December 2013 Newsletter

EDITOR’S NOTE:   With this month’s edition, we’re pleased to welcome Pamela Drake as the author of a monthly Lakeshore – Lake Park blog.  Like LZ, who has been profiling businesses on Grand Avenue west of 580 since June, she will be providing the kind 0f in-depth reporting I simply don’t have time for.  This is equally true when it comes to reporting on the Farmers Market and  the entertainment scene in the Grand Lake Neighborhood.  If you’re perhaps interested in filling either of those voids, please direct your emails to


The article about Charlie Hallowell in the July/August Oakland Magazine noted that he’d love to open “a green grocer and a butcher shop next door to Penrose.  Until I could independently confirm the phrase in italics, I omitted it in last month’s newsletter but did mention it in an email to the Grand Lake Neighbors Yahoo Group with this cautionary note: MFR Exterior

I’d hasten to add that I’m hoping he doesn’t literally mean “next door” as I can guarantee that Chris and Arnel are not about to give up their parking lot and patio. The other side is The Alley which ought to stay and, if it doesn’t, it should be transported in its entirety to the Smithsonian.

As it turns out, my guarantee is worth zilch. With sales less than they had hoped for, Chris and Arnel have very reluctantly sold Monkey Forest Road to the partnership that consists of Richard Weinstein and Hallowell.  This past Thursday, Chris and Arnel posted the following announcement on the Grand Lake Neighbors Facebook page:

It is with great sadness in our hearts that we announce that Monkey Forest Road Gallery and Coffee bar will be closing for good on January 1st.

It has been such a blessing to be a part of this community for the past several years and we have a mountain full of gratitude for all of you who have helped make this journey so bright ♡ Thanks for your amazing support, we could not have done it without you! We are excited to see what the future will bring and wish everyone the BEST YEAR EVER in 2014!!!

With Love,
Monkey Forest Road staff

P.S. Our last day open will be on 12/31 from 7 am – 6 pm, please come by and see us one more time! Also, our online store will remain open indefinitely @

MFR Before and After
Monkey Forest Road: Before and After

When I got wind of the forthcoming closure several weeks ago, I emailed Richard Weinstein  who responded:

We honestly don’t know yet as it is so new and we are swamped with Penrose.  We are thinking of a food related concept, but not a restaurant, a market of some kind that complements what we are doing next door and across the street.

According to Lin Jia’s Marcia Lam, MFR will be closed for two weeks to allow Chris and Arnel to transport their retail merchandise to their warehouse on 25th Street and then will temporarily re-open as a coffee shop/cafe under the new ownership.  In terms of their long-range permanent plans, please feel free to post your suggestions here and  I’ll  forward a summary to Richard – knowing that he’s always been attuned to the needs of  our neighborhood.

Whatever the eventual result, we owe Chris and Arnel a huge debt of gratitude for turning an ugly excuse of a building into an architectural gem that became a huge part of the Grand Avenue renaissance.

Holly Schneider at Studio Grand continues to amaze with a truly ambitious schedule.  In addition to their participation in First Thursdays, they’ve just announced a January 12th concert from 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. featuring a chamber ensemble group called Vibo Simfami.  Five new classes are also set to launch in January including a “Collage Salon” on the first Monday of each month and a 4-week Life Drawing class that begins January 8th.  For more details, visit the Studio Grand web site.


Photos From Previous First Thursdays





Nine Grand Avenue businesses will again be providing gallery space for the January 2nd edition of The First Thursdays art walk from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Details for each gallery at press time are listed below. A printable list of galleries and businesses offering special discounts (when you have your hand stamped at a participating gallery is available HERE while the latest updates can be found on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays website.

  • Studio Grand’s exhibit of drawings by Adrian Arias called “Urban Angels” continues through the month of January.
  • Jaujou Studio’s  show of photographs by Rachel Escoto Pixelina also continues through January. Treats will be served along with a 15% discount on all merchandise.
  • Better Homes and Gardens continues to host “Illuminating Moments” – a retrospective exhibit of nature photography by the late Don Hazen – curated by his wife, Mollie but they will not be open on the evening of the 2nd.
  • Panorama Framing hosts an opening night reception for a group show called “Mysteries of the Organism” which is curated by Adrienne Heloise. Refreshments will be served and music provided by Oluyemi Thomas on bass clarinet.
  • Galleria Scola is continuing its show of new assemblages by gallery owner, Elida Scola but they may or may not stay open beyond their usual 6:00 p.m. closing.
  • Rebooty will again be featuring the wonderfully whimsical lamps created by 4 F Lighting’s Leslie Tilley who works magic using recycled objects. Also on display (and for sale) a new batch of elaborate shadow boxes from the P. K. Spikes’ workshop. Sangria and snacks will be served.
  • Kingman’s Lucky Lounge is featuring artwork by Sylvester Guard Jr. and Brandon Hurley. From 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., art walk participants are treated to half-price beers, wine and well drinks.
  • According to Tracey Weaver, Urban Furniture’s Director, their exhibit of screen prints by Craig Baxter has been extremely successful and continues through the month of January. For the First Thursday in January, they will remain open until 7:00 p.m. and will be offering 15% discount on all merchandise.
  • Backstock Gallery’s exhibit of “Petite Sensations, Works by Terri Loewenthal” continues through the month of January.  Open for First Thursday until 7:00 p.m.  A selection of Lowenthal’s photographs are available for viewing HERE.


