Tag Archives: shopping

Guide for last-minute holiday shopping in Oakland

21 Dec

A surprising number of people have been reaching my blog in the past few days by searching for “oakland holiday gift guide” or something similar to that. The problem is that all the events in my Oakland holiday shopping guide have now ended, and it’s clear many people are still looking to shop locally.

At this point, you might just be tempted to do all your shopping online or head down to a big box store, but there are still many opportunities to finish (or start) your holiday shopping in Oakland. Here are a few of the places I recommend.

Rockridge Home

Last year, I didn’t manage to write about Rockridge Home until after the holiday season, which I regretted because it’s my favorite place to buy presents. As I wrote last year:

And soon I realized Rockridge Home was one of the best places in Oakland to go gift shopping. They have a little bit of everything there – art, kitchen tools, books, music, toys, and all sorts of random fun things that you really want to buy for yourself but can’t justify spending the money on. Whether your budget is $5 or $500, you’ll be able to find something that’s just right. You can feel good about spending money there, as they recently became a Certified Green Business.

So whatever you’re looking for and whomever you’re looking to gift to, chances are that you’ll find something at Rockridge Home. And gift wrapping is free so you don’t need to worry about having time to do that yourself.

5418 College Avenue, Oakland
Open 11am-8pm everyday
Accessible by Rockridge BART or the 51 bus


There are tons of incredible Oakland-focused t-shirt artists, but only one of them is setting its truck up this Tuesday and Wednesday to help you finish your last-minute shopping. You can buy t-shirts, hoodies, and tote bags that celebrate Oakland for people of any age and size – from infant to adult. Head down to their truck tomorrow or Wednesday to support local artists while completing your shopping.

Piedmont & Pleasant Valley
Tuesday & Wednesday from 12-7

Awaken Cafe

Awaken Cafe is not just a great place to get a cup of coffee or an excellent chai, but also a perfect place to snag a few gifts for that coffee-lover in your life. Swing buy for an Awaken Cafe t-shirt or travel mug, coffee-brewing supplies, coffee beans in gift boxes, and more. While you’re there, drink a cup of coffee to fuel the rest of your holiday shopping.

414 14th Street (between Broadway & Franklin)
Monday through Friday: 7 am to 6 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8 am to 5 pm
Accessible by 12th Street BART station or many AC Transit buses

Gift Certificates to Oakland Stores & Restaurants

If you struggle with ideas for gift-giving, gift certificates are a great option. Just call your favorite Oakland store or restaurant and ask if they have gift certificates available. You’ll be supporting an Oakland business and could introduce someone you know to one of the great places Oakland has to offer. My favorite place to buy gift certificates is Piedmont Springs, since most anyone would appreciate an hour in an outdoor hot tub, a massage, or skin care treatments.

Telegraph Holiday Street Fair

This isn’t in Oakland, so I didn’t mention it in my last post, but the Telegraph Holiday Street Fair in Berkeley does feature many Oakland artists. If you can brave the crowds, you’ll find plenty of jewelery, glass art, clothing, ceramics, metal-work, and just about anything you can imagine. And this is one of the few places where you can buy gifts on Christmas eve, so if you’re a super-last minute shopper, this just might be the best solution for you.

Telegraph, between Dwight & Bancroft in Berkeley
December 23rd & 24th from 11am-6pm
Accessible by the 1/1R bus lines

Rockridge Home

26 Dec

rockridge-home-1I’ve been meaning to write about Rockridge Home for weeks now and I promised myself I’d at least recommend it as a place to do last minute holiday shopping, but that didn’t quite happen. So here’s the post I meant to write.

On Thanksgiving weekend I walked down College to Diesel, hoping to find a copy of the most recent edition of Oakbook. I was very disappointed to find no copies there, especially since it was the third store I had checked of stores that are supposed to carry the magazine. But as I walked out, I noticed that Rockridge Home, across the street, was having a sale – 20% off everything.

And soon I realized Rockridge Home was one of the best places in Oakland to go gift shopping. They have a little bit of everything there – art, kitchen tools, books, music, toys, and all sorts of random fun things that you really want to buy for yourself but can’t justify spending the money on. Whether your budget is $5 or $500, you’ll be able to find something that’s just right. You can feel good about spending money there, as they recently became a Certified Green Business.

I ended up walking out with a couple of journals for myself, which I desperately needed, and some holiday presents for my girlfriend – a CD of acoustic Brazilian music and the Field Guide to Cookies (she is the most incredible baker I know). But even if you walk out empty-handed, you’re bound to enjoy your experience there.

rockridge-home-3The organization of the store is set up for meandering, which is a nice way to shop if you’re not in a huge rush. And the staff is always very helpful and friendly. Plus, if you go when they’re having a sale, they always give out extra treats. The first time I went there, they were serving up delicious sangria, and this time they offered up champagne and mini-cupcakes.

