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

Cute Shop: Neeko, Berkeley CA

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You can say that West Berkeley’s San Pablo Avenue is a bit of a hodge-podge. With still-standing liquor stores from the forties, an all-natural home cleaning products store, multiple auto body shops, and hipster cafes like Highwire Coffee Roasters — you just can’t put a label on this Berkeley neighborhood.

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Ash Ford, the ebullient twenty-something, midwestern native, but gypsy-at-heart shop owner opened Neeko just four weeks ago after looking for the perfect space for nearly six months. The Berkeley women’s boutique was named in homage to Ford’s nickname from Destiny, an old coworker, who dubbed her ‘Neeko’ after Ford lamented over her “run of the mill” namesake.
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The store is filled with pattern-heavy clothing like sequined floral miniskirts and calm, airy pieces like chambray midi dresses. Ford wants the women who stop by her store to feel confident, comfortable, but willing to push their boundaries just a little bit. All of the pieces in Ford’s shop are under $100 and hand-selected by her. Jewels and other accessories are sourced from Esty, friends, and friends of friends.

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Everyone in the neighborhood is lucky to have Neeko as a new neighbor. As the months and years tick by, Ford plans on hosting guided meditation and yoga nights, workshops, and pop-up shops featuring other makers. Just like those tech-founders in San Francisco, Ford has lofty goals for the shop including same-day delivery for those days when you just can’t figure out the perfect outfit for date night or drinks with your BFFs.

If you’re in town on Friday, April 22nd stop by Neeko’s grand opening celebration from 6-9 p.m. for margaritas, music and a sale!

2505 San Pablo Ave
Berkeley, CA 94702

Cute Shop: MXM Jewelry, Berkeley CA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have a crush on simple, but whimsical jewels. Case in point, remember this post? Or this oneOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce again, Berkeley serves as home to a really cute shop that makes the simple and whimsical pieces that I find myself crush on. MXM Jewelry, owned by Peizhu Huang and Ximao Miao has a pretty cute origin story that began when Peizhu was a first-year design student. Her final assignment for her Identity 1 class required a logo design for a business. Out came the entire concept for the store, with the same logo that they still use to this day. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile Peizhu (r) serves as the designer and point-person in charge for taking the orders, Ximao (l) is the metalsmith behind the operations. Every charm from MXM has been sketched by Peizhu, then handcrafted by Ximao either in their Oakland home’s garage or their tiny studio in the back of the store. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEach piece is carefully made by Ximao, who’s such a perfectionist that he’ll restart a piece from scratch if it doesn’t turn out just as he imagined. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Their first pieces were their super-cute pinwheel, paper airplane, and butterfly — all of which are still in rotation. Since then, they’ve ventured to make Pacman themed earrings, modern bar necklaces, and a California charm necklace that’s the nicest one I’ve seen so far.
Their nearly two-years-old Berkeley storefront features a small selection of their wares, but if you’re hankering for something that you don’t see on their handmade shelves, the duo can most likely make it.
MXM Jewelry
1918 M.L.K. Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Cute Shop: Flora Arte, Berkeley CA

As we all know by now, Berkeley is the city in the Bay that serves as home to me. I’ve been pretty happy to have my routine established here – Saturday farmers markets, at least a monthly visit to my favorite bar, and a solid list of restaurants to take friends to. Also, I know parking in this city like the back of my hand now.

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My flower buying routine, however, was gloriously disrupted when Flora Arte burst onto the scene back in June. Owned by the sweetest friend-duo from Korea, Ms. Hong and Jin, who met in college before opening the shop in Berkeley.

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Jin, one of the owners, says his style when arranging his flowers is mostly English and Asian. Both characterized, by fully and foliage-heavy arrangements that are often monochromatic.

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Both owners keep a busy schedule – with daily visits to the SF Flower Market at 5 a.m. each day and keeping the shop open until 8 p.m. daily. Ms. Hong also works as a full-time accountant in the city.

The duo also makes their own gemstone soaps and hand-poured candles to fill their store. Flowers in the shop come from all over the world, but Flora Arte never refrigerates them. What you see is as fresh as it’s going to get, and might just be the prettiest bunch of flowers in the East Bay.

 

Flora Arte
2070 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Cute Shops: New(er) SLO Stops

Another weekend has wound down, but some of us (ahem, me!) are still on weekend-time with the three-day holiday. I sped down to San Luis Obispo the minute I sent out my last email and had Anderson Paak queued up as my evening playlist. I was set on trying new things this weekend – which manifested itself into a new hike, a new day trip (Los Olivos is a must!) and visits to new shops.

