1-25-2013 Newsletter


January 25, 2013


A few years ago, I began to develop delusions of grandeur, convinced that I did know everything that was going on in the Grand Lake commercial district. That is, until I heard about what (in polite circles) they call a “house of ill repute” that had been doing a thriving business on Grand Avenue for many, many moons.

I experienced a similar epiphany immediately after publishing last month’s newsletter. One of our subscribers inquired about Milano’s closure and I confessed total ignorance. The next day, Marcia Lam emailed to say the new tenant was going to be Little Star — a restaurant that specializes in deep-dish, Chicago-style pizzas. A couple of weeks later, their Operations Manager, Susannah Blumenstock, confirmed the details.

The restaurant will actually be an offshoot of Little Star to be called “The Star on Grand”. According to Susannah, they will be serving the same cornmeal crust pizzas but the menu will be expanded. She says they’re really excited to have found this spot on Grand–particularly since it’s their first location with a full bar.

Based on the first three emails I received after posting the news on Facebook, neighbors are overjoyed.

1. Stu Sweetow: “Oh, No! Little Star walking distance from me?? Call the cardiologist!! I love that place. ”

2. Anne Ronan: “Yay!! a Little Star within walking distance from my house. Very excited.”

3. Eileen Morentz: “Me, too! I love Little Star pizza!”

I share their enthusiasm. The reviews I read online are all quite complimentary. In addition, their game plan for Grand Avenue should fill one of the remaining voids defined in the 2008 GLRAG survey in which a substantial number of respondents expressed a yearning for a kid-friendly pub serving quality food. With 1/2 dozen local brews on tap plus a good selection of bottled, domestic and imported beers plus a focus on a family-friendly environment, I predict The Star will do extremely well. Did I mention that they also have the adjacent parking lot, seating for roughly 140 hungry/thirsty patrons and a mnemonic phone number (510 THE-STAR)?

The Star is yet one more indication that Grand Avenue is enjoying a Renaissance. Up and down the avenue, change is palpable:

When I saw Lou Grantham last week, she was re-painting the interior of the space at 3711 Grand that will soon open as the new home of San Francisco Fiber. Her weaving and textile arts studio will provide hands-on instruction in weaving, spinning, basketry, felting, knitting, and surface design. In addition, a wide selection of looms, spinning wheels, yarns and other supplies will be available for purchase. Space is also being set aside for a gallery, meeting room and production studio.

Here’s a photo of Lou I took on New Years Day as she posed in front of her new storefront. Just minutes earlier, the Loom Parade had survived the perilous trek down Boden Way. This particular New Year’s Day event admittedly lacked the pageantry of that morning’s Rose Parade but the terrain was more challenging and not a single gardenia, gazania or Vanda orchid was sacrificed in the process.

Across the street at 3602 Grand, Brian Tran has opened a new salon called L’Amor. Here’s a photo I took on Monday of Brian and one of his clients. I love the interior. It’s very tastefully decorated with bold colors, nice accessories and great lighting. If you check out my photo of the exterior, you’ll see a banner above the doorway offering a Grand Opening Introductory Special–20% off services.

The long vacant space at 3740 Grand between Uhuru and Dr. J’s Closet is also about to be filled. I introduced myself to the new tenant last week and she told me they will be selling beauty supplies. More details next month.

The vacant space at 3350 Grand should be occupied soon as well. Parenthetically, you just had to know that the previous tenant, Weight Watchers, was doomed from the start by the location. You can’t realistically expect folks to lose weight when their weight-loss studio is next to Michael Mischer Chocolates.

The new tenant at 3350 is going to be Panorama Framing. Owner Patrick Cheatham told me they’re hoping to be open by Valentine’s Day. He has a long resume as a framer but also as a professional photographer. Here’s a quote from his website: “Now I’m in Oakland, living large, and there is an energy here that is infectious (in a good way). I’m proud to be part of the burgeoning local, small business scene.”

