you can enjoy scrumptious food and drink, special performances and live and silent auctions under twinkling lights. This year’s theme: Beauties and Beasts.
If you’d like to learn more about Oakland’s storied past, consider attending an “An Evening of Oakland History” featuring Oakland Tech senior Laurel Hennen Vigil and local historians, Dennis Evanosky and Gene Anderson. The event is being hosted by the Octopus Literary Salon (2101 Webster) on May 27 beginning at 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday, April 7, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Saturday, April 9, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m: Rose Garden Volunteer Day
- Wednesday, April 20, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting at Lakeshore Baptist Church
- Wednesday, April 6, 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.: Oakland Earth Expo at Frank Ogawa Plaza
- Saturday, April 23: Citywide Celebration of Earth Day
- Saturday, April 23: “Turn the Page: A Children’s Book Festival at Fairyland”
- Sunday, April 24, 9:00 a.m. – Noon: Splash Pad Celebrates Earth Day
- Friday, May 27, 7:00 p.m. – “An Evening of Oakland History” at the Octopus Literary Salon
- Saturday, May 28, 1:00 – 9:00 p.m: Eastlake Music Festival
- Thursday, June 2: Fairyland’s Adults Only Gala Dinner
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