Grand Avenue Merchant News – May 2021

by Ken Katz

This year’s Mother’s Day (May 9) will be particularly memorable, especially for all the mothers and grandmothers out there who, due to COVID restrictions and health concerns, have been unable to see (let alone hug) their children and grandchildren for well over a year. All three of the florists on Grand (Brother & Sisters Flower Shop, Grand Flowers, and Lee’s Discount Florists) are also looking forward to next weekend as an opportunity to brighten up those lives.

Thursday afternoon we stopped by Lee’s Discount Florist, where we shot the above photos and visited briefly with one of the four Lee Family sisters who work full- or part-time in the shop they opened on Grand in 1992. For the time being, entry to the shop is restricted, but they are taking orders over the phone, always have a selection of bouquets on hand, and can make custom flower arrangements to your specifications.

As COVID cases are decreasing and vaccination numbers rising, it’s wonderful to see locally-owned neighborhood businesses finally beginning to return to a sense of normalcy. Over the coming weeks, we will see shops and restaurants throughout the Grand Lake District relaxing distancing requirements.

The reopening of Knimble earlier this week was the very best news on the retail front. Shop Manager, Liz Lord is enthusiastic about their prospects going forward, and she noted that they are looking for a new part-time employee and are again buying clothes, but currently for store credit only. She added that shoppers will be pleased to know that the fitting rooms are open again.

Overall, the outlook for Grand (and Lakeshore as well) is excellent. Surprisingly few businesses closed in the face of what may be the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and most of the spaces that were vacated have already been filled. There are, however, at least two Grand Avenue businesses that are in extreme peril.

One is Wild Rabbit Bakery, which had the misfortune of opening just a few months before the onset of the pandemic – just as they’d begun to establish a loyal following. One of the three partners has bowed out and is again writing software, and the bakery’s hours have recently been reduced to Saturdays and Sundays only, every other week. Wild Rabbit offers superb baked goods including items such as the Chocolate Thimble and Canelé that you won’t find elsewhere. Just as importantly, the owners are really good people who want to do right for the GABA and the neighborhood. Wild Rabbit is open today and tomorrow from 9 am – 3 pm. Items can be pre-ordered online via an order form that is well illustrated and the ultimate in usability.

The other shop that is in dire straights is All Things Hemp. It started out years ago as Dr. J’s Closet, but owner Jan Bowman eventually decided that hemp products were the way to go. The shop is now operated mainly by Jan’s daughter, Kim McAfee, who responded to our email inquiry about their current status with this statement:

Here’s the deal:
Mention the Splash Pad News and get a 20% deduction on any CBD topical

We are genuinely hurting, as we had to close for seven months and also did not receive one cent of governmental financial support. That’s because we carry CBD products. We are also having a HARD time advertising for the same reason. We’ve contacted the local radio stations and they said that, although we have numerous other “hemp” items, they can not run an ad because we carry CBD. So, no money and no advertising equals no business which equals the sure death of a business.

We do have a GoFundMe page, but it had to be listed under “Local business” name because GoFundMe took down the “All Things Hemp” page  due to the CBD concerns. This is all just crazy. As you know, this is another perfect example of, if you have money you can do anything. CBD is federally legal as it’s the NON-THC stuff that Safeway, Walmart, Sephora, CVS, Ulta, Lucky’s, etc. all carry.

We are the only store of its kind in the country. And for sure one of the ONLY black-owned cannabis stores. There are many CBD stores and maybe a few fabric places that carry a few hemp items, but we are the only place that has such a large diverse selection of CBD and hemp products. Besides the standard CBD tincture and topicals, we have CBD toothpaste, deodorant, mints, water, suppositories, etc. And we also have  hemp products including journals, socks, sunglasses, shoes, and so forth.

All Things Hemp3738 Grand Avenue – 510.986.0366
Open (for now) Wednesday – Friday from 11 am – 5 pm.
Facebook: @allthingshemp510

You might be wondering about the identity of the masked woman pictured on the right. The more relevant question is, “Why is Alyce Preston moving yet again?” By our count, back in 2003 when she put her name in lights in the Splash Pad Plaza as “Newfangles Clothing,” she was on Lake Park adjacent to the freeway entrance. Then she moved to a space on Lakeshore in the Wells Fargo Bank building, followed by a move to her current location at 3223 Grand Avenue, where the shop was reborn as Alyce on Grand. If everything goes according to plans, Alyce will reopen in the next week or so two doors up the street in what used to be Oak Common. As to why she’s moving, Alyce says that change is good for you and, in fact, every move thus far has been a positive step and this one will undoubtedly prove to be the same.

In other Grand Avenue News:

  • Walden Pond is again purchasing used books.
  • An Oaklandside article  on Thursday revealed that The Alley was reopening that evening.
  • On May 2, from 1 – 3 pm, Urban University will be hosting online their annual celebration honoring SHERO Awardees who help support Oakland’s most vulnerable groups. The event will include online auction is also available. Please click here for tickets and details.

  • Panorama Framing is continuing to show artwork by Tubi Ho, plus they also have a collection of photographs by students at the Oakland School of the Arts that was curated by the East Bay Photo Collective. Owner Ted Dively says they are set up to safely accommodate two design appointments at the same time. Arrangements can be made email, phone, or text.

Ken Katz is a semi-retired antiques dealer. He 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 an editor, contributor and publisher of the online Splash Pad News – but the Editor in Chief (and sometimes contributor) Keila Diehl, proofreads all the copy; filters content as needed and makes us look our very best.