How and Where to Blow Your Cash

And pick up some amazing finds in the process.

Antiques & Flea Markets

When it comes to prices, the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places on Earth to live. That is, if you don’t know what you’re doing. The experienced East Bay penny-pincher knows that anything and everything needed for modern living can be purchased at a fraction of the retail cost by going to one of the area’s many amazing flea markets. As the year begins, the biggest, baddest rummage sale of them all, the White Elephant Sale (333 Lancaster St., Oakland, first quarter of the year) takes place just off of 880 near the water. This sale, sponsored by the Oakland Museum of California, is where most Oaklanders bring their unwanteds to be sold for the benefit of the museum. You can find clothes, furniture, instruments, books, toys, and bric-a-brac, all at prices that often dip below one dollar. … The rest of the year, locals can head to the nearby Oakland Coliseum Flea Market (5401 Coliseum Way, Oakland, 510-534-0325, daily), which offers daily flea market fare, with a mild emphasis on small, shop-like groups that can sell you tires, illegal birds, and porn. … The Ashby Flea Market (1937 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-0744, weekends, 7-7) in Berkeley every weekend is more subdued and legal. This one takes place in the Ashby BART parking lot, and offers incense, beads, foods, and other hippie-influenced items. … For the more discerning bargain hunter, the Alameda Point Collectibles Fair (2100 Ferry Point, Alameda, 510-522-7500, first Sundays of the month) is your place to find Tiffany lamps, old paintings, and ancient furniture. It’s also the best place to find unique and weird antiques in the Bay Area. … On the other side of the hills, it’s the Solano Swap Meet (1611 Solano Way, Concord, 925-825-1951) that leads the way, with regular booths offering cheap wares that aren’t always the cleanest, newest, or most legally obtained. … But when it comes to stolen goods, the Laney College Swap Meet (7th St. at Fallon St., Oakland, Sunday mornings) is the king of the heap. This is hands-down the best flea market in the Bay Area, where meth heads sell their stolen goods, Hispanic families sell imported white T-shirts for $2 apiece, and a local video-game fanatic found four unreleased Atari-age prototypes hidden in the piles (paid $29, worth $3,000). This is a swap meet at which you must dig for buried treasures. … If you enjoy all that digging, but can’t wait until Sundays to do it, the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (4695 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-547-6470) is open weekdays, and offers a combination of salvaged goods and crafting supplies. From egg cartons to CDs to stools and stamps, this is where elementary-school art teachers stock up. … For bigger diggings, it’s Urban Ore (900 Murray St., Berkeley, 510-841-7283) in Berkeley that holds the crown. This massive lot and warehouse holds all manner of salvaged goods, but specializes in housing fixtures, like stoves, doors, windows, and toilets.


Print-media reading might be on its last legs elsewhere in America, but curling up with a good book or magazine will never go out of style around here. Bookshops don’t get more eclectic, eccentric, and egalitarian than Book Zoo (6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-654-2655). After years in a Berkeley space little bigger than a VW van, this treasure box of secondhandiana has relocated to bigger digs in Oakland. … Having outlasted both a Barnes & Noble that once stood across the street and Cody’s, which was legendary but didn’t last in its final nearby outpost, Pegasus Books Downtown (2349 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-649-1320) offers new and used books with lots of page-flipping elbow room. Ask the Pegasus staff to recommend their favorites — and they’ll do so with a smile and strong sense of purpose. … Just one year old, Issues (20 Glen Ave., Oakland, 510-652-5700, stocks enough magazines and newspapers to make you almost forget the Internet exists. A mom-and-pop place with a firm local following, it carries big-time glossies and obscure oddities. … Art books are the gift that keeps on giving, even (or especially) if you give them to yourself. The Berkeley Art Museum bookstore (2626 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-642-1475) includes sections on art history, art theory, technique, film, architecture, and design, plus everything you’ll ever want to know about Botero, Boltanski, and the Fauves. … Innumerable internationally renowned literary icons have crossed the threshold of Black Oak Books (1491 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-486-0698), some to give readings — and some just because they live in the neighborhood. Work up an appetite browsing new and used volumes in this Gourmet Ghetto landmark. … A living legend that exudes Telegraph Avenue heritage and history, Moe’s Books (2476 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-2087) is four stories tall and nearly fifty years old. Secondhand books in every imaginable category are the specialty of the house, with a lively calendar of readings by visiting authors, especially poets. … Contra Costa County’s author-event central is Clayton Books (5433D Clayton Rd., Clayton, 925-673-3325). Hosting some of the most famous names and literary cult figures writing today. it’s a friendly — and family-friendly — literary haven east of the Caldecott Tunnel. … It shares that distinction with Rakestraw Books (409 Railroad Ave., Danville, 925-837-7337), another cozy independent. Its events range from intimate readings to deluxe dinners with award-winning authors. … Perfect for a quick last-minute gift-run or for whiling away several hours, Half Price Books (2036 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-6080) is a vast football-fieldish emporium of secondhand and remaindered books at markdown prices. With CDs and DVDs also in stock, you can’t beat Half Price for downtown-Berkeley convenience. … Right nearby, and handy for all your Elvish and Venusian needs, is The Other Change of Hobbit (2020 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-0413). This long-lived and well-loved sci-fi/fantasy specialty shop has some of the nicest and most knowledgeable employees around. … Right around the corner, compact Eastwind Books (2066 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-2350) is your source for everything from bonsai-growing guides to Laotian-English dictionaries to The Book of Jook. A downtown-Berkeley staple for nearly thirty years, it’s a literary trip to Asia and Asian America. … Aching to travel even farther — say, out of this world? Specializing in fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery fiction, Dark Carnival (3086 Claremont Ave., Berkeley, 510-654-7323) is a gateway to other galaxies, imaginary empires, and home-style crime. … Named for Marcus Garvey, Marcus Books (3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, 510-652-2344) has hosted such notables as Toni Morrison and Muhammad Ali since it opened in 1976. It’s not just an independently owned bookstore specializing in African-American topics; as an offshoot of the original San Francisco Marcus Books, which was a Black Power-movement hub, it’s a repository of history. … Nestled in Oakland’s leafy Montclair District, A Great Good Place for Books (6120 La Salle Ave., Oakland, 510-339-8210) has a real neighborhood feel. It’s the hills’ hub for author events, and dozens of local book clubs call it home. … Just browsing the politics section at Walden Pond (3316 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510832-4438) could take a whole afternoon for the ideologically inclined; then the labor-studies and art sections would stretch well into the evening. An old-timer, it feels like bookshops used to. … Whether you’re looking for a classic or something unconventional, independent bookstore Diesel (5433 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-9965) will likely have what you seek. And if the store doesn’t have it in stock, a helpful staff person will gladly order it for you, so you don’t have to go to Barnes & Noble. … Pulitzer Prize-winners and petunias get equal attention at Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts (2904 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-8222). A full schedule of readings, demonstrations, workshops, and other events featuring an international panoply of authors and garden specialists attracts enthusiastic crowds. … Bust out the blue and gold — and green — at the ASUC Bookstore (Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union Building, UC Berkeley, 510-642-1968). It’s the most convenient spot to stock up on a whole semester’s worth of studying, plus pick up a few extra books just for pleasure. … Starting school and low on cash? Right across the street from campus, Ned’s (2476 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-204-0900) sells both new and used versions of textbooks for current UC Berkeley courses. … You say you want a revolution? Solidarity rules at Revolution Books (2425 Channing Way, Berkeley, 510-848-1196), where fiery chat about the Revolutionary Communist Party and its fellow travelers is always on tap. Few retail experiences feel more cerebral than a long, leisurely browse-and-buy at University Press Books (2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-548-0585), which carries the output of university presses from around the world. Visiting scholars on every topic from Northern Californian Native American dance to the ecology of fire discuss their work here. … You can’t learn home construction from books, but Builders Booksource (1817 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-845-6874) gets you partway there. In Berkeley’s luxe Fourth Street district, which is a design-and-architecture success story in itself, this spacious shop’s volumes on architecture, design, and construction provide endless inspiration. It’s not quite a matter of which books you’d choose to read on a desert island … But Alameda is an island. And Books Inc. (1344 Park St, Alameda, 510-522-2226) has all the books you’d choose to read, plus readings by high-profile authors, including many beloved children’s authors. … Is Borders (5903 Shellmound St., Emeryville, 510-654-1633) a bookstore or a whole separate town? With its own cafe and virtually every type of new book you can think of, it’s big enough to get lost in, but that wouldn’t be so bad. … Specializing in ethnic-studies books and poetry, Rebecca’s Books (3268 Adeline St., Berkeley, 510-852-4768) is fairly new, but exudes a nostalgia-stoking hominess. Frequent poetry readings, children’s events, and open mics keep things interactive. … Love to read but low on funds? Remember your local library for books, author events, children’s events, workshops, secondhand book sales, and much more; check out,, and

Cameras, Computers, & Electronics

When it comes to technology, the California Bay Area is about three years in the future. The rest of the country can only salivate at the geeky mecca that is Fry’s (1695 Willow Pass Rd., Concord, 925-852-0300; 43800 Osgood Rd., Fremont, 510-252-5300) basically a Wal-Mart-sized Radio Shack. Be careful when shopping there: at these prices, buying a printer can quickly turn into buying a new hard drive, TV, and a bag of capacitors. Also beware of opened boxes, as Fry’s return policy tends to push broken things back onto shelves. … For the more media-savvy and less technically competent, Best Buy (3700 Mandela Parkway, Oakland, 510-420-0323) is always a great place to find anything that plugs in and makes noise. Best Buy is also the easiest place to find DVDs and video games that are sold out elsewhere. … The Apple Store (5656 Bay St., Emeryville, 510-350-2400) is the best place to find iPod needs, and a great spot to get advice on how to fix a broken Mac. … If you’re a real propeller head who loves to solder more than buy, Al Lasher’s Electronics (1734 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-5915) is the place to go. This Berkeley institution holds all the pieces you need to fix a radio, stereo, or death ray. … Shutterbugs will always want their best photos printed out, and Sarber’s Cameras (1749 Solano Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-0775) is the most reliable place to get that done, though it can be pricey. … Walter Bennett Cameras (3268 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-893-6960) is another great place to find camera equipment, and to ask questions about taking better shots. With Lake Merritt nearby, it’s a great spot to start an afternoon’s photo shoot. … Expert camera jockeys and neophytes alike will want to get to know Looking Glass Photo and Camera (2848 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-6888), where the best equipment can be had at decent prices. Looking Glass’ staff is always friendly and full of information on F-stops, shutter speeds, and chemical concoctions. … Audiophiles will find that there’s no better place to talk ear-geek than at Sound Well (1718 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-2126), a shop that still fixes stereo equipment and components. Though it may cost more than buying new in this throw-away society, the Sound Well is a hold-over from another, surprisingly more eco-friendly era. … For those on the other side of the hills, Stereo Unlimited (1545 Locust St., Walnut Creek, 925-932-5835) is a great place to find all the high-end audio equipment you’ll need to ruin your eardrums and shake your booty. … Of course, DJs have different audio needs than normal people, and that’s why there’s Skillz DJ Workshop (2566A Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-9876), the only place on Telegraph to find needles with your stacks of wax. … And for those who make their music, photos, and mixes in digital form, the always-interesting Used Computer Store (2277 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-8686) is the best place to find old equipment cheap. … But if you’re a broke schlub with no computer, a broken television, and no hope of understanding Windows, you need to go to the Alameda County Computer Resource Center (1501 Eastshore Hwy., Berkeley, 510-528-4052). The ACCRC is a nonprofit computer recycler that fixes old machines, installs Linux on them, and then gives them away to the needy. There’s also a free shelf where cool bits and baubles are offered up to those who are into that sort of thing.

