The Oh Wonderful Guide to New Orleans

Guess who has two thumbs and finally made their way to New Orleans? This girl! Back in the day, my aunt would take me to Disneyland every weekend where we would head to their version of the French Quarter, visit the Haunted Mansion and Tom Sawyer island. Little did I know that the real New Orleans would be just like Disneyland—just with way more beignets and cocktails involved. Here’s my take on where to eat, drink and see in New Orleans, all from yours truly.

Where to Eat in New Orleans

Willie Mae’s Scotch House – Treme 

Are you also on the hunt to eat the best fried chicken, all the time always? Just me? Cool. Do yourself a favor, call a car the minute you land and hightail it to Willie Mae’s Scotch House (not to be confused with any other Willie’s located throughout the city). You’ll be driven ~10 minutes outside of the French Quarter (FQ), dropped off in the Treme neighborhood and in front of a house that’s been Willie Mae’s since 1957. Their chicken is perfectly crispy on the outside and so, so juicy on the inside. Get messy, order the housemade lemonade and sit back and enjoy.

Willa Jean’s Warehouse District 

I couldn’t quite shake the San Francisco off of me, so we made our way to Willa Jean’s for a very chic brunch in this James Beard award-winning bakery, café and restaurant all-in-one. Head here for breakfast or brunch (maybe before a visit to the Garden District), and look out for The Biscuit Situation on the menu, their BBQ shrimp toast, crawfish and grits, freshly baked bread, new takes on lattes and, are you hungry yet?

CochonCentral Business District

You’d be crazy to not eat some Cajun food in Louisiana. Even if it’s a little steamy outside, order the rabbit stew with dumplings, their take on charbroiled oysters (with chili-garlic butter) and drinks mixed with moonshine and crawfish boil (but not together).

Auction House Market – Warehouse District

You know I love a converted warehouse. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, now you do. With no less than 5 different food stalls, a stunning marble bar in the center and waiters yelling out your name to come pick up your order, Auction House Market is worth a visit just for the change of pace from your normal sit-down restaurant experience.

Where to Drink in New Orleans

Arnaud’s French 75French Quarter

Lately, I’ve been a big fan of cocktails and outstanding experiences at bars. Nowadays, this does not consist of talking to QT’s but really chatting it up with bartenders who know their stuff and having some unforgettable drinks throughout the night. I ended up spending 3 consecutive nights at French 75, headed up by Chris Hannah, the award-winning head bartender at this spot right off of Bourbon (and literally the star of every publication that has written about NOLA). He’s mixing up newer takes on old, old classics, while somehow keeping once well-loved drinks, well, still loved. The best souvenir I brought home? A list of NOLA favorites hand-written from Hannah himself.

The Roost Bar at Brennan’s – French Quarter 

Famous for its flamingo pink exterior and flamingo-decked mirrors, it’s obvious to see how I was convinced to head inside. Otherwise known for their Creole fare, Brennan’s is also notably famous for their Caribbean Milk Punch mixed with rum, bourbon, cream and plenty of vanilla. So sit back, relax and order one as a quick escape from the heat of the South.

Compère LapinWarehouse District 

Compère Lapin (or brother rabbit) was another recommendation from our friend Chris (who is probably besties with the head bartendress, Abigail Gullo). We only stayed for one drink slushie each, and they were good. Think refreshing, not tropical and perfectly Southern—someway, somehow. Order one, sit at the bar and chat it up with Abigail (which we didn’t get to do), but I bet she’s really cool.

NOLA Brewing Company – Irish Channel 

To be honest, we didn’t get to stop by the brewery, but rest assured, I did have their beers. Their pale ale might just be the best I’ve ever had and word on the street is that this brewery rocks. Apparently, it comes complete with an outside patio, string lights and if you’re lucky, live music just alongside the river. Sounds so #dreamy.

