Grand Avenue Merchant News – April 2022

by Ken Katz

The three-story commercial building at 3645 Grand, which was constructed in 1964, was sold in 2018. Shortly thereafter, the new owners emptied the building with the expectation that it would be turned into condos. After two years of heavy construction that included new HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and a lot of other high-end improvements, it’s reopened once again as an office building called The Grand Works. Spaces are still available on each of the three floors, but tenants already include Refine Anti-Aging Medicine and Aesthetics as well as Sacramento-based Gibeson & Co CPAs. Last week, we had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the tenants of Suite #304 — the Piedmont Neuroscience Center, where Dr. Joshua Kuluva and Dr. Edie E. Zusman both practice and share a strong commitment to providing holistic care that improves health and well-being.

A nationally recognized brain and spine surgeon, Dr. Edie Zusman is taking a hiatus from surgery after 25 years to bring her innovative “Spine PREHAB” program to the East Bay. Initially developed by Dr. Zusman at NorthBay, the Northern California Mayo Clinic Network Affiliate, patient assessment starts with a complete case review including an impartial evaluation of whether there is a need for surgery, if so what type of surgery, or whether there are options to heal without surgery.  At NorthBay, she recognized that nearly half the patients who went through Spine PREHAB no longer required surgery, and those who went on to surgery recovered faster with less post-operative pain. After doing hundreds of spine surgeries from minimally invasive to extensive fusions, Dr. Zusman has a strong commitment to this comprehensive approach to evaluation and care favoring non-operative management whenever possible.

Dr. Kuluva is a Board Certified neurologist and psychiatrist with a strong academic and research background. Dr. Kuluva earned his B.A, at U.C. Berkeley with honors, attended the Sackler School of Medicine, and then completed a six-year combined residency in neurology and psychiatry at NYU. He later completed a fellowship in Traumatic Brain Injury at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC through the VA system. His extensive work experience includes being Medical Director of Neurology at Mindful Health Solutions, Co-Director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at Northbay Hospital, and Chief of Neurology at Alta Bates in Berkeley.

Dr. Kuluva’s specialty has been the treatment of traumatic brain injury/concussion, but his current practice also focuses on a much wider spectrum of health concerns. A critical element in diagnosing and treating the root problems is a technological marvel called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, which, as Dr. Kuluva notes, allows one to actually view the inner “workings” of the brain while stimulating specific locations. He indicates that TMS can be used to treat refractory neuropsychiatric conditions, including medication-resistant depression, neuropathic pain, dementia/cognitive impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, stroke rehabilitation, fibromyalgia, and migraines.

Asked why they ended up choosing an office on Grand, Dr. Kuluva noted that he’s a neighborhood resident and has had his eye on the 3645 Grand location for quite a while. Dr. Zusman added that one of the main attractions is that many businesses on Grand Avenue are already health oriented, including the yoga and fitness studios with whom they hope to build a symbiotic relationship that leads to the recognition of this stretch of Grand Avenue as the “Good Health” equivalent of the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley.

As an aside, when I introduced myself to Dr. Kuluva as the publisher of the Splash Pad News, he asked if I had a connection to the Grateful Dead. It quickly became apparent that he was actually thinking of David Gans who wrote an article about C. J. Hirschfield for the November 2017 News and who was, in return, profiled by C. J. three years later. What’s Dr. Kuluva’s connection to David? When he was working on his degree at Berkeley, he interviewed David for a dissertation he wrote about the Grateful Dead. Many decades later, they’re looking forward to a reunion.

Studio Fit Life at 3241 Grand is now officially open and, if you peek inside, it just looks like a nicely designed, very well equipped neighborhood gym — which it is. But owner Eddy Aguirre notes that almost every client seeking to improve their fitness is also experiencing some kind of nagging pain. With a B.A. in Kinesiology from Hayward State, Eddy’s job is to work with the clients holistically to resolve the source of the pain. Once he’s done so, he reports that clients often feel a renewed sense of freedom, prompting them to pick up a new sport — so the training evolves into something more athletic like playing pickleball or increasing stamina for hiking.

In college, Eddie played soccer and basketball, but it wasn’t until he took an Introduction to Sports Medicine class that he realized it was a career that combined his interest in both anatomy and sports. For nine years, he worked at SF Fitness on the other side of the freeway but had been yearning to set up a studio of his own; the location on Grand (a few a doors up from Lee’s Discount Flowers, where he bought the flowers for his wedding) was perfect. Currently, they are open Monday – Saturday from 7 am – 7 pm by appointment only.

Megadeluxe Custom Caps at 3234 Grand also just opened, so on Saturday, we walked in and introduced ourselves to the owner, Wes Garcia. Asked how he ended up in the custom cap business, Wes talked about a resume that began with blue collar jobs like driving forklifts and working as a courier for FedEx. Over time, his talents as a designer emerged, and by 1999, he was employed as the Creative Art Director for Apple. As exciting as that must have been, Wes’s true passion was for the vintage patches that he’d begun to collect, which led to his starting a “Patches Blog” on Instagram that quickly gained 100,000 followers. For the past six years, Wes has been selling online but is thrilled to now have a retail presence where he can actually interact with at least some of his customers. He is especially pleased to be on a block that has what he describes as a “spicy vibe” — which we interpreted as meaning it’s got a good ethnically-mixed, down-to-earth feeling.

