Editor’s Note: Sending our very best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year…
Wild Rabbit Bakery (3249 Grand Avenue) opened very quietly on December 17 – many months after we first reported that a bakery was returning to this stretch of Grand Avenue. Let me note that the wait was well worth it. Everything is a feast for the eyes and tastes equally scrumptious including the specialty salads, quiche, and much more in the refrigerated case. Since Janet Bennett’s career has mostly involved events, marketing and advertising, I passed the buck and asked her to provide bios for herself, Michael Addison and Brian Hardie – along with a summary of what motivated them to open Wild Rabbit. Here’s her response:
Overall, we came together wanting to do something real and meaningful for ourselves and the community. I’ve read statistics that work takes up 80% of one’s life. It certainly felt that way. As we grew in our careers, we yearned for authentic and meaningful interaction with people and our surroundings. Turns out owning our own business requires more than 80% – I’ve never worked this hard in all my career, both emotionally and physically. It’s now 110% – but we’re excited about our commitment to the community – offering hand-made baked goods, with love. We’ve already connected with some great neighbors and it means so much to us. The three of us value community, honesty and dedication. It’s really important, especially in today’s climate and we feel fortunate to be here in Oakland. We are all owners of Wild Rabbit and we don’t have employees. We’re here at 4am, on days we’re open, and here doing prep, when closed. I hand select all ingredients and design the menu with Michael and strive to do better every day.
- I’m Janet (Operations/Stylist/Co-Baker) and my first job was for Forbes magazine, catering to the Forbes brothers (wonderful job). I also worked for major corporations and realized I wanted to bring my skills to my community’s table – everyone deserves to enjoy the little touches that bring them joy. I designed the shop to be soothing, welcoming and safe. I love to watch people sit and gaze out the window in thought.
- Brian (Operations/Co-Baker) worked as a software engineer/engineering manager and helped to build Brightroll. Yahoo acquired them and he soon decided to exit the industry and work to build community rather than software. He makes a mean chocolate chip cookie – I think the best in Oakland.
- Michael (Head Baker) used to work for Mr. Peet selling coffee and tea in Berkeley before it went corporate. At Arizmendi, he was a pioneer, helping to build the store to what is is now. He’s served the Oakland community for twenty-one years, watched it change and grow and continues to do so here at Wild Rabbit Bakery. Michael wants to delight his audience.
It’s safe to say that Janet, Michael and Brian are genuinely happy, enthusiastic, and optimistic – despite the challenges that face anyone opening a new business. Please be sure to stop in and give them a big welcome and, when you do, if you scan the offerings, I’m betting that you won’t walk out empty-handed.
On March 28, 2014, Tova and Peter Mustacich celebrated the Grand Opening of Alchemy Bottle Shop – the culmination of an up-and-down saga that began with their tentative plans to open a shop on Grand Avenue that would specialize in fine wines. As it turned out, Ordinaire’s Bradford Taylor had a similar concept and a huge head-start. Accordingly, they decided to focus instead on distilled spirits produced by mostly small independently owned distilleries. That too turned out to be problematic, since the Oakland planner assigned to their case rejected their application due to the proximity of Grand Lake Market, which also sells liquor.
The substance of that debate was spelled out nicely in this Patch article by Dixie Jordan. I’m unable to locate a copy of the Grand Lake Neighbor’s survey that was referenced in the article but, as I recall, there were hundreds of participants and about 80% were strongly in favor of approval. That consensus and some strategic lobbying on their behalf eventually led to the Planning Commission unanimously approving their application.
As the saying goes, the rest is history – except it’s not. After five plus hugely successful years, Peter and Tova announced a couple of weeks ago that they were closing shop to spend more time with their young daughter. In a blast email to their subscribers, they included assurances about the new ownership. Although it’s not entirely clear what changes are in store for Alchemy, I personally would be very surprised if they did more than tinker with the details. Either way, as noted in the Dixie Jordan report, the Planning Department specifies major restrictions including bans on lottery tickets, tobacco products, mini bottles, and I vaguely recall restrictions on operating hours as well.
