GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
I confess that I’m a bit chagrined. After “promising” a butcher shop as one of the Penrose components, I made the same assumption in reporting on the sale of Monkey Forest Road to Richard Weinstein and Charlie Hallowell.
As you likely already know, they have since leased the property to Doug Washington. As reported in this blog from the SF Chronicle, Doug will be converting the space into what sounds like a mini-Market Hall with counters for cheese and baked goods plus a large area set aside for what has since been dubbed “Brother and Sister Cafe”. Weeks ago, I exchanged emails with Doug who quickly responded that a butcher counter would require an inordinate amount of space and a large capital outlay for equipment. Although the “Grand Market” will be hugely popular, it sounds like our Grand Lake neighborhood will have to wait a bit longer for a high end butcher shop.
EDITOR’S ADDENDUM: Hours after the January newsletter was published, Luke Tsai in the East Bay Express shared details about what’s now being called “Grand Fare”. That article is HERE.
Five years ago, when the Grand Lake Retail Advisory Group’s survey indicated that a butcher shop was respondents’ first choice (and nothing else came close), I talked to the owner of Prather Ranch Meat Company and they did seem a trifle interested. Maybe, it’s time to again broach the subject. As an aside, doing a Google search I just came across this 8-minute video on YouTube of Tarabud interviewing Doug Stonebreaker at the Grand Lake Farmers Market.
If the credibility of my reporting suffered as a result of repeatedly jumping to false assumptions, I do get bonus points for predicting that Penrose would be a huge success. Sure enough, from day one, they’ve been packed – despite decidedly mixed reviews on Yelp. In this column in the East Bay Express, Luke Tsai echoed some of those complaints while waxing ecstatic over the space and over the majority of the dishes he’d sampled. He then went on to reveal that Hallowell had fired the head chef and personally taken over the restaurant helm. Happily, the shortcomings (which are typical of restaurant debuts) are being speedily addressed and Penrose will undoubtedly be even more successful in the long term – if that’s possible.
Earlier this week, I talked to Diane Jatczak, the co-owner of Boniere Bakery about all the changes that are in the works for Grand Avenue. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about prospects for a new bakery counter two doors up the street since their bread and butter – or more accurately, their special-occasion cakes decorated with fondant and gum paste are what make Boniere a destination for customers all over the East Bay.
Diane pointed to the glass case in the front corner housing replicas of three of the cakes she and her son, Andrew, produced this year and I was hugely impressed. Diane decorated the Good Luck Cake for a Cancer Society fundraiser in Oakland’s Chinatown with miniature Pandas and incredibly realistic Hibiscus flowers. On the Baby Cake, I love the whimsical toddlers and also the fondant quilted baby throw with gum paste buttons. For more background information about Boniere, check out this September 2011 article in the Mercury News.
Directly across the street from Boniere, owners Tova Herman and Peter Mustacich gave me a grand tour yesterday of the Alchemy Bottle Shop which they’re hoping will be open by early Spring. At their request, I didn’t take photos – so for the time being, you’ll have to take my word that you will be extremely impressed by their cabinetry, the overall quality of the materials and workmanship and the layout which boasts a central staircase that leads to the upstairs gallery.
In addition to revolving art shows, the gallery space is where they will be pouring samples of wines and beers and eventually, of distilled spirits. I should note that to avoid competition with the other wine retailers on Grand, wine will represent a very small percentage of their inventory. The overwhelming majority of their stock will be locally sourced, small batch distilled spirits with large cabinets dedicated exclusively to gins, vodkas, etc.
Peter noted that, in order to determine which spirits make the cut, they’ve been scheduling tasting sessions with individual distilleries. Thursday afternoon, they had a three-hour tasting scheduled. It’s hard work – but somebody has to do it. Unfortunately, they politely declined my offer to serve as a volunteer.
A couple of doors from the Star on Grand Pizza, the Prime Spot has closed. This was a restaurant that regulars raved about – but for whatever reason, it never really took off. As hot as Grand has become, no one should be surprised that a replacement tenant has signed on and already made substantial improvements including new front windows to the right of the doorway.
The new restaurant will be called “SHOGUN Japanese Sushi and Grill”. With Mijori and Sushi Boat just down the street, I wondered about the viability of a third restaurant with the same cuisine but owner Billy Quan is convinced that quality ingredients (Kobe beef, free-range chicken and the freshest possible seafood) at reasonable prices is the best recipe for success. That formula has certainly worked for Lin Jia. Mr. Kwan says they’re currently awaiting the formal approval from the Health Department but they hope to be open by mid-February.
Studio Grand‘s calendar for February is every bit as tempting as this past month’s. In addition to their participation in First Thursdays, they have half a dozen musical events scheduled. The one that prompted me to reserve a ticket is a February 23rd performance of “Freedom Songs” featuring Tiffany Austin, Amy LaCour, Kimiko Joy and Valerie Troutt accompanied by Joe Warner on piano.
