FRONT PAGE NEWS
Writing, in last month’s newsletter about Grand Fare Market, I linked to their overwhelmingly positive reviews but did take note that some online comments indicated a need to address some issues. Never in my wildest imagination did I suspect that they’d close their doors three weeks later. Owner Doug Washington gave the first solid indication as to their reasons in this tweet.
EBX food-columnist Luke Tsai was equally floored. In his November 23 column, he reported that he had been poised to write a mostly glowing review when he started getting phone calls saying, “What the Fork happened?” He goes on to note that the big issue was most likely financial which I didn’t find particularly surprising considering the huge hole (figuratively and literally) that they’d dug with construction costs that ballooned thanks to countless delays.
As for their future prospects, Tsai reported that Doug Washington said they’d be closed a minimum of eight weeks but added that the Chronicle’s Inside Scoop raised some question as to whether they might re-open at all. I’d certainly hope so out of empathy for the owners – but just as importantly, for Grand Avenue and for all of those who shop and hang out there. Doug and Freye created a unique space with huge potential and we’d love to see it realized.
The Grand Lake Neighbors steering committee and other concerned neighbors met two weeks ago at Lakeshore Baptist Church to hash out plans to challenge the proposed lease of the Kwik Way property to Dunkin’ Donuts. Sitting there, I felt like a character in “Ground Hog Days” as several of us had previously been involved in the protests against McDonald’s in 2004 and Fatburger two years later.
The McDonald’s effort entailed picket lines in front of Kwik Way and a petition that generated 3,200 signatures and a process that dragged out over a couple of months. The Dunkin’ Donuts’ battle (or more accurately, a minor skirmish) played out over a couple of weeks.
On November 12, in a meeting at City Hall hosted by Councilmember Abel Guillen, committee members had met with a representative from Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as Charles Hahn, representing his family. The Dunkin’ Donuts rep made a presentation and passed out an architect’s rendering of the proposed revamp that included a sidebar indicating that they expected to sell 1400 dozen donuts weekly and 500 dozen Munchkins.
Our response was, “We don’t want a fast food restaurant. We want neighborhood-serving retail combined with much needed housing.” And that’s pretty much how matters stood until this petition went online on Friday.
A couple of hours later, Charles Hahn emailed the Grand Lake Neighbors Yahoo Group asking us to “take down the petition” as his family had decided not to pursue a Dunkin’ Donuts lease and would focus instead on continuing to explore the feasibility of a mixed-use development – planning for which is complicated by a lease that guarantees Bank of America a substantial number of parking spaces.
In his email to the Yahoo Group, Charles also repeated his request for community assistance in negotiating a revised agreement with the bank. With the Dunkin’ Donuts distraction off the table, we’re going to be happy to do so – but, at the same time, we want the community to assist in the design process and in the selection of tenants for the retail component.
While this might seem unwarranted, we think it’s the sensible approach as any business that provides a given neighborhood with needed goods or valuable services is very likely to thrive. In addition, if it serves residents within walking and biking distance, the need for onsite parking can decrease dramatically.
In order to facilitate the early stages of that dialogue, we’ve opted to leave the petition up temporarily and encourage neighborhood residents to use it as a forum where you can post comments. If you do so, please consider posting copies here on the newsletter as well.
By the way, in past protests we’ve wielded petitions, posters and impassioned speeches but this is the first time we’ve had a song dedicated to the cause: Eric Hughes’ “Dunkin’ Donuts Blues“.
LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
Over the last month, I’ve been really pleased to see a small but steady stream of customers in “The Main Squeeze” – Lakeshore’s newest establishment. Their juices, smoothies and Acai Bowls have been getting five-star reviews on Yelp. Hopefully, they will emerge as another anchor tenant (like Lin Jia) that attracts pedestrian traffic to the upper end of Lakeshore.
All things being equal, there’s a good chance that Lakeshore Produce could be open before the year’s end. Yesterday, their contractor was putting the finishing touches on a trench through which they’ll run heavier duty electrical wiring sufficient to power all the refrigeration that’s already in place along with a new breaker box.
Meanwhile, I’m told that their previous location has not yet been leased and the same is true for the space the Burrito Shop vacated – although, Peet’s is apparently still interested but details have not yet been agreed upon. On December 11 and 12, the Lakeshore Business Improvement District is again hosting its annual Christmas celebration. Look for free carriage rides, face-painting and a visit from Santa beginning at Noon.