Clothing — New

There’s something otherworldly about the way that clothes designed by Oakland native Erica Tanov (1827 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-849-3331, feel in your hands. Fingers tingle even in anticipation of touching intricately embroidered skirts and tops, light-as-air dresses, and perfectly tailored trousers. It’s clear that in Tanov’s world, the way clothes feel and the way they make a wearer feel are intimately linked. … In addition to stocking sought-after national labels such as Corey Lynn Calter and Paige Premium Denim, Magnet (2508 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-1966, features up-and-coming local designers, too. Look for Del Forte, She-Bible, and Gina Pericini’s designs, to name a few. True to Berkeley style, Magnet doesn’t mess with fussy or pretentious clothing, and these local design whizzes emulate that same relaxed-but-stylish sentiment. … Set aside at least an hour for your foray to Anthropologie (740 Hearst Ave., Berkeley, 510-486-0705,, a beautifully laid-out fashion emporium aimed at the stylish thirties-and-up woman with an equal eye for whimsy, sophistication, and professionalism. Tip: Start off in the sizable sale room at the back of the store. … Nothing feels better than exquisitely sexy lingerie. And there’s nowhere better to find it than at A la Folie (1816 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-845-1616, The shop’s locally crafted, French-inspired delectables don’t come cheap — expect to shell out up to several hundred bucks for a bra set or negligee — but they’re worth every cent. Just ask your partner — or your sexy reflection. … EVarize (2634 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-0376,, named for owner Erica Varize, has ushered in a fresh new style of couture that’s well worth checking out. Varize specializes in customizing her rack designs to fit each shopper’s taste and body, giving each piece a unique flair and a perfect fit — for a fraction of what you’d pay for custom-made clothing elsewhere. … Dish (2981 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-4784), er, dishes out the perfect mix of urban chic and California cool. Featuring brands like Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent, Erica Tanov, and Alexander Wang, this upscale boutique excels at offering clothes that are cute without being cutesy, edgy yet wearable, and timeless while still of-the-moment. Add a carefully curated selection of bags, jewelry, and adorable baby-wear to the mix, and you’ll see why it’s so hard to leave empty-handed. … Got money to burn and an eco-conscience to keep clean? You won’t do better than Atomic Garden (5453 College Ave., Oakland, 510-923-0543,, a truly unique boutique stocked with a small but exquisite selection of casual clothing. Everything in sight — from dresses to sweaters — is made from organic, recycled, or sustainable materials. … For the true blue jean connoisseur who doesn’t mind dropping a couple hundred bucks on the latest, greatest pair, don’t miss August (5410 College Ave., Oakland, 510-652-2711). The airy — if not a tad pretentious — Rockridge boutique houses denim from established power players as well as up-and-coming labels, plus an assortment of beautifully tailored separates. … You could easily pick up an entirely new wardrobe during an afternoon jaunt to Elements (2937 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-6876). One of the more affordable boutiques on College Avenue, Elements offers an equal array of smart, well-tailored basics for work and play, as well as unique, can’t-live-without-it pieces you’ll want to show off ASAP. … If the notion of trekking to Nordstrom Rack or Marshall’s for affordable designer jeans gives you hives, try Habit (5467 College Ave., Oakland, 510-652-2247, At this mini designer outlet you’ll find denim by the likes of True Religion and Ernest Sewn, along with feminine tops, skirts, and frocks by other top brands — at up to 70 percent less than retail. Jeremy’s (2967 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-0701, offers some of the best bargains around on fancy brand-name clothing for men, from Barney’s to J. Crew. Some is damaged — definitely try before buying, lest you wind up showing off your derriere in ripped-in-the-wrong-place jeans — but most are simply overstock. For maximum satisfaction, breeze in often — selection changes rapidly. … For killer jeans that won’t break the bank, you can’t beat Slash (2840 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-665-5994,, the Elmwood mainstay whose genius salespeople have been matching men and women with perfect-fitting denim since 1979. New and vintage Levi’s are the recently expanded shop’s specialty, rounded out by a bevy of other mid-priced brands including LTB by Little Big and Big Star. … Looking for fashion that’s more about art and a little less about whatever trend the fashion mags are pushing this month? Then meet Momoca (2447 Dwight Way, Berkeley, 510-486-8295, The tiny boutique carries only handcrafted clothes and accessories made by local designers. The overall vibe is one that’s sort of futuristic and homey at the same time. … While there’s no shortage of hoity-toity spots to throw down your cash in downtown Walnut Creek, Hush (1354 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, 925-944-4874, may be the most worthy. There’s plenty to put on your wish list here, from togs by A-level designers like Mayle, 3.1 Phillip Lim, and Trovata to eye-catching jewelry from Oaklander Melissa Joy Manning. Fantastic online shopping, too. … Sure, McMullen Boutique (4395 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510- 420-6906, is a never-fail source for sophisticated, contemporary clothes by a slew of well-known and fresh designers. But it’s the warmth and expertise of owner/fashionista-in-residence Sherri McMullen that really sets this shop apart. She’ll even make a trip to your closet for a wardrobe rehab! … My Roommate’s Closet (1366 N. Main St, Walnut Creek, 925-280-8400, bills itself as a “boutique outlet” — and that pretty much sums it up. The owners snap up the best overstock from upscale shops around, and slash the price. End result? A mouth-watering assortment of brand-new garments from designers like Mint, Theory, and Catherine Maladrino— all at least 50 percent off. … Sure, the stuff you’ll find at H & M (5626 Bay Street, Emeryville, is practically disposable — good for a half-dozen public displays before looking beat. Still, it’s so cheap that it’s impossible to resist … and why even bother? Got $50? You’ve got a cute new outfit for that last-minute date you just agreed to go on. (Tip: Steer clear if you’re over 35!) … If you get how skulls and Hello Kitty can happily co-exist under one roof — perhaps you’ve even heard of the “Skelanimals” fashion line (tagline: Dead animals need Love, you) — then Hot Topic (2332 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-3128) just may be the store for you. You’ll discover a wild and cheap assortment of punk- and pop-themed tees, Day-Glo pants, and a bazillion quirky accessories. … Located directly across the street from the Cal campus, Urban Outfitters (2590 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-486-1300, has provided countless study breaks over the years for fashion-forward students seeking new duds for class and beyond. Sift through dozens of mid-priced brands including Free People, Lux, Volcom, BDG, Truly Madly Deeply, and good-old Levi’s and Jordache. … If Urban Outfitters isn’t your thing — too trendy, too expensive, too Avril Lavigne — stroll down the street to Bancroft Clothing Co. (2530 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510- 841-0762). Brave the mad maze of racks here and you’ll be rewarded with fun, flirty dresses, jeans, and other staples for far less dough. … For super-soft basics — along with a few questionably trendy styles (think gold spandex) — make American Apparel (2315 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-981-1641, your go-to destination. A rainbow of body-skimming cotton tees, tanks, sweats, and undies for guys and gals awaits — all sweatshop-free, all made in the USA. … Drift Denim Essentials Boutique (815 Washington St., Oakland, 510-444-8815, proves that when it comes to finding the ideal pair of jeans, size doesn’t matter. Although this utterly hip yet unpretentious Old Oakland shop is small, its selection is spot-on, highlighting the best of tried-and-true labels like J Brand and Joe’s Jeans alongside tougher-to-track-down makers like 18th Amendment and Deener. … Dapper Men (5332 College Ave., Ste. 101, Oakland, 510-594-1940, is the East Bay destination for picking up smooth duds for yourself or your dude. Sure, you’ll find the requisite hipster gear like Friend or Foe tees and hoodies by Suburban Riot. But you’ll also find tailored, office-appropriate button-downs from the likes of up-and-comers Sustainable Collective and Shirt by Shirt. Dapper, indeed. Stocked with swashbuckling couture that leans more toward the daring than the derivative, Deep Sole for Men (530 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-835-7653) is a bulwark against conformity and the mundane. Here, exotic fabrics and cuts from Europe mix with local design. This allows the discerning to cobble together that which is so lacking in today’s fashion: individual style. … There are mad bargains to be found at Players Outlet (1420 Macdonald Ave., Richmond, 510-965-0502), which specializes in puffy down jackets, Fubu-wear, Platinum shirts, sports jerseys, Raiders stuff, baggy pants, hoodies, jogging outfits, and caps with pot-leaf logos. In other words, everything you need to star in your own music video — minus the talent, of course. … Halmar Work Clothes Center (1111 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-4771) is the place to go when you’ve got plans, nothing clean to wear, and no time for laundry. (And hey, your girlfriend is always nagging you to buy more clothes, anyway, right?) At this authentic working-stiff haven (you won’t hear “hipster” here), you’ll find Dickies, Carhartt, and Ben Davis stuff for a steal. … Golden Gate Western Wear (12153 San Pablo Ave., Richmond, 510-232-3644, is one East Bay store that’s unapologetically all-American. Shoppers can peruse Stetson hats, Wrangler jeans, and leather holsters, as well as faux pearl-buttoned plaids and embroidered long-sleeve shirts. And, of course, there’s a wall of cowboy boots.

