Editor’s Note: My apologies for the brevity of this month’s newsletter. During the holiday season, with family visiting from San Diego, I’ve had a hard time marshaling the time to do more. In the longer term, this is going to be an ongoing problem since I’ve yet to liquidate my remaining antiques inventory and also have to resolve a number of ongoing concerns. LZ, who writes the Grand Avenue West of 580 blog, was the first (and so far only) individual to respond to previous requests for assistance. If you’re motivated to help preserve the newsletter as a Grand Lake community resource, please send an email to email@example.com.
GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
As is obvious from the above photo, the Aisle 5 restaurant/brewhouse is nearing completion. While I’ll withhold final judgement for the time being, I’m not enamored with what they’ve done with the exterior. While they’re preserving the original, upper facade, they’ve replaced the gorgeous, beveled glass front doors with an off-the-shelf- commercial door and unfortunately added a steel security door on the far left. The best thing I can say out the new windows is that they match the new front door. The double doors on the far right provide access to the 2600 SF office/creative work space that we mentioned last month. Here’s what Nathan Durham-Hammer from Loh Realty had to say about its current status:
“We’ve had a handful of inquiries and have spoken with some nearby business owners, but have been waiting to show the space until the new year, when the back space will be more readily accessibly for tours. We expect interest to rev up once the holiday dust settles.”
Freya Prow took a well-deserved vacation over the Christmas holiday but her Brother and Sisters Flower Shop will re-open with regular business hours (Tuesdays – Sundays) on January 3.
Very soon after we published the November Newsletter, we learned that Grand Fare Market had unexpectedly closed and history repeated itself last month when we learned, through this article in J Weekly, that Bob Jaffe was shuttering the Grand Bakery doors. Additional details were provided in this article in Oakland Magazine and this one in the East Bay Times. Although Bob appeared to be a bit chagrined that J Weekly had announced his plans prematurely, it turned out to be a blessing as his phone (figuratively speaking) has since been ringing off the hook with calls from possible buyers.
On Sunday, Bob hosted a small get-together and Hanukkah party that consisted mostly of family and long-time customers. The photo to the right was taken just as he began talking about the bittersweet emotions he was experiencing and how, after eighteen years, he was going to miss the Grand Avenue community. More photos from that celebration are posted HERE.
Studio Grand’s January event calendar is only partially posted – but look for two Peruvian dance classes to begin on January 29 and, on the 20th in conjunction with Inauguration Day, “Bay Area Musicians in Solidarity and Protest” will be performing from 9:00 – 11:30 PM. All proceeds will benefit DIY art spaces.
“POW! Womxn in Comics & Illustration“, which features comics illustrations by nine women of color, will be available for viewing on concert nights and also during special gallery hours on January 5 and 6 from 1:00 – 5:00 PM and on Saturdays, January 7 and 14 from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Also, as I mentioned last month, the monthly Balkan Nights Concerts have been incredible and come highly recommended.
The show at Alyce on Grand of superb photographs by Ella Sophie Bessette continues through January but the shop is also featuring Timmy Mays buttery soft leather goods, hand-crafted right here in Oakland. Both will be on view at the First Thursdays event on January 5.
A big shout-out to Bob Lycette, who owns the commercial properties on Santa Clara and most of the storefronts on the west side of Grand from Santa Clara up to Urban Furniture. Bob arranged for Daniel, one of the residents of the second-floor apartments, to re-landscape the large planters on the stretch of Grand.
In case you’ve been wondering, the concrete stairs to the left of Grand Fare Market were ripped out to allow installation of a French drain to resolve structural problems in the building that houses La Parisienne, Nail Pro and Grand Jewelry Repair. The work isn’t yet complete but it would appear that the property owners are planning on installing a gated entry for the second-floor apartments. As an aside, the building is owned by the St. Germain Foundation, which to the best of my knowledge, has no connection to St. Germain Liqueur.
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LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
Last month, I wrote about an impasse that was holding up approval of plans for the mixed use development project at 500 Lake Park. According to Charles Hahn, Planning Department staff have agreed to a compromise proposed by principal architect, Ken Lowney, that would allow an entry driveway on Lake Park with all vehicles exiting onto Cheney but Bank of America remains adamantly opposed. A community stakeholders meeting is about to be scheduled to discuss possible solutions. Any feedback on alternatives prior to this meeting would be appreciated.