There’s no shortage of small businesses in SLO and I am SO happy about it. Almost every time I visit, there’s a new store that’s opened up that has it’s own unique voice and selection of curated goods. I stumbled on these three this weekend, each of them wholly unique and completely representative of their owners. Sometimes, visiting a small business is like walking into the physical manifestation of everything someone loves. And I absolutely love that.

The Station
311 Higuera Street

Once upon a time an old gas station sat right off the 101 highway on Higuera Street. Then, one day, chainlink fences went up, the old gas tanks were removed, and The Station opened it’s refurbished doors to it’s carefully curated wine shop and eating space. The shop only stocks international wines (for now), which are all reasonably priced between $20-40 a bottle and are sourced from (it seems) the deepest nooks and crannies of Europe.

For those who come hungry, The Station hosts a pop-up food station (last week was Brisket Pho) every Thursday and Friday. Diners and drinkers can pick up a bottle of wine to share while dining inside the old mechanic’s garage. I’ll definitely be back for more Austrian rosé!

Appendage + Bough
1335 Walker Street

Just down the street from The Station lies Appendage + Bough, a rustic and cozy shop that’s home to Tim Beebee and Ryan Ratzlaff’s custom furniture workshop. Opened in the summer of ’15, the shop is the perfect showroom for their furniture and (mostly) California-sourced wares.

Looking for a handmade, reclaimed wood dining table with hairpin legs? You’re in luck. The dudes can make a very fine table, among other things.

Left Field
1242 Monterey Street

When I pulled up to Left Field, I definitely let out an audible gasp the second I saw the shelves of succulents outside their door. Located in a recently developed mini-plaza one block away from the hustle and flow of Downtown SLO, Left Field lives up to it’s name.

Stocking completely unexpected wares, including neon and vintage-esque signage and gemstones scattered throughout the store, this shop will make you smile, let out a soft chuckle and think to yourself, “Now where in my house can I put that?”.

A Day in LA: What to Do in Downtown Los Angeles

When I was little, Los Angeles seemed like a hulking mass of a city filled with traffic, cars, and Korean people because my understanding of Los Angeles was the 4 blocks of Koreatown that my mother, aunts, and grandmother frequented at least once a month. But of course, Los Angeles is so much more than the Korean epicenter that I understood it to be. Just like San Francisco (and really, any other metropolitan city), Los Angeles has micro-neighborhoods with it’s own specialties, cuisines, and types of people.

If you find yourself in Downtown LA, between Figueroa and Main, here’s what’s worth a visit. I know it’s sacrilege to leave your car, but spend the day walking around the neighborhood, instead of soaking in the sights from the confines of a vehicle.

Do:

The Broad Museum
221 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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The Broad has already been featured here, but I still can’t get over it! Eli and Edith Broad’s collection is no joke and full of pieces that you’ll remember for quite a long time — it’s pretty hard to forget about Jeff Koons. Like I said before, leave behind the camera and the urge to Instagram the first time you go. Reservations are still booked out until February, but maybe things will quiet down soon. Maybe.

Eat:

Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

If you find yourself walking down Broadway, you’ve found yourself on one of the most LA-esque streets in the city. Art-deco buildings, mixed with rundown concrete boxes with graffiti on the facade line the sky. A few storefronts away from a religious candle store, is Grand Central Market, the longstanding food hall that was recently renovated in 2014. The market now serves as a home to over 40 food stands and vendors, like Eggslut and Ramen Hood, but also local food purveyors like Sarita’s Pupuseria and Valeria’s, a spice stand.

Stopping at Grand Central Market is a must. There are few places that give you a feel and understanding for the culture that lies in the underbelly of a major city, all while being situated right next to some of the most publicized restaurants in the country.

Bottega Louie
700 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90017

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Photo c/o Bryce Covey from Jacquelyn Clark’s blog

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Photo c/o @sohappitogether

It’s hard to ignore the constant stream of macaroon and Bottega Louie ‘grams on nearly every fashion and food blogger’s site. Even with the hype, I’d still stop by for a few sweet treats, a cup of coffee, and a visit to this famed LA food destination. You only live once, right?

Play:

Walt Disney Concert Hall
111 S. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012

A glass of wine, a nice dress, and a long evening spent sitting down and listening to great music. Sounds like a dream night for me. If you’re already downtown, why not stick around for a few more hours to catch the LA Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, aka The Dude? The 2015/2016 calendar is coming to a close in June, with many exciting shows lined up.