Clothing — Used & Vintage

Looking like everyone else is a big oh-no in this part of the universe — nonconformity’s the norm in the Bay Area. One of the easiest ways to mix up your look is at the Buffalo Exchange (2585 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, CA, 510-644-9202), where you can find some vintage items, weird stuff from overseas, and, yes, barely worn H&M and Forever 21. … The boutiquier Crossroads Trading Co. (2338 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-7600; 5636 College Ave., Oakland, 510-420-1952) chain can net you some serious big-label scores on jeans and tops, especially. … If you’re looking to stray even further off the beaten fashion path, try Mars Mercantile (2398 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, 510-843-6711), boasting two floors of vintage — guayaberas to Donna Reed house dresses to ironic T-shirts to ’80s prom — with a $20 median price and a stock that’s organized by era and/or style (see: Dirndl dresses and Western shirts). … Get your rock ‘n’ roll boots and ’80s neon at the kitschy, party-cool Down at Lulu’s (6603 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-601-0964); it’s also a hair salon, for one-stop makeover convenience. … Brownie’s Vintage (2001 Milvia St., Berkeley, 510-548-5955) specializes in ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s deadstock (unsold inventory from old-school retailers) mostly in the form of T-shirts, shoes, and pants, for lads and ladies. … The Pretty Penny (5488 College Ave., Oakland, 510-594-9219) boasts local designers mixed with the, well, pretty side of the 20th century — rainbow prints, strappy sandals, and flowery purses — and it shares space with Saturn Records, so you can browse music, too. … The Thrift Town chain (16160 E. 14th St., San Leandro, 510-278-1766; 3645 San Pablo Dam Rd., El Sobrante, 510-222-8696; 41200 Blacow Rd. #E., Fremont, 510-661-9150) specializes in $10-and-under, neatly organized (a rarity in thrift country) and clean wares, with designer labels represented and ’60s and ’70s items totally findable. … Some real, old-fashioned thrift-store deals can be found at Nifty As Is (218 I St., Antioch, 925-778-7747), with standard charity shop gear (current stuff from big box and mall chain stores, ’90s and ’80s vintage, the occasional older find) available for the unheard-of-in-the 21st-century prices of $1 or $2. … Twisters Vintage (2445 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-9478) — nestled comfortably on San Pablo Avenue’s Vintage Row — is the spot to stop for that special-occasion outfit. Ooh and ah over the wide selection of vintage menswear, glamorous jewelry, and cocktail dresses, then smile at the midrange prices. … Its neighbor and fellow member of the East Bay Style Collective, ICON Vintage (2521 San Pablo Ave. at Dwight Way, Berkeley, 510-848-ICON), is a slightly larger take on the same theme, with the addition of new hosiery, underthings, and other sundries courtesy of Retro Diva. … For when you’re feeling Sex and the Cityish, visit Maribel (3251 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-419-0677) for high-ticket designer items in a true consignment boutique setting. … Another, somewhat more conservative alternative is Rockridge Rags (5711 College Ave, Oakland, 510-655-2289), whose staff is notoriously hands-off (don’t expect fawning — just bargains). … Have a San Francisco thrift safari in the Mission — get off at the 16th Street BART stop, head to Valencia, and start hunting at Community Thrift Store (625 Valencia St., 415-861-4910) before walking up a block into the vintage arms of Schauplatz (791 Valencia St., 415-864-5665) and Retro-Fit Vintage (910 Valencia St ., 415-550-1530). Turn right at 24th St. to hit up Painted Bird (1201A Guerrero St., 415-401-7027) before catching your train back at the 24th Street stop.

Food & Drink

If there’s a modern-day version of the medieval meet-everyone-you-know marketplace, it’s the epic Berkeley Bowl (2020 Oregon St., Berkeley, 510-843-6929). The nation’s most expansive produce section expands far and wide, with an in-house restaurant at the opposite end. … Not to be confused with Trader Joe’s, Farmer Joe’s (3501 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, 510-482-8178) is a neighborhood natural grocery with a loyal local following. Friendly staff presides smilingly over an ample selection of organic packaged goods, baked goods, produce, and more. … Name-brand staples and delicacies and lots of wine and beer marked way, way down make Grocery Outlet (2001 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-845-1771) a top stop for those who bargain-shop. You never know what you’ll find from one visit to the next, so stock up when you see it. … Ample parking makes Alameda Natural Grocery (1650 Park St., Alameda, 510-865-1500) extremely accessible. But one might feel a bit guilty burning gas to reach the item’s very own emporium of natural meats, bulk items, organic produce, and more. … Need stinky tofu for late-night cravings, bitter melon for visiting in-laws, mochi ice-cream for breaking up after a fight? An education for some and a home-away-from-home for others, 99 Ranch (3288 Pierce St., Oakland, 510-558-210) is an Asian-foods supermarket with well-stocked (live) fish and meat sections too. … From soft flat comfort-food Afghan bread to eye-poppingly hot harissa sauce, Indus Food Center (1920 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-3663) is a thriving part of Berkeley’s Middle Eastern food nexus. It’s a Xanadu for those who like their halvah by the tub, not by the bar. … At local farmers’ markets, you can chat with the folks who grew and harvested tonight’s dinner. Check out the Old Oakland Farmers’ Market (, the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market (, the El Cerrito Plaza Farmers’ Market (, the Kensington Farmers’ Market (, and the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets ( (different markets are held on different days), for superfresh seasonal produce, along with breads, oils, other organic foods — and samples. … Choose from a world’s worth of cheese at worker-owned Cheeseboard Collective (1504 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-3183). Dead-center in Gourmet Ghetto, it’s picnic central, and the freshly baked breads are often still warm from the oven. … Another worker-owned collective with a long history is Nabolom Bakery (2708 Russell St., Berkeley, 510845-2253). Loyal locals love Nabolom’s Infinite Twist, a brown-sugar-topped carbo-rush. … Before a busy day at the nearby Ashby Flea Market, sample sweets and savories at Sweet Adeline Bake Shop (3350 Adeline St., Berkeley,510-985-7381). Tea cakes, ginger sticks, peppermint patties, and chocolate cream pie complement cheese quiches, challah, and more. … From chocolate-cherry mousse cake to Fatima’s thigh, Crixa Cakes (2748 Adeline St., Berkeley, 510-548-0421) draws inspiration for its ambience and inexpressibly rich goodies from old-fashioned Eastern European bakeries. Sample a slice with coffee to feel that you’re in Budapest, Prague, or heaven. … Feel Good Bakery (1650 Park St., Alameda, 510-864-2733) reminds you why bread is called the staff of life. Handcrafted yummies ranging from cheesebread to San Francisco sourdough give yeast a good name. … A rapper turned baker offers his Southern grandmother’s specialties — peach cobbler, sweet-potato pie, and much more — at It’s All Good Bakery (5622 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Oakland, 510-597-9700). You can’t get much sweeter than 7-Up Pound Cake. … Having honed his chops as pastry chef at the Ritz Carlton, Paul Masse now blends the breathtaking with the traditional at Masse’s Pastries (1469 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-649-1004). Verging on the sculptural, his wedding cakes are among the East Bay’s most popular. … The uppity cookies and cupcakes at the Teacake Bake Shop (5615 Bay St., Emeryville, 510-655-0865) bear no resemblance to the ones at your elementary-school bake sale. They’re spiked with such delights as Madagascar bourbon, Illy espresso, and English toffee. … A neighborhood institution since 1929, Neldam’s Danish Bakery (3401 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-658-1967) has made the birthdays of several generations of Oaklanders very happy indeed. Weddings, too: This place bakes about six hundred of those every year. You can smell it before you reach it. … More than thirty years old, La Farine (6323 College Ave., Oakland, 510-654-0338) really feels French. Along with rich galettes, brioches, and croissants are staples here, the latter sold plain and laced with chocolate, fruits, and nuts. … An Oakland favorite, Genova (5095 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-652-7401) evokes Italian-American delis of yore. Folks line up for large sandwiches stacked with cold cuts and more. … Sunny days say: Picnic, please. Stock up on salads, sandwiches, and all the makin’s at squeaky-clean AG Ferrari (2905 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-2701). … When you need just the right cut of meat, fowl, or fish for a special occasion or everyday meal — leave it to cleavers. The white-aproned butchers at Ver Brugge (6321 College Ave., Oakland, 510-658-6854) back traditional skill with solid suggestions for how to prepare their fare. What sparks more nostalgia than a neighborhood butcher shop? Baron’s Meat & Poultry (3068 Claremont Ave., Berkeley, 510-654-1915) lends a personal touch to its fresh and marinated meats, made-to-order sandwiches, and hearty soups. … Sooner or later, someone had to improve upon plain old ordinary cafes by creating some that focus on the only flavor that matters: chocolate. From chocolate dulce de leche pudding to chocolate Thai iced tea, the Bittersweet Chocolate Café (5427 College Ave., Oakland, 510-654-7159) proffers drinks, pastries, and bars. … A confectioner since he was 25, Charles Siegel believes in pushing the chocolate envelope. At Charles Chocolates (6529 Hollis St., Emeryville, 510-652-4412), elegant bars, truffles, and other treats are made traditionally with no artificial ingredients, and many incorporate exotic fruits, nuts, tea, and other surprises. … Hooper’s Chocolates (4632 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-3703) has been handcrafting Belgian-style sweets since before World War II. Insiders love inexpensive bags of imperfect yet irresistible Hooper’s Bloopers. … Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory (914 Heinz Ave., Berkeley, 510-981-4050) offers tours along with its drinkables and edibles. … With a degree in enology (do you have to ask?), Matt Smith launched Blacksmith Cellars (218 Haight Ave., Alameda, 510-917-0537) in 2003 with the release of his Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Express readers named it the area’s best winery. … There are indeed fine wines at Du Vin Fine Wines (2526 A Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, 510-769-9463). But the inventory also includes affordable selections spanning the globe, from Argentina to New Zealand. … When sunset settles over the island, where better to chill out than the local wine bar? Alameda Wine Co. (2315 Central Ave., Alameda, 510523-9463) gets points for good prices and friendly service. … Kermit Lynch has haunted European backroads for a quarter-century. His discoveries fill Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant (1605 San Pablo, Berkeley, 510-524-1524) with French and Italian sippables spanning a wide range of prices. … With a tasting bar in back, venerable Solano Cellars (1580 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-9463) serves light meals to accompany its vino. Sign up for the newsletter to learn about upcoming events, new arrivals, and bargains. … Veterinarian-turned-vintner Kent Rosenblum gained an international reputation for his hands-on approach. He sold Rosenblum Cellars (2900 Main St., Ste. 1100, Alameda, 510-865-7007) to a corporation this year but has promised to stay for five years; catch his best before he gets away. … First-class taste but a nearly empty wallet? Have no fear; the Wine Mine (5427 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-547-9463) specializes in under-$15 bottles and offers $1 Saturday tastings. … Wine and cheese is a cliché, but Farmstead Cheeses & Wines (6218 La Salle Ave., Oakland, 510-864-9463) restores dignity to a perfect pairing. Well over one hundred types of cheese span the globe, and a calendar of events creates new vinophiles. … Why drink and drive? Create the most micro of microbreweries right at home, thanks to MoreBeer! (975 Detroit Ave., Unit D, Concord, 925-671-4958), which sells beer-making machinery and all the related essentials. … From honey-lavender to gingersnap, the housemade ice creams at Ici (2948 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-665-6054) have a highly emotional following. For purists and cowards, classic flavors are available as well. … Straus Family Creamery’s organic milk is the not-so-secret ingredient informing the intensely flavored ice cream at Sketch (1809A Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-665-5650). Fudgesickles here bear no resemblance to the ones at your corner drugstore.