What to Do in New Orleans

Preservation Hall

Do yourself a huge favor and go check out some live music at Preservation Hall. It’s $20 at the door, cash-only and the best part is that there are no phones or cameras allowed during the show. It’s just you, all the other guests and a very good band at the front of the house. Be sure to get there on the earlier side of the next show time (they’re every hour, on the hour from 5-10 p.m., except for 7 p.m.), I would say 30 minutes beforehand is your safest bet.

Garden District

Even if you’re not into “touring,” the Garden District is worth the trolley ride out from Canal Street. Visit the above-ground cemetery that inspired Anne Rice, see her old house, Sandra Bullock’s mansion, the spot that Nicolas Cage bought and even the Manning family house. Now that I think about it, it was more a celebrity real estate tour with many beautiful mansions along the way. Still worth it.

Swamp Tour

Maybe when I’m older and grayer, I will move myself out to a swamp and feed marshmallows to alligators. Visiting Honey Island swamp was definitely a highlight of the trip. It wasn’t an airboat tour, but the flatboat was able to get us into narrow bayous, up and down the river at what felt like, high speeds and a lot of animal spottings like swamp raccoons, egrets, herons, gators, turtles and even a wild bachelorette party.

Frenchman Street

Are you a woo girl? If not, skip Bourbon Street entirely and head out to the locals-favorite Frenchman Street instead. We stopped by The Spotted Cat (yes, the exact place where CNN does NYE!) and listened to a bluegrass band and had a whiskey shot. We were totally fine that night (we were not).

Mardi Gras World

Want to see some Mardi Gras floats without actually experiencing the crowds? Head to Mardi Gras World (there’s even a free shuttle from major hotels!) where you can see how the props are built from giant pieces of styrofoam, paper-mâchéd over, then painted over every year by the same family that started making them in the 19th century.

French Quarter

Just like Disneyland! Every street in the FQ is like walking back in time, with old French-style houses in pastel colors, porches that are just made for perching and a live band that might dot a street corner. Rent a bike at dusk to see the neighborhood, try a ghost tour or an architecture tour if you’re more refined and just soak up the sights. Royal Street is known for all of it’s shops (mostly antique), Bourbon just might be the Vegas of the South and all the other sidestreets have something up their sleeves too.

Still have questions about New Orleans? Just ask!

How to Spend a Long Weekend in Austin

Guess who’s back, back again! Three months away from the blog is a very long time—but I’m grateful that two friends and all of my family noticed. I’m also back from Austin, Texas, which just might be my new favorite city. Here’s my guide to Austin, but disclaimer: try and visit with your most favorite people who make it easy to have fun.

Where to Eat in Austin

La Barbeque – East Austin

Sure, everyone’s heard of Franklin Barbeque. I’ve never eaten it (yet)  but if you want some meat and don’t want to line up at 9 a.m., head to La Barbeque in East Austin. They went from barbeque truck to an air-conditioned and high-end convenience store. You can also order a beer while you wait, so this just might be the best line you’ll ever wait in. Get the brisket, spicy sausage, pulled pork and plenty of potato salad.

Elizabeth Street Café1st Street  

My new version of a perfect summer night now consists of eating fiery Vietnamese food on a 90-degree night in Texas. The #millenialpink neon lights wooed me in, but things quickly got serious once the food arrived. Their menu’s split into appetizers, bánh mì, pho, bún and specialties that rotate out. Spring for something on the specialties section (or you’ll miss it) and be sure to pair it with a carafe of whatever cocktail you’re drinking to wash it down.

June’s – South Congress 

If you know me at all, you know that I will always want to visit a BA best new restaurant of whatever year it is. June’s is a wine bar that feels like the love child between a diner and sexy French restaurant (with a lot less smoke). Grab a glass of wine or brunch while you’re in town—they have it all.

Guero’s Taco Bar – South Congress

You apparently can’t travel to the American Southwest without eating a taco, so you might as well eat one at Guero’s. Your tacos come with a hefty side of Mexican restaurant kitsch, plus an unlimited salsa bar and strong margaritas.