As an aside, a Google search for info about Alchemy turned up a November 2013 Oakland Tribune article by Angela Goodall about a “fresh generation” of new Grand Avenue businesses. Reading that article is much like a roll call of businesses that have closed and changed ownership – sometimes multiple times over the span of six short years.
When we wrote about Dozo Ramen (3415 Grand) last month, the owners were a bit leery about photographs or being interviewed so soon after opening. This past week, I finally sat down with Sumatinee Baibua and Wathanyu Sae-Kang. Both are from Thailand, as are their wives, who assist in the kitchen. They all have a wealth of restaurant experience, but this is their first venture into ownership and, understandably, they are more than a bit nervous.
While their prior experience includes Thai and Burmese cuisines, their special affinity for Japanese food led them to focus on ramen, which is available at Dozo in five different broths. But they also serve traditional Japanese fare, including bento boxes, rice plates, and not so traditional curries. According to Sumatinee, they’re still tinkering with the original menu, so you should expect additions and modifications over time. Dozo is open for lunch Tuesdays through Sundays from 11:30 – 3:00 pm and they reopen for dinner at 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays.
Although it was originally published on August 1, this very positive article about Urban Furniture just recently came to our attention and includes some major details that we haven’t discussed previously: namely, the building in which Urban University houses formerly homeless single moms is provided free of charge by Urban Furniture’s landlord, Lycette Properties. In addition, we were quite pleased to learn that Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas has found $50,000 in city funding to help support their job training program.
This past Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle had a lengthy, very positive article about Sister, in which Soleil Ho postulated that the operational changes that have been implemented over the past year may be signaling a change in restaurant culture. If you haven’t done so recently, check out their website and, if by chance you’re looking for the perfect place for a large family or special event, The Night Kitchen and Outdoor Terrace can accommodate from ten to thirty people.
Panorama Framing, at 3350 Grand, is in the process of ramping up its framing services under new ownership. We’ve been told that it will continue to double as a gallery space but, currently, they aren’t hosting a special exhibit.
The hugely successful 2nd Annual Tattoo Artist show has just concluded at The Libertine and, according to owner Matt Wingco, it’s been temporarily replaced with a selection of international graffiti art.
The patio at Connie’s Cantina is looking a lot “greener” thanks to an afternoon makeover that included the addition of two large, wooden planters that Mario, a Splash Pad News subscriber, rescued for me. A big shout-out also to Tom Nelson at Grand Avenue Ace Nursery who donated a jasmine vine that, come spring, will hopefully be climbing an existing trellis. For the record, since I was trying to minimize costs for Connie, I first checked the price of potting soil at Home Depot and found that Ace was not only competitive, they were cheaper and, from past experience, I can guarantee they carry better quality products and provide much better service – not to mention their support of local community groups. Speaking of Tom, I reported earlier this year that he had retired, but it turns out that he’s continuing to work on Sundays and Mondays.
LAKESHORE and LAKE PARK AVENUE
by Kira Pascoe
As we enter 2020, we are looking back and closing 2019 with a very busy, fun and celebratory December. As Lakeshore businesses prepare for an equally, if not more fantastic 2020, it is closing 2019 with a bang!
Lakeshore Shop, Stroll & Dine Raises $1,000 for Alameda County Community Food Bank
On Thursday, December 12, we had Lakeshore’s Shop, Stroll, and Dine! Participants enjoyed great specials, delicious food, fun carolers, fabulous raffle prizes, and lots of good cheer. It was a great way to kick off the holiday season while finding great gifts and having a treat yourself! Lakeshore had over 15 merchants participate, and there was food or a nice gift for everyone. Gymboree started the fun with a Holiday Party, and stroll specials included complimentary donut holes from Colonial Donuts, 20% off at Silver Moon Kids and Lakeshore Beauty Supply, Organic Strawberry Soy Panna Cotta with a Cranberry Compote at Lin Jia, A Little Taste of Spain at Shakewell, Sip & Shop with complimentary cocktails at Good Vibrations, and more. We were delighted that Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas and her team joined the stroll. It was wonderful seeing many local neighborhood faces!