Furniture & Home Furnishings

Spruce up you house, garden, and life with tips, advice, and goods from these decor, landscaping, and domestic experts. There’s truly only one stop for ultra-chic, high-end, quality-crafted custom furniture, and that’s Berkeley Mills (2830 Seventh St., Berkeley, 510-549-2854). Established in 1988 by woodworkers, this artisan furniture maker blends East and West sensibilities and puts a high premium on design and quality with the associated astronomical prices to boot. … If Art Deco decor is your thing, look no farther than Art Deco Collection, an SF retail outlet with an Oakland warehouse (3227 14th Ave., Oakland, 415-255-1902, by appointment only) full of furniture, art, and collectibles, all carefully selected by consummate dealer Richard Fishman. He has a penchant for Euro finds, particularly French and Belgian ceramic cloisonné pottery, French lighting, and all things cocktail. … When in search of the perfect chandelier, sconce, pendant, or lamp, Berkeley Lighting Company (1623 San Pablo Ave., 510-524-1782, Berkeley) is where savvy shoppers expect to find those just-right lighting options. The inventory includes styles for every type of home and every room in (and outside) the house. … Design Within Reach (1770 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-524-1994) specializes in “licensed classics,” another name for high-end almost-affordable style, and this 4,000-square-foot studio is inspired. DWR pulls together classic furniture, lights, flooring, and domestic accessories made by the likes of Herman Miller, Artek, and Objekto — the companies who hold the license for the original design. … Modern minimalist decor meets affordability at EQ3 (5603 Bay St., Emeryville, 510-601-0400), a Canadian cousin of sorts to the Scandinavian IKEA. Displayed in a well-flowing Emeryville showroom, the EQ3 look is fresh and spartan, from squarish sofas, love seats, and sectionals to neat platform beds, cosmic coffee tables, and perfunctory desks. … When Fenton MacLaren Home Furnishings (5533 College Ave., Oakland, 510-658-1414; 1325 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-5377) opened in 1982, the independent furniture seller was a purveyor of restored vintage pieces. Today the retailer stocks restored furniture, but over the decades has added new Mission- and Shaker-style lines and unfinished furniture to the mix, maintaining a commitment to quality and fair prices. … Smart, efficient, functional Scandinavian design is what IKEA (4400 Shellmound St., Emeryville, 510-420-4532) brings to the home-decor front. Vivid color, innovative thinking, good value, and cleverness are the IKEA cornerstones, as are the mazelike gargantuan stores. Occasional less-than-heirloom-quality material and putting pieces together round out the IKEA model. … New in town with an apartment to outfit? Just bought a cozy little cottage? Or maybe you’ve just outgrown the particleboard desk, hand-me-down end tables, bumpy vinyl sofa bed, and bricks-‘n’-boards bookcases. Head for Alameda. In addition to selling high-quality, comfortable products, Pillow Park Plaza (1419 Park, Alameda, 510-521-6227) offers the kind of personal service that every independent retailer should provide but which is absent in your average gigantic superstore. … For Craftsman bungalow owners who insist on period furnishings for their vintage homes, Rockridge Antiques (5601 College Ave., Oakland, 510-652-7115) is a worthy option. It’s full of antiques and reproductions that can add the finishing touch to any room. … True story: The only furniture store that could satisfy one couple’s hankering for long-lasting sleek leather and comfortable lounging that wouldn’t break the bank was Scandinavian Designs (2101Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-8250; 1701 Arnold Industrial Pl., Concord, 925-827-4466). It offers well-made furniture worth holding on to, and this chain is well stocked from bedroom to living room. … On the used end of the furniture store spectrum is Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles (3742 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-763-3342), where deals can be had. The store, a nonprofit economic development project of the African People’s Education and Defense Fund, is so full that furniture spills forth onto the sidewalk. … Bargain Bills and Bettys will find so much treasure at Clausen House Thrift Shop (4834 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-6812) that they’ll need a suitcase to lug all the goodies home. The place is literally packed with new and used electronics, clothing, furniture, and household goods, all at very affordable prices, and helps developmentally disabled adults in Oakland live independently. … Once a month, bargain seekers can check out the vintage goods at Room with a Past (1557A Third Ave., Walnut Creek, 925-933-1903). The shop opens on a Thursday evening, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with fresh inventory and accessories, keeping true to the thrill of estate sales that originally inspired the founders to offer finds to the public. … Want a good night’s sleep? It’s practically guaranteed with a space-saving setup from The Futon Shop (5745 Christie Ave., Emeryville, 510-595-6797), a chainster with an SF factory where mattresses are handmade. These modern creations are more like comfortable works of art than their lumpy, back pain–inducing predecessors. … To take care of home linens, towels, and other domestic accessory needs, Bed Bath and Beyond (multiple locations) has got you covered. The company builds its brand on selection, medium to high prices, and the “beyond” section of items you never knew you couldn’t live without. … Furniture, bedding, housewares, knickknacks, alcohol, and specialty food items line the aisles of Cost Plus World Market (multiple locations), an import junkie’s safehouse. Here’s where to head to outfit your next party: Pick up a new dining room table and chairs and invite your friends over to gloat, plying them with refreshments on your new dishes. … Bargain hunters on the prowl for contemporary housewares steals and deals can find them at the Crate & Barrel Berkeley Outlet (1785 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-528-5500). The only difference in this and its originator is that the merch might be from a season or two ago; otherwise, it’s the same great stuff. … Looking for a less poisonous way to keep pests at bay, paint your house, or clean your carpets? The Ecology Center Store (2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-3402) carries a wide range of nontoxic cleaning products, paints, and household supplies. Organic gardening supplies, books, hemp, and recycled glass products are also available. … Another eco-conscious home supplier is Ecohome Improvement (2619 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-3500), where style meets environmental sustainability. Founded in 2005 by Taja di Leonardi and Nina Boeddeker, the store offers eco-friendly supplies on every front, ranging from flooring and paint to tiles and countertops, though these supplies usually cost a bundle. … Elmwood’s sleek, artful, design-rich Lola Home (2950 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-981-8345) offers memorable items for home, especially in the realm of fabric arts such as felt pillows. The furniture is mod with a nod toward natural materials, and the display areas are lined with lovely art books, nesting bowls, exquisite plates, and more. It’s all put together as carefully and artistically as a staged home. … Chi-chi Maison d’Etre (5640 College Ave., Oakland, 510-658-2801), an upscale home decor emporium of intriguing plates, plus pillows, cute candles, clever cards, luxurious linens, and then some, invites lingering and seeks to celebrate the home. The owners, Patty Brunn and Fred Womack, are artists, florists, cooks, parents, and pet owners, and their interests are reflected in their selective inventory. … Mignonne (1000 Jefferson St., Oakland, 510-444-5288) is an understated yet chic Frenchified boutique and gift shop where a vintage dresser, Katrell Louis ghost chair, or piece of local art may occupy a corner displaying Pine Cone Hill pajamas and bathrobes, body scrubs and crèmes, candlesticks, and lamps. In other words, stylish, one-of-a-kind products with luxury undertones, all pulled together by mother-daughter team Kimberlee and Johnelle Mancha. … As big-box stores go, Target (various locations) is one that is actually fun to visit. The retailer is chock-a-block with designer-inspired housewares, every electronic under the sun, and sheets, comforters, and towels you can get excited about. … Bay Area gardeners turn to family-owned Berkeley Horticulture (1310 McGee Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-4704), a top retail nursery, for horticulture advice, garden info, plant purchases, and accessories. Spending time here among the natives, Mediterranean plants, roses, camellias, rhododendrons, tropicals, cacti, bulbs, fruit trees, and vegetables rivals the Garden of Eden. … Another great local gardening resource is the East Bay Nursery (2332 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-6490), where the folks behind the watering cans, rakes, and hoes are helpful and knowledgeable about the nursery’s fine Japanese maples, specimen trees, perennials, natives, shrubs, roses, conifers, water plants, pottery, and seasonal shop. A gardener’s dream founded in 1926, the nursery is family-run. … From cheap sunglasses to fishing supplies to flip-flops, Longs Drug Store (5100 Broadway, Oakland, 510-654-1556), or Super Longs in local parlance, has it all. But the real treat at Longs is the well-stocked, outstanding garden center from whence many a North Oaklander has started a garden. From seeds to seedlings, pots to potting soil, and hoes to hoses, Longs makes playing in the dirt more fun. … Who wouldn’t want to get lost in a potted-plant jungle for hours? Magic Gardens Landscaping (729 Heinz, Berkeley, 510-644-1992) provides all the diversion a dreamer could want. Perennials are in ample supply, as well as ferns, trees, succulents, and flowers. Best of all, if you’re having a plant emergency, call the Magic Gardens staff, who will helpfully talk you down from the ledge. … The two lots at Ohmega Salvage (2407 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-204-0767) are so stuffed with so many different things as to almost warrant guided tours for first-timers. But half the fun of shopping at this 31-year-old architectural salvage yard involves aimless exploration of home accessories and a century’s worth of design.