In addition to serving as retail outlet, it’s also where all the production is taking place. About the caps, Wes says that the patches are sewn on — not glued and are guaranteed for twenty years. Most of the patches are vintage. The only exception are the State Highway patches (one of his favorite topics) which are sewn in house. Wes also has a collection of vintage tin advertising signs that he’s going to begin hanging high on the walls. The Dad’s Root Beer one is not for sale, but others will be. Hours for the time being are Thursday – Saturday from 11 am – 7 pm and Sunday from 12 Noon – 5 pm.

Husband and wife owners Harjnet Sahle and Adey Hagos opened Café Romanat in June 2011 and have built a loyal following, thanks to their large portions of vegetarian and vegan Ethiopian specialties as well as traditional meat dishes. How good is their food? The 2021 Michelin Guide said this about their establishment:

In a stretch of Oakland that teems with Ethiopian restaurants, Café Romanat is a standout, thanks to its deliciously spiced dishes served in generous portions. Locals (including some Ethiopian families) fill the small room that is set with traditional low stools, woven tables and features colorful fabric curtains and artwork.

Order up a homegrown beer, honey wine or a nutty ground flax or sesame seed juice to pair with the sambusas, triangular pastries stuffed with piquant jalapeño-spiked lentils. All the combination platters, served on spongy, slightly sour injera, are perfect for sharing. And the veggie combo, with dishes like sautéed collard greens, lentils in smoky berbere and split peas with turmeric and ginger, will delight any crowd.

For the past couple of years, we’ve been talking about locally owned Grand Avenue businesses that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic and have been pleasantly surprised to see how they’ve mostly survived. The exceptions include Aisle 5 (which closed early on) and, more recently, Connie’s Cantina, whose owner (Connie Perdomo) was evicted for back rent and not given an opportunity to find a buyer for the restaurant.  Genny Brugen, the owner of Norge Laundry and Dry Cleaning Village (who started as an employee there thirty-nine years ago) is similarly facing foreclosure. The difference, in her case, is that the City of Oakland referred her to an attorney who is providing pro bono representation. When we talked to Genny on Monday, she said that they have a buyer who seems serious; she’s cautiously optimistic about a positive outcome.

Bradford Taylor (the owner of Ordinaire) emailed us this past week confirming that his wife finished her medical residency in Chicago  and has recently accepted an offer from a Bay Area medical clinic. They are looking forward to returning to Oakland this summer and are going to be looking for a 2-3 bedroom apartment in the East Bay. If you have any good leads, please send us an email which we’ll gladly forward to Bradford. As an aside, check out Ordinaire’s Wikipedia page, which describes the extent to which this small, laid-back natural wine bar has been drawing not only locals but folks from across the globe.

  • Grand Avenue News in Brief
  • The Film Noir Festival at the Grand Lake Theatre was a huge success with the attendees who were most “into it” wearing period dress.
  • Tiny Tastings are again available at Alkali Rye from Noon – 3:00 pm on Saturdays — your perfect opportunity to sample distilled spirits and meet the makers.
  • M2 is now offering a Caribbean Lunch from 2 – 7 pm on Saturdays. This complements their Bottomless Brunch on Sundays.
  • Oakland Parking Partners which contracts with the City of Oakland to maintain all city-owned, off-street parking lots, just announced that they received the OK to restore the long-broken irrigation system in the Walker Avenue parking lot. Once that’s done, plans are in the works for installation of three large planters at the Grand Avenue entrance and new landscaping elsewhere with planning assistance from the office of David Thorne’s landscape architecture office across the street.

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 Splash Pad Newsletters were emailed beginning circa 2006. Currently, he acts as a contributor to—and publisher of—the monthly Splash Pad News. Keila Diehl proofreads all the copy, filters content as needed, and makes everyone involved look good.



2 responses to “Grand Avenue Merchant News – April 2022”

  1. Emma on Wickson Avatar
    Emma on Wickson

    Fantastic reporting as usual, Ken, et al! Thank you!

    1. Ken Katz Avatar
      Ken Katz

      Emma, Thanks so much for the compliment but this is very much a group effort with special thanks to Sheila McCormick (I love what’s she’s done with the calendar) and the same applies to Dan Foster for his Farmers Market updates. Kira’s Lakeshore blog is amazing and Keila Diehl (whose written several fabulous articles) proofreads everything and makes us all look good. A special tip of the hat for all the amazing articles C.J. Hirschfield has contributed and, as for Jerry Barclay, he’s only contributed one but it was so good, we’re hoping for more. Also have to acknowledge Eric Hughes, David Gans, Liane Zimny, Kathleen Boergers and Sarah Van Roo who’ve contributed in the past.