This month’s edition of the Lakeshore/Lake Park Avenue Merchant News by Pamela Drake runs the gamut from their annual Christmas festivities to Mezze’s closure to the imminent opening of Unleashed by Petco. Pamela is the Director of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District.


This month’s West of 580 blog by LZ (our otherwise anonymous contributor) is about Hirut’s Alterations and Tailor at 353 Grand Avenue. Previous West of 580 blogs are archived here.


We’re quite pleased to have received a $695 grant for park improvements from Keep Oakland Beautiful that will help fund:

  • The partial expansion of the California Native community garden into two adjacent Dogwood beds.
  • Improvements to the existing California Native bed.
  • Installation of concrete pads for three of the Walter Hood designed trash receptacles currently sitting on decomposed granite.
  • Revitalization of the four fern beds that are adjacent to the freeway.  Two have been decimated.  Two are overgrown.
  • Installation of weed barriers.

According to the terms of the grant, all work has to be completed by the end of June.  If you’re interested in helping to plan these improvements or in volunteering at one of our work days, please email us at


Market Photos Taken December 28th



Romanesque Cauliflower
Romanesco Cauliflower at Grand Lake Market

Years ago, the Grand Lake Farmers Market provided my first introduction to Fuyu Persimmons – which quickly became one of my favorite treats.  Judging by their near absence last Saturday, their season is apparently over – as is the case with tomatoes.

Speaking of which, I just inadvertently came across a Melissa Garden blog about the tomato poster she designed for Wild Boar Farms.  Brad and Janet who introduced heirloom tomatoes to just about everybody in the neighborhood have copies available for sale on their website.

While stone fruits have disappeared, winter greens are in abundance at the market including most notably, kale which I recently fried to a crisp and enjoyed immensely.  For aesthetics, however, you can’t beat the Romanesco Cauliflower which is artfully displayed in the Capay Valley Farm booth where I took the adjacent photo last year.

One of the photos above is of  Nanette Jordan and Delia Keller – the mother/daughter team that have a space at the Farmers Market more or less monthly.  As a life-long devotee of creative reuse, I was really impressed with their line of jewelry that incorporates vintage buttons, watch parts and lithographed-tin cookie tins.  Nanette also creates sterling silver miniatures that can be found for sale at the Renwick Gallery in the Smithsonian.  Her etsy website is here and Delia’s here.


Although I’d been hearing rumors for about a year that Pat Kernighan wouldn’t be running for re-election, I was disappointed to see those rumors confirmed in a  formal announcement released last week.

I met Pat in early 2000 when, as an aide to John Russo,  she began attending all the meetings of Jerry Cauthen’s Splash Pad Traffic Advisory group.  In the ensuing couple of years, working as Danny Wan’s Chief of Staff, Pat convinced Public Works to remove the chain link fence that separated the parking lot from what is now part and parcel of the new park.  She also managed to get permission to close Lake Park Way on Saturdays allowing the market to move temporarily out from under the freeway into the sunlight which resulted in the size of the market doubling almost immediately. During the construction phase, she was actively involved in the decision-making process which was also true of the much larger, Measure DD improvements at Lake Merritt.

In her two terms as our council member, Pat has shown the same determination to make positive changes — all the while welcoming input from her constituents. Here’s hoping that her successor will follow her stellar example.

Clear Channel Billboard
Billboard on Grand at Elwood

With all the recent improvements to Grand Avenue, I’m ever more perturbed by Clear Channel’s ongoing failure to maintain their billboards – particularly since billboards in themselves (even when properly maintained) are a blight on the landscape.  Over the years, we’ve repeatedly complained about the two small, Clear Channel billboards in the parking lot adjacent to the Grand Tavern and last month, I filed a formal complaint via SeeClickFix over a much larger billboard mounted on the rooftop of the building at the corner of Grand and Elwood.  Click HERE  to access the complaint and please take a minute to cast votes and leave comments advising Clear Channel that we find these blighted conditions intolerable.

Last month, I included a plug for the broadcast of Sing Off – the acapella competition in which Vocal Rush from the Oakland School for the Arts was one of ten competitors.  I usually avoid these programs like the plague but, since I was peripherally acquainted with the group through their appearances at the Farmers Market, I made an exception and was delighted that I did.  Their performances throughout the series invariably brought chills up my spine and tears to my eyes.  I can’t imagine a better group of ambassadors representing Oakland.  Congratulations to each and every member of the group plus their instructors and their families.  If you missed out on their Sing Off performances, a good place to start is with this rendition of “Holding Out For a Hero” followed by Against All Odds which aptly describes their reaching the finale.

Chabad of Oakland’s ceremonial lighting of a giant menorah in Splash Pad Park on December 1st was bigger and better than ever  and the unseasonably warm, dry weather was especially welcome.  This year, in addition to the traditional doughnuts, latkes and chocolate coins, attendees were given menorahs.   More of the photos that I took at the Menorah-lighting celebration that began in 2009 are available in my Flickr gallery.


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One response to “December 2013 Newsletter”

  1. […] terms of the Grand Lake area, reports that Charlie Hallowell (Boot and Shoe, Penrose, and Pizziolo)and Richard Weinstein are […]