Grand Avenue Merchant News – July 2023

by Ken Katz

Last October’s Art Walk on Grand Avenue was a big success and this year’s rendition on July 20 promises to top it. The guided tour will start at Megadeluxe at 6:00pm followed by 8am Style. Next up will be Radbird, Alyce on Grand, Urban Furniture and Boutique, Brother and Sisters Flower Shop, and a final stop for food and libations at Sister Restaurant. Along the way, attendees will be introduced to shop owners and hear from local artists while enjoying complimentary beverages and light snacks.

This past Saturday afternoon, we were delighted to happen upon the Berkeley-based Gumbo Band as they marched up and down Grand performing an authentic New Orleans “Second LIne” March. The band was followed by family and friends of Taylor Nelson, who was celebrating her graduation from Loyola University in New Orleans with a private brunch at Almond & Oak Restaurant that included entrees from that region, complete with oysters on the half shell, beignets, shrimp and grits, and more! According to her mother, Debra Nelson, Taylor is the third generation of her family on her maternal side to grow up in Oakland. She attended Oakland public schools until transferring to Bishop O’Dowd and is about to take up residence in Washington  DC, where she will be pursuing a graduate degree at George Washington University. Best of luck to Taylor, and here’s hoping we see more festive events such as this in our Grand Lake neighborhood.

That evening, Freya Prowe, owner of Brother and Sisters Flower shop hosted a show of her own artwork in a hidden second-floor alcove, as well as a Flower Crown workshop–one in a series of workshops that Freya schedules throughout the year. If you’re interested, send her an email asking to be added to her email list and/or follow her on Instagram.

We were so impressed by the chalk drawings on Ordinaire’s sandwich board, we had to inquire as to who was responsible. Turns out it’s a member of their staff named Matias Arganaraz. Matias, who is originally from New York, attended the Institute of Art in Chicago and has had several one-man shows. Here’s a link to his bio that also includes photos of some of his artwork. On June 27, Ordinaire will be offering a special tasting of Dorsal Wines made from “organically grown fruit with zero additives.”

Alkali Rye currently has three tastings scheduled for July. Please check their event calendar for hours and any later additions. And, in honor of Pride Month, Kori and Jessica have “curated a selection of featured producers whose products embody the vibrancy and diversity of this special occasion. These producers have not only created exceptional libations but have also made a positive impact on the LGBTQ+ community.” In the “time flies” department, they’ve been celebrating the third anniversary of the shop’s opening this past week. Here’s a snippet from the thank you message they sent to their email list (the entire text is well-worth reading).

These past three years have been the most rewarding and challenging of our professional lives. We couldn’t be more grateful for the unwavering support of our amazing friends and family, who have been there for us in countless ways, from little acts of kindness like dropping by with snacks or a quick hello, to the immense hours spent coaching, advising, listening, and even providing financial support 🙏

The Melo Melo Kava Bar has an Open Mic on Mondays, a Tongan Kava Ceremony on Thursdays, and  DJs on Friday nights. Their monthly calendar regularly lists special events, which in July include Erin Sky Music on the 11th, Citizen Music live on the 20th. FYI: This is MeloMelo’s third location. The first is in Berkeley, the second in Santa Cruz, and a fourth is about to open in Los Angeles.

Ikaros has recently instituted a Happy Hour (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30–8:00pm) that they describe as the “ideal setting for relaxation and good times whether you’re celebrating a successful workday, catching up with friends, or simply looking to unwind.” To which we’d add, with warm weather in the offing at long last, be sure to check out the patio and also their new website where it’s super easy to reserve a table.

Coming up and/or currently playing at the Grand Lake Theatre: Oppenheimer, Barbie and Indiana Jones 5.

“For Lease” signs are up at 3344 Grand, which most recently housed Swann Salon. The interior has since been totally revamped and is awaiting a new tenant. Next door, the same broker is listing the long-time home of Connie’s Cantina. It would be nice if the Peter Lee murals could be preserved but odds are they won’t be. Either way, a new restaurant will be welcomed. For the record, years ago, a photo I took of a stunning mural depicting a New Orleans jazz band in the now-vacant space next to Zachary’s Pizza ended up in a traveling display created by the US State Department. When a new restaurant moved in, it was painted over. C’est la vie!

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.