Our holiday gift guide scours East Bay stores for fabulous finds.
Where to shop and what to buy for everyone on your list.
Ornament from Castle in the Air
A poster in the window of this beloved neighborhood bookshop reads, “Write a Book. Change the World.” And a homemade sign below says “All the Inspiration You’ll Need” over a selection of recently published books. Indeed, Mrs. Dalloway’s offers not only literary inspiration, but home inspiration, too, with a collection of gardening, landscape architecture, and design books on one side of the store’s main room, with a great selection of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction on the other. The bookstore’s second room is dedicated to children and young adults. The annual Bloomsday reading in honor of James Joyce’s epic novel Ulysses is a sure good time each June 16.
Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-704-8222, www.mrsdalloways.com, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Tue., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Wed.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. —EP
Green is the new black over at Fourth Street’s Convert. It’s also one-stop shopping for men and women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. Owners Randy Brewer and Fred Whitefield carefully curate their boutiques—the flagship is dedicated to clothes; the shop across the street is for shoes—with a focus on organic materials and American manufacturing. Since 2010, the duo has established their sustainable street cred, locking in exclusive collaborations with Jeffrey Campbell, Seychelles, and J Shoes on vegan footwear. At the original storefront, near Bette’s Oceanview Diner, find cozy women’s clothing such as wool cowl-neck sweaters and down stoles and vests by Portland-based Nau; handmade, vegetable-dyed leather wallets; and a funky selection of organic, cotton socks and Oaklandish T-shirts. Over at the shoe store, find smart leather boots from Timberland and comfortable New Balance sneakers, among vegan-made heels for gals and suede loafers for guys.
Convert, 1844 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-984-0142, convertstyle.com, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. —KC
This store in Elmwood offers fashion with a hipster edge. The shop stocks lots of 1980s-looking duds, including silky blouses, bright patterns, short skirts, and loads of jeans, with many under $50 and selections for both men and women. There also are loads of funky accessories, including leopard-print and polka-dot sunglasses, newsboy caps, and jaunty canvas totes with nautical flair ($68). Displays of tchotchkes, gift books, cards, and baby gear pack Therapy’s storefront, and the goods also include books with titles like Cats Are Weird and My Cool Bike, medieval weapon pushpins ($11.95), and salt and pepper shakers shaped like white and black magic wands.
Therapy, 2951 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-665-9009, www.shopattherapy.com, 11 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Mon.–Thu., 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 10:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Sun. —EP
Off Piedmont Avenue, Issues is a beacon for magazine lovers. Newsstands are stacked with just about any periodical you can think of, including even more you have never heard of, from Lapham’s Quarterly to Ukulele to French Vogue. The inked pages perfume the shoebox-size shop, a scent that lures many customers back into the store to pick up the latest issue of their favorite rag each month. Used books, records, zines, Moleskin planners, and other tangible treasures are tucked into every corner of the store. Bookworms and pop-culture lovers will appreciate that your gift took more effort than swiping your finger across a screen to purchase.
Issues, 20 Glen Ave, Oakland, 510-652-5700, www.issuesshop.com, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. —KC
At Casa Oaxaca in Albany, shop owner Guillermo Robles neatly packs a variety of handmade wares you would expect to find on the streets of Mexico into a color-drenched storefront on Solano Avenue. For folk-art enthusiasts, consider clay catrinas, intricately painted animal figures called alebrijes, and playful wooden masks. Lock eyes with Frida Kahlo on posters and ceramic plates as you carefully navigate past funkier, authentic gifts such as gourd canteens. They dangle from racks near the store’s showpiece: black-clay pottery. Kids will get a kick out of wooden flutes or packs of Canel’s chewing gum (chicles!), and tin ornaments are a fun addition to a Christmas tree.