What to See in Austin

Barton Springs Zilker Park

When it’s over 100 degrees outside, there really is no excuse to skip out on a trip to Barton Springs. Just 15 minutes max from downtown is a natural spring full of living organisms (like the Barton Springs salamander) and very cool water. It’s free after 9 p.m. and only $8 if you’re not a local.

Live Music at The Continental Club – South Congress 

Have you ever listened to honky tonk funk? Nope, neither have I—until I hit up The Continental Club. If you have a couple of hours to spare on a weekday (or weekend) night in Austin, catch a show (it’ll probably be under $10) from a local band.

South Congress Bridge Bats

When’s the last time you saw 1.5 million bats fly right over you? If the answer is never, then block off at least one night just before sunset to plant yourself on the east side of the South Congress bridge to watch the bats take off at dusk. And I swear, it’s not like that one scene from The Office.

Shopping – South Congress & East 11th Street

Let’s be real, no vacation of mine is ever complete without a little bit of shopping. While in Austin, I fell in love with two main drags: South Congress and East 11th. South Congress is famously known for their small shops, but my favorite was Feathers Boutique, for their highly curated items ranging from DVF dresses and Gap skirts from the 90s. East 11th street also had some great hits like Charm School Vintage, Olive (for contemporary cool-girl clothing) and take heart (for tiny, minimalist wares).

1st Street

I swear, I purposefully did not map us to this mural! Just take one stroll down 1st Street (on the south side of town) and walk north. You’ll hit up spots like the Austin postcard mural and attached art gallery, Gourdough’s doughnuts (could eat these everyday) and the aforementioned Elizabeth Street Café. According to insider info from a Lyft driver, 1st street is the place to be if you want to blend in with the locals.

Where to Drink in Austin

Lazarus Brewing East Austin

Great beer, air conditioning and a stained glass mural of Jesus are all to be found at Lazarus. If you’re in need of a craft beer break, a visit to East Austin is worth it.

Blue Owl Brewery East Austin

I. Love. Sours. So I am a little bummed that I didn’t actually get to check out this brewery in person, but I am being held over by the single taster I had at a coffee shop. Head to Blue Owl for me, won’t you?

Hotel San José – South Congress 

This hotel looked hip as hell, which of course means that they were serving the summer drink of the year: Frosé. The poor thing melted in less than 20 minutes (like me).

Other important things:

Where to Stay

If you’re looking to be where it’s at, stay somewhere near (or on) South Congress Avenue, whether it’s an Airbnb or at the Austin Motel. If you’re okay with being a little farther out from the hustle and bustle, a few nights in Zilker Park or Bouldin are fine too.

How to Get Around

Bus, bike, Lyft or Uber—Austin really has it all now. Renting a car might have its perks too since you’d be able to travel a little farther outside the city to find a no-wait barbeque joint.

When to Go

Skip a mid-August trip since we learned that it’s the hottest time of the year. Early fall and late spring are prime time.

A Weekend Guide to Seattle

A couple of weeks ago, I took a quick jaunt up to the Pacific Northwest for a long(er) weekend away in Seattle. The weather forecast called for lots of rain, which meant that we were going to spend most of our time indoors either eating or shopping. If you’re wondering, we did both.

But with that rainy weather (seriously, it was their biggest storm of the year for them!), that meant we got to try out some seriously good food spots. Without having to worry about missing out on the outdoorsy stuff. As if we would really care if we did. Here’s my weekend guide to Seattle.

Where to Eat in Seattle

Weekend Guide to Seattle Weekend Guide to Seattle

Il Corvo Pasta

Il Corvo is the one spot that you must pasta pencil into your itinerary. This 2016 James Beard Award winner makes fresh pasta made to order in this sit-down spot. They’re only open for lunch from Monday to Friday between 11-3 so make sure to show up before the weekend rolls around.