Bear Basics (2350 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-883-9050) features practically every piece of Cal clothing and paraphernalia ever made — in other words, it’s the perfect hunting ground for gifts for your family back home. The basement, known as “T-Shirt Orgy,” is filled with more T-shirts than you’ve ever seen in one place. Music, politics, Bay Area pride, frat boy humor — name it, they’ve got it. … For a mix of modern and vintage-inspired wares guaranteed to make your grandma, your hipster boyfriend, and your little niece grin, head to Urban Indigo (3339 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-419-0451). This kitschy-cool shop is crammed with unique treasures — jewelry, toys, stationery, candles, wallets, bags, hand towels, cards, candles — with surprisingly reasonable price tags. … It’s hard to talk about Heartfelt (6309 College Ave., Oakland, 510-655-9806) without employing the word “cute” — because, in fact, most everything about this small, eclectic shop is just that, in the best way possible. You’ll delight in inexpensive crystal jewelry, little wind-up toys, stellar books, and clothes for kids, colorful kitchen supplies, wrapping paper and cards, and the famous “I hella [heart] Oakland” tees. … Industrielle (33 Grand Ave., Oakland, 33 Grand Ave., 510-271 0633, is part-gallery, part-boutique, and 100 percent chic. Inspired by her love of French and Japanese design, owner Dana Taylor offers up affordable original art and prints, silkscreened pillows, clothing, handbags, jewelry, stationery, vases, and other fabulous goodies. There’s a feel-good factor, too: almost everything comes courtesy of local artists. … The Treehouse Green Gifts (2935 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-204-9292, has something for everyone, regardless of whether you’re shopping for a recycling fiend or a pal who could care less about saving the planet: stuffed animals sewn by rural women in Kenya; bags and wallets made from old leather jackets and other materials; reclaimed wood birdhouses; jewelry made from bark, buttons, typewriter keys, aluminum. Everything is either organic, recycled, handmade and/or fair-trade — even the free gift wrap and ribbon. … Find perfect gifts for the home at Rockridge Home (5418 College Ave., Oakland, 510-420-1928), a quirky store with a design arm, fun furniture, plush floor mats, trendy housewares, novelty books, baby products, green gizmos, and other relatively inexpensive items (bowls, glassware, plates, etc.) that make swell hostess gifts. … Philippa Roberts (4176 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-0656, is best known for boasting a jaw-dropping selection of beautiful (yet not bank-account-emptying) brushed silver and semi-precious stone jewelry by its namesake designer. But you’ll find plenty of other gift ideas here, too: several other lines of gorgeous jewelry, darling baby onesies, handcrafted candles, vibrant ceramic tableware, and more. … Whether you’re shopping for a hostess gift, a baby shower, a birthday present for Mom, or looking to add a touch of sophisticated whimsy to your home, chances are good that you’ll luck out at Ellington & French (2942 Domingo Ave., Berkeley, 510- 548-8188,, where practically everything in sight — from dishes to hand soap, linens to letterpress cards, necklaces to baby toys — is divine. … Adorable La Lavande (12 Broadway Lane, Walnut Creek, 925-930-6255) is filled with heavenly French soap direct from Provence. The luxe bars are minimally packaged, making it easier to discern your favorite scents. There’s lavender — the shop’s namesake — of course, but you’ll also find more than a dozen scrumptious others including pomegranate, honey orange, apricot, and coconut pineapple. … The giant faucet fixture perched above the entrance to Hydra (1710 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-559-9796, may hint at the whimsy contained within, but until you’ve strolled inside this soap shop and taken a whiff, you haven’t a clue. The vibrant visual treat of Hydra’s myriad handmade bars of soap — palm-sized works of art, really — follows closely behind. … Have a Japanophile in your life? Or simply need a cool present for ten bucks? Entering Ichi Ban Kan (10562 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-528-5210) is akin to walking into a dollar store in Tokyo. It’s mesmerizing variety of Japanese imports includes Hello Kitty and friends knickknacks, beauty supplies, bento boxes and ceramic bowls, and snacks like Pocky and the sports drink Pocari Sweat. … Africa Fashions Gifts & Craft Center (2229 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2821) is crammed full of treasures from all over the African continent, from giant hand-woven grain baskets from Nigeria to wood serving pieces adorned with painted bone from Kenya to hand-woven mudcloth from Mali. And world music fans will jump at the chance to try out djembe drums from Mali, shekere gourds from Togo, and Senegalese calimbas. … Corazón del Pueblo (4814 International Blvd., Oakland, 510-532-6733, is more than just a cornucopia of imported Mexican posters, cards, clothing, crafts, and folk art. It’s also a cultural center that hosts workshops, a community art gallery, a bilingual bookstore stocked with literature by local authors, and the best place in the East Bay to snap up products for celebrating Día de los Muertos. … Sagrada Sacred Arts (4926 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-7196, offers pilgrims across many faith traditions everything from books on doctrinal esoterica and clerical vestments to prayer beads and rosaries to music and jewelry. Books, too — including an excellent selection for children encompassing a range of spiritual issues. With its bubbling fountain, soothing music, and warm staff, Sagrada refreshes those on the road toward the divine. … For the person who has everything, how about a handsome wooden box crafted by a prison inmate? At the San Quentin Prison Gift Shop (just inside the east gate of the prison, 100 Main St., San Quentin, 415-454-1460), you can snap up resident-made items like boxes, paperweights, and jewelry, as well as souvenir T-shirts and mugs. Call ahead, though — the hours can be iffy.

Jewelry, Shoes, & Accessories

The Walk Shop (2120 Vine St., Berkeley, 510-849-3628, has pioneered the comfort shoe revolution since 1978. Its name pretty much says it all: no stilettos here, but plenty of foot-friendly options from labels including Josef Seibel, Stonefly, Wolky, and Pikolinos. Staffers expertly measure and fit — and, along the way, impart an impressive amount of knowledge about how to optimize your ambulatory experience. … Loathe Birkenstocks, Crocs, and other chunky-clunky shoes that abound on East Bay feet? Twenty-Two Shoes (5856 College Ave., Oakland, 510-594-2201, offers sole salvation for the fashion-conscious, including spectacular seasonal selections of the owners’ own designs as well as high-style choices by Marc Jacobs and other select labels. This place is badass, and a long time coming. … The trickling fountain at the entrance to Rabat Shoes (1825 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-549-9195, serves as a reminder that shoes are supposed to be not only stylish, but soothing to the — forgive us — sole. Choose from hundreds of styles for men and women, ranging from European labels such as Camper, Repetto, and Robert Clergerie to California-born brands like exquisitely handcrafted Cydwok. … A Step Forward (4018 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. 510-339-0500) sets the bar for independent shoe shops with a stellar selection featuring brands including Aerosoles, Born, Diesel, Simple, Wanted, and Dansko. Need something to wear with your new footsies? You’ll also find a nice selection of feminine clothes, along with purses, jewelry, and other suddenly-must-have accessories. … Be warned: it’s tough to walk into Skecher’s USA Outlet (5815 Cutting Blvd, El Cerrito, 510-235-1123) without stumbling out with several shoeboxes tucked under your arm. The popular brand may be targeted to teens, but patiently sift through the aisles here and you’ll discover cute, comfy kicks for everyone in the family. … Got a shoe fetish to rival dear old Carrie Bradshaw’s? Head to über-girly Deliciouz (1506 North Main St., Walnut Creek, 925-933-7489,, where you’ll lounge on a red velvet sofa while slipping into fabulous flats and heels by European and domestic designers that you won’t find anywhere else. Of course, you’ll need a supple new leather bag to match your new footsies. Kooba, anyone? … Old-style Hollywood comes to the East Bay at Footcandy (1365 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, 925-937-3668,, a sumptuous shoe and handbag boutique, which specializes in high-end labels like Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Valentino, and Alexander McQueen. The store itself is as gorgeous as its collection of sophisticated designer treasures. … Labels Luxury Consignment (1367 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, 925-952-4566) lands on our list because it’s one of the few spots around that can guarantee an always-fabulous selection of gently used Louis Vuitton bags and Jimmy Choos for those of us without a trust fund. Self-starters are especially encouraged to explore this shop — customer service isn’t always, well, existent. … If you can’t find a hat you like at Berkeley Hat Company (2510 Telegraph Ave. Berkeley, 510-549-2955, — which has been warming the noggins of locals for 28 years — chances are you never will. Fedoras? Check. Panama hats? Yep. Stetsons? Of course. Fancy felt church hats? Kangol caps? Hats especially for big heads? Need you ask? … If you tend to steer clear of Telegraph, try The Hat Guys (1764 Broadway, Oakland, 510-834-6868,, another superstore where you can pick from hundreds of styles, including a particularly vast array of dress hats. … For the most comprehensive exam of your life, get your peepers checked at UC Berkeley Optometry Clinic (2222 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-643-2020, The (supervised) eye docs-in-training test for glaucoma, retinal melanoma, macular degeneration — the list goes on. The glasses are cheap, the frames chic, and the savings substantial. A win-win on every front. … You always know what to expect when you visit Sunglass Hut (5608 Bay St., Emeryville, 510-658-8627): a wide array of the latest designer styles and unparalleled customer service. Decide you don’t love your new Oakleys (or Maui Jims, or Ray-Bans, or Burberrys), after all? Return them within thirty days for a full refund. Break ’em? Bring them back to snag an equivalent pair at 50 percent off. … Lunettes du Monde (1799E Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-559-8181) Need specs to define your look? Insist on precisely gauging your eyesight? Either way, this “gallery of fine eyewear from around the world” could be your grail. The trendsetting owners comb the globe for distinctive, flattering frames made from the lightest, thinnest, most flexible materials. Can’t settle on any one pair? You can even co-design your own. … Although Dr. Harlan Wong’s (1928 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-4030) storefront is modest, inside you’ll find a full-service eye care center staffed with pros who treat you more like a friend than a client. They’ll give you a thorough exam and help you pick the ideal frames for your look as well as your pocketbook — styles start at $42 and stop at — well, Moschino. … Moderne Eye Optometry (5802 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-4242) may be pricey, but it boasts over-the-top customer service that’s something of a local legend. Just one example: when an insurance glitch delayed a pair of sunglasses for a customer destined for a Hawaiian vacation, the staffer delivered the glasses to the client’s home herself — just a few hours before the flight took off. How’s that for service? … Where can you snap up convincing faux-designer sunglasses for six bucks, patent leather clutches and belts for less than ten, and sparkly necklaces, earrings, and bangles for five? Forever 21 (426 Sun Valley Mall, Concord, 925-691-6011), the latest alterna-cheap chain to make tweens, teens, and unabashed twentysomethings drool in their sleep the night before a shopping excursion. … Shopping at Pavé Fine Jewelry (5496 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-7000; 1778 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-528-7300) definitely requires a once-in-a-long-time splurge for most mere mortals — engagement, big anniversary, winning lottery ticket. The decor is crisp and shiny à la your typical high-end gem shop, but the affable employees are prone to grin at you rather than glare — and they’ll help you find (or design) the jewels of your dreams. … M. Lowe & Co. (1519 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. 510-486-0613) carries a vast array of beautiful beads and baubles that range from not-so-pricey Indian silver to diamond necklaces that cost as much as a nice new car. The shop also stocks loads of gorgeous engagement and wedding rings, in both antique and modern flavors. Much of the store’s jewelry is designed by the owner, Margo Lowe, or her associates, and crafted on site. … For custom-designed wedding rings that will make your heart sing, look no further than The 14 Karats (2910 College Ave. Berkeley, 510-644-1640, An Elmwood institution for thirty years, this independent, pretension-free shop specializes in setting conflict-free diamonds and other precious gemstones in unique gold, palladium, and platinum settings. … If you’re in the market for a grill — no, not a George Foreman — Gold Teeth Master (1940 Broadway, Oakland, 510-763-7670), also known as JC Jewelers, is the cream of the crop. The master here is James Cho, who’s been creating flashy removable fronts for locals for years. Can’t wait to put some style in your smile? Same day service available! … You haven’t lived — in a T-shirt or hoodie, that is — until you’ve shopped Upper Playground (2509 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510- 649-0740, The shop, whose flagship is in San Francisco (and whose founder, Matt Revelli, is a life-long East Bay resident), specializes in brilliantly illustrated urban street wear with a hip-hop flair, designed by artists near and far. … Fresh (2328 Bowditch St., Berkeley, CA, 510-883-9600) is more than just another hipster sneaker boutique. Shoes from labels such as Stabs, Greedy Genius, Artful Dodger, the Year of the False, and Addict — exclusive products, some hand-printed, some limited-run, but all unique to Fresh and a handful of outlets worldwide — are displayed like art installations, bathed in light on hardwood shelves. … Bows & Arrows (2513 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-649-6683, is akin to a MOMA gift shop filled with sneakers. Limited editions by Creative Recreation, John Varvatos Converse, Nike, Onitsuka Tigers, and more sit on austere white shelves, just waiting to be plucked by shoppers with a few extra bucks in their pockets. Tip: check B&A’s web site regularly for photos of the latest offerings — they go fast! … For the Adidas addict who wants to stand out, the Adidas Originals Concept Store (2333 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-1934) — one of just twenty nationwide — offers up limited-edition and vintage-comeback shoes, sportswear, hats, watches ,and other accessories. Your fix won’t come cheap, but at least the DJ’s hip-hop tunes on Saturdays are free. … Alameda may look like a sleepy small town, but its youth are hip to flashy urban styles. District (2332 Alameda Ave., Alameda, 510-865-1640, is the store that caters to them: a specialty sneaker boutique housed in a gorgeous old building next to the Alameda Museum. Rainbow-hued kicks — including Nikes, Adidas, and Pumas — plus an assortment of hats, tees, and hoodies, help make this a fashion destination.


