Grand Avenue Merchant News – June 2022

by Ken Katz

In the April edition of the Merchant News, we mentioned that when the office building at 3645 Grand was sold, everyone was advised that it would be repurposed for residential housing but that’s not what eventually happened. A couple of weeks ago, at an Open House for prospective tenants we found out why when Don McBirney (the Commercial Broker from Collier’s International) introduced us to the property owner, Sid Lakireddy. Asked about the change in plans, Mr. Lakireddy said that their original intention was, in fact, to convert the three-story building into live/work spaces but the stumbling block came from state and local regulations that made the transformation prohibitively expensive. He added that “someone would have to really sit down and roll up their sleeves , concentrate on the problem in order to really determine what changes are needed to make it easier and cheaper to convert existing uses to housing.” Given the ongoing shortage of housing and the extent to which a large percentage of office workers, who have been working remotely for the past couple of years, may never return, let’s hope that that “someone” rolls up his or her sleeves and does just that.

How Mr. Lakireddy came to buy the property was an equally interesting revelation–especially since the Splash Pad News has previously published immigration stories penned by three Grand Lake business owners and this month, we’re adding a fourth from the owner of Romanat Cafe. He arrived in the US when he was six-months old and initially, lived in a home on Valle Vista almost directly behind the building he’s just refurbished. There were a total of twenty-plus members of his extended family in that residence but after a year, he and his parents moved into an apartment on Jean St. Several decades later, he’s the co-founder of Anchor Valley Partners and President of the 22,000-member California Rental Housing Association.

Just as we were poised to send out our blast email, Jessica Moncada Konte, co-owner of Alkali Rye handed us the Grand Avenue scoop of the month. Her family, who own Oakland-based Red Bay Coffee Roasters, has leased the Wilde Brother’s space and will re-open it in the next few weeks. In addition, Jessica was pleased to share news about Alkali Rye being featured in a Punch article about the Best Specialty Wine Shops in America. As if that isn’t enough news, Jessica and Kori have a packed June Calendar that includes four, free “Back Bar Tastings” as well as Hot Waxxx: A Big Gay Car Wash from 2 – 5 pm on Saturday, June 25. The Baloney Boys will be teaming up with Alkali Rye and LFG Productions to bring you a drive-thru car wash just in time for Pride Month! A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Alyce Preston has previously had storefronts on Lakeshore, Santa Clara and elsewhere on Grand but we have reason to believe that she’s finally found her “happy place” at 3231 Grand. The shop is beautifully appointed including limited-edition woodblock prints by MyMajiArt. With a five-star Google rating, we especially liked this review: This is a NYC-caliber boutique in the heart of Oakland. Their style feels current with artistic and feminine flair. They also have some modern and minimalist pieces as well. Good selection of jewelry. Check it out for some Fashun!

This past Sunday as we were walking up Grand, we happened across Lydia Wood as she was freshening up the succulents hanging from the staircase that separates the Grand Lake Veterinary Hospital from the adjacent storefront that now houses a treatment and four exam rooms. Lydia is an Associate Veterinarian working alongside Drs. Dunn and McDonald and for the past years, she’s also been doing all the exterior “landscaping” including the large curbside planter.

A brief plug in our November 2020 merchant update for United Grooming Salon noted that the owners hoped to continue offering a rotating exhibit of artwork by local artists. Here’s some of the latest examples.

We just received an invite from Dr. Natasha Bernard, the owner of Alchemy Restorative Medicine, for an art show from 5 – 7 pm tomorrow.

Tracey Williams, the Founder and Executive Director of Urban University is hosting a Juneteenth Celebration on June 18th featuring a pop-up and a sidewalk music concert.

Grand Avenue News in Brief

  • Due to popular demand, Kibbe is back on the menu at Ikaros and with the arrival of Summer, it’s the perfect time to check out their back-yard patio.
  • Bake Sum’s hours are 9 to 2 Fridays through Sundays and 9 to 1 on Mondays…or until the shelves are bare. The lines aren’t what they used to be but Joyce has added a bench out front to ease tired feet.
  • Ruth Stroup, the “Insurance Lady” on Grand Avenue, has supported the Agricultural Institute of Marin over the past several years with substantial donations to help fund the Bounty Box community giveaway program, as well as supporting reduced prices for EBT coupons. If you were at the market on May 8, chances are you saw her once again give away her signature shopping bags.

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.