All the News That Fits
Last month, we reported on Aisle 5’s brewery operations but failed to mention one specific concern shared by their brewmaster, Karl Bauermeister. Namely, they’re having to dispose of approximately 300 pounds of spent grain (typically barley) every week and, for the time being, that means paying to have it hauled away. Several days ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at length with Sandy Graves, the mother of Aisle 5 owner Mike Graves. She’s officially the taproom’s “Catering Manager,” but since Mike is tied up with work five days a week, she’s taken on a larger role – including efforts to better utilize the spent grain, which she considers a valuable commodity that could be composted or used in the kitchen or as feed for livestock.
Accordingly, she’s been drying and milling relatively small quantities, which she mixes into regular flour and then bakes in the form of dog biscuits that they distribute to passing pooches; into chocolate chip cookies that they use in making ice cream sandwiches; and into pretzels, which she says are so good they rarely make it beyond the confines of the kitchen. That said, Sandy doubts that these personal efforts will ever put more than a small dent in the quantities involved. She’s already spoken to a few of the farmers at the Grand Lake Market without success, and this weekend I talked to several more. Please stay tuned for future developments.
The most consequential news on Grand thus far this year had to be the sale of Alchemy Bottle Shop. In her February 5 Berkleyside column, Sarah Han reported that it will re-open under the ownership of Kori Chen and Jessica Moncada Konte:
In addition to being a bottle shop that sells craft spirits, natural wine and beer, Alkali Rye will host a “for-here only” espresso bar and sell specialty coffee products and accessories. Moncada Konte is the daughter of Keba Konte, and both she and Chen have deep roots at Red Bay, so yes, expect Red Bay coffee to be served there. There will also be tea and teaware, which is no surprise, given that Chen also owns Piano Black Trade Co., an importer of organic matcha from Japan.
Several days ago, we reached out to Kori and Jessica with a few questions and they kindly responded with a letter and bios that are quoted in part below and in full on a separate page:
“Attached is a photo of Jessica and me just after we received the keys to the shop from Tova and Peter – as well as a pic of us being silly, while putting up the change of ownership sign. First and foremost, we are so grateful to Tova and Peter for founding Alchemy Bottle Shop and for entrusting us with its care. We are excited and honored to expand upon the solid foundation that they built in the neighborhood.
We are doing a minor remodel to the shop with a goal of trying to re-open in late March/early April. Tova and Peter told us how special their customers were at Alchemy and we want to assure them that we will try to keep all their favorite bottles stocked like before. The main change to the business is in expanding the offerings to also include non-alcoholic beverages like select teas and coffees, given Jessica’s and my own background in those industries. We also want to expand upon their tastings program to also include tea and coffee.”
Wild Rabbit Bakery has established a regular following for their healthy lunch alternatives that include a fruit and almond parfait, salads, berries, hardboiled eggs and a quiche every Thursday. According to Brian and Janet, they’ve also been experimenting with a variety of soups that will eventually become part of their everyday menu. I’ve yet to try the pralines but the canele is superb and the carrot cupcakes equally so with a divine cream cheese frosting.
A couple of hours after publishing the February News, I posted a “Late-Breaking News” update that included the photo on the left – taken just minutes earlier at the MeloMelo Kava Bar. A couple of weeks later, when I returned to Oakland from a trip to San Diego and environs, I was perplexed to learn that the door was gated and yet more construction was underway. This past Friday, after hearing a perfectly reasonable explanation and lots of important news, I participated in MeloMelo’s loose adaptation of Fiji’s traditional “Bula Ceremony” accompanied by my first taste of Kava, which is brewed from the ground-up root of the Kava Tree. It has a very earthy taste that can be muted when mixed with ginger or other flavorings and served as a “cocktail.” Importantly, kava has a calming effect and can serve as muscle relaxant – an added draw that would help explain the crowd inside on February 1 for a very soft opening with no apparent fanfare.
They’re still in that “soft opening” mode such that Monday through Thursday they are temporarily opening at 5 pm rather than noon. Seven days a week they close at midnight. As for the ongoing construction, they are in the process of installing a massive living wall. They’ve also commissioned a mural on the rear of the building, which is visible from the Walker Avenue parking lot and sometime soon will be adding murals and/or paintings on the interior. The young woman who graciously served the kava and answered my questions said their goal is to turn MeloMelo into a community hub at which an open mic and music will be key elements.
In conjunction with The Fifth Brumaire natural wine festival at the Starline Social Club, Ordinaire will be closed on Sunday, March 8 until 6 pm. That evening, they’ll have a taco pop-up and won’t be charging a corkage fee for bottles purchased in-house. BTW: Brumaire tickets are sold out but they do have a wait list.
