Go for the outside-the-gift-box with East Bay local treasures
Ring-a-ding-ding! Get your shopping chops warmed up, because the holidays are upon us. Buying locally, as we know, supports local businesses, is better for the environment, is more fun—and nets cooler gifts. Maybe the one they will remember forever. The suggestions below are by no means definitive. But you might find the perfect inspiration. Take a look and see…
Vinyl LPs have been back for a while, and listening connoisseurs swear the sound quality is the best. If there is a vinyl junkie on your list, you’re in luck—the East Bay has a whole long-playing album of places to look for a real find, some old, some new, such as the Bryan Ferry release, The Best of Roxy Music. The following are just some of the groovy hangouts. Some specialize in certain music genres; others carry just about everything. Note that many of these stores are only open certain days; call or visit their sites/Facebook pages for hours.
Strictly Vinyl Records, 1060 Solano Ave., (510) 679-5040
Dave’s Record Shop, 1404 San Pablo Ave., (707) 319-2578
Hercules Records, 1736 Alcatraz Ave., (415) 999-1139
Down Home Music Store, 10341 San Pablo Ave., (510) 525-2129
1-2-3-4 Go! Records, 420 40th St., (510) 985-0325
Open Mind Music, 5521 College Ave., (415) 920-9400
Stranded Records, 5488 College Ave., (510) 808-5505
Even people who have everything appreciate (and/or use) a unique, artisan-crafted clay piece, whether functional or strictly art. The East Bay is fortunate to support many super-talented potters and ceramicists, as well as galleries and stores that feature beautiful work. Suggestions:
ACCI Gallery, 1652 Shattuck Ave., (510) 843-2527
Berkeley Potters Guild, 731 Jones St., (510) 524-7031. Open Saturdays only.
Mary Law Pottery, 1421 5th St., (510) 524-7546. Open by appointment only.
Rae Dunn Clay, 927 Parker St., (415) 515-9062
Cuong Ta, (510) 520-1106. Call for gallery info.
Jered’s Pottery, 5743 Horton St., (510) 891-1462
Unami Mart, 4027 Broadway, (510) 250-9559. Grocery store with functional ceramics.
Yolin Art Studio, 539 Athol St., www.yolinartstudio.com
Help the friends and fam celebrate the burgeoning East Bay wine scene with a bottle or two from one of the scads of excellent local wineries, most specializing in a select group of varietals or blends. Just a sampling:
Dashe Winery, 1951 Monarch St., Hanger 25. Tasting rooms open by reservation.
Broc Cellars, 1300 5th St., (510) 424-7323
Two Mile Wines, 2816 San Pablo Ave., (510) 868-8713
Windchaser Wine Co., 1375 4th St., (415) 806-7480
Brooklyn West Winery, 200 2nd St., (510) 879-7763
Cote West, 2102 Dennison St., Ste. A., (510) 698-4365
Visit www.blackvines.net for a whole selection of Black-owned vintners and wineries.
Teas and Teaware
Seems like all of us are drinking more tea these days, and the local scene offers multiple places to suss out both outstanding teas and teaware. Buy both and create a fabulous gift basket.
Blue Willow Teaspot, 1200 10th St.. (510) 524-1933
Teance, 1036 Grayson St., (510) 524-1696
Sophie’s Cuppa Tea, 2078 Antioch Ct., (510) 500-3404
Someone you know loves their fur baby like family? OK, that would be everyone. Then don’t forget a little something for the favored canine or feline while you’re shopping. Hint: Treats always go over well.
HealthySpot North Berkeley, 1510 Walnut St., (510) 843-2133
Faunamade, locally made pet baskets and cushions, www.faunamade.com
Pet Choice, 4203 MacArthur Blvd., (510) 530-3888
Bark Stix, 260 S. Garrard Blvd., (510) 235-2430
Present for Pet’s Hooman
Ellen Shershow Photography, based in Oakland, does gift certificates for pix that really capture the personality of your designated dog lover’s beloved, whether goofy or dignified. Packages start at $497 and go up to $2,100. www.ellenshershowphotography.com
This is a good year to give some love to the East Bay’s Black-owned businesses, many of which have gallantly made it through the pandemic. If none of these ideas strike your fancy, visit buyblack.org to find other possibilities.
Alchemy Collective Cafe and Roaster, 1791 Alcatraz Ave., (510) 394-4758. A bag of locally roasted coffee makes a great host or hostess gift.
Brundo Spice Company, 6419 Telegraph Ave., (510) 289-4050. Specializes in spices and herbs from Ethiopia.
Codacraft Atelier, 6316 San Pablo Ave., (510) 788-0481. Artisan jewelry gift store in North Oakland.
Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., (510) 465-8928. Fine art, glass, ceramics.