Incidentally, Studio Grand’s house band, the “Oakland Future Trio” (of which Holly Schneider’s son is a member) has been hired by Sheila E to perform at the Fox Theater on February 8th at a fundraising concert for Elevate Oakland whose goal is to substantially improve Music Arts Education in schools in Oakland and throughout the metropolitan bay area. This will be an all-star occasion. In addition to Sheila E, Goapele, Michael Franti and Kev Choice are listed on the bill. Ticket prices range from $40 to $500. If you’re interested in hearing the members of the Oakland Future Trio talk about why music is so important in their lives, watch this news report from KTVU.
The other new restaurant that is in the offing is in the space previously occupied by Day of the Dead Cafe. From what I understand, the project has been significantly delayed by building permit problems. The embedded photo shows that the plumbing work has now commenced. New copper pipe, an in-floor sink and a grease trap have been added which are all common requirements when kitchen spaces are upgraded. I’ve yet to meet the owners – so can’t provide any other details aside from the menu which is posted in the front window.
Tracy Weaver at Urban Boutique and Urban Furniture tells me they were quite pleased with the response to their two-month long show of art work by Craig Baxter and are equally enthused about the upcoming show of works by Valerie Medina whose online moniker is “Chicana Mama”. I always enjoying browsing through Urban Furniture looking for bargains but also on the lookout for photo opportunities and this week I was rewarded with a colorful display of neckties and the distressed paint on a display cabinet.
FIRST THURSDAYS ON GRAND
Photos From Previous First Thursdays
February 6th’s slate of participating galleries is temporarily down to seven as Galleria Scola takes a winter break and as Better Homes and Gardens Realty welcomes new management. The remaining galleries will be open from 6:00 – 9:00 and details for each are listed below. A printable list of galleries and businesses offering special discounts (when you have your hand stamped at a participating gallery is available HERE while the latest updates can be found on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays website.
- Studio Grand will be previewing its exhibit of paintings by Todd Thomas Brown entitled “Abstracts in the Way of Being”. Since Todd has other commitments for the 6th, the formal reception for the artist will be held Sunday, the 9th beginning at 4:30.
- Jaujou Studio’s show was still up in the air as of press time but they will serving refreshments and offering a 15% discount on store merchandise.
- Panorama Framing continues to host a group show called “Mysteries of the Organism” through February 23rd. All four artists will be in attendance on the sixth to discuss their artwork.
- Rebooty will be open late and serving refreshments but, at press time, no word on their featured artist.
- Kingman’s Lucky Lounge will be featuring the artwork of Michael Covington and on this First Thursday, from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., art walk participants are treated to half-price beers, wine and well drinks. On Valentine’s Day, look for the opening of a new, group show featuring Marisa Hudlin, Fred Alvarado, Rafael Sanhueza and Susanah Scheier.
- Urban Furniture will be celebrating this month’s First Thursday with an Opening Night reception for artist, Valerie Medina from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served and all store merchandise will be discounted 15%. Details about the reception and links to Valerie’s artwork are available at this link.
- Oak Common’s Backstock Gallery continues its exhibit of photographs by Kristine Eudey entitled “How Do You Say What It’s Like” through February 22nd. The gallery will also be open late the following evening in conjunction with the First Friday Art Murmur.
LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
Pamela Drake published the latest news about Lakeshore and Lake Park Avenues on Feb. 10th including info about the opening of Petco Unleashed and the upcoming restaurant openings. Her report is available on the Lakeshore Business Improvement District website.
GRAND AVENUE — WEST OF 580
SPLASH PAD PARK
We’re currently finalizing plans for the Splash Pad improvements that will be funded, in large part, by a grant from Keep Oakland beautiful. Our major focus is going to be on introducing more California Native plants that attract insects and serve as pollinators. A good example of just that is the Dendromecon harfordii or Bush Poppy that we planted just last year over the remains of one of our fallen Canary Palms. If you enlarge the photo I took last week, you’ll see a “bug” that Eddie Dunbar from the Insect Sciences Museum of California identified as a Hover Fly in the fly family Syrphidae. If we’re successful you’ll be seeing many more butterflies and other beneficial insects when you come to visit the park.
Our plans also tentatively include installation of decomposed granite walkways to provide better access to the seating walls from the rear side – as well as providing a replacement for the landscaped area inside the plaza adjacent to the seating wall that gets far too much traffic to ever support plants. Once plans are available, we’ll post them online and also bring a copy to the Farmers Market to gather input and also sign up additional volunteers for our monthly work days. If you’re interested in volunteering, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the way, if you hadn’t already noticed, Splash Pad is looking better than it has in years and our volunteers (despite our best efforts) play a relatively minor role. The bulk of the work on a weekly basis is done by City of Oakland employees. A big shout out to Christian Boyle – the Crew Leader who works under Tora Rocha’s supervision and also to Jaime Salazar who keeps the fountain working and the waters safely chlorinated.
Thanks to the efforts of Jennifer Stanley, Oakland’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities Coordinator, bike riders like me are going to have access to additional bike racks at the Splash Pad where they will be very heavily used on market days. The one just excavated is going in to the left of the parking lot entrance. A second smaller set is being installed near the northwest corner of the park. I’d imagine that concrete will be poured this coming week.