Five-10 Brand, which is under new management, has introduced a new line of T-shirts, hoodies, and caps and they’re also upping their promotion of embroidery services.
Lakeshore is a dynamic neighborhood, beloved by the community, with wonderful shops, services, classes, and more. In addition, the 2019 East Bay Express Readers poll named the Grand Lake district as the “Best Neighborhood in Which to Spend an Afternoon.”
One of the best pastimes on Lakeshore is discovering the fun and refreshing activities, gifts, and items offered in its over 80 vibrant and eclectic businesses. If you are shopping for a friend, loved one, or just want to be inspired, it is worth perusing Lakeshore and Lake Park Aves!
You can find witty cards (or gifts) for any occasion in Urban Indigo and beautiful art and items by local artists in Bay-Made. In February, Hipline carried umbrellas made by local artist @isohella with the tagline “Instead of shrinking myself to fit into your world; how about you expand yourself to fit into mine?” Maribel strives to create a community connection through recycling women’s clothes and accessories and always has amazing designer and casual clothes.
GRAND LAKE FARMERS MARKET
Early yesterday morning, I was delighted to find a photo-studded, really “newsy” newsletter from StoneRoot Field and Sea in my email inbox. It’s produced by co-owner Gary Root. Highlights included recipe ideas and information about the McFarland Springs Trout that’s being very well received by their customers. There’s also a teaser indicating that, once they get the OK from the Agricultural Institute of Marin, Doug Stonebreaker will be adding chicken as a regular offering. If you want to see a copy of their latest newsletter, it’s available on their Facebook page at THIS LINK. If you opt to subscribe, there’s a sign-up tab for that purpose.
Our list of Grand Lake Farmers Market vendors has just been completely updated thanks to input from Market Co-Manager Courtney Fisher. I was surprised by the number of sellers who’ve dropped out during the past year, including several long-timers. Some of those losses, however, have been offset by additions that include Simurgh Bakery and the Chaga Company – both of which seem to be doing very well.
At yesterday’s market, I had a long conversation with Dan Foster, the market’s new co-manager about the measures they’re preparing to implement that will better protect the park infrastructure, ease congestion, and help promote local businesses. He also shared some concerns that they have, including, most importantly, the challenges posed by the homeless encampment under the freeway to whom they’ve reached out with mixed results. I’m happy to say that I’m personally very optimistic about the market’s future and am looking forward to their sharing details with Jerry Barclay’s Farmers Market Advisory Committee.
Dan also shared a story relating to the reggae music emanating from the nearby plaza. He said he was at a farmers market in Novato and was so impressed by the band he dropped his card into the donation box along with a message to give him a call. It turns out that the musician, whose moniker is “Ryan the Operator,” lives right here in the neighborhood on the hill above the Morcom Rose Garden. The photo was provided by Marc Gordon, another neighborhood musician.
The Splash Pad News has been reporting for months (and again today) about the challenges facing locally owned small businesses. That applies equally (if not more so) to farmers as evidenced, in part, by these two recent reports:
- A 3-minute NPR segment entitled, “As Warm Winters Mess With Nut Trees’ Sex Lives, Farmers Help Them ‘Netflix And Chill.'” The thesis is that California’s increasingly warm winters threaten our “walnuts, cherries, peaches, pears and pistachios” and major efforts are underway to find a workable solution.
- A February 18, Los Angeles Times article titled, “In the Noah’s Ark of Citrus, Caretakers Try to Stave Off a Fruit Apocalypse,” resembles the plot of a Hollywood horror film with oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and tangerines as the innocent victims. The culprit is “a bacterial infection known as citrus greening, or Huanglongbing.” What’s described as Noah’s Ark is “UC Riverside’s 113-year-old Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection.” As a Riverside native, I can add that this orchard was originally part of what is known as the Citrus Experiment Station. Many decades later, I spent far longer as a UCR student than any of the faculty or administrators would care to admit – none of whom could ever imagine that I’d grow up to become publisher of the Splash Pad News.
SPLASH PAD PARK
We’ve written previously about the $35,000 in funding that Councilmember Bas found for much-needed Splash Pad Park improvements. Nothing is guaranteed at this point, but we do know that the City is about to receive an estimate for repairs and major upgrades to the lighting system, with the potential that the Names in Lights, spotlights in the fountain, and uplighting under the palm trees will all be restored. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Next time you’re in the park, be sure to check out the California Native plant beds. The ceanothus, red buds, and tree poppies are looking especially spectacular but just about everything is “springing” into bloom. The Grand Crew’s volunteer day last Sunday was very well attended and super productive. A special shout-out to Kelley Danger and Blaine Hatab, who have the distinction of being the first volunteers (in our seventeen-year history) to arrive on electric scooters. Regardless of your means of conveyance, we’d love to have YOU join us for next work day on Sunday, March 29 from 9 – noon. We’ll be weeding, pruning, and assembling some low bamboo fencing to protect the gardens. Gloves and tools are provided.