Museum Stores and Memberships
Gifts from museum stores support the East Bay’s world-class institutions. If you know the person you’re buying for is a real fan, consider giving a membership, which comes with many perks, and will definitely qualify you for “Best Present of 2022.” See an exhibit, visit the gift store, and likely, you will not be able to resist a little something for yourself as well, either at the ones below, or any one of the wonderful museums we are lucky to have.
Oakland Museum of California, 100 Oak St., (510) 318-8400
Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center St., (510) 642-0808
Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park, 1414 Harbour Way S, Richmond. (510) 232-5050
Give an Experience
To give a truly valued experience, you need to know the recipient well. If you do, this can be one of the best choices of all. It’s not possible to list all the options, but here are some ideas that may resonate—or if not, use them as a starting point for your own gift sleuthing.
With delight, we welcome back a full season of amazing offerings from the University of Berkeley’s CalPerformances series. Starting in January and running through June, take your pick of some extraordinary, international groups. A few to consider from early 2023:
Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour/Celebrating 65 Years. This time, featuring icon Dee Dee Bridgewater and acclaimed vocalist Kurt Elling. (Jan. 18)
Kodo/Tsuzumi: One Earth Tour. The taiko drummers of Kodo celebrate 40 years of drumming, and look ahead to a joyful future. (Feb. 4, 5)
Step Afrika! The Washington, DC-based company preserves and extends a dance tradition that began among enslaved people, and continues to thrive today.
Visit www.calperformances.org for tickets, more information and other offerings.
The acclaimed company starts off 2023 with Lynn Nottage’s comic drama Clyde’s, which was nominated for a Tony during its Broadway run. A pair of tickets to the show is a wonderful way to start off the New Year. Opens Jan. 20.
Freight & Salvage
The beloved “Freight” remains an East Bay treasure. How about tickets to “We Banjo 3” on Jan. 29—Steve Martin approved!—or “Classic Night at the Freight: Mozart Birthday Celebration” on Feb. 6? www.thefreight.org
East Bay Regional Park District
The vast majority of the hikes, wildlife expeditions and other offerings at the district’s many parks are free—so why not make your own gift card, offering to take your giftee to an experience of their choice? This could include the annual Tilden Fungus Fair in January in Berkeley’s Tilden Nature Area. All the choices can be accessed at www.ebparks.org/calendar.
The EBRPD also offers adult pole walking and hiking, boating and kayaking programs for a fee, including “Hiking with Poles: Skills and Practice Hike” at Oakland’s Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, and “Boat to Brooks Island” from the Richmond shoreline. Visit www.ebparks.org/register to access these and others or make your own gift certificate and let your giftee choose.
Gift Grab Bag
These are ideas and makers that might just float someone’s boat, cut to the chase, sweeten their mood, almond butter their toast, acknowledge they’re a gem or make them green with glee. In other words, it’s the grab bag category!
Is there someone on your list who loves canoeing—and has been very, very good this year? Boatsmith Art Kleiner spent years floating in wooden boats on lakes in his native Switzerland. Now he creates handcrafted canoes as part of his Pinole-based business. A custom-designed and built ArtCanoe will run you about $3,850. The meticulous craftsperson might need six months to finish an order, depending on the backlog, but your gift could well become a family heirloom. www.theboatsmith.com, [email protected]
Jay Morgan Handcraft/Handmade Knives
Dedicated home cooks are very fussy about their knives. Give them one they’ll use for a lifetime, whether stainless steel or forged, from Oakland’s master cutlery-maker, Jay Morgan. Expensive? Yes. Exquisite? Also yes. www.jaymorganhandcraft.com
Lisa Ihnken/Heavenly Fragments
Kensington jewelry maker Lisa Ihnken handcrafts pieces from vintage costume jewelry sourced from thrift stores, garage sales and anywhere else she can find it. Her necklaces and earrings reflect the original history of the jewelry from which they’re made. Custom pieces for special occasions are available. Ihnken also sells intact vintage pieces from her own collection. Currently, her line is available only on her Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/heavenlyfragments?ref=seller-platform-mcnav, or contact her directly at [email protected].
The Xocolate Bar
Founded in 2006 by life partners Malena Lopez-Maggi and Clive Brown, The Xocolate Bar has been a Solano Avenue stand-out, featuring “clean ingredients and ethical sourcing,” combined with charming and sometimes whimsical design. House-blend chocolate is organic and fair trade, and there are vegan and gluten-free goodies available. The perfect host/hostess gift is the four-piece “Cocktail Time” truffle box, made with California craft liquors. Want to help them re-open their Solano Ave. storefront? Order many gifts online at www.thexocolatebar.com.
Berkeley Ecology Center/The Eco Store
It’s impossible not to make amazing finds for the environmentalists on your list at the Eco Store. Books, housewares, organic gardening supplies, toys, games, recycled paper products, glassware, organic fibers—they have it. You’ll walk out with a few things for yourself as well. 2350 San Pablo Ave., (510) 548-3402