GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
Studio Grand is starting the month with a big bang featuring a marvelous exhibit of paintings by Miguel Bounce Perez that will be up through September 10. The show will be available for viewing tomorrow (Saturday) from Noon to 4:00 p.m. and again on July 7 for the First Thursdays art walk.
This Sunday, what should be an incredible Fandango begins at 7:00 p.m. Thanks to a grant from the Akonadi Foundation’s Beloved Community fund, admission to this event will be free – as is the case with a series of Sunday dance classes in July. Other highlights from Studio Grand’s July Event Calendar include The Lake Lady on the 8th, Valerie Troutt on the 16th and the Encuentro De Son Jarocho Oakland on the 31st.
Best wishes to Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain at Camino on their newest venture – a kebab shop on Market Street on the Oakland/Emeryville border. Also congratulations to the dynamic duo for making Michael Bauer’s Exclusive List of the Top 100 Restaurants in the Bay area. Other Oakland establishments receiving the honor: Hawker Fare, Commis, the Ramen Shop and Charlie Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo.
Earlier this week, I spoke briefly with Doug Washington who was pleased to share good news: Grand Fare Market will reopen on Tuesday, July 19. In the interim, they still have some relatively minor construction to wrap up including installation of a new doorway that will open directly into the building and Doug is still interviewing potential employees.
A couple of weeks ago, while Alyce Preston was in the process of moving a manikin in her Alyce on Grand storefront window, she stepped off the raised platform and fell – breaking her hip. She will be laid up for many more weeks but fortunately, the shop is in the capable hands of her sister and Kalkidan Gebreyohannes. “Kalu”, as she’s generally known, has been assisting Alyce for a while as her art curator and she’s responsible for the current show of colorful, layered portraits by Mahader Tesfai. She’s also assisting with branding, buying, merchandising and event coordination including the monthly special events on Saturday afternoons that feature a DJ and free mimosas. This month’s edition, on July 30, will double as a reception for a new artist and also include a trunk show for New York-based Jembere Eyeware.
While Eric Hughes and I were leading a whirlwind tour of the Grand Lake District (more on that later), I happened to meet Kai Bayless tending his concrete block succulent garden in front of his place of business at 3527 Grand. Kai and his partner, Ted Truong, have been operating Beau Facial and Massage Therapy in the current location for two years and had a space above Miss Saigon for two years prior to that. Their massage and skin therapists are all licensed and, according to Kai, the latter are just a step below dermatologists.
Long-time subscriber Mary Ann Walsh shared the following hearty endorsement:
“This is a serene little studio in an upstairs space on Grand Avenue. I’ve been coming here since they moved from their previous location down the street. I’ve had many facials from Kai and they’re so good that they’ve become a monthly habit. Nikki, who sadly only works here on Sunday, gives an amazing massage. She really listens to what’s going on with my body and makes suggestions for exercises that I can do between sessions in order to address issues. I love Beau Facial and Massage.”
FYI: Appointments are required and, in addition to an extremely caring environment, expect to be treated to a cup of house-blended tea.
Margene Burns has been clothing brides for the past 55 years, beginning as a seamstress who specialized in altering bridal gowns. Since 1978, Margene’s Bridal has been located in a small storefront at 3612 Grand that was built in the 1920’s as an addition to an existing home. The original tenant, according to Margene, sewed tents and beginning in the 1930’s, it was home to Middent’s Furs. Come September, it will undoubtedly be welcoming a new tenant as Margene will be enjoying a well-deserved retirement.
Currently everything in the shop is reduced in price by 40 -70%. Wedding dresses are priced as low as $99 and party dresses as low as $39.
Last week, I found time to take advantage of the Saturday tastings at Alchemy Bottle Shop. The Grand-daughter of the distiller was pouring samples of Capurro Pisco which has been produced in Peru by five generations of the same family. That same afternoon, in Alchemy’s upstairs gallery, artist and musician Dave McPeters was talking about his artwork which consists of drawings of some of his all-time favorite musicians.
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LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
Last month, I reported that Ken Lowney’s architecture firm had been enlisted by the Hahn family to draft plans for a mixed-use development on the Kwik Way site. It turns out that the Senior Designer (Jesse Duclos) lives in our Rose Garden neighborhood and the Project Manager (Winston Win) lives in Adams Point. Their plans are nearly complete and will be available for review at a community-wide meeting on Monday, July 18, in Barnett Hall – up the driveway to the left of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church.
