GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
Back in March, we were delighted to report that Grand Fare Market was slated to reopen and do so under the same ownership. Ethan Fletcher’s May 2 Inside Scoop column provided more details including the identity of the new chef in charge of food operations – “Chris Fernandez, whose resume includes kitchen stints at Oliveto, Poggio, and Terrapin Crossroads”.
Between customers at her weekly Brother & Sisters pop-up flower shop, Doug Washington’s wife, Freya Prowe, provided me with a few more updates. Re-opening is now tentatively scheduled for late June or early July. Customers will find far more food choices and more options in terms of the price point. They will also have direct access to the market as a doorway is about to be installed just to the left of Freya’s flower stand. In addition, the two Gingko Trees, in oversized planters on the sidewalk, will be permanently situated at opposite ends of the wall to the right of the courtyard entry. Then a custom-made bench will be placed between the two trees. As part of Doug’s plans to streamline the shopping and dining experience, the Spartan trailer has been sold which will free up additional seating space inside the courtyard and also possibly leave space for secure, off-street bike parking.
Hopefully, we’ll see the doors open wide in five or six weeks. Meanwhile, look for Freya’s flower shop to be open every Saturday from 10:00 – 4:00. Regular satisfied customers include Grant Whiting who’s pictured here purchasing a flower arrangement for his wife (and Splash Pad Newsletter booster) Syrell Sapoznik.
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I hate to throw stuff out and am a long-time practitioner and advocate of the art of creative reuse. Therefore, imagine my delight when I initially happened upon the sandwich board in front of The Libertine on Grand Avenue. The legs and cross bar are all made from the curved oak staves from a whiskey barrel. What could be more appropriate?
Alyce Preston, at Alyce on Grand, tells me that her monthly special event has been hugely successful. This month’s edition will be Saturday, June 8 from 1:00 – 6:00 p.m. A DJ will be providing background music as Alyce pours complimentary Mimosas.
Studio Grand is in the midst of hanging a new show – so they won’t be open for this month’s First Thursdays art walk. Their Event Calendar is, however, as diverse as always. According to my inside source, the not-to-miss show in June is Diana Gameros plus the Wolff Band on Sunday, June 6.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the performance space remains a largely undiscovered gem right here in the neighborhood and the last several concerts I’ve attended have been amazing. To cite one such example, here’s a brief video that Eric Hughes recorded of La Peche’s performance on April 19th. Ticket prices for most concerts are on a sliding scale from $10-$15.
Re-striping of Grand Avenue was completed in time for Bike to Work Day on May 12 and was celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of Ace Hardware followed by a group ride to Civic Center Plaza. In the weeks that followed, there were multiple complaints registered online about the road diet. Many of those problems have hopefully dissipated over time as drivers have adjusted to the new configuration. Any remaining issues will have to be addressed by the city’s traffic engineers and I’m confident that they will be able to do so.
Baraka Gallery is displaying a Bambara fertility statue from Mali that’s not for sale but the story about how it came into their possession is well worth re-telling. Shiffen explained that it was sitting in the entryway when she arrived at the shop one morning – without a note or any other explanation. Weeks went by before the donor came by and introduced herself. As proof positive that the fertility figure actually worked, she was pushing a stroller.
An Opening Night Reception for a new art show in Alchemy Bottle Shop’s second floor gallery is scheduled for Saturday, June 25, from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. The featured artist, Dave McPeters, is also a musician. The show entitled, “Dave’s Clubhouse” consists of illustrations of some of his favorite musicians done in colored pencil or pen and ink.
Kudos to Tracey Weaver for using Urban Furniture as a venue for commentary (through art work) regarding some of our nation’s most troubling and timely issues. Paintings by last month’s guest artist, Jennifer Lugris, depicted men who were executed for capital offenses. The most poignant of her works depict faces with parts removed. Jennifer’s way of noting that they died with their lives incomplete.
Urban Furniture’s resident artist for the month of June is Azucena Hernandez. Her “Ember Series” consists of portraits burnt into wood of victims of police violence. This collection will be displayed in the shop’s front windows. Inside, look for Hernandez’s paintings and prints that depict foods and people – primarily from San Francisco’s Mission District.
The Alley is still going strong and Ron Dibble is still performing at the piano bar two nights a week. Check their schedule for other musicians and for their Karaoke and Trivia nights.
Happy Hour at Boot and Shoe Service runs Tuesdays – Thursdays 5:30-6:30.