I guess it’s a bit late to do holiday shopping at Rockridge Home, but next time you’re in the area, stop in. Don’t be surprised if you walk out with a gift for someone you love, or for yourself.

Rockridge Home
5418 College Avenue, Oakland
Open 11am-8pm everyday
Accessible by Rockridge BART or the 51 bus.

Flooding the Market with Oakland Pride

1 Oct

Yesterday, I walked down to “Rockridge Out and About,” a street fair that closed off about six blocks of College from Claremont to well past the BART station.

The event was great. It was a beautiful, sunny and breezy afternoon. All three music stages were loud and lively. Cars were stuck trying to circumvent the major thoroughfare while pedestrians roamed freely. There were yummy samples of eight different kinds of local oil, and several kinds of cheeses. I even got to meet someone from ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Rockridge and Temescal Area) and got to ask about upcoming meetings.

But what struck me most was the multitude of vendors selling clothing and accessories featuring some expression of Oakland pride. For a while I’ve been meaning to write about this phenomenon, and now seems like the perfect time. First, I have to admit that I kind of have a problem when it comes to Oakland goods. I barely wear t-shirts anymore, except on the weekends, but I can’t help myself when I see a clever new Oakland design. Just take a look at mine and my girlfriend’s collection:

Oakland Gear

OK… now that we’re past my one weakness when it comes to shopping (alright, I do also have a weakness for local organic food), let’s take a closer look at some of what’s on the market.

There’s of course Oaklandish, which to my knowledge was one of the first groups of artists that started promoting the Oakland image through clothing (and other means, like movies and communal activities). From their website…


OAKLANDISH is a stealth multi-form public art & media campaign designed to illuminate the unique culture and history existing here in The Town. Since our first projects in 2K the now ubiquitous roots image has come to represent the strange luster and oddball spirit that is East Bay life.

Strangely, the Oaklandish truck was no where to be found at the Rockridge street fair yesterday…

The next artist I discovered was the man behind the now infamous Oakland cranes shirt, who runs The Girl and Rhino. He’s got lots of non-Oakland designs too, and I heard via his girlfriend that they might be retiring the crane design soon because they’re getting a bit tired of it. As you can see by our collection, my girlfriend and I are fans.

The Girl and Rhino

(It helps that the artist shows up to the Temescal Farmer’s Market every Sunday and we often chat.) Oh yeah – he has a newish bag that’s not up on his site: i 8 Oakland. You’ll have to find him at the market to snag one of these…

Yesterday, I stumbled upon some artists that have more recently embraced Oakland. The first was 35TH & MAC, who’s tagline is “Town Grown Flavor,” and they had some incredible designs, including these, that me and my girlfriend snagged:

Town Grown Flavor

They also had a nice design of the Oakland Tribune building. Unfortunately, their online store is not up and running yet, but I’m guessing I’ll see them again soon…

Like Minded People Oakland Citysape




Next was Like Minded People, whose designs I’ve seen in Fabric8, a great store in SF that features clothing from several talented Bay Area artists. Believe it or not, I managed not to buy anything from them, but I was tempted by this shirt featuring an old school downtown cityscape:


I hella heart Oakland


You still with me? I hope so because there’s a couple more jewels of East Bay gear I want to share. I really couldn’t write this post with at least mentioning the “I hella ❤ Oakland” shirts. If you haven’t seen these, well, I think you might be living in a cave, but I’ve included a picture just in case. More recently, someone has spun off this idea and created the “I Hella Bike Oakland” (with a picture of a bike). They’re sold at the Tip Top Bike Shop in Temescal, but I have no idea who makes them.

Upper Playground

OK, and here’s my last one (I promise). I was thrilled to find out that Upper Playground recently opened their first East Bay store, in Berkeley on Telegraph. And to celebrate this opening, they’ve released a new East Bay line. I was even more excited to find that one of their designs featured the bus I ride daily, old school orange and green AC Transit style.

Woo! That was tiring. Now that I’ve exhausted myself and anyone who’s still reading, I do have a couple thoughts on this phenomenon of wearing Oakland pride. First off, I think it’s pretty clear by now that I think it’s a good thing. I absolutely love wearing my Oakland pride, especially when I’m in SF or other cities. There’s still a large segment of the population that thinks of Oakland as just another run down city with a lot of crime. I’m happy to showcase the talented artists who make this city a bit brighter.

Besides spreading the word about how great Oakland is, I think wearing and buying Oakland goods in general does something else important -it supports Oakland artists and entrepreneurs. It’s difficult to make it as an artist. That’s why I have a day job and write in my free time. These artists are truly talented, and if Oaklanders are going to support them, who is?

For the three readers that have made it this far, what are your thoughts on this flood of Oakland goods hitting the market? Does it raise any concerns for you? Do you fully embrace it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Emeryville – the Bane of Oakland?

12 Aug

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?

Bay Street, 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.