The meeting, which will be hosted by Abel Guillen, begins at 7:00 p.m. This project has the potential to complete the total transformation of Lake Park Avenue and, in the process, create a far more pedestrian friendly link between Lakeshore and Grand.
Based on my own prior experience, I’m a firm believer in maximizing neighborhood input. For the record, this project is on the fast track and the meeting on the 18th will be our first and best opportunity to provide community-wide input.
Spettro has been under new management for the past several weeks. The new owners are Maurice Himy (who is serving as General Manager) and Chafiq “Charlie” Fdaouch. Chafiq has prior restaurant experience in New York and California but Maurice’s experience is primarily as a high-end men’s clothier in San Francisco. When Maurice retired, he couldn’t stand the boredom and ended up as Chafiq’s partner. Both are from Morocco and both are “foodies” – particularly when it comes to the Mediterranean palate.
Since Spettro has a loyal following, they are keeping the best of the existing Italian menu but also adding more soups, salads, tajines and other North African specialties such as Moroccan Sliders, which were on the menu this past week. The wine list is slated for an upgrade as is the premises. They’ve already installed large format, black and white photos in the interior and, when I met Chafiq for the time on Tuesday, he was on a ladder repainting the wood exterior. During our conversation, he shared something that to me is symbolically quite meaningful. Specifically, Chafiq is Muslim and Maurice is Jewish. Considering the state of world affairs that, to some extent, applies to the US as well, it’s nice to know that they are setting a sterling example for all the rest of us.
While researching the transfer of Spettro’s beer and wine license, I turned up some interesting information about the seller – Ramzi Faraj. I already knew that Mr. Faraj also owns Rolling Dunes a few doors down from Spettro. What I didn’t know was that one publication described him as a “serial restaurateur”. His previous credits include co-founding the Horseshoe Cafe in the Haight-Ashbury, which may possibly be the first “internet cafe” in the US. Faraj is also the founder behind the Royal Grounds coffee shop chain..
According to Real Estate Broker Steve Banker, the space at 3260 Lakeshore (that was vacated when Lakeshore Produce moved up the street) has been leased by Proposition Chicken. The owners have one other location in San Francisco on Market Street that features Mary’s Free Range Chicken and they also offer vegetarian options. The space has apparently already been gutted but, as is the case with any new restaurant, I’m assuming there will be a substantial delay before they actually open.
My account of the accident (that also destroyed my bicycle) generated some negative feedback because I specified the gender of the driver responsible. I plead guilty as charged since gender was irrelevant – but I’d stress that the individual’s advanced age clearly was relevant. That said, everyone should be grateful that I’ve bought a brand new bike (not a motor vehicle) and intend to continue using the bike as my daily transportation.
My first preference for a new “wheels” was one of the bikes that Cycle Sports assembles and maintains for OPD. Since the shop adamantly refused my request, I had to settle for the bike on the right. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking of forming a neighborhood-specific version of the Easy Riders group that was founded by the late Ron Bishop and later nurtured by Mary Ann Blackwell. Rides would be moderately paced and anywhere from 10-30 miles with a minimum of hills and, when feasible, a maximum of off-road paved pathways. If you’re interested, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Bike Group” as the subject.
Grand Lake Kitchen doubles its seating and adds a full bar – LZ
On June 1, the neighborhood was excited when Grand Lake Kitchen quietly reopened after completing an expansion project that doubled its seating area and added a full bar with two televisions quietly showing sports. May Seto Wasem, co-owner with her husband David Wasem, says, “The expansion has been a ride; definitely interesting. There are lots more things we want to do, but we have to have the grace and maturity to layer [those actions] in order to maintain the high standard that we and the neighborhood expect.”
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
This month’s First Thursdays Art Walk on Grand Avenue takes place July 7.
SPLASH PAD PARK
This past Sunday, the monthly work party at Splash Pad was even more productive than usual thanks to support from thirteen hardworking volunteers from the Key Clubs at three East Bay high schools. A tip of the hat please for Angela Zhou, the President of the Key Club at Piedmont High; for Kathlyn Le, a Vice President of the Key Club at Oakland High; and for Tatiana Lui from Arroyo High in San Lorenzo who documented the event with her photographs.