For an always up-to-date business directory, click and save the…
LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
I suspect that most of you are familiar with “Check Please Bay Area” which is broadcast on KQED. A couple of weeks ago, subscriber Annette Wood alerted me to the fact that Shakewell was one of three restaurants that would be featured in that week’s episode. Jen and Tim, who were at their witty best, performed like on-screen veterans and must still be floating on air based on the rave reviews they received from all three “guests” . In addition to raving about the food, all three also commented on the welcoming environment as well as the extent to which the clientele and restaurant staff clearly reflect the diversity that makes Oakland so special.
Aleah Warren, the panelist who recommended Shakewell as her favorite restaurant, also performed like a pro and I was delighted to learn that she is an Adams Point resident and a regular reader of this newsletter. In response to my inquiry, here’s part of what Aleah had to say about herself and what it was like to be a guest on the show:
I’m an Oakland native, born and raised here. I left for college and then spent years living in LA, New York and Brazil. I returned to Oakland a few years ago and now I live in the Adam’s Point neighborhood– it’s only a short walk from my apartment to Shakewell!
I work as the managing consultant at a company called Paradigm in San Francisco … and I’m also a lover of food, and there are so many restaurants opening in Oakland; it’s been exciting to try them all out.
The actual filming experience was really fun; I had never been on television before so that was cool. It’s filmed in a studio, with lights and multiple cameras, hair, makeup, and all of that. Leslie Sbracco, the host, is really nice and makes all of the guests feel very comfortable. The other guests were great, although we were all pretty nervous. They actually pour real wine before and during the taping, to help people loosen up. And it was good wine, since Leslie is a wine lover.
Last month, subscriber Liz Muller informed me that VIP Flowers, at 3247 Lakeshore, had been sold effective April 1. The new owners are Daniel Nathan and Natalia Poveda and their new venture is called “Pura Vida Flowers and Plants“. Daniel previously operated the flower shop at the MacArthur BART station and Natalia is a Master Florist whose prior experience includes working with growers in Colombia and Costa Rica. In addition to high quality cut flowers and arrangements, they also offer a wide range of mostly indoor plants including bonsai, lucky bamboo and exotics such as air plants (orchids and bromeliads, for example) as well as carnivorous plants.
The mixed-use development proposed for the Kwik Way site is happily back on the front burner. Earlier this month, Abel Guillen hosted a meeting attended by a small group of community stakeholders, Alex and Charles Hahn, and their architect, Ken Lowney. Over the last several years, Lowney’s firm has been the lead architect on a number of high profile commercial projects – including the Whole Foods on 27th Street, the new Sprouts on Broadway and the Safeway on College at Claremont. The overall proposal for the site (although very preliminary) was received very favorably by the community representatives. Look for a community-wide meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church’s Barnett Hall to review their proposal – once detailed plans are completed – possibly as early as late July.
As a side note, the Lowney design team is hoping to recover the iconic Kwik Way neon sign and somehow incorporate into the new building . I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters that the sign was briefly changed from Kwik Way to Park Way and more recently replaced by the Merritt Bakery sign. But what I didn’t know, until Betty Marvin (the City’s phenomenal Architectural Historian) emailed me a photo, its very first incarnation was as the Grand Lake Drive-In with “shooting stars” that mimicked those on the Grand Lake Theatre.
Yesterday afternoon, I parked my bike in front of Mary’s Cleaners, intending to pick up a container of Lin Jia’s superb dumpling soup. Just after doing so, one of my neighbors, Toff Peabody, happened by and we started a conversation that was abruptly interrupted when an elderly lady backing out of the diagonal parking space hit a passing car. Then, she put the car into drive and floored the accelerator. Toff and I ran in opposite directions and avoided being crushed by maybe a second or two.
Fortunately, no one including the driver was injured – although she was transported by ambulance to the hospital for a more thorough examination. Mary’s Cleaners and UA Nails, unfortunately, sustained a fair amount of damage – some of which is structural. I’m guessing (and it’s only a guess) that they will both be closed for at least a week or two. To complicate matters further, the van that the driver backed into belongs to Jesse Patel at Buckingham Wine and Spirits and the thoroughly mangled bike that was parked at the curb was my well-traveled Trek.
Last Saturday, I stopped by “Collage Clothing Lounge” to take photos of the new benches Amanda and Massoud had installed to provide outdoor seating for weary shoppers. Ken Blaky, a Berkeley resident, was already perched on one bench fulfilling its assigned destiny.
