08/20/17 0 THE HEART OF OAKLAND
There is a lot of heart in the heart of Oakland. It is because Oaklanders are working hard to reinvigorate the downtown and uptown neighborhoods. I cannot tell a lie, “there” is not entirely “there” yet. And the progress is very fragile as one can get the sense that it could go one of three ways. The momentum could continue positively, with more restaurants, shops, and events that are turning it into a lively, diverse go-to community. Or, it could tip back five years if the local businesses fail in their fight against the obstacles that they face everyday. Or even worse, it could go homogenous, like so many other cities that have succumbed to the pressures of “success.”
But, there is something exciting in the air and it is fueled by the passion of the independent merchants who are fighting the good fight. Indeed, they have a stake in the development. These people are creative and energetic optimists who are betting heavily on the potential for complete rejuvenation of the area. As I continue to meet these entrepreneurs, I come to see them more as artists than I do as “retailers” and they know how to make it fun to shop.
Sure, downtown and uptown may still seem a little daunting, but just know that if you do your prospecting, you will find your own gold. Yes, there are empty spaces blighted by graffiti and some streets have not quite turned the corner. However, at the next corner, there might be a store like Kosa Arts, Oaklandish, SoleSpace, Two Jacks Denim, or Viscera. In short, Broadway, off Broadway (can I call it that?), and Telegraph have an eclectic collection of boutiques and galleries to peruse. To be sure, the neighborhood is turning into an energetic and burgeoning shopping utopia.
And what you will strike is handmade, often locally-made (or at least US-made), high quality, eclectic, artisanal gold. There is no doubt that these merchants care deeply about who is making their wares as well as how and where they are made. It is easy to see that they are dedicated to pursuit of surprising and delighting their customers.
But the real shopping experience payoff comes when you engage with the proprietors and staff because they will lovingly give you the story about an item or recount the history of their store. They will make inspired recommendations about other places to visit and then help you settle on just the right purchase. They are so grateful for your business that you might feel like they have generously given you a little slice of their heart as well.
It is indeed a Saturday afternoon well spent strolling down Broadway and checking out the vibrant, continually developing scene. Once done, you might want to check out one of the many award winning pubs, bars, breweries, and eateries to celebrate your shopping success. You cannot buy any of that on the internet!
One last note: we would love for you to explore the downtown and uptown neighborhoods and tell us what you think. Who are your favorite merchants? Why do you love them? Please share with us your local shopping experiences!