Grand Avenue Merchant News – May 2023

by Ken Katz

In last month’s article about vacant storefronts in the Grand Lake District, we noted that the Grand Avenue Business Association (GABA) was doing relatively well with only six vacancies. This month, we’re delighted to report that three of those spaces have since been leased, beginning with Brite Cleaners at 3349 Grand. According to Timmy Nguyen, the owner of Miss Saigon which is right next door, it’s going to reopen as a Boba tea bar. A peek inside revealed heavy construction already underway, including a dropped ceiling and trenching for a new drainage line – a major requirement whenever a space is retrofitted for prepared foods of any kind.

Miss Saigon’s other neighbor, Smitty’s, has recently been leased after being closed for a couple of years. The new owners are JJ Jenkins and Shari Murphy, who partnered in purchasing Baggy’s By the Lake in 2021. JJ’s stellar career also includes 17 years as owner of Merchants Saloon on 2nd Street near Jack London Square. From what he shared during a long phone conversation, the new version of Smitty’s will be cleaner and sport a new mural inside but, other than that, they want to “keep Smitty’s authentic and honor its roots of being a friendly neighborhood bar.”

Around the corner on Santa Clara adjacent to Romanat Cafe, the large Total Tan space is going to become home for an extension of the Oakland LGBTQ Center that focuses exclusively on young people. Anthony Bennett, the GABA President tells us that they’ve done a beautiful job redoing the interior, but we’ll have to wait until next month for photos and more details.

The scope of the above-mentioned article about commercial vacancies was limited to the area between Mandana and Lake Park but good things are happening on Grand above Mandana as well. In April of last year, we reported at length on the reopening of the large commercial building at 3645 Grand with the Piedmont Neuroscience Center as its first major tenant. According to Don McBirney, the Lease Manager for the property, the building is now 75% occupied; the newest tenants are The Exercise Coach and a Chiropractic office shared by Dr. Lisa Koenig and Dr. Eva Whitmore.

Walden Pond Books is hosting a book signing on May 2 from 11:00 am – Noon for Deep Oakland, Andrew Alden’s just-published book about Oakland’s geologic history. In addition, copies are going to be available for sale at the Farmers Market on May 20 from approximately 10:30 am to 12:30 pm during which Andrew will be signing the books and periodically talking about the contents. Background music will be provided by David Gans, a neighborhood treasure who co-authored a book on the Grateful Dead; hosted Dead to the World on KPFA; still broadcasts live music on a podcast titled The Grateful Dead Hour; and, in his spare time, has been documenting the marquee at the Grand Lake Theatre for two decades. Long-time Farmers Market patrons may also remember David performing regularly at the market, which was the inspiration for a CD titled, The Ones that Look the Worst Taste the Best. This appearance he insists is a one-time encore on behalf of his long-time friend, Andrew Alden.

Urban University’s Annual Celebration of Single Mothers and Community is scheduled for May 7. Council President and District 2 Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas will be there to present awards to the small-business owners who are being honored: Freya Prowe of Brother & Sisters Flower Shop along with Kalu Gebreyohannes and Alyce Preston of Alyce on Grand. The event will be held in Freya’s second-floor gallery. Tickets for attending in person or viewing on zoom are available at this link. Donations can also be made using the same link.

Two Two at 3221 Grand continues to expand its inventory and also has four workshops (one of which is sold out) scheduled for May. Prior registration is required using this link. Check their website and instagram account for details and updates about additional events.

News in brief:

  • Michael’s Chocolates has a new refrigerated case with a wider selection of gelato and sorbet flavors.
  • Bake Sum is now open seven days a week.
  • Sister has new hours.

  • Vitality Sol at 3756 Grand Avenue will be celebrating its First Anniversary at their current location on May 20 from 1 – 5 pm. The event will be outdoors and open to all.
  • N Gardizi LLL is preparing to assume ownership of The Libertine. According to some sources, it’s going to be converted into a Tiki Bar, but that may just be wishful thinking.
  • Urban Furniture is showcasing hand-crafted jewelry by Christina Rouse through the end of May.
  • As reported last month, Radbird is an official stylist for a Portrait Slam on the USS Hornet on May 20. Tickets for models and photographers are still available at this link.
  • Lynn & Lu’s and Domino’s Pizza were both burglarized on March 28 – late night or early morning, which has been an ongoing and costly problem for local restaurants.

Please support locally-owned businesses on Grand and on Lakeshore by voting in Oakland Magazine’s Best of Competition no later than June 1. Here’s the link. 

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.




5 responses to “Grand Avenue Merchant News – May 2023”

  1. Just slightly outside of GrandLake we have been presenting a terrific front yard dance/concert series about every six weeks. It has been a huge success and is very family oriented. This Sunday is the amazing Andre Thierry Accordion Soul group- one of the best in the country, playing Zydeco and much beyond. There is plenty of room for dancing and many people bring lawn chairs. The band is paid from tips only.
    341 Athol Ave @ Haddon, walking distance (for most) from from Grand/Lakeshore. 3:00-4:30.

  2. Ernie M. Avatar
    Ernie M.

    the headline in the Splash Pad News I received that prompted me to up the link mentions “Who Mourns for the 48 year-old homeless guy who just died beneath the 580 overpass.” Did I miss it at the link or is not there?

    1. Ken Katz Avatar
      Ken Katz


      As a matter of policy, the landing page only includes links to the source. In this, the article was referenced in the Odds and Columns and the link does work there. For your convenience, here’s the link to Joanne’s article: BTW: Apologies for the delay in responding as I’ve been out of town.

  3. Eve S Avatar

    Curious if there is any intel on the former Starbucks space on Lakeshore ?

    1. Ken Katz Avatar
      Ken Katz

      Eve. Not that we know but will reach out the BID Co-Directors and the property owner, if possible.