Casa Oaxaca, 1286 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-524-0551, www.micasaoaxaca.com, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily. —KC
Marion and Rose’s Workshop
Did you know all you need to start a garden is a slingshot and some seeds? While that might be a long shot, there’s some truth to it. Give a green thumb the seed bomb kit from Marion and Rose’s Workshop equipped with—you guessed it—a slingshot to start a patch of wildflowers or herbs. The Old Oakland store, around the corner from Crown Nine jewelry, offers kits and old-fashioned gifts that are completely relevant in the age of DIY craftsmanship. Get a taste of the good life with Oakland’s Blue Chair Fruit jams made with ingredients such as apriums (an apricot-plum hybrid), white guavas, and bergamots. For history buffs, give a ceramic flask cast from Prohibition-era whiskey bottles discovered in the Oakland Hills. The quaint store also encourages little ones to get into the independent spirit with a Woolbuddy stitch kit.
Marion and Rose Workshop, 461 Ninth St., Oakland, 510-214-6794, marionandrose.com, 11:30 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat., 11:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun. —KC
Swap rawhide bones and squeaky toys for leather leashes and turquoise-embedded collars over at Paco Collars. Ana Poe has been carefully creating accessories for four-legged customers since 2002, but only opened her Shattuck workshop and pet store about five years ago. Who is the muse behind this endeavor? Poe’s late pit bull named Paco, who grew up in Oakland. All collars, leashes, and harnesses are made from latigo leather—typically used to make horse tack—and brass parts, ensuring a lifetime guarantee. Customize your dog or cat gear with sturdy embellishments such as stones, studs, and nameplates. You can expect your order to take about two or three weeks, but there is also a one-day rush order for VIDs (Very Important Dogs). And if you want to splurge on the humans in your life, the troupe of leatherworkers can make anything from bracelets and belts to camera straps and coffee cozies.
Paco Collars, 2905 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-7226, pacocollars.com, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Tue.–Fri., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat.–Sun. —KC
Casa De Chocolates
This two-year-old confectioner offers chocolates made with European techniques and Latin-American flair. Both of the shop’s chocolatiers have Mexican heritage, and they offer an array of traditional Mexican desserts like tres leches cakes, buttery Mexican wedding cookies, and frozen Mexican hot chocolate (delish!). But the stars here are the spice-spiked chocolate bars, truffles, ganache, and caramels with flavors like guava, tamarindo, Tapatio hot sauce, tequila, mezcal, mole, and chipotle and extras like “Inca Crunch” (quinoa) and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). If you wander in to grab a sample, be prepared to do some serious shopping. And this store ships samplers and bars to make gifting easy!
Casa De Chocolates, 2629 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 510-859-7221, www.casadechocolates.com, 11 a.m.—8 p.m. daily. —EP
Lost & Found
Fodder for your next Pinterest board awaits at the new Lost & Found in Rockridge. It’s hard not to envy the shop team’s knack for finding unique vintage curios at estate and garage sales, but at least you can snap up the goods at the College Avenue haunt, which opened in May. Vintage cocktail shakers, refurbished lamps, and old-timey dinette sets complement nesting tables (by owner Alison McLennan), hand-poured soy candles, and other modern items in the minimalistic space.
Lost & Found, 5357 College Ave., Oakland, 94618, 510-858-5011, lostandfoundstore.us, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Wed.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. —KC
Oaktown Spice Shop
Hungarian sweet paprika. Persian lime-curry. California citrus zest. Let your nose guide you through Oaktown Spice Shop in the Grand Lake neighborhood. Originally a men’s clothing store, the space has since heated up with more than 200 spices, herbs, and blends that hail from all parts of the world, except Antarctica. Buy fennel pollen and garlic powder, among others, in bulk—you can expect fresher and more affordable flavors than you would find in the aisles of a grocery store. Spice up gift giving with a two-, four-, or 10-jar themed box set such as “Around the World,” “BBQ Masters,” and “North African.” Fleur de sel and other artisan salts are peppered throughout the store, which is organized into hand-mixed blends, aromatic seeds (think cumin and coriander), peppercorns, chiles and paprikas, herbs, and baking spices. Fresh cinnamon for that apple pie, anyone?