Just minutes ago, Eric Hughes emailed me saying “Hold the presses!” He did, in fact, have news that merited doing just that. It turns out that the vacant space on the other side of Michael Mischer at 3354 has also been leased. It’s to become a wine shop/wine bar called The Red Whale.

The one question they’ll have to answer to my satisfaction is, “Why Red Whale?” We already have Red Crow Yoga down the street. Can the Purple Loon be far behind?

Ford’s Fine Furniture doesn’t have a lot of merchandise left but their liquidation sale continues through tomorrow. I’ll really miss Corella as she was, for a long time, one of the few merchants who cared enough to keep her sidewalks swept and her window displays, inviting. Here’s a photo I took this afternoon of her waving goodbye after 23 years. Corella did promise to come back, for a visit and to see what changes transpire in her absence. I’m optimistic that she and I will both be pleased with the results.

Up the street, Rebooty — Oakland’s only gallery specializing in furniture, art and clothing repurposed from other objects has issued its very own newsletter. Highlights include cessation of the abbreviated hours necessitated by the arrival of Baby Colin, a furniture sale with savings of up to 50% beginning Tuesday, January 29 through Sunday, February 3. Owner Kathy Jensen also noted that their list of participating artists will soon include Galleria Scola owner, Elida Scola who, in her free time, creates assemblages made from found objects.

The artists currently exhibiting at Rebooty include Brittany Barrett who made these Feather earrings and Chrissy Wagner who turned a leather coat into this Koi habitat.

In other Grand Avenue news, Next Level has moved to 3530 Grand, Suite 3 — above Cycle Sports.

Around the corner on Lake Park, Yusef and Daniel at Cana are convinced that lightning does, in fact, strike twice and have leased a space in San Francisco for another Cuban themed restaurant. Speaking of which, Robin Hong just sent me a link to his short video capturing some of the flavor of the Paella Cookoff that took place on Cana’s “front patio” several months ago.

There’s lots of action on Lakeshore, as well.

Feel Good Fitness has opened at 3411 Grand — next door to Mezze. I took this photo of co-owner Nick Myerhoff demonstrating the “Bird Dog” on one of their Power Plate vibrators. As noted by the sign in the window, they’re currently offering a Grand Opening Special — three classes for $35. In addition, Nick said they’d be happy to do free demos between classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11-2 and on Saturdays from 9-2.

Down the block, the 1600 square foot former home of Juniper Tree is slated to become another exercise studio with limited retail.

According to BID Director Pamela Drake, the equally large space vacated by Blockbuster Video is being leased by Petco. It is, unfortunately, yet another giant out-of-state chain store but, looking at the bright side, at least they won’t be selling cell phones.

One last note about Lakeshore: Pecan Bourbon Pies were apparently flying out the doors at Arizmendi in preparation for Xmas. I wasn’t willing to brave the lines but it sounded scrumptious — especially the bourbon part. For future reference, somebody out there please let me know if the pie was as good as it sounds.


The Farmers Market is in its Mid-Winter, leafy greens’ doldrums with not a lot of news to report. I would, however, note that the bag of Navel Oranges I bought last week was super sweet. I heard recently that it takes some cold weather to bring out the sugar content and the previous week was certainly more than cold enough.

Unfortunately, at least some of the farms selling at our Grand Lake Market suffered frost damage but the situation down in the Coachella Valley was even worse. Abe Ajlouny, the Flip Side owner, told me that the price for a crate of iceberg lettuce had quadrupled overnight and that was assuming you could find a supply.

Latisha Baker and Stephen Bruce (Oakland artists who are regulars at the Grand Lake Market) will be participating in the “Art of Living Black” show in Richmond through March 8. They were interviewed on Channel 5’s Bay Sunday last Saturday. The tape of that broadcast is available here.