Michael Bauer’s review of Shakewell in the November 30 San Francisco Chronicle notes that in the two years since Shakewell first opened, “the menu has become more eclectic … Yet the Mediterranean menu retains a Spanish character in items such as the octopus ($19), which reminds me of something I might find in a contemporary restaurant in Barcelona.” As an aside, Shakewell is one of many neighborhood eateries that have special Prix Fixe meals planned for tonight’s festivities.
As I’ve mentioned many times previously, the Oakland History Facebook group is an incredible source of information. The most recent gem relating to our Grand Lake neighborhood is the photo on the left that was posted by John Chaix. According to his calculations, the property now houses the Lakeshore Avenue Starbucks.
Although present day occupants may have hard time visualizing this stretch of Lakeshore as a residential neighborhood, some remnants of that history remain as evidenced in the photo on the right. As an aside, in 1969, I tried to rent a second-floor apartment in the building barely visible behind Monkey Yoga Shala but the owner was holding out for a longer term tenant. Instead, I ended up buying a 480 SF fixer-upper one block from Highland Hospital.
The going-out-of- business sale at Rose Quartz is continuing until the end of January or until everything (including store fixtures) is gone. Currently, all merchandise is reduced a minimum of 25%.
Up the street, POSH closed with very little notice. The storefront, which has had a number of different tenants over the past several years, is again up for lease but Richard Odenheimer from MRE Commercial Real Estate tells me that there’s been lots of interest and the property owner is weighing several different options.
LZ’s GRAND AVENUE – WEST OF 580 BLOG
This month’s blog introduces High Peaks Kitchen, a new Indian cuisine restaurant at the former House of Curry location.
On December 6, 2016, the extremely popular High Peaks Kitchen restaurant on College Avenue opened its second location at the former House of Curry, 391 Grand Avenue. In doing so, the founder of High Peaks (a former chef at House of Curry who left several years ago to form his own restaurant) has come full circle. The owners and employees at the Grand Avenue location are all from Tibet , which is nicknamed the “Roof of the World” for its towering peaks including Mt. Everest which it shares with Nepal.
Previous LZ blogs are archived and available on this link.
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
Last month’s First Thursdays event was a blast. I had the honor of leading Tina Ramos and Kira Pascoe from San Francisco-based Townsquared on a tour of the Grand Avenue galleries. Along the way, they did live video broadcasts. The last stop of the evening was SF Fiber where Lou Grantham gave Kira a crash course on spinning wool.
An earlier stop was at Galleria Scola where framer and professional photographer, Claire Wilson, had set up shop and was taking free portrait photos. The photo I took of Claire with Tina and Kira is on the left. The photo that Claire took of Tina and Kira on the right. The link to all the photos Claire took that evening is HERE.
A complete list of all the exhibiting artists AND participating merchants is posted on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays website
Alchemy Bottle Shop‘s show of “Phantasmagoric Creatures” by Caitlin Hackett and photo portraits by David McHale continues through January 19. Opening night artist reception for a new show will be from 6:00 – 8:00 PM on the 20th.
Baraka Gallery: New show of tiny beadwork masterfully handcrafted. “The Tea Kettle is Always On”.
The Libertine: Happy hours extended to 9:00 PM.
Urban Furniture: “SHINE” – Pop-up boutique featuring “Laurel Ashely Off the Rack” (beautiful clothing for Plus Size Women) plus small bites and beverages.
510 Brand: Works by Culling Cahayag, Nina Simi and Natasha Reh. 10% off all merchandise 5:00 – 9:00 PM. Music and refreshments.
San Francisco Fiber: Try your hand at weaving and spinning – hosted by owner, Lou Grantham.
