Grand Avenue Merchant News – May 2022

by Ken Katz

Mother’s Day without flowers would be like Christmas without trees or Hanukkah without latkes. That being the case, rejoice over the fact that Grand Lake residents have easy access to three flower shops on the same block — each with its own unique charms: Lee’s Discount Florist, Brother and Sister Flower Shop and Grand Flowers. With each, you have the option of shopping in person or ordering online.

Bay Functional Fitness opened their doors this past month in a new location behind and above M2. Previously, they had been located on College Avenue, beginning in 2008 with four personal trainers. Unfortunately, the onset of the pandemic was their undoing even though they had a contract with a corporate client and a few regulars who logged in on Zoom. In 2020, a landlord who wasn’t sympathetic to their plight evicted them, and they were forced to sell all their equipment. In a space roughly half the size of the former studio, they’re back in business with just two trainers, Mark Lynn and Michael Smartt, who are also co-owners of the business.

Asked about their goals, Michael pointed out their logo and stressed that their focus was on providing functional fitness for “real people.” To attain that end, they do typically employ weights and exercises to strengthen muscles but, as personal trainers, they also talk about diet and life style. He added that currently his regular clients range from a nationally ranked competitive swimmer to an individual with severe Parkinson’s disease.

Asked about his background, Michael says he always enjoyed the outdoors as a kid and as a young adult worked as a bike messenger in San Francisco for five years. He decided to go “straight” and earned a Master’s in Kinesiology from Hayward State. Mark Lynn was a serious athlete who, during his younger years, gained a sense of awe with regard to human physical potential. This led to a career initially working as a Cardiac Rehab Specialist and then as a Personal Trainer beginning in 1998.  He has several certifications from ACSM and NSCA, as well as sports performance speciality certifications. He says that, “Being a trainer is gratifying to me because this profession allows me to visualize and realize my clients’ goals, be they performance, weight loss, strength, post-rehab, or general wellness. He adds that, “I do it because fitness is one of my passions.” Another is his love of music, which he satisfies as owner of The Golden Bull (a music venue on 14th Street) and as a musician with the Oakland-based band “Dear County.”

For the time being, Bay Functional Fitness is only open by appointment for one-on-one training. They are also under contract with Pixar and Marqeta, with whom they’d previously offered on-site training. That, too, is mostly still on hold due to COVID so they’re providing online portals in addition to in-person training.

We’ve titled the above photo collage, “What a Difference a Couple of Weeks Makes,” which seems like an obvious choice when you view the before and after photos we grabbed from muralist Pancho Pescador’s Facebook page. Pancho is a prolific and highly regarded muralist. The Local Wiki page has twenty-five of his murals listed — which is very likely incomplete and one of those murals was the focus of the documentary, “Alice Street” that C. J. Hirschfield reviewed in the October 2020 edition of the Splash Pad News. This particular mural at 3515 Grand Avenue was commissioned by Dr. Kenda Burke, owner of Awaken Chiropractic (Awaken is the title of the mural). In 2011, Dr. Burke pulled out all the pavers in the office’s front yard and planted a wonderfully maintained garden. Intentionally or not, the garden and the mural now seem to be of one piece.

We couldn’t help but notice that Left Coast Yoga (which opened in 2013) has recently tripled in size. In response to our inquiry, owner and CEO Rachel Rajput wrote this:

Last year, we took over the two spaces at 3700 and 3702 Grand, formerly occupied by DeKors Shutters and Rasul’s Oriental Rugs. Left Coast now spans three storefronts, which include two yoga rooms plus the new “Left Coast Lounge”! The Lounge is a lovely plant-filled space complete with a donation-based bookstore, coffee, tea, and new + used yoga clothing boutique. Everything for sale in the Lounge is upcycled in some way… even the giant turquoise couch was purchased from Uhuru Used Furniture! This space is open before and after yoga classes for yogis to chat and create community. The Lounge and both yoga rooms are available to rent hourly when classes are not being offered.
We’ve also expanded our offerings with a Family Yoga Class every Saturday, Weekly Outdoor Yoga, Massage, Sound Healings, Yoga Retreats, Teacher Trainings, and of course the high-quality group yoga classes we’ve offered since 2013. Please come by and support this WOC-owned business that was hit especially hard in the pandemic and subsequent mask mandates. Left Coast is especially interested in Corporate Wellness partnerships, as more and more companies make the move to provide wellness services for their employees in Oakland. Our New Student Special is only $69 for one month of Unlimited Yoga, and can be purchased at this link. Memberships are offered on monthly or weekly billing for all budgets. Our sister studio, Left Coast: Laurel is located at 4148 Macarthur Blvd. Email us for Corporate Wellness, Space Rentals or questions!