The 500 square foot expansion bed may, at first glance, look ready to plant. But before doing so, we have to do some more contouring and also double-check to make sure we’ve removed all remnants of the highly invasive Bermuda Grass. Then we’re laying a weed barrier followed by a thin layer of compost. The above should be completed during our next work party on Sunday, July 24 starting at 9:00 a.m. with lunch served at Noon. New volunteers are always welcome, but RSVPs are requested. By October, we’re hoping to begin new landscaping.
Earlier this Spring, we saw lots of Monarch caterpillars on the milkweeds at Splash Pad Park but it appears that most were eaten by birds or parasitized by wasps. That’s why Tora Rocha, the Park Supervisor at Lakeside Gardens, has been leading a campaign to collect eggs and caterpillars and raise them to be released as butterflies. This year, they’ve released over 2,000. It’s also why this recent Annie’s Annuals blog describes Tora as a “local hero and pollinator powerhouse”. The blog also goes on to note that the Monarchs appear to be making somewhat of a comeback thanks to efforts such as these. Mary Jo Sutton, the California Native guru at Splash Pad, has pledged that next year, we will be following Tora’s example.
As Luke Tsai reported in the East Bay Express, the hugely popular Liba Falafel food truck is being retired (and not with Firestones) after a seven year run. Owner Gail Lillian was at the Grand Lake Market this past Saturday to supervise it’s very last appearance and we had an opportunity to chat for a few minutes. She noted that the truck was hard to maintain; harder still to repair and it was becoming increasingly difficult to find employees – particularly ones willing and able to drive an oversized vehicle. With Liba Falafel housed in a brick and mortar on 17th Street, Gail decided that the truck was dispensable, but she isn’t giving up on farmers markets. To the contrary, her newest project, Lovabowl, will be dishing out scrumptious salads on Fridays at the old town market and on Sundays, at Temescal. Gail is also hoping to land a spot at the Grand Lake Market but currently, none are available.
As an aside, I didn’t realize until this past Saturday that Gail is married to Sal Bednarz, the owner of Actual Cafe and Victory Burger. Prophetically, in an interview a few years back, Sal was quoted as saying that he fully understood the travails associated with operating a food truck which is why he never intended to do so.
In the photo above, Chris Blackburn hands over the keys he’s carried, for the past six years, to the new Market Manager, Shannon Lovelace White. Again, best wishes to Chris who’s done an amazing job – often under trying circumstances. Meanwhile, next time you’re at the market, stop by the Information Booth and give a big welcome to Shannon and Ben Bloom, the new Assistant Manager.
There’s been a sudden exodus from the market that’s a bit unsettling. Last month, I reported that Cowgirl Creamery was gone. This month, it’s Liba Falafel, Thomas Farms and the Sharp Brothers knife sharpening service. Oaktown Jerk is also gone but, hopefully, that may be only temporary since he lost access to his space in a commercial kitchen.
ODDS AND ENDS
As mentioned earlier, on Tuesday, Eric Hughes and I had the pleasure of leading Ben Taylor and Allie Pape from Visit Oakland on a tour of the Grand Lake commercial district that started at Camino and ended with lunch at Lin Jia courtesy of owner, Marcia Lam. Ben began working for our local “tourist bureau” three months ago and his primary responsibility will be updating Visit Oakland’s online presence. He’s already tinkered with the list of 101 Things To Do in Oakland and is also beginning to tackle updates to Visit Oakland’s list of restaurants and bars, which is currently incomplete and out of date.
If you’d like to know more about Visit Oakland’s efforts to draw more tourists to this side of the Bay, Ben will be making a presentation at the July 20 meeting of the Grand Lake Neighbors group which meets in the Family Room at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church beginning at 7:00 p.m. Other items on the agenda will include a neighborhood crime report and most likely, some updates regarding short term rentals.
Over the course of the past year or so, Adrienne Schell has been writing a series of blogs about Oakland and related subjects. Her blog on June 10 focused on the Cleveland Cascade and Howard Gilkey, the landscape architect who designed it – along with the grounds at Highland Hospital and Woodminster Cascade and Amphitheater. Adrienne’s blogs are well researched and amply illustrated with photographs. I highly recommend becoming a subscriber.
Speaking of folks who’ve help document Oakland’s history and landmarks, the East Bay Times (nee: Oakland Tribune) has done us all a disservice by discontinuing the wonderful columns by their long-time contributor, Annalee Allen. Annalee does, however, still coordinate the City of Oakland’s walking tours program.
