No longer do you have to travel twenty minutes east or west for your shopping needs. Now, you can satisfy your consumer desires at a mom-and-pop in your neighborhood, and chances are it's stocked with items made by your neighbors.
Yes, "local" continues to be the trend in the East Bay — meaning a locally owned boutique that carries locally made soap, locally designed T-shirts, and native plants, all sustainably made and packaged, with some portion of the proceeds typically going to a charity or nonprofit with lofty causes.
In other words, East Bay'ers don't just want to buy things; they want to boost their local economy, too, and maybe help save the Earth at the same time.
And shop owners aren't just content to sell you stuff, either; they see their roles as those of community boosters. As such, their spaces often do double- or triple-duty as art galleries, event venues, workshop classrooms, and neighborhood hangouts. This movement isn't entirely new, but the arrival of several new boutiques — mainly concentrated in three neighborhoods — helped solidify the East Bay as a leader in this enlightened form of commerce.
Despite their smallness, Temescal Alley and adjacent Alley 49 continue to think big in their offerings: The former horse stables have become a veritable micro mall, with shoebox-size stalls selling everything from vintage clothing to midcentury furniture to dry goods. By far our favorite local jeweler, Marisa Haskell (470-D 49th St., Oakland, 510-325-0019, MarisaHaskell.com), sells bohemian-chic necklaces, bracelets, and earrings (using materials like leather, brass, and turquoise) that look luxe but won't break your pocketbook — which is why you'll see her designs gracing the necks, wrists, and ears of nearly every fashionable Oaklander in town.
Just as beautiful but a bit pricier are the clothes of Ali Golden (470-E 49th St., Oakland, 805-340-7086, AliGolden.com), whose small studio stocks only a fraction of her sheer, drapey pieces. Still, it's worth it checking out, if only to gain inspiration from the eye-popping bright blouses and light-as-air silk dresses.
For men, no East Bay store can compare to the impeccable selection of Standard & Strange (484-A 49th St., Oakland, StandardandStrange.com), even though it's size means that any more than four people can make the space feel a bit crowded. Specializing in American-made clothing and accessories, the boutique stocks brands you won't find many other places, including Tellason Denim, Hellbrand Leatherworks, and Cedar Cycling (the owners' own line of cycling wear).
Farther down Telegraph Avenue, in Oakland's Uptown and downtown neighborhoods, is a smattering of new stores. One of our favorites is Oakland Surf Club (337 14th St., Oakland, 510-465-2770, OaklandSurfClub.com), run by wife-and-husband team Ari Serrano-Embree and Max Klineman. Carrying indie-designed men's and women's clothing and accessories with a surf and skateboard aesthetic, this airy shop feels like you've stepped inside a little beachy oasis, right in the heart of downtown.
Nearby is another newcomer, OwlNWood (45 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-579-1439, OwlNWood.com), whose presence seems to perfectly encapsulate the New Oakland Boutique: Here you'll find a mix of vintage clothing, independent and local designers, and some obscure labels from Scandinavia (a nod to owner Rachel Konte's Danish background). That's Oakland for you — local and global at the same time. While you're on Grand Avenue, head over to Oak Common (3231 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-285-6629, OakCommon.com), a men's and women's clothing boutique (and art gallery) that stocks mid-priced brands such as Cheap Monday, BB Dakota, and Mink Pink.
If you're looking for shoes, there are now two shoe stores within one block of each other in Uptown that are worth visiting: Shoe Groupie (1621 Broadway, Oakland, 510-394-2755) and SoleSpace (1714 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, Facebook.com/SoleSpace). Both carry colorful, flashy kicks suited for urban living.
If wellies and clogs are more your style, check out one of Uptown's newest residents: City Girl Farmstore (1740 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, Facebook.com/510Farmstore). Catering to the urban farmer, this garden store offers everything from seeds and soil to bee-keeping supplies and clothing and accessories (sustainably and locally made, of course).
Also in downtown: Oaklandish (1444 Broadway, Oakland, 510-251-9500, Oaklandish.com), for all your local-love T-shirt needs, and Show & Tell (1300 Clay St., Oakland, 510-912-4118, ShowandTellOakland.com), which traffics in independent and locally and sustainably made fashions. And coming soon: Two Jacks Denim (2355 Broadway, Oakland), a men's outpost for American-made selvedge denim.
A few blocks toward the Jack London district is another newish shopping destination: popuphood. Located in Old Oakland, this retail initiative is the result of two entrepreneurial types who decided to help fill empty storefronts by convincing landlords to give tenants six months of free rent, with the goal of them becoming permanent. Luckily, all the businesses were immaculately curated, and though not all have stayed, the ones that have have proven indispensable. For gorgeous jewelry of the engagement, anniversary, and special-occasion caliber, head to Crown Nine (461-A 9th St., Oakland, 510-507-0789, Crown-Nine.com). The flagship store of designer Kate Ellen, Crown Nine also carries the work of other indie jewelry-makers, who all craft their works by hand — and it shows.
Also on the exquisitely-designed-and-crafted tip is Marion & Rose's Workshop (461 9th St., Oakland), which carries independent and sustainably made accessories and home goods. And if you didn't know you needed a deluxe bartender set or cedar sake cups, Umami Mart (815 Broadway, Oakland, 510-575-9152, UmamiMart.com) will convince you, just as soon as you step inside this minimalist-chic Japanese housewares store.
Speaking of pop-ups, Loakal (550 2nd St., Oakland, 510-550-5107, EBXLoakal.com) is an art gallery/clothing/jewelry store — and, full disclosure, a collaboration between the Express and local designer fiftyseven-thirtythree — in the Jack London district. If you're looking for locally made terraria, laser-cut wooden earrings, or small works of art, this is the place.
Of course, there are so many other great places to shop beyond Oakland. We recommend Modern Mouse (2223 South Shore Center, Alameda, 510-814-8830, ModernMouseGifts.com) for a wide selection of locally made gifts; Thread Lounge Pop-Up (2295 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 415-269-3557, ThreadLounge.com) for discounted designer clothing; Collector Art Shop (2950 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-647-9355, CollectorArtShop.com) for giftable works of art; and, as always, the epic, monthly Alameda Point Antiques Faire (first Sunday of the month, 2700 Saratoga St., Alameda, 510-522-7500, AlamedaPointAntiquesFaire.com) for rows upon rows of knickknacks, furniture, chandeliers, rugs, and anything else made in decades past.