Owner Amanda Robinson (along with her husband Massoud Wiggins) did note, however, that their secondary motivation was to enhance the exterior and add visual interest to their extremely narrow storefront.As for the outdoor seating, it merely whets my appetite for more and, hopefully, the proposed parklet in front of Arizmendi will get built sometime soon.
As part of last month’s “Small Business Week” activities, Councilmember Guillen honored “The Main Squeeze” – the new juice bar on upper Lakeshore next to Lin Jia.
LZ’s GRAND AVENUE – WEST OF 580 BLOG
Icey Cream has opened just in time for summer, creating a new sweet spot at 344 Grand Avenue, west of 580. – LZ.
Late in May, a small paper on the front door of the long-awaited Icey Cream shop promised that the store would open on Monday, May 30. Patient neighbors all, we held our breath in anticipation. For a couple of years we have walked past the corner shop, glimpsing remodeling work underway inside, observing as the walls were painted pink and the ceiling sky blue with fluffy white clouds. Signs were hung, then the glass counter installed, white tables and seats arrived. And we waited still more.
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
This month’s First Thursdays Art Walk on Grand Avenue is June 2. Hours for all the galleries 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.
Urban Furniture: Azucena Hernandez‘s “Ember Series”: pyrographic portraits of police shooting victims + paintings and prints. Open to 8:00 p.m. Refreshments served. 15% off regularly priced merchandise.
For additional information, visit the Grand Avenue First Thursdays website.
SPLASH PAD PARK
As demonstrated in the above photo spread, Splash Pad’s California Native Plant Garden is looking fabulous. In the next few months, the Grand Crew volunteer team is planning on spreading the love (along with a cardboard weed barrier and a thin layer of compost) to the large, adjacent bed at the eastern edge of the Plaza. In order to accelerate the process, coordinator Mary Jo Sutton has scheduled a special work party for Sunday, June 12 that will focus specifically on that bed only. Additional volunteers are always welcome and, if you’re considering a lawn conversion, this would be a perfect opportunity to learn some of the basic principles.
The next regular, 4th Sunday work party will be on Sunday, June 26. Both events start at 9:00 a.m. with lunch served at Noon.
Flour Chylde Bakery made their first appearance at the Grand Lake Market this past Saturday but owner, Dion Brennan, will be a regular from now on. Based in Novato, Brennan has been turning out gluten-free baked goods for fifteen years. He attributes Flour Chylde’s success to his insistence on using high quality, premium ingredients and his ongoing commitment to products that meet the needs of buyers who can’t digest gluten – as well as those of us who want a product that “tastes incredible. Flour Chylde sells at numerous farmers markets and they also wholesale to various restaurants and cafes – mostly in San Francisco and the Peninsula. The nearest retail outlet is Cafe Trieste in Piedmont.
We’re about to lose long-time Market Manager, Chris Blackburn. He’s moving back to Oregon where he has lots of family and strong ties to the Oregon Ducks football team. His stay here has, I think, been rewarding – but at the same time, very stressful for lots of reasons. One being the difficulties involved in protecting the park infrastructure and particularly so, the lawns. Over the years, we’ve had a succession of managers and Chris, more than any other, has made this a major commitment. We’re very appreciate of his efforts and wish him well.
We’re also losing Assistant Manager, John Ruiz, who’s been here for less than a year but made a big impression thanks to his enthusiasm and infectious smile. John has been promoted to the Manager’s position at the Hayward Farmers Market which is also on Saturdays. We wish the best of luck to John as well. In next month’s Newsletter, we’ll introduce the new management team.
Last month, I reported that Cowgirl Creamery was no longer selling at farmers markets in the Bay Area. As it turns out, there’s much more to the story. Namely, Cowgirl has been purchased by Swiss dairy giant, Emmi but operations in Sonoma and Marin will continue under the original owners.
ODDS AND ENDS
Thanks to Sue Piper for her Facebook post with a link to Katie Couric’s interview of Oakland native, Daveed Diggs – a star in the smash musical, “Hamilton” for which he’s a Tony award nominee. Couric asked him what he misses about Oakland and Deegs replied “Everything” but also, in part: “Kwik Way, before it was re-invented” and “walking around Lake Merritt where I see everybody I know”.
Here’s a tidbit for you that you won’t read elsewhere. Diggs has strong roots in the neighborhood going back more than thirty years. Jan Lozito, who is still operating the Yellow House Playschool on Mandana, remembers him as a bright, sweet, quiet (even shy) child. Prodded as to whether or not Diggs showed a hint of a musical or theatrical career at the age of three, Jan said, “No, he didn’t but he loved Mr. Rogers”.