GRAND LAKE ART SCENE
The Grand Lake art scene has been a bit up in the air the past few months but we’re thrilled to see Panorama Framing back in the mix and are also pleased to be listing a show at the Lakeview Branch Library for the first time. Please check with the participating galleries for their hours and/or special events.
Panorama Framing is hosting a spectacular show of original artwork titled “The Art of Baseball” and curated by George Krevsky, who, when it comes to baseball, should be declared a national treasure. We believe this is the 20th such show that George has curated. Available for viewing when the shop is open but hours may vary.
BTW: The photos above were shot yesterday at the opening reception. Ted Dively (on the left in the company of Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers) was a silent partner at Panorama Framing but he’s now the sole operator. On the far right, that’s Bob Jaffe, whom most of you remember as the owner of Grand Bakery – the space that’s just re-opened as Melo Melo. In the center is George Krevsky. To his right is Sabra Jaffe, Bob’s daughter, who lives just a couple of blocks away. Coincidentally, Sabra is company manager at A.C.T. – where “Toni Stone” (a play about a woman who yearns to play professionally with men as a member of the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns) opens March 5.
Bay-Made’s exhibit of photographs by Brandon Ruffin remains up through April 1. Watch for a special pop-up show on March 28. Open for viewing during regular shop hours.
Jau Jou Studio has a new show of paintings by neighborhood artist Rik Van Antwerpen. Available for viewing whenever the salon is open. Hours vary.
Urban Furniture and Boutique is hosting an Opening Night Reception on Thursday, March 5 for a show of exquisite portraits embroidered on canvas by Irene Schlesinger. Hours are 6 – 9 pm. Light refreshments will be served.
510 Brand has one wall dedicated to paintings by RichardZ Art, with plans to add more paintings by their Music is Life T-shirt artist next week.
We’re delighted to add the Lakeview Branch Library to our list of local gallery spaces. This month and next, they will be exhibiting whimsical collages and montages in a show titled, “Collage-a-thon by Victoria Bochat.” Check their website for hours and other special events.
The Libertine is now hosting an exhibit of international graffiti art.
ODDS & ENDS
I would ordinarily refer to Haddon Hill resident David Gans as a Renaissance man but, since he was just the subject of a lovely profile in The Lumberjack, Northern Arizona University’s “Student Voice,” I’ll settle for “A Jack of All Trades.” As a musician and songwriter, he’s been touring nationwide for years, but he also used to perform regularly at the Grand Lake Farmers Market – back in the day when we could count on rain. Those performances always included the lyrics from his CD, “The Ones That Look the Weirdest, Taste the Best.” That was in reference to the tomatoes that he found at the market and then memorialized in his role as a First-Class Photographer. In that role, he has also been continuously chronicling the Grand Lake Theatre Marquee with photos posted on his Flickr Page. That particular interest overlaps with his role as an advocate for correcting what’s wrong with the world we live in. As a radio personality, he was the long-time host of “The Grateful Dead Hour” and “Dead to the World.” Last but not least, David’s a journalist, who co-authored (with Blair Jackson) This Is All a Dream We Dreamed. I’m pleased to add that David also authored a 2017 Splash Pad News guest post titled, “We’re in the Memory-Making Business” about C.J. Hirschfield, the director of Fairyland until this past year.
We’ve been regularly reporting on some of the many challenges that make it very, very difficult for businesses to survive – let alone thrive – in the current social and economic environment. The most dramatic consequence is their closure, as has become painfully evident with the recent shuttering of Greetings, Dressed Best for Less, Izek Spa Salon, George’s Dry Cleaning, Dynasty Cleaners, and CVS Pharmacy. Longer-term vacancies on Lakeshore and Lake Park also include Flavors of India, Fast Print (whose owner reputedly shows no interest in finding a new tenant), Footlocker, and KFC (which has become a magnet for tagging and graffiti). The causes vary, but a major uptick in commercial rental prices and competition from online retailers have been critical factors. Although limited in scope, the good news is that DBFL and Greetings are both returning to their roots on Piedmont Avenue, and Jackie from Izek Spa Salon has downsized into a space inside Classic Cuts on Grand Avenue.
FYI: The Lakeshore Avenue vacancies will be on the agenda of the next Grand Lake Neighbors meeting, March 18. Also, I’ve been watching a new Netflix series called “Gentefied.” The storyline revolves around a family-owned taco shop in the Boyle Heights district of LA, where techies are moving in and rental prices (commercial and residential) are becoming less and less affordable. Any resemblance to what may be going on in Oakland is purely coincidental, and I’d hasten to add that, while the dialogue through the first ten episodes panned Bakersfield, Fresno, Riverside, Fontana, and half a dozen other localities, Oakland has, thus far, been spared.