A new boutique pet supply store called “Grand Lake, All About Pets” is in the works for 3335 Grand. In a sense, it’s an expansion of the Grand Lake veterinary hospital next door operated by Dr. Knobel and Dr. Dunn – both of whom have a devoted following.
“All About Pets” will be offering a wide variety of pet foods and other supplies, as well as nutritional consultations and possibly seminars. Contractors are currently cleaning and painting the facade and doing extensive interior renovations including removal of the partitions that made the space look far smaller than it actually is. This should prove to be a welcome addition to the avenue.
I dropped in on Russell Moore at Camino yesterday afternoon as he was stoking the fire in preparation for that evening’s dinner service. “This is Camino!” – the book that he and Allison co-authored is getting incredible reviews. Signed copies are available at Camino. Unsigned copies are available virtually everywhere including Walden Pond Books.
Mondays through the month of December feature Boudin Blanc and Russell said that they are looking forward to this year’s New Years Eve party with a prix fixe menu featuring rib eye steaks roasted over the open fire.
Highlights of Studio Grand’s November event calendar include the December 4 Grand Opening of “Where I’m From” – a show of photographs by “Chose” – an Oakland native who expresses himself through music as well as photographic images.
On December 10, there’s going to be a Pre-release Show for a new album by the True Life Trio which formed as an outgrowth of the Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble.
Things are hopping at Charlie Hallowell’s two establishments on Grand Avenue. On November 22, Penrose celebrated its Second Anniversary and on December 6, Boot and Shoe Service will celebrate its sixth. In addition, Penrose has live music scheduled virtually every evening.
Construction is finally underway for the One Medical Group clinic on the corner of Grand and Boulevard Way. It looks like new drains have been installed and the metal studs for partitions are poised to go up. Cuts in the sidewalk outside would indicate that, like Lakeshore Produce, they’ll also be needing beefed up electrical service.
If your “nosey”, you’ve probably already taken note of the billboard on top of the building. Their landlord declined to remove the billboards as part of One Medical’s lease – but they will be using them to remind passersby to get their flu shots and other health-related messages.
Sushi Boat is continuing to celebrate its 10th anniversary through December with sapporo beer on draft or a large saki for only $2 between 7:30 and 9:00 p.m.
Judging by the photo I shot through the front window yesterday afternoon, extensive remodeling for the La Parisiene Cafe and Boulangerie at 3249 Grand must be nearing completion. I’m beginning to get a bit jazzed about this since a good French bakery has long been on the neighborhood “Want List”.
While the folks at La Parisiene are preparing to move in, long-time Grand Lake Smoke Shop owner Peter Brady is preparing to move out. Yesterday afternoon, he’d already loaded racks and shelving into a pick-up parked at the curb. Future loads will include quantities of collectibles that accumulated during the shop’s 89-year run.
Peter tells me that the new tenant will be pouring high-end coffee and serving pastries and will open early for the morning commute. Hopefully, we’ll have more info to add by next month.
Alchemy Bottle Shop has scheduled “12 Days of Tastings” from Dec. 12th – 23rd during which they will be pouring a wide range of different spirits, liqueurs and wines. While there, be sure to check out the show of oils by Tana Sommer in their second floor gallery.
Director Tracey Weaver tells me that their annual Christmas Crafts Fair will be held either December 12 or the 19th. We’ll update the newsletter when the date is confirmed or check back at the Urban Furniture website.
Alyce on Grand is hosting a Pop-up Holiday Bazaar on Friday, December 18 from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. Four designers are already on board featuring clothing, jewelry, accessories and household goods. Alyce will be serving light refreshments including hot apple cider, cheese and wine.
In this month’s blog, LZ reports on the opening (most appropriately, on Plaid Friday) of Oakland SPOKES Bike Lounge & the Family Bike Collective at 366A Grand Avenue.
Previous LZ blogs are posted on this archive.
FIRST THURSDAYS ON GRAND
This month’s First Thursdays Art Walk takes place on December 3. Hours are 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.
San Francisco Fiber: Lou Grantham, at 3711 Grand, extends an open invitation to try your hand at weaving and spinning.
Baraka Gallery (432 Santa Clara) is exhibiting “Nomadic Artisans of the Sahara” featuring new acquisitions of leather and jewelry from the Tuareg people of Mali, Niger and Morocco. “The tea kettle is always on.” Open 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Urban Furniture: Trinigirl handbags and jewelry curated by Justin Phillip. 15% off all regularly priced store merchandise.
Alyce on Grand: Open late. 15% discount on all regularly priced merchandise from 6:00 p.m. until closing.