For more about Deegs and “Hamilton”, check out this “AOL Build” interview” that my long-time neighbor, Irving Willis brought to my attention. Deegs is wearing an Oaklandish cap and his interviewer, a “Hella (heart) Oakland” sweatshirt.
Those of us who have kids who grew up here in the neighborhood have fond memories of Astro Park including a flying saucer-shaped play structure that was removed circa 2000 as part of an improvement project. Little has been done since and the remaining play equipment is dated and much of in disrepair. Councilmember Guillen has been facilitating an Astro Tot Lot Revitalizaiton project that is being funded, in part, through a grant from KaBOOM in partnership with the Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation. Thus far, $26,000 of the $100,000 needed in matching funds has been pledged. You can get more information and make donations through the Tot Lot Revitalization Project Facebook page.
As you’re probably aware, Donald Trump famously described Oakland as one of the most dangerous places in the world. Based on this article in the US edition of “The Guardian”, I’m assuming the author would strenuously object:
Oakland is changing fast. Once known merely as San Francisco’s rough-and-tough neighbour – the birthplace of the Black Panther movement and home of the Hell’s Angels – it is rapidly becoming the most fashionable place in northern California. Those who can’t afford the tech-boom prices across the Bay are making their home in the city and, greeted by an array of new restaurants and bars, a thriving arts scene, and a strong sense of energy and community. Gertrude Stein might have said about her childhood hometown that “There is no there there”, but, these days, Oakland’s residents and visitors are more likely to shout “Come here here!”
Unlike 21st-century San Francisco, Oakland hasn’t been emptied of its soul by money and gentrification. It’s valued for its cultural and class diversity – 150 languages are spoken within its borders – and the locals’ pride in their town is infectious. There’s lots to brag about: as well as offering the glimmering ocean and wonderful Redwood forest hikes, and the sun is often shining here even as the chill fog rolls in over San Francisco.
I‘d hasten to add that many of us here in Oakland are, in fact, increasingly concerned over gentrification -particularly the steep increases in rental and home prices that are already beginning to drive out minorities, musicians, artists, teachers and lots of young people just getting a foot in the door.
Although it’s not a total solution and I don’t have of the details at press time, there’s a good chance that there will be a city bond measure on the November ballot that would provide additional funding for affordable housing – as well as street re-paving. Stay tuned for more information next month.
The 100th Anniversary celebration for the Oakland Women’s Rowing Club was a trip back into time. The new Measure DD-funded plaza, adjacent to the Sailboat House, was accented with a pair of vintage autos and peopled by folks in period dress. There were speeches and music and much more – but, for me personally, my favorite memory is a brief conversation I had with a woman who was celebrating her 90th birthday. For the last thirty years, she’s been an active OWRC member, which may help explain why she was so upbeat and physically agile.
As mentioned last month, according to the Times Standard, on most Saturday afternoons, “The public is invited to join the Ladies on the Lake, but the club’s president cautions that participants should bring their A-game: They will be expected to row”. A particularly good time for your visit would be Saturday, July 16th when Lake Merritt will be be celebrating the annual “Splash Into Summer Open House” in connection with National Parks and Recreation month. All boat rentals will be free on the 16th between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.
From past experience, I’ve sworn that I won’t use this newsletter as a personal political forum but, with apologies to any Cavaliers fans out there, there’s no way I’m not going to root for the home team. Here’s my contribution to the NBA Championship discourse. GO WARRIORS!
- Thursday, June 2, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Thursday, June 2, 6:00 p.m: Game 1 – NBA Championship
- Thursday, June 2: Fairyland’s Adults Only Gala Dinner
- Friday, June 3: Art Murmur Uptown District
- Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5: Bay Area Book Festival
- Saturday and Sunday, June 4-5: Pro Arts Open Studios Tour
- Saturday and Sunday, June 11-12: Pro Arts Open Studios Tour
- Saturday, June 11, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Second Saturday Work Day at Morcom Rose Garden
- Sunday, June 12, 9:00 a.m. – Noon: Special Splash Pad Volunteer Work Party
- Wednesday, June 15, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting at Lakeshore Baptist Church
- Sunday, June 26, 9:00 a.m. – Noon: Splash Pad Volunteer Work Day
- Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.: Pedalfest at Jack London Square
- Tuesday, August 2, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m: National Night Out
Saturday, June 14, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.