Oaktown Spice Shop, 530 Grand Ave. Oakland, 510-201-5400, www.oaktownspiceshop.com, 12–7 p.m. Tue.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat., 12–4 p.m. Sun. Special holiday hours (Nov. 25–Dec. 23): 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun. (Closed Thanksgiving, Dec. 24–26, and Jan. 1, 2014) —KC
From food blog to pop-up shop to brick-and-mortar, Umami Mart in Old Oakland exemplifies Bay Area entrepreneurship. Yoko Kumano and Kayoko Akabori have made an impressionable mark on the cast of Art Murmur artists, proving that a business can sustain, and in this case prosper, after the first Friday of every month. See for yourself in the gallery-inspired space featuring kitchen and bar tools from Japan. Quality reigns over quantity in the stripped-down displays of kettles, pans, and glassware. For the serious chef, invest in the sleek MAC Santoku knife, made of the same steel used for swords in 14th-century Japan. If you have an entertainer in your life, gift the cocktail set containing a crystal mixing glass, a bar spoon, rocks glasses, and an ice tray for guaranteed happy-hour invites in the future.
Umami Mart, 815 Broadway, Oakland, 510-575-9152, umamimart.com, 12–6 p.m. Tue.–Fri., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m–5 p.m. Sun. —KC
Choosing artwork for another person can be nerve-wracking, but not impossible. For those who need extra help, head over to Collector. Skye Sullivan and Christina Begley opened the store in October 2011, creating what they call a “permanent open studio” on Shattuck Avenue. Some 75 local artists are on display at any given time, and most of the store’s collection of paintings, prints, jewelry, and ceramics are under $100. A variety of images hang from the walls, including Maggie Hurley’s limited-edition wood-panel prints of ostriches, owls, and other feathered friends, as well as Tomoko Maruyama’s whimsical depictions of San Francisco. The staff makes itself readily available to answer questions and assist you in choosing the right item. Want to play it safe? Go for ceramics like JFish Design’s air-plant holders or ornate salad bowls from Ezme Designs, both Berkeley artists.
Collector, 2950 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-647-9355, www.collectorartshop.com, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Thu., 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. —KC
Some of the best gifts can’t be wrapped. For a present of this nature, visit Flowerland nursery on the Albany side of Solano Avenue. Upon entering the verdant lot, you might find a staffer hard at work plucking moss from a pile of forest-floor leftovers to build a terrarium, or putting the finishing touches on a festive wreath. Tiptoe past succulents to get a Berkeley-based Local 123 coffee from a 1960s airstream trailer before meandering through a maze of ubiquitous Noble and Doug firs, perennials, and plants all the way from Australia. Inside, expect to find a nursery gift shop that goes beyond hand shovels and seed packets (which are also available). A selection of room sprays conjuring the smells of Big Sur and the Siskiyou forest, wood-bound journals, and Impressionist paintings by Kanna Aoki are among the offerings; thimble-size terrariums could easily be planted in a stocking or under a menorah.
Flowerland, 1330 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-526-3550, flowerlandshop.com, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun. —KC
The frequently updated window displays at this chic boutique lure passersby in every time they walk buy. Patrons are never disappointed. From a stylish selection of street clothes that never gets too corporate, too froufrou, or too pricey to shoes that manage to be attractive and comfortable simultaneously to a reasonably priced selection of pretty and lacey lingerie to a constant 20 percent to 70 percent off sales rack, this store is a favorite place for East Bay shoppers in the know. A recent visit came up with jeans by Jag, brightly hued dresses and tops by Desigual, lacy tanks ($22–$29), Danish clogs ($125–$140), and lots of sparkly jewelry bling, a lot under $50.
Elements, 2937 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-6876, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. —EP
Castle in the Air
Fairy tales come to life in the two-level Castle in the Air on Fourth Street. Downstairs, antique ornaments and Santa figures are for sale throughout the holidays alongside a regular selection of elegant stationary, calligraphy pens, European crepe paper, and books by store founder Karima Cammell. Cutouts transform from flat sheets of paper to rocking horses, fishing boats, and ancient French fortresses. Other Old-World treats include Dresden trimmings—die-cut sheets said to be the original stickers—and German glass glitter. Upstairs is where the magic happens, in rotating exhibits and behind the velvet curtain, where a slew of imaginative classes led by artists like John B. McRae take place. The small-group workshops have included making marionettes and handmade books, and fill up quickly, so plan to book in advance.
Castle in the Air, 1805 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-204-9801, castleintheair.biz, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. —KC