Grand Avenue Merchant News – February 2023

by Ken Katz

The Noir City Film Festival, which ended on the 29th, was a huge success at the Grand Lake box office, but it also directly benefited at least two Grand Avenue businesses. Attendees attired in period dress ventured up the block to snap up copies of Dark City and books in the film noir genre that Walden Pond had displayed in the lobby. George Adranly, owner of nearby Ikaros, was similarly pleased. One of the main drivers of the festival is a regular patron of the Greek restaurant and apparently lots of the film devotees followed his example.

The same kind of collaborative process is in the works for the Grand Opening of ReLove on Saturday, February 18 from 5:00-9:00 pm. Since owner Delila Hailechristos is expecting a large turnout, Jessica and Kori at Alkali Rye are arranging outdoor seating and will also open up their second-floor gallery space, where they’ll be pouring wine and perhaps serving other goodies. If you want to attend the Grand Opening, space is limited and you should reserve a spot via their Instagram account: @shoprelove. ReLove will be open for the general public the following day.

Urban University, founded by CEO Tracey Williams, is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an intimate concert on February 25 from 5:00-6:30pm. We’re happy to share an excerpt from their press release, which details what they’ve accomplished in the past and what they hope to accomplish in the future, thanks in part to donations to an Imagine Campaign that has thus far raised $25,000 of their $75,000 goal.

As we forge ahead to bring even more, expanded opportunities to deliver services to unhoused single mothers, an ever-widening inequity gap, poor or unaffordable health care, and an utter lack of housing make clear real success for our participants will require more than shelter alone. Now in our 25th year, urban university supports single mother led households by providing housing, professional training and supportive services, i.e. a pathway to upward mobility. We are collaborating in this beautiful mission with the single moms we serve and key supporters such as Oakland residents and leaders, the Oakland Transitional Housing Alliance, Alameda County Social Services, The City of Oakland Human Services Department Community Homelessness Services Division, and the Alameda County-Oakland Community Action Partnership. Concretely, the additional services we aim to provide and which require additional funding will broaden the scope of our support and include housing for three more families and training eight new single mothers.

For Valentine’s Day (Tuesday, February 14) you can’t go wrong if you say it with flowers. This will be a snap, since neighborhood residents are fortunate to have three flower shops to choose from on Grand, each of which is unique in its own right. Brother & Sisters will have extended hours on Monday and Tuesday and lots of choices available online for pre-ordering. Grand Flowers (open 10:00-6:00 on Monday and Tuesday) will have a nice selection of roses, lilies, and mixed bouquets, plus teddy bears, balloons, and chocolates. Lee’s Discount Florist will be open 11:30-7:30 on both days. Pre-orders are welcomed if placed no later than February 14.

Alyce on Grand has just added a brand new line of “gourmet” face and skin care products that are handmade in small batches by a local, woman-owned company. There are eight different products to choose from ranging from the Chamomile + Calendula Face Serum to Organic Body Butter to a Vanilla Wood Coal + Coffee Beard Scrub. All the ingredients are natural and clearly labeled.

When we stopped by Two Two at 3221 Grand on Saturday afternoon, we marveled at the artistic arrangement in the entry and briefly checked out the incense workshop that was just wrapping up. This was just one of four creative events the gallery-shop had scheduled over a 12-day period, with more yet to come. If you’re interested, you can check their Event Calendar or ask CC to add you to their mailing list. Current hours are Fridays and Saturdays from noon-6pm and Sunday noon-5pm. All other days by email appointment only.

The bakers at Sister apparently switch out their pastries every few weeks but, as we go to press, they’re featuring a Savory Danish with miso cream cheese. Their sweet offerings include a Bergamot Curd & Oro Blanco Citrus Danish with Almonds and a Honey Teff Gluten-Free Muffin.

The Libertine hosted an art show a couple of weeks ago featuring a number of different artists. The art should likely remain hanging for at least the next couple of weeks. Alkali Rye has recently added to their inventory a variety of kitchen accessories and food items—all of which are displayed on shelving adjacent to the entrance.

Congratulations to Romanat Cafe for their inclusion in the Michelin Guide’s list of Oakland best-value restaurants. Here’s a portion of the review:

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.

As we reported last month, the Grand Avenue Business Association had obtained funding for a private security guard during the holidays. Karla Alejandre from Grand Flowers volunteered without prompting that, at least partially as a result, car break-ins had decreased markedly and overall the block seemed much calmer. Unfortunately, Anthony Bennett (the GABA President) reports that the short-term funding has ended and they’ve yet to line up other sources. The good news is that the City Council has approved a grant for 15 beat-walking officers to patrol negatively impacted commercial districts, which the Grand Lake should qualify for.

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.