Above Grand Avenue

Grand Avenue Merchant News

By Ken Katz

New restaurant rumors

We’re starting this month’s Grand Avenue update by citing a reliable source who mentioned that a high-end San Francisco restaurant has leased the Sister space. This doesn’t qualify as real “News” since it’s unsubstantiated but I have texted the restaurant asking for confirmation and so far, haven’t received a reply.

For the record, that’s exactly what I did six months ago when I contacted Philz Coffee and asked if it was true that they were moving into the vacant Starbucks space on Lakeshore and they never responded. At the Grand Lake Neighbors meeting this past Wednesday, Carol Knight (the Lakeshore BID Co-Director) announced that Philz would, in fact, be opening shortly. I’m hoping for a repeat of this scenario at the Sister space. By the way, the permit for the parklet in front of Sister wasn’t renewed and it’s just been removed by order of the city.

Boxing for Health trains champions

For the past fourteen years, hidden away on the second floor of the Lycette Properties building on Santa Clara, Miguel Lopez has been practicing an out-of-the-box approach to better health. Namely, he teaches boxing. The pugilists who’ve trained at Boxing for Health include Ava Knight who won the Women’s International title in 2011 and Paris Alexander, the California State Champion who trained and taught here.

Last weekend, I spoke briefly with Berkeley resident Kathleen Tang who is toying with the prospect of getting into the ring with an opponent. She’s been in training for eight months and waxes poetic when she talks about Miguel’s magnetism.

“He’s amazing. I come away thinking I can do just about anything I set my mind to.”

The majority of his students, however, are here to improve their physical and mental health through intense cardio workouts and/or to perfect their self-defense skills through sparring. Regardless of their individual goals, all seem to feel a real sense of community that is at the heart of Miguel’s success. 

The Grand Re-Opening party at Smitty’s this past Saturday was the most celebratory I can recall. The crowd that packed the interior and overflowed out onto the sidewalk mostly consisted of patrons from Baggy’s By The Bay which is co-owned by JJ Jenkins and Shari Murphy (as is Smitty’s) along with folks from Merchant Saloon that Jenkins has operated for the past seventeen years. FYI: Not everybody knew your name but there was certainly a “Cheers” vibe in the air.

Since we last visited in late February, lots of new art has been added and apparently, there’s more to come. The crowning achievement, however, is the neon sign on the facade and a martini glass in the window that were installed just in time by Greg King, who was profiled in a C.J. Hirschfield article in The Oaklandside on March 29.

Grand Jewelry Repair

As much as we love to report good news, the reality is that local businesses are continuing to face major challenges. A case in point is Grand Jewelry Repair which we mentioned in our November 2002 newsletter:

“This past Saturday, we popped into Grand Jewelry Repair to congratulate them for being named the Best Jewelry Repair Shop by the East Bay Express. We were delighted to find both owners there, Quy and Christine Tran, and, with a little persuasion, they agreed to pose for a photo. Christine reminded us that they have their Names in Lights in the Splash Pad Plaza and then added that they opened on Grand in 1990, which puts them on par with Elida Scola, but still far outdone by the Grand Lake Theatre and The Alley.”


Three years ago, their shop was burglarized and closed for several weeks. As reported by CBS News, they were victimized a second time this year on March 7 when the culprits managed to haul off a large safe that ended up (with OPD in hot pursuit) abandoned on the Harrison Street offramp with all the contents intact. Coincidentally, a couple of weeks before, Mr. Tran repaired a vintage bracelet for me.  At that time, he mentioned that he was planning on retiring next year and would be having a “Going-Out-of-Business Sale” Currently, the shop entrance remains boarded up and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Trans decide instead to simply retire earlier than they had planned. 

Carrying on at the Sanctuary

Across the street and up the block, The Sanctuary was robbed in the middle of the day last month by individuals who burst in and stole quantities of merchandise. The owners, Stephanie and Etecia Burrell, have since reopened and are committed to carry on their dreams — which include on April 13 from 1pm – 6pm a cupcake tastings event hosted by Bobbie’s SF — whose patrons, I’m told, include Rihanna and Angela Davis.

A place for OPD

There is, however, a glimmer of hope in the immediate future. A small storefront at 3213 Grand that’s sandwiched between Yang Chow Restaurant and Grand Lake Market & Liquor is about to become a rest stop for OPD officers on patrol. Use of the space is being donated by the owner, Lycette Properties and the conversion is being coordinated by Anthony Bennett, the Grand Avenue Business Association President. New windows and carpet have already been installed; the interior has been painted; a desk is at the ready and a hot water dispenser is in the works along with a new awning. The expectation is that, as a result, OPD will have more of a presence in the Grand Lake neighborhood.

When asked for her response, Alyce (from Alyce on Grand) said, “Awesome!” The response from Saroj Aryal, the Grand Lake Market owner next door, was less enthusiastic. “Better! I like that” but then he added that he’d hoped that officers would be present in the early morning hours between 3am and 4am — the time period during which his shop was burglarized and heavily damaged four times in 2023 resulting in a total of $20,000 in losses. My take: It’s a big step in the right direction and should allow shoppers to feel safer and officers to become better acquainted with the community.