For the true California shopping experience — a full-day affair replete with sunshine — Broadway Plaza (S. Main St. & Mount Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, 925-939-7600, in Walnut Creek can’t be beat. The outdoor retail mecca encompasses a main drag of familiar mid- to high-end chains — from Tiffany’s to H & M to Crate and Barrel — anchored by Nordstrom’s and Macy’s, with adjacent shop-filled streets stretching as far as the eye can see. … Rainy day? Zip over the bridge for an excursion to the enormous Westfield Center (865 Market St., San Francisco, 415-512-6776, in downtown San Francisco. The recently renovated retail empire houses a posh food court, a movie theater, five floors of mostly brand-name shops, and a Nordstrom department store that climbs an additional five levels. Oh, and don’t forget dreamy Bloomingdale’s; the second largest in the country, it’s guaranteed to please. An added bonus: access is a snap. You can enter the mall from Powell St. BART station, park in one of numerous nearby garages, or even valet your car. … You’ll find something for every member of the family at Emeryville’s Bay Street (5616 Bay St., Emeryville, 510-655-4002,, an outdoor mall featuring chain retailers, as well as a bevy of restaurants and a megaplex movie theater. Stores include Old Navy, Sephora, J. Jill, Pottery Barn, the Apple Store, and Barnes & Noble; restaurants run the gamut from P.F. Chang’s to Zao Noodle Bar; and incredible cupcakes and cookies can be found at locally owned Teacake Bake Shop. … If it’s big-name bargain hunting you’re craving, a few hours at San Leandro’s Marina Square Center (off I-880 at Marina Blvd. East, should do the trick. Retailers include Nordstrom Rack (which some regulars lovingly refer to as “the black hole” because it’s so massive you can easily lose track of your shopping buddies), Marshall’s, and outlet versions of Eddie Bauer, Eileen Fisher, the GAP, Nine West, and Talbots. … For the quintessential suburban mall experience, it’s hard to top Stoneridge Shopping Center (One Stoneridge Mall, Pleasanton, in Pleasanton. It’s exceptionally clean, spacious, and features four department stores (Sears, JC Penney’s, Macy’s and Nordstrom), more than one hundred of the usual suspects (everything from Abercrombie to Hot Topic to Chico’s), and a few fun restaurants like P.F. Chang’s and the Cheesecake Factory — perfect for a post-spree cocktail. … For the urban teen looking for the hottest new tennis shoes and cell phone accessories, the Wal-Mart aficionado seeking a fix, or the retail sociologist seeking that old-school mall atmosphere (think lots of loitering high schoolers and Orange Julius), Hilltop Mall (2200 Hilltop Mall Rd., Richmond, 510-223-1933, is worth a visit. Ditto for Bayfair Center (15555 E. 14th St., San Leandro, 510-357-6000), which also features tons of shoe stores and a refreshingly diverse clientele.


Whether you’re looking to buy or sell CDs, there’s simply no place like Amoeba Music (2455 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-1125, Stop here first for virtually any medium for music and visuals — CD, DVD, records, cassettes — and any genre of music — Bakersfield honky-tonk, punk from Texas 1965 and Iceland 1982, baroque, hip-hop, bebop, remixes of remixes, old-school R&B, or obscure imports. … A diverse, youthful vibe pervades Rasputin Music (multiple locations), with particularly strong rap, rock, and Latin pop sections. Hip-hoppers stand outside the store peddling their homespun CDs, and in-store events feature local and touring artists. … It might be cliché, but Mod Lang Records (6328 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito, 510-486-1880) is a prototypical “cool” record store, where you can unearth rare European imports, B-sides, the latest and greatest indie album, plus a treasure trove of music memorabilia and magazines. Don’t know what to buy? Ask one of the friendly, knowledgeable staff. … Down Home Music (10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 510-525-2129) stocks around 24,000 roots and world titles, as well as music-related books, DVDs, LPs, and vintage 78s and 45s. Folk music rules at this East Bay institution (since 1976), which also carries a great selection of traditional Mexican music. … Relatively new to the scene, 1-2-3-4 Go!!! (419 40th St., Oakland, 510-985-0325, is both a record label and a record store specializing in punk/hardcore and classic country records. While the space is small and the stock necessarily limited, Stevo’s discriminating taste ensures that everything in his shop is a worthwhile addition to your record collection. …. Similarly, 33 Revolutions Record Shop & Cafe (10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 510-898-1836, is a cafe-cum-vinyl-record emporium and hat, magazine, and healthy edibles store, specializing in jazz and soul LPs (they buy too). Also featuring live musicians and DJs several times a week. … Looking for the latest hits from Spanish-language radio? Acapulco Records (3509 International Blvd., Oakland, 510-533-2009) specializes in a variety of Mexican pop music, from Lupillo Rivera to La Banda del Recodo, Los Tigres del Norte to Selena. … Run by Joe Franke of Oakland punk band Fracas, Axis Records and Comics (2921 Chapman St., #6, Oakland, 510-851-2011, has been a much-needed source for punk music in the East Bay. Though no longer a public store (by appointment only), Axis does its business online, where you’ll find stickers, buttons, T-shirts, action figures, graphic novels, and thousands of CDs and LPs (of all genres, but especially punk). … This tiny storefront in Rockridge has a fairly narrow niche — jazz on vinyl — yet that’s precisely why loyal customers keep turning to Groove Yard (5555 Claremont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-8400). … Though it induces cringing among snobby musicians, for many others, Guitar Center (10300 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito) still offers an unbeatable selection of music gear and instruments — with usually some monster sale price to boot. Tip: Do your homework first, know exactly what you need, and get in and get out. … If you’re averse to big-box music stores, a very sufficient alternative is Starving Musician (2474 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-2648), a longtime South Bay institution recently expanded to Berkeley. Filling the void where the now-defunct Univibe once occupied, Starving specializes in used gear for clientele that befits its name. … Guitarists in the know head for Blue Note Music (2556 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-2583). Wander around this hidden store and you’ll find new and vintage acoustic and electric guitars and amps, plus a hefty complement of supplies, including a decent array of electronics. … Every kid in Berkeley who has played guitar has been to Subway Guitars (1800 Cedar St., Berkeley, 510-841-4106), and likely has some story to boot about its eccentric shop owner, fondly known as “Fatdog.” The store is tiny, but there’s no shortage of guitars and basses in all sizes, shapes, and custom-made configurations. … Favorite amp on the fritz? Powerage Amp & Electronic Repair (510-846-3113, is the type of unpretentious, straightforward, professional repair shop that will fix or modify just about anything, new or vintage, at shockingly reasonable prices. The store will give you top-quality work, whether you’re in a national touring band or just some dude jamming in your rec room. … Need a new mouthpiece for your clarinet, clean your tuba, or rent a digital piano? Since 1934, Best Music Co. (1716 Broadway, Oakland, 510-832-2024) has served the East Bay community with all manners of musical instruments, but especially those in the brass and woodwind families. In addition to a repair shop and rental store, Best Co. also carries guitars, amps, keyboards, and pro audio equipment. … To handle the technical side of your music needs, head to Leo’s Pro Audio (5447 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-1000), where professionals can hook you up with all kinds of audio gear for recording, mixing, and producing the best live sound. They’ve also got guitars, amps, and iPods. … The Bay Area has a particularly strong traditional music scene — encompassing folk, bluegrass, blues, and singer-songwriter styles. For their acoustic needs, there’s the 5th String (3051 Adeline St., Berkeley, 510-548-8282), which, in addition to instruments and gear, also offers lessons and a regular jam session. … Believe it or not, there’s a bit of a ukulele resurgence going on in the Bay Area, and it’s not just followers of Don Ho. For all your uke needs — handcrafted instruments, repairs, lessons, and gear — DaSilva Ukulele Co. (2547 8th St., Berkeley, 510-649-1548) can’t be beat.

