Tonight I went grocery shopping. Sounds pretty innocent, right? Unfortunately, unless an Oaklander wants to frequent Safeway or the corner liquor store, it’s pretty impossible to do this in Oakland.
So I hopped in my car (my first guilt-ridden act of the night) and drove to Emeryville (my second) to shop at Trader Joe’s. Yes, it was worth the guilt, but it really got me thinking.
Oakland’s a great city, and I manage to spend a good portion of my money here (hell, even the management company that owns my apartment is located in Oakland), but it’s difficult to buy groceries or (much) clothing in Oakland. So where do I end up going? Berkeley or, dare I say it, Emeryville.
Seriously, Emeryville’s a weird place that seems only to exist for high rise apartments, condos, and shopping, shopping, shopping. The closest I’ve gotten to a cultural event in Emeryville was when I saw a jazz band playing at Bay Street – a brief distraction from the lure of dozens of chain stores and restaurants.
I really don’t want my hard earned money going to Emeryville stores. And even more so, it’s not right to have to hop in my car just to buy groceries. But I can only buy so much at the farmer’s market, and I just can’t afford to shop at Market Hall in Rockridge, the only decent grocery store in walking distance from me.
Beyond groceries, I can’t think of even one decent priced shoe store in Oakland. And besides a few boutique stores and a couple used clothing stores, there’s not a realistic place to buy most of my clothing. Preparing for Burning Man over the past couple weeks, I haven’t spent a single dollar in Oakland on my various playa gear.
Luckily, this will be changing soon, as two Trader Joe’s are planned for Oakland – one near Lake Merritt and one in Rockridge, a nice walk from my apartment. And there’s the Whole Foods near downtown, but I’m not holding my breath for that, since the opening date keeps getting pushed back.
Oakland’s working on bringing more businesses to the city, and the changes are slowly making a difference. There’s even a entire blog dedicated to promoting Oakland businesses.
But in the back of my head, I begin to worry. Is Oakland trying too hard? With all the new apartments and condos being built and stores being wooed, might parts of Oakland begin to look and feel like Emeryville?
I hope Oakland never looks like this ↑. Photo courtesy of Cool Town Studios.
Ultimately, I’m not going to get too worried about this. Oakland has a lot of history and style. And I’m confident that enough Oaklanders have similar concerns to stop this from happening.
And when TJ’s finally opens, I’ll just be happy to have a grocery store I can walk to.