Cute Shop: The Sawtooth Building in Berkeley, CA

The Bay Area is filled with people who make things. From the 2 billion lines of code written at Google to the bowls that those billionaire founders have in their kitchens, things get made up here.

So where do these artisans shack up?

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In Berkeley, it’s The Sawtooth Building in the most Westerly part of the city. Just a block away from The Rare Barrel and a couple blocks from the waterfront. With over 30 studios, it’s a hub for handcrafted wares and a perfect escape from Market Street and Union Square in San Francisco.

This past weekend was an open studio for the forty-plus makers that spend their time designing, building, and crafting those goods that they are so passionate about. Every time I get to have a conversation with them, I feel so renewed and revitalized to go and make something, and go after all the things that I want — just like they do.

Sarah Kersten Studio 

Ever since stumbling upon Kersten’s work on Instagram (honestly, where else these days?) I’ve been meaning to stop by her studio. I was even more excited to find out that she was also nestled in Berkeley, a seemingly rare location for artists these days as my favorites tend to be in the city or in the North Bay. After growing up on a farm, the self-taught Kersten relocated to the Bay Area six years ago and has been crafting her ceramics ever since. Her wares are made to serve a meaningful purpose, whether it’s to ferment food so that no produce goes to waste, or as a ceramic vessel to replace tupperware (which is a mantra I can get on board with).

Kersten may be launching a dinnerware next year, so stay tuned!

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Kersten’s work can be found at her site

Rae Dunn 

If you’ve been in any small store in the Bay Area, it’s highly likely you’ve encountered a Rae Dunn piece. Dunn sticks with simple, glazed white pieces with sweet and smile-inducing phrases written in her spiny print. I first found out about her after reading about Wilma’s World, a picture book about Dunn’s dog, Wilma — the perfect muse.

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Dunn’s work can be purchased at her Etsy shop

Roadtripping Down the California Coast 

For some reason I was keen to get out of the Bay and head out on a long, solo trip. I first (and impulsively) booked a trip to Hawaii but canceled in favor of a trip down the California coast. Armed with a car, a bag of clothes, and a killer playlist, I was off.

My first stop was La Selva Beach, an hour and a half south of San Francisco and nestled in the heart of California farmland.  It was hot, sunny, and quiet. Exactly what I was looking for this weekend. For dinner, I stopped at Miyuki Sushi in Watsonville, a farming town a few miles down the road from where I was staying. Open, empty roads meant that I ripped it down the highway after dinner and stared in awe at the pitch black sky speckled with millions of stars. Something that I don’t get at home.
 I also found a pristine beach located through a zig zagging road that led through field after field of farmland and migrant workers. Unfortunately, my car was broken into and I’m now down a wallet, camera, two purses, and my favorite lipgloss. Lesson learned — never leave your valuables in your car!
Next stop was Capitola, a quick trip from where I was staying, but a quaint seaside town too. I found a perfect place to watch a sunset by an abandoned set of train tracks and a beach side neighborhood.  I don’t know why Santa Cruz always gets the prettiest cotton candy hues of sunsets, but they do.

Now missing a wallet and all forms of lying for anything with plastic, I was off on my next leg of my trip. A drive down the CA-1 or famed Pacific Coast Highway all the way to San Luis Obispo.  It was off to Monterey and Pebble Beach for the 17-Mile Drive. As you wind down the Monterey Peninsula, it’s worth stopping at each of the scenic ocean vistas for a glimpse of turquoise blue, swirling water. 

Even though I was down a window and a wallet, I was set on making it down to Big Sur. The winding drive down the CA-1 was literally perfect with the sunny weather and my extremely good road trip playlist.   Big Sur was packed and much less tranquil than I would have liked, but was still gorge. I’d gladly take a quick walk to McWay Falls any day of the week. 

A solo road trip is completely doable – just make sure you have a great playlist, plenty of water, and plenty of sun.

 

An Ode to Sundays

I love finishing a good book. I love that mind-numbing feeling that I get after being pulled into another world or someone else’s life and being gently thrust back out of it and into a hazy transition from that life, to my own.


Getting back to work on Monday’s feels just like that after a weekend well spent. My favorite Sundays this month have been slow, leisurely, and filled with new sights, my favorite foods, and listening to myself — if I feel like having a restful day at home, I’m not dragging myself out to a brunch filled with Mimosas.

  

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I’m starting to put tremendous value on my alone time. I’ve learned that I need one day a week all to myself where I can read, clean, cook, golf, drive, create, learn, etc.

I’m starting to savor Sundays for this exact reason and looking forward to their return as each week goes by.