GRAND LAKE FARMERS MARKET
Grand Lake Farmers Market Manager Jonny Ruiz is returning to college with the intention of earning a teaching credential, and this past Saturday was his very last day. Jonny has the distinction of being the first Oakland resident to be employed at the market, and we were thrilled to see him later promoted to the Manager’s position where he proved to be unflappable in a market that can prove extremely challenging. The Agricultural Institute of Marin’s CEO, Andy Naja-Riese said this:
“Jonny has shown tremendous caring and kindness to our farmers, food makers, and artisans. He will always be a friend to AIM and local agriculture. I appreciate all the blood, sweat, and tears he put into managing the market. We wish Jonathan well as he pursues his dreams of becoming a geography teacher.”
One of the major changes in AIM’s operations since Andy came on board as CEO is a serious commitment to providing significant community benefits. That commitment has recently resulted in a partnership with Visit Oakland. One of the earliest manifestations is AIM’s role in helping to promote Visit Oakland’s 10th Anniversary edition of Oakland Restaurant Week 2020, which runs from January 9 – 20. If you want to know everything there is to know about the event, stop by the Visit Oakland booth provided by AIM during the Saturday, January 4 market. In return, Visit Oakland has generously arranged for AIM to purchase a new three-bin waste station with separate containers clearly labeled for compost, trash, and recycling. This is part of the market’s efforts to maximize composting and recycling, while simultaneously minimizing what ends up in the waste stream.
In terms of community benefits, the much bigger news is that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just awarded AIM a three-year Farmers Market Promotion grant focused on career pathways and expansion of experiential learning at their eight certified farmers markets.
“The project’s primary goal is to retain and expand direct marketing opportunities for producers who face increasing competition in an increasingly complex and competitive food landscape. AIM will deliver annual training workshops to benefit and offer technical support to small-scale and mid-sized farmers and producers. The grant will also fund the creation of a job board to help local community members find work experiences at the farmers market and in local food and agriculture. Additionally, the grant helps expand AIM’s Diggin’ educational outreach programs to low-resource schools in Oakland, Hayward, and Newark. Students will be able to experience farm visits, classroom lessons, and farmers market tours focused on seasonality, nutrition, and supporting California grown agriculture.”
We have no idea what’s involved in the application process, but Andy’s previous stint in charge of implementing the USDA’s SNAP (food stamp) program in the Western United States, where he oversaw $12 billion in benefits, had to be a major factor. Congratulations!
The past two Saturdays, Gary Root (the seafood half of the merger with Prather Ranch that created “Stone Root Field & Sea”) had good reason to smile thanks to sunny skies and the opening of crab season. They were a big draw both weekends – particularly the ones in the big coolers that were still putting up a fight.
We’re very sorry to end this first-of-the “YEAR 2020” Farmers Market News with reports on the passing of two market vendors. Gabriel Hieb, who specialized in exotic Protea flowers, passed away quite suddenly a couple of weeks ago and, as we are about to go to press, the cause has not yet been established. There’s isn’t much in the way of information available online but, based on previous conversations, I know that the Hieb Family Farm in Jenner was originally planted with Protea by Gabriel’s father. Although I’m not entirely sure when he began selling at the Grand Lake Market, the photos at each end of the above gallery were taken in 2010, while the photo in the center was shot in January of 2019. Like a lot of his customers over the years, Sarah Wilde (from Wilde Brothers Coffee) walked away from the Hieb Family Farm booth with a big bouquet. Her equally big smile is emblematic of what Gabriel’s presence contributed to the market. AIM and the Grand Lake Farmers Market community mourn his passing and send our condolences to his wife, three children, and other members of his family.