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Anything by Renee Erickson

I’m just going to call her the Queen of Seattle at this point. I was #blessed to eat at every restaurant she has to offer in her city. With three restaurants in the young and hip Capitol Hill hood and one in the quaint and waterfront Ballard. Make a reservation at Bateau for individual, dry-aged steaks and the best corn (buttery, the right kind of cheesy and topped with chili threads). Head to General Porpoise for Stumptown Coffee and stuffed donuts. Then, if you need something from the sea and in a french-inspired setting, stop by Bar Melusine just two doors down.

Walrus and the Carpenter is her most famed-spot which is nestled just off the main drag in Ballard. It’s small plates and family-style eatery is experienced best with good company and one of their fine wine selections.

Other Seattle Eateries: 

  • Mr. West Café Bar: Thought you could only find avocado toast in California? I guess it’s taken over Seattle too. Mr. West had darn good coffee and a curry and mustard seed avocado toast.
  • Ballard Annex Oyster House: Freshly made bloodys and freshly shucked oysters make a perfect afternoon brunch.
  • Starbucks Reserve: There’s more to Starbucks than just PSL’s, which the Starbucks Reserve proved. Head here to see coffee roasted in at least four different ways.

Where to Drink in Seattle

Weekend Seattle Guide

Fremont Brewing Company

Just down the hill from the Fremont Troll and across the road from some Seattle-exclusive houseboats is Fremont Brewing Company. You can expect a lot of warm, hip company here (plus a fireplace inside) and an outdoor patio for when the weather’s nice. Plus, organic beer. Need I say more?

Weekend Guide to Seattle

Damn The Weather

Aptly named, Damn The Weather, this spot is the perfect place to hunker down from any and all bad weather. However, if I lived in Seattle, this is where I would be rain or shine. Nice wine, nice bartenders and even nicer cocktails.

Weekend Guide to SeattleWeekend Guide to Seattle

Barnacle

While you wait to grab a seat at the aforementioned Walrus and the Carpenter, grab a seat at Barnacle for a glass of Italian wine and a teaser plate of oysters.

Where To Shop in Seattle

Seattle Weekend Guide

Elliot Bay Book Company

There isn’t one city that I can go to without stopping by a bookstore. Maybe it’s because I like to pretend that I’m Belle from Beauty and the Beast in my very own library. This one has a mini-Oddfellows nestled right in there, so buy a paperback and head into the café for a blackberry lemonade.

Seattle Weekend Guide

Pike Place

As cliché as it is, no Seattle trip is whole without a visit to Pike Place. Grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks, see some fish being thrown through the air and grab some freshly cut dahlias for your hotel. Plus, you can’t go wrong with some quintessential (and food-centric) Seattle treats to bring back home.

Other places to shop in Seattle: 

  • Moorea Seal: Stop by the bright and airy spot in Belltown for their handmade jewelry that’s far from kitschy, smart wall art and some desk goods that I 100% want to have on my desk.
  • Prism: This is the store that’s so hip that you’ll feel square no matter how cool you are. Expect to find jewelry from Baleen, apothecary goods from Herbivore and other hip(ster) goods.
  • Nordstrom Flagship: The one Nordstrom that started it all. It might just be me or is everything even more carefully curated here? Plus, a fresh flower boutique at the entrance?
  • Horseshoe Boutique: Did you forget a sweater at home? Need another layer or a new pair of jeans? Horseshoe has you covered with Mother Denim, Frye, Sundry and my favorite fragrance, Kai.

Thanks to Pacific Northwest for yet another great trip!

The First Quarter Dispatch from San Francisco

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In business-speak, it’s been a whole fiscal quarter since I’ve packed my bags (furniture, kitchen supplies and mountains of clothes) and moved from the East Bay to San Francisco. Fun fact: I looked for an apartment for over a year and a half. A week after I’d accepted a new job offer, I lazily looked at an apartment and it worked out!