Volunteer opportunity at Urban Furniture

When I did my rounds on the 23rd, I couldn’t help but notice the beautifully carved African sculpture and masks that had been donated to Urban Furniture — not to mention the April 10 request for volunteers to refresh the shop and the house that shelters the single mothers who are enrolled in their skills training program.

Saying goodbye to a neighborhood legend

We began this month’s merchant update with an unsubstantiated rumor and end with a universal reality: Each and every one of us is going to die. The good news is that Marshall Curatolo took 95 long and productive years to do so. In the course of which he won a copyright battle with Walden Book stores, a chain that is no more, while building a dedicated following that contributed in excess of $100,000 that guaranteed the shop’s survival during the worst of the pandemic. Appended below is the full text of a Walden Pond Facebook post announcing his passing. Please consider adding to the Facebook comments and to comments on this page as well.

“We are deeply saddened to share the news that Walden Pond Books’ founder, Marshall Curatolo, passed away on February 29. He was 95 years old. In the last year and a half of his life, he “officially” retired, relocating to Humboldt County where he was cared for by his daughter. He leaves behind his loving son Paul, his devoted daughter Cassandra, his wife of 50 years, Ruth, and an amazing legacy.

One only has to peruse the aisles of Walden Pond Books to know Marshall. He was a bohemian, a progressive, a proponent of the arts, a lover of music, and, of course, a worshiper of the written word. His generosity and humility drew people in – customers quickly became friends. Over the years, the bookstore has served as a beloved community space, where locals and visitors alike encountered themselves and each other in the pages of its wares. As the latest bestsellers change from week to week and Walden Pond shifts and grows to mirror the community which has so embraced it, Marshall’s vision will remain at the core of Walden Pond Books.

The bookstore remains family owned and operated. It is cared for and curated by a remarkable crew of employees. We are grateful to Marshall for establishing an institution that will always belong to Oakland. He will be remembered fondly by the community for having helped shape generations of Bay Area readers, writers, and thinkers.”

News in Brief

  • Radbird now has an excellent selection of LP’s available for sale — two of which co-owner Jason Canepa is holding aloft.
  • Ikaros has recently added whiskey to its Happy Hour Drink Menu.
  • Lynn & Lu’s has recently added a $20 Combo Meal to their menu.
  • Alkali Rye is continuing to host weekend tastings. On the 23rd, it was The Pathfinder, a non-alcoholic spirit — which was described to us as having sophisticated versions of the wares sold by Snake-Oil salesmen in days gone by.
  • On Fridays and Saturdays from 7-9pm, beer and hot saki at Samurai Sushi Boat is half price.
  • Michael’s Chocolates will be one of a select group of exhibitors at the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon on April 7. Tickets are available online.
  • Voting for Oakland Magazine’s Best Of Awards closes April 28. Please take the time to voice your support for all the wonderful local businesses on Grand and Lakeshore that brighten our lives and fill our stomachs.

By Ken Katz

Ken Katz

Ken Katz founded the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum in late 1999 and, in his role as Chair, coordinated the community efforts to lobby for a new park and subsequently served as a liaison to the City of Oakland and to Walter Hood’s office during the planning process. The first Splashpad Newsletters were emailed beginning circa 2006. He currently contributes to the monthly Splashpad News.



5 responses to “Grand Avenue Merchant News”

  1. Thanks for the terrific article. I am saddened to hear of the changing of the guard at Walden Pond. Marshall bought greeting cards from me when I was documenting the marvelous quotes on the south facing marquee of the Grand Lake theatre. and Paul, my deepest condolences. I met you on several occasions on my visits to Walden Pond and am so happy to have an independent bookseller in our very own neighborhood.

  2. Keith Savell Avatar
    Keith Savell

    I love reading your Splashpad updates Ken! Thanks for all that you do for the community.

  3. Janis Clark Avatar
    Janis Clark

    Great 1st “new” edition.

    1. Wonderful Newsletter! Thank you so much for mentioning my Dad’s passing (Marshall Curatolo)…. I have 50 wonderful years experience with him on Grand Avenue to draw from …. so lucky 🙂

      1. Linda Roman Avatar
        Linda Roman

        I’m so sorry to hear of Marshall’s passing. He was such a lovely man (as are you). Years and years ago, there was a beautiful book of Degas paintings that I really wanted but it was too expensive. He sold it to me at a very low price and I was so grateful. Also, I always admired the wooden carvings that were often in your window. I asked him about them and went to Oaxaca to see more. He sent me to a friend of his who had a shop near the Zocalo. That friend took me to breakfast in a wonderful place that I’m sure I’ll never find again. Those are just two of many wonderful encounters I had with your dad. It’s a great loss but we’re lucky we had him for such a long time and his spirit will remain in the bookstore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.