SPLASH PAD PARK
The 4th Sunday work day at Splash Pad on January 22 will be much more somber than usual as we do our best to honor the passing of one of our Grand Crew volunteers. Caroleen Nord took her last breath on December 17 – three days shy of her 62nd birthday. Here’s some personal observations:
From her long-time friend, Victoria Barbero: “Caroleen was a very kind, generous, and thoughtful, friend. She loved Splash Pad and our efforts there. She truly enjoyed the work and the team members so much. For the past 12 or more years, we walked about three miles every Saturday or Sunday morning. I shall miss her very much.”
From crew leader, Mary Jo Sutton: “Caroleen always brought her smile and generous spirit to work days at Splash Pad. I went to visit the spot where she planted the once tiny ceanothus that has since grown big and beautiful, and is in flower now. I know that gave she took pleasure from knowing the garden was better for her efforts. I shall miss her too.”
From Diane Hicks: “When she started, Caroleen admitted she was a novice at gardening. But she took to the work easily, and was such a quick and able learner. She also contributed a lot of fun and laughter with her wry sense of humor. I will always remember the time when she and I had to remove the Tarweed because of the bright orange rust that had developed on their leaves. She quipped her gloves looked like she’d just eaten a handful of Cheetos!”
Although she never once mentioned this in my company, Caroleen’s obituary in the Reno Gazette Journal noted that she was a member of Bill Clinton’s Presidential transition team in 1992 and later worked in the Chief of Staff’s office in the White House.
The SeeClickFix Complaint that I filed last month detailed a laundry list of infrastructure problems at Splash Pad Park. At least one staff member in the Public Works Department was prompted to ask for clarification regarding grease stains in the plaza and on the sidewalks that border the park. Thus far, however, none of the necessary repairs have been made. If you haven’t already done so, please click on the above link and vote to get these problems fixed.
Long-time subscriber, Sara Hirsch, alerted me to the fact that Rachel Saunders’ Blue Chair Fruit Company is no longer at the Grand Lake Market, which was confirmed by Market Manager, Shannon Lovelace White. Apparently, they’re out of business but oddly enough, there’s absolutely nothing available online in the way of explanation.
ODDS AND ENDS
The SF Eater website has been compiling a list of restaurant closures during this past month and it’s not a pretty picture. I was dumbstruck to learn that Actual Cafe and its co-joined twin, Victory Burger had closed. Owner Sal Bednarz is one of the most generous guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and his commitment to supporting community betterment was second to none. In terms of the big picture, I personally am of the opinion that the restaurant scene in the Bay Area is increasingly saturated and the abrupt closure of Grand Fare Market, along with the SF Eater list, is indicative of a trend that’s likely to continue including here in the Grand Lake District where competition will become even more intense with the upcoming opening of Aisle 5, Falafel Spot, Proposition Chicken and a new tenant for the Grand Fare Market space.
On a lighter note: Berkeley’s Caffe Mediterraneum is on the December restaurant closure list which brings to mind a bit of motion picture trivia with a local twist. In “The Graduate”, newsletter subscriber and Grand Avenue business owner, David Foorman, was one of the students seen walking by the Caffe as Dustin Hoffman sat at a table inside. The local twist does, however, turn a bit sour as David was then enrolled at (no catcalls, please) Stanford.
David Sturdevant, who was profiled (along with the Medicine Ball Band) in this article in the December issue of Oakland Magazine, will be performing in the Terrace Room at Lake Merritt Hotel on January 12 with an all-Oakland All Star Band that includes vocalist Terrie Odabi, West Coast Blues Society’s Sax Player of the Year, Nancy Wright, Spencer Allen on keyboards and 14 year-old drummer, Genius Wesley.
Women’s March in Oakland on January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration in conjunction with the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and elsewhere across the country.
There’s New Year’s Eve celebrations planned throughout the district including fixed price dinners at Shakewell and Lin Jia and Penrose has a party commencing at 8:30. Please use the comment section to list more. Wherever you choose to celebrate this evening, a Happy and Healthy New Year to All!
- Thursday, January 5: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, January 6: Art Murmur Uptown District
- Saturday, January 14, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Second Saturday Work Day at Morcom Rose Garden
- Sunday, January 22, 9:00 AM – Noon – Splash Pad Park Volunteer Work Day
- Saturday, January 21, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Women’s March in Oakland