Here’s what I love about San Francisco: 

  • There’s something scenic on every corner, whether it’s a charming SF house or a cutie.
  • Evening or afternoon walks are pretty great when you have hundreds of places to visit within less than 4 miles from you in all directions.
  • Yoga Tree is keeping me centered, somewhat fit and on a schedule.
  • Muni is pretty great, I don’t always need to rely on my car anymore.
  • No more long commutes to work, to friends or the occasional date.
  • Proximity to wine country—rosé all day.

Here’s what I don’t love about San Francisco:

  • People would rather talk to their dog than say “hi” to anyone.
  • Poop. On. The. Streets.
  • What is it with this bone-chilling weather in the summer?

How to Spend a Weekend in San Luis Obispo

If you know me fairly well, you’ve most likely asked me why I go to SLO so often. Did you go to school there? No. Are you visiting friends? No. (Also, if you know me, you’ll know that I have five friends, tops). Did you grow up there? Nope. Well, sort of. 15 years ago the aunt who took me to Disneyland every weekend moved to the central coast for what we all thought would be a short stint.

Lucky for us, it turned into fifteen years, SLO county turned into a second home for our entire family and a future home for many of us. Head to SLO for a week or a weekend and you’ll return feeling refreshed, charmed and extra grateful for small towns.

Here’s where to head if you’re planning on visiting San Luis Obispo county:Morro Bay Morro Strand Beach

Morro Bay

Morro Bay Taco Temple

Morro Bay: 13 miles north of SLO proper is the little retiree beach town of Morro Bay, where I honestly spend most of my time. Head to Morro Strand Beach with your dog or with your friends or family, take in Morro Rock from afar and collect real life sand dollars instead of buying them from the souvenir shop. Taco Temple has been around for a lot longer than we’ve been going there and that little California-fusion Mexican restaurant has expand their space but still serves killer seared scallop tacos.

Sunset Drive-in Theater SLO

High Street Deli San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo Classic Car

SLO Farmer's Market Bishop's Peak Hike
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San Luis Obispo: Ahh, my favorite city in the whole wide world (for now). I can spend hours in downtown San Luis Obispo reading a book, walking around, drinking a chai latte from Scout Coffee and shopping at all of my favorite shops like Len Collective and these other cute shops. If you’re feeling outdoorsy and have the urge to sweat, hike up Bishop’s Peak along with every other SLO county resident in town and their dogs and admire the view from the top. Afterwards, go to High Street Deli for the best sandwiches you’ll ever eat (just thinking about the Doobie Dip is making my mouth water rn). Just a bit outside of Downtown SLO is the Sunset Drive-in Movie theater, one of that last few in California. The best part about drive-ins? YOU CAN BRING ALL OF THE SNACKS YOU CAN AND WANT TO EAT.

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Los Osos: This tiny beach town with virtually no beaches is completely surrounded by coast—you pretty much can’t avoid looking at the deep blue sea the entire time you’re in Los Osos. Hike Montano del Oro to visit the tide pools (with actual starfish!) and eat greasy burgers and onion rings from Sylvester’s Burgers. 

A couple things about San Luis Obispo:

  • Everyone’s nice here, so don’t bring your city jerkiness to these people.
  • Always pack workout clothes and hiking shoes—you never know when you’ll want to pull over and explore.
  • Bring plenty of cash. This is the place where I discovered the joy of farmers markets, so discover them for yourself too!

Honestly, this (brief) travel guide to San Luis Obispo is really just a way for me to remind me of the place I love most. I hope you love it too!

West Coast Craft, Summer 2016


Another year, another West Coast Craft! West Coast Craft did it again with the bi-annual craft fair in San Francisco’s Marina neighborhood. This summer’s festival was packed with people checking out everyone’s wares and there were hardly any girls not wearing frayed-hem jeans. Here’s my wrap-up of the best of the best from the summer edition of West Coast Craft.