The cafe at Sister is currently open on mornings Wednesdays through Sundays and for dinner from 5:00-9:00pm Wednesdays through Saturdays. All the pastries and those gorgeous loaves of bread are made in-house. The newest additions to the pastry menu are a Rhubarb Danish and a Strawberry Pistachio Galette. We’re also told that the brunch menu includes cocktails laced with espresso, and on Wednesday evenings, bottles of wine are half price.

In addition to free tastings every Saturday afternoon from noon-3:00pm, Alkali Rye will be participating in this year’s Oakland Cocktail Week for six straight days featuring six different distillers ranging from Mezcal to Amaro to Small Batch Whiskey. The festivities begin May 3 with tastings of Home Base spirits in limited edition bottles designed by Oakland artist Ari Takata-Vazquez, along with an art pop-up sponsored by Art Murmur. The week ends on Sunday with a Yahshi Bakes pop-up in their renovated upstairs shop.

We stopped in at Walden Pond last week and had a long talk with Bob Fisher, who said that they’ve just added two new book sections: Horror and Contemporary Romance novels. He also pointed out the section where they regularly honor special events. May will feature Asian authors in celebration of National Asian Heritage Month. When our conversation turned to Charlie Haas’s new novel (see Odd & Ends), Bob revealed that Walden Pond’s very first book reading was for The Enthusiast, which Charlie published in 2009.  That also turned out to be their last book reading at Walden Pond — the turnout was so large, the aisles were filled and the doors had to be closed.

Grand Avenue News in Brief

  • Radbird has doubled their inventory in the last month and also expanded their hours: Thursdays through Sunday, noon-6:00pm.
  • Michael’s Chocolates will be offering a special Mothers’ Day Collection that will include two flavors of truffles — Strawberry Cheesecake and Thai Coconut. While you’re there, be sure to also check out their “transfer print” chocolates, whichearned a prestigious “Good Foods” award.
  • Galleria Scola has been providing custom frame services on Grand Avenue for thirty-five years, and for a good portion of that Elida has been practicing the art of assemblage. Pictured above is one of her pieces for sale in the shop.

  • On Monday, May 2 from 10pm-midnight (as part of Oakland Cocktail Week),  the Libertine will be hosting a karaoke night with cocktail specials served from their state-of-the-art Jim Beam Cocktail Cart + sampling and swag.
  • Ted at Panorama Framing reports that, as infections are waning, more and more customers are showing up with prized possession in need of frames. On the day we visited, that enormous vintage French poster had just arrived.
  • Timmy Nguyen cares for what has to be the best landscaped tree well in the Grand Lake commercial district. His restaurant Miss Saigon has a monopoly on Banh Mi sandwiches, including seafood options: catfish, snapper or shrimp.
  • 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. On May 8th, she’ll be back at the market giving away shopping bags that we know from experience are perfect for farmers market shopping.
  • Megadeluxe Custom Caps reports that business in their storefront at 3234 Grand has been even better than anticipated and they are now open five days a week (Tuesdays-Saturdays) from noon to 5:00pm.
  • After twenty-three years as an employee and sixteen as owner of Norge Laundry and Dry Cleaning Village, Genny Brugen and her partner have been evicted for non-payment of rent due to the COVID pandemic. They’re now in a motel looking for permanent housing.
  • On May 25, the Grand Lake Theatre will be hosting the Oakland premier of American Justice on Trial followed by a panel discussion that includes producer/author Lise Pearlman and Huey Newton’s brother, Melvin.

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.