Back in the Elihu Harris years’ Oakland’s marketing department came up with a bumper sticker to promote a good buzz for the Town. It stated, “It’s Hot. It’s Happening. It’s Oakland.” Then the firestorm, the largest urban wildfire in history, happened and that slogan was banished.
Even as we regularly hit the New York Times Travel section in increasingly glowing terms, some of our local newspaper columnists feel they must constantly remind us of our woes. But, despite all our problems, Oaklanders continue to raise families and start businesses-a bunch of us even consider running for office-and they start lots of them here in my ‘hood, on Lakeshore and Lakepark Avenues.
Since Lakeshore established the first Business Improvement District in Oakland, it has been one of the top places to open a store or restaurant. We have had our ups and downs like other retail districts; and we’re one of the more expensive areas in Oakland to set up shop, but the cost has been worth it to many local entrepreneurs.
It’s hard to keep up with the new, expanding, and remodeled businesses in our little district near the heart of Oakland, Lake Merritt, but here goes. One of the somewhat controversial additions is the Good Vibrations shop which will have its grand opening on January 28th but has already had a soft opening resulting in plenty of satisfied customers.
The Cuban restaurant, Caña, on Lakepark which had built up a good breakfast and lunch business including takeout dinners, has recently finished remodeling its next door bar and dining room. It was already full of happy diners last Saturday when I sat down there with friends.
The Easy Lounge closed down for remodeling last summer and reopened just after the holidays but has already created a buzz with its new kitchen and fresh Farmers’ Market inspired drinks. It’s a true locally grown business catering to the neighborhood and beyond.
Two new chain restaurants will also be serving their specialties soon. Wingstop, which is owned by a local franchisee, will include freshly made salads in addition to the habit-forming fried wings. It has certainly had its detractors, but the owners have promised to be involved with our district and sensitive to neighborhood preferences.
Chipotle looks to be setting up shop in the spring where the China Lake Express had established itself before losing its lease. Chipotle is known as a green business and will serve fresh Mexican fare. Their website says, “Raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and the farmers.” Both new establishments will serve beer and wine.
Many Oaklanders know that the Kwikway has been restored to a new glory unlike the former fast food stop. Now, the old Adam’s Burger will become the Flipside, a family-style restaurant with burgers for everyone including vegetarians, real milk shakes, and salads. Look for a grand opening soon in a completely remodeled space.
We had a wonderful bedding store next to the inimitable Silver Lining Jewelry where a family from Kyrgyzstan sold organic wool combined with high quality linens. Now, Ergo Sleep Systems, offering natural linens plus organic mattresses will step into their space soon. Next to the new sleep shop is the popular Collage which really fulfills its name with boutique clothing, local art, and occasional DJs.
Upstairs from the Flavors of India-Hipline, Fitness and Belly Dance Studio, promises to help you, “Explore your inner Shakira in our signature Belly Dance Drill Class!” They are expected to arrive by February and will add lots of energy to our already buzzing Avenues.
Many of you have already experienced last year’s newcomers-Marcia Lam, former partner in L’Amyx who opened her own Asian fusion spot, Lin Jia, serving foodies from near and far and Top Dog, everybody’s favorite hot dog shop.
Some of the best window shopping can be had at the Silver Moon Kids’ Store-don’t miss the overdressed giraffe-an important addition for the buggy-pushing crowd right next to Namaste Yoga for relaxation, eclectic health info and yoga gear. If you are looking for natural art pieces for your home, check out Chi, Wind, and Water a little farther down the block, also new this year.
We now have almost every phone store known to humankind so whether you are shopping for a smart phone or are a part of the pre-text, pre-hashtag generation, there’s a plan for you.
On Saturdays it’s wise to walk to the Avenues on your way to the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, not just because parking is practically impossible; but because you might just miss a party goin’ on-one for the whole family in the Lakeshore shopping district.