GRAND LAKE FARMERS MARKET
Since Christmas and New Years Day both fall on Fridays, the market should be open both weekends but there’s a good chance that some regular vendors may opt to stay home.
Although the peak season for fruit is well past, the Fuyu persimmons are fantastic and the grapes, mostly still good and sweet. As for vegetables, the cauliflower and broccoli the past two weeks have been especially gorgeous.
One of the highlights of Splash Pad’s “Grand Crew” volunteer work days is a communal lunch which is served at Noon. The obvious drawbacks include grungy clothes and the lack of chairs and tables.
For a welcome change of pace, the volunteers met for lunch at Marcia Lam’s Lin Jia restaurant on November 7. It was a marvelous opportunity for everyone to eat very, very well and visit with another while simultaneously showing their appreciation for Marcia’s extremely generous donation to Splash Pad Park and three other local non-profits.
Our share of the 5% of Lin Jia’s proceeds from the month of November substantially improved our financial situation. Months ago, we dug out areas adjacent to the California Native Garden on one side and the plaza walls on the other – intending to install decomposed granite walkways. We now have the funds necessary to purchase those materials with quite a bit left over that will be used towards further expansion of the California Native garden next year.
The Splash Pad Grand Crew’s next 4th Sunday work day falls between Christmas and the New Year on December 27. Unless it’s raining, we’ll go ahead as scheduled. November’s lunch featured home made soup with carrots, cabbage and onions from the farmers market, bread from Arizmendi and home-made cookies compliments of Mary Jo Sutton. This month, we’ve been promised Victoria Barbero’s world-class egg-nog. RSVP’s to firstname.lastname@example.org would be appreciated.
Oakland Chabad’s annual menorah lighting ceremony takes place on Sunday, December 6 beginning at 4:30. The new location is at the Lake Merritt Ampitheater. This event is free as are the latkes, chocolate gelt, donuts, menorahs and dreidels.
The 2nd Annual Neighborhood Gift Faire at Regeneration Church on December 5 is a collaboration involving half a dozen neighborhood organizations. There will be music and food and approximately forty local artists and craftspeople. List of participants is HERE.
ODDS AND ENDS
I’ve written extensively about the collection bins scattered throughout Oakland. The three currently sitting in the parking lot of the gas station on Lakeshore at the foot of the freeway off ramp are operated by a for profit company based in Chicago that has 12,000 such bins in 19 Western states. None of the donated clothing stays in Oakland. Most, if not all, is shipped for resale to Latin America and Africa.
After years of debate, our City Council passed an ordinance on October 20 that would impose moderate permit fees and maintenance standards. One of the bin operators, Recycle for Change, has sued the City of Oakland to prevent its implementation.
Formerly operating as Campus California, they’ve raked in tens of millions of dollars from the sale of clothing donated by Oakland residents who accept at face value the non profit status granted by the IRS which isn’t practicing due diligence. They pay no taxes. Their claims that they have no connection to an international conglomerate called “The Teachers Group” are fraudulent. Claims that they support an Oakland non-profit called “Helping Hands. Together We Thrive” at 8551 Thermal Street appear to be equally questionable as the only IRS form available online reports zero contributions and the Thermal Street address is a single-family residence.
As a safe alternative, if you haven’t already done so, bookmark the DonateOakland.org website that lists legitimate Oakland non-profits that welcome donations of clothing, books and household goods. The site also provides background information regarding the collection bin operators as well as the for-profit companies that send out periodic postcards posing as charities.
The next meeting of the Grand Lake Neighbors group will be Wednesday, December 16 in the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church Family Room beginning at 7 p.m. The agenda will include Dunkin’ Donuts and Kwik Way, a police crime report and most likely, a follow-up to the discussion at the October meeting about a 4-bedroom home on Winsor that’s being used as an Airbnb hotel.
- Thursday, December 3, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, December 4, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m: Oakland Art Murmur
- Saturday, December 5, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m: Neighborhood Gift Faire at Regeneration Church
- Sunday, December 6, 4:30 p.m: Chabad’s Channukah Menorah Lighting at Lake Merritt Ampitheater
- Friday, December 11 and Sunday, December 12, Noon: Christmas Celebration on Lakeshore
- Wednesday, December 16, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting at Lakeshore Baptist Church
- Friday, December 18, 11:00 a.m – 7:00 p.m: Holiday Bazaar at Alyce on Grand
- Sunday, December 27, 9:00 a.m. – Noon: Splash Pad Park Volunteer Work Day