As I mentioned in the December Newsletter, we’re beginning to formulate plans for the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the renovated Splash Pad Park. A key component will include some major infrastructure improvements — much of it consisting of delayed maintenance but also, encompassing new California Native landscaping. Tentatively, we’re talking about launching this effort with an Earth Day volunteer project on Sunday, April 21. This will be high on the list of subjects included in our first formal planning session on Monday evening beginning at 7:00 p.m. but we also want to discuss fundraising and describe, in broad terms, what we envision in the way of entertainment and special events to commemorate the October 20th anniversary.

From past experience, I know we can count on volunteers for a special work day — but what we really need at this point, are folks to help with the planning process. If you’re a skilled landscaper or landscape architect, have community organizing or event planning experience, grant-writing expertise, fund-raising capabilities, public relations experience or any other relevant skills, we’d love to get you involved. The meeting Monday will be at my home and a light meal will be served. If you’re interested, please email me at info@splashpad.org.

Speaking of volunteers, I was quite pleased on Monday (MLK Day) to happen upon a small group of kids armed with grabbers — busily picking up litter throughout Splash Pad Park. They’re all enrolled in the Kinship Support Services Program which has offices on Grand Avenue in the Adams Point district. Program Manager, Juan Rodriguez, told me the program provides tutoring and other valuable services but also includes a work component. Here’s the photo I took that morning.

The Thursday Night Food Pod at Splash Pad has been discontinued. According to the folks at Vesta Flatbread, the critical mass to cover parking and other fees never materialized. I’m hoping that, at some point, an effort will be made to resurrect this during warm weather months — maybe, scheduling live entertainment along with the food trucks.

Last month, I predicted major changes to the Splash Pad web site. Unfortunately, Raul Audelo and I were both sidetracked by the holidays and by the virus that was making its rounds. We did, however, get together this past weekend and, if Raul gets his way, I’m going to be very soon dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I’ve even, reluctantly, agreed to learn how to use WordPress. As much as I’m bound to complain, everyone including me is going to be pleased with the new website — as well as a new format for this newsletter.


The dedicated Deadheaders have scored a major coup. The Opening Night Sneak Preview on March 19 of the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show at the San Mateo Event Center will benefit Oakland’s own Morcom Rose Garden. Early bird pricing for tickets ends on February 15. Details are posted on the Morcom Rose Garden Friends home page.

Peter Lee used to be the neighborhood’s most prolific artist. His murals dot restaurant interiors and exterior walls all over Grand and Lakeshore. After moving to Southern California, Peter began concentrating on small canvases and rumor has it, he actually hired a sales rep. In any case, I was pleased to find a gallery of his work online. Here’s the the link.

Phatt Matt’s Barbecue was successfully launched at our very own Grand Lake Market. After a few years, they opted to trade a pop-up canopy for a brick and mortar space and ended up on 34th and Telegraph next to Neldam’s (now Taste of Denmark) Bakery. Late last year, The United States of Bacon paid a visit and watched Matt prepare Bacon Wrapped Burnt Ends. The resulting video is not suitable viewing for vegetarians, those of you who keep kosher or anyone with excessively high cholesterol levels.

Anfilo Coffee (the ever-so hospitable, Ethiopian coffee vendors) also started at the Grand Lake Market and, like Matt, they’ve now leased a permanent storefront. The Opening Night Celebration for their space at 35 Grand Avenue will be Friday February 1.


Monday, January 28, 4:30-6:30 pm: Meeting at Lakeside Garden Center to discuss alternative location for proposed dog park. See Oakland Tribune article for details.

Monday, January 28, 7:00 pm. Splash Pad 10th Anniversary Planning Session. RSVP to info@splashpad.org.

Tuesday, March 19: Opening Night Sneak Preview of the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show benefiting the Morcom Rose Garden.

Saturday, March 30, Noon: Lakeshore Spring Plant Exchange.

If you’d like to comment on any of the above news, please do so on the Grand Lake Neighbors website

If you have friends or neighbors who may be interested in receiving this newsletter, please forward this link: www.splashpad.org/mostrecent.html and invite them to subscribe by sending an email to info@splashpad.org.