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After months of Instagram-swooning over her jewels, I finally met the maker herself, as well as her to-die-for Relic Collection that’s she’s been working on. Her ear cuffs, wrist cuffs and dainty rings with an organic feel were so, so beautiful. Also, Molly’s designs are set to be stocked in the previously featured Len Collective in San Luis Obispo!
I couldn’t help but stop by Corinne’s booth after seeing the minimalist color palette, plush fabrics and owner/designer, Susan Kim’s vivacious personality (seriously so, so nice!). Her latest collection of crop tops, pencil skirts (which I wish I picked up) and her super-soft tees are mostly crafted out of french terry and meticulously handmade in her downtown Los Angeles studio.
I love my sundresses, but now that I live in the city where fog and drizzle is the norm in the morning and sudden gusts of wind can blow through, I won’t be wearing those dresses for a long time. Gusts of wind also served as the inspiration to designer Kimber-Lee Alston, who dreamed-up the genius (and incredibly cute) playsuits. They look like a fit and flare mini-dress, but have a secret snap closure for those urgent trips to the bathroom. Plus, no breeze will be able to get through those.
I was pretty much starstruck when I met Instagram-darling, Aleksandra Zee. A one-woman woodworker showcased a special collection of her paneled pieces and her new exploration into hand-stamped fabric wares for her “Everything is Okay” collection.
Hailing all the way from Nashville, Ceri brought her leather goods to San Francisco. I was smitten with the cool colors and the minimalist shapes of her bags that still felt really usable. And those sandals came with a solid birch wood heel that perfectly complemented the buttery soft leather straps.

I continuously walk by this one desk at the office that always has two mugs perched on the desk in an on-trend boob print (yes, boobs!) and a rustic brown and low-profile mug. Turns out, they’re handmade by my coworker and ceramic artist, Gopi Shah. She also keeps a really great online journal, which you’ll spend a good chunk of time reading after checking out everything she makes.
Now do yourself a favor and support these makers and movers and shakers! I’ll see you next time West Coast Craft!

Cute Shop: Maple Street Denim, Oakland

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So you should be fairly familiar with Old Oakland by now. A few weeks ago I stopped by Marion & Rose’s Workshop and weeks before that (on the same day) I walked by Maple Street Denim. Just like I did with Marion & Rose, I pressed my entire face up to the window, peered into the store and saw rows and rows of denim lined up. Plus, I laid eyes on a charcoal gray crewneck that had “Girl Gang” emblazoned on it in large block, white letters. I knew I had to have it.
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Eventually, I popped over to Maple Street Denim not even knowing that I wanted a new pair of jeans. The gregarious and knows-her-stuff owner of Maple Street, Julie Harleman, made me so excited to be trying on jeans (something I truly hate) and introduced me to brands I had no clue about, like Naked and Famous (which apparently all the uber-cool kids love).

 

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Julie, as she puts it, fell into denim by accident. As a student at UC Berkeley, Julie’s friend introduced her to Slash, an Elmwood denim shop specializing in vintage Levi’s. As the shop grew, Julie grew with it and subsequently, fell more in love with denim. Towards the end of her time there, she was a full-time buyer and manager of a new section of the store until a small fire occurred and sent Julie towards a crossroads of where her denim future would go. This is where Oakland lucked out. With the help of Kerri Johnson (see, I told you everyone in Oakland is great!), Julie was introduced to her storefront on 9th Street which would eventually become the tight-knit epicenter of small businesses that I crush on today. Julie says it herself, “Downtown Oakland is just this really special place and I always want to scream it from the rooftops!”.