When I stopped to take this photo, a city crew was working on the adjacent street. They were members of the city’s Survey Team and were taking core samples from the asphalt roadway. They explained that the core samples would be provided to contractors . I haven’t a very good record of predicting when and if something is about to happen – but I’ll go out on limb and postulate that Lake Park Avenue will be repaved in ten to fifteen years — or maybe sooner.
Market Photos Taken December 28th
Jerry Barclay’s Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Committee will meet on Wednesday, Feb. 19th at 7:00 pm in the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church library. The number one item on the agenda will be the status of contract negotiations between the city and the market management.
Parking issues will also be on the agenda. If you have any suggestions or concerns you’d like discussed, please send an email to Jerry % email@example.com or alternatively, use the comment option at the bottom of the page.
Strauss Dairy has dropped out of the market in order to concentrate on market’s closer to their home base in Marin. Their space is now occupied by St. Benoit Creamery which offers Organic French Style Yogurt made sustainably in Petaluma. EDITOR’S ADDENDUM: St. Benoit also offers organic milk.
Oaktown Jerk is also new to the market. Owner Randall Hughes is an Oakland resident who has been cooking for twenty-five years. His beef jerky in a variety of flavors is made from all locally sourced ingredients including grass-fed, hormone-free beef.
Two other vendors will be debuting soon:
Lifefood Gardens is based outside of Kelseyville in Lake County and specialize in the production of micro-greens. Look for them today, February 1st. If you can’t find their space, check with the information booth.
Curbside Creamery is an Oakland-based ice cream maker that also offers vegan, cashew-based ice creams. They are currently awaiting for approval of their health permit.
Here’s the music schedule for February provided by Emmett Brady, the Farmers Market’s Manager:
Saturday, Feb. 1: Ghosts playing Bluegrass on the plaza stage.
Saturday, Feb. 8: Mr. Kind playing indie rock in the plaza and Aryeh Lionharp on the nickelharp under the tree.
Saturday, Feb. 15: American Nomad (tentatively scheduled) in the plaza and Ron Dubin in the back on trombone.
Saturday, Feb. 22: Folk singer, songwriter, Drew James in the plaza.
Please note that, if American Nomad performs on the 15th, check them out. They were one of the bands that played for the park’s 10th Anniversary.
ODDS AND ENDS
As delighted I am to have Pamela Drake writing the Lakeshore blog, I’m going to continue reporting on what new treasures I’m discovering at Buckingham Wine and Spirits. As a relevant aside, are you aware that the bike rack in front of Buckingham was installed specifically at my request? Well, now you know.
In any case, last week Mira (Max’s younger daughter) told me about an imperial stout called Tenfidy that’s produced by Oskar Blues Brewery. I told Mira somewhat dismissively that I never drink beer out of a can – particularly, not a beer that’s $4.75 per 12 oz serving.
When I later looked it up on Beer advocate, I found it got incredible reviews prompting me to return for a 4-pak that I shared with friends and family. Thursday, I bought the very last can in celebration of the Chinese New Year’s Eve. Mira said she reorder it but it’s likely not now available as it’s a seasonal brew. For Tenfidy, you may have to wait until next year but meanwhile, if you’re a beer drinker, ask Mira for recommendations. She’s ordering really good quality, craft brews you’d be hard-put to find elsewhere.
The Oakland Running Festival returns March 23rd for its fifth incarnation. Their home page boasts that the Oakland Marathon was voted… “best marathon in the Pacific West Region by Competitor Magazine’s online readers and social media followers from around the country”.
I may have mentioned this in a previous post but the accompanying photo that I took at the start of last year’s Half Marathon won First Place in the Faces of Oakland contest sponsored by Visit Oakland . All ten of my entries are posted on this Flickr set. For the record, Oakland is such a beautiful and exciting city, taking scenic photos is almost like cheating.
Last month, I included a complaint about the blighted Clear Channel billboard mounted on the rooftop of the building at the corner of Grand and Elwood. If you took the time to support this complaint, our thanks, as the billboard was replaced shortly afterwards. I’d note, however, that this is an ongoing problem that Clear Channel needs to address.
We’re sorry to report that Dixie Jordan has been relieved of her post as Editor of the Piedmont Patch. I understand this is part and parcel of their down-sizing campaign. Dixie did a superlative job of reporting on neighborhood issues that weren’t being covered by the mainstream media. Hopefully, her successor will be able to follow her lead.
- Thursday, February 6, 6:00 – 9:00 pm: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, February 7, 5:00 – 9:00 pm: First Friday Art Murmur
- Saturday, February 8, 8:00 pm: Elevate Oakland at the Fox Theater
- Wednesday, February 19, 7:00 pm: Farmers Market Advisory Group at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
- Sunday, March 23: Oakland’s Fifth Annual Running Festival
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All newsletters from 2007 to the present are archived HERE.