Just a couple of weeks earlier, Andy Naja-Riese notified us that Tom Behr had succumbed to cancer. Here’s the text of Andy’s message:
“Sadly, I am writing to share the tragic news that Tom Behr, owner of Behr’s Wild, passed away on Friday, November 29. Tom produced award-winning wild huckleberry jellies and syrups. He always proclaimed it was the best thing you would ever taste. He was incredibly kind and showed passion for his work. He loved farmers markets, which is how he made his living. Even when he began his chemotherapy treatments, he was still at the farmers market until his illness took over. He was planning to return to the markets this week. His legacy will live on through all of us and the many people whose lives he touched. Let this be a reminder to all of us how precious life is.”
A list of Grand Lake Farmers Market vendors is available at THIS LINK.
SPLASH PAD PARK
All of the above photos were previously taken in Splash Pad’s California Native Plant Garden. This time of the year, virtually none are in bloom, but on Sunday, January 26, our Grand Crew volunteers will be getting ready for their spring renewal by weeding, pruning, picking up litter, and, most likely, repairing and/or installing bamboo fencing. Hours are 9 – noon.
GRAND LAKE GALLERY SCENE
With the closure of Alchemy and the change in ownership at Panorama Framing, the Grand Lake art scene is a bit up in the air, particularly so this holiday week, with Urban Furniture closed. Check with the participating galleries for their hours and/or special events.
As we’re about to publish, 510 Brand continues to feature the artwork of Justin Metoyer Mullon who is also known as “Jamm the Artist.” Also look for “Fluid Dreams” by Jodi Parker and new artwork by Michael Johnson. Open for viewing during regular shop hours. They may or may not have a special First Thursdays event this month. Watch for announcements on their Facebook page.
Jau Jou Studio is continuing its exhibit of vibrant abstracts by Berkeley artist Gabe Weis. Available for viewing whenever the salon is open, but hours vary.
Alyce on Grand is continuing its exhibit titled, “Rhythm Constellations II.” It features pen on digital prints by Oluwafemi and digital photo collages by Jamica El. Open for viewing during regular shop hours.
The show of original artwork by several dozen Bay Area tattoo artists at The Libertine has just concluded and is being replaced by an exhibit of international graffiti art.
Urban Furniture and Boutique has been closed since Christmas and won’t reopen until January 2. Watch for updates here and on their Facebook page.
ODDS & ENDS
With funding for park maintenance and improvements always severely limited, back in 2012 Tora Rocha created the hugely successful Autumn Lights Festival. Over a period of seven years, this event has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Gardens of Lake Merritt. Last year, some of those funds were used to add new walkways and landscaping in front of the Garden Center and, just a couple of weeks ago, new fencing and gates that were designed and created by Shawn Lovell were finally installed.
Kudos to everybody involved.
As I was taking photos of the new garden gates, I saw the woman pictured above loading rhubarb, chard, and sunchokes into her car. It turned out to be Claire Wing, who is a Splash Pad News subscriber and, for a time, was the Nurse Practitioner at Kaiser who had to deal with all the sun damage I incurred as a red head growing up in Southern California. Claire told me that after retiring, she became a Master Gardener and loves to work a plot in Lakeside Park’s Edible Garden.
Sarah McCarthy, the Cleveland Elementary School Auction Chair sent the following email in answer to our query:
Thanks for checking in again and for your support of the auction. It went really well! Our goal was $15,000 and we raised just over $17,700!
One last note .. we just learned that Cleveland was recognized as a CA Distinguished School for the second time in three years!
Crocker Highlands resident Jennie Gerard emailed us the following news regarding Measure Q, which you’ll find on our March 3 primary election ballot.
Measure Q will improve maintenance of Oakland’s parks; provide additional services for homeless people; and clean storm water flowing into Lake Merritt and the Estuary. There is little time to get the word out about Measure Q as there’s only five weeks until absentee ballots are mailed and nine weeks until election day. Please click on THIS LINK to learn more about Measure Q and how you can join the campaign. Volunteers are urgently needed now to phone bank, deliver lawn signs and walk precincts. G And look for the Measure Q table at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday.