Thanks to councilmembers Kaplan and Bas, funds are being set aside for a “Portland Loo” to address the long-standing, severe problems with the Astro Park restroom. A big shout-out as well to the Friends of the Lakeview Library group for lobbying for these improvements, with a special nod to Victoria Barbero who also regularly trims the street trees on the corner of Lakeshore and Lake Park on her way to the monthly Splash Pad work days.
Voting ends on March 7 for Oakland Magazine’s Best of Oakland & the East Bay 2020 finals. You can cast your vote in support of locally owned neighborhood businesses at THIS LINK.
The Oakland Museum’s 61st White Elephant Sale is next weekend. If you haven’t been previously, wear your good walking shoes, or (better yet) running shoes, and be prepared for huge (but friendly) crowds and an incredible array of choices. Last year, the sale grossed over $2 million; the net proceeds help fund special programming at the Oakland Museum.
Piedmont Community Church’s annual Treasures Sale is scheduled for March 14 and 15. I help out a bit with pricing and identification of their antiques and collectibles and am always impressed by the quantity and quality of the donated goods and also by the dedication of all the volunteers. What’s especially gratifying is knowing that all the proceeds support their annual youth service mission to Tijuana, where students will be constructing 18 houses for low-income families.
Spring for Parks (formerly, A Taste of Spring) is scheduled for Thursday, April 25. This annual event is sponsored by the Oakland Park and Recreation Foundation, which helps maintain park and recreation facilities and provides scholarships for up to 600 people each year.
Sheila McCormick, who helps edit and occasionally contributes articles to the Splash Pad News, is debuting a new program at the Lakeview Branch Library beginning Friday, March 13. She will be offering one-on-one tutoring for senior citizens who want to enhance their social media presence and/or need help with basic computer functions. Sheila also alerted us to an African-American history talk at the Main Library on Tuesday, March 24 from 6 – 7:30 pm: “Liam O’Donoghue, host and producer of the East Bay Yesterday podcast, will be interviewing writers Dana Johnson and Ana Cecilia Alvarez, authors of the new book, Trailblazer: Delilah Beasley’s California.” Delilah Beasley was a journalist for the Oakland Tribune from 1925–1934.
The Medicine Ball Band returns to the lovely Terrace Room (with amazing views of Lake Merritt) on Friday March 6th, from 7-10 pm. The band will be featuring vocalists Terrie Odabi and Nancy Wright, Spencer Allen on piano, “The People’s Choice” drummer Leon Joyce Jr, and David Sturdevant on guitar, harmonica, and vocals.
The next Grand Lake Neighbors meeting (scheduled for Wednesday, March 18) will begin with an OPD report and will include a discussion of the vacancies on Lakeshore and a presentation regarding the “Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.”
The next meeting of the Cleveland Heights Neighborhood Council takes place on Tuesday, March 10 at the FM Smith Recreation Center from 7-8:30 pm. The tentative agenda includes:
- A report from Community Resource Officer D’Orso regarding safety tips and a schedule of safety walks
- Area 3 Commander Capt. Gonzalez will be providing an update on Lakeshore Avenue concerns and more
- Bill Koziol, owner of the historic Parkway Theater, will be providing an update on plans for the Parkway Dispensary
- Updates regarding the FM Smith Recreation Center, garden beautification, and traffic issues
- Jason Patton, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager for the Department of Transportation, will provide an update on their Lower Park Blvd plans
The Oakland Heritage Alliance is sponsoring a talk and slideshow presented by Oakland History Center librarian Dorothy Lazard on March 9. Titled “African-American Oakland, 1915–1965”, the focus will be on the growth of Oakland’s African-American community during a period of enormous change that ultimately helped establish Oakland as one of California’s most progressive cities. More information and tickets are available at THIS LINK.
- Super Tuesday California Primary Election – March 3 – PLEASE VOTE!
- Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale –Saturday and Sunday, March 7 & 8, 10 am – 4 pm
- African-American Oakland, 1915-1965″ sponsored by OHA – Monday, March 9, 7 – 9 pm
- Piedmont Community Church Treasures Sale – Saturday March 14, 9 am – 3 pm & Sunday, 9 am – 2 pm
- Grand Lake Neighbors Meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church – Wednesday, March 18, 7-8:30 pm
- Splash Pad’s Grand Crew Volunteer Work Day – Sunday, March 29, 9 – noon
- Oakland’s Citywide Earth Day – April 18
- Spring For Parks – Thursday, April 25
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