Recreation & Hobbies

There are many ways to get yourself moving in the East Bay without guzzling gasoline. Whether you go by foot, two wheels or more, our community can get you outfitted, geared up, and good to go. Of course the staff at REI (1338 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-527-4140) can outfit you, as they say, “from camp to campus.” Since 1975 this East Bay institution has the supplies you need to cycle, climb, ski, or camp: GPS systems, lighting, food, and automobile racks make it a comprehensive store for starting out or restocking your supplies before heading for the great outdoors. … Royal Robbins (841 Gilman St., Berkeley, 510-527-1961) stocks extremely comfortable clothes in both natural and synthetic fabrics — the former are softer; the latter weigh less and dry faster after a wash. Also at the outlet are sensible sandals and shoes that are likely, once broken in, to become your best friends. Mix and match solids, stripes, and a host of pleasing (if never outrageous) patterns to create a sportswear wardrobe that transcends trendiness and is addictively easy to wear both at home and on the road. … Since 1989, the appropriately named Title Nine sports store (1374 Tenth St., Berkeley, 510-526-1972) has specialized in stylish and functional women’s sports apparel (including shoes and even maternity wear). Title Nine describes itself as “evangelical” about women’s sports and promises to inspire any couch potato. … See Jane Run (5817 College Ave., Oakland, 510-428-2681) urges every woman to “get out and have fun” in style. Shoes and swimwear are two of the store’s offerings to help women get moving. The store also provides an opportunity for women to sign up to train with staff for triathlons and marathons. … Bicycling is big in the East Bay, and Alameda Bicycle (1522 Park St., Alameda, 510-522-0070) is a well-stocked place to start. The shop guarantees free adjustments on bikes purchased there, warranty their two wheelers for life, and offer classes in basic maintenance. They’re also a good place to get your ride on: there are family rides, racing rides, and, during the summer, Women on Wheels. … Besides selling top-of-the-line new and used bikes and gear, in-store workshops and a super-friendly and knowledgeable staff sets the Missing Link Bicycle Collective (1988 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-7471) apart from all the other great ones in the Bay Area. Beyond being a good shop, the Link is a responsible business and a hub of the local biker community, sponsoring a few local teams, offering free in-store classes (like fixing flats, building bike wheels, and how not to crash), and providing support to local participants in the recent national Bike-to-Work Day. … Hank & Frank Bicycles (6030 College Ave., Oakland, 510-654-2453) is a bike shop with a large stock and a social conscience (you can “adopt an African Bike” through its web site). In the business for almost eighty years, Hank & Frank has wheeled transport for every need — scooters, tricycles, unicycles, and tandems. A fixture in the Rockridge riding scene. … Mike’s Bikes of Berkeley (2161 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-8350) is a big bike retailer: two stories with gear, accessories, and more. They run a full-scale repair shop as well, rent bikes, and offer free maintenance classes and group rides to encourage cyclists to take over the Berkeley streets. … Destination 1440 (1440 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-7529) is a one-stop shop for boarders of all types. Surf, snow, or sidewalk warriors can buy the clothes to make skating stylish and get the equipment to get moving. The staff is informative and enthusiastic about board sports and is sure to inspire you to find the right look and the right sport for you. … 510 Skateboarding (2500 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-1863) offers a wide variety of skateboard decks and related skateboarding equipment, as well as the knowledgeable staff required to assemble your board, or at least point you in the right direction of a smart purchase. The storefront window features art by talented local skateboarders, and the shop offers a couple couches to sit and watch skate videos while you wait for your friends, but beware of the thirty-minute lurking limit, which is strictly enforced. … If fishing sounds like your speed, check out Fish First (1404 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-526-1937). The store specializes in fly-fishing needs, and its knowledgable staff can offer tips, tricks, and advice. Plus their “What’s Hot and What’s Not” guide will tell which California trout fishing locales are worth the drive. … If hunting is more your sport, the folks at the Old West Gun Room (3509 Carlson Blvd., El Cerrito, 510-525-5329) can assist you in all parts of firearm use and care. Hunters, target shooters, and collectors brag about the quality and accuracy of the advice they’ve gotten over the years. … Getting your craft on is easy in the do-it-yourself Bay Area. Ground Zero for the new wave of knitting is Article Pract (5010 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-652-7435), with lots of natural fibers, unusual blends and dyes, books, patterns, and workshops. They even have limited-size, monthly “yarn tastings.” … Knit-One-One (3360 Adeline St., Berkeley, 510-420-8706) hosts classes — popularly called “knitting spas,” owing to the warm, social vibe and delectable goodies provided — in crochet, purling, spinning, sewing, and beyond for beginning to advanced participants. … Gail Tanquary didn’t like retirement much; having shuttered Creative Accents, she now slings yarn, knitting needles, personal instruction, and a convivial space at Alameda Yarn Company (2002 Encinal Ave., Alameda, 510-523-9003). … The buyers at Baubles & Beads (1676 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-644-BEAD) scour the world for trinkets, from Swarovski crystal to vintage Lucite, wooden to Japanese seed beads. In the likely event that you’re overwhelmed with possibilities, they offer classes in all levels of beading, wirework, and even metalsmithing. … Utrecht Art Supply (1909 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-649-0808) started importing tools of the artful trades in 1949; the twenty-state chain now carries its own brand of paints, canvas, and brushes alongside national brands of paper, studio furniture, DVDs, and whatever else a serious artist (or art student) could want. … The Illinois-based Blick Art Materials (5301 Broadway, Oakland, 510-658-2787; 811 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-486-2600) has been around since 1911, and offers everything you’ll need to paint, draw, scrapbook, make prints, practice calligraphy, do projects with the kids on a rainy day, and more. … The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (4695 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-547-6470) is a true inspiration point. You never know what you’ll find among the aisles for craft or household projects — sheet music, microscopes, empty mint tins, tiles, dry-erase boards, photos, toys, zippers, and all manner of what-have-you.

Salons & Body Care

Elephant Pharmacy (1607 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-9200; 1388 S. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, 925-658-5300, has only been around since 2002, but it feels as quintessentially Berkeley as People’s Park. The emporium houses prescription and herbal pharmacies, the best all-natural body care product lines under the sun (including tons of cosmetics), a grocery store, a yoga studio, and a bookstore. Your body — and your mind — will thank you. … Entering a beauty-supply store can be overwhelming — the sheer multitude of shampoos, conditioners, gels, sprays, and relaxers can make you feel like shaving your head — and that’s only the hair products! But at Beauty Center (3976 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-653-7837, you can breathe easy, and keep your hair on while the incredibly friendly staff points you in the right direction. … Beauty Supply Warehouse (2601 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-763-9805) offers every hair care, beauty product, and accessory you can imagine — a rainbow of synthetic wigs, rows of extensions, curlers, brushes, elastics, bandannas, belts, purses, sunglasses, jewelry — even shoes! Much of the inventory caters to an African-American clientele, though a recent expansion means more for everyone. … To call Sephora (5626 Bay St., Emeryville, 510-547-6200) a beauty junkie’s dream come true is the understatement of the century. It’s a one-stop-shop for the best products available to make your hair, face, and body look and smell great. Shopping here is just plain fun, too. Come bare-faced, sail past the gregarious sales associates, and use disposable applicators to sample makeup by innovative brands including Fresh, Benefit, Smashbox, Pop Beauty, and Stila. … Relax as you submerge yourself in the steaming water. Close your eyes. Open them, tip your head back, and gaze at the stars in the night sky overhead. No, you haven’t died and somehow made it to heaven — you’re at Piedmont Springs (3939 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-652-9191, And you’ve only spent $15 for an hour of absolute bliss. … A typical hour-long massage these days runs about $80, not counting the tip. There is, however, one place in the East Bay where you can get one for a mere $35 — and tipping is prohibited. Yes, there’s a catch: the masseuses are students at the National Holistic Institute (5900 Hollis St., Suite Q, Emeryville, 510-547-6444 ex. 141, But we challenge you to tell the difference — we can’t. … There’s an old Finnish saying: “If liquor, tar, or sauna can’t heal you, then nothing can.” Give the latter a try at Albany Sauna & Hot Tubs (1002 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-6262). Built by Finnish immigrants back in 1934 (and, of course, extensively remodeled since), the saunas’ moist heat pulverizes any ache, fatigue, or ailment around — and the redwood hot tubs provide the perfect post-sauna soak. … Enjoying a massage doesn’t require much effort, no matter where you are. But in certain magical places — Azul Spa (889 Ensenada Ave., Berkeley, 510-527-3900, being one — you’re invited to step into a cocoon of total comfort and relaxation, and the massage is but part of the bliss that follows. Follow it up with a soak in one of half-a-dozen specialty baths. Milk and honey, anyone? … Understanding the mind-body connection is key for Alchemy Skin Spa (380 Colusa Ave., Kensington, CA, 510-558-9885, owner Francesca Cavenaugh, who begins each treatment with a series of questions about your spiritual and emotional state as she prepares you for your transformation. What makes Alchemy a go-to spa is not so much what Cavenaugh does with your body, but the lasting effect it has on your spirit. … For serious pamper gluttons, the Claremont Spa (41 Tunnel Rd., Berkeley, 800-551-7266, is the place to go. Try one of the spa’s seven “Journey” packages: for $350, the two-and-a-half-hour Mayan Temple Journey includes a bath of “hypnotic desert sage and juniper,” a blue-corn scrub, an avocado and cactus glaze, and a warm stone massage. Short on cash — and time? Sample the 25-minute neck and shoulder massage for $85. … The French-Norman-castle-inspired Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa (3287 Mt. Diablo Rd., Lafayette, 925-283-3700, has an oft-overlooked little spa that offers facials with heated river stones, apricot body glow treatments, and fireside massages for two. Lafayette is invariably ten degrees warmer than Oakland or San Francisco, so using the outdoor lap pool and hot tub (included in all prices) is actually feasible. … Entourage Spa (Two Theatre Square, Ste. 148, Orinda, 925-254-9721, proprietor Gino Chiodo has expanded what was once a hair salon to a sensational full-service day spa featuring hair care, facials, massage, and body treatments. Chiodo’s stylists are as sharp as their styling tools, and a good conversation with one of them can take the place of a high-priced therapist. … Feeling particularly pale? At Glo Tanning (multiple locations,, visitors can catch a chill from the airy, inviting ambience. The salon offers both the Orbit and Omega beds, so tanners have the choice of UV consumption. Or, if the beds aren’t your thing, take a step into the Mystic mist machine. … If you can’t shake the urge to do something drastic to your hair — go from blond to black, lose a foot of length, road test bangs for the first time since grade school — the trendsetting stylists at Festoon Salon (1401 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, 888-35-SALON, will do you right. While your makeover won’t come cheap, you’ll strut out the door feeling like the coolest kid on the block. … 17 Jewels Salon & Spa (4801 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-1059, is an oasis of serenity in the heart of the bustling Temescal district. There are way more than seventeen reasons to visit this gem, but here are a few: The relaxed decor is chic without being slick, the hair gurus are so friendly you’ll want to hug them when you leave, and the middle-of-the-road pricing is beyond reasonable given that they dole out some of the best cuts in town. … The ear-tickling hum of buzz clippers is noticeably absent at Peter Thomas (1700 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-0697, That’s because Peter the Great teaches his stylists patience when operating sharp objects near a person’s vanity: be methodical, use scissors, be cool, end of story. Even a standard haircut can take an hour on a dude with ear-level hair. But be patient — the cuts here are worth it. … Oh! My Nappy Hair (331 19th St., Oakland, 510-839-3877, Giggle at the name, grin at the adorable decor: rose wallpaper, African art, and wood-framed antique mirrors. The women who run this shop wanted to create a space where African-American women can love their hair in its natural state, free from chemicals or relaxers — gorgeous braiding, twisting, and hair weaving, oh my! … Tapers. Fades. Edge-ups. Razor cuts. If you don’t recognize these terms, then you don’t belong in a barbershop. Not that any of the hairsmiths at Lucky’s (948 Clay St., Oakland, CA, 510-836-5825) would keep you away. With notable clientele and basic cuts starting at $20, one might expect an air of pretension. But the shop, owned by community activist Tyranny Allen, keeps it down to earth. … For a reliable, no-frills haircut for $15 in just fifteen minutes flat, head to the Razor’s Edge (2516 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, 510-521-9070), a joint marked by the classic red-striped barber pole and plenty of guys talking politics and sports. In other words, it’s all that a barbershop should be. … Decorated in spare, elegant lines, Polish on Piedmont (4319 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-601-0909, boasts a selection of creative self-care offerings that sound too good to be true: a eucalyptus and peppermint soak, a marine and sea-salt scrub exfoliation treatment, an alpha-hydroxy peppermint clay mask, and, of course, the spa’s signature “Soothe Your Soul” pedicure. Say ahhhh. … If you’re a guy who’s more into the state of your fingernails than pounding nails, check out The Nail Shop (multiple locations, 510-522-1401, Women here peruse celebrity weeklies alongside men yakking into Bluetooth headsets while getting their feet scrubbed. Could it be that the spa’s alluring tropical vibe — created with plum-hued velvet drapes and palm trees — is the great estrogen equalizer?