Last month we mentioned that an underground gasoline tank (that absolutely no one knew about) adjacent to Mob Vegan had halted installation of the EvGo Electric Vehicle Charging Stations under the freeway. According to the City Inspector coordinating the response, the City is going to have the tank removed and subsequently try to determine the original source and whether or not they can be held financially liable.
For the past couple of months, we’ve been bemoaning all the various challenges facing locally owned small businesses. To what’s an already daunting list, we can now also cite this December 24 article in the New York Times which reports that the number of Chinese restaurants in metropolitan areas in the U.S. have been declining over the past five years. Why do they say that’s “a good thing”? The answer: their hours are crazy and the work, physically demanding. As a result, an increasing number of restaurant owners no longer want their children to follow in their footsteps. I forwarded the article to Marcia Lam, owner of Lin Jia, who responded, “This article is very true. I would never want my kids to work in this industry.” Her response may have been influenced by the fact that the restaurant was packed all day long on Christmas, and she and her staff were all exhausted. On the other hand, she had already announced her decision to close Lin Jia on Tuesdays beginning January 7 – so everyone could enjoy a day of rest.
Late afternoon on Christmas Eve, as I was climbing the stairs to the second deck of the parking lot adjacent to Trader Joe’s, I was worrying about somebody breaking a window in my car (a $200 repair) in order to steal the two six packs of beer (a $20 purchase from Buckingham) that I was about to stash in the trunk. I was, instead, absolutely delighted to see that TJ’s had hired a security guard to monitor the lot. After shaking his hand, I went downstairs to get a few items from Trader Joe’s and made a point of thanking the management. Please consider doing the same as it makes good sense for everybody. Ironically, that very night, someone broke a window in my wife’s car parked across the street from our house – although nothing was taken.
The Grand Lake Farmers Market Advisory Committee Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 29 from 7 – 8:30 pm in Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church’s Family Room. Committee Chair Jerry Barclay provided the tentative agenda:
- New AIM / City 5-year agreement status & hopeful review/discussion of the document
- Fire Department inspection fees issue
- Recap and impact of October meeting of the Grand Avenue Business Association (heavy criticism was levied towards the Farmers Market, and AIM proposed potential means of working with merchants for mutual benefit)
- Market report including: statistics, trends, issues; challenges with vendor compliance with rules and regs – specifically inadequate clean-up at conclusion of market day; follow-up on data sharing with State FM organization / benchmarking; Community Outreach
Sheila McCormick, who helps edit this publication and is on the Board of the Friends of the Oakland Public Library, selected a few of the many special events scheduled for January in Oakland’s libraries:
- Financial Planning for People Who Hate Financial Planning: Lakeview Branch, Saturday, January 11 – 12:00pm – 1:00pm
- Get a Job With the Census – Lakeview Branch, Saturdays, January 25, February 1 and February 15 – 12:00pm – 2:00pm
- Live Painting Session With Artist Leon Kennedy – Main Library, Sunday, January 12 – 3pm
By the way, the above list of participating restaurants is the first time I’ve heard of MAMA — just one more indication of the extent to which Liane Zimny’s monthly “Grand Avenue West of 580” blogs are sorely missed. Is there anybody in Adams Point willing to fill that void in our reporting? If not full-blown blogs, we’d happily settle for Adams Point updates.
- 2020 Women’s March Oakland at Frank Ogawa Plaza – Saturday, January 18
- Grand Lake Neighbors Meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church – Wednesday, January 22, 7-8:30 pm
- Splash Pad’s Grand Crew Volunteer Work Day – Sunday, January 26, 9 – noon
- Grand Lake Farmers Market Advisory Committee Meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church – Wednesday, January 29, 7 – 8:30 pm
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