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Walk into Maple Street Denim and you’ll be genuinely greeted by Julie, not in a I-want-to-sell-you-something sort of way, but in a I-love-what-I-do, earnest way. As you browse through her selection of Paige, Citizens of Humanity, and Made & Crafted Levi’s all of which fit in with the modern and simple aesthetic that aligns with her store and her customers, you’ll learn that all of the brands that are brought in because of their commitment to manufacturing and sourcing their materials and labor in a sustainable, ethical way. Not only in the materials they use, but also in how their employees who assemble your jeans are treated. The jeans you’ll find in her shop will last for years and years to come as you break them in, make them your own and let them fade in the most perfect way.

Speaking of denim, Julie asserts that skinny jeans aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But what we can expect are expanded styles of denim—think higher waists, easier fits and heavier fabrics for sturdy, long-lasting denim. Another denim surprise? Overalls are back in full swing and the Naked and Famous overalls that Maple Street carries can barely keep in stock. Trust me, I’ve worn my black pair more than two hands worth of times.

Maple Street Denim 

465 9th Street
Oakland, 94607

Cute Shop: Len Collective, San Luis Obispo

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Several months ago my aunt mentioned a small shop located in an old creamery building just off Higuera, San Luis Obispo’s main drag. Once again, I discovered that she had kept another a total gem hidden from me for many, many years. The second I walked into Len Collective’s old, shop with exposed bricks, bags from Baggu and watches from Cluse, my heart melted and I was smitten.

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A vagabond gypsy by heart born and raised in SLO, owner Shannon Len began making jewelry when she was living in Kauai. After realizing that she needed to get her hands on more materials, Len moved back to California and continued her jewelry business which then expanded to the point where she needed an actual workshop, then a brick and mortar shop to sell her designs. Her passion for small batch, handcrafted and minimalist, yet rustic-esque design from artisans eventually gave her the idea to bring other brands into the shop as she supplied the home where everything lived.  When the store first opened it’s doors, The first brand she brought in was P.F. Candle Co., the LA-based candle crafting duo whose signature brown glass candles can be seen everywhere from Urban Outfitters to CB2.

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Since my first happenstance meeting with Len Collective, they’ve moved into a newer and larger space in downtown SLO and stocked the shop full of much-loved brands including Herbivore Botanicals, Ursa Major skin care and BCE Jewelry. Just like other Cute Shops that have been featured here, mostly everything sold at Len is American-made, with some of it being local to SLO county like Oak and Flower soaps, and of course, Len’s own designs.

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Most of the customers who visit Len Collective are conscious shoppers looking for something unique, well-made, crafted with quality and supportive of U.S. makers and artists much like Len herself. Aside from sourcing most of the brands in the store through Instagram (the perfect at-home platform when you’re a busy shop owner and mother), Len also makes it a point to cut out the middleman and work directly with the artisans when ordering new products or restocking.
Over the past 15 years, SLO has managed to carve a big spot in my heart which only grows bigger when I see small businesses like Len thriving (and beating the big players) downtown. As SLO continues to grow, Len also plans on growing with it, continuing to share heirloom-worthy pieces, all while introducing shoppers to their next favorite small brands.

 

722 Marsh Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Cute Shop: Marion & Rose’s Workshop, Oakland

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When people shake their heads and say, “Isn’t Oakland, like, really dangerous?” I’m at the point where I do a huge eye roll, walk away, and cut all ties with them. I’m totally kidding. Truth be told, I was once one of those people back when I was a fresh Bay Area transplant and OC ex-pat. Those who shake their heads at Oakland should stop. Right now!

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Oakland has and is going through a remarkable renaissance and redevelopment phase, especially when it comes to food and small businesses. This week’s Cute Shop is about Marion & Rose’s Workshop, a small store located right off of bustling Broadway Avenue in the historic Old Oakland district. Four years ago, Kerri Johnson opened Marion & Rose, following years of running Blank Space gallery, whose home was also in Oakland. After years of running the gallery and hosting revolving pop-ups, Johnson thought it was time to open a brick and mortar store to serve as home to the burgeoning maker movement that was continuing to develop. Serendipitously enough, the building owner for their current shop was offering six months of free rent to attract new tenants to the then quiet section of Oakland in exchange for cultivating the neighborhood into a more bustling locale for residents and visitors.