Toys, Games, & Comics

For the bored and baby-laden, the East Bay’s many toy and game stores offer an effectively infinite number of options to help you get through those rainy-day late-winter months. Even if you don’t have kids, everyone loves board games, video games, and comic books. No matter where you are located in the Beast (reverse Pig Latin for East Bay), there’s a store near you offering shiny, colorful, attention-gathering devices. Unfortunately for parents, too many shiny objects can get out of hand. That’s why Berkeley kids are taken to toy shop at the Ark (1812 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-849-1930) instead of at the mall. The Ark offers oodles of traditional toys, from puppets to wooden boats and kites to dollies. … Even moms and dads like going to Mr. Mopps Children’s Books & Gifts (1405 Martin Luther King Junior Way, Berkeley, 510-525-9633), a Playmobile mecca that offers toys of all shapes and sizes. … Another toy shop adults will appreciate is Kimono My House (1424 62nd St., Emeryville, 510-654-4627). This office park-Japanime temple offers imported figures, models, masks, and other collectible versions of massive robots and short-skirted school girls. … For toys both new and old, without prejudice against publisher, maker, or country of origin, Sweet Dreams (2921 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-8697) is truly made of these. …While you’re there, be sure to swing down a few doors toward Ashby and check out Boss Robot Hobby (2953 College Ave., Berkeley, 510- 841-1680), where model makers, RC helicopter enthusiasts, and Domokun lovers rub elbows inside a tiny shop stall. … And if you’re still just a big kid longing to get your G.I. Joes back, you’ve got to go to Toy Safari (1410 Park St., Alameda, 510-522-1723). This real-life eBay is packed with collectibles and toys alike, many twenty years old or more. Toy Safari is the only place in the East Bay you can still get plastic versions of Alf, Optimus Prime, and He-Man, all in one place. … Video-game fans only have one choice for their love, thanks to the merger of Gamestop and Electronics Boutique a few years back. As a result, GameStop/EB Games (locations in Berkeley, Oakland, Fremont, Hayward, Walnut Creek, and Pleasant Hill) litter the Bay Area, and can always be found when you just have to have Soul Calibur 4 for Sony Playstation 3, or Soul Calibur 1 for Sega Dreamcast. … For analog gamers, Endgame (921 Washington St., Oakland, 510-465-3637) is the classiest game joint in the area. This Old Oakland haven houses a magnificent collection of new and used games, and offers space for numerous gamers to play upstairs. … Games of Berkeley (2151 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-7822) is the Berkeley equivalent, with its role players and Magic shufflers playing downstairs instead of up. Games of Berkeley also has all the Frisbee golf supplies you’ll need to shoot 9 out by I-80. … For the Temescal crowd, It’s Your Move (4920 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-547-4386) is a cozy spot to find some new dice or a book of Mage spells. It’s Your Move is also the place to be for Oakland Scrabble players, who congregate here to bandy words with one another. … Eudemonia (2154 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-883-0814) in downtown Berkeley is the most lively game shop in the East Bay, with geeky guys and gals packed wall-to-wall on weekends. Magic tournaments are held alongside World of Warcraft raiders in the cyber cafe. … If you just can’t decide on a game to play, Dr. Comics and Mr. Games (4014 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-601-7800) in Piedmont offers a wide range of comic books to complement the selection of board and card games up front. With a decent selection of back issues and a wide range of current graphic novels to sift through, the Doctor and the Mister are sure to please any hipster. … The downtown Berkeley crowd can get its Preacher, Hellboy, and X-men on at Comic Relief (2026 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-5002). This magnificent mausoleum of margins and magazines is the place to find all the pieces to complete your mint condition collection of Sandman books. … On the other side of the tunnel, Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff (2980 Treat Blvd., Concord, 925-825-5410) is the place to find Bone and Red Star back issues. This clean, well-lighted place has a friendly staff with extensive knowledge of the many comics that crop up each month. … And if you’re stuck on Alameda Island, Borders (various locations in Emeryville, Alameda and Pleasant Hill) offers a great selection of comics and role-playing books.


In need of baby llama skeletons or human finger bones? Biology nerds and gore-ophiles will fall in love with the Bone Room (1569 Solano Ave., Berkeley, 510-526-5252,, a shop full of fossils, sundry animal parts, and unusual jewelry — beetle wing or bacula earrings, anyone? … Ophidiophobes, arachnophobes, herpetophobes, and general zoophobes should steer clear. But if you adore snakes, spiders, reptiles, and amphibians, you’ll hit pay dirt at the East Bay Vivarium (1827-C Fifth St., Berkeley, 510-841-1400,, a specialty pet store and de facto zoo peddling a menagerie of nature’s most curious and/or intimidating creatures. … What’s paradise without a little earthly pleasure? Good Vibrations (2504 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-8987, isn’t your grimy, subterranean sex store. Whether you’re looking for some devilish handcuffs, a discreet vibrator, or some trucker erotica, you can browse and feel an almost lofty exaltation about the place. … Tattoos have become so commonplace lately that choosing a tattoo artist is now akin to choosing a hairdresser. Temple Tattoo in downtown Oakland (384 17th St., Oakland, 510-451-6423, manages to be both inviting and underground. You’ll find no “image consultants” here — all of Temple’s extremely talented artists are heavily inked tough guys with hearts of gold. … Lacis (2982 Adeline St., Berkeley, 510-843-7290,, both a retail store and a textile arts museum, is a fascinating place to visit even if you’re not a needlework or sewing aficionado. The museum alone is worth a look — a rotating selection of thousands of lace pieces and garments from the 18th and 19th centuries are on display. … Stepping into O’Sullivan Cigars and Accessories (1628 Locust St., Walnut Creek, 925-274-1533, is much like stepping into a cigar box. It’s small, smells good, and is crowded with like-minded friends. Tom O’Sullivan opened the humidor seven years ago, back when cigars and dot-coms were all the rage. But after many stogie emporiums collapsed, O’Sullivan has survived thanks to his prime selection. … Pet Food Express (6398 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510- 923-9500, — which offers a full line of pet products including beds, scratching posts, kennels, and toys along with its “food” — is not just a great place to shop because of its institutional convenience, but also because it offers surprisingly good service. It’s soon hard to justify going anywhere else. … With video stores, size matters, and Reel Video (2655 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-1118) has a monster selection — some 100,000 videos and 3,000 to 4,000 DVDs, according to the store manager. Reel caters to aficionados, subdividing its inventory in a way that’s both creative and confusing. It can take getting used to, but you can always ask, and things tend to be cross-referenced. … Those heading to the Burning Man Festival, the anti-Burning Man Festival, or any other variation should consider getting dolled up for the event at Stagecraft Studios (1854 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley. 510-653-4424), a 75-year-old costume, lighting, and makeup store. Though it’s the wide variety of boas, wigs, glitter, false eyelashes, body paint, and theatrical makeup that draws the artsy desert (and Halloween) crowd in droves, the store’s roots are in theater. … In case you didn’t know, marijuana is legal in California. Sort of. Once you’ve got your prescription, head over to the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Co-op (1733 Broadway, Oakland, 510-832-5346) and get your cannabis card. It’s like a smoker’s license that costs only $25 and lasts for one year. As soon as they hand over your ID, you can find your way to any of the hundreds of dispensaries in the Bay Area and get the stickiest of the icky . … The closest one to the OCBC is Blue Sky (377 17th St., Oakland, 510-251-0690). This coffee shop offers good prices on a limited selection of buds, consumables, and clones. It’s a great place to quickly get what you need, and they always offer you rolling papers when you buy so you can skin up before leaving. Oakland does not allow on-site consumption, however, so when you go to the Harborside Health Center (1840 Embarcadero, Oakland, 510-533-0146) you’ll have to wait until you get home to light up. But with a massive selection of high-end nuggets, Harborside will fill your car with the stink of fresh doobie even before you smoke it. … In San Francisco, the CMC is the best dispensary. In the East Bay, it’s the Berkeley Patients Group (2747 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-6013). This round building allows on-site consumption, and sells buds from the super-pure high level down to $100 ounces of the brown Mexican you smoked in high school. With free food, coffee, classes, and events also on-site, the BPG is a spectacular spot to smoke sinsemilla.

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