At last month’s GLN meeting, Michael Ford, who is in charge of off-street parking for the City of Oakland, provided tons of information. As he promised last month, the Walker Avenue parking lot was just repaved and re-striped which was a huge improvement. At a later date, they’re also proposing to provide several parking spaces at the entrance to the lot that are intended specifically for folks running quick errands such as picking up dinner. These spaces would have a 20-minute maximum time limit.
Michael also indicated that the City obtained a grant to install one or more charging stations for electric vehicles in the Walker lot. Installation of the charging stations will also provide the infrastructure they need to install security cameras. Security cameras in this lot and the one on Lake Park under the freeway will provide 24 hour a day surveillance via a security station downtown.
Finally, Michael announced that variable parking rates in the two lots may be initiated as early as November. As I mentioned in a newsletter several months back, we’ve been lobbying for this measure for three or four years in recognition of the fact that on most days, the Lake Park lot has been 90% empty ever since the $2 per hour parking fee was levied. In practice, parking fees in the Walker and Lake Park lots are likely to be reduced to fifty cents or $1 per hour on weekdays but back up to $2 or more on Saturdays when demand is at its peak.
Earlier this month, lots of Facebook posts were urging folks to boycott Home Depot after their founder, Bernie Marcus, announced his support for Donald Trump – even though Marcus hasn’t been involved in the company for 14 years. I’d recommend instead that you read this investigative article in Mother Jones and then specifically boycott their garden section, which features KELLOGG soil amendments that are supposedly “organic” – but actually made from municipal sewage sludge contaminated with oils, prescription drugs and other toxic materials.
Last month, I wrote about Oakland native Daveed Diggs, who has since been honored with a Tony Award for his performance in Hamilton. This month, I’m pleased to report on a Vocal Rush concert, on June 6 at Yoshi’s, that was packed to the rafters with adoring fans. When the guy sitting next to me wiped a tear from his eye during a particularly moving solo, I guessed that he was family. Sure enough, as soon as the lights came up, I introduced myself and he proudly responded that he was the father of 15 year-old Barbara DeVeaux-Griffith.
While the members of Vocal Rush are remarkably talented as a group and as individuals, Barbara stood out with a stage presence that belied her age. Check out this You Tube video of her singing a solo at a Freight and Salvage concert and, like me, you’ll come away convinced that she is destined to follow in Daveed Diggs’ footsteps. As for Vocal Rush as a group, check out this video of one of the songs they performed this year at the National A Capella Competition and you’ll understand why they’ve won the championship three of the last four years.
I exchanged emails yesterday afternoon with Richard Raya, Councilmember Guillen’s Chief of Staff. He indicated that the fundraising campaign to revitalize the Astro Tot Lot (next to Lakeview Library) has now reached $38.000 of the $100,000 needed. You can get more information and make donations through the Tot Lot Revitalization Project Facebook page.
The Pedalfest event at Jack London Square is always fun for all ages. Hours are 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. My son, who spends most of his time on a sailboat adjacent to Scott’s Seafood, tells me to also watch for the amphibious bikes that are a part of a parade led my Mayor Schaaf that starts at 11:30. Immediately following the parade, the amphibious bike race will begin.
The Oakland Municipal Band has been performing since 1912 and this summer, they’ll continue doing so at the Edoff Memorial Bandstand adjacent to Fairyland from July 4 through August 7. All concerts are 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Picnic lunches are de rigueur.
“Imagined Landscape” is a photography exhibit at Haddon Hill Cafe featuring the work of eleven photographers including long-time newsletter subscriber, Paula Wirth. There’s going to be an Opening Reception tonight, July 1 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
This year’s annual National Night Out celebration takes place on Tuesday, August 2. Don’t be a wallflower. Get out and party but you have to register by July 15. Details and a registration form are available on THIS LINK.
- Friday, July 1, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m: “Imagined Landscape” – Opening Reception at Haddon Hill Cafe
- Monday, July 4, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m: Oakland Municipal Band at the Edoff Memorial Bandstand
- Thursday, July 7, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, July 8: Art Murmur Uptown District
- Saturday, July 9, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.: Second Saturday Work Day at Morcom Rose Garden
- Monday, July 18, 7:00 p.m: Lowney Architecture shares plans for Kwik Way site – Barnett Hall
- Tuesday, July 19: Grand Fare reopens
- Wednesday, July 20, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
- Saturday, July 23, 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.: Pedalfest at Jack London Square
- Sunday, July 24, 9:00 a.m. – Noon: Splash Pad Volunteer Work Day
- Tuesday, August 2, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m: National Night Out