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Everything in the store is American made, and most often, by small businesses scattered throughout the country.The United States mural that’s painted behind the counter also serves as a showcase for where some of the artists are based out of. Growing up in a family and within a community of union workers, Johnson saw neighbors and family members lose their jobs as manufacturing was outsourced to other parts of the world. Opening Marion & Rose was a way for Johnson to bring back small manufacturing and support the community that she was surrounded by here in California.

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Johnson specializes in what I have dubbed (in my mind), thoughtful shopping. Even if the price point’s higher, it’s about investing in goods that are well-made, in small batches and made in America by artisans and curators who are passionate about what they do, rather than immersing themselves in something they despise doing just to make a buck. When you walk into her store, you know that you’ll be able to find something made by someone who loves what they do, gave thought to what they made, and probably worked really hard to make impeccable. For Marion & Rose, the quality over quantity mantra rings insanely true.

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Since the store opened, a beautiful community in the Old Oakland part of town has been cultivated and bred. As fellow store owners walk by outside the shop, Kerri waves and notes that it makes her happy to have such strong relationships with her neighbors. Right by the front entrance of the shop are flyers promoting other stores in the neighborhood. Johnson also chats about how she’s often introducing and trading brands to other shop owners in Oakland.

Staying true to her gallery roots, Marion & Rose will be hosting artist Michael McConnell on Thursday, May 12th from 5:30-8:30 p.m. If you’re in the hood, maybe plan out a dinner at Swan’s Market, then a stop at Marion & Rose for some cool art by McConnell and quality, American made goods in this character-rich neighborhood of Oakland.

Marion & Rose’s Workshop
461 9th Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Cute Shop: Viv & Ingrid, Berkeley

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Whenever I have visitors in town, I take them on a loop around downtown where we always pass by Viv & Ingrid after hours and I whine to my guests, “ugh, they’re so cute, I wish they were open!”. Just a half a block away from UC Berkeley’s westside entrance lies Viv & Ingrid, this week’s Cute Shop, located in the heart of Downtown Berkeley. The owner, curator, and designer, Ingrid Chen, might be psychic or just really, really savvy. Five years ago, when the shop opened it’s doors, Ingrid knew that the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive would be opening it’s doors across the street and with that, bring more visitors to the area. Sure enough, the new BAMPFA opened its doors and brought in a new electricity to the store.

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After making and selling their delicate jewels as wholesale to other retailers (their Rolodex includes Fred Segal, Nordstrom, and an appearance on The Today Show), the duo decided to open a brick and mortar shop to give their customers a space to assemble. The UC Berkeley alums opened the shop at the height of the recession, but knew that they wanted to sell wares that were carefully crafted, had a backstory, and were meaningful to their customers. Chen is beyond friendly, warm and welcoming and always makes it a point to say hi to whoever walks into her shop, whether they’re just browsing or in need of directions.

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With the aim to push against fast fashion, Viv & Ingrid designs are always delicate, dainty (most of the time), made in-house and in small batches. Expect to find tiny post earrings with stones in turquoise, forest green and hot pink. Hoop earrings adorned with beads the size of a sewing pin come in hues that range across color spectrum.

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Chen recently remodeled and opened the back portion of her shop to host designer collectives where local makers can showcase their wares alongside other vendors and specially-designed Viv & Ingrid pieces for each event’s theme.

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The shop also features cards and prints from Rifle Paper Co., nail polish from Butter and scents from Tocca. When Chen thinks about bringing new brands into the shop, she always consults with her team to see if they would be products they actually buy themselves. She takes a lot of cues from her customers to see what they’re crushing on as well. I’m definitely crushing on nearly everything she has in stock.

 

2142 Oxford Street
Berkeley, CA 94704